{getting it} The Worst-Case Scenario Part II

by Rachel on May 22, 2012

A year ago, if you’d asked me to list the things I am afraid of, this would have been my list:

1. Sharks.

2. Having someone break into my apartment to rape and kill me.

That was it. I don’t know if it’s really all that rational or not, but it’s a pretty short list, and I never felt like it was affecting my quality of life.

Now? “List” isn’t even the right word. I need a fucking outline.

I. Fears about kidnapping, assault, rape, and murder

a. I’m the victim and a stranger is the perpetrator.

b. I’m the victim and MY HUSBAND IS THE PERPETRATOR.

c. I’m the victim and nobody cares because I’m not a pretty white woman.

d. Someone I care about is the victim.

II. Fears about my future children

a. They will be bullied.

b. They will bully someone else.

c. They will be kidnapped, assaulted, raped, and murdered.

d. They will kidnap, assault, rape, or murder someone.

e. They will be Republican.

f. Wait, am I even going to be able to have children?!?!

III. Fears about diseases

a. I will get a disease.

i. Every time I have a stomachache or a headache, I’m clearly dying.

ii. I’m worried that this chicken isn’t cooked all the way through and also, even though I wore latex gloves when I was touching that chicken and washed my hands (and nails too, duh), I’m still afraid to touch anything in the kitchen for the rest of the night.

iii. I’m really stressed that I’m not getting to the gym enough to lower my stress, which will keep me from dying from being stressed because STRESS KILLS.

b. Someone I love will get a disease.
i. The people I love clearly do not eat enough vegetables to keep them from dying young.

ii. YOU FORGOT TO WEAR SUNSCREEN GOLFING?! ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE ME A WIDOW AT 30?!?!

c. Don’t forget about that recent flesh-eating bacteria case.

IV. Fears that the Mayans were right

a. Natural disasters.

b. The War on Women.

c. Economic collapse.

d. The Hunger Games really happens.

(This would make an excellent PowerPoint presentation, don’t you think?)

OK, so — my wise coworker took one look at my outline and said, “So…it just looks like you’ve been watching the evening news.” And…he’s right. I mean, I’ve written before about how watching too much “Law & Order: SVU” makes me behave irrationally, but I think the outline above has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve been watching a ton more television since Eric and I moved in together. Left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t even own a TV, but it’s Eric’s preferred relaxation activity and he loves having “our shows” together, so, whatever, I can get more into it. We start each day watching the news, followed by “The Today Show” while we have breakfast. The best part of waking up is…at least 30 minutes of fear-mongering? In the evening and on the weekends, we watch a lot of true-crime stories and “SVU.” (There is always a marathon on somewhere.)

After I realized how long my list had gotten, and how these fears are affecting my everyday behavior (it’s not full-blown anxiety, but I feel like it still warrants some thought), I started wondering why what I was watching on TV was leading me worry so much and create such detailed plans for how to handle all these awful potential situations. Though not all women are stressed about these worst-case-scenario type situations — and not all men aren’t — I initially wondered if my fears had to do with the fact that I’m a woman. After all, the men in my life seemed unfazed by the exact same TV shows and news reports.

When I thought about all the scare-the-shit-out-of-you stories that I consume on a regular basis, I realized that most of the victims — whether they are victims of cancer or sexual assault or necrotizing fasciitis — are female. Well, someone is making the call to show more female victims than male victims on TV or in news stories; do they want to keep women afraid? If I feel like I need a man to come along with me every time I go out after dark, it’s pretty easy to start thinking that men are strong and women are weak in other areas of my life too. And then there is the fact that fear and stress make people spend more money. If women are the ones controlling the purchasing decisions in most households, it’s good for business if they believe that buying more bleach will protect them. Could it be that someone is out to get us by making us think everyone is out to get us?

Though that is one possible explanation, I — like many women — am not exactly changing the channel. Neither are men. And why aren’t we? Perhaps it’s just goes back to the fact that huma beings like being scared. In the book How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like, which I read last year, author Paul Bloom makes the argument that humans enjoy things like watching scary movies or gawking at highway accidents because it allows us to “practice” what we’d do in that situation. It makes sense that we’d want to safely explore new, scary situations.

