EP 22: Hope to Cope – Anxiety and Depression with Clay Burkhard.

Today on the podcast we continue with our theme for May, hope to cope, and it coincides perfectly with mental health awareness month. People have shared their stories about hope and how they take care of their mental health on our social media and the podcast, and today Sherry’s son Clay joins the conversation. As a teenage boy, Clay experienced paralyzing depression and anxiety after he had to give up swimming following an injury. Not relating much to his peers at school, his sense of isolation escalated and soon turned into negative self-talk, which made him increasingly depressed. But he didn’t initially think he needed help as he believed that his mental and emotional state was just part of who he was, keeping him quiet about the turmoil inside. Eventually, he reached out for help and started on the journey to healing, which included choosing carefully who he shared with, spending less time on social media, and exploring the activities he loved doing like reading, writing, and playing music. Clay talks about how his experiences have allowed him to help others who are facing similar challenges, how therapy did and did not help him, why you shouldn’t accept depression and anxiety, and more.

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Hear about the article Clay wrote for The Mighty and his experiences leading up to it.
  • The discomfort he used to feel in social situations and being labeled as “shy”.
  • How perfectionism and being too hard on himself was one of the main stressors.
  • The incident that gave way to his isolation, negative self-talk, and eventually self-hatred.
  • Why he didn’t initially share what he was going through and when he realized he needed help.
  • The importance of being careful to find the right people to share your story with.
  • The fear of therapy and hearing someone else confirm that you’re not okay. 
  • Find out what Clay’s process of surrender was like and when he became receptive to help.
  • Understanding that people relate differently to different approaches to therapy.
  • Maintaining a healthy relationship with social media and knowing when to quit.
  • Exploring the things you enjoy doing and overcoming the fear of not being good at them.
  • How Clay’s experiences give him a unique opportunity to help others with similar struggles.
  • Busting the myth that anxiety and depression are defining characteristics of a person’s identity. 


“I think the biggest stressor for me personally—and it’s been this way for a long time—is that I’m extremely hard on myself; an extreme perfectionist. But then I can also check out from being a perfectionist but I don’t necessarily stop beating up myself so I do things poorly but I just get even angrier at myself for doing things poorly.” — Clay Burkhard [0:06:07]

“My biggest concern was just being afraid of realizing that I was not okay because I knew that but to have other people tell me that is a whole other thing.” — Clay Burkhard [0:16:50]

“I’m very happy with where I am now and the experiences I had because I feel like they give me a unique opportunity to relate to other people and see the world in a different light that I probably wouldn’t have seen before.” — Clay Burkhard [0:28:53]

“It’s not easy to get to the other side but if you really commit to it and dedicate yourself towards that process of overcoming it can be extremely fruitful.” — Clay Burkhard [0:32:03]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

The Mighty

“When Depression Looks Like Shyness”

Mosaics of Mercy

Sherry Burkhard on LinkedIn


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