Nine out of ten times when I’m given advice on how to cope with life while struggling with an episode of deep depression and anxiety, words that are meant to comfort me and give me hope, are exactly the same as those I’ve been repeating to myself for what seems like forever. The familiar phrases, such as “this too shall pass,” or “you’re stronger than your illness,” are permanently branded on my brain. So it came as a surprise, more like a shock actually, when just a few days ago, someone who knows me very well told me that I think too much. My initial reaction was to get defensive – I mean I always thought that thinking was a good thing. It meant I was working on finding resolutions to conflicts, or remembering something traumatic from my past that might have contributed to my current state of feeling down. Deep thinking is and always has been my way of trying to make sense of the senseless. I hate it when there are missing pieces to the puzzle of any situation, it can drive me in circles – so no wonder when I thought about the slight chance that it just might be true that, in fact, I do think too much, it kind of made sense.
I think too much – that’s my problem. Seriously? Yet now that I consider it, I realize that I really do live so much in my head, spending time with my close companions – rumination, speculation and contemplation – and that can’t possibly be a healthy thing. Yet there’s no way I can desert them now, unless, perchance, they really aren’t my friends at all. Come to think of it, they are, in fact, enablers, posing as my pals, allowing me to marinate in a swamp of negative thoughts throughout the day. They’re the ones who keep my addiction to over dosing on pensiveness alive.
Now my attempt for thinking less begins. That’s on par with going on a diet and eliminating all of my favorite foods while being forced to eat stuff that I hate. Giving up ice cream for fat free frozen tofu-something. Blech! But ice cream is my comfort food – even if it’s bad for my LDL cholesterol (and my thighs) it’s what I’m used to and I don’t want to stop eating it. If only my brain came with an on and off switch, I’d have an easy solution to my dilemma.
How does one quit a life-long behavior such as thinking too much? Is there a 12-step program? Are there Thinkers Anonymous meetings? I’m willing to try whatever I have to in order to live a better life, even if that means adapting new behaviors, albeit I am reluctant to do so.
One realization I’ve stumbled upon along this excavation to mental well being is that some things will remain forever unanswered and other things will simply never make sense. Obviously it’s in my best interest to not think so much and just accept that my thoughts and worries will not change an outcome to any situation. Spending hours trying to figure out why I have depression, or how come I still get social anxiety after all these years isn’t moving me forward – it’s keeping me stuck and many times, just plain sad.
Perhaps if I gradually switch from deluxe super-rich ice cream to a lower fat alternative, instead of making the change all at once, it will be an easier transition. Maybe when I catch myself over-thinking something, I can click on the television or crank up some music, to get my thoughts moving in another direction. I haven’t come across a How to Think Less for Dummies book, so that means I’ll have to come up with my own method. I’m open to suggestions in case any of you would like to share.
Hello. My name is Adrienne and I’m a thinkaholic. No, that doesn’t sound right. Thinking too much is not the same as drinking too much, yet the similarities of continued excess of either one can lead to dangerous places. I think too much. It’s true. It’s not good for me. It’s become an obstacle for sustaining a decent level of mental health and stability. Thankfully, I’ve discovered over time that my actions are something I have control over, and can adjust . . . I think.
Adrienne Gurman has over 20 years of experience in advertising, marketing and magazine publishing. She is currently the Vice President of 1212-Studio, a product design company in NYC. A native New Yorker, Adrienne lives with her husband and their vivacious chocolate lab, Anya. Adrienne began volunteering for Bring Change 2 Mind not long after the organization was founded, and has since been a leading advocate for fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness. She has lived with Major Depression since the age of 12. Adrienne writes a weekly blog for esperanza magazine and continues to be a growing voice in the anti-stigma community.