Touching On Overthinking, Anxiety, and Depression

Well, winter’s technically over now. After three months of cold, too much snow, and being stuck indoors, what better way to spend the first weekend of spring than by letting my overactive imagination attack my self-esteem? Ah, spring. Beautiful. Truly beautiful.

All right, let’s get a tad more serious. If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’ve also had a difficult time keeping your head straight when it starts trying to remind you of all your faults. I’d like to just say upfront that this article isn’t going to give you answers on how to stop an overactive mind from trapping you in a dungeon of low self-esteem. A previous article I wrote explores some options that may help you regain a clearer head, but as of right now, I don’t have any more tips. Sorry. ūüė¶ Instead, I’m going to try explaining what it’s like to get caught up in a cycle of overthinking, anxiety, and depression. You probably know what it’s like, but I’m hoping that by reading someone else describe the experience, you’ll at least take some comfort in knowing you aren’t the only one that struggles with this.

Overthinking

It happens. Some people can handle it better than others. Recognizing that you overthink is always important in order to prevent, or most likely reduce, future incidents. However, overthinking will still happen, and it’s almost never good.

It usually starts with something really stupid. Some small action or trigger by someone (possibly yourself) will¬†send you on a dangerous road, unpaved, full of potholes, and lots of broken glass. Although I spent this past weekend beating myself up, the truth is it’s just another decline in an emotional rollercoaster I’ve been riding for a little over a month now. After looking back on it, I think the main thing that triggered my current state is a picture someone put up on Facebook. (See? Something really stupid.) It was from someone I used to consider a good friend, a picture of her and a group of other people I used to be closer to. They all went out to eat that night, and I guess she felt the need to let everyone know they were there.

I used to go out to eat with these people every now and then. Granted, they weren’t usually experiences I enjoyed. Although I had nice one-on-one interactions with most of them, these group get-togethers weren’t for me. They¬†talked over me all the time. I could try to contribute as much as I could, but I easily faded into the background among people who were louder. It didn’t help that they were all extremely extroverted. Not that that’s a bad thing; I myself can be more extroverted than I give myself credit for. But deep down, I’m an introvert, and that’s not a bad thing either. I prefer intimate conversations that they found a little too serious for a night out drinking. Honestly, that’s probably what created a drift between us¬†in the long run. And that’s fine, it’s no one’s fault, but…

Seeing the photo of them really bummed me out. I’m not sure why. It’s not like I would have wanted to go even if I was invited. Hell, I really don’t like this particular person anymore anyway, and often found myself trying to make excuses to duck out of outings when she was there. And the truth is, I really don’t care that I wasn’t invited. It saved me the trouble of either making an excuse not to go or dealing with an unfavorable situation for a few hours.

But here’s where overthinking comes in. The fact that I wasn’t invited out with people that I used to be closer with¬†did remind me of a lot of issues I still struggle with. Fitting in. Expressing myself. Being left out. Not being as close to people as I would like. Loneliness in general. It reminded me of when I had more friends in high school, good friends that liked talking to me and accepted that I wasn’t always the most confident or outgoing person they could be spending their time with. That led me to thinking of the big falling out we all had when graduating, which involved a lot of distrust and frustration with my inability to raise my self-esteem (which certainly didn’t help my self-esteem). This led me to thinking about¬†community college, which involved a lot of trying to fit into a new place and failing to make any real connections with anyone, all while trying to find my own path in the “real” world. Which led to my four-year school, involving several deep connections that ended rather abruptly and ungracefully. Which led to sorting through all of the possible things that are “wrong” with me, and how I’m going to “screw up” more relationships with people.

All from a photo that I couldn’t care less about. Like I said, something really stupid. Overthinking is balls, man.

Anxiety

You can get pretty irrational when you’ve been overthinking. Trying to explain why something really small is upsetting you can be very difficult. It can involve a lot of personal history and struggles many people either don’t know about or understand. This can cause a lot of anxiety. You’re already making your own problems worse by overthinking, but now you’re struggling to connect with someone by failing to properly explain your thought process without sounding like a lunatic.

