Diagnosis: Annoying

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD, for short), among a small assortment of other neuroses.  Maybe you have GAD, too, or know someone who does.  Let’s chat about it!  It’ll be like a party, but NO FUN.

So like most parties, then.

My clinical diagnosis of GAD and OCD came at age 23, after struggling since early childhood with anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

I never had a time in my life when I didn’t feel like there was something very exhausting with the way my brain worked.  As a child I felt petrified with worry all the time, 24 hours a day, and I could never shut off my brain.  I lived in a near constant state of anxiety.

I kept my worries and anxiety to myself, so it came out in a myriad of other ways, all of which were SO GROSS, particularly the cuticle chewing.  My fingers were perpetually gnawed up, swollen, and bloody.  It got so bad one time that I stopped chewing on my cuticles in favor of just pulling two fingernails out by the root over the course of a day at school.

I remember when they finally came out that day in Mrs. Leward’s class.  It was near the end of the school day, and I was up in the reading loft alone, since I had finished my work early (and I was a total suck-up for that reading loft).  I climbed up with ten nails to page through “Ramona The Brave” and came down with eight.  Ramona was clearly better at bravery than me, but at least I didn’t throw up in class like she did that time with the blue oatmeal fruit fly experiment.

How much do you miss Ramona books??

I hid my two gross, nail-less fingers from adults until they grew back in, because even when you’re nine years old, you know they lock people away for those kinds of shenanigans.

Sorry, I know that whole thing is a horrifying picture.  One of those nails grew back in totally crooked, too, so I have a daily reminder of it anytime I look at my right hand.  I’ll show it to you sometime so you can be like, “Grrrrross!!!!”

If I didn’t have a distraction in front of my face (I heart you, television), the anxious, racing thoughts that started out being just a little scary would ramp up into some serious god awful bloody horror movie stuff in 10 seconds or less.

My mind could turn the sound of a simple branch brushing against the bedroom window at night into a man standing over my bed holding my mouth shut, kidnapping me and holding me captive in a basement for six months and passing me around to his inbred brothers and cousins, and eventually stabbing me to death in the woods and throwing my body to a pack of dogs. The thoughts came like lightning, and they felt so real I couldn’t catch my breath lying there in bed most nights.

Even at the age of six, my thoughts could get so dark and so frightening, so fast, I felt like they could literally kill me from inside my own mind if I didn’t distract myself from them.

It was like Freddy Krueger lived in my brain, day and night, and if I didn’t keep constant vigilance, he would get me.  I even started watching horror movies – the gorier the better – in the hope that seeing those scenes on a screen would make them leave my thoughts, the way you get a song stuck in your head and the only way to get rid of it is to actually listen to the song.  I even bought Fangoria magazine, and lobbied for a life-size Freddy Krueger cardboard cutout in my room (more on that later this month).

I could soothe my racing thoughts temporarily by counting and touching and blinking at things, but then that just spiraled completely out of control when I hit adulthood, as you may have previously read about here.  It just got so much harder to hide it as I got older.  Finally, I reached out for help.

I was 23, and it was my first visit with a therapist.  Her name was Pamela, and she was short, maybe 50 years old, well-dressed, had a blonde bob haircut, a very soothing therapisty voice, and a very friendly face.  She reminded me of a social studies teacher I had in middle school, so I felt kind of familiar with her, even though we had just met.

We sat down in her office and she said, “So!  How’s your day been going?”

With the disposition of a dog that had just been caught snacking in the cat litter box, I sighed and told her I’d had a rough day because it had started out really badly.

She said, “Okay, what made it start out badly?”

I said, “I was almost late to work this morning.”

She nodded her head and said, “And?”

I repeated myself, with emphasis, “I was almost late.  To WORK?”

She said, “What would happen if you were late to work?”

I took a deep breath.

“If I were to walk in late to work, then my boss would ‘have something’ on me.  From then on, if he ever decides he wants to fire me, he’ll say it was because I was late that one time, and he’ll be right, because I was totally late that one time!  It’ll be undeniable.  Then I’ll be fired!”

She nodded her head and said, “And are you frequently late?”

I looked at her like she was nuts.  “God, no!  I’ve never been late once in the three years I’ve been there!”

She said, “Okay, so what would happen if you were late one time?”

I went on, “Well, after I get fired my boss will never give me a good reference since I was late that time, and then I won’t be able to find another job, I won’t be able to pay my bills, I’ll be homeless, my car will have some huge repair that I won’t be able to afford and I’ll have to sell it for scrap, I’ll end up having to move in with and marry some guy named Earl or Chet who’s really mean to me because he’ll know I’m in dire straits and can’t do any better.”

Pamela nodded, “Go on.”

“And then he’ll knock me up on purpose and I’ll be chained to him forever with some kid who hates me and treats me like crap and is mean to animals and tries to poison my coffee, but I’ll deserve it because the kid will be able to see that deep down I really do resent them because I never wanted to have them to begin with, and then they’ll grow up to be a serial killer and all the news stories will blame me for it because they always blame the mother.”

Pamela nodded again, “Go on.”

“Then, finally, after thirty years of hell, I’ll feel like I’ve got nothing left to lose and I’ll get the courage to leave Earl or Chet, and then he’ll hunt me down and murder me in the street and say, “If I can’t have you, no one can!”, and as I’m gurgling and choking on my own blood, all I’ll be thinking is, “This is my fault for being late to work that one time!”

Pamela starting writing on her clipboard and said, “Okay, so have you previously been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder?”

I said, “I mean, doesn’t it seem easier to just make sure I’m always on time to work?”

