This past week, my husband had a bit of a medical situation. 8 days ago, he came home complaining of some digestive issues. His stomach was a bit upset and he was having trouble going to the restroom. I played it off that he’s a man child and his pain tolerance is next to nothing. Over the weekend his pain goes from uncomfortable to laying on the bed being unable to stand up or even use the restroom. 5 days later, he finally goes to his doctor and I get a text from him that he is being sent to a surgeon for possible emergency surgery. He is to report directly to the surgery center and they will fit him into the schedule. The surgeon decides to hold off on the surgery and sends him home with some really expensive medications and referral to yet another doctor. We go back home with more unanswered questions to play the waiting game for another 2 days. 7 days after the symptoms begin, I am summoned to the bathroom by my husband who is laughing and holding up an entire chicken bone. He tells me that the bone was preventing him from using the restroom and was the cause of all the pain and discomfort. Once he removed the bone, the pain and pressure completely went away. He still is moving cautiously and we will keep watch for any signs of damage to his digestive tract.
This was the perfect situation where anxiety could have shown its ugly head and completely ruined an already intense situation. I could have become obsessed with the worst-case scenario, replayed the different outcomes and planned out what I will do/react if the worst-case scenario comes true. Those thoughts would have likely started off about how are we going to take care of him if he does have surgery? What if the surgery doesn’t go well? Will he have to go on disability? What if he dies? How am I going to cope if he dies? Can I take care of the family if he becomes disabled?
When we realize that our mind is going off into these tangents and we are getting caught up in catastrophic thinking, one of the best things we can do is look for the evidence and present evidence for REALISTIC consequences of the event. Some of the questions that we can use are:
What is the worst-case scenario?
How likely is it that the worst-case scenario will happen?
What coping skills do I have to handle the worst-case scenario?
How have I coped in the past?
Would it really be as bad as I’m imaging?
What are at least 3 other possible outcomes?
What is the most likely outcome?
I work with new moms all the time to fight catastrophic thinking. It is so easy for us to get sucked into the cycle of panicking over the worse-case scenario. We are actually robbing ourselves of the joy of living in the moment if we are so concerned and panicking over an event that is not likely to even happen.
If you find yourself getting caught up in the cycle of catastrophic thinking, take a moment to look for the evidence that the worse-case scenario will happen and try to find at least 3 other possible outcomes.