I’ve been told many times throughout my 19 years of life that I am an incredibly meticulous person. On the outside, this seems to be a flattering compliment, but, I am the only one who knows the backstory; from my perspective, being meticulous is a curse.
After I got out of depression, I felt like the doors to the world were finally opening. However, before I could finally waltz in, I still had to deal with the remnants of my psychological past: the anxiety. The thing with anxiety is that the world seems never to stop spinning. My mind races as millions of thoughts, reminders, and worries flash before my eyes. And worst of all, I am paralyzed. I am overwhelmed by the many different combinations of things that could happen, so many decisions to make, that I don’t even know where to start. I can’t think, and I can’t move. It is the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. To me, any horrible feeling—burning fury, intense sadness, even pain—is better. At least I felt like I could still do something.
Back to the part about being meticulous, let me provide a few examples. In my freshman year, I would be so scrupulous in planning my future. I had my life planned every step of the road into my self-prophesized PhD years. When I started looking into what my PhD years would look like, I lost it. There were just too many things that could happen that could end up altering my plans. When I realized that, I tried planning what I would do for each possible scenario. That’s when I gave up and never looked at those elaborate plans again. This last example is a perfect representation of my “meticulous,” anxiety-laden thought process: I try to address every racing thought, create elaborate plans for every possible scenario, get overwhelmed, give up and feel hopeless.
Dr. Dean has said “an event can happen in only one way.” To me, it means that worrying or imagining the millions of possible scenarios is useless. None of that is going to have a say in that one event. Knowing that, I feel like I suddenly know what I have to do. Because things only happen one way—if I believe that I will beautifully handle whatever comes into my life—I think that the event will happen in a good way, because I know I am capable of making it happen. It’s the overthinking, re-hashing, constant doubting that seemingly multiplies one event into hundreds, and kills optimism.
It’s been a long journey with anxiety, and that idea has helped me get a little closer to the finish line. Here’s how I think now. Because that event can happen in only one way, I am confident in the success of that event. I am confident because I know I am capable. And because I believe in that one event happening, I can clear out all the “what-ifs,” backup plans and worries. That means I can stop making waves of decisions and decrease my risk, which brings down worry. There’s only one path to focus on, one place to be, and the world can finally stop spinning.