The Morning After

This has catastrophe written all over it.—Sydney Ellen Wade in The American President

I started feeling depressed again about a week ago.  It was more like a low-grade fever—the voices of despair and hopelessness in the background with the Christmas Muzak.  Just enough to slow me down, to make the holes in my day yawn like hungry mouths. Counter measures could still beat it back at times—long workouts in the water, three full hours writing—but the Sunset Syndrome was back.  Anxiety and agitation moved in as the sun went down, so the evenings proved particularly uncomfortable.  And the urge to eat drowned me then.

But, I hung on—counted my calories, kept to my routine.  I balanced on that edge for days.  Then, Christmas came and I tumbled over.

I think I can now safely say that Christmas is a trigger for me.  After last year, I wondered if I should ease out of the family events.  But, then, Dad died, and it felt important to all be together this year, to try to find a way to do our normal activities without him.  But the stress was too much.

Once my brother arrived, he never stopped talking, so there were usually two or three conversations going on at the same time with no-one really listening.  Mom interrogated and fired off new information the minute I walked in the door—I tried to call, where were you? Tyler called and said… What’s in this bag?  We watched The Man Who Would Be King last night…  My body interpreted all this stimuli as an attack, and the only responses were fight back or escape.  So Christmas became an exercise in keeping my anger in check and not running out the door.  I failed.

The more I failed, the more my illness seized my thoughts, and the worse I failed.  Opening presents was a nightmarish ordeal.  I announced months ago that I couldn’t afford to give presents this year, but at the last minute I couldn’t stand the poverty-mindedness of it and bundled up packages of cards I’d made to give out.  Some gave me gifts anyway, some didn’t.  I  felt ridiculous, poor and just plain wrong.  This isn’t how our family does Christmas.  We always have loads of gifts and great fun opening them.  I didn’t belong anymore.

Then, there were the looks and the whispering.  Oh, they had every right to whisper about me, I was in rare bipolar form, but it always hurts to catch them at it.  It makes me feel so very crazy.

I dreaded this weekend.  I knew it would be bad.  And I started to wonder if my family dreads being with me as much as I dread being with them.  I could see my sister’s concern, her desire to pull together all the elements that would make Christmas feel normal without Dad.  And Mom brushed off my apologies as if my outbursts were the most normal things in the world.  They deserve time together without wondering if I’m going to implode.  I love them.  I want to be with them.  But, it seems like I can’t.  And that makes me incredibly sad.

The thin layer of sanity I wear so proudly got ripped off and the raving lunatic gamboled in the streets. I’m humiliated and defeated.  And another part of me knows this will pass.  I’ll be forgiven, this episode will run its course, and the cycle will start again.  I must be careful now to watch my thoughts, come back to my routine, do all the things I know to do that will keep me healthy and sane.  I must use this Christmas as a learning, a marker, and make adjustments.  When I feel stronger, I’ll talk to my family about what happened.  It’s all part of the Work.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. fivereflections
    Dec 26, 2011 @ 12:10:12

    i clicked “liked”, because i liked listening to what you have written.


  2. Kathryn McCullough
    Dec 26, 2011 @ 12:30:15

    I understand every word you have written, my friend. Courage and strength to you, dear Sandy. Hugs, as well———————


  3. Tina
    Dec 26, 2011 @ 21:18:11

    I understand exactly how you feel.


  4. pegoleg
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 10:02:40

    Aw, Sandy. I’m sorry this was so tough on you. You’ve got to know your family loves you. Try to forgive them their human flaws – the looks and whispers they know they shouldn’t make – as you forgive yourself for not being able to manage the Beaver Cleaver Christmas.


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