Split families got me like…

Warning: This is going to be a complete vent session. 

I come from a split family. My parents got divorced when I was 5 years old. I grew up with parents that had so much resentment for eachother that co-parenting was out of the question. My childhood was a legit hot mess. 

My Dad did some “dating” (or hooking up, whatever term you’re into) and after several women found my step mom. They’ve been together probably 20 years or so. My Mom ended ended up marrying the first guy she dated post divorce, and they’ve been together for 25 years. 

My Step Dad had no children of his own. My Step Mom had 2 from a previous marriage. I spent my childhood living about half with my Dad and half with my Mom. I became close to my step siblings. When I was 14 I decided I wanted to live with my Mom permanently and that’s when my relationship with my Dad crumbled. Unfortunately that meant distance from my Step Mom and siblings as well.

Fast forward about 10 years and my Dad and I attempt a relationship again. Over those 10 years we spoke sporadically, usually when my Dad drank a few too many cocktails and grew what I like to call “beer balls” (yes I know his booze of choice isn’t beer, but Bacardi and you get the point). Needless to say those sporadic conversations didn’t end well (they were the reason I left to begin with). 

My Dad and I eventually talked, I told him how I felt about everything I had been through as a child and how much pain I still carried with me. He told me how he felt and we decided to attempt to put that all behind us and start over despite the fact that we didn’t agree on anything. I gave this relationship an honest effort. Made sure I reached out from time to time, drove an hour to see him (he wouldn’t come to my house) and played nice even though almost everything that comes out of his mouth I don’t agree with. We are totally different people.

Fast forward to a few years ago when my husband and I were having marital issues and he threw some house renovations that he did for us in my face (we paid him, FYI). Although I was hurt and angry, I decided to make another attempt at a relationship with him. We pretty much repeated what I indicated in the last paragraph. I drove to see him on holidays and for cookouts. Actually, it was more to see my siblings. I really enjoy spending time with them and missed seeing them when my Dad and I were on the outs. 

Time goes by and it’s time for the 2016 election. Dad and I have completely different political views. We exchanged a few Facebook messages about what was going on. He seemed to love talking to me about politics – I couldn’t figure out if it was the debate he enjoyed or just the fact that we always had awkward conversation until then when we spoke like 2 friends talking about politics. Needless to say, when Trump won the election I was devastated. For multiple reasons that I won’t get into now. Suddenly those disrespectful Hillary memes weren’t so funny anymore. We began talking less and less and finally he blocked me on Facebook. I unfriended him – no need for him to see what’s going on in my life if he doesn’t even want a relationship with me. And now we haven’t spoke in months.

A few days ago my sister told me that she is getting baptized in 2 weeks. She recently went on a spiritual journey if you will and although I found it odd I always support her as long as what she’s doing isn’t harming her in any way. My Dad on the other hand has not been very supportive of her. To my surprise, she told him about the baptism and he said he is going to go with my step mom. Great. 

I’m happy that he is going to support my sister. He also knows that I always support her and I will be there. I wonder if he is dreading seeing me and much as I am dreading seeing him? I wonder if he feels the elephant in the room like I do. I wonder if he thinks this is a good opportunity to talk to me (it’s not). I wonder if he likes seeing me full of angst and uncomfortable. I know him being there will mean a lot to my sister and I guess that’s all that matters.

Since I haven’t seen my siblings in months, we thought it would be nice to get everyone together for a cook out. My sister and I talked about it and decided it would be “kids only”. Well today I’m told it’s going to be at my step brothers house right after my sisters baptism. Where my Dad will be. Great. I want to spend time with my siblings so bad but the anxiety that comes along with dealing with my Dad is too great of a burden to bare right now. I know my Dad will want to take my sibs out to eat after my sisters baptism and I know my step brother will invite him back to their house because he will feel guilty. 

This all may sound really petty, but I just don’t have the energy anymore. I’ve tried to have a relationship with my Dad. I’ve put myself in so many uncomfortable positions to spend time with my family. I’ve cried so many tears thinking about the past. There is literally no more gas in my tank when it comes to dealing with this.

I would love to see my siblings but I can’t do it at the expense of my mental health anymore. Call me selfish but this is not ok with me. I am not ok. 

I step out of my comfort zone all the time to live life like a somewhat normal person despite the fact I struggle with GAD. Having GAD is something that I can’t change. I’ve always had it. But I can control my environment and it’s time that I control the things that I CAN control. 

