Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Worrying About Worrying

The women in my family are experts at excessive worrying. Lately, I have become the grand prize winner. Which of course causes me to worry more, and them to worry about me.

I've tried to analyze it all. (Over-analyzing everything is, I'm told, one of the trademarks of those who live with over-the-top anxiety.)

But here is what it looks like to me:

You're on a fantastic safari, being driven down a primitive road in the wilds of Africa. Surrounding you is lush scenery like you've never seen before. Extraordinarily vivid colors, coffee table book landscapes. The animals are peaceful. They look, with bored nonchalance, at your Jeep as it goes by. The lions lie in the shade and lick their paws. The elephants yawn, their ears billowing lazily. The sun is shining on your face, your very well-trained, even well-armed tour guide is pointing out interesting sites filled to the brim with local myth. All is well. All is manageable.

Suddenly, you throw the driver out of his seat and commandeer the vehicle. You drive thirty miles out of the way, jump out of the Jeep, and find a tiny, sleeping non-poisonous snake, warming himself on a rock.

"What about THIS?!" you bellow. "You didn't warn me about this vicious poisonous snake!"

"But white devil lady," he explains. "This is only a harmless snake, and it is sleeping. And you've driven us 30 miles off track."

"HARMLESS?" You pick up the snake and pry its mouth open, get out the fake plastic fangs you have brought with you, pour them full of the stinky venom you have purchased from a shady online business, and glue them into the mouth of the perplexed, still sleepy snake.

"It's going to kill me!" you scream. You run in crazed circles, holding the snake, who only wants its mommy. "We're all going to die!"

You run at the driver, and at the tour guide, brandishing the now-poisonous, terrified snake.

They shoot you. In both legs.

This is my vision of how the over-anxious brain works. There are, of course, real things to be afraid of. Real pain, real grief, stressful decisions, bludgeoning losses. They must be considered, worked with, prayed about, freaked out over. But the freaking has to be limited. Especially the freaking over the imaginary, possible, but very unlikely scenarios.

It is difficult to retrain the snarling mind. But I'm hoping to at least get the leash on it.

If you've retrained yours, I'd love to hear about it.


  • At 4:03 AM, Blogger Steve B said…

    Wow. This sounds waaaaayyyy too much like some of the girls I dated. Luckily I can use the past tense.

    My wife is a bit of the worrier, but not quite that bad.

  • At 8:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Gawd, that was funny.

  • At 11:03 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Well of course those girls you dated were big worriers, Steve. They were trying to snag you, and not succeeding.
    Makes for a nail biter.

  • At 11:04 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Scott, there are vials of venom in our refrigerator. Please do not spill them, or put them on our salad.

  • At 12:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Worry? I work for an auto supplier, no worries here, none at all... Actually, your snake isn't sounding so scary these days.

  • At 1:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I wish I had an insightful mind-retraining story for you, Candy. But as my mom has pointed out on many, many occasions, I worry about my child falling down a well...even though I have neither a child nor a well.

    And that husband of yers is right: that was funny as all get out!

  • At 7:03 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Kirby! Come on out and get this very tall glass of wine I just poured for you.

    We can belittle the snake.

  • At 7:03 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Jackie O., You could've fooled me. You've always seemed like a NON-worrier to me. Man, you fake it good.


  • At 10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh shit that was funny. And entirely reasonable. I'm pretty sure that any day now I'm going to be caught in a terrorist attack at my local Publix. So I must be armed. But I have a four year old. So I'll get one with a lock. But I'm always around children. TERRORISTS. DUH. Only more reason to be armed!! For the children! Is that chest pain? My dad had a heart attack. I'm going to have a heart attack and leave the children motherless and no one is ever going to turn Oak into The Best Constitutional Scholar This Side Of Jefferson. Or James Madison. Whatever. Wow my foot hurts. Probably gout. Can you die of gout?

    Oh, look. A perfectly harmless lion. Licking his paw. Probably has gout.

  • At 10:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Candy, things are looking up... lotto is up to 207 Million tonight - that's my new plan. IF I don't win, might need to head to your place for that wine and whine...

  • At 4:10 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Ana, you are, to your misfortune, a kindred spirit to the anxiety filled Candy.

    Lion gout. Isn't there a foundation for that? Or at least a "We Are the World" type songfest?

  • At 4:11 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Dang, Kirby! Come here if, er, WHEN you win, too! Think of the nice boxes of wine we can get with all THAT!

  • At 4:56 AM, Blogger Steve B said…

    There's actually a name for this. Be danged if I can remember what it is. It's almost like you become "addicted" to the fear/stress. If you don't have it, you're not sure how to cope. Not that you're really coping anyway. By you find a strange sort of security and/or familiarity. You are so used to being in "fight or flight" mode, because of your family life growing up, abusive relationship, whatever, that NOT have an impending crisis every second if very unnerving.

    You actually go out of your way to create a crisis if there isn't one, often sabotaging relationships, jobs, whatever in the process.

    I mean, at least that's what I've heard. Not that I've ever done that, mind you.

  • At 10:50 AM, Blogger c . . . said…

    i recently learned that my sister and i share a tendency to morbid worry about the safety of the people we love (i.e. Anna/other loved one is 5 minutes late and we are suddenly sure that she is gone forever).

    i also always worry while driving ... something about hurtling along at 70 mph in a little box of steel surrounded by a bunch of other nincompoops doing the same thing makes me worried about mortality ...

  • At 1:00 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Some of the stuff I'm reading says that people get used to the fight or flight and can't turn it off. It becomes a "victim role" and you're exactly right: It provides comfort and familiarity and big freak-out if you try to step out of it.
    A friend of mine used to describe it as always having his radar on, watching out for the next missile coming at him. It never turned off.