We are drawn, then, to worst-case scenarios. The details of the scenarios are often irrelevant. It’s not that we enjoy zombie films because we need to prepare for the zombie uprising. We don’t have to plan for what to do if we accidentally kill our fathers or marry our mothers. But even these exotic cases serve as useful practice for bad times, exercising our psyches for when life goes to hell. From this perspective, it’s not the zombies that make zombie films so compelling, it is that the theme of zombies is a clever way to frame stories about being attacked by strangers and betrayed by those we love. This is what attracts us; the brain eating is an optional extra.

So I can see why people are drawn to these shows, and I can acknowledge that maybe the news or the networks are just giving the viewers what they demand. But I’m still wondering why Eric and I can both watch these shows, but I’m the one who is more into this type of programming and I’m the one taking action because of it. Sure, it might be because statistically, I’m more likely to be raped than he is, but I think it goes deeper than that.

Then my friend Dallas shared a quote with with me from the book Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women that was my getting it moment for why I keep consuming these worst-case scenarios.

We are the girls with anxiety disorders, filled appointment books, five-year plans. We take ourselves very, very seriously. We are the peacemakers, the do-gooders, the givers, the savers. We are on time, overly prepared, well read, and witty, intellectually curious, always moving… We pride ourselves on getting as little sleep as possible and thrive on self-deprivation. We drink coffee, a lot of it. We are on birth control, Prozac, and multivitamins… We are relentless, judgmental with ourselves, and forgiving to others. We never want to be as passive-aggressive are our mothers, never want to marry men as uninspired as our fathers… We are the daughters of the feminists who said, “You can be anything,” and we heard, “You have to be everything.”

When I read that quote, I realized that I enjoy watching these shows and reading these stories because I equate being prepared with being good at life. At some point, I got the message from the media and those around me that good people do what they are told (wear SPF, bleach the kitchen countertops, always walk with your keys in your hand when walking to your car) and bad things happen to people who don’t. The troubling extension of this — the idea that if someone is a victim, it’s because he or she didn’t just try hard enough not be — was constantly reinforced. Every TV show and news story or lesson from my mother left me feeling like I had an assignment: never get put in the trunk of someone’s car, but if you do, you better not die. On some level, I liked feeling afraid because it gave me a new opportunity for self-improvement.

My list has been growing because no matter what I do, it’s never going to be good enough — after all, there will always be something to be afraid of. And you know? I’m really not OK with that. Being prepared is fine, being afraid of sharks is fine, but needing a bodyguard just to go to Target because I’m worried about the rapist flesh-eating shark that was attacking women for trying to get birth control prescriptions filled at a Target in another state is not fine. The only thing to fear is fear itself? You got that right. I can own that the stuff I see on TV freaks me out, but I can’t let my fear outline fill me with self-doubt. I’m not going to start taking huge risks, but I am going to cut myself off from the behaviors and purchases that, while done in the name of empowerment, are actually making me feel powerless.

I know a lot of people identified with my “worst-case scenario” fears and admit that what they see on TV freaks them out, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts on what might cause some of us to freak out and worry about being prepared more than others. Let’s discuss!

{ 41 comments }

1 Claire @ Live and Love to Eat May 22, 2012 at 10:23 am

A lot of the fears just reflect what you value and what’s important to you, so I don’t think they’re unhealthy.
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2 AJ Ragosa May 22, 2012 at 10:29 am

I have been dealing with a lot of anxiety lately as well. I think it is graduating from school, moving into a new place, moving in with my boyfriend,.. it is a lot of change! I can definitely relate to the “I have a stomach/ headache” and I am going to die thing. I have learned to stop googling symptoms haha. I think I am going to try to get more yoga/meditation in daily to find my “zen” place haha.

3 Stephanie McKay May 22, 2012 at 10:36 am

I saw a neurological special on one of the science channels in my early 20′s that talked about how the part of our brain responsible for assessing risk is not fully developed until around age 25, which is why as children and teens we are completely fearless and as we become parents we fear everything. I always remembered that little fact as a way to explain away why my brothers could both be certifiably insane, until one day, around age 25, I realized I was beginning to fear everything. For example, I used to watch dance shows and ballets on TV (having been a dancer) and marvel at the tricks and stunts. Now while I still marvel, I find myself wondering if I would be comfortable letting my [future] daughter take part in the same activity I loved, because, well it looks so scary!

