When You Spend Every Day Thinking About 'What Ifs'


As my alarm buzzes for the seventh time, I finally open my eyes and force myself to climb down from my loft. I go through the motions of putting on my makeup and combing through my closet to find an outfit that makes me look decent without looking like I’m trying too hard. I quickly brush my teeth and run out the door with knots in my stomach.

It’s just a normal Monday, but it feels like I can’t catch my breath as I walk to class. My anxiety consumes my entire body as I think about the “what ifs:” getting called on when my hand isn’t raised, not being able to articulate my ideas accurately while answering a question, stuttering or involuntarily shaking to the point where it’s noticeable. I finally arrive to class and manage to make it through (along with the next two lectures) in one piece.

Yet, then I run to work cleaning tables at the dining center. It’s not a horrible job. It’s simple. Just wipe down all the tables and interact with my coworkers. Yet, every time I put on my short-sleeve work polo, I can’t help but feel completely exposed. I become hyper-aware of my old self-harm scars that cover my left arm. I try to remind myself that people won’t be paying attention to my arms. They’re just there to eat with their friends.

However, I internally cringe every time a customer says something to me. I just have to smile and make polite conversation, but it feels like I can’t move. Somehow, I always manage to make it through my shift without cracking, but when I get back to my dorm and try to focus on writing essays, I always end up thinking about how awkward I was throughout the day.

Even when I try to sleep, the thoughts about the past day won’t stop flowing through my brain. When those thoughts start to subtly subside, the anxiety for what lies ahead takes over. I spend hours over-analyzing every aspect of the “what ifs.” Finally, I fall asleep for a few hours, and I wake up to relive the same day with some variation over and over again.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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