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Managing Holiday Stress

When expectations and a sense of obigation are present, feelings of stress usually arise.  When my stress gets too high, I generally begin to shut down.  Depression starts to take hold, I become highly  irritabile too easy, too often and I tend to want to retreat (to my bed).  Holidays usually brought on this scenario for me and I felt dread at the upcoming holiday gatherings.  Then, I learned I could choose to “not”  attend and tell friends and family that I was simply not up to it.

Several years in a row when my coping skills were no match for my depression and anxiety, I stayed home.  I avoided many  Thanksgivings’, Christmas’, whatever “it” was.  When I stayed home, in my safe place I would experience mixed emotions:  1)  I would feel happy that I was not under so much stress and 2) recognized I had made a choice and that choice often left me feeling a little sorry for myself, that I was at home all alone.   I know that sounds a little crazy, like both sides of a coin. But, it is what it is.

Now I take a slightly different approach yet, still effective in managing stress that tends to accompany my sense of obligation.  I tell myself that I can always LEAVE.   To show up and bear as much as I can until I am done, then say my goodbyes (even if it is before a meal, or whatever).  Knowing I have this OUT, seems to remove a lot pressure.  There are times that I leave and other times when I stay.  I monitor how I am feeling during the event and if I notice I am feeling upset, angry, hurt, ignored, worried, etc. I can take an action to try to change it and if that doesn’t work, I can leave and go where I am comfortable (for me, this is home).

As I’ve grown older I realize that the Time spent with loved ones’ is more important than almost anything.  I spend time, when I feel I am able to.  Now I know they wont always be there to go and visit.


Gee, Thanks!

There are those time when I stop and think, “Gee Thanks!” sarcastically.  These incidents stem from one of those Golden Rules: Treat Other’s How You Want To Be Treated.

THE MOVIE THEATER:  I was to meet a family member at the movies, an occassional excursion and expense I partake in.  Maybe 2 times a year I go to the movies, it’s too expensive, too loud and others chatter, have phones that ring, etc.  I just find it a poor experience that I have to PAY for.  Thus, I typically refrain and watch the movies on dvd or t.v.    I arrived at the theater about 5 minutes early almost bought us both tickets, my surprise treat. Instead I decided to wait for their arrival.  I kept waiting and then the movie start time had arrived and I presumed was still showing all of those previews, I phoned the person I was waiting for and the call went to voicemail.  I assumed she was driving and didn’t want to pick up and risk getting a ticket.  I continued to wait and with 3 more calls to voicemail  I began to worry.  20 minutes into the movie I stood outside still waiting, still calling as panic rose inside me.  I envisioned my family member in a terrible car accident, couldn’t answer her phone and might be hurt.  I began leaving frantic messages on her voicemail.

Distraught I drove home and jumped online to see if there were any reports of auto accidents in the stretch of highway between her home and the theaters.  This was not an easy task locating such info.   I ended up taking a tranquilizer, I was so distressed!  I continued to wait for a call or any information.

Hours later I got a phone call that the person I was meeting was both home and pissed off that I didn’t show.  I felt both relief and terrible confusion.  I then thought about the event and what had happened was that she arrived earlier than I had, she purchased her ticket decided to not wait out front as we had discussed.  Went inside, turned her phone off and watched the movie.

I was angry that I was not only willing to wait for her but wait 20 minutes beyond the start of the movie for her, out front as planned and she did not have the same courtesy.

THE BOOK:  A friend of mine and I went to the taping of a popular tv show, at the end of the taping we were all to get a free copy of their latest book.  It was to be mailed to a central location and we would all have to go back there to pick up our copies individually.  (We had been part of an organzied tour)

My friend and I kept calling over the following weeks and no book, I had mentioned I would be happy to pick up her copy to save her the drive (she lives about 20 minutes further away) and I could give it to her over lunch, she was happy with this offer.  The day the books arrived the tour company phoned us all to come pick them up.   She sent me an email letting me know she got the phone call and to tell me the book(s) were in just in case I didn’t get a call. Later, that night (after a busy day)  when I read the email message I offered (again) to pick her up the copy meant for her.  The response I received left me feeling FLAT; ” I already went and got my copy but, thanks anyway”

Uh, did you even think to ask if you could help me out?  Pick up a copy for me?  I guess not!

In both instances, I’ve ended up feeling hurt.  Maybe I am just a big sissy but these are my feelings.  The phrase; “Gee, Thanks a lot for not considering me!” seems to fit.

Sunrise Missing

I woke early, as usual and peeked out the window to see the sunrise (6:00 am).  The sky was dark and it confused me.   I wandered into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee and let the dogs out, all the while thinking I must be up earlier than usual (even though I had looked at the clock).

