When I started experiencing symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder I was asked; what had happened? what sparked this change? My doctor was the first and since then two counselors have repeated the questions. My answers had always been dismissive, frustrated even; I don’t know, nothing, it just started happening. I sounded like a broken record.
With time comes clarity, and now I think I’ve finally figured out the answers.
I’ve always had anxiety but before 2012 I never considered it to be more than a normal emotion. I mean, let’s be real. I’m a quiet, shy, self-conscious person, of course presenting in front of the class is going to make me panic, of course talking to new people is hard. Those things were to be expected.
In 2012, the dynamic of how I lived changed irrevocably. The new school year, my junior year, was just beginning and while I should have been focused on school, on my friends, on college applications, and boys. Oh…the boys. I wasn’t.
Over the summer it became increasingly clear that something was very wrong with my grandmother. She was losing weight, she could barely eat, honestly it was like she was wasting away before our very eyes. She refused to go to the doctors; she didn’t like them, didn’t trust them, but really she was terrified.
When we finally got her to go, it was the end of the first week of school, and it was my uncle and I who brought her to the appointment. After waiting and answering an endless stream of questions we were advised to take her straight to the hospital. They ran dozens of tests and after a week or two in the hospital they had finally figured out what was wrong; she had stomach cancer. Stage four. In the weeks that followed I learned what wasting away really means and what it looks like. It’ll forever be burned in my memory.
For two months I spent most of my time by her side. In the hospital, at her house, at the rehab facility. I was there; I held her hand, I made promises to her that still haunt me because I was never able to keep them, when she was too weak and in pain I gave her morphine, I cleaned around her feeding tube, I cheered her on as she did laps up and down the hallway at the rehab center. I was there; I saw it all. I was strong; I am strong.
At the beginning of November, 2012, she passed away.
I handled the situation, and as I grieved I thought it was over. That’s when I started experiencing the physical symptoms of my anxiety. The thought that what I was experiencing stemmed from the loss of my grandmother never occurred to me. Because I was strong. I handled the situation.
My life was disrupted, the way I lived had been altered and things haven’t been the same since. Maybe a part of me died when she did. Maybe I am traumatized by all the things I saw and dealt with. Either way, all signs point to those few months and my inability to let go as the cause of my GAD.