“I am not my anxiety”

In high school we read “To Room Nineteen,” in which the protagonist, Susan Rawlings, spends copious amounts of time in a room by herself. She sits solemnly thinking, away from the all of the complications that inextricably link to existing in the world as a social individual. I remember my English teacher saying that she could never imagine sitting in an empty room by herself for more than thirty minutes without going crazy.

It then occurred to me that my brain is not wired this way. I am very capable of sitting in a room for hours, just thinking. In fact, I have done this and completely lost track of time by just being consumed by my own mind. Not all of my thoughts are blissful, and once I am hooked to one idea I really can’t escape from it. I tend to form anxieties extremely easily, which causes me to repeatedly fixate on a subject that I acknowledge may not even be that significant. Like most people, I am quick worry about the big things: my future, my family, loss, change. But those fears unfortunately hold equal weight to the seemingly little things, like something I have previously said, a past interaction or a future obligation. There then comes to a point when jumble of thoughts that so rapidly accumulate in my mind actually prohibits me from working to my fullest potential or functionally operating throughout the day without a hollow pit in my stomach or lingering concern in my mind.

It as at this point that people tell me to “just relax.” This phrase is the epitome of being easier said than done. When one has anxiety, it is psychologically impossible to “just relax.” The little things I worry about may not have importance to anyone else, but they dominate my thought process to the point where I can’t separate myself from them. On a positive note, I am the same way with excitement. The good thoughts that I form nestle into the nooks and crannies of my mind and reside there, serving as a dormant source of happiness that I can channel at any given moment when I need a pleasant thought. Whether with good thoughts or bad ones, my excessive mental activity and reflection causes me to wonder whether or not I am normal for thinking so much and continuously replaying various episodes and scenarios in my head.

This affects my emotions, energy and sleep. My ultimate goal is to regulate my thoughts and try to gain some perspective beyond my overpowering anxiety, but the first step is to stop thinking about thinking and just enjoy what is in front of me, and of course, to breathe.