So you either beat yourself up even further by dwelling on the fact that you can’t explain yourself, or you keep everything in and try to sort through your feelings on your own. You might be tempted to do the latter, and truth be told, I usually do the same. The thing is, trying to do everything on your own tends to lead to more overthinking, which in turn leads to more anxiety. Then you go back to wanting to talk to someone, but failing to effectively do so…

You know where I’m going. It’s a cycle. And every turn you get more anxious. This is where overthinking turns into anxiety. It’s possible to start overthinking about something and talk yourself out of whatever self-depreciating thing your brain is trying to convince you to feel, but when you let it happen, it takes over. You start becoming aware of a lot of little, stupid details that probably don’t mean anything but you convince yourself they¬†might.

She said “Hi!” the last time I talked to her, but now she just said “hey.” Is she mad at me? Was I too boring the last time we hung out? I guess I wasn’t as upbeat as I could have been. I was in a bad mood about something, but I was having a great time with her! Maybe I should ask. But that would be weird. Maybe I should wait. Yeah, let’s wait. Oh no. Why is it taking so long for her to reply to my message? Maybe she doesn’t want to talk to me. Maybe she really is mad at me because I’m not fun. I’m probably wasting her time right now. I wanted to know if she wanted to go meet up for lunch or something this weekend, but now I don’t know. Even if she does, I’m going to be a mess while I’m there. What if I run out of things to talk about and she doesn’t have anything to say, and we both just sit there like two people on a bad first date? Then she’ll be even more mad at me…

Any conversation in your head ever go like that? When you’re anxious, you become super sensitive. You start looking for every little thing that could possibly go wrong with a situation. It paralyzes you. It makes you nervous to be around anything, including people that care about you. You start making up imaginary situations in your head,¬†often ending in disaster. Sometimes you confuse those made-up events for ones that really happened, and you become frustrated with people for no real reason. You have trouble expressing yourself at all, and you look like a stiff mess. You’re constantly on the verge of saying something, but keep hesitating because you’re afraid of the repercussions. Then all those irrational fears that overthinking brought on start to fulfill themselves. For example, when I become way too self-conscious of what others think, and I start to feel afraid that I’ll screw something in a friendship up, I can be very awkward, say weird things, bring up random questions that make me look like a weirdo, and just overall not be very fun. And unfortunately, it has hurt relationships with people.¬†And it probably could have been avoided if I didn’t “let” anxiety and overthinking take over.

Depression

“Let.” It’s a touchy word for those who¬†regularly fall into depressive episodes. On the one hand, we have control over ourselves. We can choose to work out our personal bullshit. We can choose ¬†to work on our self-esteem. We can choose to stop overthinking. We can choose to stop letting anxiety take over.

But.

BUT.

Sometimes we don’t see that choice. Sometime we get sucked so deep into all this, we forget choices are even available. All we can see is the paranoia. All we can feel is the anxiety. All we can do is overthink. It takes a serious toll on our bodies, a toll so big that it becomes a personal accomplishment if you can find the strength to get out of bed and get dressed. And when people tell us we’re “choosing” to be like this, it makes us more upset. No one wants to get caught in this. But there are times we can’t actually see the option to choose. We need some time to get less involved with the intensity, to back a few feet away and see the bigger picture before that option becomes “available.” And unfortunately, that may take some time.

And until that time comes, we have to deal with the overthinking. We have to handle the anxiety. And we usually don’t do a great job. Because we’re stuck, physically and mentally, we overthink even more. We build more anxiety on ourselves. We make ourselves more depressed. We can’t focus. We have more trouble faking smiles. We forget to eat. We eat too much. We try to drown out negative thoughts by drowning ourselves in television, music, YouTube – anything to distract ourselves.

