My last post was more than six weeks ago, and it was admittedly pretty grim. I’d confessed that I wasn’t handling the stress of mid-2016 very well, and that I’d come to realize that I needed help to make it through.
Well… I’ve made it through. I’m not out of the woods, but things have gotten better.
For starters, I realized that my reactions to the stress of my dad’s cancer and death, the behavior of my mother and stepmother, the incredibly long list of pressures and tasks, and the uncertainty about what effect all of this would have on my marriage, my career, and my life – or the potential ending of all three – were all too much for me. So I took some time off of work, and I got some badly needed counseling.
In my first session with my therapist, I was about ten minutes in, with a long list of things that were causing me stress, anxiety, and agitation… and he stopped me. He said something to the effect of, “You deal with these things all day long, every day… but you’re not really talking about the fact that your dad just died. So let’s spend these 45-minute sessions talking about that, okay?”
I literally didn’t know what to say. (And, family and friends will attest that this is a rare phenomenon.)
It was true, though: I really wasn’t giving myself the opportunity to grieve and to think about how my dad’s death – not the laundry list of what-the-fuck that followed, but the loss of my father – was affecting me.
I was agitated by all kinds of things that were, in retrospect, not as important in the grand scheme of things as literal life and death. I was anxious about not being able to live up to my promise to my father, on his literal deathbed, to take care of everything. And I was terrified that I was going to ruin my marriage, destroy my career, and find myself barely (or not) hanging on to the scorched Earth remains of what used to be my life.
So yeah, that’s a lot. Fortunately, some time, some rest, and some counseling have helped. I much less often find myself struggling to maintain my composure in public. Sure, excessive alcohol and disagreements with my husband are still a trigger that makes me feel like everything else is crumbling around me, but I try to drink less and argue less.. both of which seem like reasonable life choices anyway.
I’m back at work, and I’m no longer living in fear that I’m going to hurl my phone across the room, or burst into sobs for no apparent reason, or start screaming and cursing at a coworker who has somehow gotten on my nerves. That’s progress, right?
I still struggle to stay focused – I’m so scattered that I flit from task to thought to random idea, seemingly every few minutes – which is making deadlines difficult and “big picture thinking” impossible. But I’m using task lists and constant out-loud reminders to help combat that tendency, and trying to focus on celebrating “wins” when I finish something and can move on. It’s a start.
I’m still worried about losing my job, and with it my health insurance, but that’s a story for another time… this post is about progress, not worry.
I’m taking things much less personal in my marriage: I’m not falling to pieces when I forget to take out the trash. I don’t feel like a failure and am not literally driven to suicidal ideation when my husband and I have an argument. (Which, all things considered, is actually pretty rare.)
And I can ride the subway and walk the streets of Manhattan without feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and ready to lose my shit at the slightest provocation or disturbance.
None of these may sound like amazing accomplishments, perhaps, but all of it comes as a huge relief to me. Things still aren’t great, in a number of ways, but they’re better.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and I’ll call that a win.