I didn’t even know it had a name.
I was in my second year of college.
I was lucky to have someone in my life who, at the time, was already on their mental health journey.
They were seeing a therapist for six years.
It was the subtle things they’d say to me:
“That sounds like a lot to think about.”
“You’re a worrier.”
It was the repetition of these observations that made the distinction.
You’re telling me everybody isn’t consumed with panic all the time? Everybody’s mind isn’t racing 24/7?
Everybody doesn’t get constantly paralyzed with thoughts?
It’s not even the fact that everybody doesn’t experience this from time to time, they do. The relief of knowing my mind doesn’t have to be loud was the start.
That it’s okay, if it is quiet.
Realizing that I never truly had a moment of quiet or calm was the moment I realized my anxiety was on high.
I would ruminate my mind with preparing for the worse case scenario so that I can be “prepared.”
Bell Hooks describes this in her book, Sisters of the Yam, that we tend to obsess over the absolute worse-case scenario as a mental strategy in order to protect ourselves from the pain of disappointment.
That we believe that by preparing for the worse we can just say, “I told you so!” when it goes wrong.
By doing this, we don’t have to feel the immense pain of disappointment because we have shielded ourselves by “already knowing” it was going to happen.
This could be a trauma response to perpetually being in unstable or conflict-heavy environments, where staying in survival mode has been a constant state of being.
Our brains are still trying to protect ourselves from any perceived type of danger because we are still recovering.
However, anyone who struggles with anxiety knows this can be exhausting.
Something that helped me cope was accepting the fact that obsessing over scenarios is a survival tactic that no longer serves me in the ways it used to.
That was a hard, hard, hard maneuver.
I had grown accustomed to the reward system in my brain. It has actually helped me was the key right there. That obsessing over scenarios has served me right, sometimes that bad scenario would happen.
But now my obsession over bad scenarios has turned into something that doesn’t help me anymore.
It went from, I’m a smart individual who knows how to prevent bad scenarios to I’m now stuck in a loop of having negative thoughts constantly filled my mind.
There doesn’t have to be any judgement from this switch, though.
As for anxiety, part of having it is knowing the frustration that acknowledging it, doesn’t magically go away. (In fact, it may breed more anxiety.)
But awareness is the first step to changing anything.
However, if you are experiencing any type of anxiety, I encourage you to understand what your anxiety is attempting to serve you.
This may change your relationship with it and hopefully create a new way of coping with it.
A therapist or finding books that can help you manage it is a step in the right direction.
Stay tuned for another article on how to manage your anxiety.