Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What if?

One morning, after dropping my two "big kids" off at school, I was walking to the car holding my baby. "Whashat?" she babbled and pointed to this large, gray, generator looking thing outside of the school. It was noisy and seemed to have seen better days. As I scanned my brain for the name of it to tell her, the thoughts calmly enter my head and start to build, "What if it blows up? Oh my God, I've got TWO children in there." The frames come quickly now - the building in flames, rescue workers on site, rushing up to the building to find my babies. Now, I'm not getting worked up, but I am realizing that I'm allowing myself to entertain this improbable occurrence as if it was real. My brain is asking the question, "Is this safe?" and scanning for ways to get them out if that ever happened.

Most people who deal with anxiety like to know how they would handle any situation imaginable if it happened to them.

"Babe," I said to my husband the other night, "What would you do if you heard someone down stairs breaking into our house?"

"What? That would never happen. I guess I'd . . ."

"Well, I tell you what I'd do. First I would call 911, quickly in a whisper; then I'd keep them on the line, so that the police could not only here what was going on, but could trace the address and get there faster."

"Wow, you've really thought this through," he says looking stunned.

"Yeah, then we'd grab the girls and lock ourselves in the room, open the window and scream loudly as we climbed out. Our neighbors are pretty aware & would come running. Haven't you ever thought about what you'd do?"

"Uh, yeah, no. My brain just doesn't go there."

Tell me, superheroes, does your brain go there? Do you experience normal anxious thoughts, but take them a bit too far when it comes to planning elaborate escapes & daring rescues? I look forward to hearing from you!


Jennifer said...

I know every exit within minutes of walking into any business, house, office etc.

I know what I would do if someone broke in. I would call 911, get my kids in the room and then wait with my Glock which I took out of the palm locked safe in my bedroom and shoot whoever tried to come in my room. I refused to buy a house that had a split floorplan and that put my kids across a house or upstairs from me. I have to be able to get to them.

It occasionally occurs to me at work (20 miles from my kids school) that if there were a national emergency how would I get to them? I have a plan! I have people to call who can get them and then meet me at a predetermined location. I worry about this because I work on a military base and often agonize over what would happen if we went on Lock Down and I couldn't get off base to get to them. I feel both safer being her and less safe working at a secured facility. It just depends on how I start the morning and how well my meds are working that day.

You should have seen me when that horrible tragedy in Russia was happening in that school. I was nearly paralyzed with fear the next day when I took the girls to school.

I always have at least 3/4 of a tank of gas because that will get me 200 miles out of whatever might be happening. I always have water, and batteries and snacks in the car. Always have a change of clothes in the car. Yeah, my anxiety makes me a touch OCD.

I have always marveled at how out of control I feel when I am so controlling of the things LEAST likely to happen.

I am obsessed with fire extinguishers even though my condo has a sprinkler system. I could go on and on. I do not remember my life without living like this.

Elise said...

Yes! I am a new reader of your blog. And I have thought through many disaster scenarios in great detail.

Anxiety Girl said...

Sometimes I wonder how much is anxiety & how much is motherhood and growing older. I have a different sense of vulnerability when it comes to keeping my kids safe. Most of the time it's in check - other times my imagination takes me on a ride after hearing about something that happened in the world/news. It's almost an evolutionary protective function - "alright, well if I was in that situation - what could I do to save my family? What can I learn here?" The trick for me, really is, just acknowledging the thoughts, maybe entertaining them with a short plan, and then letting them slide away.

Valerie said...

My brain goes there immediately, especially since having a baby.

One of the things that stressed me out the most when we moved into our new house was that there's no easy way to get out of the house from the second story. Our old house had a balcony off of the bedroom. I'm still trying to figure that out.

I also have a new sense of vulnerability like you said. It takes me mind to places that it probably shouldn't.

Nikole said...

Oh my goodness, this conversation could have happened between John and I a dozen times or more. I too wonder how much is our inner mama bear and how much is anxiety. I often have these feelings when I am rocking/nursing Thea to sleep or after everyone else in the house is asleep. I definitely have experienced this way more since becoming a mama. In my early days of motherhood, I used to feel this ALL THE TIME, and it seems to have slowed down a bit in these last months, but is definitely still there. Thanks for sharing this. I thought I was surely the only one!

Anxiety Girl said...

One reason I thought about writing this post was something I heard from a Mama of three one day. She talked about taking the groceries in from the car, one afternoon, while her kids were still buckled in & singing along to a CD. A car drove by too quickly & without warning she actively envisioned her van being crushed by this careless driver, her kids terribly injured (add in graphic details) and the whole scene with emergency workers on site. She thought she was going crazy & wondered aloud - why am I having thoughts like these? Is something wrong? Am I the only one? A couple of us spoke up & shared some of our "what if" scary scenario's & it seemed to lift her fear of going crazy. Sometimes it makes all the difference just to know that we're not alone, doesn't it?

twinsnana said...

I just can't believe that there are others that have these crazy racing thoughts about dangerous if not highly unlikely situations. It seems so strange to me to read these. I have never discussed these thoughts with anyone. Sometimes I have to sleep with the television or a CD playing to try to push these thoughts out of my head. But I am learning that they are just thoughts and they can't hurt me according to Paul the AG.

Anxiety Girl said...

Hi Twinsnana! Paul is right - even though the thoughts feel scary & down right terrifying sometimes, they can't hurt you, can't make you go crazy, and aren't an intuition that something bad will happen.

Next time those thoughts are bothering you at night, why not try inviting the thoughts in instead of resisting them? Reid Wilson talks up this technique & it can really work. Might look something like - "Oh no, I'm having those thoughts again - I feel scared." Then, trying this new technique, "Alright anxiety, give me your worst! I'm going to sit right here & I want my symptoms to increase. I want more shaking, adrenaline, sweating, heart racing, sense that something's wrong, etc.

Check out what Dr. Wilson says about paradox & then on obsessive worries & let me know if it's helpful!