Changing my outlook

… So, I’m kind of a permapessimist. It developed as a coping mechanism to try to help myself avoid meltdowns as a kid; see, if I expected and planned for everything that could go wrong to go wrong, when it didn’t I was pleasantly surprised and when it did, I didn’t freak out as badly and get myself into as much trouble with my parents.

The problem, though, is that permapessimism isn’t really a fun outlook to have. Annnnd when you’re prone to situational depression like me, it can feed into your depression. For me, the anatomy of situational depression is at least in part a positive-feedback loop: feel depressed -> opportunity arises to do something I usually enjoy -> start thinking about all the things that could go wrong -> get overwhelmed at the planning -> decide not to go since it’ll probably suck anyway -> don’t have relief -> get more depressed.

Meltdowns kinda-sorta also feed in through shame, so it’s a balancing act, buuuut I’m at the point now where I can recognize when one is coming and take steps to head it off. Usually it works.

So, inspired by this post and the talk of self-acceptance vs shame in it, I’m going to do my best to be less pessimistic and less self-shaming, if for no other reason than to make myself less vulnerable to situational depressions. I don’t really want to go for optimistic, because bubble-bursting is a major meltdown initiator for me (and in part because optimistic hopey-changey stuff has always kind of felt like BS to me, but I’ve been dealing with situational depressions off and on pretty much since I started school so it’s kind of molded my outlook on life), but, I dunno. Realisitic would be a good thing to shoot for. Not necessarily thinking it’ll be the Best Thing Evar, but thinking that while stuff might go wrong, it’ll probably be okay and maybe even pretty good? That’s something I can aim for.

As for how I’m gonna do it, uh, not sure. Baby steps, I guess. But I have four major objectives.

1. Stop catastrophizing. Plans for what to do if I get lost or if my ride is late, fine. Being certain I will get lost and not be able to find my way and that nobody will help me because I’m a freak? Not so fine. Being certain that my ride will forget me because it’s just my luck and I don’t matter that much anyway and I’m going to be late and the people will wait on me and I’ll ruin everything? Also not so fine. And not very nice to my ride, who is actually a nice person.

2. Set realistic plans. A lot of the time, my catastrophizing is a self-fulfilling prophecy because I have this outrageously ambitious plan and then can’t fulfill it. Not sure if this is self-sabotage or just judging myself by the standards my parents used to set for me. Doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I need to set plans that are doable for me, rather than plans that I think should be doable for me.

3. Stop with the self-blame. If the bus is an hour late and that makes me late even though I planned a half hour of wiggle room, it’s not my fault for not planning an hour of wiggle room. It’s the bus driver’s fault or traffic’s fault for making the bus so damn late.

4. Stop with the self-depreciation. I can evaluate my strengths and weaknesses and a situation frankly to myself without putting myself down. Putting myself down is not helpful.

So, listing this out publicly in hopes that it’ll help me with some accountability. I hope it works.

4 thoughts on “Changing my outlook

  1. autisticook says:

    Four really good objectives I think. Won’t be easy, especially with all those defence mechanisms which served a very real purpose once upon a time. I am keeping my thumbs up for you ( = Dutch expression. I like it more than keeping my fingers crossed. Because. Positive thinking. Thumbs up).

    • ischemgeek says:


      I think if I can pull this off, I’ll be happier and less stressed for it. Unpacking emotional baggage isn’t really easy, though. I imagine it’ll be a years-long process.

      Funny: I’m not old, but the older I get, the more I realized how messed up my thought processes are, thanks to my parents. Whenever I wonder whether I’m mentally too harsh on them, I remember how it took me until 25 to realize that I’m allowed to have preferences and opinions.

  2. I hadn’t considered the role that catastrophizing plays in shaming. That’s a really good point. I think catastrophizing often triggers the shame cycle–the thing itself is relatively minor but we jump to the worst possible conclusion and then suddenly the minor thing feels huge and awful, even if nothing has actually changed or even happened yet!

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