24 thoughts on “Diagnosis: Annoying

  1. Hail, fellow traveller! Thanks for your courage in posting this. Your symptoms are familiar although more severe as you describe them than mine ever have been, but I won’t relinquish membership in World Class Worriers just yet – I remember the moment my brain sort of broke (it was all law school’s fault – hey, there’s a great career choice for someone who can work up a Worst Case Scenario for every, erm…scenario) in my early 20’s; before that, I was one brave bad-ass bitch. I wrote one post (Trading Fear for Flow) about it, I think, how in addition to living with love and laughter I am trying to learn from losing Mike to be fearless — well, ok maybe not fearless — how about less fearful? Generally referred to as, “oh, fuck it, anxiety, I’m doing this anyway.” So far, so good. Which isn’t to say that something horrible won’t happen in the next minute or two, but right now, I’m still breathing…Good for you for getting help. I tried that, once, but the conversation turned to medication a bit too fast for me. Probably should try the cognitive route…but that involves thinking things through, which leads to overthinking, which leads to Worst Cast Scenarios, etc….you get the idea. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. World Class Worriers! I love it! We should all get matching t-shirts.

      I tried the medication route and found out very quickly that it was not going to work for me! I’ve been taking CBD oil for a couple weeks now and am having good results with it so far.

      And I love Mel Robbins with her 5-4-3-2-1 for getting up the courage to do things that scare me. Her speeches on YouTube are fantastic. Her book “The Five Second Rule” is what got me off my butt last year to start writing again!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have exactly the opposite disorder. I’m so laid back about ANYTHING that I’m one step out of a coma. I can postpone anything. I hear that category 4 hurricane Michael is bearing down on our area and my first reaction is to blow it off – no pun intended.


  3. Wow, what a challenge, having GAD and OCD. My hats off to you, you are handling it pretty good if I say so myself. And as a child it’s difficult to understand why one feels that way. I still can’t get myself to stop biting the inside of my cheek, my counselor suggested hypnosis because it causes headaches. She said it’s a form of OCD, which I don’t doubt. But no where near what you’ve gone through.

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    1. I’m fortunate I was able to find a good therapist (that my insurance accepted). I don’t know what I would have done without therapy!

      I still have major issues with anxiety, but therapy basically nipped my OCD in the bud, and thankfully without medication! I still have OCD “tendencies”, but it doesn’t interfere with my daily life like it used to.

      When I get especially stressed, it can pop back up, so it’s sort of like being in recovery, where you’re never “cured”, you just have to recognize when you’re starting to go off the rails before you actually go off the rails!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are so right, counseling/therapy is and has been a big help to me as well as many others. OCD is horrible, and I’m glad you’ve been able to get yours under control so to speak. And I know stress does trigger it to rage back when you least expect it to. I have a lot of “small” OCD habits that I’m trying to overcome, white knuckling it so to speak, because I am now aware of these annoying and physically debilitating habits. Here sending you TONS of good vibes today so that you will stay OCD free for as long as possible! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Reading a book on OCD and all the troubling little tics of the mind right now. Fascinating (and truly scary!) stuff. Keep fighting the good fight against your own brain and making us giggle with your descriptions of such. Love your writing🖤

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This is so the inside of my brain. I may have showed my dad this post so he could see what I mean when I say I ‘worry’. I have some good anxiety meds now, and it shows in that SOME WEEKS I don’t chew my nails AT ALL. Other weeks I have bloody stubs. 🙂

    As an aside, thank you for encouraging me in my blogging! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t that the best when someone says, “Just stop worrying!” like it’s a switch you can just turn off? 🙂

      I’m glad this resonated with you, even though I’m sorry you have to go through this, too! Writing about it helps me tremendously and makes me feel so much less alone with the way my brain works. Especially when someone as kind as you is here to commiserate!

      I’m glad you got meds that work for you! I remember the first time I ever took a tranquilizer for a panic attack and I said, “Oh good lord, is this what NORMAL feels like?!”


  6. I’m coming to your party! Woo! I also bite my nails until they bleed.

    I actually had a few months a couple of years ago where my brain wasn’t being horrible to me (it was AMAZING I had no idea what normal could be like), so I thought, ‘yay I’m functional enough to have a baby!’ and then I had three miscarriages in a row and instead of a baby spawned a whole new set of anxieties about life in general and my body betraying me in particular and now I have a meltdown approximately every two weeks because I’m definitely dying of cancer since I had a mild headache that one time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your miscarriages. I have close friends who have been through it and it’s just so awful.

      I’m convinced all headaches are either brain tumors or aneurysms, all stomach aches are liver failure, and all limb pains are the beginning of rheumatoid arthritis. I mean, what else could they be, right??

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks.

        … I have freaked out about all those things for all those reasons. One time, I had weird boob pain and ended up having an actual scan looking for breast cancer. There was no breast cancer. Turns out I made the pain myself by being freaked out and poking to ‘test’ for pain.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Glad it turned out to be nothing!

        The lymph node poking! I’ve definitely done that. The more I poked at them, the more they swell, and the more they swell, the more convinced I was that I was dying.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s like you’ve just described my head, lol. My issues geared up into full-blown adjustment disorder about 4 years ago, but it’s settled back down to general anxiety and mild OCD. But I know what you mean about the cuticle chewing–my fingers are constantly destroyed–I don’t even realize I’m doing it most of the time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We make a fun, anxious party here. 😊 I’m so happy we all found each other! I need to do some reading up on adjustment disorder. I’ve never heard of it and it’s probably something I’ve had off and on forever!

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