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Does Having an Anxiety Disorder Build Character?

Posted Feb 22 2010 6:00am
Fagin in the condemned

About two weeks ago I was watching a t.v. show on the History channel about American prisoners of war and it got me thinking.

One of the most poignant moments in the show was when one of the former prisoners was talking about how his experience had helped him. He said it helped him to know himself better, he learned to deal with adversity, and if he had to do it all over again he would.

He described how he was kept in solitary confinement for months; the darkness of the cell, the tapping communication code he and his comrades developed to encourage one another. The story was moving.

Afterward, I got to thinking about my own adversity. My trials with anxiety. I wondered if this experienced had helped me any.

Now, I’m in no way comparing having an anxiety disorder to being locked up in a North Vietnamese dungeon circa 1962. I’m just thinking adversity, hardship, does it in fact build character? I think in some ways it can.

But if you asked me if I would do the last 10 years anxious again – I’d have to say hell no.

Believe me, I’ve thought about anxiety and what it means intensely for several years. And, in my case, it has helped me to build character. It has helped to know myself more, to be in tune with what I can endure. To have faith in myself. But I definitely would not do it all over again.

Nonetheless, I’ve learned that I am stronger than I thought I was. So, I’ve gained some, but I’ve also lost some. This is an interesting reflection to engage in when you think about it. Most loath anxiety, but perhaps most of us have gained something positive from it.

What do you think? Has it helped you build character?

Or has it simply been a useless source of torment for you?

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