Hold on…let me overthink this

So much of my anxiety is anticipatory. Like 90% of it. I know this, yet it is really hard to control. It is almost impossible to tell myself to just simply not think about something. It would be like me saying to you, “close your eyes and DON’T think about the color blue.” ALL you are going to do is think about and imagine the color blue. Since so much of my anxiety is related to travel and most travel or trips or drives are planned and not spontaneous, I suffer from anticipatory anxiety almost constantly. If I am invited to a dinner or event, I anticipate it for the days leading up to it. I overplan, checking Waze and other maps to see how long it will take to get there. I overthink all the different things that could go wrong or the elements I can’t control.

Even with horrible anxiety and panic disordered, I have always been pretty independent. I preferred (and still do prefer) to drive somewhere alone. I never want to be a burden to someone or ruin their time by having anxiety. My sister went away for a weekend over this past summer, during the same time I had a negative reaction to a new antidepressant, and I had the closest thing to a nervous breakdown I have ever experienced. It is still hard to think- or write- about. My sister has been planning a girls’ weekend trip to Florida for the first weekend in December (like fly out Friday and home Monday) and I have been soooooo anxious about it. It has literally ruined the entire month of November for me. I just think over and over, like a broken record, that I don’t want her to go. Selfishly, it isn’t that I think something will happen to HER, rather it is that I think something will happen to ME.

I have never been or felt so dependent on other people. I never had this kind of a reaction to someone else going away. I was desperately hoping for something to happen to prevent her from going, but I also knew that wasn’t fair to her. She didn’t ask to be my person like this and she is a hard-working mom who deserves a fun weekend away. It has been difficult because she is the person I am closest to and who I would confide in the most about these things, but I don’t want her to feel guilty about leaving me or me being upset.

The most confusing thing about this is that I don’t logically know WHY I need her so much or why I am so afraid for her to be away. But, like most people with anxiety, I know that logic really goes out the window. My therapist has pointed out many times that I am actually the one who does things almost daily for my sister, whether it is babysitting my nieces, running errands, picking something up for her, helping her with something at her house, etc. I do a lot for my sister and yet I feel this immense panic at the thought of her being far away.

It is frustrating because I don’t need ANOTHER thing to be anxious about. I have enough things already and now it feels like I am adding something new to the list, while still not making a lot of progress on my existing triggers.

There is always something to be thankful for

Dear M,

Happy Thanksgiving in heaven, love. I have been thinking about you SO much lately- more than usual. As you know, before you moved in with me, this time of year was always difficult. I had so many bad things happen in November- filing for divorce, my grandparents passing away, my dad having a stroke, my sister getting sick- I dreaded the month and Thanksgiving went from being one of my favorite holidays to just another day. Then, it became “our” holiday. Do you remember the first time we made a turkey? I can’t think about it without laughing. We must have watched 15 youtube videos and called my mom ten times! The best part was when I made the herb butter mix and you figured out how to get it under the skin. I was crying from laughing so hard. By the second year, we had a lot more confidence, but it was still a lot of work. After that, we were pros! And then, of course, there was the annual (and very epic) turkey leg photo. How that became a tradition, I have no idea, but those pictures are some of my favorite of you.

I know I am feeling nostalgic and not remembering everything. We definitely had some pretty bad arguments, my family always added a layer of stress, and I always worried if you were drinking before and during them being here. But I think for today, I just want to remember the good memories of all of our Thanksgivings together. It is still hard to believe that you are no longer here. After you got sick and we broke up, I made my sister start hosting Thanksgiving at her house. It was just too hard to do it without you and I was too sad. But there is a world of difference between us not being together and knowing you are with your family and I am with mine and you being gone.

It breaks my heart to know that you will never have another Thanksgiving. That there will never be another turkey leg photo to add to the collection. We aren’t having a traditional dinner this year, my sister wanted to do just appetizers and desserts (which would have been right up your alley) and I am secretly glad. I feel like I would have seen a turkey leg and cried. It is pretty weird and funny that something like a turkey leg can make me think of you.

I have so much to be thankful for this year (M, you should see our niece- she is amazing and you would love the baby!) Rather than being sad today, I am going to try to smile and think about you and the happy moments we shared together on this day.

