I grew up pretty well. Sure, there was some stuff. But, I had two stable parents who loved me unconditionally and provided for me. I had a roof over my head and food to eat. We weren’t wealthy, but we always had enough. I wasn’t abused. I had a pretty happy childhood.
Like I said, there was some stuff (another post for another time). But nothing that I considered to be major enough to lead to a “mental breakdown”, so to speak. It wasn’t really a mental breakdown, but if you’ve ever had debilitating anxiety of any form, you know that that’s what it feels like.
Looking back, knowing what I know now, there were plenty of reasons actually, but that’s not really the point. The point is, I felt I needed a “legitimate” reason to feel anxious. I needed a “why”. I needed an answer.
I beat myself up because I didn’t go through any sort of trauma that warranted my feelings of anxiety, but I considered trauma to be a death of a parent, abuse of some kind, a natural disaster, a near death experience, a serious or terminal illness, a war. Something absolutely horrific.
But the truth is, no one gets through life unscathed. Horrific, life-altering event or not.
The other truth is, you don’t necessarily need to pinpoint a specific trauma that’s causing the angst.
You have the “right” to feel anxious.
I’ve played the comparison game. Actually, I’m a pro at it.
Here’s how my thoughts used to go (some I still struggle with):
When I was a figure skater: “Look at her. Nerves of steel. I bet she doesn’t ever get nervous for competitions. Why can’t I be tougher?”
When I meet someone who has been through something horrific: “Wow. I could never, ever do that. I wouldn’t be able to go on. He/She is so much stronger than me. I’d fall apart.”
When I see someone give a speech: “How do they do that? What’s wrong with me? I can’t even speak up in a meeting without having an anxiety attack.”
When I hear someone thriving after mental health challenges: “I’ll never get there. They must be a stronger person than me. Why does my anxiety still get the best of me sometimes, even after all these years?”
Yikes. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The crux of it is, I felt weak for struggling with my anxiety, especially when other people, who have gone through way more challenging experiences than I have, appear to thrive through their challenges. I felt like I didn’t have the right to feel anxious. I needed a bigger reason.
But, again, no one gets through life unscathed. Those people I compare myself to, they struggle with something. May not be my struggle, but they struggle with something.
It’s helpful to look at the reasons behind why we suffer from anxiety. But it’s not helpful to internalize the fact that your reasons aren’t good enough. Because they are. And it is ok. You have the right to feel anxious.
We are all wired differently. We all have experiences and perceptions unique to us.
You don’t need to have gone through a near death experience to struggle with anxiety.
Trauma shows up in lots of ways and anxiety is so complicated. There are multiple factors that play into an anxiety disorder.
Please don’t misunderstand me. It’s important to search for the why’s. I think it’s been hugely beneficial for me to sit down with a Therapist and analyze certain events that have transpired in my life. There have been limiting beliefs and unhealthy thought patterns that have built up over the years, due in part to some of these events. So, I don’t discount them. There are diet factors, sleep factors, hormone factors, personality factors, and more that all play into why we may or may not struggle with an anxiety disorder. I would advise anyone suffering with anxiety to talk to a Therapist, a Doctor, or another mental health professional to figure out the why’s for you.
But my point is, it’s okay not to have a huge, ginormous why. It’s okay if you do and it’s okay if you don’t. Maybe you suffered from a big-T, serious Trauma, and have PTSD. Or, maybe it’s something less extreme, like a parent saying something hurtful to you that led to low self esteem. You don’t need to justify your feelings of anxiety. To yourself or to anybody else.
You don’t need to fight for the right to feel anxious. Knowing the reasons behind our feelings can be helpful for healing, but they don’t justify our struggle with anxiety.