Being a so-called “deep thinker” is both a blessing and a curse.
I mean, I know why I tend to overthink things – it stems from having to seek out and process a lot of things that my parents didn’t (and couldn’t) teach me during childhood. I unraveled a lot of lies I was expected to live my life by, mostly to do with religion, but not always. As caring as they were, they made the mistake a lot of parents make: thinking that feeding and clothing a child is all they need. I’ve talked to them about how mentally under-stimulated I felt I was while I was under their care, and the initial reactions I seemed to get involved implied blame for being such a “handful” and asking too many questions they couldn’t (or didn’t want to) answer. They are now very apologetic because they now realise what I had to do in spite of them, and that it required a lot of effort.
As much as that kind of thing annoys me, I knew I had to let it go. They were raised in families that didn’t value logic – the kinds of people who far prefer a comfortable lie than a difficult truth. They were mentally and physically punished whenever they questioned anything, sometimes to humiliating extremes. I can’t hold it against them that they were aggressively conditioned towards thinking that curiosity and introspection were characteristics to be beaten out of a child. All I could do as a child was try and fight back and let them know that I wasn’t going to be treated that way, and all I can do as an adult is accept that things were all wrong once upon a time in the family home, and be grateful that it’s all over now and that my parents are finally really caring people that I can rely on for emotional support when I need it.
I remember when I was maybe about seven years old, I asked my mother if she thought we’d eat so much meat if we had to hunt it down for ourselves. I was just thinking out loud, messing around the kitchen as I was “helping” her make dinner (read: talking about how school was and washing like, two plates or something), initiating conversation about something mundane. I remember there was a pause of a few seconds before she started shouting about why I needed to stop wondering about such stupid things and how annoying I was because I couldn’t shut my brain up. I fell silent, stunned at her outburst. She then slapped me hard across my face, so hard that the inside of my mouth bled, whilst making fun of me for being quiet all of a sudden, and then said that I shouldn’t get fed if I criticised what was being served.
It wasn’t the first time she hit me and it definitely wasn’t the last, but it was the first time I knew for sure that I didn’t deserve that shit. Before then, I blamed myself for the times they’d lash out, regardless of whether I did anything that made them angry. I barricaded myself in my room by pushing a wardrobe up against the door, and then I climbed into said wardrobe with a flashlight and a marker pen and drew all over the inside of it. I drew crosses, skulls, bunnies and cats, among other things. I tried to draw a dragon, but it ended up like some kind of centaur. I also drew both my parents with knives sticking into them (really badly, but you could mostly make out what I was trying to do), alongside sentences like, “if god isn’t dead, I will kill him” and “that wasn’t very Christian of them”. I then resolved never to treat any child that way in the future, because I couldn’t live with making anyone as miserable as I felt in that moment. I wasn’t scared of the concept of hell, because I felt I was already there.
I had a lot of things to think about as a kid, and sometimes I wonder if it’s because I had nobody to talk to. Maybe I wouldn’t be so introspective if I had a best friend to comfort or distract me, or an older relative to offer me advice – there’s no way of knowing that for sure. I just remember knowing that I needed to rely on myself to get through it all until I was independent enough to leave their custody.
I entered the working world early, by lying about my age on job applications and in interviews. I was already a very busy child, but I felt that if I wasn’t financially independent, then I’d never get out of the hellhole I called home. I knew I needed to do something about my life, and that it would probably involve working harder than I ever had before. My parents seemed to resent that I was paying my own way from such a relatively young age, and I loved that. They’d try and confiscate something if I annoyed them, only to have me snatch it back and tell them to fuck off and die because they didn’t actually pay for that. An average day in my thirteen-year-old life went like this:
– 5:30am >wake up
– 6-6:45am >deliver newspapers with my brother
– 7-8am >seminary (bible study)
– 8:45am-3:30pm >school
– 4-5pm >sports practice / debating team meeting
– 5:30-9:30pm >part time work babysitting or at the local convenience store-type thing
– 10-11pm >homework
– 11pm-whenever >non-schoool-related research and reading / actual spare time.
…and then I’d wake up and do it all over again. I woke up with my face pressed against a lot of open books during this time. Saturdays offered no reprieve – my brother and I were shipped off to various extracurricular commitments; things like netball, soccer, debating, track team, church youth group activities (community service and bible study, interspersed with the most hilarious and misinformed “educational” videos and lessons I’ve seen or heard ever), things like that. Sundays were, of course, all about waking up early to show how fucking virtuous we were as a family and sitting in a chapel for hours and hours whilst trying to ignore all of the viciously judgmental people sitting with us. I eventually got out of the whole church thing when I was about fourteen by pretending I had to work Sundays or I’d get fired – I told my parents that I wouldn’t have my work history be affected by someone imaginary. I’d then go to the museum, library or art gallery and wander around between those places until I could face going home to lock myself in my room again. I eventually got busted for not actually being at work during those times, but it worked for a bit.
I got through those days on auto-pilot, relying on muscle memory and a sense of hope that things would improve based on how much work I was willing to put in. I played nice enough with my parents to avoid punishment, distracting them with enough academic achievements for them to be proud of me; after all, how could they be mad at me when I was off impressing other people whose opinions actually mattered to me? What a thing for them to be able to brag about their “nerdy children” to other parents they knew. They lived through my brother and I to an alarming degree. I now have context as to why this happened, and I finally understand that my parents were dealing with mental illnesses of their own, but it still can’t make me forget.
What I really lived for was the refuge of my bedroom and the relief of being alone with something musical or literary or something of comedic value. I needed that time alone, and it was what got me through the shit-storm of my teenage years. Even now, I feel agitated by too much spare time, so I keep myself as busy as I can without bringing on a panic-related breakdown of some kind. This is when the tendency to overthink is a curse and not an asset – I constantly worry that I’m not doing enough, or as many things as I should, or that I’m too introverted and reclusive. So, then, I revert to that tendency to do something – anything – so mentally immersive that there couldn’t possibly be any room in my mind for any self-hate and anxiety. Most of what I do is so that I can silence the voices in my head. I know how fucked up that is, but this very tendency has made me who I am, and I mostly like who I am, most days.
Some days, I just wish I didn’t have to think so hard about it. But that’s just me overthinking the fact that I obsessively think so deeply about things that concern me. Typical, and laughable at times. It’s only going to end when I die or when I feel like it’s going to be the death of me, and I’m mostly fine with that.
Progress. I feel better now.