Sunday 12 September 2021

Nerd Church - Bad Luck vs Catastrophizing

Warning: this post discusses: Anxiety, intrusive thoughts, cognitive distortions, catastrophizing, knives, spiders, video game deaths, and brief references to mouse killing and car crashes

Disclaimer time:
I am not any type of mental health, psychological, scientific, or medical professional. 

I am someone with a blog and personal experience of mental health problems.

'Bad Luck vs Catastrophizing' against a sparkly background

One time, when I was drying the dishes, I set off a mouse-trap* style chain reaction and a sharp knife whizzed past my head before clattering to the floor.

Because that’s the kind of thing that happens to me.

*The game, not the mouse murder device.

Recently, I’ve been watching Sanders Sides – a web series from YouTuber Thomas Sanders, where he plays a variety of characters who represent different aspects of his thoughts and personality.

The first video I actually watched was from the spin-off Sanders Asides series, because it popped up on my YouTube recs.

(You can see it here, be aware of mild flashing images, and take notice of the warnings provided at the beginning of the video.)

It’s about dealing with intrusive thoughts.

It’s the second video that Thomas Sanders has made about this, with this one being specifically to do with dealing with this sh** when you’re trying to get sh** done.

Anyhow (SPOILERS, I guess,) at one point the character which represents Thomas’ intrusive thoughts, Remus, sets off a roomba...

...which, mouse-trap* style, ends up knocking a sharp knife into the garbage disposal, and launches it across the room, narrowly whizzing over Thomas’ head.

*still the game

It’s not made 100% clear, but the implication is that this is supposed to be an example of things that are too far-fetched to happen in real life.


Back when I was at school, I made it half-way up a staircase before somehow kicking my shoe off through the gap in the stairs, and having to walk all the way down to get it

 – which was against the flow of traffic, so… I’m short, and it was terrifying.

When I was doing an exam once, spiders repeatedly fell on my desk from the gym rope above me. I’m scared of spiders, for the record.

Once, I somehow ended up with nail polish in my coffee – so I threw the coffee out in the sink, and through a quirk of fate and physics, all of the coffee bounced off the sink and ended up splattered over the kitchen tiles.

All this is to say: if something can wrong, it will go wrong – to me.

dividing line

There’s a concept of cognitive distortion* (your brain warping stuff) that comes with Anxiety, and sometimes with intrusive thoughts (amongst other things,) known as catastrophizing.

(It’s also sometimes known as magnification.)

With catastrophizing, your brain automatically goes to the worst case scenario, and/or sees minor issues as massive ones.

An example would be assuming a speeding car is going to crash into you, even if it’s nowhere near you, or moving away from you. Or assuming if you do one task poorly, then it means you’re a failure at life in general.

*PDF link

I have a thorny problem when it comes to catastrophizing – how do you tell your brain that something won’t happen, when it – or something like it – has happened before?

How do you tell yourself that the spider won’t bother you, and won't come anywhere near you, when the jumping ones seem to have a specific interest in your bedroom?

Or when for some reason they are obsessed with your shower – when they come down from the ceiling in order to bask in your shower? (I swear to God.)

(I really don't like spiders - can you tell?)  

How do you tell yourself that nothing will go ‘wrong’ with your business, your personal life, or just your day, when it so often does?

There have been several situations where people are like, ‘you’ll be fine!’ and I’m like, ‘No, you’ll be fine – I will get hurt.’

(Gym and PE lessons were a big one for that. So many bruises on my knees from teachers’ lies. 

I am short and curvy, so arranging the equipment for tall girls with small boobs and then expecting me to use it was never a recipe for my success.)

Plus time-keeping is a nightmare, and I’m 99% sure I’ll get lost in any given location, because Dyscalculia.

Random unlucky sh** is far more pronounced when I play video games

 – I’m not a big gamer, but I’ll go through phases where I’ll play games a lot over the period of a few months, and then I won’t touch them again for a few years.

But I am a walking disaster area in video games.

Once, when playing Zelda, I accidentally launched Link off a cliff, bounced off a building, fell into the ocean, and drowned.

...Honestly, I didn’t think this was possible. But apparently it is. 

(I mean… why would they even programme in that possibility…?)

Also, if you stand in the fire in a Sims game, you will die there too. For the record.

I try not to let my often bizarre luck become a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it’s hard sometimes, especially when Anxiety really latches on to something and goes to town on the catastrophizing.

As with many things, I don’t have an answer – just a willingness to try and balance things out, as hard as that may be.

dividing line

There’s also the flip-side of course: random sh** and general bad stuff happens so often in my life that a lot of the time I just deal with it and move on.

Resilience and all that!

Plus a lot of the time the unlucky stuff that happens is (thank God or whoever else might be listening) not a big deal, and is more of an inconvenience than anything.

And also makes for some mildly amusing anecdotes...

Me: The oregano made it so my elbow is covered in coffee, so I’ma have to put this dressing-gown in the wash.

Dad: ...what?

Mam: OK, so my guess is – you opened the cupboard and the oregano jar rolled out, onto the counter where it kept rolling. 

You caught it before it smashed on the floor, but you somehow stuck your elbow in your coffee cup when you reached over to grab it.

Dad: *shocked Pikachu face* 

Shocked Pikachu face with exclamation points above it
Via Giphy

Dad: Did you set booby traps for her like in Home Alone?!

Mam: No, it’s just the kind of thing that I’d do. And possibly have done at some point, I can’t remember every little mishap.

...yes, it’s apparently genetic.

Do you struggle with catastrophizing?
Has the oregano ever covered your elbow in coffee? πŸ˜…
Talk to me! πŸ˜ŠπŸ’¬

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  1. Me??? Having intrusive thoughts???? I don't know anything about that XD. Anyways, yes, I sadly relate to all of this, Cee. My intrusive thoughts as related to my OCD can get pretty dark, but I also have these moments of cognitive distortion as well. My therapist always tells me to not fight the thoughts, just let them pass. Meds can help, but also using coping thoughts to bring yourself back to reality. But, even just knowing you're not alone can be helpful too.

    1. *hugs*

      You're a rock star, Em. Like I said, where I struggle the most is at the intersection between catastrophizing and my general bad luck - it doesn't help to tell me it won't happen when I know it's happened to me before!

      If you get chance/want to/are able to, then I do rec. the Sanders Sides videos on intrusive thoughts - they're really well researched and informative, as well as being entertaining af!


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