Trying to be thankful…

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I can’t wait for 2019 to be over, especially November.  It has never been a particularly good month for me, but I always looked forward to Thanksgiving.  It became even more fun when my boyfriend moved in a few years ago.  We created a new tradition where we would prepare the turkey the night before.  I would make herb butter while he searched around inside the bird for the bag of giblets, which he seemed to always have a hard time locating.  He would then rub the butter on, making corny jokes and pretending to run after me with his disgusting hands.  We would spend the night together and the next morning, I would put the turkey in and start cooking.  My family arrived early.  Once we sat down to dinner, he would take an annual photo biting into a turkey leg.  My mom always sat next to him at the table and would always lean in to be in one of the pictures.  I have a picture of him from each year with a turkey leg.  The first Thanksgiving he ate with my family, my dad was looking all around the table for the oversized meat serving fork, only to realize my boyfriend was eating his meal with it.

When we broke up a few months ago, one of the first things I said to my sister was that I was not hosting Thanksgiving this year.  Luckily, she bought a house and so it seemed like a natural transition to move the holiday to her place.  I am just dreading it.  Everything about Thanksgiving reminds me of him.  And it is especially difficult because I keep imagining him alone.  I know that it is really his own fault that he is, but it still is really hard not to feel sad about it.

Each year, my sister and I attend a local craft show.  There is a woman who will personalize Christmas ornaments with names.  Each year, I bought a different one with his and my names on it.  Last year, it was two little wooden stockings hanging on a mantlepiece that said “and the stockings were hung…”.  The red and white stockings had our names written on them.  This year, I was looking at the ornaments and noticed the same ornament, but with a solitary stocking. “and the stocking was hung…”.  I wanted to get it, but my sister said it would just make me sad to see the ornament on the tree with only my name and a singular stocking.  It was just another reminder of everything I have lost this year and how alone I am now.

When I got home from the craft show, I pulled out the box with all of my Christmas ornaments in it and went through them.  I took out all of “our” ornaments, but he also had some ornaments of his own, two in particular that were from his godparents when he was a baby.  I am hoping to be able to enjoy Christmas more than Thanksgiving, so I decided to mail him the ornaments now, rather than letting them just wait for me to discover them again when I decorate the tree.  I packed them up carefully and went to the post office, where I proceeded to cry the entire time.  It was like another piece of him gone, another reminder that our relationship is permanently over.

I was not expecting a response from him.  He had messaged me a few weeks ago saying he missed me and I did not respond.  I found out his grandfather died last week and he did not tell me.  It was difficult, but I decided not to send him a sympathy card.  We truly have had no contact.  However, he did text me and it was not to say thank you.  He demanded that I never mail him anything ever again and if I find something else of his in my house to discard it.  He also accused me of knowing that he was at 90 days of sobriety and that I was purposely trying to upset him.

I talked to my therapist and told her that my intentions were not the way he interpreted them, although I can see now from his perspective how it might have been difficult to open a package from me, not knowing what it was.  I truly thought he would want those childhood mementos and I also really wanted to get it over with as far as returning them.  After thinking about it for a while, I have to admit that maybe a subconscious part of me wanted to hurt him.  I certainly would never, ever do something on purpose to tempt him to drink and I find it unfathomable that he could even consider that.  But I am still hurting SO badly and I feel like I never had the opportunity to really be able to tell him that.  I know he knows he hurt me and I know he is sorry, but I do not think he really understands the degree to which I have been affected.  I doubt he knows that when I close my eyes at night, I picture his limp body on the hospital bed, with tubes and wires all over him.  I feel so traumatized by the experience.  I really don’t think he knows that.  I think he thinks that I am heartbroken by his unfaithfulness and hurt by how his family treated me and angry about his lies and those are all true, but he cannot possibly know what it was like for me to sit in that hospital room day and night for almost a month, not knowing if he would survive, but also knowing that if he did, our lives would never be the same and our relationship was over.

