Aug 2, 2011  •  In Aerin, Claire, Personal, Scary, Weird

Worst Case Scenarios

Lately I have been plagued with awfully vivid nightmares — ones that jolt me from sleep and keep me up the rest of the night. Take the one from a couple of nights ago, for example:

J is killed in a horrific accident.

At his funeral, his parents and I get into an argument regarding the future of Claire and BebeDeux — they want to raise them in Hong Kong while I want to raise them here in the U.S. As their birth mother, I have legal custodial rights over them and vehemently refuse to raise my children in a country I have never even visited, which results in J’s parents ceasing all contact with us.

I sell our condo, taking a great financial hit in the process, and move back in with my parents. My mother sells her store so that she can stay home with the girls while I go to work at an entry-level job because that is all that is available to me in this dismal economy.

Being a single mother to two little girls under the age of two, with the daily 1-hour commute into the city (each way) and the ever-piling bills and calls from collection agencies, I am overcome with exhaustion and grief every day.

I woke up sobbing from that nightmare, and spent the rest of the night staring — with relief — at my sleeping husband.

I have also been suffering from morbid visions that are similar to flashbacks in that they materialize suddenly and without control. Like the one I had recently while taking a trip to the supermarket:

I am walking back from the grocery store with Claire in her stroller. As I cross the street, a driver runs a red light and comes speeding toward us. I’m not sure how, but I know that I have a split second to decide whether to save Claire’s life, sacrificing mine and BebeDeux’s, or turn the other way so that I and the unborn baby inside of me will have a greater chance for survival (but would mean a certain end for Claire).

What do I do? How do I choose?

One of the reasons I tend to take the pessimistic approach to life is so that I can be prepared. So that I minimize my risks of being disappointed. Because whenever I go the optimistic route, I am always let down.

With this in mind, are these nightmares and visions just another coping mechanism? To remind myself that things could be worse? (Because as horrible as my appendicitis and resulting surgery were, they weren’t as bad as the “what if” scenarios that play out in my mind.)

Or are they just a weird pregnancy side effect?

9 Responses to “Worst Case Scenarios”

  1. Don’t equate being pessimistic with being realistic – they aren’t the same! Your scenarios are unrealistic because the odds of him dying at such a young age are low, low, low. The grocery store scenario is also very unrealistic. And daydreaming of these scenarios (which is a product of anxiety) will not make you prepared for them. You can daydream all day long about losing a child but I’m sure if you were to lose one, it would be nothing like you could have possibly imagined.

    Wasting time for preparing for things that will probably never happen is definitely an anxiety-driven activity. I call it “borrowing trouble”.

    So now that I’ve told you all this, I’ll admit that I do the same thing, and it’s often when I’m laying down for sleep at night. So, I tried my own coping mechanism against this anxious habit. I started using a mental stop sign. As badly as I’d want to play out these scenarios in my head once they started, as soon as I caught myself doing this type of daydreaming, I’d think of a huge, red, shiny STOP sign. I’d think of it until I got bored/frustrated and then I’d force myself to think of a happy thought instead.

    By doing this, I’ve significantly cut back on these thoughts, which has significantly cut back on my anxiety.

    But no, imagining these things is not a coping mechanism – it’s the exact opposite. But it shows how much you care about your life and the life of the people you love. It shows that you’re a planner. That you want to protect people. And that you get upset because you love your family very much.

    You’ve been through so much in the last couple of years, just from what I’ve read. It would cause anybody to be unrealistic/pessimistic. You have actually handled most of your trials like a trooper. And since the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior – what does that tell you about yourself? That if any of these horrible, unimaginable, very rare things really did happen – you’d probably end up okay in the long run. <3

    Use the stop sign. If not for anything but as an experiment. I want to see if you're as surprised as I was when you realize how many times per day you really think of this crap. And take note of where you are when you think about it too. For me it was almost always in the bed or in the shower – two places I'm supposed to be most relaxed!

    • Thanks for the advice. I wish that I can employ these stop signs in these cases, but I obviously do not have control over my dreams and the “visions” come suddenly and quickly, before I have the time to even internalize them! (But I do try to employ the stops whenever I catch myself thinking too morbidly.)

  2. indie_rachael:

    Pregnancy does amazing things to your brain. All those hormones are flooding your body, and your neurons literally (okay, maybe just figuratively) swim in estrogen and a sea of other chemicals.