And distractions are one of those double-edged swords. They do help take us out of the noise that made us feel so terrible, but we mistake them¬†for solutions. We can get addicted to distracting ourselves and¬†can¬†end up forgetting to choose to work on our issues once we’re far enough out of depression’s suffocating grip.

Post

It’s hard. Especially when you find yourself repeatedly coming back to this set of behaviors. But keep trying. Don’t ever give up. You have more control of your life than you think. It may take some time, but I promise it’s worth it. I may still fall into these depressive episodes, but I can handle them so much better than I could ten years ago. It just takes some work, and you’ve got to force yourself to do it sometimes.

Try therapy, if it’s possible. I can’t promise all therapists are great, but the ones that are¬†really are. If you’re not ready to open up to other people, I have some recommended reading for you:

When the Past Is Present by David Richo (ISBN: 978-1-59030-571-3) – This book looks at transference, the process of taking old memories and relationships and placing them into new ones. If you feel like someone’s a substitute in your life for someone else, or are afraid of screwing up current relationships by reliving old ones (much like my experience with the photo), then check this book out. At times it feels like it’s pushing Buddhism onto you, but it’s ultimately more self-helpful than religious.

The Undervalued Self by Elaine Aron (ISBN: 978-0-316-06699-0) – This book can help if you have poor self-esteem. It helps you recognize what in your life has made you feel so poorly and how you can learn to love yourself. There are activities and exercises to work on in this book, so be prepared to make time to do them.

The Highly Sensitive Person in Love¬†by Elaine Aron (ISBN: 0-7679-0336-6) – This book is somewhat an expansion on Aron’s¬†The Highly Sensitive Person¬†(which I haven’t read, but have heard is great). For those that are really sensitive, please check this book out. Chances are love has been or is involved, and this book helps you deal with it more rationally, whether you’re in a relationship or not. There were a lot of great pieces of advice in here, and I actually wrote them on index cards that I regularly viewed to help me get over a particularly unhealthy crush.

The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World by Sophia Dembling (ISBN:¬†978-0399537691) – This book is for all introverts that need to feel good about themselves. It helps you appreciate your way of life, learn that it’s not a bad thing if you’re not as outgoing as extroverts, and gives you good advice on dealing with situations introverts aren’t necessarily great with. It really makes you feel like you’re not alone, and has managed to work in some humor that will make you feel like it’s your turn in the sun. The chapters are short, but powerful- perfect if you need to take baby steps to accept yourself.

Chances are at least one of these books apply to you. Look them up for more info if you’re interested.

You’re not alone. Keep trying, don’t give up, and remember to keep breathing. Good luck! ūüôā

Music

Music is something I’m usually a little hesitant to talk about. I love listening to music, but unfortunately, I end up listening to a lot of the same songs over and over again. I try to find new bands to listen to through Pandora and YouTube, but unfortunately, I usually find myself in the same loop of songs no matter what station I try to create. I don’t know a lot of people that are really into music, either, and I’m pretty embarrassed to ask for recommendations from the ones that are (they’re just so much cooler than me ūüôā ). And the radio? Well, poor sound quality and 10 minute commercials aside… no, wait. That’s it.

I still listen to CDs, too. I know other people do. I know other people buy CDs, as well. But I still feel like the only person I know that does. The music lovers I know either download all of their music (legally or otherwise) and/or listen to records. I prefer buying physical copies of albums (and almost everything else, for that matter). I don’t know why. Even though it can sometimes be inconvenient to store or find, it’s more satisfying for me to hold something tangible. It’s a feeling that I can’t find in a digital download. I find pride in looking at my collection of CDs rather than seeing them all in a folder on my computer. Records are pretty cool, too. I love when bands put cool artwork on the covers, and seeing the art on something as big as a record cover is pretty awesome. It’s a very enjoyable experience sitting in a friend’s place listening to a record, too. I don’t personally have a record player, and while I’ve considered investing in one, I don’t think it would suit my current lifestyle. One day, though.

