I admit to being a bit f a paranoid personality. No, I don’t hear voices in my head that tell me I’m being followed by the Secret Service and my neighbors are minions of Satan hell-bent on making my tomatoes grow poorly. I blame the pine trees for that. Those things have their place, but it is not in my yard.
Mine is more relational in nature. Whether it’s missing the cat for 2 days (if that happens, every time I hear a car honk I am pretty sure it just turned her into a grease spot)…or not getting a phone call from my sons who drove 3 hours north to see their grandparents (which is a sure sign they’re both dead in a ditch,truck wheels slowly turning before it bursts into flames and leaves nothing behind but ashes and a couple of tooth fillings)..
See? I have a powerful imagination and it is masterful at filling in the blanks with all sorts of lurid Stephen King-esque details. If I don’t get regular and frequents reassurance, the brains says to me “Things Are Very Bad”.
And yes, I know that’s silly. I know what it’s doing, this brain. It’s protecting me. (WHAT??) Yes. Because things are rarely that bad. Even the time I got the call from the Sheriff’s office that required another call to a bail-bondsperson named Diane (she was very sweet, motherly and patted me on the arm, saying “It’s ok, honey, it’s just a phase he’s going through.”)…it wasn’t as bad as It Could Have Been. It was just a phase and he’s much better now. It is protection in that after the (whatever) event, I can say “well, that wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected.” and feel relief.
See, what my brain does is to create all these horrid scenarios, all these What It Could Be situations, so that when the reality is discovered, it is not nearly as bad as the possibility. My cat is probably not a grease spot on the road. More likely, she found someone who feeds their cat outside and is merely enjoying the freedom of wandering. Cats do that. When I don’t hear from my sons 3 hours north, it’s usually not (and never has been, so far…see, there goes the brain again, leaving room for the possibility of disaster) because they’re dead in a ditch, but because his phone died and he forgot to pack a charger.
How did they do it, the people my parents ages, how did they send their children out into the world without a convenient way to call and reassure them that they were indeed still alive and well, and not kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery in Thailand? (another fear I had,when the boys were 12 and prone to walking the 1 mile to Mr P’s for a soda and a peek at the covers of Penthouse and Playboy) (they think I didn’t know they did that).
How was my father able to even let me go on a date with someone he considered shady, when I had no way of calling? How were Terry’s parents able to let him get into a 20 year old VW Beetle and drive from South Georgia to Chicago, when he was 17? I can barely let mine go 3 hours north. And that one is 20. Not that, at 20, he asks my permission. He says “Mom, I’m going to Madison to see Richie and go catfishing.” and I think “he’s going to be attacked by a writhing mass of 20 foot long water moccasins and when he dies and sinks to the bottom of the muddy lake, he will be eaten by catfish and have to be identified by the tread pattern on his boots.” See there, I did it again.
There is this wonderful method out there called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, that essentially retrains your brain in it’s way of thinking. Maybe I need to do that again. 18 years ago, that is the method Dr. H used on me, and it was pretty flamin’ amazing.
Right now, when my mind goes someplace grotesque (it’s 3pm and Terry hasn’t called today, that means he fell into the aeration basin and was chopped to pieces by the aerators, and El Presidente is scared to call and inform me of Terry’s untimely demise), I am trying the techniques taught 18 years ago…stuff like “Ok if it’s that bad, before you panic, send Terry a text to make sure he’s actually dead before calling the police.” so I do, and naturally I get one back (although it could be El Presidente pretending to be Terry to throw me off) that says “very busy, sorry I haven’t called” so then I’ll send a cryptic one that only Terry would understand, and when he sends the proper answer back, I’ll know it’s really him.
Ok no. Not really, but see how that works? The method uses logic to talk yourself out of an illogical thought process. 18 years ago, it was “Oh Lord I’m so ugly and everyone hates me!” and logic, (that is, no one stares or gags when I walk in the room, and people actually smile and respond when I talk to them) taught me that my thought process was illogical. Now, I need to use that when the brain says “Dead in a ditch!!” and say to myself “no one has called to tell me, and grandmother is expecting them and would call if they didn’t show up at the appointed time.” etc.
So today, I am going to concentrate on being logical. Because that makes more sense than worrying about things I have no control over.