4 Rachel May 22, 2012 at 11:08 am

That is REALLY interesting — my fears didn’t hit until right after I turned 25! It would make sense that our brains start preparing us to be good parents, but damn…it’s exhausting!

5 Stephanie McKay May 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Seriously! Here is a post-25 fear: I get all weird for the first couple of weeks we are able to sleep with the windows open in the spring time. This is new only within the last couple of years, because even though I have a second floor apartment, I’m convinced if someone really wanted in, they could scale the walls. Gah!

6 Aj May 24, 2012 at 4:45 pm

That’s the truth! Our prefrontal cortex is not only the part of our brain to develop last in our lifetime but also it developed last in terms of evolution whereas the limbic system, the part of our brain that emotes and reacts to emotions? one of the oldest parts and also more directly tied to our reflexive behavior. Hence, why we sometimes act on emotions that we can later assess as being irrational. It takes practice to learn to tolerate our emotions but act according to our values and goals.

7 Katrina May 22, 2012 at 10:37 am

Someone once told me that “Fear is *hoping* for the worst-case scenario to happen.” So true!

As someone who struggles with SEVERAL irrational fears (fear of contracting HIV, which spawned from a horrible incident at a nail salon, and fear of being stalked by a blog stalker to name a few), I’ve found that stuff really gets put in perspective when I jus sit back, drink a glass of wine and RELAX already.

Granted, treating fear with wine could be a slippery slope, but when done in moderation, I’ve found it to be quite successful!
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8 IDK My BFF Jes May 22, 2012 at 10:38 am

When my bf would be out of town there were always marathons of dateline or 20/20 on TLC. They were always the same scenerio of a husband killing his wife/gf instead of just divorcing/dumping her. That always resulted in me calling the bf to confirm that I’d much rather him leave me then kill me. haha.

I do get overly paranoid when I start watching the Houston news. That’s some scary stuff! It’s random crimes that scare me the most because you never know when you’ll be the next victim.

And it is scary being a woman in the being attacked sense. We are an easier target than a man because we are made smaller. Even though I workout and lift often, I really think my chances of escaping an attack are slim (even with the self defense class I took in college).
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9 Rachel May 23, 2012 at 8:05 am

Yes, random crimes are definitely the scariest! I think it goes back to us wanting to feel prepared or like we have some control. Of course, we probably never have control in these situations but it helps to feel like we do.

PS I love your blog name!

10 Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie May 22, 2012 at 10:38 am

Whoa. I could have written this!

First, I’ve also been thinking about how my list of fears is growing lately. The news scares the sh!t out of me! I took a hiatus from reading it and just started again and now I’m convinced I have cancer & STDs, North Korea & Iran are going to blow up the US, and birth control, abortions & same-sex marriages will all be banned if a Republican is elected. Makes perfect sense, right? No. But they all really really worry me.

Second, that quote from “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women ” is like looking in the mirror. Wow. That’s a feeling that I’ve never tried to put into words but she really eloquently says precisely what goes through my mind. As the “perfect” oldest child I did everything right, followed the path I was supposed to, but these worst case scenarios threaten that perfection. Should they occur, they would be blights!

Great topic to introduce, thanks for the food for thought!
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11 Jasmine May 22, 2012 at 10:40 am

Ooh. “Fear” is a big one for me, and I have a good story related to fear!

I had a good friend that died when I was young. He had just turned 16 and literally got into a car crash less than an hour after getting his first car.

It was incredibly traumatic for everyone, and I am close with his family to this day. Years after his death, his mom and I were sitting talking and I asked her if it was difficult to let her youngest son drive after losing a child in that way.

She said, “No, the worst thing in the world has happened to me already, and now I know that it was always sitting there on the horizon. In some ways, I always feared that it would happen, as all parents do. And, that fear didn’t prevent it. I know now you cannot prepare yourself by being afraid.”