I mean, I could find a way to fit listening to records into my life. I could listen to them when I’m writing or reading, for example. But I have other things in the background to listen to (including CDs). And because I still use CDs in my car, it would just be more expensive to get both a CD and record to suit different listening experiences. Of course, if vinyl records are coming with digital downloads anyway, I might switch over sooner than I think. As much as I love CDs, I only really use them in the car. Most of the time, I listen to them with my mp3 player. Maybe if the time comes when I can only use my mp3 player in the car, I’ll finally invest in a record player.

Why am I even talking about all this? Strangely enough, all this music thought was sparked by something a writer told me at a career panel this afternoon. He was talking about the eventual disappearance of books in favor of E-books (which I don’t necessarily agree with, but more on that another time). That got me to thinking about the general physical disappearance of things like movies, video games, and of course, music.

It’s not like this isn’t something that hasn’t been said before, but I really don’t want physical things to disappear. I like that we have the option to choose between digital downloads and physical mediums. I just don’t want one to completely wipe out the other.

This afternoon I told my sister I was going to buy the new CD by Foster the People, and she laughed and jokingly said “What’s a CD?” And I know it was a joke, but it made me kind of sad. She downloads all her music, only occasionally buying records if they’re cheap. And I don’t know, it kind of bums me out how a lot of people like her are big music enthusiasts but can’t actually see or¬†hold¬†their music collection.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m old or trying to hold onto something from the past. Like I mentioned, I’ve listened to a lot of the same music for years now. But I really do hope there will be a place for physical copies of music in the digital age.

Do People Call Anymore?

All right, real talk: what exactly is the current situation with phone calls?

I really, really¬†don’t mean to sound needy, or whiny, or anything like that with this post, but I don’t think I can talk about this without coming off that way.¬†The only people that call me are my bosses, my mother, and my grandparents. My bosses just want to know if I can cover for someone, my mother just needs one more thing to distract her while she’s driving, and my grandparents… well, they’re old, and don’t really communicate any other way.¬†But my friends? Nope. Never get calls anymore. For that matter, I only regularly talk to one of my friends on the phone, but I’m always the one that needs to call¬†him.

And I’m not gonna lie, it’s very frustrating. Very,¬†very¬†frustrating. And after doing some research and looking at other articles exploring this topic, I’m not the only one distraught over this. To tell the truth, I’m actually pretty scared to call people. And not just girls I like, but¬†actual¬†friends. I always feel like if they wanted to chat on the phone, they would call. I feel like no one really calls just to say hi or talk for a while anymore.¬†

And… I dunno. It makes me sad. Because even though I personally never get calls anymore, I¬†do¬†see other people talking on the phone. I see people talking on the phone in stores, while driving, and at restaurants, even though they’re with other people¬†or even on dates. Hell, even when I’m hanging out with friends, they’ll take calls. And I’m not gonna lie, I find it really rude. If I was back in high school, and we saw each other a lot and were kind of¬†just¬†hanging out for the sake of hanging out, I don’t think I would have minded so much. But now, when I have to drive a while to see people, plan get-togethers ahead of time, and match up schedules to even get something to work out, I just find it really rude for someone to interrupt a conversation with me to go have one with someone else.

And I really don’t want to make a big deal about it, especially because I know they’re not intentionally trying to make me feel bad. I know shit comes up. Sometimes they have to take a call because of work. Sometimes they were expecting a call before I even arrived. Sometimes it’s someone they haven’t spoken to in a while and they don’t want to be rude (ha). And to that, fine. Talk for a couple minutes.

But it’s when a few minutes have gone by and they’re not saying Can I call you back? I’m with a friend right now¬†that I’m trying to find a polite way to say¬†Can you call them back? You’re with a friend right now. One time I was at a friend’s house and we were in the middle of talking about some heavy things that were bothering me at the time, and no joke, she answers her phone in the middle of it and just goes on to talk to another one of her girlfriends for at least a good, solid fifteen minutes (and no, it wasn’t anything important; they were just gossiping).

