What? Me, Worry?

Mark Twain said something about cats and hot stoves. “We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it – and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit on a hot stove lid again – and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.

If you care for someone with Multiple Sclerosis, you know life can be like a commercial kitchen with all the burners lit up. But, for sanity’s sake, its important to follow Twain’s advice and not expect every stove to be hot. Another saying (related to paranoia) is, “just because you worry about something, doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”

Me, I’m not a worrier by nature. But when I do find myself worrying about something, it’s usually not something I’m only imagining might happen. When I worry, it’s usually about things that have actually already happened, things that I know could happen again with similar or even worse consequences.

A good example occurred last week as I was driving home for lunch. The drive takes me just a few minutes, but on the way home, I thought about the fact that I had been in meetings all morning long and hadn’t talked with my wife. She had still been asleep when I left the house to drop the girls off at school. After dropping them off, I went to work and straight into meetings. We had not talked all morning! Then, an almost positive thought, “Of course, she’s alright.”

During the next few minutes as I drove home, I worked through a small list of things I worry about when we’ve not touched base frequently enough: What if she fell and knocked herself out? What if she were cutting veggies and cut herself? What if she stumbled in the yard walking Einstein? What if she got her medicines mixed up?

I’m fairly rational and I find that to be a useful characteristic for managing these little worries. First, I go to statistics. I think about probability and rationalize like this, “She’s fallen in the last 12 months, so the odds are against that.” Second, I go to what I know about her habits and behaviors, “She never cuts veggies in the morning,” or “she has her meds so well organized, she can’t mix them up.”

But even with those effective “anti-worry” techniques, I’m always so relieved to arrive home and find she’s fine, that I’m grateful for the grace and enjoy a longer “welcome home” hug. And, “besides”, I tell myself, “nothing ever happens if I worry about it!”

Caregivers Tip: It’s human nature to worry about things that might happen to a loved one. Think of little worries as reminders to fix what you can to prevent the thing you worry about from happening. If you worry about a fall in the shower, install secure, grab bars and antislip strips in the shower. And find your own brain games for dealing with little worries. Because you’re going to have them. Try thinking rationally, using probability, and considering what you know about your loved one’s habits and behaviors.

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