Worrying is like Poison Ivy

I’m a worrier. I’ve always been. When plans are being made, my mind immediately thinks, “‘what if” and each additional “what if” worry I come up with plays off the one before, becoming darker, more… worrisome.

A long time ago, I convinced myself that worrying beforehand helps prepare me for whatever might go wrong. Instead, it only makes me worry more. I have found, in all my years preparing for the worst, I have often failed to enjoy the best. That undercurrent of ‘what if’ is always there, pulling at me, reminding me that at any moment, the bottom can come out from under me. The interesting thing is that it never has. In all my years of worrying, my worries were all for naught.

Of course, bad things happen sometimes but those bad things are usually things I hadn’t planned for or even considered. The best-laid plans…

Worrying is like poison ivy. Pervasive. Toxic. Deceptively attractive.

Have you ever seen poison ivy in Autumn? If I didn’t know what it was, I’d say it’s quite attractive.

Worry, or planning ahead, is deceptively attractive as well because it creates in the worrier a false sense of preparedness.

Why do I compare worrying and poison ivy? Because last night I noticed a red blistery patch on my arm and went into panic mode. I just ‘knew’ I would wake this morning covered head to toe in an unbearably itchy rash. I ‘knew’ my cats had the poisoned oils on their fur because I’d cuddled them. I ‘knew’ my daughter would have it. My husband. I ‘knew’ I’d spend the next year washing every inch of my home – all the clothes, all the upholstered furniture, all the carpets, over and over – reinfecting myself as I handled items with this toxic oil that can, apparently, linger for five years if left untouched.

You know what really happened? Nothing.

Before bed, I used Benadryl ointment and I took one of my trusty antihistamine pills. This morning, I woke with a smaller, less red, less blistery patch on my arm. Yes. I have to wash clothes but it seems the poison ivy – if that’s even what I had/have – is much more contained than I had feared. At least for now.


I’ve used a lot of energy worrying about things that can go wrong. At this point in my life, I’d like to start concentrating what can go right. It’s really time to use positive ‘what if’ questions for myself and negative ‘what if’ questions for the torture of my characters.

Have you ever found yourself worried about something that never materialized or wasn’t as bad as you thought it would be?

btw – here’s a pretty good slide show of poison ivy so if you come upon it, you won’t have to worry that you won’t recognize it. 🙂

In case you’re still worried… here’s a good one page article about poison ivy:

Everything You Wanted to Know About Poison Ivy but Were Afraid To Ask


14 Responses to Worrying is like Poison Ivy

  • I worry about everything- I have herbs I take- and yes they are legal! To calm my mind at night when the ‘what ifs’ get to be too much. Right now I am worrying that my book really isn’t ready to self publish and OMG what am I thinking and why would I do this and shouldn’t I have at least ten more people read it before I try…..

    • Yes, the old familiar worry of self-doubt. “What will they think?” I truly believe writer’s have it harder since we pour raw emotion into our stories and so we are left especially vulnerable. The beauty and encouragement comes when others ‘get it’ but it SHOULD come from within ourselves. Easier said than done, yes? 😉

  • I bet you’re going to receive a TON of comments agreeing with you on this one, Debora! I’ve been a worrier since I was about 19 years old. I don’t even remember if something triggered it or what and I believe I inherited the gene from my dad. He was such a worry wart that my family still remembers when he seriously told us that Disneyland was dangerous! So, now we mock him (he passed away in 1996) by saying that phrase whenever one of us worries over something that in our hearts we recognize is silly, that we’re going overboard.
    Thanks for reminding me that almost all of my worries never come to fruition and are a waste of my precious mind time.

    • What a great way to overcome a wave of worry! Turn it into a joke. It’s like that boggart scene in Harry Potter. It first takes the form of something that terrifies them and then they turn it into something silly, making the terror easier to manage. I’m going to use your method, Patti!

  • I can’t remember a time in my life where I DIDN’T worry.Probably explains all the gray hair 😛

    The thing I’ve learned is that worrying is a waste of time. Most of the things we worry about are things we have very little control over in the first place;it’s better to hope for the best rather than to brace yourself for the worst.

    Too bad it isn’t always so easy to do that.

    • It’s not easy at all. You are so right. You’re also right that we worry mostly about that which we cannot control. It’s almost like a warped mind game we play with ourselves. We feel the need to worry (were you, too, raised with ‘guilt’???) even when things are going well, so, we worry about asteroids or black holes. Or… is that just me? 😳

  • Debbie, what a great blog today. I read the Now Habit several years ago. The author suggests letting yourself worry about a problem, and, then, just dropping it. There’s a huge learning curve to this technique. LOL

    The best quote on worry I’ve ever read:

    Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength. ~ Corrie Ten Boom.

    And, yes, I’m a worrier, too. Can’t you tell?

    • What a wonderful quote!! I love it. And it is so true. I like the idea of dropping a problem after worrying about it. It’s like I heard once – you should write your troubles down, read them back aloud, then either shred, crumble or otherwise destroy then throw away. Facing the worry is often the most frightening part. Once you do that, and acknowledge it for what it is, it (often) becomes a more manageable issue.

      I’m going to put the quote you mentioned on my desktop so I see it all the time.

  • I’m not usually a major worrier, thanks in part to Dale Carnegie course – that’s one of things they teach. I do my best to plan for contingencies and let go of what’s not in my control. I do sometimes get hung up on stupid things that are in my control, like when I ordered a new car a month before it went into production. I obssessed over whether or not I really wanted the big fancy wheels, because I’d have to get winter tires for when it got cold; and did I really want the stripes right away, or wait until I saw what they really looked like? LOL stupid stuff! (I ended up getting both and still love the car 2 years later, so it ended well.)

    • You sound so much like me – stressing over a decision, finally making it, wondering if it was the right decision and then later on, realizing it wasn’t such a big deal after all. We’re easier to please than we think we are. I guess because we worry we won’t be happy. lol

  • Debbie,
    Great post.
    I have learned NOT to be a worrier because it takes too much energy. Instead I postpone it and then panic. lol. Not really. I do my best to prepare then remind myself that’s all I can do. I think I’m getting better at handling my worries.

    • Now THAT’s how it’s supposed to be done! You should give a lecture on not worrying. 🙂 I’m pretty sure there are a few people here who would attend. 😉

  • Great post! I’m definitely a worrier. I’m trying not to be so much of one. It’s hard. Thanks for your post.

    • It’s extremely hard. It’s like some of us are wired to worry. I so wonder what it would feel like to just take things as they come. My husband can do that. He asks why he should worry when I worry enough for the both of us. 🙄

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