“We suffer more in imagination than in reality.”Seneca, a Stoic
The human body’s response to anxiety is the same reaction it has to a lack of air. The blood races, the heart accelerates, and our minds get muddled from adrenaline. We only fear situations that we don’t know of or what we think we know of. Not knowing what will come next riddles the mind with anxiety, drowning the person with thoughts of negative outcomes. This internal suffering becomes the reality of the person; for it is all the person can believe will happen.
I was glued to my bed. The soft, springy mattress and the cotton sheets embraced me in a way that made me feel safe. Safe from the world. I stared over at my dimly lit Chromebook screen on Canvas before turning away. I knew I was losing my mind. The only thing that appeased me was the blur of colors, shapes, and sounds I saw as I scrolled for hours. Soon, the jay blue sky of the afternoon turned jet black. My Chromebook was still glaring at me, its white irises making me aware of responsibility. I thought about it. knew I needed to do it but I just… couldn’t. The embrace my bed held on me soon turned to a vice grip. I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t move. The overwhelming thoughts of having to sit on that torn leather chair, elbows scraping against the hard white wood of my desk, hunched over with reddened eyes from sleepless hours consumed me. The soulless glare of blue light along digital pages and pages of Arial text and mangled words would rid me of my state of contentedness. Staring at the tiny lumps of my popcorn ceiling, a sense of dread washed over me with the low and cool breath of my fan on my skin. I was in chastity from my own mind.
I live my days with these thoughts but I always know I eventually have to do these tasks. Whether it be during concerning hours or after a prolonged nap, I always felt guilty. I compared myself to my productive peers; they seemed so much more organized and on task than I did. Sometimes I even felt like I didn’t fit in with my advanced peers. More specifically, the girls that decorate their intricately doctorate notes with pastel highlighter and the other witty geniuses in my class. How could they do things that were so hard for me? Why couldn’t I be more like them? I always hated comparing myself with others but sometimes I just can’t help it. I felt like I was caged in the same routine every single day, each day similar to the next. This cycle was unbreakable; it was as if it was how life was meant to be for me forever. So I sit in my room, my bonds, and dread each day as it passes through me.
I wonder if my doubts have lost me opportunities. Chances are, they have. I don’t consider myself to be an extremely pessimistic and doubtful person but when opportunities come that aren’t like anything I’ve experienced before, my fear makes me back out. But I don’t like reflecting on the past, especially what I’ve lost. Instead, I ponder and worry about the future. My parents have always placed emphasis on my success, they wanted me to get into the best of universities, rack in a couple million, then raise and spoil them when they are elderly. I’ve carried this expectation on me for all of my educational experience. But soon enough, my rut hit me. I fell into a great state of depression. I didn’t want to do anything and my grades were very disappointing. I wasn’t failing at all but I just felt like I was failing.
Soon enough, I lost track of reality. I began disassociating and being lost in a maze of my own thoughts. Everything around me seemed like a blur, but in reality, it wasn’t. I stumbled upon a video about an Ancient Greek religion called Stoicism. It was the belief that one should not react to problems of natural causes and correct errors in problems that they caused. The founder of Stoicism, Zeno of Citium, was transporting goods across the sea when a storm hit his ship and stowed away all his goods into the deep ocean. He survived the incident; and when he landed on shore, he did not let a single shred of emotion for this situation couldn’t have been helped. It was a natural cause. Stoicism isn’t about being emotionless, it is primarily about one’s ability to correct their own errors, live freely without being impacted by the thoughts of others and their own, as well as how one allows an event or circumstance to affect the way they behave. So you’re telling me this man got caught in a hurricane on a tiny wooden sailboat and didn’t show a crumb of remorse and I sob my eyes out doing IXL? That video on Stoicism really made me think about what I give my energy and reaction to. It made me question if some things were really worth giving a reaction to in general.
The reality I created for myself with my own thoughts took up a huge portion of my early high-school experience. Every time I hesitated to do an assignment because of it being difficult was merely a fictional future I created that only prolonged the process. And most of the time, the assignment actually took barely any time at all and nor did it have the difficulty that I imagined. Now apply this situation to everything you overthink about. When we overthink, we dwell in the future, which is really non-existent. The future simply does not exist until it becomes the present. And soon enough, it’ll become the past. Would you really scare yourself with something that does not even exist? Would you really grow afraid of something you made up in your head? Now you get how ridiculous that is. It is very difficult to get rid of a habit that you’ve been doing for years, in this case overthinking. But it’s better to go from zero to something than nothing. Don’t think about it too hard.