On a Road to Catastrophe?

Posted by Guener @guener, Sat, Nov 2 8:08am

How often have you felt that the road ahead of you was leading to nothing but disaster? I have fought with these feelings all my life, for a variety of reasons, and it can be paralyzing anxiety or intensely increased suicidal ideation that comes to pass for me. I distort reality when I am not working on my own mental issues just as actively. Consider the example that you have lost a job, as I have in the past. You are afraid about how you are going to pay your bills, how you are going to put food on your table. But in your mind this leads you to lack of shelter, to destitution, to homelessness. You are NEVER going to be able to avoid it, that's what's going to happen to you. Unfortunately, this does happen to people, to those with and to those without mental illness, but that's another topic. What did I do? I put myself in a homeless shelter for months, and that was both awful and a learning experience. I took myself to an illogical conclusion and acted upon it, when I didn't have to do so. We can imagine ourselves into a corner if we are not aware of how we are thinking.

@guener having that kind of thinking seems to be something that I have experienced myself. However, when I did lose my job, I had to take a serious look on what I was going to do to continue living where I was, and making ends meet. It was an unexpected job loss, and I had no reserve funds. A friend wanted me to move back to a room in her house, in an area 30 miles away, where there was little chance of employment. I really had to work hard at not ending up homeless. I'm glad that you have brought this conversation forward, as it seems very important to you! How have you responded in the past, how have you worked yourself out of it? For me, I had to just believe that it wouldn't get that bad. And I had to believe that I had resources somewhere inside of me to help me not fail completely. I had to think about what I had done in the past, what I had accomplished and where I had failed, too. At one time I was so broke, when I was training racehorses, that I ate hot bran Mash that I made for the horses, that was my meal. I was sleeping in a horse stall. Everything I owned fit in a 4 foot by 3 foot box. It took a long time to work out of that situation. I know there is no magic potion, no magic button to push to change our thinking. We have to find out what we can do ourselves. I don't know if this makes any sense to you or if I'm just rattling on. I hope you will respond and let us know how you are doing, and know that you are not alone in your battles.
Ginger

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@guener I want to respond to your post, but I had a ton of messages to go through and didn't see yours until now. Now being bedtime. Sunday is a long day for me, and I don't always have time or energy to go online. I definitely know what you mean by catastrophising. It was on the long list of things that a depressed person does, and I could relate. I will get back to you as soon as I get back online.

Jim

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ultimately we are all on the same road to the same fate, try reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and studying Stoicism. I have found it helpful when I get those kinds of feelings.

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@gingerw

@guener having that kind of thinking seems to be something that I have experienced myself. However, when I did lose my job, I had to take a serious look on what I was going to do to continue living where I was, and making ends meet. It was an unexpected job loss, and I had no reserve funds. A friend wanted me to move back to a room in her house, in an area 30 miles away, where there was little chance of employment. I really had to work hard at not ending up homeless. I'm glad that you have brought this conversation forward, as it seems very important to you! How have you responded in the past, how have you worked yourself out of it? For me, I had to just believe that it wouldn't get that bad. And I had to believe that I had resources somewhere inside of me to help me not fail completely. I had to think about what I had done in the past, what I had accomplished and where I had failed, too. At one time I was so broke, when I was training racehorses, that I ate hot bran Mash that I made for the horses, that was my meal. I was sleeping in a horse stall. Everything I owned fit in a 4 foot by 3 foot box. It took a long time to work out of that situation. I know there is no magic potion, no magic button to push to change our thinking. We have to find out what we can do ourselves. I don't know if this makes any sense to you or if I'm just rattling on. I hope you will respond and let us know how you are doing, and know that you are not alone in your battles.
Ginger

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@gingerw I had to do a lot of thinking when I was in the shelter, and from that I realized that I, too, was capable of enduring much more than I thought that I could. I found a few people whom I could trust, who were also seeing beyond where they were eating and sleeping. I saw people get taken away for hospitalization, by the police, and I felt still human nonetheless. I accepted every bit of counseling and assistance I could get my hands on, and ultimately I felt strong enough to be humble and ask for aid from my family for six months. Since then I have a job again, I am on medication that works for me, I practice awareness of my thoughts, gratitude, and I try to stay connected to others who are experiencing or have been through similar straits. Last night I had a dream where I was going down a road toward dire things, but I understand it's just buried thought patterns wending their way when I'm less in control. Not that I'm a control freak now, not at all, and that reads into my answer to another post forthcoming.

