(Pictured . . . inside the Hatteras lighthouse)
I'm going to spend a couple of postings (I hope it is not any longer) describing my experience with a generalized anxiety disorder. I still invite others who what to discuss their mental health thorns in the flesh. Just write it up and submit it to me a firstname.lastname@example.org
I wanted to continue this thought on looking at my anxiety from the inside out with special consideration of a (my) Christian perspective.
First of all, I am a great believer that we are all unique . . . I’m thinking snowflake here. Not only has God created us unique to start with, but the influence of the fall, through our genetic make up and live experiences has added to that uniqueness. So what I say about my experience only applies to myself and not to others with the same diagnoses. The old Tim Lahaye, Spirit-Controlled Temperament, dose not fly in my opinion. It was one of the “Christian” milestone books (back in the 70s) on psychology, which put people in boxes, categories or personality types. While modern psychology does catalog mental illness (as I referred to earlier as the DSM-IV), and I think that is helpful, we can not paint people with too broad of brush.
What is the cause of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?
First I will give a basic answer (which may apply to everyone), then my own personal answer.
I do believe that GAD, is a “disorder.” It is not part of the great “order” in which God created the universe or intended. It is an aberration of how God intended us to be. That view makes a great impact on how we, who suffer, view our problem. God didn’t create me this way for some special reason. It is, like Paul said, a thorn in the flesh. No human, in my opinion is without their own personal thorn. Of course God is sovereign, however, He is not the great manipulator . . . creating us with certain idiosyncrasies which makes our lives much more difficult . . . in order to achieve some specific divine purpose.
This particular disorder, like most, can be a product of, 1) ancient sin (the fall of Adam) and influence us through genetics, 2) recent sin, the influence on us of other peoples’ sin, especially when we were very young or 3) our personal sin. This is very, very different from Nouthic counseling (Jay Adams brand of Christian psychology) which only believes in # 3. Nouthic counseling also ignores the physical brain which is the real “battle ground” in the case of # 1 and can be influenced by # 2 and #3. They believe (in a Dualistic way) that the problem is in a very fluid, dynamic and changeable spiritual realm. Go back to my previous posting and click on the title for a very good, and simple, explanation of how the brain is involved in this disorder of GAD.
So anxiety disorders can develop if you are born with brain malfunctions, such as deficient of a particular neurotransmitter, or the actual number or connections between certain neurons. You can also acquire an anxiety disorder through early childhood experiences, trauma (anytime during your life) or even brain injuries. I’ve seen patients develop extreme anxiety after a particular type of brain injury including a stroke.
Of course, decisions that we make can influence the magnitude of these disorders. But I believe that the Church has created a huge amount of unjustified guilt by suggesting that all the mental health disorders are the fault of the sufferer. It would be the same if a person was blamed over and over for being born (or injured) and became lame, or blind.
My personal origins.
I have done a lot of retrospection and I don’t have all the answers, however, there is no reason for me to waste anymore of my time and energy trying to figure it out. You can certainly become too obsessed with your own faults.
I know that my GAD started at a very young age. Was I born with it? Maybe, but I’m not positive. My mother suffered from a severe anxiety disorder all her life. The question becomes, did I inherit the disorder from her or did she teach it to me when I was very young? I honestly don’t know.
I can remember as clear as if it were yesterday, the first time I realized that I was different. I was five years old. I was with a large extended family group visiting the lighthouse on Cape Hatteras. The group (of about 14) started climbing the spiral iron staircase inside. It is the kind where you can see through the steps to the floor below. As we went up beyond 20 or 30 feet I was overcome by terror (acrophobia is one small part of my syndrome). It was so bad that I froze. My mother couldn’t even carry me because I was in a panic. The whole family made a big deal out silly I was and how much of a baby I was. Finally my mother took me back ground to the door and I sat outside on the big sandstone steps that lead up to the lighthouse while she and the others climbed it. I felt so embarrassed and I hated myself. My brother had laughed his head off at me, but the terror was so awful. The only reason that I felt terror, so I reasoned, was because I was a very bad person.
I had some early influences in my life that . . . if didn’t cause my anxiety . . . made it much worse. But I am often hesitant to even tell these stories because when I’ve attempted to before, I’ve had Christian friends suggest I was, “making excuses.” I am not. I’m just trying to objectively explore and understand. Those who accuse us of “making excuses” are usually people who have never suffered with this problem. Their thorns in the flesh may be that they are assholes . . . but then that makes them a thorn in someone else’s flesh doesn’t it?
The other influence was that I had a brother who beat the crap out of me almost every day. He hated me. I was seven years younger than him and he was always insecure, which made him very jealous (with me being the baby). He dealt with it by constantly telling me I was crap and physically hurting me with every chance that he could. It created a constant feeling of low-self esteem and fear.
The other great influence was a neighbor kid. He was the stereotypical bully. He was four years older than me and heavy, weighting twice as much as me. He loved to torture me, and I’m not exaggerating. From about age 3 until I stabbed him in a horrible act if self preservation (around age 6) there wasn’t a day that went by that he was tying ropes around my neck coking me, burning me with matches, setting my hair on fire, forcing me to do kiss and expose myself (in great humiliation) to little girls on our street. It seemed like it would never end.
Finally my brother got drafted to Vietnam and I stabbed my neighbor in the head, sending him to the Emergency Room. But after living through this for about five years (and impressible years) I was a nervous wreck.
My parents didn’t help me because (I know now), 1) my dad was suffering from PTSD from Normandy and 2) my mother had been so severally abused as a child by her father and step-mother that she didn’t have the emotional fortitude left to help me.
So I really don’t know when my problems started and if I would have had them even if I had experienced a warm and nurturing childhood. It may have been all the results of nature.
I will continue on with my story later, how it manifest and how I’ve struggled to over-come it (but mostly hide it).