Before I experienced Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and depression, I will admit my self-care during my adult life was nearly non-existent. I still had interests, hobbies, things I loved to do, but I didn’t put any of it into practice on a regular basis. Instead, I allowed myself to give in to what others wanted and needed all too often. This was, of course, no one’s fault but my own. Motherhood and my subsequent fierce battles with Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder were my great teachers – albeit they taught me through fire and not calm patience.
This morning it hit me just how much I have learned in the nearly 10 years since my first episode. (Side note – I can’t believe it has been nearly TEN YEARS!)
Holidays are difficult for me, Thanksgiving in particular. You see, when I was a pre-teen (I believe they are called tweens nowadays – kids and their slang), I lost my step-grandmother on Thanksgiving Day. She died in the morning and that afternoon, we were at my other grandmother’s house to “celebrate” with a large meal and an even larger family. Some years it bothers me more than others but for the most part, it’s simply part of the day and she’s always with me, even if just in my thoughts.
This year, we invited my parents to come up for Thanksgiving. They accepted and said they’d be here unless there was weather. All looked great until earlier this week when there was talk of a major snow storm due to hit today. I continued to prepare as if they would be arriving. This morning, the final call was made. They won’t be traveling to see us and I am staring at snow-covered ground at the beginning of the threatened storm which is now all too real.
What did I do this morning, you ask?
Instead of crying or allowing anger to take over, I sat down on the couch, exhaled, drank coffee, and watched a fantastic documentary the TiVo recorded about snow monkeys in Japan. I turned on my HappyLight and snuggled with the cat.
I chose peace. I practiced it without guilt.
When we are in the midst of a battle for our mental health, for our sanity, it isn’t always this simple to choose peace. We cannot choose peace any more than someone who has cancer can choose to be healthy. We have to wait and hope for the best, hope that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel. Once we find our light, however, we carry it with us through our lives and it makes us a stronger person. It changes us deep down.
Days like today make me grateful for my experience. Grateful that despite the horrid darkness into which I sank, I rose above it with the help of others (like Katherine). I am grateful for the silence and the magic of the world around me and being able to choose to see it instead of focusing on the what if’s of chaos.
For those who are heading into the holidays and struggling to keep your own anxiety and other issues at bay due to the increased social expectations, please remember to take care of yourselves. Here are a few tips to help keep your holidays (and you) sane:
Know your boundaries and do not be afraid to defend them.
If you are visiting others, scope out the location when you first arrive for a quiet corner to which you can escape if that chest-tightening ball starts to swell in your chest and throat. (Bathrooms are fabulous for this as no one questions it!)
Remember to breathe. Deeply. Breathe is essential and slowing it down helps us soothe anxiety.
Talk with your loved ones, particularly your partner or someone you are close to – develop a strategy for exit if things get too overwhelming.
Remember that you are not required to give an intimate description of how you are doing unless you are up to it. Change the subject. Wikipedia is your friend!
How people choose to react to you is NOT YOUR GIG. Be the best you that you can be at this time in your life. How people choose to react to this says far more about them than it ever will about you.
You can get through this holiday. You can. You’ve come so far, and you are fighting a far fiercer foe than the one which exists on this one day.
Me? I’m gonna head into the kitchen now and wrap things up so I can binge on Netflix for the remainder of the day.
You? Have a fabulous holiday season and don’t forget to be the awesomeness that is hidden deep inside.