Holiday Overload

Raise your hand if you’re ready for the holiday break to be over!

ME!!!!!!

Our family has been home together for a record twelve days. Of those twelve days, six of them have been sick days for two out of the four of us. Momma needs her house back. Pronto.

I do love the holidays. We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in our household, so our holiday season lasts extra long. I love the kids’ excitement, the traditions, and all of that food. I really enjoy entertaining, so cooking for Christmas day at our house is always something fun to look forward to.

I made ALL the cookies.

I made ALL the cookies.

But now? I’m done. I want my quiet mornings back, where Hubby is at work and both kids are in school and I can breathe over a cup of coffee before getting errands and cleaning done. The lack of that routine is starting to wear on my patience and I’m really starting to feel it. My anxiety has been higher than normal the past few days and I’m starting to notice daily headaches creeping up on me.

Can it be Monday morning, please?

I can’t lie. I feel badly when I say I’m overloaded and ready for the break to end. They are my kids and husband; they’re my favorite people in the world. But, man, can they be exhausting….

Truthfully, I don’t handle these long stretches of forced interaction well. I know that I don’t, but I don’t have a good coping mechanism in place to keep it from getting out of hand.

We live in a small twin home, so when the four of us (plus two animals) are home all together, there are very few rooms available to be alone. Even the bathroom isn’t guaranteed to be a no fly zone. Can I get an amen, moms out there? It’s just hard to find quiet, and if you’re an introvert like me, that can end up being sandpaper to your psyche if you’re not careful.

Hubby and I tried to break the pattern this year. We planned an adventure in the middle of our staycation to get the kids out of the house. We trekked to Washington D.C. with the plan being that we’d explore the free museums for two days. Great plan. Sucky timing.

Me, Amelia, and her Little Red Bus. Personal hero...

Me, Amelia, and her Little Red Bus. Personal hero…

Oldest and Hubby both came down with nasty colds while we were away. We made it to two and a half museums that first day and then no one slept. Oh my god…. It was horrific. Woke up the next day and everyone was crabby. No one wanted to do anything except go home. Except we were all sleep deprived. The drive back to PA was truly magical. Not.

I had also failed to factor in how much I really despise crowded museums. Answer? A lot. It was a hard trip all around, but …. we tried. ‘A’ for effort?

I spent some much needed time contemplating quietly this morning and realized that much of the stress from this break came from your’s truly. I look around at my family and they are fine with the mild chaos. I know that I’m not, but I didn’t do a whole hell of a lot to avoid it. It got me thinking… How much ownership do we as anxious people need to take for our own anxiety?

It’s a really hard question to answer. On the one hand, some anxiety is out of our control. The looping thoughts are part and parcel of the mental illness we call our own. Mindfulness can help, but at the heart of anxiety, we all deal with those recurrent thoughts. We try not to let them control us, but we can’t always control them, if you catch my drift.

But what about the rest of what made my holiday stressful? A lot of that was poor planning on my part. I struggle with the need to stay home and chill and the knowledge that my two active kids can’t handle too many days in a row of that kind of inactivity. They go stir crazy, and with good reason.

okay.... maybe not this stir crazy. The poor mom who took this picture. >.<

okay…. maybe not this stir crazy. The poor mom who took this picture. >.<

The holidays provide their own activity on many occasions. Visits to grandma and grandpa’s house, playing with new toys, and visiting with friends help to ease the monotony. But the days where we have no plans can easily melt into each other. When that happens, we easily start to get on each other’s nerves. No matter how close your family is, I bet this happens to you.

I didn’t really plan well for that this year, even though my anxiety has been bad lately. I should have done better with that. I think those kind of things are areas in which I can take charge of my anxiety disorder and get hold of those reins before it gets out of control.

It’s not easy by any means. I always worry that I’m going to over-plan us and wear everyone out. Well, I worry I’ll wear myself out and then I’ll make everyone crazy. It’s a legit worry… When I get overstimulated, I’m a super-bitch.

Of course, under-planning hasn’t exactly worked out for us in the past. I think, maybe, instead of trying to plan a bunch of stuff, I need to plan some quiet time each day of vacation for myself. Even if I need to schedule my freaking showers, I need to make sure my family realizes that those times are mommy time. No one is to come in and talk to me. No can come in to ask where something is. No one can interrupt the silence by screaming until I notice.

Even if it is just a half hour each day, those quiet times will balance out the noise of the rest of the day. I think that it will go a long way to making sure that I’m not so tapped out at the end of holiday time.

introvert

My fellow sensitive introverts, what do you do to ensure your sanity amidst forced interaction? As much as I love spending time with my crew, I have my limits even when it comes to them. Do you have any tricks to make that time go smoother? I’d be interested to find out what you do and how it works for you. It’d be good to know that I’m not alone in feeling overloaded at this time of year.

