So yesterday I was speaking with my partner about the same old issues. We kind of run in circles…much to their frustration.

This is when I had a bit of a revelation.

Where does my own intrinsic anxiety end and where does my work related stress begin?

At the start of this year, I thought it was all due to burnout. But soon I found that working less could still provoke that anxiety of making the wrong decision for a patient.

I’ve figured that eliminating the issue – leaving clinical medicine – would solve all my problems…but will it?

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My journey with anxiety – recognising the origins

I’m certain that I wasn’t born with anxiety. I am a product of my environment. It’s a familial trait to be constantly worried. Coupled with the emotional traumas of childhood, I soon learnt to always be alert and on edge.

I had a caregiver that would remove affection, attention and even food at times as punishment for not being perfect. Physical punishment was a daily regular occurrence, and was often for no good reason. Even laughter could provoke being hit. We weren’t beaten terribly, but it was enough to leave you scared most of the time.

As I grew the physical punishment lessened, but the emotional took over. If I did poorly in a test (by poorly less than 100) it would be met with derogatory comments or ignoring. Dating in my final year of school resulted in three months of zero eye contact or attention. It was as if I didn’t exist.

I was always a well behaved meek kid. Challenging authority was not something that I did. My reaction to my environment was to work harder and try to be perfect. In an attempt to please my caregiver. Unfortunately, people like my caregiver (and extended family) are deeply unhappy. Nothing you do can make them happy.

As I became an adult I realised that it was fruitless and disappointing trying to make them pleased with me. This constant seeking of external approval and love was exhausting and pointless.

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Anxiety as an adult

I went through a period of resentment and anger about how I was treated as a child. Why was love always with terms and conditions?

All of the external negative talk about me as a human being, from my intelligence to my looks, had been absorbed. Now I had made my own mental cage of self imposed limitations.

Far from the influences of my caregiver, as a grown adult, I was still seeking validation. My self esteem was shot, and still is. In my romantic relationships I would be quick to worry that the slightest change in behaviour meant I had upset them.

Since I had never been emotionally comforted as a child, I had issues voicing my feelings. I was always used to keeping them bottled up and trying to resolve them inside…I became the island.

Owning my issues

A powerful realisation was to own my issues. It’s not the fault of anyone else. Yes I am the product of my environment, but now I am who I am.

Instead of blaming others for my anxiety and poor self esteem, it’s time to reclaim my power. I’m an adult and it’s now within my power to work on myself and build up my self love.

I also want to break the cycle and not pass on the negative self talk and eternal anxiety to my future children.

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Full circle – is it my anxiety or the job?

So I’ve come a long way with my anxiety. I’ve been working on myself and have seen a psychologist. Yet I can still spiral into a bit of a panic. Depression often goes hand in hand with anxiety too.

I’ve identified a few triggers with my anxiety. The main ones are making mistakes (specifically medical mistakes), financial concerns, and family arguments.

Nothing else inspires that level of stress. Out of all the triggers the worse one is making mistakes. I think mainly because I can handle personal issues better than the idea of hurting another person.

When you go into medicine you swear an oath to do no harm. You go in wanting to help and save people. Yet sometimes that isn’t the case. It’s been hard reconciling that.

I still don’t know what path I should take, and I’ve been researching options. For the moment I’m trying to let go and see what happens. You can’t know the future.

In the mean time I’ll work on myself and my anxiety. Learning the art of self love, so that I can be a healthy individual before trying to help others.

Have you thought about your own anxiety and where it comes from?