This post is dedicated to the many of you who are overextended reading this blog post who are either:
- Enrolled in professional school
- Applying to professional school
- Have already graduated from professional school
- OR are just an overachiever. PERIOD.
I recently took an Enneagram test (you can take one here). I received a balanced score of 3. The website describes “Type 3” as follows:
“People of this personality type need to be validated in order to feel worthy; they pursue success and want to be admired. They are frequently hard working, competitive and are highly focused in the pursuit of their goals…”
I recognized my OVerextended self in this description instantly.
I worked ALL the time even before veterinary school. One full-time job? Not enough. I took on other business and volunteer opportunities. Work five days per week? No, I will work seven. I really struggle when I have nothing to do, which is why I typically stay busy and have the tendency to feel overextended. This is also why I decided to take a break this summer from working. It is rough financially, but I feel that it was a great decision for my mental health. I have the freedom to go see family, travel to Europe and rebuild the personal growth practices that have been pushed to the bottom of my priority list over the past two years.
I went through an incredibly difficult time last year that was 100% self-inflicted. Simply put, I took on too many responsibilities and completely overextended myself (you can read about it here).
The consequence of being overextended:
I self-destructed. I had no energy, created a toxic relationship, and stopped hanging out with my friends. My yoga practice reduced to maybe one sixty minute session per week. I drank. I started to gain weight and started smoking more regularly. I’m sure that will surprise many of you. My personal growth practices that kept my anxiety under control started to fall apart around me, and with it, my mental health began to decline.
Why am I such a proponent of personal growth? Because I have panic attacks. My panic attacks come on suddenly like a wave of emotion crashing through my body. I start to shake, hyperventilate and cry uncontrollably. It feels like all the neurotransmitters in my brain fire at once. On occasion, I cry so hard that I burst blood vessels in my eyelids. This shi* is absolutely terrifying, let me tell you.
Normally, I can visualize a switch in my brain that allows me to shut panic attacks down before they take over. I still see the switch when I am not taking care of myself, but it seems too far away. I know that is hard to imagine for many of you. Anxiety and panic attacks are a mental jungle gym. It is a game. Many people take medication for these disorders. I tried this approach but consistently felt like I was in a mental fog. Therefore, I made the decision to develop a practice to manage my anxiety on my own.
With that being said…
There is NOTHING wrong with medicating anxiety. My dog is on a daily regiment of Fluoxetine and Trazodone and it has worked wonders for him. He was totally crippled by his anxiety and could barely walk on the floors in my apartment for fear of falling (thanks hip dysplasia). Many of my friends and family members take anti-anxiety and/or anti-depressants and these drugs have improved their quality of life.
Trauma and Panic Attacks
Your brain does not stop developing until you are in your mid-twenties. Therefore, it is only fair to assume that when you experience trauma at a young age it can have a lasting impact. People manifest trauma in their lives differently. One of the most common manifestations is panic attacks. I know that I am not alone in this. My hope is by sharing my story that you too will realize that you are not alone.
Us Type A personalities, the overachievers, the hard workers, the diligent, the determined, the perpetually overextended – we have the power to channel our suffering into something beautiful. Whatever that means to you; be it your career, creating a family, giving back to the community, or simply being the beautiful, perfect human that you are. All it takes is to step back, look your struggle in the eyes and tell whatever higher power you believe in that no matter where you are today, you will overcome.
Because you will overcome.
And that doesn’t mean you have to take on a million responsibilities to do it. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone. Stop overextending yourself. It will catch up to you. Learn how to say no. Stop spending time with people who don’t lift you up. Stop doing things to simply build your resume. Sit with yourself every day and write down exactly what you want. Maybe that changes every few minutes and that’s ok. You will find a theme that weaves through your heart. Follow that feeling. Keep your heart open to new opportunities and signs that you are traveling in the right direction. And if you find yourself where you don’t want to be, have the courage to change.
“For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Do you feel overextended? How do you cope with it? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.
Have courage friends.