What’s the worst that could happen?

anxiety_by_fukari-d68lzic
Anxiety by Fukari

When you get sick, people will offer you plenty of free, well-meant and mostly unwanted pieces of advice. Some of them are good, though they often imply that you’re too dumb to use Google, they’re just… not enough. Like, if you have ever had serious insomnia coupled with anxiety, it is very likely that you’ve tried a Spartan regimen of steady sleep hours, phototherapy, heavy exercising, complete avoidance of all caffeine and chocolate and neurotic avoidance of refined sugar, and still… it wasn’t enough. It’s ok, I’ve learnt to roll with that.

My problem is when the advice is plain bad. Like when a nurse, of all people, told me that whenever I was anxious about anything, I should ask myself: “What’s the worst that could happen?”. Darling, I’m a writer. An excessive amount of traffic in the morning could end up with me getting stabbed in an alley.

That bad advice works on the premise that your mind is healthy enough to calculate the probabilities of that particular scenario to actually happen. But a) unless you’re a superhuman math genius, I don’t think anyone could realistically estimate that kind of probabilities, b) anxiety disorder is a sign that the mind is not healthy and c) an imaginative person will come up with at least a hundred scenarios or variants that all suck, which increases the probabilities of one of them or an unforeseen variant actually happening.

xmas-65-x-smallNot to mention that anxiety often comes with depression (which was severe at the time I got that advice), and asking yourself what’s the worst that could happen only makes you focus on the negative when really, the problem is exactly that everything you can think about is negative.

Another fundamental problem with that piece of advice is that when you’re anxious, it usually is not because there is any danger right now. It is precisely because you’re afraid of what will come next. So instead of focusing on the future, you should focus on the present.

For example, right now… it’s alright. We can still eat without rationing ourselves and very literally tighten our belts because that made us lose weight we didn’t have to lose. We’re not in debt, either (aside from the mortgage, but that’s not traditionally considered a debt despite its creepy name: mortgage *shudders*).xmas-64-x-small

What also helps me is keeping in mind that the situation is only temporary. I’m sick right now, but it doesn’t have to be always the case. Also, I’m doing everything in my power to get a job and I know I’ll get one eventually. I know that.

But then, anxiety isn’t restricted to the conscious mind. In fact, mine barely even bothers going there; it knows it’s not welcome. Instead, it lives and thrives in my unconscious, expressing itself through fatigue, irritability, muscle pain and poor concentration. Good luck controlling that.

an-act-of-true-love-will-thaw-a-frozen-heart-elsa-and-anna-36903902-245-150So what’s left for me to do? Accept and love. Accept that my mental health has its ups and downs, that right now I’m in a down and that it affects my life negatively; and love myself, fragile mental health and all. Because really, my illness makes me suffer enough in itself, no need to make it worse with self-loathing. Besides, loving myself is a pretty good motivation for me to take care of my health.

People think Frozen was awesome because of the feminism in it (not sure what they thought Mulan was about). I think it was awesome because it dealt with anxiety. Elsa spends most of the movie struggling with anxiety. And does that make her any less awesome? I don’t think so.

Unfortunately, love and acceptance do nothing for my physical pain, but that’s what meds are for.

Happiness can only exist in acceptance.
– George Orwell

 

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44 thoughts on “What’s the worst that could happen?

  1. I think that’s a really interesting point. Talk is cheap, and too often do we feel the urge to say something, say anything, even when they mean nothing at all! That’s why when I recently read the book “Quiet”, I felt truly inspired and liberated in a way. But it’s awful when someone you know and trust offers genuinely bad / careless advice. Luckily I’ve been immune to that so far. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, it’s normal. It’s human nature. People genuinely want to help and that’s a good thing. But that nurse was actually paid to give us some kind of “workshop” on anxiety. The reason why I know it’s such a bad advice is because I actually tried, with awful consequences.

      I have a lot of respect for nurses and I don’t think it was her fault. In fact, I’m pretty sure I heard that same advice from other nurses before. That probably means they’ve all gotten the same (wrong) training.

