I’m so pleased to introduce this guest post from debut author Kristen Darling. I was drawn to her book, which I will review soon, because her main character suffers with severe anxiety. Here, Kristen discusses her own experience of having GAD and how this influenced the book.
I’m so pleased to have a crossover piece like this which brings together both sides of my blog. Thank you so much to Kristen for taking the time to write this lovely post.
Today I am having what I refer to as one of my “anxious days”. I use this term to warn my husband and children that I am not my usual “happy-go-lucky” self and that I may be quick to snap, or slow to respond, or simply have to disappear for awhile.
If you suffer from any type of emotional or mental issue, you most likely would be able to diagnose my symptoms just based on what I’ve written above. I suffer from GAD, or generalized anxiety disorder.
My symptoms were under control for a long time, but this past summer brought great amounts of stress into our lives and for the first time in the twenty-plus years that I have lived with anxiety, I decided to accept my doctor’s advice and fill a prescription for Ativan, an anti-anxiety medication.
I used to worry about being a freak – of not appearing normal because of my anxiety and frequent panic attacks. I started to avoid social situations this summer, preferring to stay close to home in case I should have a panic attack. I thought I was the only one.
Then casually, during a night out with a new friend (a night I almost canceled because of my fear), I brought up my symptoms and told her about my anxiety. I expected a sympathetic response, or perhaps a shocked look, or maybe a series of questions “What do you do to treat it?”
Instead, she stared at me for about fifteen seconds, before leaning across the table and confiding that she, too, suffers from anxiety and panic attacks.
I was absolutely amazed by her revelation, and for some reason it made me calmer than I have been in weeks. I was not alone. Someone understood my symptoms and knew exactly what I meant when I said that sometimes I feel like I am crawling out of my skin for no reason whatsoever.
For the next few weeks, I was even more surprised to learn that many other friends and even family members suffer in silence in their own way. During my conversations with friends and family about the fact that I decided to try Ativan for my panic attacks, words such as “Xanax”, “rapid heart beat”, trouble breathing”, “depression”, “Zoloft”, “Prozac”, “PTSD”, “Bipolar” and “Valium” came up time and time again. I learned that many of the same people who appeared to have everything together are actually struggling with symptoms that are similar or even worse than my own.
As the saying goes, “Things aren’t often what they appear to be.” And this saying resonated deeply with me as I began to write my first novel, The Ghost of You.
I knew in my heart that this story would be a romance novel about lost love, something else that resonates deeply with me. But I wanted my heroine to be real, and damaged, and vulnerable. From the outside, she might appear to be flawless; one of those women who seem to have a perfect life. But Kaitlyn Vandere is flawed, which I feel makes her extremely relatable to readers.
Kaitlyn is a beautiful young woman, but she has her own secret demons. I knew early on that she would present with panic attacks, and this theme plays an important role throughout the story. It was easy to describe Kaitlyn’s panic attacks, having suffered so many throughout my own life, but writing the scenes was difficult for me. Those scenes brought up all of the fear and terror that I try so hard to forget about. They brought back memories of certain occasions when I truly felt I was going to die. But in a strange way, they also brought me peace; I was able to transfer some would-be panic attacks into my writing, creating a very powerful and real-life story about romance, heartache, and the daily demons we all face.
Yes, we are all damaged in some way. Realizing this has made me a better friend, a better parent, and a better spouse. It has made me more patient with strangers who seem uptight or rude. I give them the benefit of the doubt because I simply don’t know what they are going through on that particular day, at that particular time.
At the end of the day, every single one of us is struggling to survive, to overcome, to achieve, to recover and to try and find our happily ever after. We all have our baggage to carry, our ghosts to face, our fear to try and knock us down. But ultimately, I truly believe that each one of us will find our own way through. Maybe even Kaitlyn.
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