What Is The Cause of Anxiety – My Personal Story
As far back as I can remember, I was always regarded a SWOT. That was the term given to the “intelligent” “hard-working” or “geeky” kids at school. I was a model student. A teacher’s pet kinda guy.
They talk about rule-followers and rebels; I can say without a shadow of doubt I was, and pretty much still am, a rule-follower.
Naturally, I did well in primary school. I was one of the most “intelligent” (if not the most intelligent) in primary school. I use the word “intelligent” in speech marks because it’s a word that has different meanings for different situations. I was school-smart, i’m not street-smart, so definitely not classed as intelligent in that respect.
Anyway, in high school again I was one of the top performers. College same thing. In fact my essay-writing style in A-Level law was so precise the tutor got up one day, and started making aeroplane noises followed by gun-shots after calling me a Blitzkrieger.
I didn’t know wtf he meant so just smiled shyly, as I always did. The rest of the class was confused too.
He went to explain that back in the war blitzkrieg aircraft would go to very specific locations (eeeeeaaaaoowwww) and when they reached their target they’d fire (pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow) and then they’d move straight on to the next target (eeeeeaaaaoowwww) before firing (pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow) and so on.
That was how he explained my essay style. I’d get to writing on any given subject (move to target), and then pow pow pow, bang out all the relevant points, before moving onto the next relevant topic and pow wowing through the relevant points and so on.
If that didn’t raise my ego enough, this same tutor went to lengths to obtain my “official” exam paper to use as a model template for future students of his.
You Just Have To Work
And I never once stopped to think what I was doing or why. This was something that was drilled into me from the beginning. It’s the same now. You have to go to school. You have to get good SATs. You have to get good GCSE’s. You have to get good A-levels. You have to get a good degree. All so you can get a good job and live happily every after.
So that’s what I did. Worked, worked and worked. Until around about the final year of University.
First year Uni was same as before, work work work, I ended the year on a First. (They say the first year of Uni doesn’t count for anything). Second year Uni I started to slip…not from partying, I rarely went out…except for Dixy Chicken lol.
There was just something nagging away inside, that something wasn’t right. This feeling got stronger, and my grades/performance got worse.
Is This All There Is To Life?
The questions that I was starting to ask myself internally included: “Is this it?” Is this all there is to life? I’ve been working my ass off for the last 10-15 years, what happens next?”
Typically, for a law student, the next steps after graduation are Legal Practice Course (LPC) for 1 year, and Training Contract for 2 years (if you’re lucky enough to get one), before you’re fully qualified to be a lawyer, and then you just work.
So there’s me thinking once I graduate, then what…the LPC, then what…the training contract, then what…working my ass off until i’m 50-60-70…is that really all there is to life?
Second year Uni finished. The best part about Uni (in them days when tuition fees were paid for, and you got grants as well as loans) meant you didn’t really need to work, so when the summer holidays came, typically from June until September/October, there basically was a solid period of 4 months of complete freedom.
I used to wake up at 4 am for the morning prayer, drink some milk, read the Quran and a translation, go back to bed. Wake up at 9-10, go to the gym, come back home with a can of Nurishment (loved that sugary shit) and more milk, before hitting the shower and praying the afternoon prayer.
Then the rest of the day was spent learning new things on the internet, reading books, and wasting time with Pro Evolution Soccer (video games). I’d get in the remaining 3 prayers before going to bed.
I basically developed a routine where I was healthy physically (going to the gym), mentally (reading and obtaining new knowledge) and spiritually (praying).
I cut down the amount of TV I watched (unless it was a really thought-provoking film or drama). There was no room for mundane shit. The music I listened to changed, from hip hop, gangster rap, pop and what not, to classical, spiritual, violins, pianos and and all that.
My interests started to deviate towards “other worldliness”. Spiritual experiences. A search for deeper meaning. Purpose.
It was the most peaceful time, and the most content and happy i’d ever felt.
The Weird & The Wonderful
Existential questions plagued my mind and aroused so much curiosity and wonder, “what is the purpose of life? Why do I exist? What is my destiny? Is there such thing as free-will or is everything determined to happen the way it will?”
I started reading philosophy and psychology. I started to “feel intelligent”. Then I started asking, “what happens next? What happens when we die? Where do we go? If people go to heaven or hell once Judgement Day happens, and Judgement Day hasn’t happened yet, where are all those dead people (or their souls) now?” etc.
I wondered about the planets, stars and universe. Was there life there. Were there other beings.
I took a deep interest in Astral Projection, I was convinced the soul leaves the body when we sleep, and the dreams we have are places where the soul has travelled.
