Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The "What-If" Syndrome: Fighting Fire with Fire

Ahhhh Mondays.

Woke up Sunday to shooting pain in my neck and left shoulder. Aaron gets this all the time; I always thought he was being a bit of a nancy about it. Nope. Nope, he was really in pain.

I missed work yesterday because I couldn't get to sleep with the pain. Turns out it was a good thing I didn't leave the house. I was needed for bigger things.

One of my close friends, a new mom, texted me about her sleepless, teething, screaming baby. Another dear friend reached out about the potential implications of an abnormal lab test. I hastily called my mama, who was unaware of tornado weather headed right for her town. My Anya had some trouble with her new friends. Aaron's mom, who truly is another mother to me, called with devastating news about the return of her cancer.

People I love were trapped in various webs of "what ifs." See? Bigger things.

I'm a fairly anxious person. I am quick to run a defensive play because I assume people are out to offend....even when they're on my team. I have "daymares,"....my overactive imagination will take over at random moments throughout my day and force me to visualize horrific things, almost always happening to the people I love. It can be terrifying and paralyzing.

Here's where it gets real.

I've (legally) taken medication to help calm my worry. Yes, the pills dulled my what-ifs and essentially solved my problem...but moments after anxiety left the apartment, a new family of crazy moved in.

First, Mr. Fifteen Pounds unloaded his bags right in my stomach region. Next, Mrs. Indifference parked herself in my heart and barely blinked at those Humane Society commercials. Lastly, I was smothered by Baby-Don't-Care. Baby-Don't-Care was perhaps the worst of the three; the wee thing sucked the passion for life right out of me.

The medications removed "me" from the equation. I am defensive. I worry. I plan for the worst. This is who I am, the person I identify with and recognize. So meds, while an obvious solution, weren't the answer for me.

No, I had to get nasty.

We are a society fixated on the "what ifs" of life. What if the test is positive? What if sleeping under all these blankets makes my kid suffocate?
What if that storm hits here? What if that rosy-cheeked Santa at Macy's is really hiding a weapon under his big fake stomach and planning to take this whole place out while escaping in a secret unmarked vehicle covered by those reindeer over there?? <****Ireallythinkthingslikethis****>

Anything can happen. We've been educated of this truth through the tears and broken souls of those we love and those we will never meet. Many of us are capable of empathizing to levels of extreme sorrow and consequently, begin to fear becoming a victim ourselves.

So what do we do? How do we take these fears down?

Suck out the fire and burn the rest. Told ya it was nasty!

When I really look at my what-ifs, my fears, my worries, I can break them into two parts:

A. Fiery Motivation: This is the portion of my worry that contributes to my internal forge of motivation. Fearing death, for example, motivates me to pay attention when driving, eat healthy, and research the best physicians when something is wrong.

B. Smoldering Stress: This is the portion of my worry that smothers the life and joy right outta me. It is sheer imagination gone wild and completely sets my goals back. Allowing myself to dwell on a daymare of a car crash, for example, does nothing to help me drive better. It simply terrifies me into a dangerous state of fear.

This is where we really need to put our scorching abilities to the test....ignite your fire of self-awareness so high those ashes of stress literally disintegrate.....cuz ain't nobody got time for that.

What follows are a couple examples of how I enact my scorching abilities:

Scenario One: Accident Daymare
Jen, you're freaking out. What's scaring you?
-----uhhhmmm, I don't want to lose my kids to some idiot driver.
Gotcha. So I'm going to scan the crap out of the roads real quick, kay?
-----Sure, sounds good, whatever
(****I scan the road, laser my focus on the vehicles in my area, and proceed into intersections with caution.****)
Mkay Jen, so all is well. We safely made our way through that intersection and everyone is happy and sound.
-----Yea, but what if.....
No Jen........Just.......no.
-----But really it happens all the ti...
-----How horrible would that have been had I....

Debrief: Notice the "what if" ceased to fuel my forge of motivation once I did everything I could to be safe. Once you reach the point where you've done all you can do, that's it. Time to scorch that noise.

Scenario Two: Losing a Loved One Daymare
Oh hey Jen, you seem down. What's up?
-----Someone I love is going to die.
Uh, ok. Well, how do you know?
------Because it happens all the time. It could happen right now.
Well is someone sick?
Did the doctors say they are not going to make it?
Ok, well I'm going to go research everything I can about the illness and get some professional opinions.
(****I call around, research online, read books, engage in dialogue, and educate myself****)
Good news, turns out we have a number of options and not a single one of them includes death.
-----What if those options...
------No that's a valid question, what if they.....
-----Alright well illness aside, my kids could be taken at any moment. So could Aaron.
Well what can you do to prevent it? Want to lock them away? Teach them to be afraid all the time? Live in constant fear? Miss out on the joy of life because you are afraid of losing someone?
-----No.....that would be sad.
Damn right it would be sad.
------Doesn't solve the problem of what would happen if......
Yes it does.
------No it really doesn't....
Oh look! The kids are laughing! :) Go play with the kids.
------Oh the kids, what would I do if....

Debrief: My fear motivated me to conduct some valid research. It also irrationally led me down a path of smothering doom. Scorch 'em.

Engulf yourself in productive motivation....and when your "what if" ceases to be productive, scorch it. I still have daymares. I battle my anxiety everyday. This method of blasting my way through negative thoughts and moments of panic, however, helps manage what previously destroyed me. I'd say that's some pretty hot progress.

1 comment:

  1. Anxiety is a horrible thing. Especially being a mom now I have it so much more. I mean it isn't just me anymore I could really be messing up a future adult. But you are right it is not productive as my good friend, you, taught me. Living in fear and especially parenting in fear does not lead to good results. Not that don't have the anxiety but at least with my teething baby problem it is short lived and that very night she slept like a champ! Thank you! You definitely are the best advise giver. I believe because you put yourself out there and are honest about your shortcomings.

    PS love the picture!!