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@njp1013

ultimately we are all on the same road to the same fate, try reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and studying Stoicism. I have found it helpful when I get those kinds of feelings.

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@njp1013 , I have read Meditations, and it is an excellent collection of recollections and of advice. I loved it. Also, I have done some study of Stoicism, but I don't share their beliefs on Fate, in the end. I do sympathize with their ideas that my character and my virtue can be separated from the pain that occurs from without. I'm still sorting out my philosophical tenets from those I have held in the past, and I don't believe that I have absolute free will but am circumscribed by my own weaknesses or distance from the ideal.

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@guener

I'm in my 15th year of treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal ideation. I know that I have to be aware of my wrong thinking, that people are out to get me, or that I'll abandon my wife if I commit suicide and she'll have to shoulder a monumental task of selling our home, getting rid of all of my stuff, to have to live without my Social Security check, to lose her partner of 47 years, and the guilt list goes on and on and on.

Most of the time I can pull up those thoughts and stop myself from taking my life. So I guess catastrophising is a good thing in that situation if it keeps me alive.

Self awareness can be a help, to recognize what's going on in my head, and deal with it before it's too late. Learning the triggers of our faulty thinking enables us to see them coming, to move away from the triggers. Some people know that a particular place is always a trigger, so they learn not to go there. Relationships can set off lots of faulty thinking.

Suicidal ideation is a tough nut to crack. Even more so if we have attempted it. I'm learning to move away from those thoughts before I get serious about acting on it.

One thing we were taught in the safe house was to look back on the day and rate it on a scale of 1-10. I continue to do that now, 13 years later. Ten would be the happiest, best day of my life. A1 day can't get rated because I'd be dead. 4 is a day when I was setting my plan into motion. Death is all I think about. I lived at 4 for a long time. When I could write 5, I felt like I'd climbed a big hurdle. Even then, I sometimes found myself dangling my feet into the dark hole. The step up to 6 was a major accomplishment, and that's where I've been stuck for several years. I guess that 6 is my new 9.

Enough about me. My tools won't necessarily be yours. Therapists are good for leading us to see the tools we can use. My best therapists have been the ones I felt safe in being completely open to. I told them things I had never said out loud. That's been very therapeutic for me.

Language is something that bears consideration. Words like never, always, should, shouldn't are a few to watch out for.

That's all I have energy to write right now. I look forward to reading more from you.

Jim

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@jimhd

@guener

I'm in my 15th year of treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal ideation. I know that I have to be aware of my wrong thinking, that people are out to get me, or that I'll abandon my wife if I commit suicide and she'll have to shoulder a monumental task of selling our home, getting rid of all of my stuff, to have to live without my Social Security check, to lose her partner of 47 years, and the guilt list goes on and on and on.

Most of the time I can pull up those thoughts and stop myself from taking my life. So I guess catastrophising is a good thing in that situation if it keeps me alive.

Self awareness can be a help, to recognize what's going on in my head, and deal with it before it's too late. Learning the triggers of our faulty thinking enables us to see them coming, to move away from the triggers. Some people know that a particular place is always a trigger, so they learn not to go there. Relationships can set off lots of faulty thinking.

Suicidal ideation is a tough nut to crack. Even more so if we have attempted it. I'm learning to move away from those thoughts before I get serious about acting on it.

One thing we were taught in the safe house was to look back on the day and rate it on a scale of 1-10. I continue to do that now, 13 years later. Ten would be the happiest, best day of my life. A1 day can't get rated because I'd be dead. 4 is a day when I was setting my plan into motion. Death is all I think about. I lived at 4 for a long time. When I could write 5, I felt like I'd climbed a big hurdle. Even then, I sometimes found myself dangling my feet into the dark hole. The step up to 6 was a major accomplishment, and that's where I've been stuck for several years. I guess that 6 is my new 9.

Enough about me. My tools won't necessarily be yours. Therapists are good for leading us to see the tools we can use. My best therapists have been the ones I felt safe in being completely open to. I told them things I had never said out loud. That's been very therapeutic for me.

Language is something that bears consideration. Words like never, always, should, shouldn't are a few to watch out for.

That's all I have energy to write right now. I look forward to reading more from you.

Jim

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@jimhd , I appreciate the detail of your response, and how you have shared where on a continuum you have seen yourself over time.

Over the past couple of years I have been tracking a number of symptoms on a scale measurement for my chronic disease (Crohn's) as well as for my depression and anxiety, and it is helpful with that much information to see the ups and downs and the progression that I have made toward managing how I feel both physically and mentally. Just thinking about whether my mental problems are a disease or a malady to manage is interesting in its own facets, I'm not sure. I, too, rarely bump up into the the happy range when it comes to how I feel about myself, it is usually neutral right now. Compared to where I have been and how I was *moving* on the scale downward is something I can be pleased to see.

