Discussion of news topics with a point of view, including narratives by individuals regarding their own experiences

The Anxiety Chronicles is a series from The Lily that examines the journeys different women have with anxiety.

This week, we hear from María Sanoja, a graphic designer currently based in the Dominican Republic. For the past seven years she lived, studied and worked in New York City, where she started her project 100 Days of Overthinking in an effort to be more present.

My history with anxiety

Others found out about my anxiety before I did. I could keep calm in moments of high pressure and intensity, so I figured I couldn’t possibly be anxious. My mind would spiral out of control, from irrational fears to excessive guilt for the tiniest of mistakes. But I told myself that wasn’t anxiety.

I have always considered myself an overthinker. I’ve always dwelled too much on banal decisions, going insane over “tough” choices that aren’t significant, and beating myself up for anything that I did that wasn’t “the best possible outcome.”

I realized that I was missing out on all the wonderful things around me because I was so stuck in my own thoughts. Even when I didn’t have any immediate worries, I’d go back to pick at some old scab, most times beating myself up for whatever potentially wrong thing I had done. It wasn’t after I started 100 Days of Overthinking that I understood my overthinking as a manifestation of anxiety.

How anxiety presents itself physically

For me, it’s always crying. I’m often able to hold it in until I’m by myself, but also very often I can’t. When I feel anxiety kicking in, I get overwhelmed. I feel my eyes grow watery, and I know that at the slightest poke I’ll burst. I have to tilt my face up and dedicate every nerve of my body to keep the tears in.

How anxiety presents itself mentally

My mood crashes in a matter of seconds. I retreat into my own mind and shut off what’s around me. I’m unable to pay attention to anything else — every thought is destined to worry about whatever I’m anxious about. I feel deflated, defeated, and stuck — feelings that are almost always followed by guilt for my own negativity.

What a day when my anxiety is at its worst looks like

I’m aloof and absentminded most of the time, and very often I crash and cry once. I’m unable to be productive, and I feel clouded when I try to focus. I get frustrated at my own inability to concentrate and to get past whatever is making me anxious, so I beat myself up.

My go-to coping mechanism

I seek out validation from the people closest to me. I feel the need to share my thoughts, looking for reassurance and advice. I have a very hard time keeping my anxiety to myself, but it’s a double-edged sword — often when I don’t find the peace that I’m looking for in others, I sink a little deeper.

I often feel like I overwhelm or tire others with my anxiety. 100 Days of Overthinking became a go-to coping mechanism for me because I could share my thoughts without burdening anyone. It has also meant channeling my anxious energy in a positive and productive way, and one that seems to connect people who feel that way, too. It’s led me to embrace my anxiety.

One thing I wish people understood about anxiety

It gets worse when it is ignored — you feed it each time you neglect it. I struggled to understand how my anxiety came to be, and it was only when I started therapy that I understood that each time I disregarded my anxious feelings, I was actually letting it build and grow inside me, allowing it to intensify.

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