I was born a high achiever. My parents were/are high achievers and I think I would literally break out in hives if I didn’t have a new goal to strive towards. According to Gallup’s StrengthsQuest (www.strengthsquest.com) one of my top 5 strengths is to be an Achiever. You’ve seen me around. The woman who is dressed for success, hair neatly in place, runs 3xs a week, has 2.5 children and has a thriving business with tons of social media followers. No one knows that at the age of 12 years old, my father died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm in the middle of the night and that I watched my mother battle a drug addiction since I was a little girl. My father and I played tennis together just a few days prior to passing and then he was gone. My mind, body, and soul never had an opportunity to subconsciously grieve while he was living. He was healthy, vibrant, and active…and then, suddenly gone. I learned from this traumatic experience that at any moment no matter how good a situation may be, it can be taken from you in an instant. In a flash, a loved one can disappear, a contract can fail, and that people cannot be trusted. 

We all have a story where pain lingers and pierces our hearts, yet we continue to work and build because that’s what high achievers do. But what about the high achiever who needs mental help? High achievers are often overlooked because we look like we have everything under control, yet high achievers are the ones who manage high levels of anxiety on a daily basis. We’re usually the ones that help others through their difficult situations, but rarely do others check up on us.  What then? 

Since I was 12 years old, post my traumatic experience of losing my father, I was anxious all the time to the point of pulling out my hair. At the time I didn’t know the name of this hair pulling disorder. I just new that every time I embarked on a new goal for school, I was flooded with high levels of anxiety and created an impulsive disorder which later I learned was called Trichotillomania. ‘Trichotillomania is a body-focused repetitive behavior classified as an
impulse control disorder (along the lines of pyromania, kleptomania, and
pathologic gambling) which involves pulling out one’s hair. Hair
pulling may occur in any region of the body in which hair grows but the
most common sites are the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelids (http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/trichotillomania-hair-pulling).’

I’ve spent most of life battling this disorder, stemming from high anxiety. Some seasons in life I have to wear wigs to cover up my head due to patches and bald spots that remind me of the shame I feel from pulling out my hair.

As a Life Coach, I’ve found that high achievers who are faced with anxiety need an outlet and feel as if there is no place to go to discuss their feelings. We are so used to performing and achieving great success that we rarely open up about our mental issues.

I hope that one day just like there is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), that there will be High Achievers Anonymous (HAA), where we can discuss the stressors of being a star student, top exec, or entrepreneur.

In the meantime, I encourage all my go getters and trail blazers to take time to invest in their mental health and see a counselor (https://www.psychologytoday.com/) seek spiritual counsel and know that there is courage found in our vulnerability and openness with others about the anxiety we feel.

As for me, I still pull my hair from time to time, but I have the boldness to speak out about it, which gives me the healing that I need. I can proudly say “Hi, my name is Dr. Keita Joy, and I have high anxiety.”