The Burden of Being an Over Thinker

I read. I read a lot. I am almost constantly juggling four or five novels at once. I like to get all wrapped up in a good story. So, it makes sense that I have come to adore certain quotations and novels more than the rest. A certain quote that has stuck with me through many years and countless stories is from the novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by author, Jonathan Safran Foer. The quote reads:

“I think and think and think, I‘ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it.”

A truer quote or novel about being an over thinker never did exist.

Thinking is necessary. Overthinking is a burden.

I am what you may refer to as a chronic over thinker. I am a giant “what if?” person, and I would say that in normal daily functions, I can control it; a few times in a calendar year, I will go into an overthinking frenzy.

I can start by thinking, “what if I cancel and reschedule my dentist appointment?” And end up at “what if they detected mouth cancer and if I had gone a week sooner I have a better chance to live?”

I can decide that, “I want to take an elective because it’s easy” and think myself into the fact that a “grad school will never accept me because I look like a slacker for taking yoga, then I’ll never get a job or make any type of money and then I’ll be homeless and have no teeth.” But I guess that negates scenario one, so that’s a win, I suppose.

I can work in the opposite way too. I can spend $2 on a scratch off ticket and before it’s even touched by a coin, I will have thought; “what if I win the grand prize? Now I can pay back all my student loans, buy a car, take a trip around the world and open up some coffee shop where all of the items on the menu describe your personality instead of an actual drink (I.E. I’ll have an “I’m a Morning Person Naturally” which is a decaf coffee with cream and a dash of sugar; or an “I Pretend I’m a Morning Person Naturally” which is a regular coffee with two shots of espresso, some cream and four sugars).” But then, when it comes back that I actually won nothing, I think; “now I’ve now wasted $2 and that money could’ve been pivotal in whether or not I’m able to pay my rent this month.”

I like to dissect a situation. I like to get right down to its core and figure out what the problem is, then I like to rebuild it with possible solutions and ending scenarios for any turn of events. I don’t like to think of myself as either an optimist or a pessimist, but instead a realist. And realistically, nothing is certain. And uncertainty is the biggest issue for an over thinker, because uncertainty means more possible outcomes.

What if I don’t graduate college? Or what if I don’t find a job when I graduate? What if I never pick a career that interests me? What if I never make any money? What if I don’t care that I don’t make money? What if I just want to live a life as a nomad? What if I chase happiness instead of success? Am I a failure if I don’t care about money? What if I make it big? Will all the money actually make me happy? What if I give everything up and it doesn’t work out?

What if I never meet someone to love fully? What if I never have kids? What if I have a kid but don’t know who the dad is? Will my family disown me? What if I can never have children but don’t know it yet? What if I have a kid who turns out to be an assh*le? How much of that is my fault? Or what if I meet my soulmate tomorrow? Would I be ready for it? Would I let him walk away because I think I’m too young? What if he wants 12 kids straight away? What if he’s an heir to some great fortune and we can travel the world on his trust fund? What if he’s broker than me (hardly possible) and we’re happier than church mice?

What if I have pizza for dinner? What if I really wanted Mexican, but settle for pizza because it’s what everyone else wanted? Is that symbolic of my life? What if that means I’m a pushover? Will I be a pushover in every aspect of my future?

What if? What if? What if?

It’s a sick, never ending chain and it’s enough to drive a person crazy.

I don’t ask that people understand it or analyze my analysis of life. I just need the people in my life to know that when I say I’m having a hard time turning my brain off, that’s exactly what I mean. I cannot get my brain to stop what if-ing. And sometimes; what if-ing makes the computer crash (by computer I obviously mean, my thoughts, my disposition and my general outlook on life). The computer crashes, we take it in for a hardware replacement (a thick dose of reality: “you’re ‘what if-ing’ yourself out of being happy again”) and a software adjustment (normally a long chat with my Mom) and life continues as if the computer had never crashed at all.

I never asked to be an over thinker and I’m pretty sure that it came somewhere in my warrantee that it was one of my issues, but if you signed on to have me in your life at some capacity; you can’t make this problem about you because first of all, it’s about me and second of all, the self-preservation in the form of passiveness sends me even further into a “what if” and “why” spiral. (Why are they being short with me? What if they’re mad at me? What if I’m being selfish? Is being stressed and a little sad a selfish thing? Why am I feeling bad for feeling how I feel?)

This is a problem that takes time and a certain amount of “I know I’m better than this” to get over. I wish that I could say it was an instant fix, but let’s be real, I need about a solid 5-7 days to “what if” and wallow until I wake up one morning and want to punch the mirror for how schlubby and stupid I feel for having let it carry on so long. So until then; just let me what if. I recognize that I’m being crazy and that’s at least step 4 in the recovery process. So just let me be crazy and don’t try to invalidate how I feel. I don’t walk around telling you that you have no reason to be happy, so don’t tell me that I have no reason to be confused or upset. People can be any emotion they want for any or no reason at all. Let it go. It’s not your choice and it’s not about anyone but the individual them self.


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