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  • Writer's pictureBefriending My Anxiety

The Emergence

Updated: Jul 10

Photo by Stormseeker on Unsplash

To be honest, it feels as if anxiety has been a constant companion throughout my life. I never knew there was a diagnosable term that encompassed the wide range of symptoms I experienced, such as intrusive thoughts, random dizzy spells, increased heart palpitations, heaviness in my chest, erratic breathing, and the fear of losing control of my mind. As a child, I couldn't articulate the complexity of what I was feeling. Even if I could muster a few descriptive words I realized at a young age that I was not in a safe place for vulnerability. This pervasive sense of danger and learned distrust in my closest relationships led me to conceal my intense emotions. Eventually this habitual coping skill allowed me to become really good at stuffing down my feelings and needs. As I got older I continued utilizing this coping skill, until it no longer worked. As an adult, I couldn't understand why I was feeling these overwhelming emotional and physical symptoms. What was wrong with me?

Little did I know, I was one major life event away from the emergence of my debilitating anxiety. It didn't help that I was an unbeknownst people pleaser with a relentless pursuit of acceptance and validation from others. This need to be liked and needed stemmed from a deep yearning for unconditional love and safety. As many individuals hailing from dysfunctional families and traumatic upbringings can attest, love often became a transactional commodity. The worst part is that the caregivers who displayed conditional love through manipulation and abuse were most likely unaware of their actions. They unknowingly repeat the abusive cycle they experienced in their childhood. All their pain and trauma, buried deeply inside but when the pain becomes too much to handle, is when you observe the destruction that trauma can unleash. I’ve witnessed these outbursts as uncontrollable rage and calamity. I realized that pain that is not processed and healed is passed on generationally until someone decides to change.

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Coming to America from a country that was riddled with war and instability affects people and it's obvious that trauma runs deep in my caregiver. To top it off my caregiver was also a victim of childhood abuse. I sympathize with the pain, poverty, and fear that my caregiver faced. I am also thankful for the sacrifices they undertook to build a better life for me and my siblings but being around a parent who didn't get help for their trauma was terrifying. Every day felt like I was walking on eggshells, waiting for them to erupt with anger over something that was trivial and inconsequential. No matter how many times I'd avoid the actions that would trigger them, I learned that there was no logical solution to the abuse. The best thing I could do was to suppress my emotions so that the physical and emotional altercations would end swiftly. It was better to follow the expectations given to me and not draw attention.

Even though I had anxiety growing up, it never affected my ability to function as a human being in the outside world, until it finally caught up with me. After years of therapy, my anxiety disorder exposed the pitfalls of my coping skills. There were consequences to suppressing my emotions, being a people pleaser, and having a lack of personal boundaries. However at the time, those coping skills were necessary to stay safe. It was my solution to a bad situation. Fortunately I’m no longer that child who was helpless and abused. I am now an adult in a safe environment. It took years to learn how to release the need to survive and learn how to thrive (If i'm being honest I'm still working on this.) I knew that if I continued living in a stressful state it would make me sick and a burden to others. My biggest motivators in healing was to be a better wife, friend, and sister but most importantly to be a kinder person to myself. I didn’t want to hold on to the pain that my caregiver was unknowingly transferring to me. I wanted to do better and break the generational trauma that permeated every individual in my family.

Healing is possible, and for me, it started with feeling safe, loved and accepted. A big part of my healing journey was contributed to doing the inner work, going to therapy, and the support of my husband. However, I still yearned to feel connected to others dealing with anxiety. Nobody can truly understand what you're going through unless they've experienced something similar.

After many failed attempts to find an anxiety support group in my local area or an online community, I realized what I was looking for didn't exist. I specifically wanted to feel understood and connected with other individuals who were going through the same thing as I was. It would have been helpful to read other people's stories and their healing journey while I was undergoing therapy for my anxiety and at times where I was struggling the most. This got me thinking,"If I was longing for this connection there had to be others who were too." This problem soon became something I wanted to fix. I couldn't let it go. After a few years of thinking, planning and writing exhaustively in my journal and apple notes, I finally convinced myself to take the first step by creating this space. A safe place for connecting with individuals who are living with anxiety.

You don't have to hide in shame because of your anxiety. You don't have to be embarrassed or feel weak for getting this sick. It's not your fault. I wish someone had told me this when my mental health started spiraling downward. My hope is that by sharing my personal relationship with anxiety, the knowledge that I learned through my struggles, and my many years of therapy, will spark that courage in you to begin your unique healing journey.

The philosopher Lao Tzu sums it up perfectly when he said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."

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