      Often, with mental health issues, I feel like the literature on the subject has been written by sane people who don’t understand the extent of the illness at all. However, I don’t despair: cognitive behavioural therapy seems to have figured out quite a lot. I just wish everybody working with patients struggling with depression and anxiety had a decent grasp of it.

      Thanks for passing by!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Totally appreciate where you are coming from and your frustrations under the circumstances. Sometimes when I don’t know what advice to offer best I would say “I’m here to lend an ear for as long as you need”. I’m not a medical professional, and I guess I’m too naive to think that all professionals have been trained accordingly and well-equipped with the appropriate strategies…

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know right? It is surprising how many people don’t know the difference between simple depression and clinical depression. And if you type depression on google most of the results offer basic advice mostly for simple depression like practice positive thinking… While clinical depression needs to be addressed in two ways proper medication and behavioral therapy or whatever it is called…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. That is so true… For having wrestled with anxiety when I lost my sister I now know that it is practically impossible to summum positive thinking during those boots of anxiety. All I could think of was negative things. I had to learn to be gentle with myself and accept that the mind just as every part of the body gets sick. If I had broken a leg I would have given it time to heal without judging and beating myself up for it so why not do the same for my mind which is the most important thing… That helped… some days…. The worst part was waiting to get better and knowing that it ll never be the same again… A friend of mine used to say this is the new normal… Accept it… Easier said than done…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Indeed. Not only do you have to let it heal (and help it sometimes through medication or therapy, just as you’d treat a broken leg with medication and physiotherapy), you then have to adapt to the new situation. Adaptation has never been my strong suit.

      There are times when I want to scream and cry and lament over my misfortune. It happened while I was writing this post (which didn’t end on a positive note at the time). But then I read some other blog post of someone also dealing with anxiety and the “not alone” feeling helped me calm down. Then I remembered Frozen, haha.

      Like

  3. I know exactly what you mean… I once had a breakdown in front of my family (whilst going through depression and anxiety) and found that sometimes people can only sympathise rather than empathise. I told my brother that I wanted to die (whilst crying) and he said; “Just think about all the good stuff you have going Lor” – I know his heart was there but he just didn’t get it whatsoever!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Omg yes, people told me that all the time. Gee thanks, I really needed to feel guilty that I’m sick.

      Now that I’m healed from depression, I know that, logically, they can’t really understand what it’s like unless they’ve been through it themselves or are doctors in psychology (and even then, not all doctors can really understand, either).

      There is this one book that made me feel like some professionals, at least, knew what it was like: “Feeling good: the new mood therapy” by Dr David D. Burns. It describes depression in a way healthy people can at least begin to understand, and it makes them better equipped to help their loved one going through it. I just wish it was more widely recommended by mental health professionals.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes exactly – I understand how they don’t understand too, which helps me feel less annoyed/isolated when they get it wrong! I actually wrote a post about it before, if you want to read:
        https://thisstuffisgolden.com/its-okay-if-they-dont-understand
        That sounds good! May I ask if you were on anti-depressants? I’ve just recently decided to go cold turkey after 50mg of sertraline everyday for months. I can cry again (which I actually think is more healthy?) and generally feel okay!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I was on anti-depressants (and other stuff for my anxiety and insomnia). At some point, I was taking the maximum amount of Effexor you can get without having your vitals monitored regularly. It didn’t do me too much good, and it messed with my appetite so I lost a lot of weight very quickly (all of my baby weight and then some, for a total of about 30 pounds in a month). I found that scary and counterproductive: how could I have energy when I had to force myself to eat?

        All of that considered, I decided I’d stop taking anti-depressants altogether. At that point, therapy had helped improve my mood a little, so I thought I’d be fine.

        And I was, I got better, so I stopped seeing my therapist. A few months later, I had some kind of relapse, but it was more like a burnout this time. I let my psychologist convince me to start taking meds again, but my psychiatrist wouldn’t let me try anything other than Effexor, and it just didn’t work on me.

        Then, I kinda bypassed my psychiatrist and had my family doctor prescribe me Pristiq, upon recommendation by my psychologist. It does the same thing as Effexor, but it’s a different molecule. I thought it was worth a shot. After a week, I felt “miraculously” healed. So THAT’s what anti-depressants should feel like. Therapy was still necessary, but it was so much easier to work on myself when everything didn’t look so glum and I didn’t feel so mentally exhausted all the time! Oh, and guess what: it was only the minimum dosage.

