I’m a catastrophizer. For those unfamiliar with that (mostly made up) term, basically, it means I have a tendency of making something small into something enormous. And that’s not even (just) a that’s what she said reference.
I’ve had this problem all my life, I think, at least as long as I can remember. I tend to find something small that is a problem. Just something that is a little worrisome, a little troubling, but nothing super horrendous. And then I blow it out of proportion. I make it the center of my universe, and by default, the center of my loved ones’ universes and focus all my attention on it until it gets better or worse, or goes away some other way. My problems become life sucking vortexes for as long as it takes to resolve them.
The most classic example of this has been my health. I had a headache every day for 2 years. That reality really doesn’t need any additional catastrophizing because even from a relatively objective point of view, it was horrible. It really was. But I let it be the center of my entire universe for many of those 24 months, which, if anything, made it even worse. I lost who I was in that headache. I lost a lot of my marriage. I lost my passion for many things. I let it take over my entire life. I let it be me, be my mission in life, be my identity.
And since that headache is (oh thank God) gone, my focus has shifted.
First it was on the irritable uterus of doom, which yes, without any extra catastrophizing sucked and was scary, but I made it worse by letting it run my life for a while. More recently, it was on the baby’s eating. He has never been a big eater and has, even since birth, been on the very low end of the weight curve. At a recent appointment, the pediatrician was concerned about him dropping to an even lower percentile and made some very general suggestions that we work harder on his weight gain. And then he got sick and his appetite dipped even further. Then he got sicker. Then he had 4 days in a row where for various reasons he vomited (a lot) and he lost 3/4 of a pound from Wednesday afternoon to Sunday morning. And boom. A catastrophe was born.
I honestly think I come to this habit in a not dramatic way, even though that’s obviously how it plays out. It is in my nature to fix things. I feel most needed and most useful when I am fixing a problem. And so I think it’s part of my personality to find and magnify problems so that I have a purpose. The baby’s eating is a problem. Fixing it gives me a sense of being needed. Having a headache was a problem. Researching and finding new doctors and treatments gave me a sense of control, of purpose in the situation. I realize it probably sounds silly and a little crazy, but it’s just how my brain works. It’s how it’s always worked.
It’s easy to say that I don’t want to do this, because I honestly get very little conscious pleasure out of it. I don’t want my life to be made of different dramas, carefully woven together, but I tend to get so engrossed in my dramas that I don’t realize until after the fact that I’ve made things worse by catastrophizing. I think most of us do this to an extent, it seems to be a relatively common thing, but I’m realizing how chronic my issues with it are and that I need to try harder.
So, 600 words later, all I’m trying to say is, hi my name is Katie and I’m a catastrophizer. And I’m working on it.