Writing as Therapy for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

By | September 21, 2020

I’ve been writing on Medium for a little over a month. I don’t aspire to be a fancy-schmancy writer who rakes in a few thousand dollars a month. I’m not good enough and I prefer the security of my day job with its healthcare and bi-weekly paycheck.

Not having read much on Medium before, I’m new to all the Here’s How to Make Boatloads of Money on Medium and You Should Write 30 Articles in a Month stories. I’ve learned that getting curated on Medium is a big deal and that few writers even make a hundred bucks in a month.

I’m a decent writer but I’m no Tim Denning by any stretch. However, in my second month, I’ve made enough to pay for my Botox and most of my serious articles get curated. I don’t have a problem writing thirty articles a month; my problem is not writing thirty articles.

Why?

Because I’ve got Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Writing is and always has been my therapy.

GAD isn’t your run-of-the-mill anxiety. It isn’t like worrying a lot. Have you ever had an important exam that you’re ill-prepared for and will most likely fail? So not only are you imagining how shitty you’ll do on the exam, but then the short-term and long-term consequences of failing? Imagine that feeling all the time.

Having GAD is a constant fight-or-flight mode. It’s exhausting. Your body perceives that you’re constantly under attack. I suspect all that cortisol shooting through my veins has left my forty-something heart looking like a heart discovered in King Tut’s tomb.

My breathing is short unless I consciously remind myself to take deep breaths. Deep breaths for someone with GAD are probably normal breaths for others. When it becomes extreme, it leads to anxiety attacks. For me, that means all the endless voices in my head become background noise and one or two hit the forefront. My heart races, my breathing becomes even more shallow, and my fingers become numb. That numb tingling spreads through my hands and eventually, I’m forced to make a change to prevent my body from experiencing it head-to-toe.

I didn’t know I had anxiety, let alone GAD, until a therapist years ago diagnosed me. Surprisingly, he figured it out when I mentioned that the caffeine from sodas calmed me and helped with focus. I thought it was normal for everyone to have a billion voices and worrisome thoughts running at once. As I type, I have dozens of thoughts on loop running through my head. It’s like being in a room with people repeating their daily To-Do lists and fears.

Put a recorder against my head and in less than 5 seconds you’d hear, “take notes for Wednesday’s tech meeting, buy a cooling laptop stand, can I win that contest then sell the car to buy my own house, argh how bad is my left breast implant if I’m going to start dating, I need to come up with a better schedule for virtual school, book online to get a hitch installed on my SUV, fuck he’s going to get into another serious relationship for years and we’ll never have a shot, if only Chadwick Boseman had Wakanda tech to cure his cancer, I’m not deserving of anything good because I’m broken, how could I possibly divorce and only see my kids half the time, why the fuck hasn’t anyone been arrested for killing Breonna Taylor, crap are nail salons open right now…”

These thoughts form my topics for my Medium stories.

When one thought pops out as anything memorable, I write it as a subject in my Medium story drafts. As of this moment, I have 67 stories in edit mode waiting to be written. I’ll even text myself a writing topic if I’m in the middle of something else (as is often the case) so I don’t forget.

With GAD, I don’t have problems with writer’s block or topics. I wish my brain could have a sense of calm and struggle writing daily for a month. I’ve journaled and documented my thoughts since high school. Writing on Medium is an extension of my random thoughts and babbling.

When I tackle a story on Medium, I brain dump all the thoughts on loop. I don’t think about proper flow or sentence structure; I fix that after the thoughts are out of my head. As a therapeutic experience, my only goal is to purge my brain of these anxious thoughts. Once they’re written, my cranium briefly breathes a sigh of relief. Getting it out of my head and onto the screen is freeing.

Well, freeing for all of two minutes until that spot fills again with more anxiety-riddled thoughts. Lucky you, dear Reader! (Note sarcasm.) My brain is a never-ending supply of stories. I don’t struggle with daily writing. My anxiety fuels so much content that I struggle to hold back on submitting too much to publications in a single day.

This article isn’t very helpful for those who aren’t struggling with anxiety. I’m not trying to prove myself as an expert writer or success story on Medium (well, because I’m not). I’m hoping others who struggle with GAD can look to writing as a way to purge the constant worry and mental restlessness. If you’re going to have a million thoughts on loop, you might as well use it to your advantage and challenge yourself as a writer to articulate these thoughts in writing.

Phew. Writing done. On to the next story…

Previously published on medium

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Photo credit: by Christin Hume on Unsplash

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