Anxiety and Depression Support

Ad astra per aspera- My story

Hi,

I want to share my life story here, not because I am looking for pity, praise or approbation, but because I think it's sufficiently compelling and might help others either deal with their issues better or put things in perspective.

I grew up in Eastern Europe. There was a difficult and complicated family dynamic with several generations living in the same small apartment. Conflicts and fights were quite common. My Dad had a drinking problem during my early childhood. My mother was a very anxious, hypervigilant, ambivalent person. Unfortunately for me, I went through a series of severe colds and infections as a young child, which resulted in frequent hospitalizations in harsh and barren hospitals, without a chance to see my parents for weeks. This was a perfect substrate for developing separation anxiety as well as deeply repressed anger at my parents.

Later on, in middle school, I became a subject of incessant bullying because I was the only Jewish boy in my class. My survival strategy was to come up with various distractions or diversions, to entertain the mob of kids and draw their attention elsewhere. (BTW, it's amazing how stupid the mob can be).

At 15, I was sexually assaulted by a random stranger ( A guy in his early twenties).

A year later, my family and I came to the US as refugees. Despite my limited English, I immediately embraced the culture and the American ethic of hard work and perseverance to follow the American Dream. I enrolled in college and decided to become a doctor, although my mother laughed at this idea.

I studied very hard. At home I couldn't study until everyone went to bed (there were 5 other family members in a 2 BR apt), so I napped until midnight and studied during the night. Later on, when I became a sophomore, I worked as a parking valet at night, and had barely 2-3 hrs to sleep before going back to school. I pushed myself to the limit because of my hunger to succeed, and occasionally a literal hunger, and within 5 years of being in the US, I got accepted to NYU School of Medicine.

My dream of becoming a doctor came true.

And now, I had to work even harder, because I had to compete with kids from Ivy league schools. The anxiety and fear of failure was almost too much, but I kept going.

I finished medical school and then went on to a residency and fellowship in surgery.

Finally, I went on to open my own practice, the dream that I cherished during all these years.

Through all of this, I had to contend with cancer in my family (both my mother and father), destruction of my practice by superstorm Sandy, and a slew of other things.

And in the final analysis, I am not sure I would have accomplished all that without having my anxiety, and obsessive thinking.

I think that my life experiences, while painful, served as the fuel that propelled me to keep going and to succeed.

I hope that others would be able to harness their anxiety too and use it to accomplish themselves and become happier.

Best,

Addendum-

I wrote this very concentrated and abbreviated version of my life in about twenty minutes between seeing my patients.

I could have also added that my Mom mortgaged her condo to secure a line of credit to finance my nascent practice, so had I failed, she would have been quite literally without a home.

Five years later, within a span of one month, I lost both my practice (to Sandy), and my father (to diabetes-related infection).

Behind this story however, lay many years (almost twenty), of punishingly hard work, tremendous emotional, financial, and personal sacrifices, all leavened by anxiety, self-doubt, fears of failure, self-imposed mental torture, insecurity, and occasional panicky feelings.

Yet, I have come to believe that the hardest, the most difficult, challenging and painful experiences in my life were also life's most precious lessons.

It is they that forced me to peer into the deepest recesses of my soul to discover my true self.

It is they that molded and hardened the gelatin of my emotions and gave me the courage to push and keep going when consumed by doubts and fears.

It appears that best part of ourselves is revealed when we are pressed with our backs against the wall, when we are facing desperate situations. And paradoxically, it is those painful life experiences that seem to carry the day and give us the strength to fight and not give up.

So, perhaps, we should view our anxieties as a blessing in disguise, as uniquely rich and powerful gifts that when mastered, will open the door to a happier, more successful and meaningful life.

Perhaps?

31 Replies
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There is no doubt that fear is a great motivator. I read that in tennis, the greatest players hate (that is, fear) losing more than they enjoy winning.

Your story was a tough one, but I'm glad to see that you took all your lemons, and turned them into lemonade. It's a very inspiring story for all of us.

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Oh my! Your story is tragic and beautiful!!! Thank you so much for sharing!!!! I wish you only the very best!!!

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Thank you

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Agora1 look at this. Simply amazing

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Thank you for posting this, becoming a Doctor is also my dream. You didn't let your anxiety stop you, you turn your dream into a reality

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If you want to be a doctor so much that it hurts, if you have the passion to heal (furor sanandi), then go for it.

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Thank you and i definitely will

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Amazing powerful story. Thank you so much. You have done it! and yes it is an inspirational story to all of us who struggle. Hard work and perseverance have paid off to be sure !!! Huge hugs, Gemmalouise XXXX

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I respect and admire you in going for your dream and achieving it. Thank you for sharing your life's journey with us. It shows that no matter what we are given in life, reaching our goals is a possibility. Continued success with your practice x

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Thank you.

