Overthinking and overanalyzing is a common problem with anxiety sufferers. The mind likes to run in endless loops of worthless conjecture, questioning, dissecting and criticizing every decision and response. It becomes a hardwired obsessive behavior that leaves the person physically exhausted and emotionally drained. Without intervention and retraining of the mind, life can feel like an insurmountable hurdle.
Looking back, I would say that the first time I became depressed was when I entered fourth grade. That year, my class was divided into two groups, and I found myself separated from all my previous year’s playmates. I didn’t bounce back: that year started my long, mostly self-imposed exile at school. At recess, I paced the perimeter of the playground, and as I moved up through the grades, I effectively rendered myself invisible. The occasional thoughtless comment that came my way from some popular kid became my excuse for further isolation. Once in seventh grade I went to see the school counselor, and she showed me a poster on her wall. In the poster, a group of cartoon hippos were piling into a small boat, threatening to swamp it. The caption read, “More is not always better.” That message stayed with me, in the background, but it was many years before I really understood it or was able to assimilate it into my worldview.
Anxiety. One word, four syllables—but carries such a heavy load for millions of people across the globe. Anxiety is defined as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes.” As a young girl, I have always known that something didn’t feel quite right when: a) I felt faint whenever it came to public speaking, b) I hated the thought of confrontation, and c) I always felt nervous when it came to being around a group of people, etc. I never knew what it was until 20 something years later when my doctor diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder, aka GAD & SAD. I finally had a name for what I was feeling all these years as a child/teenager and into adulthood. Numerous factors contributed to me developing anxiety. However, in my early twenties, I battled severe depression, and If I ever lost all hope in life, it was those 5 years because those were my darkest mental days. As the saying goes, I wish that on no one because it was a very scary place to be in.
Have you ever felt broken? What are some possible scenarios which may make a person feel broken? Do you think it could be a frightening health diagnosis? Could it be losing one’s job or home? What about coping with the loss of a loved one? Could it be the loss of a relationship or a business? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. How many people do you know seem to lead a perfect life? There are quite few, if any, who have never had a factor which could potentially cause one to feel broken. It is part of being human.
The tipping point which threatened to shatter my life was our son’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis. All I could think of was the horrifically short life expectancies of people who have received this diagnosis. He had already experienced two years of symptoms prior to this. Our son was only thirty-one years old when he was diagnosed. It can be devastating to lose a family member, particularly from the younger generation. Initially, I lost my desire to eat and my ability to sleep. Pounds as well as hair began to break away from my body.
Last June, I went blind in my left eye from a laser eye surgery gone wrong.
It would take a speedy instinctive quest for a second opinion, three more months, an older more experienced surgeon and another agonizing correction surgery, for my left eye’s vision to be restored. Thanks to the top-notch, wildly skilled, second ophthalmology surgeon I visited, I can see much clearly now with both eyes, with no need for spectacles or contacts. However, the months during which my left eye remained blind, while filled with unspeakable worries, also served as a crash course in mindfulness.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost has always resonated with me. As a writer, I can appreciate a good simile, and I always want to live my life like he describes in this poem. I think this logic applies to daily life, both the big and the little things. For example, I have always believed in daring to be different, and I take it as a compliment when people call me weird. The only time I go with the flow is when I’m floating down a lazy river!
This is not to say that I live some eccentric lifestyle: I’m married, we have a mortgage, and I’m scratching my head about how to keep the critters out of my garden. And as much as I would love to travel overseas one day, you don’t have to backpack across Europe to take the road less traveled!
My name is Michelle Clark and I started suffering from severe depression at the age of 13. I would just cry and cry for no reason, could not concentrate or do simplest tasks like vacuuming. I would miss two weeks of school at a time. I had a severe manic episode at the age of 17 that resulted in a hospitalization. It was during the three-month stay at the hospital that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Founded in 2014 by Dr. Phoebe Chi, PhoebeMD: Health + Inspiration is a health information and literary arts website that aims to inspire, empower, and inform through a curated mix of essential health information, uplifting stories, and original poetry.