30 Things About My Invisible Illness: The Anxiety Edition.
Today is the last day of 2011′s Invisible Illness Week. The activities that comprised the schedule included new written submissions from people with chronic illness along with highlighted online workshops from past years.
And then there is the “30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know” meme. Last year, I completed the meme about type 2 diabetes. This year, I decided to go a different route and tackle one of my other “invisible” chronic illnesses.
1. The illness I live with is: Generalized Anxiety Disorder
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2009
3. But I had symptoms since: 1982 – at the age of six years old.
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: finding ways to cope with stressful situations before I hyperventilate.
5. Most people assume: I can’t handle bad news or tough work situations. While they can create stress, I need to know the truth and I would rather challenge myself than always take the easy way.
6. The hardest part about mornings is: not knowing if I should have a second cup of coffee, as caffeine can certainly raise anxiety levels.
7. My favorite medical TV show is: Love so many, hard to choose one. Scrubs for comedy, Grey’s Anatomy for soapy drama, M*A*S*H for comedy and drama.
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: the iPod, both for calming music when I am at heightened anxiety and music to inspire exercise to combat anxiety before it strikes.
9. The hardest part about nights is: when insomnia decides to visit me – sometimes I can’t fall asleep; other times I can’t stay asleep; and my recent favorite, waking up 1-2 hours before my alarm wide awake.
10. Each day I take ? pills & 0 vitamins: I take 1 anti-depressant every day, and then have Ativan available to me as needed.
11. Regarding alternative treatments I: attempt to mediate (it’s harder than it sounds with anxiety at play); practice yoga and pilates moves regularly; and massage is quite soothing to the anxious soul.
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: Invisible – it can stay invisible if I choose, depending on the situation.
13. Regarding working and career: Dealing with anxiety presents challenges in the workplace, though it gets better with each year as I learn new ways to cope with the stress of deadlines and heavy workloads.
14. People would be surprised to know: that I am not the only one in my family who deals with anxiety issues, that it really does have a genetic connection.
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: the actual diagnosis of GAD should have been a relief, that my condition is real, but it did create more anxiety to have that label placed upon me, if that makes any sense.
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: travel alone for business and pleasure. Over the years, I’ve made trips on my own to Las Vegas, Dallas, Orlando, New York City, as well as several back to the Midwest. I don’t like to fly, but it’s a necessary evil – and I love staying in a hotel room all by myself.
17. The commercials about my illness: are usually more about the related illness of depression (which I also deal with as a “co-morbid” condition).
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: being as carefree as my parents tell me I was before the first panic attack at the age of six.
19. It was really hard to have to give up: caffeine and alcohol when I am in a period of sustained anxiety. Even a second cup of coffee or a glass of wine can send me in a tailspin during these times.
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: being more artsy and crafty (since the actual diagnosis two years ago). I’m learning to knit, and I am coloring and doodling more. This also includes visits to art museums, as well as listening to more classical music.
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: do all the things that anxiety has limited me in the past from completely enjoying experiences – from walking across swinging foot bridges to enjoying a spectator sport from the nosebleed seats to smiling and laughing at a social event.
22. My illness has taught me: who accepts me for who I am and who does not; whose support I have and whose I do not.
23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: “It’s not worth crying over”. (It is more than just crying, it is the physical symptoms people cannot see – racing heartbeat, sweating, and at its worst, the hyperventilating.)
24. But I love it when people: talk me through a tough spot, encourage me to take a walk, let me cry it out.
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: “When I get sad, I stop being sad and be AWESOME instead” – Barney Stinson (fictional character), “How I Met Your Mother”.
26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: anxiety is a bitch, but when you learn coping skills, it can be much easier to handle most of the time.
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: how much I can do to advocate for myself and others.
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: reminding me of how special I am to them and that I am not defined by the anxiety I sometimes feel (this happens quite a bit, thankfully).
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: it is so incredibly important to debunk myths and confirm suspicions about my chronic conditions.
30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: empowered to keep telling my stories of physical and mental invisible illnesses.