Finding Light In The Darkness – My Anxiety Experience Part 1

by Dr. Alexander Wright, co Founder of Full Fathom ~ Psychologist

An excerpt from my personal journal …

April 8, 2001

1998 World Series Game 2 – Yankees vs. Padres. I remember that game. I had my friends over and we were excited about the Yankees. I remember feeling so positive that day, a warm and comforting sensation; the combination of a favorite team and the people I love so much around me. I remember feeling happy with myself in 1998. Fast forward to 2001–I am two and half years older and I happen to be in the same room I was in that day and the Yankees are actually playing. I am in better physical shape, surrounded by people who love me, and pursuing a Masters degree in psychology. But why do I feel tears when I write? Well, because I have changed and I don’t think I wanted to. I worry most of the time. I think about my mental state, about how I’m going to feel in one hour, tomorrow, or the next time I’m out. These thoughts have consumed much of my time and disrupted much of my life. How have I become this worrying person?

February 25, 2016

My intention in sharing my anxiety experience in a multiple part series to be featured on our Full Fathom blog is both personal and important to me. I maintained a journal for several months during the spring and summer of 2001; it is an authentic memoir of my anxiety experience. This journal is very personal to me as it documents perhaps the most poignant part of my life journey to this point; a crossroads of emotional growth, a year of suffering in shame, a raw feeling of vulnerability, the first true encounter with all parts of my emotional self, and a process of healing facilitated by will, reflection, mistakes, and unconditional human support. No doubt that many of you will closely identify with some of my experiences, both in suffering and healing. Most importantly, however, this story is important to me because one of Fathom’s missions is to break down the barriers of mental health stigma by speaking more openly and honestly about mental health; about spiritual strength, vulnerability, and other powerful human qualities and conditions. I want all of you out there to know you are not alone and there is hope for both relief and a fulfilled life free of shame.

This series is not ONLY a portrayal of anxiety and the related suffering. It is also a story of faith. It is a story of growth. It is a story of renewal. It is a story of hope and convalescence. In every darkness, a light can be discovered. A primary focus on the negatives in any life experience can be highly detrimental. A sole focus on the negative and/or a sole focus on pathology grossly minimizes the human experience and excludes the many magnificent strengths of human character; resilience, kindness, generosity, sensitivity, empathy, compassion, love, and so many others.

Those who know me well are often surprised that I struggled with anxiety and panic for an extended period. Partially because of my easy going temperament. Partially because I kept it hidden so well. I suffered in shame for 7 months before I surrendered; before I sought support and guidance. Yes, as a psychology graduate student passionate about my field, I chose to suffer and unintentionally reinforce the stigma for a period of time. That gives you an idea of just how unfortunately powerful stigma can be. I lucidly know and understand now that anxiety is far from shameful. On the contrary, vulnerability to anxiety can be and often is an indication of tremendous strengths in thinking and character. Individuals who struggle with anxiety are often highly intelligent, significantly empathic, noticeably analytical, and very sensitive to their physical, spiritual, and social environment. Speaking of sensitivity; sensitivity is the quality about myself I presently love most yet I most resented in the heights of suffering.

Welcome to my story.