It was a really simple answer in some ways, but it has really stuck with me. And, I try to remind myself of her answer when I start to fear getting pregnant again (for fear of another loss) or fear my husband stepping out on me, or some other such fear that cannot be helped or prevented by my anxiety.

P.S. I feel like I always leave “heavy” comments on your blog. Sorry. I’m a little heavier these days, but getting lighter every day, I promise. :)
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12 Rachel May 22, 2012 at 11:07 am

“I know now you cannot prepare yourself by being afraid.” That is a wonderful quote, thank you for sharing! It’s so true but it’s so hard to remember when we are talking about the people we love.

And “heavy” quotes are always welcome — especially during a discussion of fear, for crying out loud! I do hope you are back in a lighter mood soon of course, but please don’t apologize for sharing thoughtful comments!

13 Mel May 22, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Oh wow I really love that advice; it takes a lot of strength to push passed fear.

14 Katie P May 30, 2012 at 3:25 pm

“I know now you cannot prepare yourself by being afraid.” What an amazing quote, I need to tattoo it on the inside of my eyelids.

15 Michael May 22, 2012 at 11:01 am

Focus on what you want for yourself and the world. When you fill your head with so much negativity – the news pummeling you with only the worst events around the planet and then your choice of ‘entertainment’ reaffirming the negativity, you are going to think negatively! STOP! If you choose to fill your head non-stop with the worst imaginable things and then wonder why you are fearful – well, hello?

16 Rachel May 22, 2012 at 11:05 am

Well, it’s not just about viewing negative things; like I said, plenty of people can watch these shows and not freak out that everyone is out to get them. So I wasn’t wondering why I was fearful (as you pointed out, that’s pretty obvious)…I was wondering why I was fearful when so many people can watch the exact same shows without having that reaction.

17 Michael May 28, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Why bother wondering why ‘so many people can watch the exact same shows without having that reaction’? You are not one of those people and you probably never will be. So, if it’s ‘pretty obvious’ why you are fearful then why don’t you just stop watching these shows? THAT seems pretty obvious to me.

18 grace b May 22, 2012 at 11:42 am

The quote you posted from the second book is SPOT ON. That is such an accurate way of portraying how women are ‘trained’ in society these days. A lot of it is ours to reject or embrace–I think we forget we have that choice.

19 Alyssa @ Don't Look Down May 22, 2012 at 12:25 pm

That second quote is so true.
I think for me I’ve in some ways connected bad things happening to people, mostly women (i.e. rape, kidnapping, mugging) with being stupid like walking alone in the dark by yourself in a bad area. But I know this is probably only true for a small amount of cases and most things happen on a completely random basis. I think some fear is healthy to keep us safe, but when I/we let these fears get out of hand and become irrational we start preventing ourselves from truly living.
That quote from the comment above, “I know now you cannot prepare yourself by being afraid.” is great because in the end no amount of preparation can prevent some things from happening but you might as well enjoy what you have in the moment.
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20 Rachel May 22, 2012 at 12:34 pm

When I was in journalism school, I remember at some point learning that it’s not a good idea to run “How to prevent yourself from being raped” sidebars along with rape stories because it reinforces the idea that it’s the victim’s fault. I still see it done frequently but I wish more media outlets would be conscious of this!

21 Miranda May 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I love everything about this post. Well…not that we have a nearly identical list of fears that seems to be growing each year/month/week, but how well you put a voice to the things that run through my mind at an alarming rate.

And that quote made me pause. I reread it three times actually. The pressure we can put on ourselves can be crushing sometimes.

I have no answers or words of advice….just a simple thank you for being so eloquent.

22 Maggie May 22, 2012 at 5:23 pm

So I read this post earlier today and have had to wait to respond since it hits pretty close to home.

The worst-case scenario happened to my sister this past fall. Basically your #2 fear, but she survived, thank God. And ever since, we’ve gone back and forth between being paranoid and reckless. During the acute trauma phase, both she and I were hyper-vigilant, scanning streets for danger as we walked, getting up in the middle of the night to check the locks, etc. (This is all normal for people with PTSD and secondary PTSD, apparently.)

