Saturday, January 5, 2013

On Worrying

I wish I could declutter worrying.

If worrying was an event in the Olympics, I'm pretty sure I would medal, if not take the gold. I've always been a worrier, at least as far back as I can recall. I worry about issues under my control and those that are not. I worry about issues big and small. I remember being completely worried about the environment in high school. Or worrying that I might die in my sleep before going to bed when I was younger than 10.

Sometimes the worries are manageable, and somewhat rational and I can shake them off, or distract myself from them, or at least cope with them. Other times they are all-consuming, like the last three days when my favorite (shh! don't tell the others!) cat Alex appeared to be having an issue with his teeth and I made a vet appointment for him for this morning.

See, Alex is 15, with kidney disease and diabetes, oh, and bad teeth. Trips to the vet with him for the past four or five years have usually meant bad news and a big vet bill. Plus, being a cat, he gets pretty stressed out, which in turn stresses me out. Basically, it's not a fun time and I dread it each time we must go.

This time I was already worried about the possibility of him having a tooth issue and needing a dental (which for cats means going under general anesthesia – something that isn't great for kidney disease or older cats), and then the receptionist said he needed a rabies shot before they would see him. That completely threw me into another level of tizzy, because it was yet another thing that could put his overtaxed system over the edge.

Though I knew it was irrational, I became convinced that this vet appointment pretty much spelled doom for my cat. The worry went into overdrive. I took a million videos and photos of him. I went to the pet store and bought his favorite, and more expensive, food and a new catnip mouse on Thursday and let him indulge all by himself as much as he wanted. I cried myself to sleep that night and almost called off work on Friday to spend more time with him.

Today, v-day, when I woke up I was so nervous that I felt physically sick. I can't tell you who was more nervous on the drive to the vet's office – me or the cat. Luckily, the visit went about as well as possible. First, they didn't even mention a rabies shot, and while his teeth aren't great and have a lot of plaque, the vet didn't see any signs of an acute issue that would require a dental. She is great and doesn't want to put him under unless she absolutely has to any more than I do. We got some antibiotics and he had some blood drawn, and came home 30 minutes later.

I know these kinds of worries are irrational. I completely understand that while it's happening, but that doesn't seem to help me not do it.

Some of my worry-coping strategies are:

  1. Distraction – I try to distract myself  with movies, books, surfing the net, even work, anything that will take my mind off the issue for awhile. Tackling a video-editing project at work on Friday definitely kept my mind fully-occupied on Friday.
  2. Exercise – A nice, exhausting exercise session really helps. Although I admit, I didn't do this this week, because I wanted to spend my extra time with Alex, rather than at the gym.
  3. Writing – Writing about my worries in my journal (which is really a file on my computer because I prefer it these days to the clutter of a physical journal) really helps me express my feelings without boring others with them and surprisingly makes me feel better.

But at times when I'm at a level-ten on the worry Richter scale, these strategies don't quite cut it.

Am I the only one who gets like this? Are you a worrier, and if so what do you do to cope?


  1. Oh Candi,

    To say "I can relate" might qualify as understatement of the year. Sometimes I think that worry & anxiety verging on panic are the cornerstones of my personality. My earliest memory is of having a meltdown as a 2 year old, and some part of me still feels that way - ALL. THE. TIME.

    I am SOOOO glad that Alex is OK. Things have been pretty awful here over the past few days. We were trying to make some adjustments to Sputnik's medication and it was a complete disaster. I've had to keep him isolated from the other cats and have been sleeping on the floor with him to try to keep him somewhat calm.

    I wish I had some great coping strategies for you, but since I totally suck at this, I fear I don't. CatMan says that panic/worry/anxiety are strategies that I use to avoid other more uncomfortable emotions - and to give my self some illusion of control over situations that are totally out of my hands.

    He says (and he used to be a therapist) that instead of trying to get away from it, I need to feel it completely and to feel the underlying emotions that I'm running away from.

    I've tried and tried... and I guess I've had some success in a "big picture" kinda way. But when it comes to worries over specific situations like the life of my beloved cat - fuggitaboutit! I'm a total mess!

    Hang in there and know that I'm pullin' for you.


    1. Thanks for your kind words, Cat! I agree; I think some of us are just natural-born worriers.

      I thought about you when I was in the throws of vet-induced-panic and how it was probably a fraction of what you were going through. When Alex was first diagnosed with diabetes and I had to give him insulin there were some times I didn't think he was going to make it, and that was 1000 times worse than what I felt last week. I'm thinking about you and Sputnik and wishing you both the best.

    2. Thanks Candi, we've got Sputty back on the old meds and he's doing much better. Whew! I have a ranting blog post in the works telling the whole gruesome story.

      You know, when this all started and I was noticing him peeing more often, my biggest fear was diabetes - that must be a hard one to deal with over the long haul. I can't imagine having to give insulin shots.

      Princess probably needs some dental work done, but I've been avoiding it because she has a history of seizures and the thought of putting her under anesthesia scares the crap out of me. Somehow it's really comforting to know that I'm not the only person who freaks out about this sort of stuff.


  2. Absolutely relate. I think it's why I have so much trouble with stuff and with eating -- it's how I deal with the completely irrational anxiety I feel so often. It was good to see that you have a list of coping skills. Glad to see you writing today.

    And no, the coping strategies often don't cut it for me. Up next, apparently for me, is medication. And I think I'm ready for it.

    But you have a situation with the kitty right now that would be stressful for anyone...treat yourselves well, I hope you both are able to find lots of good time to relax in the coming days. Hugs, Joanna

    1. Joanna - Thanks for your kind comments! Sorry to hear you are a member of the anxiety/worry club as well. I've used meds twice before when things went beyond just worrying and didn't go back to normal. They can definitely make a huge, huge difference. I've also been happy when I was able to go back off them and have my anxiety be under control. I wish you the best in finding what will work for you.

  3. Yes! I worry, sometimes irrationally so, getting myself all worked up, sick at my stomach, blood pressure skyrocketing and I hate myself every time I do it. A recent strategy I learned about from a podcast (CogKnitive) recorded by a psychologist who knits is a tool called a Worry Workbook. It takes your existing strategy of writing to the next level. It helps you transform worrying into PLANNING, which is CONSTRUCTIVE thereby letting you feel that you are ACTING (proactive, not nailbiting) in a constructive manner to solve your problems. It takes a bit of practice, but it's been very helpful. I think worrying is genetic too, my mom was a worrywart. So glad things worked out well for Alex. I find I worry more about my animals than the water heater or the car!

  4. Ah, worry and I go way back.
    Poor Alex. Is he ever beautiful. I'm glad it had a happy ending.
    I use distraction and writing to cope as well humour. I was so anxious the other day that all the muscles in my neck seized up and I could feel my neck shaking while I was talking to someone. My inner dialogue went like this: "OMG. Am I actually shaking? Seriously, I'm standing here talking to someone and my neck is vibrating. I'm so turning into my mother."
    I know what you mean about Alex though. When it comes to big things like my kids or selling the house, which, by the way, never sold - I lose my mind.
    In those instances, I'm pretty much helpless although, I do a lot of silent screaming like this: "I'm freakin' out here. I'm totally freaking out. I think I might actually have a heart attack. I am so not coping right now." Something about naming the situation makes me feel better. I've had a lot of therapy for anxiety and can usually catch myself mid freak out, usually - not always!


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