The First Time I Thought I Was Losing My Mind

I was 21 years old the first time I thought I was losing my mind—and not in the flippant I’m-running-around-like-a-chicken-with-my-head-cut-off kind of way—I mean really losing my mind. My thoughts started spinning out of control, fixating and worrying about anything and everything. My senses were on overdrive: sounds became louder, lights became brighter, and my skin painfully tingled. When I read, it felt as though the words on the page were screaming at me. If I looked at pictures of people, it felt as though their eyes were laughing at me, mocking and humiliating me.

Everything became overwhelming.

Somehow, things would quiet down and I would feel normal again, but normal did not last long.

There were countless nights when I would wake up from a deep sleep and start frantically worrying about something horrible happening to a loved one. The room’s silence became deafening and its’ darkness became frightening. My mind yelled at me: “I’m going crazy!”

It was a time in my life when I wanted to go out with my friends to bars and night clubs. But when placed in these situations, the sounds of loud music and people’s voices would overwhelm me and I would have no choice but to leave the room, not being able to get out of there fast enough. The same thing happened at the movies or when hanging out at a friend’s home. If things became too loud, if more than one person was speaking at a time, my senses would freak out and I’d have to either plug my ears to tune out the sounds or simply leave the room. And trust me, when you’re the girl in the room that plugs her ears when someone is talking or runs out of a movie theater, people take notice—and not in a good way.

This continued for YEARS.

I found myself always wanting to sleep because sleep would at least quiet my mind, even if only for a little while. I began to believe I would never be the same again. I was convinced that someday I would be locked in a padded room.

It breaks my heart and hurts my soul to remember this, but I truly believed it.

I remember feeling like a freak and knowing that something was wrong with me. Instead of speaking up, I shut down. I chose not to speak about it in fear that no one would want to hang out with the crazy girl.

It got to the point where I made myself physically ill with stomach aches and chest pains. It became so debilitating that I finally had to pay my family physician a visit. As my doctor assessed me and asked about my stress levels at home, work, college, etc., I finally said these words out loud, “I think I’m going crazy.

He looked at me and said, “I know you’re not going crazy, because if you were, you wouldn’t be saying that and you wouldn’t be here.” He then asked about all of my symptoms and explained that I was dealing with generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorders.

He suggested psychotherapy, referred me to a therapist, and recommended that I also read The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne, PhD to better understand how to deal with my feelings and emotions.

That conversation changed my life.

Sadly, these conversations are often difficult to have. It took nearly two years of feeling isolated and alone for me to finally say something. If I hadn’t become physically ill and had to see a doctor, I’m not sure if I would have ever spoken up.

That conversation happened over 20 years ago.

If you can relate, please know that you are not alone. Each of us has gone through or is going through something. We all have baggage and stress and issues and insecurities. We all have had a point in our lives where things just seem too heavy and difficult.

You are not alone.

If you speak up, if you talk to others about it, you will likely find that people can relate. And if you are still too afraid to talk to a family or friend about it, there are countless free resources available to you.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Mental Health America

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

I’m still the same person. I still deal with countless difficulties. I still plug my ears when I’m over stimulated. I still have anxiety. I can still work myself into a panic attack, but only if I allow it.

By incorporating the right treatment plan, including therapy and meditation, and by creating calming environments whenever possible, I have learned to easily identify when I’m starting to feel anxious and how to control my emotions before they control me.

“Therapy is a way of working with cognition, emotion and interpersonal relationships in a way that helps you manage your emotions and learn to see it in a different perspective.” – David Spiegel, M.D., Associate Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

“Yoga, meditation, exercise, diet, anger management and nutrition all matter in preventing or reducing stress and depression.” – Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

I’m probably one of the few people you will meet who will admit that I am glad I see a therapist. It’s not always fun or easy. Tough conversations happen. Wounds are often re-opened. Sometimes, I walk out of a session feeling worse than I did when I entered. But I know that I have to address the issue before I can work through it. And when I do, my baggage and stress becomes so much lighter. Through healing, I become renewed, energized, and re-focused.

The benefit of a good and reliable therapist has been tremendous.

If my experience resonates with you, please know that you are not alone. Healing is possible. Trust me.

Wising you peace, love, adventure, and serenity,

Jen