Meditation was a vehicle to release the soul whilst in a conscious state. I used to visualise my soul leaving my body so often…I never achieved astral projection, but what it did do was ensure I had vivid, lucid dreams…where I would end up in different worlds and places. Then i’d wake up with a longing to go back where the dream was.
In waking life, I just wanted to read, read and read some more. There was so much knowledge out there. So many amazing things. I needed to get through them all.
I wanted a telescope to look at the stars. I wanted to learn how to play the violin, or the guitar…because that shit was heavenly to listen to. It was all so exciting!
“Real World” Kicks Back In
Then Uni started. The final year. The routine was broken. As much as I tried, it never came back.
And with it came back the anxiety. I was bored of the life that I was supposed to live. Go study. Go work. Go buy a house. Go retire until old age.
I’d then ask people just generally, “is this all you think there is to life? Don’t you think there’s more to life than this?” The answer was always no, this is all there is. So I stopped asking. Especially when the insolent retorts of “you’re being ungrateful for what you have” started popping up.
My interests and passions seemingly had little place in the world. Not many, if any, were interested. I’m sure to some I started to come across as weird or strange. The topic of conversation had to stick to the usual: sports, women, degree and career etc.
But as uni got going, time inevitably got spent on studying boring shit. The anxiety was still there, but I thought just graduate first and then it’ll be okay. By this time my desire to become a lawyer had gone. I just needed to finish the degree.
Student Life Is NOT Preparation For Working Life
So I graduated. And then I got my first full time job…an awful year. School and University does not prepare you for working life. I don’t care what anyone says. The anxiety and stress from that job went to an astronomical level. I’m pretty sure I hit depression that year.
I hated my job so much that I was desperate to be a student again..so I went back to study the LPC. Not because I wanted the qualification, or that I wanted to be a lawyer, but because I wanted to be a student again. And stop working. I got through that year by telling myself it’s only a year, just finish the year and everything will be okay. Sound familiar? Yeah…that’s what I was saying to myself to finish Uni.
And so I went back to study. Wasn’t too long into the course when the anxiety came back. So again I appeased myself by saying just get through the year, get the course done and then everything will be okay.
Conforming To Society
With time passing by, and spent on work, and study, I never had much to spend on those interests i’d developed. Along with the frustration of not having many (if any) people to talk about those topics with, slowly but surely, they started to slip from my mind and I conformed to the norms of society.
The LPC finished, finally. And now I needed a job. I had to earn money. I believe it took me about 6 months to find a job. The stress of not making any money, the deep anxiety that’d now been there fore a few years hadn’t gone away, the thought of whether uni/lpc was worth it. I wasn’t even looking for a legal job, any job would have done. Eventually I got my first legal job.
Sigh of relief. Until, of course, it wasn’t long before that darned anxiety came back. I lasted two years in that job. I quit before I had any other plans/or jobs in the pipe-line. That’s how fed up I was.
Then the stress of not earning came back, and the job hunt started. I pretty much had enough of law and the legal field, so I looked into other areas. Wasn’t much out there. And the application processes were ridiculous. Submit an application. Phone interview. Analysis test. Personal interview. More tests. Role-plays. Give examples of a situation where the world was in danger of annihilation and you had to save it, what did you do and what was the result blah blah. Like wtf. HATED those type of questions.
I got desperate and ended up applying for legal jobs, which I got. And then I worked my ass off in that job. Same routine as always, punctual, organised, came in, did my shit, went home, ate, watched tv, went to bed. Rinse and repeat.
By this time i’d pretty much forgotten about those interests that I so loved. I was stuck in conformity land. Cars, holidays, clothes. Consume consume consume.
How Life Is Supposed To Be Lived
I qualified as a lawyer. Carried on working with the same routine, carried on living with the deep lying anxiety and burdensome unfulfilment.
Carried on living life as it was “supposed to be lived”. Work, get married, get better cars and clothes and all sorts of material possessions.
The anxiety never went. The “is this all there is to life” never went. I was desperate for an escape. I even planned on moving to Pakistan for good because it represented an escape route to the mundane, uninspiring and soul-sucking routine in England. I applied for jobs there. But there wasn’t really anything I could find.
Freedom Is The Aim
I left the legal job. And then I started freelancing and consulting. Job hopping. from one place to the next. I couldn’t hold a job anymore full-time, I struggle to work for someone else. My time is worth more than the salary someone pays me. More importantly, being paid to sit in an office all day making someone else money represents a clear lack of freedom…ultimately, isn’t that what we all want?
By this time, i’d spent a lot of money and effort into side projects, new businesses, online businesses, new opportunities. Delved into shit like ACN, a woman’s shoe business, property investment and what not.