That said, no, I do not want to come to your cookout if my Dad will be there. Yes, I miss my siblings. Yes, I wish I had a relationship with my Dad so it wasn’t awkward for all of us but this is just the way it is. I’ve tried. I’ve spent the last 10 years of my adult life trying. I’ve come to terms with what is. 

I will go to my sister’s baptism. I will be polite and be the bigger person when I see my Dad for the first time in a year. I will not put myself in an uncomfortable position with him any longer than I have to.  Been there, done that. 

🎈

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Siiiggghhhh….

“Wash your hands”, “did you touch that?”, “here use this hand sanitizer”. What is life like when you’re married and you have generalized anxiety disorder and OCD? Horrible.

My husband gets frustrated. I get it, I do too. I would too if I was living with someone paranoid; directing me to wash my hands after touching certain door handles (although they’ve already been sanitized), touching my wallet or my phone (also already sanitized). 

I was a child that grew up outside playing in the mud. Showering was done but not because I necessarily wanted to. Touching everything. Eating everything. Not thinking about germs. I’ve always struggled with generalized anxiety disorder but not OCD. Until about 4 years ago. Every time I left the house and came back or touched the door handles going into the house I’d have to wash my hands. I’d always wash my hands before cooking which was normal for me but back then I could do it and then touch the tv remote, my phone etc. As time progressed I started over analyzing the things I touched after I washed my hands and determining that those needed to be sanitized. Now I find myself sanitizing my car at the end of every week after getting gas. Door handles in the house that are used when we go in and out. Faucets. Phones. Coffee cups that come in from the outside. Remote controls. The garage door opener/closer. Even the recliner handles.

How did it get to this point? I used to never even think about this stuff. What is wrong with me? I have a theory. 

I think sanitizing is an outlet for my anxiety. What I mean by that is I used to get debilitating panic attacks for years. I still get them now and then but as my OCD routines have gotten worse my panic attacks have gotten better. The generalized anxiety is always there but the full blown take me to the ER panic attacks have subsided. Is this a possible? I have no idea – but the coincidence is odd. 

The OCD makes it challenging to live. Leaving the house is a chore knowing that I have to come home and do my routine every time I do. Spending the night at other places besides my home (hotel rooms, relative’s houses, etc.) is horrifying. Airplanes make me want to gag. I love traveling, but this makes it so much harder. I stock up on hand sanitizer and use it constantly while flying. I’m probably a few flights away from bringing wipes and sanitizing the area that we sit in (I already bring them for hotel rooms we stay in).

My husband has become very understanding and supportive of me having GAD over the years; mostly thanks to therapy. But he has a hard time with the OCD. I can’t say I blame him. I’m not sure I could be married to someone like this if I was on the other side. “Just stop doing it – what’s so hard about that?!” Dude – you have no idea. Funny thing is he acts like I like living this way. I feel like I’m trapped in a mind telling me to do things that I cannot control. Telling me we’re going to get violently ill if I don’t sanitize. Giving me horrible anxiety until I go through my routines. Not the life I want to live either. 

So where do we go from here? The OCD gets progressively worse as time goes on. Would I trade it for the panic attacks I used to get? If I don’t sanitize it will give me panic attacks. What’s worse? 

If you don’t suffer with any of these mental illnesses I can only imagine what you’re thinking: this chick is crazy. But hear me out. I have a college degree. A full time job that pays well. I own a home. I have pets. A husband. I pay taxes. I’m fortunate to be able to contribute to society in some way. If you look at me on the outside you may never know how bad I’m struggling inside. Most people that find out I struggle with this look at me wide eyed; saying they could never tell. I walk amongst everyone else with a smile although inside I feel like I’m being gutted. I’ve learned to live with this and it hasn’t been easy. You never know what someone is going through. 

As for my husband, I feel so much guilt. We’ve been married 5 years; together 12. My mental illness has progressed steadily over those 12 years, mostly since we’ve been married. Is it fair for us to be together? For him to have to put up with my antics. This isn’t what he signed up for – or is it? If it were him how would I react? There are so many things going through my mind right now. He’s started to give me a hard time about it and is borderline becoming unsupportive. “In 10 years you won’t be able to work or leave the house at this rate”. Maybe he’s right. My heart breaks every time I’m forced to think about the reality of the situation. This sucks. Anyone else going through this and if so, how do you cope?

