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The time I fell into a black hole

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“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” ―
 

Inspiration for Overthinkers

July 5 · Issue #51 · View online
Tackling stress and anxiety, one experiment at a time.

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” ― Carl Sagan

I’ve been wanting to tell you about the time I lost faith in words. This happened in 2015.
Nearly 40 years old, I’d spent two years being tossed around from startup to startup. I was learning new skills, but was also confused as hell. When asked, I tried bending words into a simulacrum of my experience. Didn’t work. My confusion deepened.
At some point, I stopped trying. When asked how I felt, I fell silent. My eyes gazed into a distant stare. I no longer believed words could help. If I couldn’t make sense of what was happening, how could I begin to explain it to others? All words felt hollow, empty, and pointless.
Losing language felt like falling into a black hole.
Losing language felt like falling into a black hole.
I dug up an email exchange I had around that time with with one of my favorite living authors. I felt so alone and hoped he could help. I wrote, “There’s something about not being able to communicate that only someone truly gifted can help me understand. What is this riddle? Is the impossibility of communication a knot within ourselves that we just have to live with? Can endeavoring to give it shape actually improve the situation?”
Having just released a novel on this very subject, he wrote back: “If you feel you are on a different planet than the people around you, remember that I’m yet another. This each-in-his-own-universe sadness is, of course, a big part of what the book is about.” In other words, he couldn’t really help.
So. many. planets.
So. many. planets.
My diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder kicked off my linguistic rehabilitation. I switched medications—from the mind-bending migraine medicine Topamax to Lexapro, a much better fit. I switched jobs — from notoriously fickle startups to bigger, more established companies. Slowly but surely, words returned. They started connecting me with others again, as they are connecting me with you now.
Instead of being consumed by a fear of not being able to communicate, I was ignited with curiosity. My desire to understand the human mind felt limitless. I suddenly had so much to say.
It’s been 5 years since that terrible wordless time. Revisiting my question today, I have some words for my old self:
Is the impossibility of communication a knot within ourselves that we just have to live with? Yes, Meredith, but it’s not as much of a knot as you used to think. Remember the Chinese finger trap feels tight when you pull hard. Let go a bit, and it loosens right up. And if you can’t find words, look for pictures. Look for colors. Express yourself in whatever way works. And get your meds checked.
Looking forward to learning about your home planet soon,
Love, Meredith
Love, Meredith
Podcasts
How to Get Out of Your Own Head with Meredith Arthur by Vitamin Joy with Shelby Stanger
Introducing the launch of the Beautiful Voyager Podcast
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10 New Mental Health Books to Transform Your 2020 10 New Mental Health Books to Transform Your 2020
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Get Out of My Head Get Out of My Head
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