I continue to find many annoying leftovers from my days of depression, and I know that black and white thinking is responsible for much of it. Something I find particularly exhausting and annoying is how I can make emotional mountains out of molehills. This is called catastrophizing. Inside my head, I let my imagination go wild and create the worst possible outcome for problems that have yet to occur.
I know I do better to prevent it, yet I still continue to do it. I know better, and that’s what frustrates me. I can even say to myself, “Hey, this probably won’t be THAT bad.” But sometimes, the temptation is irresistible. I get sucked into the drama of playing out a worst-case-scenario in my mind.
It takes me through a whole range of emotions, which is an exhausting journey. Take a look at my Mood Swings Are Exhausting post from a few months ago to read more about that. Plus, I get full color images and emotionally charged dialogue to go with it. To make matters worse, I usually develop a few assumptions as the story progresses.
Those darned assumptions, they are a pretty tricky side effect. I must be careful that my emotional joyride doesn’t leap over the border into my real life. I might be in a real mood when my husband comes home because I took way too much meaning into a side comment. I could get teary and overly wrapped up in future events like my daughter’s surgery months before anything even happens.
I’m not advocating this, making a horror movie in your head about your biggest worries. It’s no fun and it rarely accomplishes anything helpful. And catastrophizing is a fairly common activity – it’s just worrying with an extra gear. But when it really gets rolling, I believe the depression thinking makes the extra push. Those old depression connections in my mind really know how to create a catastrophe out of not much. Even a semi-harmless worry can stimulate those nerve paths in my mind that used to run hot with worry and rumination for years.
I’m being honest here – I need to work harder to nip these in the bud. Some days the reminders of my worries seem to be all around me, but I know I’m primed to look for them, too. I think there’s a finer skill to be honed – capturing information, keeping what’s useful, and discarding anything that could run wild in my head.
I would do myself a favor by improving my ability to cut off any worrisome scenario before it got a head of steam. Finding emotional and thought triggers would be a good place to start. Acknowledge the fear, state what I know and what I need to learn, and then tell myself that my fear doesn’t necessarily dictate or match reality. It’s a challenge to adjust bad thinking patterns, but a simple approach can help.
I can’t change the fact that I had depression. I probably can’t change the reality that I’m more susceptible to these leftovers like worry and catastrophizing. But I’ll do my darnedest to use these opportunities to learn about myself. And stopping catastophes before they start? Well, I guess I’ll take that over depression any day.