As someone who has struggled with mental illness for most of my adult life, I’ve gotten a great deal of unsolicited advice. I’ve been told that I can choose to be happy and that I should “just relax” more times than I can count, and though I realize people aren’t trying to be insensitive, these comments are simply not helpful. When it comes to anxiety, however, there is one thing people say that drives me crazy: “Stop overthinking everything.”
My struggle with anxiety began when I was about 12 or 13. I remember feeling overwhelmed doing even the simplest things, like going to the grocery store or being called on in class. I was also constantly worried about things that I knew weren’t that big of a deal, but I couldn’t help it. I worried about being late to class, forgetting to do a homework assignment, or saying the wrong thing and embarrassing myself. Everyone might share these concerns to an extent, but for me, I could never really relax. I was always worried about something.
As I got older, I opened up to my parents about my anxiety. I began seeing a therapist and tried out medication, which definitely helped. However, the anxiety didn’t simply disappear. Even to this day, I can easily fall down the rabbit hole. I’ve gotten better at coping as I’ve grown up, but my brain still functions differently than other people’s brains do.
I’ve accepted that I’m always going to be a worrier, and even grown to realize that maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
So, as you can imagine, it’s really irritating when I’m told to just stop worrying or not to overthink things. This is not something I can control, nor is it really “overthinking” for me. It’s simply how I operate at a base level. I’ve accepted that I’m always going to be a worrier, and even grown to realize that maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I weigh the pros and cons of situations pretty heavily and proceed with genuine caution. That’s not to say I don’t make mistakes — of course I do. However, because I’m so careful and thoughtful, I also tend to make better, more well-informed decisions. It’s insulting for people to insinuate that I need to change the way I think or perceive the world.
Some people will simply never understand what it’s like to have anxiety, and that’s OK. I don’t need sympathy or pity. I just need people to understand that I also don’t need their advice. I’m trying to navigate the world just like anyone else, and the way I’m doing it is working just fine for me. If my anxiety ever spirals out of control, I’ll be the first to take action — just as I did to get to this point.