For years I searched for a reason or cause for my anxiety. Some of us have these demons because of something traumatic that happened to us. This however, is not my story. I am not taking away from those that have this experience: we all have different journeys. Some of us are born with our brain firing off differently. For me, my little brain fires off in ways that produce an abundance of overthinking. Thoughts that are at times irrational and negative, killing my confidence and causing me to believe bad things happen because I deserve it. While my anxiety is not due to a singular traumatic event, but it can cause them. Raise your hand if you’ve had a panic attack in Old Navy, simply for being in a long line. Anyone else? No? Just me?
I ran into an old friend just a few days ago – someone I haven’t seen in well over a decade. I have always been drawn to this person because they were interesting, charismatic, and there was something else to them that I could never put a finger on. I think this person has always made me a little nervous, like they could see things I’m often successful in hiding from others. Maybe it’s because I also see it in them. This person said to me that our past is what creates us, our burdens today are because of traumas that happened to us when we were younger. I said that wasn’t always true; sometimes people are born this way. He disagreed, and politely told me that I had trauma in my life, I just don’t remember it.
I suppose I can’t argue about something I don’t remember, though I do have a pretty good memory, fortunately or unfortunately. I have also spent years trying to attach my anxiety to something that happened to me. I’ve tried to place the blame on something physical so I could see and touch it, to no avail.
While trauma is not the cause of my anxiety, it nevertheless has shaped me. At times it makes me stronger and wiser, then in other instances it cripples me. These crippling areas are a work in progress. However, as I dig deeper into my psyche I’m realizing that anxiety has always been there. It manifested its way inside of me differently throughout the years. During childhood I had difficulty making friends and excelling in school; as a teenager I thought others talked about me behind my back, and feared recognition; in college, panic attacks started along with the fear of being in closed rooms. In my twenties, being put on the spot, or having to take the lead would cause near hyperventilation; in my thirties I went through infertility, and it was one of the darkest periods in my life from which I am still recovering. It left me unable to trust my body or the medical profession. Finally, today I still struggle with social situations and being on my own in public indoor places.
See there? All of my life. Misery is a part of me, but I don’t know many that have not had something distressful happen to them. I have been hit by a car while on a bike, almost fell to my death in Alaska, been grabbed by men in clubs, been unable to get pregnant for many years, suffered miscarriages, buried friends and family I loved, dumped by someone I thought I loved, and I’ve wiggled my way out of an abusive relationship before it got ugly, just to name a few. I don’t think we fully recover from the physical or emotional effects of pain; we take a piece of it with us for the rest of our lives.
Trauma does shape me, yes: I cannot disagree. My anxiety causes my reactions to unpleasant situations to sometimes be illogical. But, it is not the root of my anxiety. Today I am learning to recognize triggers, reprocess them, and find healthier ways of coping. It’s working. I have had this with me my entire life, and I know I will always carry it, but it will not own me.