Growing up with a violent alcoholic father made holidays very unpredictable and often very volatile.  I could write ten different stories about ten different horrible things my father did to ruin holidays while I was growing up.  I am sure most children of alcoholics can do that.  When I took over Thanksgiving and started hosting it at my house, it became a holiday that I could control.  It became less about stress and more about the traditions that my ex and I created to prepare the meal.  There were never any issues (my father is usually well behaved when he is a guest in someone else’s home).  My family would arrive early and leave early and he and I would watch a movie or take a nap.  It was just…nice.  I feel like I am going to see the turkey leg this year and just bawl my eyes out.  I miss him so much.  It is so, so hard to not know what or how he is doing.  He lives so close, but I feel so far apart from him now.  Our lives have moved on separately and now there are things we don’t know about each other.  His grandpa died (which I only know because my best friend is his cousin), he started a new job (someone told me he posted on Instagram), I am sure there are things I don’t know about at all.  He doesn’t know about the problem I had with a student at school.  He doesn’t know that my sister had a miscarriage last week.  He is still the first person I want to call when something happens.  I just can’t.  It just all hurts so much still.

I bought a journal on Amazon at the recommendation of my psychiatrist.  It is a gratitude journal where each night you can write three things that happened that day that you are thankful for.  I plan to start using it because it is easy to slide down into the rabbit hole of sadness and self-despair and depression and only think about the bad things.  I know I need to start recognizing the wonderful, beautiful, happy moments that have been overshadowed for so long.

So, to practice…today I am thankful for:

  1. The hysterical “30 Rock”, which I binge watched all day while grading papers
  2. My sister’s house being a five minute drive away, so I can see my niece every day
  3. Nyquil (bc I am sick and I know it will help me sleep tonight lol)

 

 

Thankful

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It is SO easy to dwell on negative feelings and problems.  I have had a very difficult couple of weeks lately .  My dad’s drinking has been out of control, my boyfriend is severely depressed and I just found out my ex-husband is having a baby.  I really want to try to stay positive, so I decided to make a list of some of the things I am thankful for to remind myself of how lucky I am.  So in no particular order:

  1. My 18 month old niece…the love of my life
  2. My pets, who always make me so happy
  3. My job- I truly love teaching and feel like I make a difference
  4. My close relationships with my mom and sister
  5. My Hyundai Tucson- it’s my favorite car I have ever had
  6. My friends- who are always there for me, no matter what
  7. The Office…best show ever (“that’s what she said”)
  8. My house- I am proud of owning my own house
  9. Being financially stable and having a savings account
  10. My heated blanket- it’s so awesome
  11. Being able to spoil my niece as much as I want
  12. My boyfriend- we have stood by each other through thick and thin
  13. My health and being able to afford a personal trainer
  14. Being in therapy with a psychologist that I really trust
  15. Decorating my house for fall, Thanksgiving and Christmas
  16. Getting a card in the mail (or sending a card to a friend)
  17. Having a good relationship with my boyfriend’s parents
  18. Loving to read and having access to good books
  19. All of my cherished memories with my grandparents
  20. Cardigan sweaters- my wardrobe staple

Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

The year of firsts…

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Having a baby niece has been amazing for so many reasons.  These past few five months have been some of the best of my life.  I am so lucky to live so close to her and to be such a big part of her growing up.  It has been so fun to see all of her “firsts”, especially holidays.  In an alcoholic family, holidays can be dreadful and stressful.  I have definitely experienced my fair share of ruined holidays.  I jokingly said to someone the other day that I feel like my niece is the reward for having such a dysfunctional family.  She is just so sweet and innocent and happy.  And she makes my sister and my mother and me SO happy.  Tonight was her first Halloween and my mom made her costume.  I know this was such a wonderful experience for my mom- to make something special for her granddaughter.  It may seem silly that we all dressed up and made such a big deal about a baby going trick-or-treating that isn’t even able to eat candy yet, but it was just another of so many sweet memories with her.  I usually do not look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas the same way other people do- I mean I still really like the holidays, but since they involve my family, they are usually stressful.  But this year feels really exciting and special and it is nice to actually be looking forward to the next few months!!

The more things change,

the more they stay the same.

