Thursday, February 28, 2008

This is why I avoid the news

I am a catastrophic thinker. That's one of the manifestations of Anxiety Disorder whereby you are constantly thinking about and in fear of something horrible happening to you or your loved ones. It was the reason I could literally never drive by a lake without thinking of my car going off the road and into the lake and sinking in and what if I couldn't get the windows open and, and, and....

This castastrophic thinking (I and my therapists refer to it as my 'disaster thinking') soaks up large portions of my brain. I think about it when I'm cooking (what if there's a fire? what if I get burned? what if I burn my FACE?), when I'm driving (going off the road; driving into another car; uncontrollable skid; engine blowing up; trapped in car and can't get out; would it be worse to die or live?), and holy god about my kids (I can't even put into words some of them because it just horrifies me so much to think about something bad happening to one of my kids; one of the worst possible things I can think of--and I'm quite elaborate in my disaster thinking--is if something bad is happening to both of my children at once and I HAVE TO CHOOSE TO ONLY SAVE ONE.) God, that just makes me want to throw up even thinking about.

The disaster thinking has lesser levels. Going to a school event and having something embarrassing happen. Getting lost. Having people laugh at me. Having people think bad thoughts about me. Running out of toilet paper. Something breaking when I need it most (hello, car). Messing up something important. This stuff is chronic and constant and ALL THE FREAKING TIME in my head.

Catastrophic thinking can often lead to or acerbate agoraphobia. (It has in my case.) The idea of going somewhere, public or private, leads to such incredible worry about what could happen, and it starts immediately after learning about the event and keeps building until and during the event, that often it is just "better" to stay home. Social events are nightmares for me. I don't eat or drink anything for hours before I go somewhere, because my stomach is just a mess. Also I am afraid something embarrassing and bathroom-related will happen. I can't settle down to anything before I go places. The last hour or so before something is the worst. My concentration is completely shot, I'm constantly clock-watching (another post in itself), and a lot of times I will go early just so I can stop the spaz. You would think that would be counter-intuitive to the social anxiety, but even though being early is stressful (being the first one there sucks and also sets up a whole other range of disaster thinking), *waiting* is worse. Although lots of times I cave and stay home rather than open myself up to all this stuff, many times I will force myself to go places on the theory that it is "good for me" and that if I push myself past the block, maybe the block will break down a little bit. This was the motivation for my trip to Boston. (cannot tell you the number of times I have *planned* a trip, just to back out)

And on and on and on.

A major goal with my therapist is to reduce the disaster thinking (duh). A change in medication helped a lot, unexpectedly. (I was changing meds for other reasons, but a bonus was a reduction in disaster thinking.)

Another thing I do is avoid the news. The news is just full of disasters, the majority of which is stuff we can't do anything about and which likely does not affect us personally. I wonder sometimes why I need to know about people who die in car crashes, or fires in buildings in other cities, etc. And since reading or hearing these things naturally triggers my disaster thinking, I have come to avoid the news.

Oh, I still read the occasional article, usually when someone sends me a link because it is somehow related to me. In fact, when I read a newspaper, I am drawn to the disaster articles. You know, car-crash-can't-look-away syndrome. I torment myself with these things. For heaven's sake, my favorite writer is Stephen King!

I've tried to lessen this, and like I said, the meds help, avoiding the news helps. But every once in awhile I get blindsided and it all blows up on me.

Tuesday I was reading Bossy. I hadn't read her before, and as usual when I find a new blog, I was doing a little back reading. I found a lot of references to her daughter and a lip, so I searched to find out what that was all about (was her daughter born with a cleft palate and had surgery? Did she get punched in the mouth?). You know, inquiring catastrophic thinkers want to know. And I found out her daughter had her lip *bit off* by a dog. And it was very graphic, particularly Bossy's reactions and feelings and horror (she's a very good writer, but oh god, I wish she hadn't had to write about this).

Tuesday night when I went to bed I had a monster huge whopping panic attack. Disaster thinking everywhere. Could not stop thinking about something happening to my kids. Could not stop putting myself in Bossy's place, where I would have done everything wrong. Just horror after horror after horror and I could not get my brain to stop. I took two of my tranquilizers and eventually, eventually calmed down, but that was not a good night. (in fact, I am getting a bit worked up by writing about it, but I think it is good therapy)

I'm not sure if I had a point when I started writing this post, but whatever it was, I lost it in there somewhere. Now I'm just hoping that some of the poison is out. I do a lot of locking this stuff up in my head somewhere (I think of it as a big thick steel door, and I push the stuff in and slam the door shut quickly), and push it down and push it down, and I am very afraid that someday all of this stuff is going to explode and I am going to start crying and screaming and never be able to stop. I don't cry, even when it would be appropriate, for very very long periods of time. I suppress things to an astonishing level. (that's another therapy goal: to allow myself to identify and feel emotions appropriately)

Wow. Deep heavy shit for a sunny day. I've gotta stop. I could ramble on about this crap forever. Stopping now. mk

Update: and in an insane turn of events, I actually watched the CBS Evening News tonight (I started out turning to CBS to see if by any remote chance in hell CSI was new and somehow decided to actually watch the news and see how Katie Couric does...the verdict? meh.) and there was a piece on Ford/Lincoln/Mercury recalling twelve or so years' worth of cars that may spontaneously burst into flame due to a malfunction in the cruise control. Yeah, 'cause THAT helped my disaster thinking, in particular the part about my car's engine blowing up. Just freakin' perfect. [note: I have a Dodge]


Kate said...

Good for you, posting through the yuck. If nothing else, it's helpful for others to know they're not the only ones.

I won't read/watch the news, myself. About the most graphic I'll willingly deal with is WBZ's 10-minute highlight loop during the day - more than that and my imagination revs up too high for comfort.

Attack Anxiety said...
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The Beast Mom said...

This was interesting to read - about how your brain works. (I don't know much about anxiety related stuff. I'm learning from your blog.)

BTW, have you ever accidentally gone into the mens' restroom instead of the women's restroom? Yeah, me neither. :)

Hope you have a great weekend!

btw: s.p.a.z.
(the email fun continues on the blogs. :)

Irish Coffeehouse said...

GAD is very real. I've always insisted one of my friends has this. And in accordance to your post, that is exactly what she thinks about, talks about and more!

For me this post was like literally opening up her head and seeing just how this precisely works.