Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Panicometer

Please bear with me. I'm trying do some self therapy here. Although, thankfully, I have been given the all clear by the cardiologist (I do have a slight heart murmur, but it's nothing to worry about), sadly this hasn't meant an instant end to all that angsting and neuroticism. Hell, I've been building it up for YEARS, so it's not going away in an instant is it? I've been given a lot of good advice over the last few weeks, and had stonking support (particularly here, thanks guys), and best of all no one has told me I'm bonkers. Which is very nice of them, because frankly, when I followed some of that good advice and wrote down all the things that worry me (scrub that - all the things that freak me out), I realise the list is as long as your arm, and a normal person should just be able to shrug most of them off. My problem is too much imagination. A very good thing in a writer, but as I've mentioned before, a really rubbish thing in a mother.

So in order to help myself out of this angst ridden hole I've decided to rate my worries on the Panicometer. There are rather a lot. So I maybe some time.

1 Let me start with the children. How do I worry about the children? Let me count the ways...

a)I worry they'll be ill. They can never just have a cold, automatically (at the moment) I'm assuming it's swine flu. When they have a temperature, I still check for meningitis. In my defence I did have nos2 & 4 in hospital several times with asthma attacks when they were tiny so it has led to a lingering fear. But really. They are perfectly healthy. I am very lucky. Ergo I should stop worrying...
Panic rating 100

b) I worry about them growing up. This merits a whole post in itself. Overnight no 1 has gone from being a stay at home Peter Pan to meeting her mates down the parks. I always know where she is, but suppose she stops telling me. She's starting to meet boys. They might start drinking. I keep hearing tales of sleepovers where boys and girls share rooms. There are drugdealers in the local park... I want her to be independent, I want her to have fun, but oh boy oh boy do I want her to be safe. She thinks I'm an overprotective mother hen. She is probably right.
Panic rating 150

c) I worry about them being upset. Last term was a case in point. One by one they came to me with problems relating to school friends. I know they have to go through this stuff, but god I hate it when it happens. Can't bear to see them miserable, then I panic about how bad it is for them, when they are long over it. So should I be...
Panic rating 50.

d) currently angsting hugely about no 4 who has to have a very minor and straightforward operation on her foot. Yesterday she had to have an MRI scan. Was in much more of a state then she was during it. Her lips looked all red, and at one point I was convinced she was bleeding. Why on earth did I think an MRI scan would make her lips bleed? I really have no idea...
Panic rating 200

2 I worry about mil. Is she eating enough? Is she drinking enough? When it's hot, is she too hot? When it's cold, is she too cold? If she falls over in her flat will she be wearing her emergency phone button?(actually she has of late). Will something happen to her when I'm on the way to the school run? Will I be the one to find her ill/dying? The last is not totally unreasonable, considering I am physically nearest to her during the day, and I was first on the scene when fil died. I am also having a belated reaction to her having been very very ill last winter. But still. As the sensible casualty nurse said to me when I voiced the fear that she might die, well we all die. And it's not as if I am the only one to have to deal with this now. But you know. The panicy bit of my brain revels in this kind of stuff. So...
Mil gets a panic rating of 200+

3 I also worry about my own mum. Who is getting older. And lives a long way away. But she is pretty fit and healthy for a near octagenarian. So that's a worry that's currently ridiculous. Like so many of the things I panic about, I panic about if before it happens, then panic when it happens. It's like I punish myself twice. The joys of catholic guilt.
So Ma, you get a panic rating of 0. I don't need to worry about you yet.

4 Get this. I worry about the computer. About how much time I spend on it. How little I achieve when I can spend a whole day twittering and blogging. Oh and occasionally writing a novel. When I first came back from holidays I could barely sit at the computer without an immediate wave of panic flowing over me. This is getting better. But not gone yet.
So panic rating 50

5 I worry about the housework. Yes. Truly I do. I hate housework. I also hate an untidy house. There is always too much to do. And I never feel on top of it. And when I'm working it makes me feel guilty. And when I'm doing housework I feel guilty about not working. And when it's done the children can undo the work in a moment. And then I get cross. And then I feel guilty. And then I am anxious because the house is untidy, and I'm not in control. And ergo. I am a control freak in desperate need of a cleaner. Or a wife. That would help.
Panic rating 100

6 New born babies. I suppose that counts with children. Except I don't have any anymore. But when I did have my own, while I loved the newborn bit I simultaneously hated it. Couldn't stand the fragility of the little buggers. Just wanted them to get bigger, so they didn't seem so bleeding vulnerable. Spent the first six weeks of no 1's life in state of high anxiety, even stopping the car once because I was so convinced she'd died in the car seat (she did look rather waxy and still). Spouse got so fed up with me he accused me of wanting her to be ill - I didn't, I just was terrified she would be (see worry 1 above). And now I don't have newborn babies of my own, I am absolutely terrified of holding anyone elses's. Lord alone knows how I'll ever cope with grandchildren if I'm lucky enough to get any.
Panic rating 150

7 Dogs. This is a life long phobia entirely driven by family mythology. Before I was born we had a dog which apparently ripped my mother's best dress to shreds. I've never been able to cope with dogs, but a couple of times in late childhood I found myself on the wrong side of a barking dog, and was literally rooted to the spot. Spouse has worked much positive therapy on me over the years (he would love a dog), so I can actually bear to touch them now, and I always try to pat them in front of the kids because I don't want to pass on the fear, but really? If I could I would always walk in the opposite direction to our furry friends. And though at once stage I thought maybe we could get ourselves a pooch, the reality is I couldn't stand to be in the house alone with one as would have to be the case. So dogs. You're still near my top worry and you get a panic rating of 300.

