Your brain becomes fixated on one tiny, insignificant thing that you’ve said or done; nothing can permeate the bond that exists between the “thing” and your mind. Nothing, no-one can come between you. You think over and over and over again, a vicious cycle of self-loathing, embarrassment, fear.
No amount of attempting rationalisation works, the thing stays at the forefront of your mind, like an unwanted gift that you’re not allowed to return. You only wish there was a possiblity to have kept the receipt.
It seeps into your daily life without you even realising. You go about your business, somehow distracting yourself momentarily from the prison that is your mind. Then during a lull, the thought comes creeping back, so much so that you don’t notice it until it’s screaming in your face, making you relive every wrong thing you’ve done, making you believe that everyone thinks you’re stupid.
It doesn’t take much to trigger it. Perhaps something you said to a colleague that could’ve been misinterpreted. A simple phone call with a friend that leaves you reeling with fear that you said something weird and that it’s altered the friendship. An exchange in a shop that leaves you feeling flustered. A difficult encounter with a client in work. It doesn’t take much to trigger but it’ll last for days if you let it.
It’ll invade every part of your life no matter how much you try to stop it. Do you acknowledge it or brush it off? The two sides of your brain begin to fight each other rather than working together. The irrational side is at the fore, making you believe everything it tells you whilst the rational side doesn’t get a look in, quietly suffering in the background whilst its dominant friend lavishes the control.
Your heart rates increases and you develop a crushing feeling in your chest, like a stack of books that no one needs, being left to rot away. You try to lift them off, trying to ease the sensation of not being able to breathe but no amount of trying can prise them away. You have no choice but to leave them there, the decay from them oozing into your skin and flowing through your body. You’re left breathless, exhausted, nauseous; like you’ve gone for a run and pushed yourself too hard. There’s no chance to catch your breath. There’s no rest period, there’s no break to regroup. It’s constant, neverending.
On the outside nobody knows. You look ‘normal’, like the friendly, bubbly person everyone expects you to be. You chat to your colleagues, engage in conversation; you smile, you laugh, you reply; but you’re not really there. You’re too focused on the thing inside your brain that has started to fester. It has taken root in your head and started to unpack the case its brought with it for its stay, offloading the dirty laundry of all your past mistakes.
You’re overwhelmed with thoughts, your brain never stops. Sleep is the only peace you get and even then it’s marred with nightmares. You retreat into yourself, wholeheartedly believing that if you stop talking, if you become more quiet, you’ll have less opportunity to make mistakes, to embarrass yourself. You desperately want to tell someone, hoping it’ll start to ease the feeling in your chest but the irrational side convinces you that everyone will know you’re crazy if you dare to open your mouth. Convinces you that no one really cares what your petty little brain tells you to feel.
So you carry on, the world oblivious to what’s going on. You play the roles of two people, only nobody gets to see the real you. You perfect the outside version of you, nobody has any idea that they’re seeing a filtered variant. You fill your days with activities; work, exercise, socialising, in an attempt to be so busy you forget it all. But you don’t. You still go home at the end of the day to a myriad of thoughts and feelings.
You find someone to talk to. But you’re bothering them; no one wants to hear your ludicrous thoughts. You’re being selfish by taking up their time, no matter how many times they try to convince you that you’re not. They persuade you to open up. You share a meager amount, too afraid to unvail what you’re really thinking. You feel a little better, relieved almost that you’ve managed to get something off your chest. The crushing feeling subsides slightly.
Until your brain fixates on the next thing.
You overthink every thought, word, action.
You’ve become a shadow of your former self.
You distance yourself.
There’s no escape from it; the cycle starts again.