Last month, actor Gillian Anderson posted a video where she openly shared she lives with anxiety and depression, and that it should not be a source of shame or belittlement. She also gives advice to her younger self in that although she has anxiety, it doesn’t mean she can’t live a peaceful and beautiful life.
I am so thankful that a prominent person like Gillian has been so forthcoming about her experiences. It’s very easy to think — “You’ve got it all, Gillian. What are you anxious and depressed about?” But the truth of the matter is, anxiety doesn’t know your socioeconomic status or your profession, and it doesn’t care. Many of us are either born with a genetic predisposition or we were raised by our anxious parents, who communicated to us life’s experiences and events are dangerous. Many of us may have had life experiences that have shaken or shattered our sense of safety and trust in the people and the world of which we are apart. Regardless of how you’re here, you are here.
As a psychologist, I often sit with young adults who mirror my experiences as a younger version of me. I hear myself saying or thinking, “I feel like I’m talking to my younger self.” Watching Gillian’s video really hit home for me as I often wonder how differently my life paths and choices would have been if I had acknowledged my anxiety and had not been so shameful of my thoughts, feelings and choices. I often wonder if I could have lived more in the present and less in my head, what my life would have looked now. I wonder. I also wonder what I could have said to my younger self that would have made a difference in my experience of anxiety. I wonder.
I know I’m not alone with my regrets, my hindsight and regular bombardment of “what if’s.” But that’s anxiety too. That’s the all-consuming nature of anxiety that continues to take me away from the present and keeps me living in the past. It hurts to think that my life could have looked different, possibly even looked better or more relieved.