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Catastrophic Thinking-all or nothing — 16 Comments

  1. Truthy, thank you for this article. My own personal abyss last year from January to September before Patrick’s parole hearing left me totally dysfunctional. I went back to my trauma counselor for a couple of months and then had to claw my way back to the top. I am determined to not EVER let this happen to me again.

    Each request I made to friends and family to write letters was a trigger and also the anxiety that he might get out threw me into the abyss as well.

    The effects of this kind of anxiety and stress literally kills brain cells and impacts our immune system leaving us vulnerable to all kinds of physical and mental problems.

    Coping in a HEALTHY manner to stress in our lives is not easy and especially when we are dealing with something that is important to us, like your friend in nursing school, or you with your court hearing, and me with Patrick’s parole.. our stress load was already heavy and that trigger pushed us over the edge.

    I hope that we can all take lessons from these experiences and take measures to not let the stress build up til it over flows. The Holmes and Rahe stress scale is a good thing (google it) to use as a guide for how much “regular” stress we have in our lives and allow us to eliminate some of it before it gets too high.

    • Joyce, I was compelled to talk about this issue because of the legal matter, but also because I was witnessing this behavior in people that I care about, as well, and that nothing is worse than falling down into that abyss.

      Someone once mentioned that the cycles of Catastrophic Thinking can actually become addictive – that the “highs” are SO euphoric, and the “lows” are so desperate that the return of the “highs” becomes a physiological response to continued trauma. So, I just want to find a balance – that’s what I’m working for, right now. BALANCE! LOL

      Yes, I can clearly understand how that trigger of Patrick’s parole caused that spin of anxiety – for one thing, there exists an actual, real-life threat if he’s released. He’s dangerous and has no remorse for his actions, at all. But, there’s also the rejection that I believe you experienced when you asked people to simply write a letter to support your cause, and this was the icing on that cake. That people would actually REFUSE to become involved, for whatever reason, knowing that Patrick is a killer. I can only imagine what a kick in the teeth that must have felt like, so…….of course, it caused anxiety.

      Balance………that’s what we’re working for, and I hope to begin “feeling” more balanced, now that it’s over. 😉

  2. Truthy, yes, two people that I LOVED DEARLY, one a close friend for over 30 years, the other about 20 and they both refused…then another gal that I felt sure would just got mad at me for asking her.

    Total strangers sent letters from all over the world from reading about my situation on a blog. Those people are absolute angels and heck even my attorney was impressed that all these letters started showing up from all over US and GB and Europe. You know, the thing is the trigger can be ANY thing and if we don’t put it down when we first get “hit” then it will act like a forest fire in a dry fall…each flame sets another fire and each of those set an addiitional one and so on and before you know it your LIFE IS BURNING DOWN.

    • Joycie, the outpouring of support across the Atlantic was impressive and very, very heartfelt – those supporters “knew” of your story and had experienced your limitless patience and unconditional support and guidance. They returned to you what you gave to the, without a second thought about it. That someone became angry that you asked them to do something for you is terrible, Joyce. Just terrible. Do these people think they’ll be on Patrick’s list to take revenge out against? They would throw you under the bus for something that they cannot even be sure of? (SNORT) I was honored to give back that tiny bit to help you and your cause……….truly honored.

      I’m still amazed (and, confounded) at the triggering after years have passed. And, I am aware of what some might be, and others just happen out of nowhere. Like in an email that someone wants me to accompany them to a craft shop, next week. I cannot go into that shop. I went there, twice, and each time I was so full of anxiety that I could barely stand still. It wasn’t anything in the shop or the store-owner, herself, that triggered this anxiety. I believe that it was caused by fear and sadness that I wasn’t doing the things that I once did so daggoned well. It was a reminder to me that I’ve been …………. idle, let’s say …………. and that I “should” feel ashamed of myself for NOT jumping back into the pit and doing what I once loved to do.

      That’s going to be something that I need to discuss with my counselor. But, the triggers CAN be anything, and people who have experienced the long-term trauma can only go to the catastrophic thinking. We don’t know how to NOT go there until someone shows us a different way to think. More importantly, until someone points it out that it even exists in our behaviors, we won’t even know that it IS catastrophic thinking. I thought EVERYONE reacted the way that I did……LOL!!!!!!

