The Benefits of Underreacting

Posted: October 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

It has been very noisy in my head for the past week or so. Many thoughts and memories rushing around madly and disorganized. Thankfully, all of that nonsensical conversation has been staying put, where I believe it belongs right now. History repeating itself and all that. It’s not like I’m angry that I have breast cancer, well maybe a little. Being angry would mean taking it out on someone whose not at fault for this disease coming into my life. I could be a ranting fool right about now. Where would that get me? It would most likely push the people I need most away and that wouldn’t help anyone get through this…..intact.

From the minute I was given the news I made an instantaneous decision to put a lid on the forthcoming emotions. History does not have to repeat itself. When breast cancer came into my mother’s life it caused so much pain and fear for she and my dad. Their reactions were dramatic. It scared me. Breast cancer scared me. That fear has hung on for decades and now that I have it, things absolutely must change. I feel I have an obligation to handle it differently than my parents did. I know first hand that when we see our parents afraid and in deep anguish, our previously rock sold safety net disappears. You have to grow up quickly. The people you need and depend on the most are distracted with a crisis and there is nothing you can do to correct it. A life altering experience.

Overreacting has been my specialty. Creating chaos due to racing thoughts and the inability to remain calm and composed. Always making a situation worse than it needed to be. Using up all of my energy being upset and making others upset. Ranting and rambling, what if and on and on. I got some help with that. It took a while. It took a lot of talk therapy before it started to make sence to me. There was another way to be other than overreative and hysterical. A much better way. Easier on myself and everyone else. Coping skills, learning how to regulate my emotions and direct them in a more appropriate way. It changed my life for the better. There is still slipping. My mouth will start flapping then I check in with myself. Sort of like a virtual slap in the face to make myself realize that there is a better way to handle whatever it is that caused me to overreact. The time spent learning these skills has proven to be invaluable.

Now that a situation has arisen, I realize I have a choice in how I behave. I can break the mold of the past. I can appreciate how careful I must be with my children so as not to put unnecessary fear into them. Overreacting and thinking out loud does not have to be the order of the day. Speaking honestly and calmly about the facts as I get them without fearful insight of what I don’t know. What no one knows. Treating this situation with tender loving care because what I do and how I behave now will have a lasting impact on those around me, especially my children. With each passing day, it gets easier. I don’t have to look over my shoulder at yesterday and be sorry for the way I acted. I can get up and face the day, go about my routine, talk to my kids and live my life.

In the end, you can overreact, get yourself and those around you all worked up, creating tension, confusion and turmoil. Or you can take a deep breath or two or three and halt yourself. Think about it. What are you actually getting upset about? Is it something you have control over? Is it something that someone else did that hurt you? Whatever reason, overreacting just makes it harder on everyone, especially the person doing the overreacting.  It’s exhausting to be in that state. It’s hard on your mind and your body. I’m not a behavioral therapist but I am the recipient of some life skills that I am grateful for. Skills that I continue to hone.

Life is unpredictable. My behavior doesn’t have to be.


Coventry CT

  1. Dani H says:

    As we’ve gotten to know each other this year, I used to be constantly surprised ~ by the trauma and turmoil you’ve gone through and by the strength and wisdom you have now. I’m not surprised by either one anymore. You are an amazing woman and mother who I am so honored to call my friend. I admire, respect and love you. So happy you are in this world ~ it’s a better place for your presence.
    *So Proud of You Hugs* *Much Love* ❤

    • joannefirth says:

      Thank you hunny. I haven’t handled much very well. Takes a lot of years to be able to filter out the things that push your buttons. There are still “those days” but thankfully not as many. I love being in this world with you too, we make a good team g-friend. Thanks for reading and commenting. This will be the last post for a while, time for a blog break and to just sit back, go with the flow and get myself healthy. Love you. ❤

  2. Dani H says:

    It just came to my attention that none of my WordPress blog email updates have been showing up for a couple of days. A very knowledgeable WordPress blogger, Brett (Moments…) told me that WordPress had just made some other change and that often results in a glitch like this which they will eventually fix. Since I don’t want to wait a month or more for them to get around to it, I am resubscribing to your email site updates as that will work.