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Shining a Light on My Truth

This is a special week: Mental Illness Awareness Week. While I have some issues with including “Illness” in the name instead of “Health,” I think this is one truly important week. And I am honoring this week with daily blog posts, guest writers, and lots of real talk. It’s time to speak the truth, my truth, and not be afraid of the stigma. I hope you join me.

stephen_fry_on_mental_illness___by_rationalhub-d5ebmuz

Today as we kick off the week, I want to answer a really important question: What IS Mental Illness. It’s not an easy question, and so I’m going to start with defining what is NOT Mental Illness.

  • Mental Illness is not the result of personal weakness.
  • It is not the product of poor character or dodgy upbringing.
  • Mental Illness is not a bad day or even a bad week.
  • It is not crying for no reason once in a while.
  • It is not an isolation sentence.
  • It is definitely not a death sentence.

Those “nots”? Those are characteristic of the stigma that surrounds Mental Illness. Those of us who suffer from invisible illnesses, like Mental Illness, bear the burden of that stigma daily. It’s why we are often silent. It’s why we shy away from telling people we see a therapist, or take medicine, or cut, or have suicidal thoughts. People hear those things and assume SO MUCH. Giving up on assuming is the first step in truly helping your friend or lover with their struggles.

Mental Illness is unique for every sufferer. There are endless combinations of diagnoses that someone can hold and every diagnosis manifests itself somewhat differently for each person. I can only talk about my own illness, but for once I am going to be painfully honest. Here goes nothing.

I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Syndrome with Acute Panic Disorder and mild Agoraphobia. And I am a cutter. Big words, those. Basically, I struggle daily with every blasted thing I need to do. It’s hard to get up sometimes. It’s really hard to be in a crowd. It’s hard to settle my own mind and stop it from racing. It’s just hard. And sometimes, when I can’t take it anymore, I physically hurt myself in a twisted attempt to make the invisible pain stop.

surviving

Outside factors absolutely weigh on my mental health issues. When my kids are sick, when I argue with anyone, when things don’t go as planned…. I suffer. These are issues that medicine helps, but cannot control completely. We all want a magic pill that we swallow and become normal. It’s a pipe dream and it is discouraging to know that we can’t have that.

A depressive episode or a panic attack is not something I can snap out of at will. Adding pressure to act normal only exacerbates the issues in someone who is suffering. When I am told to get over it, to fake it till I make it, to just deal…. Immediately I’m filled with a sense of overwhelming disgrace. I’ve let someone I care about down. I’ve burdened them. I need to try harder.

The fact of the matter is this: I can only hide for so long. I can only fake it for so long before I burn out and crash even harder than before. It’s at those times that I am most at risk of cutting. It’s really not easy to admit that I do this. SO many people look at cutting like an emo fad. That people who cut are just looking for attention. Time for a little bit of honesty. Are you ready?

So fucking what if that teenage girl with cuts all up and down her arm is doing it to get attention? Imagine the deficit of attention she must be feeling in order to slice her own skin to get you to notice her pain. When you hurt so bad that you take a razor, or a needle, or your own nails to yourself in order to escape the pain, you are in terrible shape. The last thing you need is judgment. But that is so often what we receive. Harsh judgment. Derisive laughter. Painful sarcasm. Easy answers that mean nothing. And people who think you’re going to kill yourself.

I don’t cut because I want to die. I cut because I hurt so bad that I need an escape. It is twisted to a normal brain, but the reality is that cutting helps diffuse the inner turmoil for just a second. And then the guilt piles on and it is even worse than before. But for a moment, the cutting helps. It is an attempt to care for myself in the most unnatural way possible. And I have scars on my body now that remind me daily of that pain. Harsh reminders of why I need therapy and good friends and a daily cocktail of meds to keep me stable.

rough days

I haven’t cut in four months. I’m damn proud of that, but it has been really hard. There are days when every moment requires concentration NOT to scratch at my own skin. I’ll finger my scars. I’ll text my friends. I’ll keep my hands busy with cross stitch. ANYTHING to keep from allowing myself the opportunity to slip up. With counseling and a lot of vigilance from a good friend, I remain self-harm free. For now.

But the monster is always there waiting. And frankly, it’s terrifying.

Tomorrow, I’ll explore ways friends and family can support those with mental health issues in a healthy way. If there are any topics you feel should be touched on, please let me know here or privately via email. I’ll do my best.