Now, nine months out, I have a tendency to dismiss all safety rhetoric as irrelevant and insulting. Horrible things happen to people who are careful and to people who are not careful. To suggest that doing all the right things means that you’re immune from random acts of violence is to participate in a kind of magical thinking. (Then again, this magical thinking may be necessary if we want to feel somewhat in control and stable.) What’s worse, as you and some readers suggested, the idea that cautious behavior prevents attacks can lead people to blame victims. I have a particular problem with the veneration of self-defense courses, as if women who cannot fight or choose (strategically) not to fight off their attackers deserve the assault. And for what it’s worth, the statistics on self-defense training and assault prevention are pretty surprising.

But all that’s neither here nor there. The question I think you’re asking here is what is healthy fear, and I think it’s a good question to ask. I think I for one need to recognize that some caution is good, and that there are ways to put myself in more or less vulnerable positions. I do wish, though, that we could change the conversation around assault and sexual assault in particular. Instead of asking only how women can best protect themselves, I want to ask also how men can think differently about sexuality and how our society can change its images and attitudes towards sex. I know this conversation is happening in some corners, but I wish it were more prevalent.

23 Rachel May 23, 2012 at 8:12 am

First, I’m so sorry for what happened to your sister (and to you, really). I’m complaining about TV making me feel insecure, but that is nothing compared to what you have been through.

To your other points — I AM SO WITH YOU. I can tell you that that conversation is definitely happening in my corner; I have had many SO many conversations with Eric as well as my coworkers and friends in the past several moths about changing that very dialogue about sexual assault, as well as domestic violence. I don’t consume enough media that is targeted at men, so hey, maybe Men’s Health is running as many “don’t be a perpetrator” articles as Women’s Health is running “don’t be a victim” articles but I have my doubts. You’ve touched on something that I could go on and on about, and maybe I will in another post someday, because you’re right — the conversation needs to be more prevalent.

Also, I’d love to hear more stats about self-defense training and assault prevention. Do you have any links?

24 Maggie May 23, 2012 at 10:54 am

So as you might expect it’s hard to get precise statistics on this, but here’s an interesting study about how women believe that various self-defense strategies are more effective than experts say they are: sds.hss.cmu.edu/risk/articles/JudgedEffectRape.pdf. I think that’s the crux of the issue for me: we think that self-defense training is some sort of panacea for a problem that demands more attention and a variety of solutions. We also don’t take into account the fact that the best or most feasible defense in some situations (e.g. you are drunk/drugged) might be endurance rather than resistance.

Here’s a blog post that addresses some of the problems with our attitude towards self-defense: http://www.shakesville.com/2008/01/five-reasons-why-teach-women-self.html. This isn’t an objective study, obviously, but I think the author gets to some of the assumptions behind the “self-defense solves everything!” idea, namely,
“The whole idea that a woman can use self-defense to deter a man she presumes is intent on raping her is predicated on (as all rape scenarios are) a very specific set of circumstances—that she is capable of fighting back, that she successfully does fight back, and that she hurts the potential rapist only enough to get away, but not so much that he ends up in the hospital (or morgue), lest she face charges, and that all of this happens in front of witnesses who will corroborate her story, just in case.”

OK, clearly all my responses are going to be tl;dr. Sorry about that! Signing off.

25 Nikki May 22, 2012 at 8:14 pm

BEEN THERE. A few years ago, I was living alone in a city I didn’t like, and watching a LOT of crime tv (eeeerrr… and drinking a lot). I developed a huge irrational fear of being raped. I then had a phase when I was continually afraid of my SO/Family/friends being in horrific car accidents. I don’t think I learned to let either of those fears go until I started doing yoga more regularly and incorporating the practice into my life. Now I realize that both wonderful and horrible things are going to unfold, and all I can control is how I react to them :)

26 Jess-ThatJessGal May 22, 2012 at 9:46 pm

I have a weird ritual when it comes to worst case scenarios. Whenever I start to freak out about something…especially things that are essentially out of my control (such as my Mom dying-that’s a horrible reoccurring nightmare of mine), I try to create the absolute worst possibility in my mind, surface process it and then it doesn’t happen. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid (which makes me sound a little psycho, I know), but it works for a control freak like me.

