Wanna hear something funny? There’s actually more wrong with me than I originally thought. My sophomore year of high school I was aware I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder. What I wasn’t aware of is that I was also diagnosed with Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia and Borderline Personality Disorder. Can someone PLEASE tell me how I had absolutely no idea those were a thing for six years?!? I was completely dumbfounded when I learned that. In this post I want to dive into each diagnosis, what they mean, and how they affect me.
First, let’s talk about what I was aware of.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Definition: “An anxiety disorder characterized by consistent feelings of anxiety for a period of at least six months and accompanied by symptoms such as fatigue, restlessness, irritability and sleep disturbance.”
What it means: Anxiety is hard to describe. The best way I can describe it is feeling butterflies in your stomach and your heart is racing for either no or a ludacris reason. POh, and sweating. Lots of sweating.
How long I’ve been experiencing it: Most definitely my entire life. I’d always get super anxious over literally everything. Going to my grandma’s house? Going to a birthday party? Show and tell? Heart racin’ and sweat stain city over here. I wasn’t formally diagnosed until early high school when it got really bad. I specifically remember sitting in my Spanish II class, waiting for the bell to ring for lunch. I knew what time the bell was gonna ring, but I didn’t know which exact second, and whenever it went off I would fly out of my seat because it scared me so much. I was just in a constant state of extreme worry and anticipation. Nothing would make it better.
How it affects me: I feel like the key word in the definition is ‘consistent,’ meaning one is always feeling like that. It used to affect me when I was going to social events (school, birthday parties, family gatherings). I would feel anxious the entire time. I remember in elementary school I would always complain of a tummy ache. Turns out it was anxiety and no one bothered to look into why my stomach always hurt. In high school I felt it 24/7. It never went away. My heart was constantly racing, I was jumpy, and I was really sweaty most of the time. Nowadays it’s mainly when I’m stressed. The older I get the more it comes out as anger rather than worrisomeness. A lot of times it’s worse than anger. It’s just plain rage. I will feel so much hatred inside of me, and I can’t handle it. I tend to lash out at James. I’m working on controlling it but it’s really hard sometimes. If someone has any coping skills please let me know! I’m desperate.
Major Depressive Disorder https://www.healthline.com/health/clinical-depression
Definition: “Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.”
What it means: To put it lightly, Major Depressive Disorder is constantly feeling sad. To put it authentically, you permanently feel like a worthless piece of shit with nothing to live for. No one cares about you, either. You feel numb. Nothing you do sparks joy. There’s only gloom.
How long I’ve been experiencing it: I kind of pinpoint the start of my depression when I started wanting to self-harm, which was around the time my grandpa died freshman year of high school. I cut myself for years. It really started to get better after I graduated high school. I think the last time I cut myself was sometime in early 2019, mayube even in 2018. I continue to get better every year, and I couldn’t be more proud of myself.
How it affects me: Early on in high school I was constantly self harming: cutting my wrists and starving myself on occasion. I was incredibly suicidal: I was constantly thinking of new ways to kill myself. I specifically remember one time my sophomore year, I was in physics class and my teacher was talking about roller coasters and inertia or something to that effect. All I could think about is what if I was in a fast roller coaster and just went flying out of it and crashed to the ground and died. It was such a nice thought to me. It was soothing to me. The thought of dying was so therapeutic to me. I longed to be at peace. Nowadays I am easily tired. I sleep A LOT. On my days off I probably spend maybe six hours awake. I’m sleeping the rest of the time. I should probably talk to my psychiatrist about it, but I feel like the fact that I’m not suicidal 25/8 is more than I could ask for.
Now, let’s talk about what I was unaware of.
Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia
Definition: “Agoraphobia (ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh) is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. You fear an actual or anticipated situation, such as using public transportation, being in open or enclosed spaces, standing in line, or being in a crowd.
The anxiety is caused by fear that there’s no easy way to escape or get help if the anxiety intensifies. Most people who have agoraphobia develop it after having one or more panic attacks, causing them to worry about having another attack and avoid the places where it may happen again.
People with agoraphobia often have a hard time feeling safe in any public place, especially where crowds gather. You may feel that you need a companion, such as a relative or friend, to go with you to public places. The fear can be so overwhelming that you may feel unable to leave your home.
Agoraphobia treatment can be challenging because it usually means confronting your fears. But with psychotherapy and medications, you can escape the trap of agoraphobia and live a more enjoyable life.” (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/agoraphobia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355987)
What it means: Basically, I deal with frequent anxiety/panic attacks, and am absolutely terrified of being alone.
How it affects me: Before I started taking my concoction of meds, I was in a constant state of anxiety/panic attacks. I was always super jumpy and stressed out like I described my anxiety. I think what sets apart the anxiety from the panic disorder is the intensity of my anxiety/panic attacks. When I have a bad attack, I am completely out of service and almost inconsolable. I can’t function. All I can do is curl up in a ball and wait it out. I don’t have too many of those anymore, partly because of my meds and partly because I’ve learned how to deal with them. I’ll be sure to share some of my coping skills soon.
The Agoraphobia side of things was a huge issue for a while before we found a good medicine concoction for me. I remember being absolutely down-right terrifed to be alone. I couldn’t even leave my mom’s side to go to a different aisle in a grocery store.
