SOMATIZING, CATASTROPHIZING, AND REALLY TAKING CARE OF MYSELF

Every now and then I can’t resist a bit of somatizing.  It usually occurs when I fall into a pattern of catastrophizing. Catastrophizing is when I start to get afraid that something normal is way worse than it really is.  This is my time of year for catastrophizing.  Somatizing always takes my mind off of it.

The trick is to keep it under control and not let it get out of hand and become something real to worry about. It’s also contagious. If I start somatizing, next thing I know my household is complaining about something. Pretty soon, the vet has to be called for the dogs; the husband coughs and gets into bed with what he claims is “the flu”; My daughter, feeling tired, races to 24-hour emergency care for a mono test; and my son comes home from Jujitsu with what appears to be a broken nose.  Fortunately, he showed himself to be more mentally healthy than me because when I declared his nose broken, he declared me crazy, and went to sleep dragging a bag of frozen peas I insisted he carry to bed with him.  Come to think of it, I wonder where he stashed those peas once he ditched them in his room.img_8725

I come from a heritage of somatizing rooted in catastrophe.  My maternal grandmother died at 54, a victim of genetically linked breast and ovarian cancers.  My mother planned her own death for her first 54 years.  Living past 54 was a shock. At 70, when my mother was finally diagnosed with breast cancer, albeit non-genetic, she called me urgently.  The moment we had all been waiting for had arrived.

“You must go to my doctor immediately.  You should have a double mastectomy.”  She said into the phone.

I had to stop and think.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer and I was supposed to get a double mastectomy?

This conversation occurred outside my children’s’ elementary school.

“I have to go,” I said.  “I am late.”  And by go, I meant really go.  Go away from the wish-fulfillment of bad things happening, go away from crazy thinking.  Go away from the sickening idea that I should mutilate my perfectly healthy body because my mother had cancer.

But she taught me well and its hard to lose the habit of somatizing. Maybe a bit of well-timed somatizing can be okay as long as it stays in control.
eyeMy eye surgery was just the thing.  A contained procedure with the goal of looking refreshed. I have scheduled and cancelled it four times over the past two years.  But this week, I went through with it.  I tell friends that I wanted to remove the bags from above and below my eyes, but to be fair, I also wanted an excuse to take a week off.  I craved that neurotic connection to using illness as an excuse.
The good news is that the surgery went well and my dip into Münchausen syndrome has not yet appeared to come with a cost other than financial.  At least, not yet.  It’s only been a few days.

However, it is true that somatizing is contagious. I try to limit my hyper focus on illness to my dogs.  My

Poodle in a Stroller
Poodle in a Stroller

10-year-old poodle is in a stroller because his legs hurt, the 8-month-old cockapoo is getting ear drops for her ear infection which is most likely caused by food allergies, the 12-year-old havanese is on Melatonin for her mood disorder because it relaxes her, and the 2-year-old shitzu bichon is on a very restricted diet for his food allergies

The good news is that my husband seems healthy and my kids are largely avoiding me and my raccoon-looking eyes.

In our fast-paced, break-neck rambunctious life, it’s hard to put the brakes on. It’s hard to say no to every invite without an excuse. Saying “I am worried that my world is falling apart and I better stay in bed until these feelings pass” just won’t work.  So instead, I planned a little illness, a small surgery, a little break from my life.
Maybe next time, I will just carve out a little time for myself and spare everyone the drama, expense, worry, and even worse, the temptation to hurt themselves so that they can get attention too.

Takeaway – Dig deeper than the normal narrative.

Recipe –  Tea and Toast – Pampering without Pain

My Grandmother’s mother was a Russian who read Pushkin and drank her tea with Cherry preserves

img_8724When I don’t feel well, I drink hot water with the juice of a half lemon and 1 teaspoon of cherry preserves.  I love the bite of cherry soaked in the lemon water.  For me, it’s better than tea.

For the toast, one slice of Caraway seeded rye bread slightly toasted with melted salted butter is heaven.

 

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