I’ve always been an overthinker, to me, it is as natural as breathing. Growing up, anytime I had a test I’d spend days studying and worrying about every potential question that could pop up. When I started interviewing for internships and eventually jobs, I gave myself stomach aches from how nervous I was and all the negative thoughts I filled my head with. I didn’t think anything of the fact that I never slept well, that my stomach hurt more often than not, and that I gave myself headaches my whole life from over analyzing and being anxious.
Three years ago, after I moved to New York, my mind crumbled. I had graduated, moved across the country, left all my friends and family behind, and started my first real-world job all in a span of two weeks. It was a lot of change at once and it took a toll on me mentally. On the surface I was thrilled, I was finally living out my dream of working in fashion and in the Big Apple, of all places. Internally though, I was suffering. After an especially traumatizing end of a friendship, I started seeing a therapist. I was 22 when someone finally diagnosed me with an anxiety disorder.
Since then, my anxiety and I have turned into bitter roommates who have no choice but to live together because rent in New York is pricey and as much as I wish I could evict it forever, that’s not how anxiety works. Regardless, it’s a living situation I’m not happy about but I fight to put up with it the best I can. My anxiety tries to convince me that I’m not good enough in any aspect or relationship in my life, it is quicksand, trying to pull me under and make me believe I am worthless. I drown in these thoughts, I suffocate with all the emotions I feel that I cannot untangle and explain to someone who lives freely with complete control of their mind.
Monday morning I woke up at 2 a.m. from an anxiety-induced dream about a toxic person I had long removed from my life. As I lay there trying to catch my breath, I pondered what living without anxiety feels like, how liberating it must be, and those thoughts brought me anxiety too. I ended up staying awake until my alarm went off 3 hours later. When I looked at the dreary forecast for the week, I thought “oh great rain and thunderstorms”. How ironic, here I was laying in bed feeling like my entire life had a rain cloud above it because of my mental illness, and it was going to be raining all week too. All that made me want to do was stay in bed and watch Netflix. Then I thought, “no, I’ll go out of my way to make this a great week. I won’t let these thoughts control me.”
Before my weekly meeting with my team at work I felt anxious because my boss wasn’t there; so I was in charge of speaking about the business. I could feel that heavy door in my mind opening, my anxiety getting ready to pounce and whisper to me about how I was going to fail and how I was undeserving of this role. Instead, I shut the door and reminded myself of all things I have accomplished in my life and how I fought for this role. Anytime my anxiety wanted to pop in unannounced and uninvited this week, I slammed the door in its face.
It takes discipline and effort to remind myself that my anxious thoughts are just that, thoughts. I am learning how to control how often I have them and how I react to them. It is tiresome to live with a mental illness that never wants to leave me alone, but the more I practice positive thinking, the quicker those uplifting thoughts come to me. Eventually, I hope that heavy door stays closed more than it creeps open. I am not magically cured, nor will any of us who have anxiety ever be. This is a roommate I will, unfortunately, have to live with my whole life, but I am taking control now. Every day I make a conscious effort to remind myself that I am the landlord and my mind can only be a home to the thoughts that only I allow and believe in.