In addition to being rude, it hurts to be ignored like that. I’m just sitting there, twiddling my thumbs, waiting for whoever I’m with to wrap up a separate conversation. And the whole time I’m thinking how it’s kind of strange that I never get phone calls/never get called back when I do call these people, yet they have no problem dropping everything to answer if I’m with them.

So I’m honestly at a bit of a loss, here. On the one hand, I never get phone calls anymore. People don’t tend to answer when I call them, either (or call back), so I’m kind of assuming people are either too busy or just don’t like having conversations on the phone anymore. But on the other hand… yeah, they still do. And at really stupid times.

Sometimes I think maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m boring. Maybe the fact that I’m even talking about phone calls at all make me sound needy, or like a loser. Writing a blog post about it probably isn’t helping. Although when I’m hanging out with my good friends, they¬†are enjoying my company, the conversations I bring to the table, and just generally enjoy my presence, so I can’t be¬†that bad.

Other times I think maybe different forms of communication spoiled people. Concentrating on a phone call takes more effort and time than texting, and texting takes more effort and time than commenting through Facebook, Twitter, etc., and commenting takes more effort and time than leaving a like (although this is a topic in and of itself, one that I’ll tackle sometime in the future).

There’s also the factor of growing up. I don’t want to repeat old habits of spending a couple of hours on the phone every other day, and I can’t imagine anyone else does, either. But we had a lot of free time to do that as high schoolers. As adults, we got busy and preoccupied with other responsibilities. I often look at social media as a primary reason for why people don’t talk to each other as much anymore, but social media started to really emerge around the same time I was growing out of my teenage years, and I often look past the fact that maybe phone calls are being ignored because talking on the phone can be viewed as a little juvenile.

Maybe it’s a cell phone thing. In a time where landlines are becoming obsolete, cell phones dominate any type of phone call. And honestly, I’ve never been in a cell phone conversation where the sound quality was better than a landline call. Not even on an iPhone. And since people use cell phones everywhere, all the wind and other background noises make people really hard to understand at all. And since most people have their phones on them at all times, they’re usually hanging out with someone or doing something else while talking to you, never really giving you their full attention. Not hard to see why most people prefer texting if this was the case. Plus, you have to pay money to use your cell phone as a phone. And with different social media sites that let you talk for¬†free, why would anyone want to pay for a phone call anyway?

Maybe people really just don’t like phone calls anymore. One of the articles I was reading went so far as to say that phone calls are intrusive, inconsiderate, and a waste of time. And I won’t lie, when I call someone, and they’re not really saying much or seeming like they’re into the conversation, I freeze up and wonder if calling was even a good idea. I said before I was scared to call people, and this is one of the reasons why. If they’ve never called me, and they don’t show much effort into holding up a conversation, I have to assume they don’t want to be called.

Or maybe everyone feels like I do. Maybe everyone’s so self-conscious about calling each other they just don’t do it. Maybe they see everyone communicating through social media and just adapted to that because it’s socially acceptable. Maybe we all have a few numbers we really want to call but don’t. Maybe we all have some people that we want to say¬†I wish you called more but don’t because it sounds too needy or offensive.

I don’t know. I feel like a needy loser just from sharing this anonymously. Imagine how I would feel if I ever told anyone I knew all this. But I’m not alone, far from it. Look at articles about this and it’s clear that it’s a decent issue enough people struggle with. All I know is, I’d feel a lot better if I spent ten or twenty minutes a week having an actual conversation with each of my friends. Not over chat, or through text, but conversations where I can get undivided attention and hear a voice. Conversations that don’t always have to be initiated by me.

Because it’s hard to keep up friendships when you get older, you know? If you’re not in their immediate vicinity, like at work or in school, it gets hard to keep up with people. And when it’s hard to sync up schedules to meet up and when people don’t show much of an interest in calling, well then… what is there, you know? Can’t keep good friendships if all people do is text and leave likes on Facebook. And sometimes they can’t even do that.

