It took until I was 22 to be diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder - and to get there, we had to look back through my past. Am I only scared of social situations? How do I cope with unexpected changes in my life? When did I notice a chance in my behaviour to make it lean this way? The last one was the one that really upset me about my illness.
"How long do you remember feeling like this?"
"I don't know, I guess I don't remember a time when I didn't worry this much?"
"That's normal, children can display GAD symptoms but often we write them off as being shy."
Woah, hold up - I could have had GAD since I was a kid? I could have spent my entire life that I could remember being unable to cope with basic situations? That's a long time. This knowledge spurred me forwards - I've wasted the best part of 22 years being too scared to do anything interesting and I wanted to get better, I wanted to recover. But, recovering didn't just mean learning to be comfortable with the things I wasn't; like you would teach a child, I've had to start from scratch with regards to being independent.
It turns out, now a full blown adult, I had the independence of a child - I didn't do anything for myself; go to the shops, make food, go to the toilet when out with friends, go out. I didn't do any of these things, I'd always been too scared to do them alone and so this was like being 12 and being allowed to go to Liverpool on my own for the first time. Every tiny step has been an achievement, sometimes that means actually cooking an entire meal for myself, and sometimes that means walking down to meet friends on my own. Slowly but surely, I'm building up my independence.
It might sound stupid to you, but it's like learning to look after a pet puppy if you've been scared of dogs all of your life; my fears are just slightly different, the tiniest bit more irrational. Finally though, I'm at a place where I think I'll be able to go to university in September, I'll be able to live with new people and go to clubs and drink badly made cheap drinks with too much sugar in; I'll be able to live, for myself and by myself for the first time in a long time, maybe in forever.
GAD has restricted my life, possibly from a really young age - but here I am learning to be independent by taking baby steps. So it might seem a little step to you, but tell me congratulations anyway, scrooge.
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