Millions of Americans live with generalized anxiety disorder, an illness memoirist and blogger Jenny Lawson describes as “basically like having all of the other anxiety disorders smooshed into one.” I was diagnosed with GAD when I was a kid and my mom realized I spent a lot of time laying on my bed, looking for spiders on the ceiling and screaming if I saw one. Instead of boring you with stories about how I stopped by the high school nurse’s office about three times a week to ride out a panic attack, or that time I went to the ER because I thought I was having a heart attack, I want to shed a little fresh wisdom on this common disorder: in addition to being life-altering and incurable, it is also totally sweet. Here’s why:
1. You will get ridiculous grades. It’s sixth grade, and you’re freaking out because you can’t remember if you’re supposed to have five sources for your history paper’s bibliography or ten. You include 15 to be safe. A+.
2. You will get an awesome job. Misplaced adrenaline and seratonin should probably both be renamed “ambition juice.” All your practice in K-12 and college will pay off when your sparkling cover letter/resume/clip package outshines 500 others at your favorite magazine/law firm/non-profit just months after you graduate.
3. You’ll never stay stranded. That’s because you memorized one or more of the following: AAA’s roadside hotline, your roommates’ numbers, your dad’s number, and the digits for four local cab companies. You also keep $20 in cash on you and maintain a blanket/flashlight/first-aid survival stash in the back of your car at all times.
4. You can handle mayhem. No one is more familiar with stressful situations than anxiety sufferers, so while your entire sorority is losing their brains over meeting the midnight deadline for homecoming week house decorations, you’re calmly standing by with a clipboard, instructing them on which color streamers go where. To them, it’s a high-pressure situation, to you, just another minute in the life.
5. You’ll get to know yourself. When you spend more than 10 years trying to figure out why something as small as the sound of a balloon popping can fully trigger your fight-or-flight response, you get pretty well-acquainted with all the dark corners of your mind. Once you stop trying to “fix” yourself and realize this is just part of your personality, it kind of takes the pressure off and provides a little acceptance/closure/understanding.
6. You’ll work out more. Anxiety affects your heart rate, and one of the most effective ways to get a handle on your 120-beat-per-minute average is to do something physical on a regular basis. Kickboxing and running have done more for me than any drug or therapist, and it comes with health and sex appeal perks, too.
7. You’ll realize it’s not just you. The longer you live with anxiety, the more you will understand that this is a common problem shared by many of the people who work in your office, frequent your favorite coffee shop, and bag your groceries. Embrace your community of spazzes. Yeah, you’re pretty weird, but you’re not alone.
8. At least your life isn’t boring. Yes, it sucks that something as trivial as getting lost in downtown Minneapolis can make you feel like the world is ending, but isn’t that better than not feeling anything at all? Anxiety makes you more aware of your surroundings and your body. It may not always manifest in a positive way, but it’s totally cooler in the long run that a trip on the highway is, in your world, The Fast and the Furious 17.
9. You care about people. Worrying is to anxiety what wax is to crayons. You think about the people you love often and check in regularly to make sure they’re okay and happy. Your sister will appreciate the three slightly neurotic, albeit loving phone calls from you the day after she breaks up with her fiance.
10. Anxiety gives you perspective. We all have problems. Luckily, your problem is feeling nervous and worried a lot. It could be that your husband was murdered after running an international ponzi scheme. Count your blessings.