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John — Learning to cope and to trust

Looking at a problem from all sides doesn’t seem like it would be a nuisance, but for John, it is. When faced with a problem, he pushes to find the solution — always scanning — never relaxing — in hopes that when he finds the solution his mind will rest.

Several years ago, John was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder with overpowering thoughts. He had always been very analytical — in college, he constantly studied while others were relaxed and enjoyed life. He continued the same behavior on the job for many years. As his life progressed, his issues began to creep closer to the surface. John eventually found himself in between jobs and his heightened anxiety triggered a downward spiral. He began to concentrate his thoughts on minor medical issues. His mind took him to dark places and he began to think that these issues, which turned out to be nothing, could be life-threatening. He kept seeing doctors and obsessing over what it could be.

“My mind was like a computer, constantly searching for files and for answers that just weren’t there,” John remembered.

Finally, when it got so bad, he got help. John and his psychiatrist decided on a treatment plan of medication and psychotherapy. He began to feel better and tried to forget what had happened, returning to his normal routine.

In March 2006, John underwent a routine physical. His blood work came back inconclusive and another test was ordered. The test could not be done for several months. Waiting to find out what was wrong caused John extreme anxiety. He began researching on the internet more than eight hours a day trying to figure out what might be wrong. John was unable to control his mind or his worries. He was unstable emotionally and mentally. His doctor referred him to the Summa Health Behavioral Intensive Outpatient Program.

“I was an emotional wreck and mentally exhausted. When you are in that state, you need the help of professionals who can help you identify the problem, what you are feeling and what is going on so you can work on it…these are special people.

“You find yourself in a circle, a circle of trust — you have an opportunity to open up and get everything out. You hear from different people from all walks of life and situations who are having a hard time coping and you start reflecting.”

In the IOP, John not only learned about himself, but the structured environment provided him the tools he needed to relax and understand his illness.

“My time spent at Summa was a humbling experience. It left me in a better place; it left me with what to do and how to help others.”

These days, John continues to be active in the IOP program at Summa and goes back regularly to share his story with new group members.

“There are true spiritual reasons why I go back. After being in a position, seeing this pain — real intense pain — and suffering, I just want to help…my objective is to give hope and to be an inspiration to people.”

* To honor John’s anonymity, his last name is not mentioned in the story.


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