Stress vs. GAD
Posted by
16th May 2014

SANE's very own Media Assistant Nicola reflects on the time she was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and discusses why she is passionate to raise the profile of this condition during #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek.

In my final year at university I read a news report of a young woman of a similar age to me landing her dream job as a primary school teacher. Unfortunately this was not the reason why her story had reached the press – she had recently died of cervical cancer and the news report focused on her parent’s campaign to lower the age of UK screenings.

To say this story had a little effect on me is an understatement. For the weeks that followed I religiously scoured the internet for information on the symptoms of this disease. I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling anxious at the thought of landing my dream job and it being taken away from me so cruelly. My fear of dying became so intense it lead onto numerous panic attacks.

This is just one of many examples of when I have exhibited symptoms of my anxiety disorder and the months leading up to my graduation were even tougher. My anxiety affected my concentration and as it ticked closer to deadlines, I felt overwhelmed and exhausted. My muscles ached and were sore to touch and I gradually became more and more withdrawn. As well as battling with irrational thoughts of dying so young, I couldn’t shake the fear that I was letting my dream of graduating slip through my fingers. This thought lead onto other worries and I eventually reached a point where I was experiencing panic attacks daily. At the time, I didn’t realise that I was suffering from GAD, I thought I was merely stressed. It was final year after all.

I still remember how relieved I felt when I received a diagnosis and medication. I also remember my doctor’s confusion as to why I hadn’t realised something was wrong. Looking back, it makes perfect sense; by that point I had been exhibiting the symptoms of someone suffering from severe anxiety for nearly two years.

A year on, I’m in a much better place and when I look back at my graduation photos, I feel proud not only for my academic achievement but for the fact that I found the courage to seek help. My anxiety disorder will always be a part of who I am but I’m determined to not let it get on top of me again. I’ve learnt to recognise my triggers and I use this knowledge to manage my condition. I’ve adopted a lifestyle of healthy eating and exercise, which has helped me immensely (ignore the horror stories you may have heard about the dreaded ‘spin class’, it’s the best mindfulness activity I’ve tried!!). In addition, I’ve finally let my guard down and realised that I have the most supportive boyfriend, best friend and family who I can to talk to about my condition.

It has taken me a lot of courage to speak openly about my mental illness, but my passion to let others know that they are not alone and that there is help out there overrides any fears I have of mental health stigma. All I can hope is that by sharing my story, I will have helped at least one person during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

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