A reader asked me for my thoughts on “rollercoastering,” that exaggerated response to life’s normal challenges that creates high drama and the feeling of being on a rollercoaster. Hell yes, I’ve been on that ride.
Here’s what my new friend had to say by e-mail (name kept anonymous to protect privacy):
“Part of my addiction(s) is experiencing an exaggerated response to normal life events. Granted, I have a history of creating drama and placing myself in bizarre situations, but my program of recovery has helped that tremendously over the years.”
Here are three examples of how I’ve been down that road:
—Obsessing about girls I liked (long before I met Erin). I always had the fear of not being loved, and my dating life in high school was pretty much non-existent. In a couple of cases, I would fixate on a girl (two, actually, though not at the same time) because she was nice to me. Being friendly signaled an interest in romance in my mind. So I would call them too much and think about them all the time, which, naturally, got in the way of everything else I should have been focusing on. If translating human kindness into a mating call isn’t an exaggerated response to something more normal, I don’t know what is.
—Obsessing about an impending job performance review: Job reviews are a normal part of a job. Sure, they can be stress-inducing, especially right before it happens. But my anxiety attacks would begin weeks — sometimes months — beforehand. During that time, I would go on vicious food binges. It would always be a waste of emotion, because the reviews would go fine, especially when Anne Saita was my boss.
—Obsessing about travel: I used to have a massively exaggerated response to business trips. Mostly, I would worry about the plane blowing up in flight. That’s because I always had a fear of loss. I’m also a control freak, and when you’re in a plane you have no control. It’s funny to think back on, because now I love travel.
Exaggerated responses are a trademark of OCD cases.
How did I get beyond it? Well, I haven’t completely. There are still days — a lot of them — where I’ll have an exaggerated response to the basics. Messy rooms are an example. I just can’t leave a messy room messy. When you have two children below the age of 10, that’s asking a lot.
But my exaggerated reactions are are a lot less than they used to be.
But make no mistake about it: Keeping the exaggerated responses at bay is a life-long challenge.
This much I can tell you: I’m a lot happier now that I’ve learned to limit those rollercoaster rides.