Wednesday, May 09, 2007

She's got a point there, kids.

I have very ambivalent feelings toward the whole glass half full/half empty thing these days. I come from a long line of Chicken Littles, I am well aware of my own hereditary and learn'd response to immediately start projecting the direst possible outcome for, like, a hangnail. What I've firmly come to believe: most of the time, That Doesn't Help. (which does not, please note, mean that I won't do it anyway a fair percentage of the time. I'm working on it.)

but, as Liz reminds me, there -are- times when just melting down into an incoherent primal puddle is really the only -sane- response. And:

Another common response to a meltdown was for a concerned onlooker to try to silence my uproar (or end my silence) by trying to rope me into denial, minimizing the problem. "Oh, it's probably nothing!" they might chirp gaily, gazing past the swollen lymph nodes that had ballooned up overnight to the size of hens' eggs. Or, "A 104 degree fever's not so high! Six weeks isn't such a long time to wait for treatment! That enormous needle they're about to stab straight into your bone could be a lot longer! You're going to be fine, you've just got to quit being so negative."

I've bitched about the whole bootstraps-happyface attitude thing repeatedly, but let me sum it up here by saying this: It's tantamount to an American sitting in a nice safe suburban living room offering glib advice to somebody who's screaming and cowering in burning exploding Baghdad basement. "Don't you think you're overreacting just a bit?" the glib American says. "Sure, another bomb could fall on you any minute, or armed soldiers could rush in there in a blast of gunfire and wipe out your entire family. But you know what, a meteorite could also fall on me any minute, and I could die too. But you don't hear me screaming, do you? You just can't spend your whole life being upset and freaked out! Now get out there and enjoy every minute you have left with a positive attitude, and stop subjecting us to these annoying meltdowns."

17 comments:

louisa said...

this is right on.

Trinity said...

I have PTSD. "Don't melt down" is like "don't breathe."

That said... people can get into patterns of exposing themselves to triggers on purpose, and that's... weird. and unproductive.

Sassywho said...

I like how raw meltdowns are, there's a soul in it somewhere.

Zan said...

Oh, hell yes. This I understand. And you know, if one more person every says to me "You know, other people are much sicker than you are" I will not be responsible for stabbing them in the eyes.

belledame222 said...

I mean, there are certain personalities, okay, which I am not entirely unfamiliar with *koff*, who melt down on a daily or even hourly basis. and maybe you even understand what the hell their problem is and maybe you don't (sometimes they don't even admit there -is- a problem, that this is all perfectly normal and justifiable behavior, it's everyone -else- who has the problem), but, I think it is excusable to extricate oneself from that...energy, let's say, if one finds it personally overwhelming and draining.

but that is sort of the opposite extreme, i think, of what Liz is talking about there.

i mean, if you can't melt down in -those- circumstances, when the fuck -can- you melt down?

Ravenmn said...

As is often the case, I defer to Buffy:

Tree: pretty.

Central Content Publisher said...

My Aunt was very sick, and very likely about to die. She was in a lot of pain, and though there was hope of prolonging her life, there was no hope for respite. The rest of her life would be characterized by pain at the edge of her grave. And then, ultimately, just the grave.

Considering her predicament, she began to wonder about dying - probably for the first time in her life. Anyone who's gone through the process of trying to resolve one of life's most uncomfortable inevitabilities knows how difficult that process can be. My aunt, not surprisingly, turned to her immediate family. But they would have none of it.

"Be positive", they said. "Don't talk like that", "I wont hear you talking about that", "don't be foolish", and so forth. Positive thinking (TM) not only left my Aunt to sort out her date with death on her own, but left her to do so feeling belittled, somewhat infantilized, and worst of all, doubting her own sanity.

More often than not, I find positiveness little more than a shelter for the fearful. Which I suppose, would be fine - as far as self-delusions go - if it didn't require admonishing the so-called negative thinker.

belledame222 said...

Yeah. I think "realism" would be ideal, you know.

like i say, i grew up with kind of the opposite of "think positive," not so much "look, realistically, here's the situation as it is right now, and here are some of the most probable outcomes" but O MY GOD WHAT'S THAT GO TO THE DOCTOR RIGHT NOW O WORRY WORRY WORRY WORRY WORRY oh apparently that one was really nothing WELL NEVER MIND WHAT ABOUT THIS, HUH, WHAT IF WHAT IF WHAT IF WHAT IF...

belledame222 said...