  3. Truthy,
    This article makes me wonder if there might be other, additional things that can cause All-or-Nothing thinking. Recently, I was hospitalized for a length of time and I think I was experiencing the AON thinking. It was in response to some diagnostic tests. When the test results were good, I would become so happy! and the very same day if a test came back with bad results, I would cry inconsolably. Of course I noticed the dichotomy. I noticed that it was irrational for me to feel sooooo emotionally depressed just a few hours after I had been so happy. And this happened over and over again over a period of many days. I noticed that it was unusual but I couldn’t really control my feelings. I can see now that what was happening in my mind was an example of AON thinking.

    Now I believe that it was due to some of the medications the doctors were giving me. Of course we are affected by our habitual thinking too, but I also think that food and drugs can impact our ability to control our emotions.

    I also think that it’s important to have the right perspective, the right understanding of the situation and a commitment to the truth no matter how uncomfortable. But I would not leave out the importance of the chemistry in our environment and how it affects our emotions. Changing our chemistry that way can be a very long and tedious process too, so it’s not always obvious (unless it’s prescription medications which really take effect quickly). I’m still working on my own health issues and am surprised that I have as good an attitude as I do. But I wish it was better.

    • Sky, what I have learned through counseling therapist, and from numerous other educated, trained, and reliable sources is that medical health can impact the AON response, but the Catastrophic Thinking is what is at the core of the AON.

      Each emotional/behavioral health professional that I have approached with this concern answered in the same way. So, it’s recognized, and it’s manageable. But, it’s only manageable when it’s acknowledged and accepted as a factual behavioral pattern. We can rewire our thinking processes and rewrite our beliefs to fit facts that exist in the present – we can literally dip out some of that trauma from that tank, and replace it with calm and balance. I’m just beginning this process, and it’s actually quite amazing – I thought (literally, believed) that it was all stuff and nonsense, as well as somebody just telling me bogus voodoo to shut me up and get me out of their office so that they could see the next client. Well, it’s true and it works.

      The chemistry………some things can exacerbate the symptoms of Catastrophic Thinking, including prescribed medications, and hormonal levels. But, they are not (NOT) the cause of the AON reaction or the Catastrophic Thinking that creates it.

  4. Skylar, I’m familiar with your panic and depression over your medical tests. While I realize you are a bit paranoid (just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean it isn’t TRUE LOL) about medications, the ILLNESS ITSELF will cause these fluctuations, AND when anyone is ILL they tend to have AON. I have done the same thing as well about my own health since the plane crash that killed my husband. In fact, in the summer of 2007 when I was SOOOOO in the spin cycle and in hiding from my would be killer…I got a SERIOUS tick fever, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever and allowed myself to become SO ill that I couldn’t stand. It took 2 months from the tick bite until I went to the doctor and I was so “out of whack” in my blood work that my doctor thought I ALSO had cancer and sent me to a hematologist. 20% of people with RMSF DIE if not treated and 7% die if theyARE treated. I skated that one and got okay but it was touch and go.

    Since then I have had several severe medical issues, but during my “spin cycle” over Patrick I was HYSTERICAL over my health. AND I got a raging infection that even an MRI didn’t pick up (the radiologist missed it) and only later did I recognize it myself as it has been a recurrent sinus infection. My health had been impacted because my immune system was ka-putt because of the stress.

    the AON thinking and the “making excuses” for REAL problems is a fear reaction as well,. I remember when my dad started having intermittent fevers and he SELF DIAGNOSED that it was “probably a sinus infection” (though he had NO sinus infection symptoms) as SOON as I heard that he was h aving INTERMITTENT INFECTIONS —IMMEDIATELY — I thought (as a medical professional) TICK FEVERS or CANCER which will also cause intermittent fevers, and I jerked him up and we went for a diagnosis, and unfortunately it was cancer. I didn’t have to be a “prophet” or a crystal ball reader to come to that differential diagnosis because A) we have tick fevers in this area and B) cancer will sometimes cause an intermittent fever and he was an old man so could easily have been either.

