For the longest time, I didn’t know I had anxiety. It wasn’t part of my cultural status-quo, nor was it talked about in my household. So, to me, it was just fear, but being afraid wasn’t very masculine, something that I picked up whilst growing up.
Being a male teenager and having to explain that I was afraid was indeed a hard thing to do, so I decided to not let anyone in. My relationships were built out of social expectation and when someone wanted more out of me I would simply cut them out of my life. Easy stuff. Or so I thought.
I grew up in a narrow-sighted traditional family which branded me as a lazy person who was very intelligent but didn’t put in the work and was failing his pre-settled part in the cultural discourse. I didn’t know any better and despite feeling hurt, I often thought they were right.
Sure, I had lazy days, serious doubts as to what I wanted, who was I supposed to be and the overall meaning of everything and nothing. But I never made connections with anxiety, and what it is to live with it, and my details. Consequently, I lived with guilt and suffered from peer comparisons for most of my life.
I am in my 40s now. I am not a vulnerable teenager anymore despite feeling like that from time to time. I have had the help of a fantastic therapist that for over 2 years helped me understand that I didn’t have to carry my shame and guilt and these were the consequence of a culture and not an innate condition.
In this time of the pandemic, I decided to come back to my home country and be closer to loved ones. Naturally, the prejudices and obsolete cultural concepts are still very much present and I often need to breathe deeply to be able to accept them and face them whenever they stand in my way.
However, this is not a clean cut. There are moments where I just want to leave again as I remember why I left and how living in the UK opened many doors of perception that speak as to who I am nowadays. Other times I acknowledge that by accepting that not everyone has to be like me, I am more able to let go of the need to “wake” people up because there is some arrogance to that as well. I have seen very closely how far people can go when their belief system is put into question.
So as expected in my home country anxiety is still an issue that is seen as less than what it really is, but either you are a professional who has studied about it, or like me, you have gone through it. There really is no point in expecting more than that.
At the moment I am still undecided on how to proceed.