At 17-months old, I got diagnosed as an overthinker.
No, really. Less than a year and half old, and I was already talking the talk, but I was too afraid to walk the walk without carrying my baby activity bouncer with me.
I could walk, quite well actually, but I refused to do so without the security of the play-frame that encircled me, which I’d scoop up into my arms and tuck up into my armpits, my little size 7s poking out the bottom (I’ve always had Mega™ feet) and saunter around like it was merely an extension of my anatomy. I wouldn’t walk anywhere outside without holding my mom or dad’s hand, I didn’t roll around the house boisterously, or even dive onto my bed — all of my adventures took place inside my head.
The doctor told my mom that I was simply an over-thinker. A worrier. Didn’t even know what “future” meant, but here I was fretting about it. And 26 years later — holy hell I’ve only gotten worse.
But I’m not here to talk about why I overthink or what I overthink about, I’m here to tell you, to hopefully remind and then remedy for you, one thing that overthinking has stolen from me, that I just didn’t expect.
Overthinking stole my ability to remember songs
Yuh-huh. And quotes. And street names. And directions to places. And a lot of what I was doing at specific times in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I can remember overarching themes. I know I went on a school trip to Poland when I was 16, but I don’t really remember the ins and outs of each day. I know I listened to a lot of pop-punk during GCSE, but I couldn’t tell you the artists or album names or what the songs were called. I know I went to my nan’s every weekend or so, but I couldn’t tell you the name of a single road or shop or town that we passed on the way.
Now, one thing you should know before I elaborate is that I suffered from OCD for practically a decade. Longer, even. Forever, possibly, because it still lives inside me, I just don’t listen to it anymore. The point is, though, OCD meant that I was a chronic overthinker, in every moment. Worrying so deeply that it resulted in horrible visions playing out in my head at all hours, coupled with agonising compulsions in a meagre attempt to prevent bad things — those bad things in my mind — from happening.
All that overthinking I did meant that I lived my life so inwardly, I missed out on everything around me.
I didn’t know who sang that song or what road I walked to school down or that quote from that episode everybody keeps talking about. I barely knew any of those little details really, because, whilst everybody was out there observing their surroundings and absorbing the world and making note of names and places and faces and facts and quirks and characteristics — I was too busy worrying about something. Or nothing. Or most likely everything.
I only started to realise this recently
Since I found my soulmate in 2021, I’ve also found parts of myself that I’d forgotten about. Ben has a brilliant brain. He can remember what song played in what scene in what video game in whatever year it came out, created by what team in what towns who went on to do whatever else they’ve done. He can walk down memory lane in his memory, reciting every path and route he took on that trip to Wales with his mom when he was 11. He’s perception, personified. He’s bloody brilliant is what he is.
And sure, maybe he’s more mindful than most. Maybe it’s selective (god knows he knows every date in Napoleon’s history, but absolutely none of his own upcoming diary). Or maybe I really did lose that much of my earlier moments, because I spent them all waging war on the frontlines of my own fried mindscape.
I don’t remember these things because I barely noticed them. Sure, in the moments when I wasn’t overthinking, I was creatively thinking, letting my imagination loose onto pages of spiral bound notebooks and inside Wordart on PowerPoint. When I wasn’t stuck inside my head, I tried to unleash it, and I spent most of my free time always creating new things, always writing, always dreaming things up — so yeah, I guess I never really did leave. My postcode was BR 41N, and no visitors were allowed.
But now I’m trying to live in the moment, outwardly. Back in the W0 R1D.
Since then, since Ben, I remember more
I still overthink — more so, in many ways — but now that I know what that overthinking strips me from, I’m more intentional about grabbing it before it slips away. That two-day hiking route we did along the Ardudwy Way? I could probably walk you through it. The places we visited and foods we ate in Finland? I’ll name each of them for you (I won’t pronounce them well, though). Songs we’ve listened to I make a point of titling. Shows we watch I actively bank the best quotes in my brain. Everything we do, we’ve done, I journal about. I’ve opened up my eyes, my ears, my everything to the rest of reality, bit by bit, a little more now.
My thoughts still scream and shout and spiral, but now they’ve got a larger room to echo inside of. More mental capacity to mark the moments. A greater expanse for the memories to reside in.
It’s weird, because I’d never noticed how much I hadn’t noticed before. You don’t know what you don’t know, right? Until I met Ben and realised that one person truly can retain so much knowledge, hold so much detail, take in so much of existence and make it their own with the remarkable way they see it, hear it, understand it, remember it.
Ben’s colourblind (he can’t see pink. The Barbie movie is just a black-and-white film to him) and yet he observes the world in a fuller, more vibrant spectrum than I ever have. Or ever used to, at least. Because it’s since unlocked something in me, and I refuse to ever let another moment or detail slip by me again.
Worrying doesn’t just steal from the present — but the past
I’ve got no advice for you on how to stop overthinking. I’m an expert in doing it, and it’s possibly the only thing I’ve done consistently, every day of my existence. Sometimes I worry that I’ll never stop worrying. How ironic.
And I’m sure there are a lot of us out there who feel the same, right? So this one is for you. I want you to know that you don’t have to eliminate your worries to allow the joy to move in. There’s room for them both. They might be bickering neighbours, but they tolerate one another, because they’ve made their space their own.
Worry lives in a darkened room with an unmade bed and used glasses piling up on every surface. And Joy lives in a pastel room with a bay window and fairy-lights strung along everything. Occasionally they meet in the hallway and exchange a smile.
Please don’t let your incessant thoughts take away your peace. Let them scream — and then turn up the volume on Fall Out Boy’s Thnks fr th Mmrs on the Infinity on High album. Released 2007. And drown the worries out, to let the rest of the world back in.
About the Creator
I’m a writer, a storyteller, a lunatic. I imagine in a parallel universe I might be a caricaturist or a botanist or somewhere asleep on the moon — but here, I am a writer, turning moments into multiverses and making homes out of them.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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