Assuming the worst

“Can I talk to you?”

Oh shit.

How many of you just felt a cold trickle of dread travel down your spine?

A lot of us have experienced this before. We go about our day, trying our best to enjoy ourselves or make the most of it, and then we get asked that question, and our entire world comes crashing down. What have I done? Are they angry? Have I messed something up? Oh god, I’ve messed something up. Shit, what did I do? Think back to everything I’ve ever done wrong in my 23 years of being alive… 

Then you get taken aside by your friend and are asked if they have food stuck in their teeth. You breath a sigh of relief.

I’m not sure if this is a mental health ‘quirk’ or not. It seems that the majority of people I’ve seen who talk about this do have mental illnesses, but then maybe it’s just one of those things that most people experience- like that feeling of falling when you’re asleep, or wanting to jump out of a moving car when you see a dog on the sidewalk.

Regardless, it’s a horrible feeling, to expect and assume the worst. For me, it isn’t just when somebody wants to talk to me. There are plenty of routines in my life, and if something is different, I’ll automatically assume that a terrible crime has been committed before anything else comes to mind.

Let’s have an example. My sister goes to college early, and my mum often takes my niece to school, equally early. So I often come downstairs for breakfast after they’ve gone. I came down one morning to find an empty cereal bowl on the counter instead of in the dishwasher, and the blinds still shut. That entire morning I worried that something had happened and my family had had to rush out of the house before tidying things away. Maybe somebody had died. Maybe somebody had been in an accident. It turned out that they just forgot.

On days that my mum is off work, she usually meets friends and goes shopping, and then gets home in time for us to make fun of Bargain Hunt or some other equally mundane show. But the time for Bargain Hunt comes and goes, and she’s still not home… The news comes and goes… A quiz show is halfway through its episode when my mum arrives. She’d gone to the cinema. And here I was thinking that she’d definitely been hit by a car, or the bus she’d been on had crashed and exploded. I’d see her face on the news alongside the other tragic victims.

This may sound ridiculous, but it happens very, very often. Usually I can still go about my day, but that nagging fear will be in the back of my mind, creeping up on me whenever I have a moment to think.

Now, this is sometimes a good thing. Sometimes it is better to expect the worse, so you can have that sensation of pleasant surprise when the worst doesn’t happen. But when you expect death and destruction with every late arrival, it can frustrate you. Just a tiny bit.

Does anybody else experience this? Leave your thoughts in the comments! x

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