It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year–and I’m Ruining It for Everyone

I love the end of the year.

Autumn (when you don’t live in Arizona, at least) always feels like a delicious preview of the upcoming season.  I love the sweaters and the hoodies and the cold cheeks and the scarves.  I love the wool socks (I have never actually owned a pair but I recently appropriated my husband’s and they are fantastic) and the hot baths and the switch from iced to burn-your-tastebuds coffee.  I love sipping anything from a mug as I pretend to contemplate the mysteries of the universe.

I love decking the hell out of the halls by draping every window and entrance in christmas lights, and I love being the first one to wake up so I can plug them all in and bask in their comforting glow.

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super hi-qual photo of our rather mangy-looking christmas tree. you can see a heavy distribution of ornaments right about the level that two preschoolers can reach.

I look forward to this last stretch, packed with festivity and wintry comforts, all year long.

And this year, I might just miss the whole thing.

Due to a lack of foresight and general on-the-ball-ness on my part (note to all: get your damn prescriptions filled WELL BEFORE they run out), I have been slowly deteriorating from certified functioning adult to weepy, irritable, anxiety-ridden mess that is pretty much the antithesis of all things Christmas and cheer.

I have been miserable, you guys.  And unfortunately, due to my utter lack of believable acting skills, I have been making my misery so apparent as to ruin every family function I attend.  (My deepest apologies to all who have had to share space with me the last few weeks.)

I went with family (my little nuclear + some extended) to see the Zoo Lights the other night.  It was magical.  Thousands of beautiful light displays, Christmas music, merriment and mingling…there was even a giant talking giraffe that my boys regarded with equal parts fascination and terror.  (note to self: add threats about possible future visitations from the aforementioned terrifying giraffe into discipline repertoire.)

Any other time (under the proper medication), I would have loved it.  That time, however…let’s just say I was not up to par.

We went on a Wednesday night, hoping to avoid the weekend crowds, but there were PEOPLE. EVERYWHERE.  Everyone was milling about in a festive sort of chaos, and I froze.  Standing in the midst of the laughing, chatty multitude, surrounded by flashing lights and the shouts of parents chasing after children, I could feel myself withdrawing, shutting down.

Too loud. Too much noise.

Anxiety unfurling, stretching itself out in my chest.

So many people.  Rushing past, bumping into me please don’t touch me. Other people I’m supposed to be paying attention to, interacting with, at least walking in pace with.  Go catch up to them, dammit!  They already think you’re avoiding them.

Arms folding tightly, head bowing slightly.  Walking a little faster.

All the noise, filling up my head.  I can’t think.  I can’t focus. Someone just asked me a question. Pay attention. What? 

“Oh, nothing.  I’m fine.”  Tight smile.  What is wrong with you? Stop acting so ungrateful!  You can do better than this!  “The lights. They’re…so beautiful, right?  Must’ve taken forever to put them up.”  Attempt a laugh.  “Heh heh…heh.”  Shit. I’m terrible at this.  

Over the foggy din in my head I recognize that my mom is asking me about our Christmas plans.  Where do we want to do Sunday dinner?  Christmas Eve dinner?  Christmas dinner?  When can we pick up the boys’ presents?  Are we going to spend the night for Christmas or just come over the next morning?

The questions are floating around in my head, expanding and crowding it, bouncing off of each other and I can’t make sense of any of them.  The inability to make decisions is a lovely side-effect of anxiety (recent experiences include the time I spent a paralyzed 30 minutes in the soup aisle at Target agonizing over the ramifications of picking one of two nearly identical cans of tomato soup.  TOMATO SOUP, PEOPLE.)

“Can…can I get back to you on that?”  Can’t think.  Family dinner, Christmas plans?  Too many factors to consider.  Why do I have to make this decision? I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know.  I wish I wasn’t here.  They’re giving me those looks and asking if I’m okay and why can’t I just suck it up and act normally for the family?

Anxiety is a bitch, man.

And it turns me into a bitch.  I start hating everyone and everything; the slightest noises or accidental touches become unforgivable offenses to my very person.  This makes me very difficult to be around.  And lucky for all of us, I’ve been an absolute beast this entire holiday season.

Of course everything was fine.  We all enjoyed the night and got home safely.  Children were put to bed and drinks were made (at the urging of my husband.  In a pinch, alcohol can be marvelous for anxiety).  I chilled out enough to be functional and we endured watched all 87 minutes (commercial-free!) of Psych: the Musical.

When I was lamenting my ruination of the Zoo Lights experience to a friend the next day, she told me exactly what I needed to hear.

“Don’t freak out about it.  Sometimes, you’re going to have a hard time, and you’re going to feel anxious and shitty and it’s okay.  It’s just okay.  Your family loves you and they’ll understand and forgive you.”

I thought about it.  I suppose being an asocial ass sometimes isn’t the end of the world.

I guess it really is…just okay.

And I guess my family really is eager for me to get back on my meds, if the gentle and frequent reminders to “make that doctor’s appointment so you can get your prescription!” are any indication.

———-

If you made it through that novella I’d love to hear your stories.  Has anxiety ever ruined any holidays for you?  Do you find yourself putting off making important appointments for no logical reason?  Have you ever used the authority of an imaginary character to threaten your child(ren) into obedience?

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4 thoughts on “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year–and I’m Ruining It for Everyone

  1. I stopped going several years ago but this year, I’ve been reading up on how other anxiety folks are dealing with it and thinking, ‘maybe next year?” Thanks for being an inspiration….that sounds corny, but you get the drift, I hope! 🙂

    • Definitely! Big social events (yeah, the zoo qualifies…for me, at least. haha) can be hard on high-anxiety days. If you do feel up to going, I’d recommend maybe going with just one other person (someone who ‘gets’ you and will understand if you need to take things slowly or decompress in a bathroom or quiet corner) rather than a large group of friends or family. Good luck!!

  2. So I’m reading this at work because where else would I read it? And I found myself laughing and also nodding my head seriously, in complete agreement with everything you said about anxiety. I get the rushing thoughts, the “don’t touch me,” the need to go into a bathroom stall and cover my eyes with my hands like a child and just breathe.

    Also, one time I had a panic attack in a Walmart because there were so so many people and I was standing in the deodorant aisle and I could. not. handle it. I couldn’t pick a deodorant. I couldn’t even reach out to touch one, I couldn’t read the names or brands because everything was blurry. Like 30 minutes later my roommate (and my ride) found me standing there, exactly where she had left me. Here, for your entertainment, is more or less a transcript of our conversation:

    Her: Holy crap, haven’t you decided yet?

    Me: . . . no? (tired, tiny voice)

    Her: . . . why?

    Me: There are . . . just so many . . .

    Her: . . .

    Me: *useless gesturing towards the deodorant*

    Baby who is almost certainly too young to be taken to a Walmart on a Saturday night: *screaming*

    Me: *flinching*

    Her: *grabs a random deodorant and my arm and hauls me the fuck out of there*

    Yep, that’s how that shit went down. So you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in pretty good company.

    • I’m so glad I can entertain you at work in another medium besides texting. 😉 And your Walmart experience sucks so bad. (OF COURSE it happened at Walmart.) When I look back at situations like that I’m like WHAT THE HELL WAS WRONG WITH YOU WOMAN JUST PICK SOMETHING but when I’m in the moment and there are all these stupid options and I’m in the throes of crippling indecision…it’s not so easy.

      Who needs deodorant anyway? Screw hygiene.

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