Again, I really don’t mean to come off as needy, whiny, or anything like that. But this is a subject that my mind has drifted to more than once, and I’m really curious to see who legitimately wants phone calls anymore.

I Miss Drawing

It’s been snowing a lot, making it difficult to do anything outside. Work hasn’t been giving me many hours lately, either. Which on the one hand is great because I’ve been able to do a lot more writing and reading, but on the other hand is leaving me with little money to put away. And because I have a few large payments coming up in a few months (not to mention I can’t find a better job around here), I’ve been freaking out a little. Freaking out leads to self-doubt, which leads to our familiar friend depression. Winter’s been hitting me straight in the feels, and I can’t wait for spring.

So with this extra free time, being stuck indoors, and getting lost in my thoughts, I’ve also been very nostalgic. And if you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know I can really get stuck living in memories. Lately I’ve been thinking about my childhood, in particular. I keep thinking about the things me and my best friend next door used to do together. There were a lot of video games, so I’ve found myself revisiting some of the ones we used to play, like the¬†Donkey Kong Country¬†series and¬†Sonic Adventure 2: Battle.¬†

With¬†Sonic Adventure 2: Battle in particular, I kept thinking about how much I used to like video game art. My best friend and I would play games, and then we’d take some sketch pads, pencils, colored pencils, crayons, erasers, and¬†whatever into the big guest room in his house, drop everything on the floor, and just¬†draw. For¬†hours.¬†Well, maybe not huge chunks of hours. Childhood mindsets aren’t great at interpreting lengths of time accurately. But we drew a lot, that much is true.

We took our video game instruction manuals and strategy guides and looked through them for cool artwork to draw from. And when the Internet became more relevant, we’d print pictures of more art to draw from (our parents didn’t like this). I mentioned in a previous post how some of my strongest memories involved video games, and now I’m thinking maybe one of the reasons for that is because I spent so much time looking at the art and copying every detail onto paper.

This wasn’t just something I did as a kid, either. When I was turning into a *lovable* teenager, I drew during class a lot, too. I still have some of the drawings I did on notebook paper, whether they were video game characters or not. And for whatever reason, it really makes me happy to see some of those old drawings surrounded by notes about subjects I never really cared about. Hell, I still have my binder from 8th grade algebra. It’s falling apart, but I drew Spongebob, Sonic, and Dragonball Z characters on the cover and never wanted to throw it away.

Man, I miss drawing! I used to draw fairly regularly throughout my early college days, too. In fact, I got pretty good, better than I ever was as a kid or teenager. So what happened?

I guess it probably started out during my first semester of college. I took art and interior design classes, so I was drawing all the time. I got up at 5 every morning to draw, and I was usually still working on an assignment before I went to bed (my first semester of college was surprisingly one of my busiest ones). While I ended up hating my art class (and my professor, he was kind of a snob), I did learn one crucial thing: if you’re going to do something for a living, make sure you love it. While I loved art and drawing under my own terms, it was really obvious I didn’t have the patience or interest to make a career out of it.

After that semester, I still sketched and drew here and there, but I started focusing more on my writing once I transferred into my main college. In the end that worked out; I found myself to have a much deeper appreciation for writing than I did with art, and I actually want to do something with my writing.

Although I don’t draw that often anymore, drawing and those memories are still very much a big part of me. I’ve always liked cartoons and video game art, and sometimes I still just browse through my old strategy guides or through Google’s image search, hoping to spark an inspiration to pick up a pencil and marker again. And last week I had this really strong urge to draw something from¬†The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, so I grabbed my sketch pad and drew this:

Skull Kid

God, it felt so good to draw on paper with a pencil and marker again! Most of the art I’ve done in the past year has been digital, but this was just so satisfying! I loved it, I loved drawing again! Man, I miss it. When I’m not feeling great, and when writing’s not working for me, and when I’m feeling nostalgic, I’ve got to remember to try drawing more.