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Here’s the thing about living with anxiety: Your brain is always concocting “what if” theories. Some scientists say it’s actually a benefit, because then you’re always prepared for the worst. But there is a downside. You’re not always able to move on and let something go.

Over time, your brain becomes a constant battle of “can we stop thinking about this now?” and “but, what if this happened?” Chances are, however, the terrible occurrence already happened and is already in the past. At this point, there’s nothing I can do about it. And so begins the daydreaming and scheming. I project myself into my own world of surreality.

Generally, with past events, I fixate on what would happen if the scenario had played out how I wanted it to. What if I had really told that person what I thought? What if I hadn’t gone on that date? What if I run into an old colleague and can prove to them I’m super successful?  

Now these are just your average situations. There are plenty of ideas from which I wish I could move on, but my brain just keeps going back to them. It’s almost like they’ve taken up residence in whatever tissue makes up the brain. In fact, these thoughts are upgrading from renting a studio apartment in my headspace—they’re starting to build a house.

On a daily basis I find myself reeling with self-doubt: Are you even qualified? What makes you think you could do this? You’re definitely going to fail. Watch out because you’re going to get yelled at.  

The most annoying part about these intrusive thoughts is that it feels like it’s almost impossible to stop thinking them. Logically, I know that they’re irrational, but it doesn’t stop the onslaught. I wish I could just sit down with my brain and say, “Look, we’ve gone over this scenario before. It’s unrealistic, so let’s move on and think about something actually productive.”

This would be a true blessing, because rehashing out “what if” scenarios to things that have already occurred—or will occur—is just plain old exhausting.

Thankfully, there is an upside to constantly asking myself “what if?” Because, even with all of these negative projections and a healthy dose of impostor syndrome, I sometimes find myself asking what if I actually succeed? I mean, if I’ve made it this far I must be doing something right. For me to be freaking out about it, success must be a possibility.

Moving on is an essential part of being human. As excruciating as it can be, it’s necessary. Because in order to enjoy life, you have to be hopeful that something good is just right around the corner.

Jessica Lulka

Jess Lulka is a Boston-based creative. When she's not writing or editing, you'll find her at any bookstore, art museum, or looking at cat pictures.

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