Discussion of news topics with a point of view, including narratives by individuals regarding their own experiences

Anxiety Chronicles is a series from The Lily that examines the journeys different women have with anxiety.

This week, we hear from Pauline Dawkins. She was born in Jamaica and moved to London when she was 7. She was the first person in her family to go to college and complete a master’s degree. She now lives in Phoenix.

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My history with anxiety

I don’t recall hearing the term anxiety used in my own Jamaican culture. I would hear the word whispered in relation to other girls, but I never associated the term with myself.

I learned quickly that it was my job to take care of my own feeling as others in the family were busy with their own. I also learned to take care of their feelings too.

I became proficient at managing white people’s feelings: I learned that when I showed up — they often didn’t always know how to behave toward me.

The first conscious glimmer of the word “anxiety” came on the lips of one of my teachers in high school.

How anxiety presents itself physically

As a teenager I had difficulty sleeping. Without the knowledge of my parents, I would read after lights out, drinking copious cups of tea and then peeing all night long. I ended up developing an urinary condition which did not get diagnosed until my 30s.

Over the last eight years, I’ve had challenges with blood pressure which seems to want to rise without limit. I know now that is how my internal anxiety registers and have worked to modulate it with meditation and yoga.

How anxiety presents itself mentally

Mentally, it seemed I was incapable of planning and organizing schoolwork. Goals of any kind were a mystery. I just jumped into anything and everything as it presented itself.

When I won a place at college a year later, I was ill prepared to study but was still the first in my family to complete a bachelor’s degree. The constant mental pressure to somehow be three times better left a constant wariness and quiet desperation to measure up one day.

What a day when my anxiety is at its worst looks like

I want to complete tasks in unrealistic time schedules and accomplish more than is mentally or physically possible. That perpetuates that quiet desperation of not doing enough.

This can sometimes lead to feeling very discombobulated, losing focus and throwing in the mental towel on the day. I feel pointless and hopeless.

My go-to coping mechanism

I turn to tapping, meditation and yoga.

What I wish people knew about anxiety

Growing up in a culture where the word anxiety wasn’t in the vocabulary, it never occurred to me that Jamaicans could have anxiety. I now know the name, but had no reference for it for so long.

‘It feels like my body is literally caving in’: This is how I experience anxiety

‘No one understands the paranoia’

Positive affirmations and playing solitaire: This is what helps with my anxiety

The presence of anxiety is a constant in my life

Yoga, dancing, eating healthy: This is what helps with my anxiety

It took a lot of therapy