Feeling Unworthy of My Anxiety
I was in my late 30s when I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). As a child of the '60s born of immigrant parents who survived both the Great Depression and World War II—each of them with their own harrowing experiences—I was raised with a don't-complain-pull-up-your-bootstraps-and-get-on-with-it mentality. As such, I grew up feeling unworthy of my anxiety.
Feeling Unworthy of Anxiety
There was nothing in my peacetime existence that could ever compare to what my parents had survived. And so, I grew up feeling unworthy of the persistent, mounting worries that plagued me. I didn't know why I was worried, specifically, nor did I feel as though I could do anything about it.
Sure, I married young and had three children before I turned 30, had a full-time job for which I was on-call two weeks out of every four, and was the major breadwinner. But that was no real cause for angst, was it? I was lucky to have what I had: a happy marriage, healthy kids, and good relationships. I had a steady paycheck, benefits, and paid sick and vacation days. So what did I have to complain about?
You see, that's how anxiety was regarded, as a complaint. And, given all I had compared to my parents and many others, I had no right to complain. I should be nothing but grateful. And I was, which made what I was feeling even more of a mystery. I had everything a middle-class working mother-of-three could want. Which only served to fortify the belief I had of myself that I was unworthy of how horrible I was feeling. How's that for twisted?
Untreated Anxiety Won't Be Ignored
Regardless of whether or not I felt worthy of what was, at the time, an unnamed undercurrent of worry and overthinking that made me fidgety, tense, and easily irritated, by late December 2000, I felt like I was going to break. The final straw came in the form of a minor hit-and-run fender-bender. I was hit. He ran. This marked the beginning of what was a rapid, two-week decline to collapse.
All of it was so new. Sure, I knew what the word "anxiety" meant, but I didn't know it was something that could make you sick. And was I even really sick? Not by traditional standards, I wasn't. Still, I took time off work—for which I felt judged, real or imagined—and tried to "get better," whatever that meant.
When medication was first proposed, I refused. I wasn't going to take a pill for something that I thought was all in my head. I attended therapy, which helped a bit, but it soon became apparent—because of my slow progress and the incessant questions from my work about whether or not I was on medication—that I had to accept pharmaceuticals as part of my treatment. Reluctantly, under a veil of self-imposed shame and defeat, I agreed.
What Anxiety Medication Did for Me
By the time I was diagnosed in January of 2001, I was suffering from both anxiety and depression. These, as I understand it, often go hand-in-hand. As such, my doctor prescribed a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant.
Within about four days, I felt a certain calm wash over me. It was April, springtime, and I was in a restaurant with my family. Understandably, I hadn't been out much before that. I remember looking around the table at my young children—chattering, nudging each other, and kibitzing with their dad—when I realized I wasn't irritated. Strange thing to notice, I know. I remember smiling as I continued to observe them, thinking, "Is this what peace-of-mind feels like?"
I had a ways to go in my recovery, but it was just the spark of hope I needed.
Anxiety Treatments May Differ and Require Tweaking
The anxiety treatment that worked for me may or may not work for the next person. I got lucky. It took therapy and only one medication to help me. Many people take more than one medication to achieve the same result. That first course of treatment for my anxiety was successful, for the most part. I was able to continue with my life, return to work, and thrive. That's the mark of success, is it not?
Over the 20 years since my initial diagnoses of anxiety and depression, with the ups and downs associated with mental illness, my treatments have had to be tweaked more than once. Still, I'm grateful for the help. Almost as difficult at wrangling the anxiety itself is ridding myself of the burden of feeling unworthy of it. Through therapy, I continue to work on this. Regardless, anxiety—like diabetes or cancer—is an illness that cannot and should not be ignored.
Scott, L. (2022, January 12). Feeling Unworthy of My Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, September 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2022/1/feeling-unworthy-of-my-anxiety