    It unlocks something very primitive, and for once we women really become more aware of these subconscious, instinctive urges. I’m not suggesting for even a second that you’re having some kind of precognition — but maybe you’re noticing potential dangers (however remote those dangers might be) that just weren’t as “apparent” to you when you didn’t have all these hormones affecting you.

    The brain also acts faster with all the extra blood flow — I remember friends used to test my cat-like reflexes when I was pregnant with my first child. It really was something to see.

    And don’t forget that your brain uses your dreaming state to solve problems. Throw in a bunch of hormones and a brain that’s processing information better than usual, and suddenly you’re having very vivid dreams and exploring subjects that you may have been unwilling or unable to address before. You could channel some of these thoughts to buy life insurance for both of you or realistically explore what you would face if the unthinkable were to happen (it never hurts to be prepared, and it could help you sleep better knowing you have a plan).

    One last note: We hear most often about postpartum depression, but there is also postpartum OCD (and apparently perinatal OCD as well). Thoughts/dreams like you describe are perfectly normal, but in some cases women might want to see a professional if they are too upsetting (I know I wish I hadn’t suffered alone, but even a few years ago many doctors were ill-equipped to deal with these kinds of issues).

    • I had never heard of postpartum OCD (or perinatal OCD)! I don’t think I experienced either with Claire, but I’ll be sure to keep it in mind if my already-obsessive nature gets worse. Thanks!

  3. Christine:

    I’ve always had very disturbing dreams like this (but in general, I suffer from anxiety), but for some reason, during my pregnancy, these dreams were very much like yours (intense, highly detailed, and always devastating). My doctor told me it is very normal and he could refer me to a specialist if I felt like I needed it. I just let the dreams/nightmares run their course. Lately, it seems to bother me during my awake hours, too, but this is following a traumatic experience.

    My boss’s husband was killed in a freak accident at the age of 39. He left her with two mortgages and two kids. It’s quite devastating, but it gives you a bit of perspective and reminds you to stay on top of your life planning (will, life insurance, and advanced directives). I never took any of it seriously until this happened because I always thought my husband was young and nothing would ever happen. But as I mentioned, these nightmares started manifesting during my day time hours and got a bit better once I felt “prepared” (we immediately consulted with an estate planner and bumped up our life insurance policies by more than 200%.

    It’s a scary world out there. Nightmares are terrible, but sometimes, it will “scare” you straight about certain things. I hope your nightmares will stop.

  4. I feel your pain, at times I had scary dreams that were recurring as well. It’s our subconscious trying to tell us things, and the best interpretation it can have is the one we give to it ourself. But in general those dream comes when life changes, when we’re anxious about something, when something dramatic happens.
    You just went through surgery, you are expecting your second baby, it’s normal that your brain is a bit overwhelmed and lets you know :) And I suppose that, as we know we’re mere mortals, it’s a common fear that our beloved ones wouldn’t be there for us anymore and we wouldn’t know how to take care of our kids like we’re supposed to.
    It’s legitimate fear, it doesn’t mean those things will happen, though, so I guess we just need to acknowledge it and then go on with our life.

  5. Eek565:

    I definitely have weird pregnancy dreams. But they tend to err on the side of me being, ahem, promiscuous.

    Both my husband and I experience oppressive dreams that we feel are very demonic. We find that when we pray together and cast satan out, he has to leave every time.

    • Haha I had TONS of those dreams when I was pregnant with Claire! I would wake up all hot and bothered, and sometimes even ashamed. Oddly I haven’t gotten any with this pregnancy (at least none that I can remember).

      That’s so scary that both you and your husband experience those demonic dreams. I am glad you guys are able to discern their origin and that you are able to take care of them properly. :-)

  6. Bellarusa:

    You’ll be just fine, even if any of that actually happens to you. I know because while I was pregnant with my own BebeDeux my husband asked to separate. I was a stay at home mom and when he left, I had a 6 weeks old and a 15 month old, and a new job.

    Almost 7 years later my girls are doing great, my health is fine, and I am making twice as much as when my husband left me. Life will sort itself out.

    As for the horrible dreams – try take some calcium. It seems to relax me and put me to a deeper sleep, resulting better quality sleep.

    Good luck with all!

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