Monday, December 17, 2012

These fears are not new to me

I wasn't going to blog about this.  Like every other person on this planet, I was absolutely horrified by the events that took place on Friday, and, while I do blog about dealing with fear, panic and all sorts of emotions, I didn't feel like this was a subject I wanted to bring up.  I mean, in a situation like this, you have doctors, therapists, religious leaders...all sorts of experts...helping us to get through.  But all weekend, and especially today, I see my friends and acquaintances struggling.  And isn't that the point of me sharing my experiences with anxiety?  To help others deal with theirs?  Like I always have said, if I can help just one person by sharing what I go through, then it is worth it.  Maybe this will help you.

The fears people are dealing with right now are not new to me.  Part of what I deal with is fear and anxiety mixed with OCD and magical thinking.  Huh?  Basically, I get anxious about something, I then obsess over it, and I use magical thinking to try and make myself feel better, but then only feel worse.

Magical thinking is something most of us do.  It's more or less harmless most of the time: "If I wear my lucky socks my team is going to win." or "If I imagine myself winning the race, I will."
Neither of those statements are true, but it helps us feel good, right?

It's when magical thinking becomes too obsessive that it can be a bad thing.  For years I thought if I could imagine the worst possible situations then they would never happen.  Prior to taking a trip I would imagine my plane crashing into the ocean...things along those lines.
I remember the night before E started preschool I suddenly remembered the Russian Beslan school hostage crisis.  Explosions, gun fire, casualties.  I was panicked.  How could I send my baby to school when things like that happen?  So, yes, I have imagined the worst.
I have imagined my children being shot.
I have imagined a gunman coming into my Pilates class.
I have imagined coming home to my find my family inside a carbon monoxide filled home.
I have imagined both of the boys schools, under attack, worst case scenario.  In addition I have imagined just about every horrible event that could happen to my children.   It sounds like a very tortured existence, but for me it was absolutely normal.  It was how my day would play out.  
Brush my teeth.
Eat breakfast.
Picture my child in a fiery bus crash.
Head to work.
So on and so forth.  I can speak of it here easily but, trust me, I know how serious this is.  It took over my day-to-day life until there was no room for anything else except for anxiety and worry.

There is a big part of me, and I am sure a big part of everyone, that just wants to say "Screw this. We live in a world where a horrible thing like this happens?  I don't want  try and deal with it.  I just want to quit everything and stay home." And that thought is completely natural right now.  But it is also natural that we need to return to our lives.

So now what?

What I can do today is give you advice for how to try and stop the what if thinking.  To try and help you deal with the fear that is gripping all of us.

  • Think of how many people went to school and work on Friday and made it safely home.  At first it sounds uncaring, but it is necessary to do if you just can't get past your fear.  Think of all of the schools, all of the children and teachers, that had more or less normal days and went home.  That number greatly surpasses the number of those that didn't.

  • Mass shootings seem to be happening at an alarming rate, it's frightening to go anywhere.  But again, think of the actual chances that you will be at a mall, at a school, at a gas station when it happens.  Do you want to let the very small chance of that happening to you keep you and your loved ones from going out and enjoying life?  

  • Say what you are afraid of out loud.  Whether it is to a friend or family member, or just to yourself.  By actually saying what you are afraid of it makes it less scary.  Then continue the dialogue.  You will be surprised how much just saying your fears out loud will help you.

Imagining the worst, spending your days and nights in a state of worry, will not protect you or your family, it will only rob you of valuable moments in time that you will never get back.  
Look at your daily life objectively.  
What are the actual chances of the things you fear happening?
Keep your eyes and ears open for people around you that may be struggling.
Talk about what is troubling you and listen when your friends or family are troubled.
I have learned how to deal with my fears and worries.  How to stop the magical thinking.  But I will tell you this:
Although I am just as guilty as the next person of spending too much time on my phone, saying no to playing Memory for the 67th time, sighing when I have to tie a shoe, I do...

  • Smell my children's hair and breath every chance I get.
  • Hold JF's, E and L's hands as often as possible.
  • Dance and laugh and have fun with my children each day.
  • Tell them I think they are perfect and magical.
These little things, that's really all we can do.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Sally, what a beautiful, loving and up-lifting post. As you know, I'm a "worst case scenario" person my self. I am truly sorry for the pains I have caused for you. Strangely, my fears for you and others I love don't seem to be about other people (maybe it should) but about forces of nature machines, such as planes, trains and automobiles. Sometimes it works for me to think of all the people who get through the day safely, other times, not so much. My wish for all those I know and love, make sure you are aware of the possible dangers you may encounter.


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