In my second year of university, I became an anxious person.
My carefree self was replaced by someone who overthought every action she took and statement she made. Someone who mentally blocked herself from being present. Someone who was unable to leave a social situation without going through all the moments where she felt she did wrong.
Before that, anxiety was a term I had been familiar with, but not in such proximity. I used to attribute it to nerves or jitters, but when every day turned into a struggle between myself and my internal monologue I was confronted with a foreign problem.
Nothing was going particularly wrong in my life. I was doing well in school, had ample friends, and was living in a supportive environment with my sister and housemate. Finding enjoyment felt like a constant stretch even though I finally felt secure, loved, and successful.
It’s a peculiar thing to finally be happy, but not able to enjoy it because your mind is playing tricks on you.
I realized how much of a problem my anxiety was becoming when my housemate and I were on a walk, and I was trying to craft a text to our mutual friends. It took me 10 minutes to decide what the best five-word combination was for a simple text to someone who wouldn’t think twice no matter what was sent.
“I’ve noticed your anxiety starting to take a toll,” my housemate said.
I started seeing a therapist and taking anti-anxiety medication, but after months of doing what I was told were the right things, I didn’t feel any differently, and my frustration became disappointment with myself.
Anxiety I’d never felt before was suddenly controlling my life. I tried to act like everything was normal—I tried to deny what was happening. I went on with a smile on my face, and everyone other than those closest to me were none the wiser.
I had to learn how to step back and ground myself. I had to confront the fact that medication gave me space between my present and anxious thoughts, but didn’t rid me of them as I assumed it would. Therapy wasn’t the easy fix I so desperately desired, either.
Intentionally practicing mindfulness was never something I’d tried. Mindfulness had always seemed like a buzzword until I experienced the opposite of it so aggressively.
Affirmations and grounding techniques proved useful, no matter how silly and artificial they seemed in the moment. Separating myself from my thoughts was exhausting and often unsuccessful, but eventually, it started to work.
Writing my thoughts out when they overwhelmed me did more to heal my broken cognition than sitting for an hour to talk about it ever did.
Through my writing, I explored the topics that felt indiscernible and had a physical manifestation of my rumination I could put away and move forward from. My notebooks and notes app are filled with incomprehensible ramblings—I learned that to be most present I needed to expel the thoughts preventing me from doing so.
The methods preached to me in therapy were only effective once I alleviated the mental burden I held. Moving forward meant letting go.
By retiring my overthinking, I was able to move forward from the control my anxiety had on me. I finally understood what the root of my seemingly random rumination was and learned it wasn’t truly random at all.
Rebuilding a relationship with my subconscious in a positive manner wasn’t something that happened overnight. It’s still not nearly where I want it to be, but with intention and dedication, it’s gotten a whole lot better.
Practicing mindfulness doesn’t have a linear path for everyone. Mindfulness looks different depending on who’s practicing it. Being intentional in the way you think and how you listen to your thoughts is the basis of the method.
My friend recently told me she had started experiencing the same thing as I did. Someone who I love, and have known to always be unequivocally herself was, out of the blue, becoming more and more anxious. That’s what inspired me to write this article.
Knowing there are others who understand how paralyzing its feels to have an anxious brain gave me solace. Learning the different ways in which people pull themselves away from anxious thoughts has helped me figure out what worked best for me.
It all came back to writing in my case—it’s healed me in ways talking never could.
Anxiety, Mental health, overthinking, Postscript, stress
All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.