        After that, I followed psychologist’s advice and continued to take them for a year after I felt fine (which is basically a year after I started taking them). When I stopped, I had some physical symptoms for two weeks or so (like nausea and headaches), but my mood was unaffected.

        To this day, my psychologist is my most trusted mental health professional, despite him being the only one who, in French, I cannot call “doctor” (only MDs are “doctors” in French – PhDs aren’t).

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I thought the same thing when I watched Frozen! It spoke to me about my depression and how other people (even family) couldn’t understand it in a way that really resonated with me. I was actually shocked that the mental health aspect of the film didn’t get more attention. Great post👍

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh great, so I’m not the only one! I first saw the movie not long after I was released from the hospital, and gosh! During the song that goes:
      “Oh, I’m such a fool I can’t be free!
      No escape from the storm inside of me.”
      I cried so hard. But the kind of crying that actually left me feeling better.

      I also wonder why most people don’t seem to notice the mental health element, but I guess those who “need” to see it do. That’s the thing with great art: it appeals to different people in different ways.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Accept and love. Your post is very helpful to people going through the same things and hopefully those who are their support systems.

    Some people just won’t fully understand how it feels if it doesn’t happen to them.. They might mean well but end up making the person with anxiety feel worse…

    Talking about your own experiences motivates those who struggle with similar things. Thank you for sharing..

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much! It means a lot.

      I do think it’s important. When I was hospitalized for depression, the word spread around and suddenly people from my own (extended) family came to me and shared that they too had gone through it. I had no idea. It had a strong impact on me. It made me realize that the illness wasn’t just “an expression of an intrinsically doomed personality”; anybody can become ill. And even more importantly, it made me realize that people really do recover from it.

      I really want to talk about my experience with depression some day, but I don’t know how yet. Besides, it wouldn’t fit in just one blog post.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hum… I do this while editing/proofreading my posts. I look for anything that could be well represented graphically, like… I knew there would be several awesome drawings on anxiety. Also, it’s while looking for love-related images that I remembered Frozen. Then, I just picked pictures with similar color-schemes and added the snowflakes because… well, Frozen, and because it’s been snowing all week. 😄

        I also download Creative Markets free goods every week (that’s where the snowflakes come from). You never know what will turn out to be useful.

        I’m not sure this helps, but uh… anyway. Good luck with that! ^_^

        Liked by 1 person

  6. When my anxiety is bad I lie in bed at night and spend hours working myself into a spiral of disaster. What are all the things I’m doing wrong? What awful things could happen? What are the WORST things my imagination can conjure up?

    I used to go to a counselor every so often when it got really out of hand and did CBT… I actually felt the “What’s the worst that could happen?” thing did kind of help with the real fears. It would be something like:

    “What’s the worst that could happen?”

    “I could not hand in my assignment and fail the class.”

    “And then what?”

    “And then I’d fail out of college.”

    “And then what?”

    “And then I’d never get a degree.”

    “And then what?”

    “I would never be able to get a job and would end up a homeless drug addict living under a bridge.”

    Obviously the further down the rabbit hole you go the more ridiculous your fears sound out loud, so it breaks them down into manageable chunks so that you can say, ‘Okay yes, this fear is reasonable, and this other fear is just my imagination being a dick. Even if it feels real, it is ridiculous.’

    And then you can brush the ridiculous one aside. Obviously this doesn’t work half as well at 4am in the dark when you’re alone with your biggest fears, but it has helped me a few times with the help of someone to act as a sounding board.

    I haven’t tried medication but I’ve considered it a few times because panic attacks are No Fun. How do you find it?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, thank you for sharing. I guess it works for some people then. The way you say it make it sound like how you fight a boggart in Harry Potter. ^_^ I could never find any of my fears ridiculous, but that might have been due to the depression.

      That’s probably part of what makes psychologists so awesome and why you should let nobody else into your mind: they can see when something works or doesn’t work for someone and adapt their approach accordingly. There is no one unique remedy that works for everybody.