    That is one reason I am VERY careful of my health, and get regular check ups with a physician that will LISTEN TO ME if I have a symptom that is unusual. Yes, there ARE side effects to medications…Truthy’s son had a rare and serious one—and my son also has had side effects, thank goodness I was ON TOP OF them. One year at Boy Scout camp where h e worked everyone there got a SERIOUS high fever and the medicall professional there said “Oh, it’s probably just a virus” and they lay in their tents with 102 for a week. After he came home and told me that I SCREAMED at him…if you EVER get another fever like that at camp. Call ME! Because if you don’t die from something I will “Kill” you!!!!! You need to go to a doctor and have blood drawn to see WHAT it is. LOL

    As it turned out, it probably WAS just some sort of flu-like virus, but the point is, in this area, and in a place they get frequent tick bites a fever can be a red flag of something very serious.

    Because all of us have had serious stress in our lives, we must NOT IGNORE or stay in denial about medical symptoms…or about any possible drug reactions, but at the same time, some drugs which can have bad side effects (ALL drugs CAN have bad side effects) we MUST be AWARE of what our bodies are telling us and seek PROFESSIONAL medical attention rather than being like my step dad and “diagnosing” ourselves.

    AON was exactly what I was feeling before the parole hearing, and when I finally recognized it, Ii had been “spinning” for quite some time. I intend to take a LESSON from this though and be more self aware when I am feeling stressed. Better to seek medical care you don’t need than to fail to seek it when you may die. LOL

    When we are in a “panic mode” we dont’ have good judgment so we must ACT before we end up dead. LOL

    • Joyce, absolutely – the “panic mode” is a fight-or-flight response, and those of us who have experienced long-term traumas and abuses don’t experience a “normal” fight-or-flight response to an immediate threat. For us, EVERYTHING presents a threat, from the neighbors, to unexpected financial shortfalls, to the waiter at the Olive Garden – everything is perceived as a threat, so the anxiety begins to spin because we don’t trust our own instincts, anymore, and “believe” that we’re going to be harmed by these Life Events.

      The more I discussed this with my counselor and other professionals, the more incredible human behavior is to me – it’s fascinating, on every level, because I can apply all of this to my own pattern of behaviors, quite clearly. In fact, I began to write down my behaviors in a special journal – it was my “Pattern Journal.’ This journal was for me to record an event, my “feelings” or reactions, and the subsequent outcome. I did this for about 2 months, and the pattern was crystal clear.

      And, this is not to suggest that the “feelings” aren’t real – oh, the fear and desperation is 100% real, but my triggers are usually not in the present. The triggers are from my past, so it’s a long process and (sometimes) it can feel like tedious work, but it’s really opening my eyes about how deeply ingrained Catastrophic Thinking really is.

  5. Good points Truthy and Sky, definitely! I continually read MEDICAL research papers on psychology and the effects of varioius things on our thinking/feelings. SLEEP or lack of it, is another big trigger. They use sleep deprivation as a TORTURE in prisoners, and isolation from other people as well. Hormones especially in women is another trigger. I used to have PMS horribly before I hit menopause and menopause was a RELIEF to me because my mood swings left with my periods.

    Being preg can also influence a woman’s moods. Sleep wake cycles, SAD (seasonal affect disorder) from the lack of sunlight and many many things as well as our GENES. Depression, bi-polar, and MANY MANY mental abnormalities are genetic. The “skittishness” or our anxiety levels are also not only LEARNED they are also genetic. I have seen this in my life raising livestock. If you have a cow that is skittish her calves will be as well. I culled my herd as much on dfisposition as on anything, and aggressiveness is bred into some breeds of cattle (such as the Spanish fighting bulls) and into some breeds of dogs. A laid back disposition is also bred into some other breeds of cattle and dogs.

    Almost alll wild animals will maintain that wildness no omatter how “tame” you get them from raising them from babies and socializing them. That’s why wild animal trainers get hurt or killed. A while ago I saw on the news where a man who had been taking care of a retired circus elephant for over 30 years was trampled to death. I know a bit about elephants (Indian and African kinds both) and there is NO WAY that was an accident. That Indian elephant intended to kill him or she would not have stepped on him. They have very sensitive feet and know exactly where they are putting them.

