Feed on

Catastrophic Thinking

Since I was very young, I’ve always been prone to catastrophic thinking. More than prone: If it were a sport, I’d be in medal contention. For the uninitiated and unencumbered, catastrophic thinking is when you take one negative possibility, extrapolate it to it’s (il)logical extreme, and end up at a worst-case scenario.

When I was in school (elementary, middle, high, college, and grad school), I could take one possible bad test or paper grade and assume the repurcussions were so great that I’d never make it to whatever the next level of schooling was and would clearly end up in a gutter.

When I entered the work force, catastrophic thinking continued. It was obvious to me that any work problem would result in my being fired, I’d never find a job again, and I’d end up in a gutter.

I almost had a handle on this–or at least could recognize it for what it was–when Simon came along. Now I think I’ve taken catastrophic thinking to an entirely new level. Yesterday, Simon had a particularly fussy period around his 8:00 feeding. He was crying, I went to nurse him, and instead of feeding and calming down he shrieked even louder and got hysterical. Well, believe you me he had company!

I got wound up myself and began assuming the following:

  1. Simon was rejecting nursing from me. He was associating me with reflux and was on a nursing strike.
  2. If this rejection continues, I will have a malnurished child since he also rejected a bottle when we tried.
  3. Further, this pain seems greater than normal. Obviously, Simon’s umbilical hernia is complicated and requires surgical repair.
  4. Dear God it’s a Friday night and the pediatrician’s office is closed. Do I go to the emergency room?
  5. If I make the wrong decision or ignore this, my child might end up an emotional or physical cripple.
  6. If that happens, he could end up the gutter and it will be ALL MY FAULT

So there it is. Textbook catastrophic thinking. And I could not see it at all, as at the end of the day I am frequently exhausted and this context (Simon) is new to me. Truly, I thought I was being totally rational–if not a bit stereotypically Jewish–in my mothering and could not understand how Matt could remain so calm when something was obviously greviously wrong with his child.

Forty-five minutes into this panic Simon passed some gas, pooped, stopped fussing, flashed me a great big smile, nursed happily, and slipped into a six-hour sleep.

So for now, the gutter is averted. The sanitorium? Possibly not. But certainly the gutter. Perhaps I’ll remember this the next time and let someone else take home the gold medal in catastrophic thinking.

2 Responses to “Catastrophic Thinking”

  1. harriette says:

    All first-time mothers are catastrophic thinkers! After my lovely experiences with David and his 3 months of screaming and laying flat out in my arms every time he had a gas bubble, I thought I had survived the worst. But when Ian developed asthma at age 2, I was just about suicidal. Fortunately, I had been to several new age seminars by then and remembered to “breathe”. I’m pretty sure that it’s only after the 3rd or 4th child and you’re still going right to catastrophe when they cry that you have to worry .

  2. kahootz says:

    Now, you see…father’s tend to get a bad reputation for the opposite of catastrophic thinking. We’ll call it “He’llbefine-ism.”

    When a child is crawling into an unknown corner of a room, the dad will say, “Bahh. He’ll be fine.” When the kid is teetering on the precipice of a local and overly rusted set of monkeybars, they dad will establish his confidence in the child’s resiliency by declaring, “Bahh. He’ll be fine.” And on that most special of occasions when the son calls home from having to spend a night in the local jail for indecent exposure during an all night Jager-thon at the local frat house, the father will acknowledge and honor the son’s independence by bestowing upon that son the blessing, “Bahh, you’ll be fine.”

    Now, why is “He’llbefine-ism” (and the associated “you’llbefine-ism”) important and undeserving of criticism? Because it provides a much needed balance to Jessica’s Catastrophic Thinking.

    You average Catastrophe and He’llbefine-ism, you’ll come out with a kid that will panic sometimes, and play it cool others.

    Wait a sec, Moira’s trying to fit a bag of marbles up her nose. Bahh…she’ll be fine.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.