I can relate to the negative thoughts of catastrophizing as setting a sort of boundary against going further than the end, and that kept me from taking some final step more than once. Other times my thinking was simply so disorganized that I wonder how I've made it in the past to survive. I attribute my being alive today to medication and to therapy to help me with the physiological aspects of my depression and with the anxiety control. Today I just go in for regular medication review and "maintenance" therapy sessions to make sure that I'm still doing well with the tools that I have that work for me.

My biggest concern with running down the road toward catastrophe today would be continued financial worry, and I am constantly mindful of my thoughts about that when it begins to really worry me. I have to think of the positive things that I can do when my creditors will come calling that will allow me to continue, and not to see myself running toward a terrible apotheosis. I think I can handle it.

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@jimhd

@guener

I'm in my 15th year of treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal ideation. I know that I have to be aware of my wrong thinking, that people are out to get me, or that I'll abandon my wife if I commit suicide and she'll have to shoulder a monumental task of selling our home, getting rid of all of my stuff, to have to live without my Social Security check, to lose her partner of 47 years, and the guilt list goes on and on and on.

Most of the time I can pull up those thoughts and stop myself from taking my life. So I guess catastrophising is a good thing in that situation if it keeps me alive.

Self awareness can be a help, to recognize what's going on in my head, and deal with it before it's too late. Learning the triggers of our faulty thinking enables us to see them coming, to move away from the triggers. Some people know that a particular place is always a trigger, so they learn not to go there. Relationships can set off lots of faulty thinking.

Suicidal ideation is a tough nut to crack. Even more so if we have attempted it. I'm learning to move away from those thoughts before I get serious about acting on it.

One thing we were taught in the safe house was to look back on the day and rate it on a scale of 1-10. I continue to do that now, 13 years later. Ten would be the happiest, best day of my life. A1 day can't get rated because I'd be dead. 4 is a day when I was setting my plan into motion. Death is all I think about. I lived at 4 for a long time. When I could write 5, I felt like I'd climbed a big hurdle. Even then, I sometimes found myself dangling my feet into the dark hole. The step up to 6 was a major accomplishment, and that's where I've been stuck for several years. I guess that 6 is my new 9.

Enough about me. My tools won't necessarily be yours. Therapists are good for leading us to see the tools we can use. My best therapists have been the ones I felt safe in being completely open to. I told them things I had never said out loud. That's been very therapeutic for me.

Language is something that bears consideration. Words like never, always, should, shouldn't are a few to watch out for.

That's all I have energy to write right now. I look forward to reading more from you.

Jim

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@jimhd I'm so sorry to hear of your tough road you travel. My thought and prayers are for you and all who have depression. In your tool box do you write the past down then burn it ? Getting rid of those past feelings maybe beneficial for you and all with these thoughts then focus just on the present and how happy you can make others and yourself. Just a thought . The past is just that the past let it burn and be in the present I know that is tough but can be done God bless you Jim

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@jimhd

@guener

I'm in my 15th year of treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal ideation. I know that I have to be aware of my wrong thinking, that people are out to get me, or that I'll abandon my wife if I commit suicide and she'll have to shoulder a monumental task of selling our home, getting rid of all of my stuff, to have to live without my Social Security check, to lose her partner of 47 years, and the guilt list goes on and on and on.

Most of the time I can pull up those thoughts and stop myself from taking my life. So I guess catastrophising is a good thing in that situation if it keeps me alive.

Self awareness can be a help, to recognize what's going on in my head, and deal with it before it's too late. Learning the triggers of our faulty thinking enables us to see them coming, to move away from the triggers. Some people know that a particular place is always a trigger, so they learn not to go there. Relationships can set off lots of faulty thinking.

Suicidal ideation is a tough nut to crack. Even more so if we have attempted it. I'm learning to move away from those thoughts before I get serious about acting on it.

One thing we were taught in the safe house was to look back on the day and rate it on a scale of 1-10. I continue to do that now, 13 years later. Ten would be the happiest, best day of my life. A1 day can't get rated because I'd be dead. 4 is a day when I was setting my plan into motion. Death is all I think about. I lived at 4 for a long time. When I could write 5, I felt like I'd climbed a big hurdle. Even then, I sometimes found myself dangling my feet into the dark hole. The step up to 6 was a major accomplishment, and that's where I've been stuck for several years. I guess that 6 is my new 9.