PS. If you do want to freak yourself out about women’s rights/loss of rights read (or re-read as I am doing) The Hand-Maiden’s Tale. OH MY GOD, when their account numbers just stop working on morning and then the bosses tell all the female workers to go home….well, my blood ran cold. It is just a little too possible in 2012.
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27 Rachel May 23, 2012 at 8:20 am

Ha, at first I was like, “No, I’m not reading any more stuff that will freak me out!” but…ya know, of all the things that freak me out, I’m most comfortable with being freaked out by the attack on women’s rights, probably because I don’t feel like those fears are irrational. I already know that my rights are under siege/have been taken away; it’s less a fear of “What if this happens to me?” than a fear based in “This already has happened to me, so it’s not a leap to think worse things are coming.” It’s one situation where I feel empowered by knowing what is happening. It’s really hard/scary when it’s happening in other states, because that I cannot affect with a vote in the same way, but it is somewhat comforting to know that come November, we have a chance to right these wrongs.

28 Talitha May 23, 2012 at 2:52 am

This article explains me in HD! It also offeres an explanation I wasn’t even close to approaching myself. You are as sharp as ever Rachel.
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29 Rachel May 23, 2012 at 8:21 am

Thanks, Talitha! Also, I love “explains me in HD.” I am definitely going to start using that.

30 Caitie May 23, 2012 at 6:44 am

I used to have a really ridiculous fear of someone breaking into my house/apartment as well. I’ve never had anyone close to me or anything have it happen so I really have no “real” reason to be terrified. It’s not nearly as bad anymore but I still freak out sometimes. I can’t watch anything crime related at night etiher (I am now 23 and feel a little ridiculous saying that ha!). In college I had to pin up a black blanket over my blinds at night because my window looked onto an outside hallway and I was terrified people could see through the cracks in my blinds at night (typing this out makes me sound insane). I’ve done other weird random shit all related to my fear of that!

31 Kia May 23, 2012 at 6:47 am

I think for me, being prepared is rooted in the idea that if I am attacked, killed, or harmed in any way, I do not want it to be my fault. I don’t want people to say, “well, if she had done this, it would not have happened.” There is probably some perfectionism at play as well.

32 Emily Susan May 23, 2012 at 8:48 am

Before I started grad school I was addicted to the news and to the media surrounding politics and when things didn’t go the way I had hoped, I would be upset for days. When I started school I stopped watching, and as a result, I am much happier. While I still remain informed via internet and radio, there is something about the visual aspect of the “bad” on TV that upsets me. I feel the same way about my research topics, it is one thing to read about the holocaust, it is very upsetting and disturbing, but add pictures into the mix and the degree of my emotional response skyrockets.

33 Rachel May 23, 2012 at 10:36 am

That’s really interesting — I might give that a try! I agree that reading it helps, and radio might be even better.

34 Emily Susan May 23, 2012 at 8:50 am

“We are the daughters of the feminists who said, “You can be anything,” and we heard, “You have to be everything”
This is the reason why I stay awake at night worrying about how I will juggle a career and children and my husband sleeps soundly.

35 Rain May 23, 2012 at 3:22 pm

It’s all about being in control. And I think we as woman, and especially the type a personality women like being in control….and that creates fears. Because life is full of the unknowns, and unexpected, and things we can’t even begin to control.

I think after having children I started worrying more….pedophiles, kidnappers, rapists, thieves, murderers….there are so many bad people in the world. How do you protect yourself? How do you protect your kids? It really controls me sometimes. And you are absolutely right! We shouldn’t let it get to that point.

There will always be things to be afraid of…even if we don’t watch all the violence on TV. I think a little fear is healthy.