Patience is a virtue.

So hubby and I are on vacation in the Florida Keys. Everything is great. I survived the two flights here with panic that I could somewhat control and everything went off without a hitch. We have been down here since Sunday afternoon doing some exploring and relaxing on the beach. My Grandmother lives in Florida so I don’t get to see her much since we live in New York. When she heard the news that we were coming to the Keys for vacation she asked me if her and my Mother could join. I checked with hubby and hesitated to say yes, but only for a few days. They arrived last night.

The resort that we are staying at is large and there is a lot to do. The grounds are beautiful. Last night the 4 of us had dinner. Hubby and I got a little too much sun so we weren’t feeling the best. It was busy in the restaurant so I was quiet, trying to keep my anxiety at bay and observing what was going on around me. This includes my Mother. I watched her daze off while everyone is talking and suddenly snap out of it, telling us she was going to go out and have a cigarette since it was taking so long to get our food. My immediate reaction was really? We’re in a nice restaurant on the resort and you’re going to get up, leave the restaurant and smoke by the pool (which is a non smoking area). I said something of course and she got upset, but from my perspective it just seemed rude. After a few minutes I began to think: was this her anxiety? Was she looking for an excuse to get a breather because she was uncomfortable too? Then I figured if I can suffer through an hour with the family she can too. Plus I was delaying her smoking so I may have added a few minutes to her life. Right?

We finish eating and by this time it is dark. Mom wants to walk around and see the resort. My Grandmother is 80 years young (😌) but you wouldn’t be able to tell if it wasn’t for her exterior. She may look 80 but mentally she’s sharp and witty. Sarcastic and loving. I like to think we’re a lot a like in that regard. She had 2 knee replacements about 25 years ago and put on a good amount of weight. She isn’t in the best physical shape and the only walking she really does is a few feet from chair to chair. She is old give her a break! 

Well my Mother decides that we need to power walk the grounds in the dark (some of it is lit, some isn’t) and she’s bringing Granny along. My poor Grandma can barely breathe let alone keep up with her. My Mom seems to get pleasure out of this, almost like she thinks she is doing some good getting Grandma some physical exercise. Meanwhile I’m getting horrible anxiety because as I hear my Grandma breathing heavily all I can think of is her collapsing or falling and something serious happen or she is hospital bound the rest of he trip. Leave it to my crazy Mom to royally screw this up. As I watched my Grandma bee line it down the hallway to the chair in her room I thought to myself I better say something to Mom. My Mom is not self aware and she’s been known to do insensitive things from time to time. 

We got to the room and Granny tells us she loves us and will see us tomorrow with the little air that she has in her lungs and  heads in to take a seat. Mom walks in after her and I ask her to come into the hallway. I nicely explained to her what I witnessed. She brushed it off acting like Grandma needed it and I was being too sensitive. Maybe I was but just because I didn’t want anything to happen to her and I saw how bad she was struggling. If my anxiety has taught me anything it’s that everyone struggles with something and having a little empathy for someone can make their life a lot easier. There is no worse feeling than being ashamed of yourself due to your limitations, mentally or physically. I understand that we grow by pushing ourselves but everyone has limits. 

My Grandfather passed away a few years ago now. He was very athletic until he was diagnosed with dementia the last 10 years of his life. On vacations he was right alongside the kids laughing and doing physical things. He was always the opposite of Grandma. My Mom was a Daddy’s girl and I think she misses having him around during times like these. But Grandma is who she is and she is 80 and not fit to run a marathon. When I think of my Mom I think of her as being 35-40 years old in my mind (she is 55). Perhaps that’s how she thinks of my Grandma. 

Needless to say I hope that we can have fun and accommodate Grandma the rest of the trip without my Mom giving her (or I) a heart attack. We are still here 2 more full days and I’m already having anxiety over the flight home and starting a new job on Monday. When I booked this trip I was so excited thinking I would be able to relax and get my mind right before starting the new job. Then the vacation is here and the reality sets in: my disorder follows me everywhere. I can’t escape it to matter how hard I try. It probably doesn’t help that my family hijacked my vacation but the anxiety would be here regardless. It is what it is. 

And with that, it’s almost 4am, I’ve been up all night and Mom has an action packed day planned so I better try to put my anxious mind to bed. Wish me luck.  

 

Another perspective…

This week an old friend and a person related to someone in my family commuted suicide. Both of them suffered  from mental illness. 