Enough about me. My tools won't necessarily be yours. Therapists are good for leading us to see the tools we can use. My best therapists have been the ones I felt safe in being completely open to. I told them things I had never said out loud. That's been very therapeutic for me.

Language is something that bears consideration. Words like never, always, should, shouldn't are a few to watch out for.

That's all I have energy to write right now. I look forward to reading more from you.

Jim

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Hello @jimhd

I agree with what you said that "Language is something that bears consideration. Words like never, always, should, shouldn't are a few to watch out for."

Using a word like "sometimes" is a good way to avoid catastrophizing. Positive self-talk such as, "If I feel this way, I can always….". Each person can fill in their own blank, such as call a friend, take a short walk, write a note to someone who is ill., etc. Putting these statements in a toolbox to pull out when they are needed is a great idea.

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@grandmar @sandij and @texasduchess may also have some thoughts to add about this subject of catastrophizing.

I find myself catastrophizing at times when my husband is quite a bit later than expected. Another time I realized I do this is when one or both of our sons and my husband have traveled a long distance together – I have a much elevated fear that they will crash in a car accident, pass away and never come back. I realize that the chances of one dying in a car crash while 300 or 800 miles from home is usually quite similar to the chance of that occurring 6 miles away.

Anyone else ever do this type of catastrophizing related to loved ones?

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@lisalucier

@grandmar @sandij and @texasduchess may also have some thoughts to add about this subject of catastrophizing.

I find myself catastrophizing at times when my husband is quite a bit later than expected. Another time I realized I do this is when one or both of our sons and my husband have traveled a long distance together – I have a much elevated fear that they will crash in a car accident, pass away and never come back. I realize that the chances of one dying in a car crash while 300 or 800 miles from home is usually quite similar to the chance of that occurring 6 miles away.

Anyone else ever do this type of catastrophizing related to loved ones?

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@lisalucier

One of the things about which I catastrophise is how my wife could survive if I die before she does. We don't fit the label of hoarders, but both of us enjoy collecting specific things. I have more than 500 hymnal, more than 600 ties, and I enjoy finding vintage tools. I have a couple of pegboards in the barn and the garage so I can enjoy seeing them. I do most of my woodworking in the garage. I won't say how many suits and sports jackets, shirts, shoe, blue jeans, slacks, chinos, Pendleton shirts and sweaters, and all of the vests, sweaters and socks that my wife and I have knitted. We both like to collect dishes. We could set up 6 families with dishes, etc. Of course we add to our collections at thrift stores and yard sales

My wife totally wins the trophy for number of books. We built a craft shed last year for her fabric and yarn.It'saround 14' by 24', and she still has a closet full of fabric in the guest room and does most of her sewing in the family room. We found an old oak school teacher's desk, and her sewing machines are set up there. I collect Bicentennial stuff and little pencil sharpeners. My books are in the garage on bookshelves that I built. And speaking of making shelves, I built a lumber rack in one of the carports to hold the lumber and moldings there that I've gathered over the years. I almost always do woodworking out of my stash and don't have to go to a store for wood, nails and screws and varnish and paint.

Now that we're 69, we've narrowed down the things we collect, trying to think about what a monumental task it will be for our kids when we die.

I'm trying to figure out what the point of all of this is. Oh yeah. Catastrophizing. Then there's minimizing. Our friends and family do this when we have an illness that isn't visible. Depression is one of those illnesses. I spent my life wearing a mask. In fact, my first psychologist told me that I was the best mask wearer she'd ever counseled. I hadn't ever seen that in myself, but she was spot on, for sure. Certain masks I still wear, partly for self-preservation. I suppose that it could be good, but I'm not a full disclosure kind of person. As much as I've shared in this group, there are a few things that I will never (oops. There's one of the words that rarely allowed in my statements, along with the coulds and shoulds) share here. Sorry. Now you all can try to figure out what that's about.

Maximizing is a close relative of catastrophizing. My wife has pointed it out when I do those things. I nev…I didn't use to worry. I could handle the ups and downs of life.

Have others faced the different meanings of worrying about stuff and anxiety disorder? I've mulled it over often and I haven't come to a conclusion that I can live with. People who've never had the disorder usually lump the two together. But I knew when I started dealing with anxiety that it was way more than simple worrying, which really isn't all that simple.

