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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Writing Out my Demons

I told you that the beginning of school years were a bitch. The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of deadlines, doctors’ appointments, paperwork, and obligations. Balancing all of that crap has been overwhelming and for a while, I didn’t know if I could juggle it all. I can and I feel as though I’m headed toward an even keel. I’ve decided to celebrate by writing, my favorite thing to do!

image (8)

One of my four tatts. Maybe someday soon I’ll share all of my ink on here….

I have a tattoo on my left arm of a feathered pen. Around my wrist are the words “Writing out my demons.” I got that tattoo when I finished my first book (unpublished and likely to stay that way. It’s a great story, but it’s not saleable. I’ve made my peace with that and there will be other books). Those words sum up my experience with writing and depression. At times, I need someone standing over top of me, holding my head in place and forcing me to write each word until I’m in a better place.

Starting this blog was a huge step for me. While I adore writing, my forte is in making up stories. I spin tales of fantasy and horror that emerge from the ether of my subconscious, spawn characters from the depths of my dreams. And I’m not going to lie; a lot of that comes from the pain of depression and anxiety. Many of my stories were born from a panic attack or a night terror. It’s therapeutic to write about fantastical horror to ease the real horror of suffering from these illnesses.

It’s not as easy to hold a mirror up to myself, take a snapshot, and then show the world. This has been hard. Posting things that I usually only share with my closest friends and knowing that anyone who wants to can access them has been …. well, it’s been a bit surreal. At first, I panicked every time I posted, afraid that I would be judged, that people would look at me different or treat me different.

I still have moments like that. When things get bad, as they did over the past two weeks, I can grind myself into complete inaction. I was unable to write a single word without worrying what the world might think.

The experience of sharing my stories, though, has been completely positive. So many people, people that I never would have told about my struggles, have told me that the blog has helped them. Hearing that they both understand and can relate has been extremely beneficial for me. And realizing that they don’t judge me for my demons? Well, that has been eye-opening as well.

hiding

I think all of us who suffer with depression and anxiety worry that people will judge us for our illnesses. I know that for myself, I worry that people will only see the illness and miss the rest of me. I work very hard at that mask I put on for the world. Though it hides me and gives me the comfort of putting up a wall between myself and the rest of the world, it really isn’t designed for my comfort. The mask is designed to protect those around me from what I go through every day.

Opening up and letting all of my readers see inside has been difficult, not just because my wall is gone but also because there are now so many people on the inside. So many people look at me after reading these blogs and know that I’m struggling. I worry constantly that they are going to feel like they need to take care of me. Or treat me differently. Or stay away. I struggle with that constantly.

It’s been nice, though, to know that reality is so much different from my worst fears. People in my life who are now reading the blog are learning so much about depression and anxiety. And in learning, they are not distancing themselves from me or treating me any different. For the most part, people have been truly excited to learn. A surprising number have also come forward and said, “me too.”

I started this blog on a whim, realizing after Robin Williams’ death that I had a lot to say about mental health and the stigma surrounding it. I never expected it to be “big,” nor did I expect that I would want it to be “big.” The truth is, it hapurposes become extremely important to me and I do want that. I like reaching new people and knowing that my words have touched them. I like knowing that my struggle means something, in a bigger way than just getting through the day. I like helping people. And if I’m able to do that with my words, with writing which brings me so much pleasure, all the better.

Thank you for taking this journey with me and holding my virtual hand as I take these first shaky steps at opening up. It’s been a pleasure getting to know all of you and I hope that we can continue to open up together.

This Overload

I have a confession to make: while I absolutely love humanity, I really don’t like people very much.

people

That probably makes me sound like a bitch. The truth is that I find people really exhausting most of the time. They expect so much from you. They expect a smile and small talk. I don’t always feel like smiling and small talk makes me want to gouge my eyes out. It’s not people, really, I guess. It’s the social expectations that go along with being in a group of people.

That said, I’ll take a lazy day with my people any day. Give me quiet on a sunny day with one or two of my best friends and we’ll dissect the world together. Or make inappropriate jokes all day long. It could go either way and that’s just fine by me.

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t really allow you to walk around in a bubble of only the people you choose. Well, I guess you can if you’re a hermit or you invest in one of those bubble soccer get-ups (Seriously, have you seen those? They are amaze-balls and I totally need to play that game. Anyway….). For the rest of us, you can’t cocoon yourself away from the world and still function.

Bubble Soccer. AMAZING, right?

I’m facing a few weeks of having to be “on” a lot. Like, a lot a lot. My youngest just started kindergarten, my oldest is in third grade and a social butterfly, and this is the week of back to school activities. Or as I like to call it, Introvert Parent Hell. There’s the Kindergarten meet and greet where they have fun activities for the kids and the parents get to schmooze (read: small talk). There’s back to school night where you walk around a crowded school and cram into children’s desks with thirty other parents to listen to the teacher talk and schmooze some more. And then the week is capped off with the back to school picnic. More schmoozing.

It’s not so much that I don’t want to be involved in my children’s school life. I do. I just wish I could do so from my house without all of that schmoozing. There’s no way to be in a big group of people without having to small talk your way around. Unless, of course, you sit in a corner and just stare at people. Believe me when I say this: it is tempting.

Being “on” for me means smiling and faking small talk with a bunch of random strangers. The truth is, I enjoy learning about people’s lives and talking to them about meaningful subjects. I love exploring what makes people tick. But how often do you get past the weather and how picky an eater your child is when you’re in a group of four or more people? Rarely, if ever.

