Learning that you have an anxiety disorder can be a tough pill to swallow. On one hand, you’re relieved to have answers. On the other hand, it can leave you with more questions, like “why do I have this disorder?” These questions can lead to unproductive trains of thought, like “I should’ve prevented this disorder from happening in the first place.” Sometimes, you’re even left to wonder if your disorder is somehow your fault.
Society, unfortunately, likes to blame the victims. Many of us receive implicit or explicit messages that mental illnesses are “no big deal”; society also likes to have us believe that mental illnesses are somehow character flaws. These societal beliefs breed ignorance, which leads others who haven’t experienced anxiety disorders to say things like “stop worrying” or “stop being so sensitive”. The worst one by far is “other people have it worse.
Unfortunately, we don’t always know what causes anxiety disorders, or mental illnesses in general. Sometimes, anxiety disorders and depression are tied to specific situations that are outside of your control. This was the case for me.
I’ve always been introverted and shy, and it’s not always easy for me to make friends. My anxiety disorder and depression developed when I was sixteen, during a rough sophomore year of high school. In an effort to protect my privacy, I won’t go into many details. Looking back, my anxiety disorder and depression developed because I was trying to be strong for too long.
Once I transferred to a different school, my depression symptoms almost entirely went away. My depression is a lot better today, but sometimes symptoms re-emerge if I’m dealing with severe, acute stressors. It took a while for me to understand that these disorders were not my fault. Even now, I still have to remind myself of that from time to time.
And that’s what I want to talk to you about today.
No matter how your disorders began, it’s not your fault. Don’t beat yourself over what “could have” or “should have” been done. You’re human. Unless you can see into the future, there’s no way you could’ve known how things would turn out. Sometimes, we don’t know what causes anxiety disorders. As much as you might like to dwell on what caused your disorder, it’s more productive to acknowledge that you have this disorder and seek the proper treatment for it.
If your disorder developed due to a hardship or trauma, please allow me to express my sincerest apologies. What happened to you wasn’t okay. It may feel like the rug was ripped out from under you, but you will get back on your feet again. It will take time, but you will feel happy again. You will find your new normal. Your life won’t be defined by your disorder or what happened to you.
Regardless of how your disorder started, you didn’t choose for this to happen any more than someone chooses to have any other disorder. This isn’t something you brought upon yourself. It may feel like things aren’t ever going to get better. Believe me, I’ve been there. I remember feeling like that myself. With the right treatment and support, I’ve gotten back on my feet, and I’ve been happy and successful. The road to recovery is long and hard sometimes. It takes strength, patience, and support, but it’s more than possible to live a full, happy life.