My mind paces between thoughts faster than Usain Bolt. Simple thoughts like planning my outfit for the next day will play in my head hundreds of times, reimagining the picture over and over again till my headaches from continuously repeating the same thought. I would replay every conversation I have with friends and even strangers, listening to what I said repeatedly, criticizing every word, re-imagining the same conversation in 50 different ways “I should’ve said that instead of this”.
The overthinking took over me, distracting me wherever I went and whatever I did. I had reached a point where even sleep was too afraid to interrupt my thoughts and so it never came easy. My thoughts went from recalling what happened yesterday to trying to imagine what would happen tomorrow, aligning every single detail. Like a dance rehearsal, I would repeat the parts I wasn’t satisfied with until I got them just right. Of course, most days were far from what I had practiced the previous night and this invoked frustration that fed my brain reasons to critique the day I had just had. At times I felt almost trapped in my brain, wanting to break out of the cage of replaying thoughts.
Soon, the overthinking escalated to day-dreaming, dreams I could not ignore because they served me too much joy, dreams of getting into my dream school, of my wedding day, of living the life I’m working towards. The dreams kept getting more vivid every time as if my brain had been practicing and progressing. These illusions were a perfect example of being “a blessing and a curse”. There were times when I did enjoy them: on long car rides and planes. When the stress of studying would get to me, I would imagine getting into my dream schools and living the dream life at college. When I was hurt, I would escape into my dreams for hours, I was astral projecting myself to not have to deal with my emotions. However, I wasn’t always on good terms with my day-dreams, getting caught not paying attention in class was an embarrassment, zoning out of conversations was stressful and staying awake to daydream instead of fall asleep at 1 a.m. was an irony in itself.
Sometimes it would be the same scenario for weeks, my mind has felt the same frustration as it did previously. The feeling of being trapped in a cage once again taking over me especially, when my brain would slip into “day-mares” with thoughts that would terrify me, someone I love being hurt or receiving unfavorable news. The thoughts escalated and grew too strong for me to control. All I could do was clench my eyes and force my brain to shut off, it was in these moments I wished our brains came with an on and off switch.
As the days went by, daydreaming had become a part of my everyday routine, but I knew I could never get used to it. I had to just live with it. Until the great pandemic struck and forced us all to stay at home, I had distractions that gave me moments of peace from my brain, this included attending classes, parties, going out with friends, and having to do tasks that would require my full attention. Now that attending my distractions would put my life at risk, I had to figure out how to deal with what put my sanity at risk.
I began navigating my way out, hoping to find a potion that would lift this curse off me. My first attempt was journaling. I decided to flip open my little journal and begin scribbling whatever my brain was rambling onto the paper as soon as I could (and as fast as I could). Having to multitask, my thoughts were less vivid. That was definitely a win, but how sustainable was it to write down my thoughts 12 hours a day?
So, I moved on to reading books. Lots of them. These helped me divert my focus from imaginary scenarios created by me to imaginary scenarios created by A.J. Finn and Paulo Coelho. But eventually, I realized reading a novel a day was taking up more time than periodically zoning out was.
I had to learn to live with myself, to let my brain be and that’s what I did. I let my brain do what it wanted, but I made sure it didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted. I tried to outrun my brain, I forced myself to do task after task till my brain was too exhausted to form a thought.
I would start by making my bed, making sure every corner of the sheet was tucked in and the pillows were all perfectly aligned. Then I would start my skincare routine, scrubbing for as long as I could, experimenting with serums and moisturizers as if I were a scientist dealing with chemicals. Putting more attention in self-care also allowed me to have moments of self-reflection and think about myself. I cannot emphasize enough on how important that is. We all need to take a break and think of ourselves and most importantly understand ourselves.
I tried to eliminate every second that could throw me into the wormhole of my Imagination. Obviously, I still do slip and fall into old habits, but one important lesson I’ve learned is to keep trying and when one effort fails, move to another; as long as you keep moving you know you’re getting better.
Iman Qureshi is a Pakistani high school senior living in Saudi Arabia, and lover of poetry and writing. She aspires to enter the field of journalism while giving back to her community. She is obsessed with thriller/mystery novels and binge watching netflix. For more her check out her instagram blog: @girlsalign.