    Big cats can be “very sweet:” part of the time and then in an INSTANT eat you. You can NEVER fully trust them and anyone who does is an idiot. It ONLY takes ONE time and you are toast forever.

    I don’t expect my house cat to bite me, but you never know for sure, so make her 200-400 pounds and out of the wild and see what happens. Cat’s have staff and dogs have masters. And wild cats WILL hurt you, it is just a matter of when. House cats have vbeen “domesticated” for thousands of eyars but they still have that wildness in them that many dogs gave up thousands of years ago.

  6. I ran across an interesting article today about how STRESS literally KILLS our brains and our ability to think..

    Stress is affecting your brain much more than you think. Sure, you’ve experienced the distraction, forgetfulness, negativity or anxiety that comes from stressful situations, but did you know it’s also shrinking your brain? Hormones released in response to stress not only affect brain function, they also change the physical structure of your brain.

    The stress hormone cortisol can kill, shrink, and stop the generation of new neurons in a portion of the brain called the hippocampus. (1) The hippocampus is critical for learning, memory and emotional regulation, as well as shutting off the stress response after a stressful event is over: all much-needed processes in both our professional and personal lives.

    Chronic stress can also shrink the medial prefrontal cortex. (2) This negatively affects decision making, working memory, and control of impulsive behavior. Stress also has the ability to affect stem cells, inhibiting access to the prefrontal cortex, where we plan complex cognitive behavior and moderate social interaction. The result is a brain that is less capable of learning and memory, and more prone to anxiety and depression.

    From my own experience with PTSD and chronic stress I can say ” AMEN! to that!”

    Which is why it is SO IMPORTANT that we find peace within ourselves to stop the damage to our minds and brains.

    • It is finally “common knowledge” that stress kills. I knew that stress was “bad,” but I never realized how lethal it really was. In fact, I believed that “stress” was part-and-parcel of having a family and I never knew what “normal” really was.

      YES…….finding the peace within ourselves is the ONLY way to manage the stress, I believe. We cannot change other people or manipulate situations to be non-stressful. We can only alter our own thinking, beliefs, responses, and behaviors. The damages can be repaired and we can literally “rewire” our thinking, beliefs, and responses, in due time. But, it takes learning to quite the mind before the world becomes a little calmer.

      • I agree that we can mitigate the effects of stress to some extent, but I firmly believe that after an extremely stressful existence that we are never going to be “the same”—we will be “different” but that isn’t always a bad thing. LOL

        • Joyce, LMAO!!!!!!! I am actually grateful for my experiences, as crazy as that might sound. I was just talking with my therapist about that very subject.

          I am not the same person that I was, and I never want to be “that person,” again. I will never be a doormat, again, nor will I set aside my own needs for someone else’s. I won’t look the other way or sit the fence. And, I have not ONE problem with walking away from someone who is toxic to me.

          You’re absolutely right – sometimes, it’s not a bad thing, at all! 😀

  7. In reading through some older articles I thought this one was excellent…and reminds me that it is a daily affair to keep stress low in my life. To take care of myself and not allow situations to throw me into chaotic thinking.

    • Joyce, it is an ongoing process for me. I know that I get “aggressive” when I’m afraid – the aggression is supposed to ***hide*** the fear, but it only makes for a vortex of anxiety. I recognized this when I was dealing with some of the studio people, and I really needed that reminder of MY behaviors and what they’re associated with.

      Yes………catastrophic thinking was a dreadful disease for me that I’m STILL working on!

  8. Right Truthy, FEAR can make one (any one) aggressive. And lots of things can make us grouchy. and in catastrophic thinking we don’t usually make good decisions. and sometimes become aggressive or combative. Just think about the sweetest dog in the world, that would never bite anyone, and make that dog afraid or injure it and it Will usually bite any hand that reaches out to it, even the hand of the beloved master.

    And yes, Truthy getting out of that catastrophic run of thinking is absolutely NECESSARY in order to recover from the effects of trauma.

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