If death is the antithesis and killer of life, then anxiety comes in at a very close second. The most common disorders which people see me for are anxiety and depression; and, as most of my clients would agree, and from someone who’s struggled with both, depression is often much more preferable to anxiety, even more tolerable. Although I’ve become a somewhat adjusted adult since my early challenges, I frequently find myself dwelling on what could have been had I not had to struggle with anxiety at such an early point in life, when I was a child and a teenager; I can’t help but wonder why so much of my life was taken away from me.
The 90s were difficult for a kid dealing with clinical anxiety (yes, there is a distinction between clinical and healthy), and what made it so was the general lack of understanding and support for children dealing with pathological anxiety; thus, therapy, or any other type of treatment, weren’t options for me, not really. I remember having a panic attack at ten years old, thinking I was going to die; I recall all of the social events, parties, and school performances I missed out on because I was afraid; and, I’ll never forget avoiding girls that I liked out of an intense fear of rejection. And all of this on top of the sense of derealization which virtually upended my life and kept me homebound for almost a decade; I was certain that a career, let alone one which required great effort was an impossibility for me.
And that was what the decade was like for most children with any form(s) of anxiety; I felt misunderstand by both my family and my teachers. And now, those same burning, childhood questions continue to blaze as I ruminate about what life would have been like had someone noticed that there was something seriously wrong, that I wasn’t a delinquent who hated school, that I was simply afraid. And I also wonder how my current romantic life would be different had I gone through the normal struggles and growth of a teenager in love, learning of the ebbs and flows of love, while maturing as a partner. I still can’t seem to shake the feeling that I was robbed, as though I’m missing a part of my life that everyone else has; whereas, death was my great giver of life, anxiety was its taker, the ultimate counterpart. Interestingly, my own therapist once remarked that she thought death was my mask, and my obsession for a purpose, as it served to hide my intense fear of life, a childhood anxiety which never really went away.
What could have or what would have been different had someone asked if I were okay? I really don’t know. Will I always dwell on what could have been? Most likely. But I’ve resolved, at some point in the past, to disallow my anxiety the power to rule over me any more, at least not in the way it did back then. And despite my early, and continued, struggle, I’m fairly happy with where I am in my life; it isn’t perfect, but nor does it have to be. Much like with death, which can be seen as either life’s giver or taker, anxiety, in a moderate amount, can be used for motivation, to help one try to do as best as they can; and, that’s the form I’ve been spending much of my time trying to create.