  3. joannefirth says:

    Thank you Ralph. My parents did the best they could possibly do. Things were much different back then, in the late 70’s. The doctors my mother had were ignorant and insensitive, causing much more harm than good. It was a dangerous combination and caused more heartache than necessary. Malpractice wouldn’t even do justice to these clowns. Nuff said. Fortunately, I have a surgeon that I trust and have very good communication with. She knows I need to be treated with a little extra TLC and she knows why. Being cared for in this mannner goes a long way and helps me feel safe and respected. In return, I can talk to my kids, listen and offer them comfort.

    Thanks so much for reading and leaving such a kind comment. You are a good friend Ralph. ❤

  4. Ralph says:

    What you have done is brave on two fronts: of course your health battle, but your battle to insulate your children from what you had gone through many years ago, even though it was emotionally difficult to do so.
    Bravo. ❤

  5. j says:

    You are amazing, it’s true. I guess I have a SLIGHTLY different take, though maybe it isn’t different at all, because I totally agree that overreaction and drama are not good for anyone (and I have the tendency to overreact too). But…

    I’m very honest with my children. I tell them when I’m afraid. I tend to use words like “nervous” instead of “terrified,” “sad” instead of “heartbroken” or “bereft.” But I don’t hide the emotions I’m feeling. I think my boys are both very empathetic and part of that comes from growing up with someone who really doesn’t know how to hide her feelings.

    I think what you’re saying is that you won’t be hysterical and that you won’t burden them when your mind inevitably races. I agree with that strategy. Especially because if you try not to be crazy on the outside, you tend to be a little less crazy on the inside, too. (And by you, I mean me.)

    I guess I just feel that sometimes we do our children a disservice when we don’t show them our most human selves. We are examples, and our kids need to learn how not to hide their own feelings, not to sacrifice their happiness for someone else’s, not to be afraid of reaching back to people who are reaching out.

    … Of course, who knows if I’m doing it right!

    You are brave and beautiful, Joanne. I feel very fortunate to be a part of your journey.

    • joannefirth says:

      Judy, I read your comment right before I had to leave for an appointment. I wanted to think about my reply and word it the best that I know how. I am so grateful for your honesty. The blog I wrote is comming from the perspective of someone who has been overreactive to the point of no return. A very delicate chemical balance gets out of whack if I get too emotional or too anxious. I’m a little bit “special” that way. I didn’t enter into behavioral thearpy on my own terms, it was something I had to do to stay well and balanced. When I started, I was angry and thought that the thearapists were trying to take something away from me. I thought they were trying to dismantle my precarious personality. When I say it has taken me “a while” to get it, I mean a long while.

      I love that you are honest with your children, encouraging them to be sensitive to yours and others emotions as well as their own. I have taught my children the very same values. In my case I have also exposed my children to an irrational mother at times. A mother that was losing touch with reality due to stress and extreme anxiety that I could not cope with. It wasn’t a healthy place to be for myself or my kids. I’m being brutally honest here so as not to make it seem like my blog is about giving up your emotions. Most people can handle things better than I have. Most people can catch themselves before they cross over to an unhealthy place of no return. I’m not most people and never have been.

      It’s been a very long journey to where I am now. Many emotional battles have been fought over and over. Most are now laid to rest, which keeps me well enough to handle the new battles that arise. I felt I owed this response to you and wanted to share with you the place that I am comming from. I hope it makes sense. I am proud to have you as friend, you are an inspiration and a mentor to me. You are a wonderful mother and a beautiful human being. Thank you for taking the time to read and share your take on things. It means a lot. ❤

  6. Linda says:

    So proud of you sis! ❤

  7. Becky says:

    Very nice Joanne.
    Well said — I’m always striving to not repeat the same mistakes.

  8. You are amazing. I’m so very proud of you for your strength and your refusal to succumb to anything less than living. What a wonderful example you are my dear 🙂

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