For the last few weeks, I’ve been noticing some more emotions coming up than usual, for me. I mean, the Thanksgiving-to-New Year’s time of year is almost universally difficult for many of us to get through.
I’ve been thinking of when I was younger, like maybe middle-school age or less, I had a conversation with my Dad in which we talked about me being depressed. I think I’m really not alone in the kind of reaction I received: “You? Depressed? (Laughter) What do you have to be depressed about, little girl?! You have a nice home, food, clothes and 2 parents who love you!” And he wasn’t wrong. But he wasn’t entirely right, either.
As a very small child I learned to be “PERFECT”, because when I stepped out of line -even accidentally- I was going to pay a painful price. Dad had a hair-trigger temper, and he punished me with his belt when he was ANGRY. I was terrified of his anger my entire life, and even now I have a lot of anxiety when a man raises his voice in anger.
I later learned that I had had A.D.D., which looks different in girls than in boys. I was called a daydreamer, or space cadet. I got in trouble for talking all the time, and it was next to impossible for me to get all my supplies and homework to where they were supposed to be without forgetting or losing something.
At the time, these traits just infuriated Dad, because he was sure that I “had to be doing it on purpose”. Then I heard “stupid, lazy, doesn’t pay attention, lazy and doesn’t even try”.
I was reminded of that situation when I heard recently of a relative of mine, in reference to his teenager being depressed, saying things like Not going to medicate and Counsellors are a waste of money. It really bothered me to hear that, because that kind of thinking has cost far too many people struggling with addiction and/or mental illness their lives. If you see that your child is miserable, with no obvious reasons for it, why wouldn’t you do whatever it took to at least find out WHY?
News flash: mental illness and addiction are things that our kids are PRE-DISPOSED toward. It’s not an entirely hereditary issue, but it makes the odds of developing addiction/mental illness go up about 100%. It has been proven that children with untreated mental illness are several times more likely to develop a dependancy to drugs or alcohol. And, p.s., telling someone to “suck it up” or “snap out of it” DOESN’T WORK.
Ok, back to the holidays. When I think of Christmas, I think of family get-togethers with lots of food and presents and all the adults getting hammered. I don’t really remember much about my earliest Christmases, because PTSD.
I used to have my ideas about what I’d like to happen, memories of what had happened in the past, and fears of how it was more than likely going to turn out, as I walked in the door. I knew what to expect, but not how to protect myself or my sobriety.
Someone gave me some simple definitions once:
Anger: I’m not getting what I want.
Fear: I might not get what I want.
Resentment: I didn’t get what I wanted.
Those are possibly overly simplistic in this scenario, but they do fit.
Most of us have had unpleasant and difficult childhoods. I’m not trying to put the blame on our parents; they did the best they could. They may have come up in the same kind of dysfunction, or worse.
The truth of the matter is that we learn the family “script” as children watching how the adults do things. If nothing changes, nothing changes.
When we get together with old friends or family during the holidays, it may be with apprehension and great reluctance. Nobody knows how to push our buttons like family. Oddly, when we start making positive changes in our lives, those are the folks who may be the most resistant. It’s kind of like the family has a script with everyone’s roles established. Everything goes as usual until someone doesn’t read their lines.
Or it’s like if you are dancing with a partner and you change dances mid-song. They’re going to want you to go back to the dance that you’d been rehearsing, even if it does look bad and feel worse to the dancers…
Anyway, it’s late and I’ve got to work tomorrow.
I encourage you, if you’re doing anything tomorrow that gives you that old familiar pain, to plan ahead.
Be sure you have Recovering folks #s on you, don’t forget to pray in the morning and more, and keep your expectations low. Don’t expect yourself to walk through a bunch of drama and come out serene and beaming. Likewise, don’t expect anything from your family that’s not realistic for them.
If Uncle Frank likes to have spiked eggnog starting at breakfast, then maybe it would be helpful for you to decide how to deal with him before you get to the party. If your Mom feels the need to treat you like a 10-year-old even though you’re 50 and have grown children, it could be a good idea to practice setting boundaries beforehand. And if you know that everyone will be sh*t-faced by 9pm, make your excuse when you arrive, (like I’ve gotta catch a meeting @ 8) and then it won’t seem so abrupt when you bolt out the door.
Posted from my treehouse in the woods.