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Thank you for sharing ❤

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This is so inspiring and I respect that you are able to tell this story of your victory! Thank you for sharing xx

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What a amazing story, big well done to you x

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I wrote this very concentrated and abbreviated version of my life in about twenty minutes between seeing my patients.

I could have also added that my Mom mortgaged her condo to secure a line of credit to finance my nascent practice, so had I failed, she would have been quite literally without a home.

Five years later, within a span of one month, I lost both my practice (to Sandy), and my father (to diabetes-related infection).

Behind this story however, lay many years (almost twenty), of punishingly hard work, tremendous emotional, financial, and personal sacrifices, all leavened by anxiety, self-doubt, fears of failure, self-imposed mental torture, insecurity, and occasional panicky feelings.

Yet, I have come to believe that the hardest, the most difficult, challenging and painful experiences in my life were also life's most precious lessons.

It is they that forced me to peer into the deepest recesses of my soul to discover my true self.

It is they that molded and hardened the gelatin of my emotions and gave me the courage to push and keep going when consumed by doubts and fears.

It appears that best part of ourselves is revealed when we are pressed with our backs against the wall, when we are facing desperate situations. And paradoxically, it is those painful life experiences that seem to carry the day and give us the strength to fight and not give up.

So, perhaps, we should view our anxieties as a blessing in disguise, as uniquely rich and powerful gifts that when mastered, will open the door to a happier, more successful and meaningful life.

Perhaps?

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Are you practicing now? Were you able to restart after Sandy?

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Yes. I started from scratch again and put together a new practice, which became even better and busier than before.

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That is incredible!!!!

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Hello Aeslepius, what a Story! I know you say you don't want Praise, but seriously, you have done Marvellously well. I have heard from friends, here in the U.K. how tough it was to grow up in Eastern Europe and you have weathered so many Storms in life. I know too, what it's like to have a father who drinks. On the one hand they scare you, on the other, even Children realise why they do it and the pressures they're under. And love them non the less. You are an absolute credit, to your Parents and your Patients are very lucky to have you. My best wishes for your continued success. Dee 😊

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Thank you.

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Thank you for sharing your amazing story! You are truly an inspiration to us all, especially in showing us how you turned what many see as negatives (anxiety, obsessive thinking, difficulties in life) into positive attributes and experiences that empowered you to become the person you are today.

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Thank you so much for that positive story.

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Thank you for sharing! I often think about my experiences with anxiety and I do agree that having bouts of it leads to vigilance and preparedness. In fact, there are studies that discuss how certain amounts of anxiety are necessary or even advantageous when it comes to certain things. I think about my work; there are many times when I have to stand and speak in front of large crowds. Without a bit of anxiety, I wouldn’t have the preparedness or readiness. It’s a bit of adrenaline and a bit of nervousness. It forces me to be over prepared and ready. However, many people (me and some points) are so overcome with the anxiety that it is no longer advantageous but rather crippling. So how can we keep ourselves in that “sweet spot”?

Best,

Jeneen

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Hi Jeneen.

Firstly, thank you for your response.

Secondly, it’s absolutely normal to experience performance anxiety. Accept it as such. But to be able to control and master it, you need to practice. If you are anxious about public speaking, practice dry runs in front of your friend, colleague or family member. It’s also helpful to make a video of yourself during a mock performance and study it. With enough practice you will gain the confidence and won’t feel overcome with anxiety.

I have given presentations at national medical meetings here in the US in front of hundreds of doctors, and naturally I would get anxious before the talks. Plus, since English is not my native language, I would worry about that aspect too. But somehow, once I started, the anxiety would transform into the energy and confidence.

Feel the pride of standing in front of all these people and having something to say. You don’t know, but a lot of them are jealous of you for being able to do what most of them can’t.

Good luck,

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Thank you, Aesclepius for telling us the wonderful story of your amazing life. I wish it could be made into a movie because it is so inspiring. Rosina.

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Thank you. Well, if you happen to know Spielberg, please let me know😀

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I so wish I could transport to see you long enough to tell you how proud I am of you and give you a BIG HUG!!!! Your story was spell binding...you are a very good writer! I hope that with all of your busy-ness and work, you take time to go on vacations and have some fun. Lots of loving best wishes to you and yours always, Betty

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Hi Betty,

Thank you very much for your kindness.

Best wishes.

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An amazing success story!

We can all learn to acknowledge and appreciate the benefits of anxiety.

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I agree. Anxiety is like alcohol, pleasant in moderation but awful in large quantity.

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As a side note - my hypomania compelled me to the Dean's List every time. When I'm stable, school is tough and boring. I pulled through a lot of trying times with her. I do realize it can become dangerous.

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Congrats on the Dean's List. Hypomania is wonderful if used productively. Most of Wall Street is probably hypomanic.

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