I have long avoided searching the internet for advice on anxiety because I always seem to find things that make me feel worse rather than better (things which make me think I'm dying of everything from MS to a brain tumor or a heart attack). I stumbled across this forum today and have read some of the introductory information and it's already been very helpful. I hope to find some benefit from the forum and hopefully share some of my experience to help others as well.
A bit about my history;
I had spinal meningitis as an infant which doctors believe may have contributed to my GAD. I was first diagnosed with GAD at about 4 years of age, but I was not told of this diagnosis until I was much older; when I was in my mid-thirties I was re-diagnosed with GD at which point my mom let me know about the original dX from years earlier. She said they never told me about it because they couldn't afford to do anything about it and figured it would just worry me more to know about it. Banged my head against a wall for decades worrying about what was wrong with me only to find out they knew all along. Argh! Oh, well. Can't fault them too much; they did what they thought was best.
At any rate, I have been anxious for so long that I no longer recognize when I am anxious; it is the physical symptoms which tell me my anxiety is too high. That feeling of constant impending doom is just a constant companion living in the back of my head. The physical symptoms started to get more severe following a bout with Bell's Palsy. After dealing with that, I started obsessing about every physical symptom I had, thinking it was some other new and wonderful disability. The Bell's palsy passed, but I still have some residual pain from it and probably always will. I still worry a bout a relapse sometimes, but at least I know how to handle it if it should ever come back.
The real problem is the GAD. I causes some debilitating symptoms and is seriously affecting my life. I often have disequilibrium and vertigo, so my wife ends up having to drive everywhere. I get so weak and tired that I always feel sick. I have severe IBS and won't go anywhere unless I know there is a restroom nearby. I frequently experience pain and throbbing in my ears, clumsiness, unable to focus, confused, depersonalized, like I'm not in control of my body or my mind. I have had pretty much every symptom on the extended list of GAD symptoms. Some, like the disequilibrium or urinary urgency, can last for weeks. Just this year I've already run up nearly a thousand dollars in medical tests, first to see if I have prostate trouble or a bladder infection, only to find that it is most likely just anxiety again, as well as an ear/nose/throat specialist to see if I have a balance disorder (tests were not conclusive, but all things considered I'm pretty sure it's just caused by my anxiety).
I can't handle any of the usual medications because I have had several bad reactions to ones prescribed in the past and am now hypervigilant about bad side effects, to the point where I'll end up having severe panic if I even try to take them (even if the side effects are just imaginary). The last couple of times I tried I ended up inthe ER with full body tremors and hallucinations, so now I simply will not even try another one. About the only thing that helps is Valium. I'm even anxious about becoming addicted to it, so I only take 1/2 tablet only if absolutely necessary. The doctor still treats me like a drug-seeking junkie even though I make a 1 month prescrip last for 4 months.
To cope, I try to do progressive relaxation techniques, deep breathing, etc. I have found mixed results with this. A monthly massage can help with some physical symptoms (pain in the arms and chest especially). The biggest help is when I can convince myself that everything will really be okay. But when I have physical symptoms like vertigo and urinary urgency which can last for weeks and don't go away even when I've tried to calm myself every other way possible, it can be very hard to convince myself of this. The physical symptoms can precede the anxiety attack and the increase in anxiety they cause can cause the physical symptoms to worsen, in a sick sort of snowball effect. The worst part of all is that I seldom have any idea what it is that I'm anxious about in the first place other than the symptoms of anxiety itself!
Well, I'm sure most of this is nothing new to most of the people here, but that's my story. Sorry if it got to be too long! As I said, I hope to learn and contribute a great deal.