“To think too much is a disease.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes From The Underground
It began for me when I was a teenager – scrutinizing every single detail and pressuring my brain to the point where all I felt was vague paranoia and fear. I had even complained to my parents saying “everything really scares me.” I was 15 years old back then, and perhaps to our Asian tiger-strict parents, teen years are not to be taken seriously. According to them, it was just a phase, and panicking about overthinking was a waste of time. Hence, I tried to normalize this toxic trait in me, believing that it’s not a big deal. Eight years later, I now realize that overthinking was not something casual, it is a disease that has fully taken over me and is ruining my stability.
“I can’t relax.”
“My brain won’t shut off for a second.”
These are the thoughts that lurk in the surface layer of my brain as consequences of my overthinking. However, its depth goes way down when I am right in the middle of this plague. I will talk about the types of overthinking I experience to show how it is actually a disease that can affect almost every aspect of a person’s life.
The first one is the most common one – a constant attempt to assume what others are thinking about me. To exemplify, if I am talking too much in a meeting, my brain says “they must be thinking I am annoying.” Whereas if I talk a bit less it feels like “What the hell is wrong with me? People are thinking I am a loser.” And those moments when I say “no” to someone regarding their request – “They hate me for sure. They want me dead. I am sure.”
Such assumptions then lead to the second-most common form of overthinking I face: indecisiveness. This is where I get stuck thinking “should I say what is on my mind?” or “should I wear this dress?” “If I do it, what will people think of me? Will I appear as a fool? What if it makes me stand out more and I draw unnecessary attention to myself?” And by the time I can actually make up my mind, the chance to actually express myself is gone.
While these are all triggered by day-to-day momentary activities, there is a particular thought that always causes me to think of it excessively (especially before I sleep). These are the powerful self-hate thoughts that affect me more than any negativity in this world.
“I am a failure.”
“I wish I was not born.”
“My parents are burdened with my existence. I am better off dead.”
These thoughts can be so overwhelming that they often cause me physical struggles such as – lack of proper sleep, headaches, breathlessness, and severe lack of energy to even get up from bed.
The reason I get these thoughts brings me to my final category of overthinking – either feeling ashamed of my past or worrying too much about the future. We all have made mistakes in our past that have taught us hard lessons. As much as I am all about acceptance and confidence, my brain is an antagonistic entity of its own that brings the worst out of everything.
Hence, I shared my struggle with this plague called “overthinking” to alert you about this disease. As annoying and painful it appears, it is also something that can be brought under control if you can identify it when it starts. Remember what Anthony Hopkins once said, “We are dying from overthinking. You can never trust the human mind anyway. It’s a death trap.”
Written by: Tasnia Shahrin