My suspicions were right…my dad is drinking again.  It was a nice two years while it lasted.  I am so disappointed and even though I should have been prepared for this, I am still a little surprised.  I have had so many conflicting emotions about it.  I saw my therapist and through talking about it, she made me realize that I am really angry.  You might be saying “no, duh” (or maybe not lol), but it was a revelation to me.  You see, I get upset.  Being sad or upset is a more comfortable emotion for me.  I don’t really do angry.  Growing up, angry was not really something that was accepted and unfortunately, that carried over into my marriage.  I was never the one who was angry- that role was reserved for my father and for my ex-husband.  Through a good amount of therapy, I learned how to get in touch with my anger.  My current boyfriend would tell you that I have gotten much better at expressing anger, I’m sure.  But that says more about our relationship than anything else. Because I can am able to really be myself with him, I do not get anxious about being angry at him.  That’s also why the one person I was always able to get really mad at and fight with is my sister.

So…back to my dad.  I am really mad.  I am mad that he never apologized for anything that he did.  He never paid any consequences for his actions.  And yet, my sister and mom and I gave him a second chance when he stopped drinking. He did not earn it.  He did not deserve it.  We just gave it to him.  We made it so easy for him.  We were all so desperate for a “normal” family and were so happy and relieved to have him be sober that we just were grateful that he wasn’t drinking.  He should have spent the rest of his life making it up to us.  He should have begged for our forgiveness for what he put us through.  But, we never asked for that.  We just acted like 25 years of abuse and insanity never happened.  But that wasn’t enough, I guess.

He has started writing his nasty emails again.  That’s why I started this blog to begin with.  I joked that now I will have more to write about, but sadly, that is true.  As I have weighed the pros and cons and deliberated whether to confront him in person, my sister snapped and wrote him an email detailing ALL of the horrible things he has done to her and to my mother and me.  His response was that he thinks she is lying and that he doesn’t remember any of it.  He said that if it is true, he is sorry, but that it was a dark time in his life and he has been emotionally hurt, too.  I have mixed feelings about his response.  It definitely doesn’t feel like an apology and he was pretty dismissive about all the things she told him.  It was like “I don’t believe these things happened, but if you think they did, then I am sorry”.  Not even close to good enough. I’m also angry that he acts like he is the victim.  That “dark time” lasted two decades and spanned throughout my childhood.  He created that “dark time” himself when he chose alcohol over his family.

So now after two years of really nice, relaxing Thanksgivings, I am back to being anxious about what is going to happen on Thursday.  Will he come to my house for dinner? Will there be a scene? Will he insult me in front of my boyfriend? Will he stay home? Will he be horrible to my mom when she gets home? Will he hurt himself?  I honestly and truly did appreciate every minute of him being sober and I will never take those two years for granted.  But now that he’s drinking again, it is really bringing back a lot of feelings and memories and I find myself regressing a little bit.  But, as sad as that is to experience, I am trying to protect my heart by just staying mad.

November

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I had a difficult time sleeping a few nights ago and as I lay awake in bed (ALL night), I thought about the month of November.  I have a love/hate relationship with the month.  I love it because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and as a teacher, there are a lot of days “off” in November, so it is an easy month.  The air is crisp enough to leave the windows open during the day and yet chilly enough to snuggle under blankets at night.  It is still light out early in the morning when I leave for work and stays bright enough to walk my dog in the evening.

But November has a dark side for me.  Several years ago, I had a HORRIBLE November…it was the month I filed for divorce, that I lost my grandparents, that my sister had a health emergency.  All of these things happening at the same time was completely overwhelming.  In a way, I was so numb…my divorce was incredibly painful and very drawn out.  My beloved grandmother passed away and within about a month, my grandfather followed.  There was just so much trauma that I almost had to separate myself from it.  I feel like I prepare myself at the end of every October to be ready for November…for the flood of emotions and memories to hit me.

Things in my life could not be more different now than they were that November six years ago.  First and foremost, my family has way less drama due to my father becoming sober.  I can truly look forward to the holidays coming up in a way that I was never able to just a couple short years ago.  My parents are getting along and my mom seems more content. My sister is in a relationship and has a challenging, fulfilling job.  I have a wonderful boyfriend who is caring and supportive and successful and my divorce is hardly even a passing thought these days.  I can think about my amazing grandparents and all that they taught me without becoming teary-eyed.  And yet, there is still that dull anxiety that November brings.  I just hope that as years continue to pass that the negative memories associated with this month get replaced by new, happier ones!