I was born to be anxious. Literally.
With the chaos in my family home growing up, I'm learning that I've been conditioned to see the world very differently than many other people. I suppose I always knew that. But now I'm starting to understand it. There's a difference.
One of my doctors pointed out to me that I have been braced for danger for as long as I can remember. I knew my father would likely never lay a hand on me. But as a repeated witness to attacks on my mother, I'm realizing that I literally felt like I was in a life or death situation. My mom could die. My dad could go to jail. I won't know how to live. I could die. This is how a child's brain interprets things.
And it just happened over. And over. And over.
I was born to be constantly on alert; keenly observant and on edge. Any loud sound-- a door slam, a floor stomp, a raised voice-- made me jump. Still does. It was a signal. A signal that things in my world were about to get extremely frightening with no idea as to duration or severity. I had to be prepared for it all.
Now I understand why I constantly had terrible stomach pains throughout elementary school. Mom took care of it with a daily refill of Pepto Bismol in a travel size bottle, tucked in my backpack along with folders and books.
By the time I was in high school, I was fit to join the cast of characters, no longer just an onlooker. I had to stand for hours listening to him ranting at me. About anything. Everything. I dug my nails into my lower back or into my palm to have something physical to focus on. I experimented with starving myself, and then learned to purge when I'd failed. I wanted people to SEE I was hurt.
My dad died three years ago. But I'm still living life the way I learned to when he was here; it's all I ever knew. Have ever known. And it's incredibly hard to break something that I hold central to interpreting the world; to turn one of my core beliefs about life inside out.
How do I teach myself that the world isn't a dangerous place? That any uncertainty does not guarantee the worst possible outcome? That disaster will not strike if I make a mistake?
Logically, I know those beliefs to be untrue. But somewhere deep down, I believe them anyways.
I was born to.