    It's amazing, the power of the mind, and the power it has to work against us. Especially if you have a big imagination.

    I've had my radar on my whole life, but it turned on full blast for me about 3 months ago, and then the switch broke. Trying to make a work-around. :)

    And no, not that you've ever done that. Mind you.

  • At 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So is it weird that sometimes I wish I would get deathly ill or seriously injured and end up in the hospital because I am so friggin' tired? And I crave some quiet? I know people say one never gets any rest in a hospital, but it has to be more rest than I get here at home. And I know people talk about hospital food being terrible, but when I was in there after childbirth, I didn't think the food was that bad. I didn't have to cook it!

    I know. This is terrible of me and I know that people who have really serious health issues will think that I am making light of their situations, which I am not.

    I am just a freak, is all.

  • At 1:02 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    c... As rational and stable as you have always seemed to me, this is kind of comforting. That even YOU go into the crazy/morbid worry.

    Traffic. Yes. Definitely.

    Balancing the human condition is very complex.

  • At 12:44 AM, Blogger Steve B said…

    I've often found that a well-developed sense of fatalism can often offset the worry complex.

    You make the mental leap into, "Well, if the gas stove explodes and kills me while I'm making Mac-n-Cheese, then at least I won't have to help clean up the mess."

    I'm not sure if it's better or worse, but putting less emphasis on giving a crap if you live or die can make it easier to deal with nightmares about the runaway delivery van crashing through your living room while you're watching American Idol.

    Of course, the downside is, you run the risk of sitting their in bemused ironic disinterest the one time there really IS a UPS van headed your way.

    And then one day you stop looking both ways before you cross the street, just because, and suddenly realize that now you've got a REAL problem. Or you wait just a little longer than you should to put on the brakes coming up to the traffic jam, because you're wondering, what would happen if you know...didn't?

    Dunno what the answer is.

  • At 8:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    I know what you're saying. I have often thought that while I do fantasize about a guilt-free rest in the hospital, if I actually did have a real problem, I probably would be crying and wishing that I had my life back the way it was.

    But I just have a feeling that I'd be very hard to kill. I've looked back at some of the stupid crap I've done, and thought, "Wow. I can't believe I came through that unscathed."

    Even now, Candy has convinced me to make a doctor appointment regarding an injury I have....and I am just irritated because I don't have time for this. I'm sure I'm fine and then the trip to the doctor will be a big fat waste of time that I don't have to begin with. But I did have a little bit of actual, real worry creep in while perusing WebMD. So I'm thinking that I'm not as apathetic as I'd like to believe.

    Besides, if I were in the hospital, if I didn't cry wishing I was better, I'd be pissed off thinking about all the catching up I'd have to do when I did get out.

    I'm just a pain in the arse. There is no pleasing me.

    The visual of the gas stove blowing up while stirring the mac & cheese cracked me up. :-) But see? Even there, I can't worry. I have electric. Pathetically safe. I will probably break the world record with the length of my life span. Sigh.

  • At 3:45 PM, Blogger E. said…

    Like C..., I am prone to morbid worry about those I love most dearly. I used to have it with my husband, and now I totally get it with my kids. But it helps just to look at the thoughts and say "that's morbid fear," and understand that it's not rational and has no actual relationship to whether my loved ones are or will be safe.

    Also, this is basic but so basic it's easy to forget: deep breaths. Taking several deep breaths in a row can help you get your mind back on the real safari and off the harmless but scary snake.

  • At 1:25 AM, Blogger Steve B said…

    I think I read a short story about this once. Some old widow, living by herself out in the country. It's bitterly cold outside, and she's only got one match left to light the fire. But she's terrified that the match won't light, and that she won't be able to light the fire, and so she'll freeze to death. She's so worried about it, works herself up into such a tizzy that she can't think about anything else.

    So she finally lights the match to test it out, and it works! And wind she opens the stove to light the fire, a gust of wind coming down the flue blows out the match.

    [story ends]

    Probably something from Edgar Allen Poe.

  • At 6:50 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Steve, That reminds me of one of my favorite movies: Fearless. Jeff Bridges gets very fatalistic and feels invincible.

    The old widow story: That kind of stuff completely freaks me out. Like that one Twilight Zone with Burgess Meredith as the only man left on Earth. He thinks "Oh great! Now I finally have time to read all my books!" And then smashes his glasses all to hell.

  • At 6:50 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    See Futuresis? I told you you should be worried. Now that you have to have an entire torso transplant, maybe you'll listen to me in the future.

  • At 6:51 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    E., When I look at my thoughts and say "You're not rational," they very irrationally chew my scalp off.

  • At 3:55 AM, Blogger Steve B said…

    HaHAAA! I so totally remember that episode! It was burned into my mind, because it was so me. Nothing to do but read, and blammo, glasses shattered. I can remember actually yelling out loud, "NOOOOO!!!" I was actually humorously pissed for a while after that. How could the writers DO that?!

    That's awesome that your remember that!

    Keyword: "scarimpt"

    As in, "scary armpit?"

  • At 4:02 AM, Blogger Steve B said…

    People with this kind of thing real bad are the kind of folks that are found in their house, frozen to death, after they wouldn't light a fire in the fireplace because they were scared of their house burning down.

    This is a very real psychological condition, but I doubt very much you are even close to that category.

  • At 4:03 AM, Blogger Steve B said…

    Word Verification = "fecoli"

    As in, feces ecoli? Ewww.

    Hey, I just invented a new internet game!

  • At 4:04 AM, Blogger Steve B said…

    Now it's "hivernie"

    A small, whine producing town in Southern France.

  • At 1:46 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Oooooh. There's something about the juxtaposition of the Burgess Meredith glasses horror with the paranoid frozen person that makes both even more scary.

    But I'm more afraid of feces ecoli in a small whining town in France.


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