...in other words, -both- shelters for the fearful; it's just that the shelter i'm more familiar with is more like running into the shower to avoid getting wet by the rain.

belledame222 said...

I'm sorry about your Aunt, that's awful.

If and when I get into a damn grad program, I'm thinking I might like to work in a hospice for my internship. we have very fucked up attitudes about death, on the whole, and I'd like to maybe try and grapple with it.

Central Content Publisher said...

It's a worthy endeavor. I tried to help my Aunt as best I could, but it's hard when the family closest to her is mostly working against the idea of addressing death. I finally managed to convince a cousin to just listen to her mom, and basically let her think out loud.

And yeah, absolutely, the reverse can be true. Despair can be like a cool blanket that keeps us safe from the demands of the sun.

Of course, there's something to be said for indulging in dramatics. Especially if it's somewhat ritualized. Sometimes, demons need to be exercised before one can exorcise them.

belledame222 said...

Agreed; just, well again going off my experience, if you're just going around and around like a hamster wheel with no resolution in sight, maybe time to try something else.

but then i suspect obsessive-compulsion runs in the family; certainly at least massive anxiety does.

Central Content Publisher said...

It's hard to step off the treadmill sometimes. I have a number of my own mills that I occasionally find myself indulging in. Sometimes, it takes every bit of willpower I have to kick myself out of the loop. But when you start looping about being trapped in a loop, well, that's when it gets scary - if you know what I mean.

I have two prime strategies for dealing with it. The first is probably the most obvious: I force myself to think about something else. This is sometimes harder than it sounds though. When you think about it, it's a very vulgar head-on approach - forcing out the thoughts that you know aren't good for you. If it works, it's the quickest way, but it has a risk to it. One can find oneself looping around the conflict of trying to force the bad-thoughts out, or simply locked in yet another internal conflict.

My other strategy is a little more sneaky. When I find myself circling over old-news, rather than fight against my suspicions, fears, and anxieties, I indulge them to fantastically cartoonish extremes (note: public spaces are best avoided for such things). Anxiety over social status at work becomes global apocalypse; insults become hot pokers; and minor injustices become epic martyrdoms. In my case, I set these therapeutic fantasies to music, cause, well, that's my thing. Sometimes I write them down. The key is cartoonish exaggeration. After you've faced the twenty foot demon, the beer-bellied one next door doesn't seem so fearsome.

arrogantworm said...

Thank you for bringing up an alternate idea of dealing with stressful past by gross exaggeration, C.C.P. I've just been telling myself 'Once more, into the Gap' for current events and then cling for dear life, and while it sorta works, it isn't the best strategy available by a long shot so your sneakier idea looks like it has merit.

On 'positive outlook', well, I hate it. I've tried it, it does nothing for me and it seems to require that I ignore the probable occurance of likely events. Past is past, sure, but when situations keep repeating themselves, there's no use ignoring it. Which ironically enough, seems to make meltdowns worse when it happens because then I'd believed something better would happen and experienced shock when it didn't.

belledame222 said...

When situations keep repeating themselves...well, then ideally i'd probably want to sit down and take as clear-eyed a look as possible at what any possible common denominators and what's really at the root of this; and what, if any, part is under my control, and if it's me who keeps repeating something, well, that's something that might bear even more examination.

if it really is external events conspiring against me, then, well, again, try to look at it, as much as possible, without judgment, just: these are the facts that I know. okay. now: here are some possible outcomes. here's what I can do to affect them, or at least what i can do in the event of outcome x, y, or z if those are not under my control. the stuff that's not under my control: take a deep breath and try to let it go, not the feelings, necessarily (FFUUUUUCCKKK!!!!), but the idea that i -should- be able to -fix- this, dammit. if, realistically, there's nothing i can do, if i look at it -honestly- and thoroughly, then--there's nothing i can do.

in theory.

swearing and screaming and weeping is always a reliable fallback when i'm not mature/disciplined enough to do all that...

arrogantworm said...

I was never much for screaming and weeping, I'm more of a panic and whine/complain kind of guy. Although I excel at the swearing and I'm suprised my plants haven't wilted yet. Some of the repetative-ness is undoubtably due to me, but I've looked and I can't figure out what all of it is, although I've managed to break one rather large bad habit, go me. The overly large chunk is due to circumstance, though, and I've yet to figure out how to worm my way out of it. The light at the end of the tunnel always turns out to be a damn train.

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