There’s nothing I can really do to change this. Interactions with strangers will always be superficial at best. Even if I run into a like-minded individual, it’s rare that we get past the pleasantries. See, most people like me are also hesitant to push too much because so many people find our probing questions intrusive and weird. It takes time to get to the level where we’re comfortable and large groups don’t provide that kind of time.

So I’ll be spending the week outside of my comfort zone. That can go one of two ways for me. If I’m smart,social hangover I’ll take time for myself to decompress before and after each event. And I won’t get so overwhelmed that the week’s events pile on top of me like a herd of angry elephants. If I’m not smart, well … angry elephants are assholes.

I’m already thinking of ways that I can decompress somehow. Time with a friend in the middle of week, maybe. Or coffee and writing by myself one morning. Just something to balance out all of those people with all of their demands. I’ll get through it. Won’t be the first or last time, I can assure of that. What are your strategies for getting through rough patches? Do you have coping methods that work for you? I’d love to hear what you do to get through.

How an Internet Quiz Changed My Life

Scrolling through facebook this morning as I was avoiding getting up for the day relaxing, I saw about fifteen friends who’d recently taken quizzes. These ranged from “Which Disney Princess are You?” (I’m Mulan, bitches) to “What is your Patronus?” (Phoenix, baby).

I like quizzes. I like things that attempt to take information from seven questions and diagnose my entire personality. And by like I mean I find them funny as hell. I’d really like it to be that simple; and when I see a part of myself in those results, it makes me feel like maybe I’m not as fucked up as I sometimes feel. Often, however, I get such varied and ridiculous results that it just makes me more confused. Maybe that’s why the results of a test that I recently took had such a profound effect on me.

tom

this is me. i’m tom. different from the crowd… except i give a shit. lots of them actually.

A friend posted a link to the Myers Briggs Personality Test (MBTI for all of you psych nerds). I’d never heard of it before, but it sounded really interesting. Answer seventy odd questions and they’ll tell you four letters that define your personality. Being a quiz nut, I was in like Flynn.

The questions were strange; they weren’t probing queries into my inner soul, but more statements about my habits. “You are more interested in a general idea than in the details of its realization.” Yeah, pretty much. “Your actions are frequently influenced by feelings.” Can I get a HELL YES? “The more people you speak with, the better you feel.” Good God, no. And so on.

I was anxious to see where this would lead. I took my time, weighing each of the answers and being more honest with this test than I usually am to most people I talk to. In the end, it took me about a half hour to wade through those seventy-two questions. When I pressed the “Score This” button, I eagerly awaited the result.

INFJ: Introverted iNtuition Feeling and Judging.

infj2

the storm amid the calm. i’m confusing like that…

The words were familiar, but the combination was foreign to me. So I did what I do best. I researched the hell out of it.

INFJs are the rarest of the sixteen personality types, accounting for less than one percent of the entire population. We’re considered by many to be the most extroverted of the introverts, enjoying and often even seeking out groups of people (of our choice). We’re dreamers who focus on doing, and we are considered the most empathic personality type out there.

The more I researched this personality type, the more I saw myself in it. All of the quirks that I couldn’t explain, the strange curse ability to take on others’ feelings as my own, all of it was described as normal for this personality. Normal.

I’m not saying that everyone who takes this test will find meaning in it. But I am saying that for me, it was exactly what I needed. INFJs seem to be the most misunderstood personality, maybe because there are so few of us. We are often mistyped by others because we appear extroverted and very often adopt the characteristics of our closest friends. We want to be noticed and understood the way we notice and understand others, but we also hide like champs. We are a walking dichotomy.

infj1

Understanding more about my personality type has really helped me understand how it plays into my daily life and my battles with mental health. I’ve only recently begun to honor the empathic side of myself, and a lot of that stems from the understanding I gained in this test. I’ll give you a for instance.

I really dislike crowds. Always have. The noise, the extreme closeness of so many bodies, all of it combines for a truly uncomfortable experience for me. If I go to a crowded area with a stressed out friend, I find that I am more likely to suffer a full on panic attack than if I were to attend with someone more laid back.

I always dismissed the correlation, focusing more on the panic attack than the cause. But it makes sense now that I know about this empathic side of myself. It’s not just that I notice people’s discomfort; I actually feel it. If someone I care about gets hurt, I physically hurt for them. If someone is sad, I am sad. And so on.

I’m not trying to be dramatic or exaggerate. I’m just somehow more tuned in to the energy that others provide than most other people. I experience that energy in a very real and palpable way. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

Now that I know what I’m dealing with, I can approach people better. I don’t always look inward when I begin to feel sad or stressed or hurt; sometimes I need to look around me and see where that energy is coming from.

I know all of this sounds like New Age crap. And believe me, when I first started reading about it, I thought the same. The truth is, it isn’t all about crystals and auras and shit.

There is an energy to a room full of happy, celebrating people, yes? You feel it the moment you walk into the room and it carries you into their revelry. The same can be said of a room in mourning. The somberness is palpable as you walk in and without even thinking about it, you become more subdued. More quiet.

Every person carries that same energy inside of them. Some of us are just more in tune to the little changes than others. Whereas it might take 50 or 60 happy people to create that joyous energy I spoke of above, I can feel it from one person sitting next to me on the train. And it affects me. Happy or sad. Knowing that about myself makes me more careful of who I choose to be with when I’m not in a good place and it helps me take care of myself in much healthier ways.

This link is to the best, short explanation of INFJ I’ve ever found. If you’d like to know more about this personality type, start here. If you’d like to type yourself, you can go here. If you’d like to talk personality types, visit me in the comments section. I adore talking about this stuff and I love to hear from my readers. 🙂