Every now and then when I lay down to take a nap I get discombobulated upon waking, thinking its the next morning or still night when its dark outside, until I can gather my wits about me and figure things out.

With dogs pottied and fed, I turn on the morning news with coffee in hand and see their morning sunrise picture of a beautiful partially cloudy red sky.  I peek out the window again and it’s still dark as night.  Hmm.   Yesterday I heard ( don’t know if it’s true or not) that on 12-21-12 there will be an eclipse and wondered suddenly what the date was.

Then it occurs to me that it must be cloudy outside, there was mention of possible rain.  All is ok, it’s not the apocalypse just yet.  LOL

Emotional Minefield

That place you find yourself when you are not sure which way you can go next without encountering utter destruction

There is a very close, very loved person that I interact with.  When we talk,  I try to watch what I say so as not to upset this person because I NEVER know what is going to set this person off.    Feelings get hurt at the most innocent of responses or passing comments I may utter… and then the return jabs pop up everywhere and are non-stop or worse the extreme intensity of negative unsafe vibes are spewed out all over the place, making me want to escape.  The angry verbal engagement falls on all present. A sense of Not Good Things entwine ever word that I dare speak from any given point in an attempt to move forward in order to:  Correct, Calm, Explain, Defend or Clarify.

Fight or flight is triggered regularly while in this persons company.   Many  times I think, I have to LEAVE ( Flight ) usually kicks in first.  After a breath I think, I will try to fix this or defend myself ( fight response ).  This type of circular communication pattern  can occur 5-6 times a day, while the other hours are spent in separate rooms or not talking while watching tv or a movie rental.   If this was not a very close relation, I would not put up with this sh*t.   And I always end up thinking, ” no wonder I am so screwed up…”

There are times when  I think I need to confront this person with something serious they have done, then I reflect back on days like described above when discussing nothing important or critical and how damned hard it is to constantly be trying to navigate the emotional minefield when talking with this person.  How exhausted, manipulated and battered I feel when I am in their company and in the days that follow.  So, the serious critical conversations rarely if ever happen.

In my head… “If I say this, then that will cause problems”.  “Why does she turn everything into a personal attack?”,   “if I point out that some of their behavior with me as being the exact same that they always complain happens to them, well that will cause everything to go south” and on and on it goes.  My head becomes dizzy and I just want to be quiet.  Other times I speak, interject or respond and an out of the blue defensive angry response is assailed upon me, and I wasn’t even trying to be confrontational, mean or…

I drive long miles to visit.  My visits are not as often and I am unable to stay more than one overnight.  By the next morning, I have generally experienced the Fight or Flight at least a handful of times.  But, it is all I have left of a very tiny 3-person family and without them I am alone in the world quite literally.

At the root of it all, I think this person feels like a perpetual victim.  Who always states (as to remind me of her ill lot in life) that her own mother loves her but never liked her even as a very young child, is one example.  The incredible amount of self-perpetuating hurt, anger and defensiveness spills out everywhere and surrounding her is a huge invisible emotional minefield,  one misstep and Kabooom!   Her family is in constant danger, her friends seem relatively safe.

I used to think she will mellow with age, work out her issues and come to peace with her inner demons.  Now in her 70’s sadly this has not been the case.  For some reason, and I don’t know this for sure, I think she ruminates and is constantly reinforcing all of her negative life experiences, providing more venom for all of her tomorrows.


Pet Psychic Visit

At an outdoor local charity event not long ago, there was a woman who set up her area with a sign that read “Pet Psychic”. With own dogs in tow I lingered in the perimeter to get a feel for how this was going for others seeking her services.  The pet and person sat with the psychic for about 10 minutes while relaying messages from pet to owner after being asked several questions.

I would like to believe in: psychic abilities, talking to those who have passed over and the like but, I come armed with a healthy dose of skepticism.  I think most are fakes while a very few may have uncanny abilities, which camp was this lady in I wondered.  Why is she at this event, to drum up business?

I developed a strategy, I would take my dogs to sit with her and be careful to not give any clues, energy or vibes either verbal or non-verbal.  When asked questions I would simply give yes or no answers.   When, the psychic asked me what it is I wanted to know I simply replied, “I don’t know, what can you tell me”.

Excitedly I waited for a wealth of secrets to be revealed and an inner glimpse of my dogs hopes and dreams, or at least which dinners or doggie treats they liked best.  With this blocking of my facial body and verbal communications the reading started with,  “I am having a hard time reading either of them, they seem quiet and reserved not really wanting to communicate with me.”    I was thinking, you are having a hard time reading ME, not the dogs.

I walked away disappointed in the outcome and short $25.00, if only I had played the game correctly I could have learned so much about my dogs.  I would love to meet a real psychic.

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