I still deal with complications of this disorder, just not as often as I used to. Honestly, I probably identify this disorder as the one I deal with the most currently, on account of still dealing with anxiety/panic attacks a couple times a month.
How long I’ve been experiencing it: I’ve been dealing with anxiety/panic attacks since my freshman/sophomore year of high school, so about seven years. I specifically remember a situation dealing with Agoraphobia. My mom, dad and I went to Meijer together. I was around 15/16 at the time, and I was so scared to leave my mom. She sent me to go to the art supply aisle to pick something out. I protested profusely, but eventually left and went to the art supply aisle. I remember being so jumpy and scared, tears in my eyes because I couldn’t stand to be alone. I was like that nearly 24/7. Luckily, I’ve come a long way since then. I still don’t like going anywhere alone, and if I didn’t have my cats, I probably would not like being home alone either. I can be alone or go somewhere by myself, but I usually don’t. What’s funny is when I do go to the store or mall by myself, I almost always really enjoy myself and have a good time. It’s the thought of being alone that scares me into not going.
My most recent experience with Agoraphobia was back in February. I was at C2E2 (Chicago’s Comic Con) with my friend Jess. We went on Saturday, which was probably their busiest day. Needless to say, the place was crammed packed to the brim. Back in the day, there would have been no way in hell I would’ve been able to handle it. I couldn’t handle grocery stores on a Thursday, let alone this. We had found a place to sit down and take a break. Jess left our table to go meet her friend, so I was alone. That’s where I started to lose it. Being in an incredibly over-crowded event by myself sent my head spinning. Jess came back, and we walked around for a little bit, but I was slowly getting worse. I was having an ancxiety/panic attack, but also terrified of losing Jess and being alone with “no way out.” Soon after I started feeling badly we left, which I was grateful for. I can handle big crowds nowadays, but only for so long. Eventually I start freaking out and start spiraling until all I’m capable of is lying in the fetal position.
I also typically have about two anxiety/panic attacks per month, usually for absolutely no reason. I’ve noticed that I have more frequent attacks when I’m particularly stressed, like when James and I moved in May. From about a month out and up until about a week after we moved, I was having anxiety attacks every few days. It took a huge toll on me, which is why I will never be moving again. Catch me in my two bedroom apartment with my husband and four kids in fifteen years.
Borderline Personality Disorder
Definition: “Borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder that impacts the way you think and feel about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life. It includes self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions and behavior, and a pattern of unstable relationships.
With borderline personality disorder, you have an intense fear of abandonment or instability, and you may have difficulty tolerating being alone. Yet inappropriate anger, impulsiveness and frequent mood swings may push others away, even though you want to have loving and lasting relationships.
Borderline personality disorder usually begins by early adulthood. The condition seems to be worse in young adulthood and may gradually get better with age.”
What it means: In lamens terms, Borderline Personality Disorder means I hate myself, can’t control my emotions and lash out, which leads to having issues with relationships.
How it affects me: I definitely feel like I’ve been dealing with this my entire life. I’ve never been a very cool, calm, or collected person. I’ve always had issues with lashing out and being stuck on an emotional rollercoaster. My parents probably thought it was just hormones and puberty, which I’m sure part of it was, but I still deal with it today so it’s obviously a bigger issue than teenage hormones. I feel like the biggest things I deal with within this disorder is carrying out friendships for an extended period of time and having emotional outbreaks. I’ve never really had a good friend for more than a few years. I get inside my head and start to think they hate me after awhile, which is probably not true but I can’t help what my head conjures up.
My emotional outbreaks aren’t as bad as they used to be, but I defintely still deal with them. I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at controlling my emotions and dealing with the outbreaks. My emotional outbreaks are usually bouts of anger. I get irrationally angry at stupid things. Typically, I can notice when I’m feeling overly emotional so I can take a step back and evaluate the situation that’s making me feel the way I am. HUGE shout out to my mom for helping me when I’m feeling overly emotional and am about to lose it; you’re my #1.
How long I’ve been experiencing it: I definitely feel like I’ve always had trouble with friendships. I remember not really having any close friends in elementary school. I had a group of friends in middle school, but once high school started that quickly dissipated, and I had a friend group in high school for a couple years, but once my mental health got really bad those relationships ended and I haden’t really had any friends up until about a year ago. Nowadays, I still don’t have a friend group, but I have a few friends I’m close with. Shout out to my fave girls who may or may not be reading this.
Let me explain how they’re all connected.
Depression and anxiety go hand-in-hand, meaning it’s not uncommon to have both conditions, per my psychiatrist. Anxiety and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia go hand-in-hand. The panic disorder is explaining a more specific issue/fear I have based on my symptoms, such as frequent anxiety/panic attacks and consistently being terrified at the thought of being alone. Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder go hand-in-hand. Again, the personality disorder is explaining a more specific issue I have based on my symptoms, such as my self-hatred and emotional outbreaks. I feel like the personality disorder describes the irrational and emotional rollercoasters I experience. So, you can see how all four of the disorders are connected to each other.
My mental health is my #1 priority. It took me years to get to the place I am now, and I am damn proud of myself.
Leave me a note letting me know how you are doing. I’d love to learn how you guys are feeling.