      CBT is also what helped me the most. I’m thinking of starting that again to work on my anxiety as soon as I can afford it.

      Medication helps (I take pro-quetiapine). For me, it was actually absolutely necessary when I started because of the life-threatening mix of severe depression, anxiety and insomnia. After I was healed from depression, I tried stopping the anxiety meds as well, but the quality of my sleep deteriorated and I’d become so irritable I’d sometimes yell at my 2-year-old when she spilled something while eating. I tried to push through, but after two months, in addition to those effects I started getting dark thoughts again.

      Long term use of quetiapine can have damaging effects on my physical health, but not taking it could lead to a depression relapse (and that is to be avoided at all costs). So I take it for the time being, hoping I can eventually work through my anxiety and not need it anymore.

      If I were you, I’d ask the health professionals you trust (psychiatrist, psychologist, pharmacist, even family doctor), to help you weight the pros and cons. Psychologists might not have the authority to prescribe pills, but mine was of especially good counsel. He recommended a medication change to my family doctor when my psychiatrist wouldn’t listen to my complaints and requests, and it made me feel miraculously healed overnight. That point was the real beginning of my recovery process.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. A very honest and open post. I appreciate your openness, and can totally relate. I never noticed that about Frozen, either, what a beautiful realization. It’s nice to know there are people out there who understand what you’re feeling. Also, nurse, wtf? Take care. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you!

      I don’t think it was the nurse’s fault, she visibly had been trained to give that advice… so the fault would lie in the training. Besides, it seems it works with some people (see Quinn’s comment above).

      My conclusion is that when my mental health gets bad enough that the best research on the internet cannot help me (I’m good at making researches), it is because I need help from a qualified therapist, not some middleman. Nurses are great. They’re awesome. While in hospital they were my best moral support, but they’re not doctors. And even doctors must be chosen carefully.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I understand what you mean. It’s hard to deal with it and (at least try to) help others dealing with it at the same time too. All you can do is be there for them and love them and hope it would help even just a little. And dealing with it when no one can understand…I end up laying under the covers almost all the time. Anyway, great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, hiding under the covers… In my case though, that’s come to be associated with depression, so while I do still indulge in that, I tend to limit my hiding time to something like 15 minutes, and then I force myself to go out and read, write or if I’m really not well, colour mandalas, build LEGO sets or do puzzles or kakuros. It’s usually much more effective to take my mind off things and lift my mood than hiding under the covers. ^_^

      Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. A very interesting and insightful read for the effects of anxiety – a super-analytical and cautious mind, but also an intelligent and creative one! Your post might be a relief for someone who’s anxious and could feel better just by knowing he/she is not alone. Like you mentioned, acceptance is the key.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “Darling, I’m a writer. An excessive amount of traffic in the morning could end up with me getting stabbed in an alley.” PRAISE, speaking the truth. Imagination is a gift and a curse, and when someone doesn’t get it, they don’t get it all. Sending you hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I have generalized anxiety disorder and when I have a bout of anxiety, people including my fiance tell me what I can do to get rid of the anxiety. All of which don’t work. What does usually help is hugging a loved one.

    Saying “What’s the worst that can happen” to a patient with anxiety is the worst thing you can possibly say.

    My personal favorite is “Why not worry about until it happens?” – I wish I can worry about things like other people, but you know, I’m not like other people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know. My husband has learned not to say anything about it. It’s like a physical pain: the more you focus on it, the more it’ll hurt (at least, that’s true in my case).

      He’ll hug me if I want a hug, and then maybe try to take my mind off of things by appealing to my knowledge or rational thinking, like… what does “x” word mean or by talking about geeky stuff we both like and so on. What it does, I think, is prevent the brain from sending too much energy to the “emotions” areas. Sometimes it helps (he used to try to make me laugh, but that wasn’t so effective). Sometimes it doesn’t and I’ll take a relaxing pill. ^^; Or herbal tea with valerian in it.

      Thank you for your comment!

      Like

  12. Hello! I came by your post from the Community Pool, and I’m glad I did. It’s not very often that I find very good writers. I haven’t experienced having that kind of anxiety but I think this will help me understand (and hopefully deal with) people who have. Keep writing! 🌻

    Liked by 1 person

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