8 Family holidays. Aagh. I used to love holidays before I had children. Then they came along and we were limited to campsites and grotty English hotels, and children being sick before, after and during our trips. When we finally ventured abroad to France, the place we stayed in shut down for September so there was nothing to do to entertain four children under the age of 6. Then we had a disastrous holiday in Spain over which a veil should be properly drawn, and two very wet camping trips. The second of which involved driving round Europe, breaking children's limbs, being burgled, and staying on the worst campsite in the world. Not surprisingly we came home early. We've also done several trips to Germany with mil and the children. Relaxing. Not. Plus on top of that I get to have all my usual worries about the children, are they ill, will they have an accident, are they about to drown in foreign country. Magic. Recipe for a stress free time. Is it any wonder I had a major panic attack the day before I went on holiday? Ironically of course, had I not been panicking so much, I would have had a really relaxing time...
Panic rating 500

9 Panicking about relationships. Oh I am champion at this. I have a strong oversensitive streak, which leads me to analyse every single conversation I ever have with people. I play back conversations in my head, worry that I have caused offence when none was intended, worry that this will affect my relationships, then inevitably it does affect my relationships. I am particularly prone to this in my online dealings. So. if I ever offend you, I never meant to. And if you think I'm overreacting to something, that's probably because I am.
Panic rating 300

10 But top dollar has to go my greatest fear of all. Fear of flying. Jeez. How I hate getting on bloody aeroplanes. If God had meant us to fly he 'd have given us wings. I didn't start off phobic about flying. In fact I used to quite like it. But then we had a trip back from Istanbul when we could see a plane flying above us which spooked me, and it's all been downhill from there. Yes, yes, yes. I know it's the safest form of transport. It just doesn't feel safe. I am just about ok if stare fixedly ahead and read my book for the duration of the flight, and thanks to the wonders of diazepam I can cope, but no, I'd rather not do it. Which is of course plain stupid. If I opt not to fly I won't ever go anywhere again. And there's a big wide world out there. Most of which I haven't seen. My fear is so stupidly irrational, I hate flying without the children, which I've done a couple of times, because it feels selfish to do something which might kill me when they're not with me. To follow this through to its logical conclusion, as a friend pointed out to me, I'd rather be in a plane crash and we'd all die, then me die and the children be safe. And of course, I could be run over by a bus tomorrow. Or have a heart attack for that matter.
Panic rating a big whopping 1000+

So there you have it. Ten of the things that worry me most. And I never even mentioned driving...

Next bit of self therapy. How to find my happy place. I sure could do with knowing exactly where it is...


Anonymous said...

A brilliant post.

Now give yourself a goal of:

a Reducing every panic by 10%, then by 20% etc
b Isolating the ones that you are past (eg new babies) and pick them off one by one.
c Imagine each panic as a bubble and keep popping them till they don't come back

Or your own version of any of these ideas.

Finding your happy place? What about your last post? That was a pretty happy place. Try and bottle that feeling and pour it all out over your panics so they bubble back down.

I know it's all a bit new-agey but it does work. I promise.

Love MTX

Anonymous said...

As you know, I can sympathise with all of these worries. My GP has recommended CBT which sounds rather lovely, and I'm looking forward to learning to ignore them all!

Anonymous said...

The Linden Method (Google it) promises good things. I am thinking of trying it myself, as I am a signed up member of the panic club too.

Tam said...

I started to breezily write that I never panic and then I remembered Friday night, when hubby forgot to text me that he'd collected TD from the gig she was at. I texted a cheery "Have you got her yet?" - no reply. I rang him - no reply. I rang her - no reply. I rang them both again - no reply. By this time my mind was in overdrive and I decided they must be frantically searching for each other amongst the thousands of people pouring out of the venue. How would I explain to the parents of the friends TD had taken that my husband had lost them in Shepherd's Bush? And as I'd been watching CSI, there were other worries creeping in...

Then he rang. They'd been on the tube and would be home in fifteen minutes. I didn't tell them I'd been on the verge of tears. They wouldn't have understood.

So I can sympathise about your worries and guilt. After all, it's what Catholics do best :-)

Jane Henry said...

Thanks for all helpful comments here
MM my GP is going to recommend an online CBT course - I'll let you know if it's any good.

Anonymous - sorry you panic too. Funny you should mention the Linden method, my bro found it helpful. Unfortunately when I tried it I panicked more, but maybe I should try it again now I'm feeling better (-:

Tam. Catholic, female, mother = permanent guilt I think! And I understand completely about being on the verge of tears with the worry. But my husband and daughter probably wouldn't either(-: But then neither would my 20 year old self. I always knew I was ok, so couldn't understand why anyone would worry. Oh to be so carefree!

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

I've recently been talking to a young man who was getting in a real state about a number of things: online CBT has really helped him. So it can work.

I think this list is a real step in the right direction - and MT's sugestions are spot on.

Imagining every possibility (especially negative ones) does not mean they will happen: there is a line to be managed on useful preparation and strategies, and stress-inducing predictions.

Hang on in there!