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What It's Really Like to Be an ‘Overthinker’

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It’s one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve ever had. And it’s something I didn’t understand for a very long time. I thought I was “crazy, unstable.” I brushed it off as being “dramatic” or a “hormonal woman.” Acceptance is the first step to dealing with the problems you have.

I’m an overthinker. I experience anxiety attacks regularly. I would not say I’m mentally ill, but that does not mean my mental health is perfect. I need help from those around me. The only problem is how hard it can be to explain. It’s all the clichés in the world, but they all make sense once you’ve felt it. Even though mental health is a largely variable and personal topic, I hope this can help others in making sense of what they feel, or asking their friends for help.

You’re driving toward a tornado, and you can’t stop.

It’s an all-consuming rush of emotion — all the bad emotions you can think of. It’s heart-pounding; palm-sweating; head-rushing. It’s uncontrollable. It’s being dizzy and nauseous and out of breath and sick because everything is moving too fast. Too fast. Too fast.

And all you want is for it to stop for one minute — a minute to catch your breath, to stop your brain from circling. A minute to think, “What is going on? Why am I feeling nothing but dread?” Every situation you’ve ever feared pours into your mind, and you’re trying to pick the one that caused this attack, if any. Are these toxic thoughts a product of this attack or the cause? Will you ever know?

Questions, so many questions, so fast you can’t even make them out, never mind answer them.

It’s desperately needing help but not being able to ask because you’re not sure who you can trust or who cares about you. Does anyone care about you? Will anyone understand? Are you crazy?

Why won’t this stop?

It’s disorganization, confusion, and the unknown gets you the most. As you question everything about your life — as you fill with doubt and fear — your mind unravels because if you can’t trust your own thoughts, what can you trust?

It’s not being able to stay angry. It’s not being able to call someone out, and you know it’s selfish. You know it’s not good enough to hide out of a situation. You know it’s unfair. But God, it’s knowing you can’t handle the conflict. It’s knowing you’re always in the wrong. It’s knowing this person will leave you if you try. It’s knowing it’s not worth it, telling yourself you’ll get over it.

Coward, coward, coward.

And how do you explain? How can you make someone understand your rapid train of thought? It’s impossible to give them your perspective when you’re not even sure yourself. They’re never going to understand; it’s better to move on. Let it go. Bury it. You don’t want to be more of a hassle. Suppress. Hold your tongue.

Insane; you’re “insane.” An insane coward. Everyone’s going to leave you. Coward. Insane. Alone. Coward. Insane. Alone.

Missing out on events becomes the norm — nights out, weekends away, because you know you’re not really wanted there. And you sit and think about everything you miss and how you weren’t wanted for years beyond anyone else remembering that party even happened. You wish you’d gone; you so, so wanted to go. You really, really did with all of your heart, but no one else wanted you to. You wish they did harder than anything. Loneliness creeps in, further and further, so that no matter how many people you are with, you can’t escape it.

So that even when you do go, you don’t feel part of the group. You’re convinced they don’t want you here. You’re in a room with one hundred people who you should be calling your friends. But you feel just as isolated as you would in a jail cell.

Are you wearing the right thing? Who are you going with? Who will you sit with? What time? You can’t be first but there’s no chance you can be late. Is your hair OK? They’re laughing at your make up. Laughing at you. You’re being too loud. Stop talking. You’re not talking enough, stop being antisocial. They don’t want you here. Go home.

It’s pushing people away and hoping to God they’ll come back.

But they don’t. They never do if you push hard enough. But it’s better than being left behind because at least you had some control, right?

Wrong. You know you’re wrong but you can’t take the chance. You’re trying; dear God, you are trying with what feels like every drop of your being, but the feeling won’t budge.

Why won’t this stop?

It’s analyzing every tone of voice. Every slight change in text. Body language. Eye contact. Are they mad at me? Are they? Do they not want me around right now? Did they ever? Please, please reassure me.

Coward. Insane. Alone.

Yet the most tiring thing of all is the constant criticism. Noting every mistake you’ve ever made. Every single thing that makes you less than perfect. Haunting moments from a decade ago etched into your skull. You’re stupid. You’re stupid. You’re stupid. Realizing how badly you want to be perfect, and you will never be. You’ll never be good enough.

Coward. Insane. Alone. Stupid. Not good enough.

Pleading and pleading and pleading for it to stop. You need a minute. One minute to not think. A minute not spent suppressing the storm in your own head. A minute of peace… but it doesn’t come. You fight against the thoughts and plead and fight and plead. Eventually, you give in. No stronger a person for it. No less damaged. No better off; worse, if anything. You give in because you’re so damn tired.

You give in and it engulfs you.

For minutes? Hours? Days? You’ll never know when it will stop.

There is never true peace. You know this sickness can take you at any point. You have your best defenses up but you’re so, so tired. You can only fend it off for so long.

Then just like that, as suddenly as it came, the feeling goes. Nothing you had just been so overcome by has even left a trace. And you’re left to wonder if any of it was even real. Or are you just insane, like you’ve thought all along?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Originally published: November 23, 2018
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