One of the first things I learned in my ongoing recovery process (anxiety disorder/PTSD) was that there are ‘anxious personality traits’. Anxious people tend to be… analytical, artistic/highly creative, deeply empathetic, deep thinkers, reacting with emotions over reason, high motivated, perfectionistic…
The second thing I learned was that the people who confided back to me, “I have anxiety too” didn’t always fit those anxious personality traits I had just learned about.
I was visibly twitching. They seemed so cool and calm, peace filled, that I doubted they were truly dealing with an anxiety disorder. But, like ducks, that was a surface thing only. Underneath their peaceful exterior the muscles in their legs were working away just as quickly as my actual leg was bouncing up and down during all of my therapy appointments.
I grew sickly thin, as a result of anxiety disorder. I learned that some people have the opposite happen. The body can’t go into fight or flight response while eating. Some anxious personalities deal with anxious feelings through food. Thereby gaining excess weight.
Plus, I was reactionary and emotion-based, having a hard time using reason in my self-talk. Some anxiety sufferers I connected with were the opposite. They were overly rational. Having a hard time reacting any other way but with logic, even if someone in front of them desperately just wanted some empathy and understanding.
One poignant discussion with a friend, who was also receiving therapy for anxiety, still reverberates in my mind. Unlike the usual ‘anxious personality type’ I was learning about: she is extremely logical. She reasons everything out and rarely reacts, responds, or decides things based on emotion. She doesn’t like it when I, or others, cry in front of her. She says she doesn’t know what to do when that happens.
Her therapist told her she needs to quit ‘overthinking things’. I just listened and nodded. In her case, it seemed she needed to add in some emotions and feeling into her very rational, but overworked nonetheless, thought processes.
She shook her head. “But I don’t agree with my therapist. It doesn’t make sense. If thinking too much is what got me so anxious, then it stands to reason that thinking is what will get me out of it. I just have to keep on thinking of all my options and eventually I will think my way out of this, like I have thought my way out of many other things in the past.”
What she said has come up often, in my own thoughts, during my recovery process. It almost seemed like a prophetic utterance. As I was able to walk into the traumatic memories, I thought about them. Even overthought about them. Journaled and journaled and journaled about them. I purposely changed my thought process, which took a lot of thinking, even some over-thinking, as I processed it all. I listened to my wounded little girls’ take and then I guided her to a mature take that did not blame her for the past abuses. I spent an enormous amount of time thinking about these things. In some ways, I have been thinking my way right out of an anxiety disorder.
I love to go deep with thoughts. Pondering time is never long enough for me. Except that it started to be too much. All that thinking made me physically and mentally ill. I had to learn that pondering time needed to be limited and not overly indulged. I had to start balancing my life with time for play, recreation time, and social interactions too. I had to learn how to turn off the thinking switch.
People who appreciate going deep sometimes tell me I am very insightful. As the psalmist wrote: deep calls to deep.
Others find me a bit too intense. They don’t want to stand under a gushing waterfall, it hurts their heads. So I am learning to respect that, and not ‘go there’ with everyone. Not be offended if people don’t want to hear or read my deep thoughts.
I can be funny, sometimes, goofy, quirky, lighthearted. I try to be those things around people who don’t want to hear my thoughts on why there are so many seagulls flying around the sky in Middle America — a thousand miles from an ocean. For those that care to go there with me:
My thoughts on Seagulls Flying over Middle America
Sometimes we need distance from the things we love; the things which feed us. Indulge on any one thing too much and it can give you a stomach ache. Like thinking too much. Or being too perfectionistic. I sometimes leave known errors alone; for personal therapy purposes. In the first paragraph I noticed I wrote high instead of highly. I fixed all the others I noticed, but left that one writing mistake. I mean, it came right before the trait of perfectionism! It seemed like a good moment to fly away from the ocean of perfection to see what kind of things the grasses of the prairie might offer instead.
I know that sitting on a shore of a deep ocean of thoughts is exactly where I belong. On the other hand, if I stay there all the time I wouldn’t strengthen my wings, I wouldn’t see what else the world has to offer, and I would be in danger of being choked out by the very things which also set me free.
There are times that we need to purposely head in the opposite direction of our calling–a thousand miles in the opposite direction–in order to keep it.