My out-of-balance mind isn't so strange after all
I was having a conversation with a medical professional the other day about anxiety.
He told me about how he used to manage his life and ever-increasing responsibilities by building systems in his brain.
He said that if he had any problems, he simply thought about them more until he solved them.
He said this worked for him throughout his childhood and college — and partially though medical school.
But something happened during medical school, and it all became too much for him.
The massive amount of medical knowledge was too much information to cram in his brain. It was too much information to keep straight.
The systems were overloaded, and they were starting to break down.
Eventually they cracked under their own weight and crumbled to the ground.
Listening to him tell this story, I felt a deep sense of knowing. I saw myself in what he was saying.
I did the same exact thing.
And the same outcome eventually happened to me.
I never went to medical school, but I had my own “medical school” moments — times in which there was just too much weight in my brain. Times when more thinking couldn’t relieve the pressure building in my head.
When I was younger, in high school and in college, I worried about everything.
I worried about assignments. I worried about things I said to friends. I mapped out the worst-case scenarios so that I could know how to avoid them.I thought I was being really smart.
I thought my worrying was serving a purpose. It turns out, all it was doing was filling my mind with pressure.
Soon, the pressure leaked out of my mind and infiltrated the rest of my body. It created tension in my muscles and joints before I even had the self-awareness to know I was tense.
This was before I discovered the power of meditation and the mind-body connection.
All of my thinking, all of my anxiety — it solved my problems on a superficial level. But it never resolved the issue at the heart of it all — my operating system. The tendency I had to worry, obsess, and ruminate in the first place.
Maybe you know what I mean?
The feeling that you have to get so much done, but when you get to work on getting everything done, you realize you’re moving around a lot but accomplishing very little.
This is how the “busy trap” is sprung.
There is a big difference between being busy and being effective.
In my anxious mind, I get lost in “being busy.”
When my mind is calm, I take a few moments to collect my thoughts and then choose the path that will be most effective.
One involves being reactive. The other involved being intentional.
“So, what ended up happening in med school?” I asked this now-doctor.
“Medicine,” he very bluntly stated.
For him, there was an actual chemical imbalance in the brain that was skewing his thoughts.
I’ve advocated for mental health awareness for years, but I’m ashamed to admit that I once held a bias that taking medicine was “failure,” in a sense.
I thought that medication meant you couldn’t do it on your own.
I finally let go of this bias once and for all when I was prescribed a medication years ago that specifically targeted the kind of intrusive, ruminative thoughts that I’ve known my whole life.
The immediate difference in my thinking was dramatic. It honestly blew my mind, and I mean this in a positive sense.
I became a convert, and now I’m supportive of targeted uses of medicine in conjunction with other forms of healthy interventions.
What I’m saying is that we all have mental health to take care of. We don’t all have bothersome thoughts that interfere with our quality of life, but we all have thoughts.
Theoretically, these thoughts have the ability to shape how we feel about ourselves, our actions, our relationships, and our environments.
For many people, there comes a point when mental health gets out of balance.
That’s when it’s time to be curious and wonder what could be going on in the body and the mind?
For me, meditation, regular exercise, regular sleep, and — yes, dare I say — medication have become vitally important to my well-being and ongoing good quality of life.
What I’m saying is that I don’t know what is going on in your life — but you do.
You know your life best.
Is it out of balance? Is there more to the story?
Stigma often makes us ashamed to talk about mental health.
We don’t have stigma preventing us from talking about the clouds. And yet they come and go, these clouds, forming the always shifting canopy of our lives.
Mental health is what we have down here on Earth. It’s in our bodies, our minds, and our hearts.
It’s not going anywhere, so let’s talk about it.
There’s no sense in feeling strange all by ourselves, right?