To be able to be one of those people who can just let things go is a bit of a dream of mine. It is my goal to be one of those people at some point in my life. But it is difficult, oh so difficult. The inability to let things go is a symptom of anxiety. As someone that has struggled with anxiety, ‘just letting things go’ is easier said than done. I am slowly getting there but it has been a struggle for many years.
Can’t get you out of my head
So what do I mean exactly? Basically it is when you can’t get something out of your head, could be something you have said, something you have done or something you are about to do. Whatever the scenario is you play it over and over again. You totally over analyse it, hoping for some kind of solution or answer but never actually getting one.
For me, this used to come in two varieties, both equally frustrating and horrible.
Trying to predict the future
The first would be my attempts to predict what could happen at upcoming events where I felt I was out of control. It could have been a night out or journey somewhere. I would dream up all sorts of situations that could arise, practically all negative and then endlessly worry about them.
I couldn’t stop the worrying, which would spiral out of control. And like a reactor going into meltdown would inevitably end up with me having some kind of panic attack. The worrying just used to get worse and worse and turn something mundane or simple into this huge catastrophe. All this happening before the actual event has actually happened.
Beating myself up
The second would strangely be the reverse of the first. That once I had done something, normally when I considered I had made a mistake, I would rerun it over and over again in my head. I would think of all the things I could or should have done; endlessly. I would then endlessly blame and beat myself up for not doing them. ‘If only I had done that’ would be my constant mantra.
It was all a bit of a nightmare. At times I felt that this inability to let go took over my life
It never goes away
It took a lot of help and support to bring this under control and I did to large extent. However, I have to say like my anxiety overall, it has never completely gone away. It is never as bad as it used to be but it keeps on popping up. More often than not it tends to be more of the second one these days. I just seem to fall back into it like an old habit. Often it will take a lot of effort to pull myself out of the spiral.
A typical example would be when I managed to put a big scratch in a window. I spent ages beating myself up for causing the damage in the first place. Next I started agonising how to put things right or what the consequences would be if I couldn’t.
In the end, I ordered some special glass polish online, which unfortunately would not arrive for a few weeks. Those few weeks were hell, I could not stop looking at that scratch, agonising over it, rubbing it.
In fact think I actually made it worse in the end, needlessly messing with it. Then when the polish arrived five minutes later it was gone. Unbelievable, I spent all that time for what? absolutely nothing. All because I could not let it go.
I suppose at the end of the day what this comes down to is a need for control or a sense of a lack of it. I am sure lots of people suffer from this from time to time and to a lesser or greater extent. The difference is that to them, it is not their default position.
For me a people like me, it is. When it came to the scratch in the window, I knew exactly what was going on. I knew exactly why I was doing it and I knew that the issue would be resolved. I just could not stop myself. Now it wasn’t like this took over my life or anything like it used to but it was still something completely irrational. I want to think, ‘well after that I won’t do it again’ but I know that I will and it will be over something just as trivial.
Our own worst enemy
I have no doubt that this story will be so familiar with so many people. Living with a mental health issue, whether minor or major can be challenging at times. We can sometimes feel like our own worst enemies at times and that can be tough. For I know it will take a lot to be that person who can just let things go. I may never get there but at least now I know what I have to deal with and I know where and who I want to be. I think that can be so important.
If you are someone else who struggles with letting things go or you are struggling with a mental health issue, all I can say is that you are not alone.