Something I have struggled with ever since I was young is worry. I was homeschooled for a large portion of my life, and finally attended a brick-and-mortar school in 2nd grade. I would experience constant worry throughout the two years I was there. I would worry about almost anything and everything. It could be a test, something I said at recess, an event I am going to after school: it didn’t matter what it was I worried. It got so bad in third grade that I worried to the point I was physically ill and was sent home vomiting. My worry had changed to what I believe was anxiety. Anxiety has three main components: emotional, physiological, and cognitive (Marques, 2018). For me, all three of these behaviors were present: worry being my cognitive response, my emotional being many things including fear, while my physiological was vomiting (along with sweating and shaking). My mother quickly removed me from school after 3rd grade and homeschooled me. I improved, but not because I had learned how to deal with my worry and anxiety but because I was removed from the situations.
For years afterword, I struggled with worry and anxiety. There were times I would again bring myself to the point of physical illness obsessing over something that had happened in the past or could happen in the future. I remember times when I would bring myself to the point of shaking, and hyperventilating. This lasted up until my junior year of high school, where I re-entered the brick-and-mortar school system. In that environment I had to learn to deal with this behavior, because if I didn’t I knew that I wouldn’t succeed in school. My old behaviors didn’t go away completely it’s just wasn’t as extreme to where it impacted my daily life (therefore, no longer anxiety type symptoms vomiting, shaking, sweating). Today, this behavior is again becoming a problem. I now, again, get so worried my stomach knots up and often to deal with these emotions I use food. This is not the way I want my life to continue: it’s damaging to me physically and psychologically. Eating junk food when I am worried leads to me gaining weight which effects my confidence and self-esteem. Not only that, but overall because I am unhealthy I feel terrible: tired, weak, and unable to focus like I should. Then all of this brings me to feel emotionally drained and unable to handle normal everyday interactions with the ease that I used to (not to mention I am now feeling a deep sadness throughout most of my days). I have had too many nights this past year where I have just broken down and been unable to function because my anxiety and worry got out of control, and I couldn’t stand it any longer. As I get older, if I don’t take care of this now, it’s only going to get worse.
One thing that I discovered through this term was that I could relate to neuroticism at a certain level. In the book, there are two tables of The Five Factor Model traits and what they consist of and in the neuroticism row worry and anxiety is present. Neuroticism has quite a few different factors, including: being insecure, feeling inadequate, and being hypochondrial (Diener & Lucas, 2016, p. 372). Other factors include being depressed or getting angry (Diener & Lucas, 2016, p. 373). I experience many these factors in varying degrees (though anger isn’t a true struggle for me) and they are often a part of my daily life. I tend to, respond emotionally to events that would not affect most people, and [my] reactions tend to be more intense than normal (Five factor test Result, n.d.). The worst out of all the behaviors associated with neuroticism is my worry. I worry about a lot of things in my life: from how I might have done on an assignment, to one comment I made to somebody three days ago and if they took it the wrong way. Worrying over these things can last for days. Worry isn’t the only thing that I can relate to with neuroticism, but it’s the one I am focusing on in my life right now. One site I found states how one who has neuroticism may experience worry due to a need for perfectionism and I think this may be the root of many of my struggles (Waude, 2017). My academic life is a big area where I struggle with perfectionism. I will often worry about how well I am going to do on something before the assignment/test has even been started. And it often is hard for me to accept in my daily life that: yes, I did do my best. This can be something that trips me up at work a lot, and it can make my day a miserable one. My mistakes are something I obsess over, when I do something successfully I can’t enjoy it because I am concerned about what’s next, and I often think that people won’t like me if I’m not perfect enough or good enough for them (Tabaka, 2017). These are all examples of how I worry over my perfectionism.
I have often looked back on my worry and wondered how it came to be in the first place. It’s the age-old nurture vs nature question. Was I born with a susceptibility to worry or is it something I learned from my experiences. As the psychologist Amy Przeworski, PhD states, Individuals inherit a predisposition to being an anxious person, [and] about 30 to 40 percent of the variability is related to genetic factors (Van, 2015). The textbook also states that, No single gene directly causes anxiety or panic, but our genes may make us more susceptible to anxiety and influence how our brains react to stress (Drabant et al., 2012; Gelernter & Stein, 2009; Smoller, Block, & Young, 2009) (Barlow & Ellard, 2016, 424). Although some of what I experience may be genetic, I believe much of my behavior is something I learned growing up. It is important when investigating a behavior I want to change, to look at where in my life it may have been learned. I can engage in autobiographical reasoning to aide in this search: this means that I look at my past and what I have gone through to create an explanation for the behavior or what I am doing with my life in the present or plan to in the future (McAdams, 2016, 412). I think that one huge contributor to this behavior is my mother’s influence. She is a constant worrier and has been for as long as I can remember. When my father lost his job when I was in middle school, she verbally expressed her fear and panic about how we were going to have to give the dogs away, sell our clothes, and live on the streets. It wasn’t uncommon for her to see the worst-case scenario in her panic, and often it was her children she told those to. This is one example, but most definitely not the only one I was privy to throughout my life. An experience in my childhood that may have also helped guide to me where I am today in my perfectionism is that my father very rarely expressed approval or pride in my sister and me. The only times I was praised by him was when I came home with a good grade on an assignment or did something particularly great and so that became something I craved. The better I did, the more praise I could acquire.
Knowing what experiences in my life has led me to worry the way I do doesn’t necessarily change anything. It doesn’t stop me from continuing such behavior, but paired with my motivation to change it, it can help me see which areas in my life I need to work on so that I don’t worry like I have been. My perfectionism, as I have states above, is something that feeds into my worry. A good place to start in focusing on this behavior and training myself to better deal with it would be to remind myself that I am doing my best, and that is all I can do. What happens afterword will just happen, and it can be something I learn from or choose to wallow in. I worry so much about the what if’s, when there is no guarantee any of those worries will come true. One way to combat this might be to understand and accept that worrying won’t change anything, and maybe even repeat my worries repeatedly in my head or out loud until they don’t hold the same power over me (Mann, n.d.). If self-treatment doesn’t work, considering how long this behavior has continued, I could always investigate cognitive behavioral therapy. I’m not going to sugar coat it: even in the years my worrying wasn’t horrendous, it still wasn’t good. I would even say that it was never taken care of (even during my junior year as stated above), as much as the stress I was under wasn’t so bad that my worrying and anxiety became chronic issues after high school. As I grow up, there is going to be more and more stressors in my life “they aren’t things I can just hope will go away. I must deal with how I respond to those stressors, and I don’t think I have ever truly done that. I can try to self-treat my behavior, but if I need help: there is no shame in that. I doubt I would ever need a psychotropic drug, but if it was considered what’s best for me” I don’t think I would say no. I am just at that point in my life where it has almost become too miserable to say no to treatment.
I think tomorrow may be a good day to start attempting to control how much anxiety I am experiencing. The reason I state tomorrow, is because this week is going to be the most stressful week of this term. I have a review from the state of Oregon coming up at work, I have plenty of assignments to submit, and all my bills are coming up. This week is the perfect time to do everything I can to calm myself down, accept things how they are, and move on. Breathing exercises may help me, by slowing my heart rate and sending oxygen to my brain, I am giving my mind time to come to terms with what is coming up. I can then repeat in my mind what it is I am worried about, and strive to accept the inevitably of the situation and that I can only do the best I can and learn from any mistakes I may make. If these exercises don’t work, maybe I can look into yoga classes. If my symptoms don’t subside after a length of time (within half a year), and I have looked up all the solutions I can, it may be time to talk to my doctor and schedule an appointment with a therapist in town.