Trauma Didn’t Cause This

For years I searched for a reason or cause for my anxiety. Some of us have these demons because of something traumatic that happened to us. This however, is not my story. I am not taking away from those that have this experience: we all have different journeys. Some of us are born with our brain firing off differently. For me, my little brain fires off in ways that produce an abundance of overthinking. Thoughts that are at times irrational and negative, killing my confidence and causing me to believe bad things happen because I deserve it. While my anxiety is not due to a singular traumatic event, but it can cause them. Raise your hand if you’ve had a panic attack in Old Navy, simply for being in a long line. Anyone else? No? Just me?

I ran into an old friend just a few days ago – someone I haven’t seen in well over a decade. I have always been drawn to this person because they were interesting, charismatic, and there was something else to them that I could never put a finger on. I think this person has always made me a little nervous, like they could see things I’m often successful in hiding from others. Maybe it’s because I also see it in them. This person said to me that our past is what creates us, our burdens today are because of traumas that happened to us when we were younger. I said that wasn’t always true; sometimes people are born this way. He disagreed, and politely told me that I had trauma in my life, I just don’t remember it.

I suppose I can’t argue about something I don’t remember, though I do have a pretty good memory, fortunately or unfortunately. I have also spent years trying to attach my anxiety to something that happened to me. I’ve tried to place the blame on something physical so I could see and touch it, to no avail.

While trauma is not the cause of my anxiety, it nevertheless has shaped me. At times it makes me stronger and wiser, then in other instances it cripples me. These crippling areas are a work in progress. However, as I dig deeper into my psyche I’m realizing that anxiety has always been there. It manifested its way inside of me differently throughout the years. During childhood I had difficulty making friends and excelling in school; as a teenager I thought others talked about me behind my back, and feared recognition; in college, panic attacks started along with the fear of being in closed rooms. In my twenties, being put on the spot, or having to take the lead would cause near hyperventilation; in my thirties I went through infertility, and it was one of the darkest periods in my life from which I am still recovering. It left me unable to trust my body or the medical profession. Finally, today I still struggle with social situations and being on my own in public indoor places.

See there? All of my life. Misery is a part of me, but I don’t know many that have not had something distressful happen to them. I have been hit by a car while on a bike, almost fell to my death in Alaska, been grabbed by men in clubs, been unable to get pregnant for many years, suffered miscarriages, buried friends and family I loved, dumped by someone I thought I loved, and I’ve wiggled my way out of an abusive relationship before it got ugly, just to name a few. I don’t think we fully recover from the physical or emotional effects of pain; we take a piece of it with us for the rest of our lives.

Trauma does shape me, yes: I cannot disagree. My anxiety causes my reactions to unpleasant situations to sometimes be illogical. But, it is not the root of my anxiety. Today I am learning to recognize triggers, reprocess them, and find healthier ways of coping. It’s working. I have had this with me my entire life, and I know I will always carry it, but it will not own me.


14 thoughts on “Trauma Didn’t Cause This

  1. Yes, great insight indeed. I think it’s so unhelpful for someone to tell you that trauma caused your anxiety. His statement was a blanker statement. Sure, that is sometimes the case, but sometimes it’s based on fear, or sometimes it’s from living in the future, not the present, and sometimes it’s a biological inclination. Only you know your history, your pain, your triggers. Great article.

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  2. This. This is the exact reason I do not discuss my mental health with many people. Everyone wants to know “why” I’m depressed and why I break out in hives when I get in crowed places; what caused me to become this person they never noticed before. I don’t have an answer for them; all I know is it is who I am now and I have to learn to live my life a little differently than I did 10 years ago.

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  3. I loved reading this and I especially loved how you wrote at the end that anxiety will not own you. That’s a tough one for me lately but like you, I’m learning to reprocess etc. Despite the things that have happened in your life that you’ve mentioned, I give you props for working through the struggle, overcoming hurdles, and sharing. More to power to you, fellow blogger 🙂 and all the best. Cheers!

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  4. Thank you, thank you for a reminder that not all mental health/emotional issues are caused by trauma. When parents come to see me, they often worry that they’ve done something to cause their child’s anxiety or OCD. I explain to them that this is not the case; our wiring has a lot to do with how we are. And, of course, we can learn to deal differently with what we were given. I like what Ethan Smith said during his keynote address at the 2014 conference of the International OCD Foundation, “I was born with OCD. I’ve had it my whole life.”

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    • The elevator doors took 10 seconds too long to open, panic. I try to take the stairs a lot. I tell others it’s for exercise but it’s because I think I would die if I were trapped in an elevator. It’s one of my greatest fears


  5. My brain fires off too much sometimes, and sometimes, i just, can’t get my neurons to slow down their synaptic firing, but after i’d figured out what had happened to me as i was growing up, my brain no longer runs as quickly too many times, and so, there’s definitely, something that’s tied us to our pasts, that’s caused our mental distresses that we’re experiencing right now, and sometimes, you may need to dig deeper, because the memories of our childhood trauma were suppressed by our young minds, for us to survie.


  6. Hello Friend, your writing goes from strength to strength and is always insightful. We share such a similar story and I send love and happiness to you.
    Reading through I discover we differ, I see all the causes for my anxiety as traumatic and when I learnt to accept/overcome/let go of the ‘misery’ from my past the anxieties were/are easier to control.
    For a small child feeling lonely and isolated is traumatic, thinking others do not like you or are saying mean things is traumatic – repeating this each day is only to traumatise yourself … well this was my thinking and I set about to say to that small child that she was a lovely beautiful child and worked my way from there.

    As Paging Mrs Zen above says, only you know your history, pain and triggers, stay true to yourself and stay strong.
    Only a few years ago I truly believed my life was over … it was … so I became someone with a new way of thinking
    As always thank you for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

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