My Experience Only. YMMV.

Posts tagged ‘catastrophizing’

Struggles and Tears

In the past week I have had to deal with:

  • My husband being out of town
  • Said husband driving home for 10 hours with faulty brakes
  • My insurance company going belly-up
  • My meds running out before new insurance could be implemented
  • My cat going missing
  • My check being late, so I could not pay mortgage, pay new insurance, pay for meds, pay power bill
  • Being immobilized and unable to leave the house

Out of all of those, which do you think came nearest to breaking my brain, causing me to catastrophize and dissolve into prolonged fits of weeping?

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Woodcut by Peggy McCarty. Used by permission.

If you guessed the missing cat, you’re right. One day she trotted out the deck door while I was feeding the dog, a thing she had never done before. I scooped her up and put her back inside, and resolved to close the door further in the future. Louise is 20 and rather thin, so it’s easy to misjudge what she can squeeze through.

When my husband got back (safely), he took over feeding the dog. Then the next day, Louise didn’t show up for her morning breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. She usually has a hearty appetite and meows quite loudly if a meal is late.

Naturally, I thought she had gotten outside again and was lost. We searched through the house, calling her name, and went around outside the house doing likewise. My husband thought she might be feeling poorly and holed up somewhere, most likely in the basement, which is also the garage and not easy to search because of all the clutter.

I thought she must have gotten out and succumbed to some fate out in the woods – a dog or other animal, the rain, hunger, illness and debilitation.

I was convinced she was gone for good. And I had thought I still had more time with her, despite her advanced age (20+). I was inconsolable. My precious cat, gone. No knowing what had happened to her. No chance to say goodbye. No way to comfort her in her last hours on earth.

Dan told me that everything would be all right, but I didn’t believe him.

Then, the next day, she showed up at mealtime, bellowing that she wanted food NOW! Dan had been right. She had hidden somewhere in the house and came out when she was ready to.  I had my darling Louise back, for however long she still has.

Then, after the long holiday weekend, the check came and I paid the bills and set up the new insurance and got my meds and went out to lunch with Dan and everything was all right.

Just a little while ago, I wrote about how having a cat saved my sanity (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-jS) and how they can be good for people with mental disorders. I even said that losing a pet could teach us something about the grieving process.

But when my own cat disappeared, all that philosophizing went out the window (or the deck door). Louise was gone and I was bereft. Nothing anyone could say could make it better. And the situation was complicated by the fact that both one of our other cats and our dog are also ancient. I know I will go through their loss, and likely soon.

Will I hold up any better?

I really don’t know. The other cat and the dog are my husband’s, bonded to him the way Louise is bonded to me. Likely his grief will be greater than mine. Or maybe when they pass they will remind me of how close I came to losing Louise. Maybe I’ll be able to support him in his loss, or maybe my brain will break again. Maybe it will happen when I am more stable, with fewer disasters and near-disasters clustering around my head.

That’s the thing with pets. You never know how long you have with them. You never know whether you’ll be relatively stable when you have to face their loss.

But I know I won’t give them up. The loneliness of not having them is even worse than the pain of their going.

ETA: Dan’s ancient cat Garcia passed away peacefully at home this morning (Saturday). We were both with him at the end.

On Dithering

If dithering were a power source, I could light up Chicago. Good thing it burns nerve endings instead of fossil fuels.

The last couple of weeks have seen a lot of dithering and anxiety. I hardly ever get to enjoy the rush of hypomania – except for that one brief spell a few weeks ago – because it comes out sideways as anxiety.

I also have a third-degree black belt in catastrophizing.

Both have gotten a workout lately, since a cyst was discovered in my left breast. (I wrote flippantly about mammograms on my other blog, so irony gifted me with this.)

I checked my usual sources (Mayo Clinic website and a friend who is a biologist and had a lumpectomy), and the consensus was that I had only the remotest chance of the anomaly turning out to be anything really dire.

Do you think that stopped my dithering?

Hell no! Of course not!

What could have gone wrong?

They could have stuck a needle in my breast to aspirate fluid and get a sample for the lab. (A friend who should know tells me that some people do this kind of thing for fun. Somehow, it doesn’t appeal to me.)

If the results were worse, I could have been scheduled for a lumpectomy. There was extra anxiety on this one because my friend almost had a mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy when the surgeon started making the wrong incision. (An operating room tech noticed, saving the day and the breast.)

And of course, my anxiety told me that a mastectomy could be in my future (either on purpose or accidentally, I suppose). My mother had a mastectomy, which added extra oomph to the dithering.

A mastectomy would suck for oh so many reasons. Cancer, surgery, body image issues, obviously.

Also, I would keep falling over to the right. And before the operation I’d have to take my breast on a farewell tour for all its friends and admirers.

Maybe worst of all, I would have to put up with all the pinkness and positivity. Not to denigrate this strategy for those who find it helpful, but I am not that person. Anyone with my brain chemistry is not going to respond to slogans and cheerleading and daily affirmations. (Reminder – As always with my posts, YMMV.)

Barbara Ehrenreich has written about this phenomenon in Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.  Apparently many breast cancer survivors feel they must get something positive from the experience – appreciating life and family more and so on.

We’ve come a long way from Betty Rollins’s First, You Cry. Now it seems like we’re never supposed to.

The anticlimactic but welcome result came today: Everything is OK. I just need to keep up with yearly mammograms.

And now I can move on to the next thing that needs dithering about – the work I wasn’t able to do while I was catastrophizing.

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