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Why I Relate to Randall From 'This Is Us' as Someone With Anxiety

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Every week I watch “This Is Us,” and I continue to find more and more things I can relate to. I especially relate to the character Randall for many reasons.

First of all, Randall has a big fear of abandonment because he was adopted. He felt he was not wanted by his own mother and father, and later found out that his adopted mother had a hard time accepting him in her heart. He never felt he fit in anywhere.

I grew up with a similar fear of abandonment, though for different reasons. I was the kid in class that stood out as “different” for my religious beliefs, being highly sensitive, being labeled a “teacher’s pet,” etc. When I was 11 years old, my older sister left home for reasons I didn’t fully understand. It took me over 20 years to understand that my sister left of her own accord and my mom wasn’t the cause of her choice.

Second, Randall has a severe anxiety disorder. It became evident when he was still a young boy that he liked things organized and “just so.” When things didn’t go his way, it was difficult for him to give up control. He was babied by Rebecca and protected from getting hurt.

Growing up, I had anxiety and was very close to my dad. In elementary school, I had a hard time paying attention in class and as I got older, I discovered I had attention deficit disorder (ADD). As an adult with “high-functioning” anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder, I am still all about order and needing to be in control of the things I can. Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to, and that is a lesson I am constantly reminded of. My parents were always people I could turn to for answers, to protect me from harm. As an adult, I don’t know how to protect myself from harm. I’ve learned to solve my problems without my dad’s help and protection. It’s a constant struggle, but in the end it makes me stronger.

Finally, even though Randall is constantly battling anxiety, when he has to be strong, he finds the strength to do so.

On a recent episode, he had to put his anxiety aside to be strong for his wife. She looked to him for reassurance and it calmed her fears. This hit home when my mom was in hospice care the last six weeks of her life. My dad found it hard to deal with everything that was going on, and he turned to me for comfort. I always used to say, “Why is it that the one with anxiety is taking charge of everything?”

I was able to put aside my own feelings and completely focus on what needed to be done to keep things organized; from the many friends that came to see my mom and comfort the family, to making sure my dad was eating well and keeping him calm so as not to worry my mom. There was a time when my dad had a major anxiety attack, and I held his hand and prayed with him. I assured him he was going to be OK and that we will get through this.

That experience taught me that when it is necessary, I can put my anxiety on the back burner and be strong for others. I love being relied upon and comforting those who need it. I used to identify myself as mainly a caretaker and I was proud of that fact. However, much like Randall experienced, sooner or later you break down and have to take care of yourself.

Bottom line: a person with “high-functioning” anxiety still needs to take time for themselves. Meditate, take up a hobby or do something they love to do. You might have a hard time being strong for others if you aren’t strong for yourself.

I hope “This Is Us” continues to depict anxiety in such a beautiful light.

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Lead image via “This Is Us” Facebook

Originally published: November 16, 2017
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