My heart hurts. I’ve been there. When the anxiety is debilitating. Can’t leave the house. Physically feel like shit. Disappointing those you love. No end in sight. When you’re suffering in the peak of a panic attack and you feel like you can’t live this way for another minute. Another second. You would do anything to end the suffering. The pain. 

Then a few minutes goes by. Your chest begins to loosen. Your breathing begins to slow. You can’t hear your heart pounding in your ears anymore. Your vision begins to steady. Your stomach settles down. Things are starting to look up, right?

For now. Here’s the thing about having a legitimate mental illness: the suffering doesn’t end. There will be another panic attack. Another episode of depression. That’s guaranteed. 

My guess is that these individuals ended it during the peak of an anxious moment, a panic attack or episode of depression. Before they gave it time to get better. I can’t say I agree with it, but I do understand it. And it makes my heart hurt. 

What makes my heart hurt even more is that no one knew the extent of their suffering. On the outside they had lots of friends, were successful, seemed to be living the life they wanted with a smile. Why didn’t anyone have any idea? Because of the stigma around mental illness. They didn’t want to be labeled. Didn’t want to be judged. Didn’t want to burden anyone else with their issues. These were great people and because our society is so quick to judge we are without these people. And many others.

I am one of those people. On the outside I look like I have it all. I take care of myself, I have a great job, a wonderful husband and everything I want. Most people don’t know that I dread mornings. Why? Because I have to fight to make it through another day. Hide the debilitating anxiety. Maintain the facade. My close family knows that I struggle, but how much easier would my life be if I could decline a meeting because I’m too anxious? Work from home because I’m having a bad anxiety day? Cut myself some slack and not clean the house, go grocery shopping and do laundry each Saturday because Sunday is too late in the weekend? But I don’t want to be judged. I don’t want to be treated like an invalid. 

Why can’t I tell you that I suffer from GAD, OCD and depression and have you treat me like I don’t belong in the looney bin?

I am a functional, contributing member of society. Don’t judge me. 

END THE STIGMA.  

RIP Joey and Scott. 💔

 

Hold on to me…cause I’m a little unsteady.

It’s getting closer to me finding out my fate with my company after the merger goes through. The head of the department I work in at the bank that is taking us over will be in the office tomorrow. 

All of this is giving me such bad anxiety. My weekend has been full of high blood pressure, dizzy spells and nausea. It’s sad that I can’t even enjoy my time away from work due to the stress work is putting on my mind.

Good news is that I survived several long in person meetings last week that I was freaking out about. I had to excuse myself only once to get some air – which I was mortified to do – until I came back and realized these people could care less. Luckily there were several people in the meeting with me.

My husband has been dying to see the movie Deadpool. Movies give me anxiety too of course – being trapped in a seated position for a couple hours is torture – but I told him I’d go with him if went to the earliest showing they had. So we’re going at 10:45am. And I’m going to give it everything I have to sit there with him the entire time and actually try and enjoy myself. After all, he let me pick the seats and everything. And it’s the least I can do after what he’s put up with the past few weeks with me, not to mention his own issues. Panic attacks, turning down plans, he had foot surgery…I suck. 

It’s currently 6am and I’ve been rolling around in bed since 3am. Anxiety drains me both physically and mentally and it doesn’t even allow me to rest when I’m exhausted beyond words. Anxiety is a bitch and I hate her. 

I’m going on vacation in April, which I’m excited and anxious about due to the flights but if I can do 24 hours of flying in 2 weeks I can do 6 hours in 1 week. My mom and grandma are hijacking part of our trip and are staying at our resort. It won’t be that bad but my mom tends to make my hyper so I won’t be able to relax as much as I had hoped. The week before we go my step dad announced that he’s coming up to stay with me for a week. 

Are these people serious!? I’m an medicated anxious wreck right now that’s anxious about everything and they want to come stay with me and hijack my vacation around the time I hope to be starting a new job. I’m going to need a vacation from the month of April. STRESS.

I’ll get through it. Always do somehow. Today I’m thankful for my husband, my rock. Who could easily be giving me a hard time about my anxiety levels lately and my family taking over our lives in April. But he’s not. He’s telling me we will get though it. It will be good to see them since I only see my parents annually. I’m stronger than I think I am. That I’m the strongest person he knows. I don’t know how he does it with me…I really don’t. 😍