I had the brain MRI today. I'm pretty seriously claustrophobic, so I took a second Klonopin, then they gave me a small dose of Xanax. I didn't have a panic attack this time, but I kept my eyes closed and prayed and counted forward and backward. I think it was such a small dose that it had neither a tranquilizing effect nor an overdose. But it was probably a good idea for my wife to drive the hour home.

How about we maximize the blessings we enjoy.

Jim

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@lisalucier

@grandmar @sandij and @texasduchess may also have some thoughts to add about this subject of catastrophizing.

I find myself catastrophizing at times when my husband is quite a bit later than expected. Another time I realized I do this is when one or both of our sons and my husband have traveled a long distance together – I have a much elevated fear that they will crash in a car accident, pass away and never come back. I realize that the chances of one dying in a car crash while 300 or 800 miles from home is usually quite similar to the chance of that occurring 6 miles away.

Anyone else ever do this type of catastrophizing related to loved ones?

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Hi @lisalucier, @jimhd, @guener and others,

While this type of catastrophizing has not been with me, I know of others who have experienced it. I have an elderly family member who does the same thing. If she can't reach someone within a short period of time, she will envision them on an operating table, in a horrific auto accident or lying dead. She had a tremendous loss when she was a teenager, losing two close family members at the same time. I've always felt that her catastrophizing was a result of underlying, unresolved grief and/or possibly undeserved and false guilt.

If you have this type of catastrophizing, I would suggest that you take a moment to write down how you are feeling at that very moment, what feelings you are experiencing, and what it reminds you of from your past, especially moments of great stress, surprise, harshness, etc.

This may work if it is related to some buried or difficult memory that has not been fully faced or dealt with.

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I think that my anxiety issues are bound to two factors: I wasn't in a loving, nurturing environment while growing up and felt uncertain of everything to the point of self-generating fear; and, I am a perfectionist that gathers my self-esteem largely from the approval of others. From the first part I have a distrust of my circumstances and that others will be there to help me when I am in a place of uncertainty, while from the second I have an unhealthy and impossible imposed structure on myself that I alone can create worth through achievement where my standards are so high. I have begun to trust others' intentions on being there for me now, with some difficulty, while it is harder to change my expectations of myself and to find my own self-worth. When I believe that I am unsafe or that incapable of meeting high goals, I run to my place of a terrible outcome that is irrational but feels real to me.

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@hopeful33250

Hi @lisalucier, @jimhd, @guener and others,

While this type of catastrophizing has not been with me, I know of others who have experienced it. I have an elderly family member who does the same thing. If she can't reach someone within a short period of time, she will envision them on an operating table, in a horrific auto accident or lying dead. She had a tremendous loss when she was a teenager, losing two close family members at the same time. I've always felt that her catastrophizing was a result of underlying, unresolved grief and/or possibly undeserved and false guilt.

If you have this type of catastrophizing, I would suggest that you take a moment to write down how you are feeling at that very moment, what feelings you are experiencing, and what it reminds you of from your past, especially moments of great stress, surprise, harshness, etc.

This may work if it is related to some buried or difficult memory that has not been fully faced or dealt with.

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I think that what you've said here, @hopeful33250, fits for me. I lost two cousins close in age to me in car accidents, one as a senior in high school and one as a college student. One of these cousin's mom died unexpectedly at 44 in a colon surgery a couple years before the daughter's death. I probably have unresolved grief and fears related to these situations. Good idea to try and write down what it reminds me of when I'm catastrophizing a delay in arrival or similar.

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@lisalucier

@grandmar @sandij and @texasduchess may also have some thoughts to add about this subject of catastrophizing.

I find myself catastrophizing at times when my husband is quite a bit later than expected. Another time I realized I do this is when one or both of our sons and my husband have traveled a long distance together – I have a much elevated fear that they will crash in a car accident, pass away and never come back. I realize that the chances of one dying in a car crash while 300 or 800 miles from home is usually quite similar to the chance of that occurring 6 miles away.

Anyone else ever do this type of catastrophizing related to loved ones?

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@lisalucier Yes, I do this. I like @jimhd comment about maximising our blessings, but that is really difficult in our stinky disorder of depression, isn't it? At this point in time, my husband is making a trip 800 miles each way, about once every six weeks, to bring up the household here to our retirement property. I catastrophise a [logical to me] scenario. Accident or worse, as he has refused to get all his affairs in order, name his beneficiaries, created an advanced directive, etc. Coming from a legal background that I do, this is unconcionable [sp?] and a disservice to me. His approach is "nothin's gonna happen". Past experience in the legal system, seeing what happened in families with no documentation, makes this a priority for me.
Ginger

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