A few months ago I hired a new employee for my private practice. She was my first employee, which meant there was a lot of new things for me to figure out and think through. At the same time that I was onboarding this employee, my caseload shrunk a little. This led me to have some concerns about income, paying for my employee, and if I needed to ramp up my marketing efforts. In my personal life, I also started a psychology book that posited many controversial points, but interesting points.
As a result of these three things, my mind was overactive at night. It wanted to think through these things and help me resolve them. I struggled to sleep.
When I told my sister on the phone about my poor night of sleep, the phrase slipped out of my mouth, “My anxiety is acting up again.”
What I don’t like about this slip of the tongue is that it pathologized my brain and my normal and acceptable response to the events in my life. I know that when new and different things happen in my life, my brain goes into overdrive and likes to think them through. This is an incredibly helpful and invigorating thing. It fuels my writing and creativity. It keeps me thinking deeply about important topics. The only negative aspect of it was that it disrupted my sleep.
By saying “my anxiety was acting up,” I was focusing on the one negative impact of my thinking brain.
I often hear my own therapy clients similarly berate or pathologize themselves.
I’m not denying that anxiety exists, but in our culture, we frequently jump to naming and blaming mental health disorders when in reality what we are really experiencing is normal reactions to abnormal events. Racing thoughts or overwhelming feelings are appropriate responses after challenging events.
We can honor our own feelings, thoughts, and experiences by remembering that sometimes our minds and hearts are simply responding as they should.
Thank you for reading. If you'd like help discerning what's a "normal response" and what's not, I'd love to work with you. You can learn more here.