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strategies for surviving family of origin holidays


dancesintherain
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I'm heading to my parents house on Wednesday night after work (about a 1.5 hour train ride) and staying through Saturday morning.  It's the longest trip I've had to them in a while and it brings with it all the complications that come with holidays (thanksgiving in the US). 

I'm looking for ideas and strategies for making it through the time.  I'm debating putting together a formal cope ahead plan.  But for now, I'm just hoping to get some brainstorming going.

One thing that an al-anon participant suggested was to remember to monitor myself and to take breaks as I need to.  She said that she found that things got exponentially worse over time, but that if she took periodic breaks, it made it more manageable.

Another is that I'll be bringing things to distract me...nook, christmas music, etc.

I'm just not in a good head space and really need to do a good job of staying grounded in the present.  So I'm open to all ideas. 

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6 hours ago, dancesintherain said:

I'm just not in a good head space and really need to do a good job of staying grounded in the present.  So I'm open to all ideas. 

What things, specifically, are you worried about, while spending time with your parents?

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Good question.  Some of it is free floating anxiety, which makes it hard to problem solve around.

im partially worried that they’ll catch on to the fact that I’m not doing well psychologically and then act in an unhelpful way.  I don’t know what that would look like, but I feel a pretty strong desire to pretend that everything is fine.

im also worried that because things aren’t so great psychologically, I’ll end up having flashbacks or nightmares to childhood stuff.  It’s less likely because they now live in a different house from the one I grew up in.  But that’s another fear.

I think those are the main ones.

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16 hours ago, dancesintherain said:

Good question.  Some of it is free floating anxiety, which makes it hard to problem solve around.

im partially worried that they’ll catch on to the fact that I’m not doing well psychologically and then act in an unhelpful way.  I don’t know what that would look like, but I feel a pretty strong desire to pretend that everything is fine.

im also worried that because things aren’t so great psychologically, I’ll end up having flashbacks or nightmares to childhood stuff.  It’s less likely because they now live in a different house from the one I grew up in.  But that’s another fear.

I think those are the main ones.

Constant anxiety is tough.....I hear you there, because that's what I deal with every day.

I understand about pretending everything is fine when I'm with family......Both my parents are passed away now, so it's just me, my sister, my nephew and niece, and my children who'll be getting together for dinner tomorrow.......Your situation is somewhat different, and more difficult, IMO,  because you're going to actually be living with your parents for a few days.

I can only tell you what works for me.....Most of my family members just don't talk about my issues......If someone does happen to say something or react in an uhelpful way, I just ignore them and don't reply....I realize that may not work for you, but that's what I do--it does take some practice.

If I were in your situation, and they were actively saying things that were hurtful or unhelpful, I would just leave the room and ignore them.

I don't have any experiences of childhood trauma, so I'm not really experienced in how to deal with nightmares or flashbacks...Do you have a friend or therapist that you could call or text if that happens?

Sorry I can't be more helpful, but my thoughts are with you, and I really think you can do this and make it through.

Hopefully, someone else might reply that has more suggestions.

 

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thanks CRH, I truly appreciate the support.  I think I need to remind myself that enough years of therapy has taught me to monitor myself better, so that hopefully things won't get to me as much as they used to.  ignoring and selectively listening would be useful.  I don't want to worry them because they don't know what to do when they're worried and then I feel like I have to make them feel better.  I know I'm not responsible for their feelings--but I'm not in a state of mind where I can tend to their anxieties. 

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Dances is it possible to work in a walk by yourself if you're starting to feel overwhelmed? I know that can be a chore when we're not feeling well especially, but maybe it would give you a little space. You can just mumble something about getting your steps in before the end of the year. Otherwise, do mindfulness exercises help you if you're overwhelmed? I'm thinking of the 5 things I can see, 4 things I can hear, 3 things I can touch, 2 things I can smell, 1 thing I can taste exercise, for instance (I probably got them all in the wrong order). Remembering that something is only happening for a finite time helps me too sometimes. I hope the holiday is at least somewhat restful and pleasant, but wishing you luck.

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thanks Harp.  Yes, I think I'll be taking some walks.  The getting steps in is a good call--I hadn't thought of that particular excuse.  But it works.  Mindfulness helps me sometimes. 

I'll head up on the train in about 3.5 hours.  I imagine that I'll spend the train ride listening to Christmas carols.  that will help. 

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