I have lived eternities in my head, and it all started when I was a little boy.
I would spend hours in my head. I would make myself sick with worry. I would plan for every possible scenario. I would try to be “perfect.”
Now I know that it was anxiety causing my overthinking.
But I didn’t know it then. My anxiety narrowed my vision — it made me feel like I was the only one in the whole world going through it. Now that I am grown, I know that what’s most personal is the most universal and that I wasn’t alone.
It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s true. We are connected to our secrets.
Shame grows when we don’t share them. Vulnerability sets us free. But I was too anxious and naive to know it then. And now that I know it, I need to write my 10-year-old anxious self a letter so that we can both accept it and let it go.
Dear Buddy Boy,
Dad still calls me that from time to time. It’s not as annoying you think it is. 20 years of calling me the same name!
Remember that. Those little things. It means he loves you. It’s the little things that you will miss when they are gone.
And so I thought I’d write you a letter to tell you about some other “little things.”
First, the most important one.
- You are good enough just the way you are. And you are lovable just the way you are. Don’t ever forget that.
- Do you know how it is when your mind gets so full it feels like it will explode? When the world comes rushing into your head and you don’t know if you can keep all the thoughts safe and sound? It’s called anxiety. And lots of people have it. I know, that made me feel good hearing that, too.
- It’s all okay, and it’s all going to be okay. Your mind is going to always work that way, and you will learn to accept it and use it to the best of your ability.
- Your mind is a gift. The way your mind works is unique to you.
- You will have good thoughts, and you will have bad thoughts. But you are not your thoughts. I know, I know. It doesn’t make much sense, especially when they feel like they are part of you.
- It’s okay to have really scary thoughts from time to time. Yes, even the worst kinds of thoughts, even those. You don’t have to tell me what they are. I know. And you want to know something? Other people have them too, even those.
- And it’s okay to have bad dreams. Unfortunately, it can happen when you have an active mind. I know it’s hard to fall asleep. And I know that when you do, you wake up from bad dreams. And that you realize you are dreaming and you need to wake yourself up to escape what’s chasing you. They do go away, so be brave for a little longer.
- Finally, when you feel really small and think that what you do and say doesn’t matter, I want you to remember this: It does, and it always will. The things you do and the words you say will make you into the person you one day become. I am who I am now thanks to you. And you’re still a part of me. It’s amazing, really.
Thanks, buddy boy.
I’m glad I wrote you this letter.
A social worker making mental health accessible. Published in Thought Catalog, Columnist, and Good Men Project