Made money. Worked ridiculous hours. Dealt with ridiculous shit. Down-played the anxiety and unfulfilment. Searched for one new opportunity after the other.
The feeling of unsatisfaction and frustration again led me into the next phase, opening my own firm. Again not something I really wanted to do. Just did it because of peer pressure, and it’s what was supposed to be done now that I couldn’t handle working for someone else, along with the ball-ache of consulting for multiple firms at the same time.
The initial excitement and exuberance passed, and now i’m where I am today. “Successful”, made it, got everything going…but unsatisfied, unfulfilled and frustrated.
So What Is The Damn Cause Of Anxiety?
“What’s the point man? What’s the point of life. There is no point.” These were the constant thoughts that reverberated in my head for years. These are the kind of thoughts that create anxiety, and for some deep depression. Luckily, I had my religion (Islam) as an anchor that stopped me hitting depression, and there was never any inclination/thoughts of suicide (a topic I intend on covering later).
Mix this with the guilt of being ungrateful. I have a truly blessed life. I have everything I need and a whole lot more. But still something is nagging away.
There’s also the two ways to view of my achievements:
i) It takes tremendous mental strength, grit and determination to pull through something you don’t like and at times hate…how I’ve managed to smash through the legal career and get to the level of success I have whilst hating so much of it i’ll never know. Kudos to me lol.
ii) But then the “what if”. What if I was passionate about what I did?! If I was this successful doing something I hated, what could I have achieved if I did something I loved? There’s a sense of regret.
It’s only in the past few days/weeks where I’ve remembered about the “perfect summer” and all those topics and interests.
So what is the cause of my anxiety? The repression of genuine natural interests, and persisting with somebody else’s dream/ideal life, and conforming to what society said I should be doing. I’ve completely neglected my passions, in favour of making money the way it is supposed to be made.
There are a plethora of other reasons…they’ll be shared in the coming days/weeks. But the above is a biggie.
How About You?
So what about you? If you truly reflect, and take a moment to think about it…are you living your life in a way you truly want to?
Or are you living it because that’s the way it’s supposed to be lived? That’s just the way it is.
Are your interests genuinely your interests, or are they there so you have something to talk about?
Difficult question to answer, so let me put it another way…if there was no money involved, would you work where you work right now? Would you do what you do now? If you could pursue anything in life without the restrictions of finance, family and friends, what would you pursue?
Let me know..I genuinely am interested in hearing from you. And if you got this far well done and thank you, I have rattled on quite a bit in this one so i’ll cut it there.
Until the next one…
hi some great points here it strikes a chord with me as I had anxiety and the best thing was to talk about it thanks for this
Hello mate. Thank you for the comment. I’m glad you opened up, and it’s good confirmation for others that talking helps.
When there is a difference between what you want to do and what you actually are doing , you get stressed. I am believer of always following your inner voice and instinct. Let it guide you .It is hard to practice this but you have keep persevering.
Thank you for your comment. You are absolutely correct..not enough of us follow that inner voice. Too many other voices in the head from outside influences create confusion.
This is something I struggle with as well. I really have a hard time working for someone else. But then, my husband reminds me that it’s just to help pay the bills and it doesn’t need to be such a struggle.
But it is.
I have the same thoughts as you. “Is there all there is to life? Just go to work, pay the bills, do laundry, make dinner for the kids and go to bed? Then do it all again the next day. Why? What is the point of that?” Meditation helps. Doing adventurous things helps!
Hello, thank you for your comment. Yeah I can relate to your husband saying that…that’s what nearly everyone says. I used to stop saying it to people because after that they’d come back with “you’re being ungrateful…so many people would die to have what you have” etc. I guess others just don’t quite get it.
But you’re right…meditation and adventurous things definitely will help. Thank you.
Some very interesting thoughts about anxiety. I believe that ultimately anxiety is a lack of trust. The pressures of life flow in and we feel overwhelmed. We fret. That is when we simply need to let go, trust, and live in peace.
Many thanks for your comment. Interesting take…I never thought about it like that. I suppose you have a point, have trust that everything will work out. Comes in the same category as having belief. Appreciate your thoughts.
Hello, your story resonates well with me. Coming from accounting background, I decided to quit my good long-term career and start pursuing in marketing field. But I still struggle to cope with my genuine interest: doing an independent job. I don’t feel working to fill somebody else’s pocket.
It looks like I now know the reason of my anxiety. Thanks for sharing your story.
Hi…thank you for your comment. How’s it going with the marketing field? I’d say it’s definitely the way forward..work from anywhere anytime. Keep pushing, it’s a hard road freelancing but when you get there it will be worth it.