Where to begin with such a deep and broad topic? I think many of us don’t realize we have anxiety until it hits us hard and we look back at past instances that should have been a clue or red flag. The older I get the more obvious it is to me that I’ve been suffering with GAD for a long time, but it only really hit me after I graduated high school and entered university. There are so many expectations put on us when we enter the “real world” and are pretty much thrust into it alone after having spent 12 years in an educational system that had always told you what do previously. I felt very much like I had to navigate unfamiliar and rough waters without the right guidance and it really took a toll on me. Not to mention that once you start university and begin a program, you have to also start considering what your your future is going to look like, both in the next few years and even decades down the line. It’s a lot of pressure and can really make the worst parts of our psyches take over as a way to cope.
After starting therapy in April of 2018 and participating in it for 6 months I realized how far back my anxious thoughts and physical reactions went with regards to my childhood and the way I was taught how to handle situations. Fear was always a big component in my upbringing, because without a little bit of fear instilled in you how would you survive? I had to always worry about things that could possibly cause me harm, but that slowly transformed into thoughts that everything could hurt me, even mundane things that simply involved leaving the safety of my house. Even to this day, if I don’t make it a point to go out and about regularly, I will notice myself recoiling into my shell and avoiding contact with the outside world, simply out of anxiety of what could potentially happen. Logically, I know how silly that is and how irrational I am being, but my body still hasn’t caught up to that part of my mind and responds with alarm bells at small triggers that may have affected me as a child.
Anxiety is a necessary factor in our emotional development—it’s what allows us to determine the risks of certain activities or situations and can ultimately save our lives. But, unchecked anxiety can cause an unnecessary amount of rumination on things that have no reason to be feared and can quickly change from being a useful emotion to one that inhibits our way of life. Change is a big trigger for me, because it can be both positive and negative, and often I can’t tell between the two, so I default to just thinking of it as a negative thing. This keeps me from progressing, following my desires, and even just asserting my own individuality in the fear that I won’t be accepted around new people. I would recommend reading Satir’s work on coping stances for more detail about this.
As of now, I am 27 years old, living in a country I am unfamiliar with, and battling anxious thoughts on a daily basis. I like to think that there’s some sort of instant cure, but there isn’t and that’s okay. Life shouldn’t be cut and dry, despite how much I wish it was and how less anxious it would make me. It’s about growth, development and understanding yourself as much as possible. I’m in the process of finding a new therapist in London, so I’m hoping that will help me redirect my anxious thoughts into more productive emotions and to not feel so trapped in my own head as I often do without the guidance of someone much more knowledgeable of the disorder.