Thanks for bringing this up, you are the 2nd person this week who blogged about this topic and I find it to be a topic I need to address in my own life.
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36 Lindsay May 24, 2012 at 6:55 am

So I used to think my mom was completely crazy when I didn’t call her to check in and she thought I was dead in a ditch somewhere…. until I got married. Then I had that same fear everytime my husband went out with the boys and didn’t answer his phone immediately. And then I had a baby, and my world was turned upside down. At least every other hour that I am awake my thoughts of her are filled with terrifying scenarios of her choking on something, running into traffic, falling and breaking her neck, being kidnapped, getting lost, being molested, just going to sleep and not waking up, the list goes on and on… and she is only 2! I can’t imagine what it will be like once she is out of my control and starts driving and going with friends places. I think as women it is our nature to worry about ourselves and our families and about how other people perceive our families. My mom told me about a radio program she heard last week about how young women/ moms are trying to do it all and they and their families are suffering because of it. It is better to not do it all and spend the quality time with the people you love and not worry about what others think. Easier said than done though. I find it comforting that even though that even though I think I am crazy sometimes, there are other women that have thought the same things and worried about the same things so at least we are crazy together.

37 Aj May 24, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Since I work a lot with anxiety and anxiety disorders, I could fill a long comment with my thoughts on this. But instead, if you haven’t already, stop what you’re doing and find a way 9not sure if it’s on Netflix) to immediately sit down and watch Ellen’s stand up DVD: Here & Now.

“It could be the most deadly thing in the world that you maybe having it for dinner. We’ll tell you what it is tonight at 11″…”Is it peas?!?”

This is seriously the movie that R and I quote to each other all the damn time and it definitely talks about the impact of information overload and activity overload and expectation overload on anxiety and avoidance.

38 Rachel May 31, 2012 at 7:32 am

YES! I love that whole Ellen routine and that bit is SO funny and so applicable here!

39 Nikki May 30, 2012 at 11:25 am

I used to think that if I worried about something (prepared) it was less likely to happen. Now that I’m in my mid-30s and some legitimately bad things happened to me across my life I’m blessed to learn and accept that I have no control.

I think this is the most important lesson for young people (and especially women) to learn. Just because you are a perfect student does not mean the economy will be in shape to give you a job when you graduate. Being an open, lovely, wonderful person does not guarantee you a love life. Doing your job right doesn’t mean you may not get fired and deserving a healthy pregnancy does not earn you one. We all die. Doing it all “right” does not save you.

The liberating converse to this is to do the parts that make you stronger, more connected, more aware and less afraid. Know that you don’t have control and be able to accept that. The flexibility to be okay anyway when life does not work the way it “should” is where the strength comes from. Hopefully you won’t have to learn this lesson firsthand – but that is why I think many in their 20s are so afraid, nothing really bad has happened yet so you don’t know you can handle it.

I’ll echo the importance of eliminating victim blaming. This comes from all sources (they built the house on a flood plain!) and the entire perspective is unhelpful to say the least. Let’s stop with the “why did it happen to the victim” and focus on “why did it happen” (rain, engineering etc.) This is why I can’t watch morning news.
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40 Rachel May 31, 2012 at 7:32 am

The liberating converse to this is to do the parts that make you stronger, more connected, more aware and less afraid. Know that you don’t have control and be able to accept that. The flexibility to be okay anyway when life does not work the way it “should” is where the strength comes from. Hopefully you won’t have to learn this lesson firsthand – but that is why I think many in their 20s are so afraid, nothing really bad has happened yet so you don’t know you can handle it.

I loved this paragraph — thanks for sharing your wisdom, Nikki! It was very comforting.

41 Karen June 7, 2012 at 6:24 am

What a great post topic! I thought I was the only one who has irrational fears. Many of mine are similar to your list (sharks, salmonella, relatives eating enough veggies, disease). I don’t watch the news because I find it easier to not know about all the bad things in the world that they report about.

I would say I’ve always been a little more worried than the average person, but about two years ago I was diagnosed with lymphoma that was found quite by accident. Not the best thing to happen to a hypochondriac because now I feel like my irrational fears were validated. Ever since then, I don’t know if it’s because I’m over the age of 25 now and my fear center is more developed or what, but my list of fears and anxieties has grown. I gave up watching Grey’s Anatomy because I couldn’t handle seeing all the sickness.

I liked the comment about fear not preparing us, and I know that logically being anxious and worried about something doesn’t accomplish anything. My struggle is to listen to my logical self and stop worrying about things I can’t control.

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