Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Exhausted and Fried

In January my husband will start a new semester of college taking 9 credits and will work 56 hours a week at his job. This week was to be spent in preparation for January and the stresses it will bring.

So, of course, Monday my daughter begins coming down with the stomach flu, and by today everyone's got it. Not much is getting done. My stress level is mounting, as are my laundry and dish piles. This makes me very cranky on top of being sick.

I'm trying to think of ways to dig myself out. First priority is to get everyone healthy. Then get the dishes and laundry under control.

Maybe I should just stop thinking until the sickness passes.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Looking on the Bright Side

I can feel depression's claws trying to dig their way into my brain again. So I'm resisting. First, we have good news:

Somebody awesome dropped off gifts for Christmas at our front door, knocked on the door, and ran before I could find out who it was. They were very nice gifts, too.

Monday my family and I were supposed to drive to meet up with my siblings an hour away from home, but there was a huge snowstorm forecasted for Monday. So we packed up really quickly and headed out Sunday night to beat the storm. We avoided the storm, we were able to stay for free in a nice apartment owned by my sister-in-law's parents, and made it to take pictures with my siblings on time. I got to see my brother and his wife for the first time in 18 months, along with my brand new niece and nephew. Also, our formal pictures turned out really well, despite some potential hiccups solved by my sister-in-law's quick thinking.

My brother relayed some bad news about my dad's health, but if anyone can help him, it's my mom and brother. I'm suddenly really glad my brother's studying medicine.

Christmas eve and Christmas day were both really fun. We had relaxed days at my husband's parents' house, and we got spoiled rotten. I got a breadmaker, which I'm excited about. Now I can make my own bread, which is good because bread's gotten expensive to buy and you can't really store loaves of bread for times of emergency. Also, it has a cinnamon roll setting/recipe.

I'm glad we have food, warmth, shelter, and a support group for when we get hit with big snowstorms. Last night there was too much snow, and my husband couldn't get the car home. So he parked it in a gas station parking lot and walked the rest of the way home. Today we found out they'd towed our car. My husband is upset, but his parents were available to pick him up and give him a ride to work. We have enough money to get our car returned (assuming the towing company ever picks up the phone or returns our calls). I don't have a pressing need to go anywhere today because my house has enough food for the weekend.

The news has been pretty awful lately. People buried in avalanches, people dressing up as Santa and going on murderous rampages, people cheating others out of money. But there are also stories of people surviving being buried in snow for days, people helping strangers avoid forclosure, people doing smaller acts of service like whoever put presents on our door. I really want to find something nice to do for somebody, soon.

So I guess my conclusion is that for me and my life, I have more cause to celebrate than to despair. And I have the opportunity to brighten someone else's day, too. I hope everyone has a good day and remembers to look on the bright side and see what has gone right out of things that could have gone bad and be thankful for what we have.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Season's greetings! Merry Christmas! Happy holidays! Happy everything!

Drink some eggnog, already. I'm indulging in a day or two of shameless sugar eating, lazing about the house with new toys, and absolutely trying not to think about all the things that are nagging my brain.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Be the Best at Basics

I went to yesterday's therapy appointment expecting more homework. I like homework and classroom settings. I'd been in classrooms for 16 years by the time I graduated college. I turned in last week's assignment and was ready to write down more, and then my therapist told me a story. He said:

Once upon a time a boy went to a week-long camp to learn wrestling moves taught by Olympic wrestling winners. The boy had several years of wrestling experience and was very excited to be taught by the best of the best. But on the first day they taught him the one leg takedown, which is the most basic of wrestling moves. On the second day they taught him the two leg takedown, also a basic move. Lessons on basic moves continued through the rest of the week, and the boy was disappointed. Finally it dawned on him that Olympic wrestlers don't use special, secret moves to win their battles; they use the same basic moves as other wrestlers. They're just really really good at using those basic moves.

My therapist went on to explain that I already know all the basic moves now. There's nothing new he can teach me. I just need to get really good at using basic techniques to keep myself functioning until it becomes second nature instead of a struggle, and I can only do that with practice.

I was going to write more, but my kids just woke up and need attention. So toodles, and I hope everyone has a good day. :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Changes in Temperament

In the last two weeks I've been eating healthier foods and exercising regularly, and I think it's affecting my temperament. Situations that I know would have bothered me previously aren't as frustrating to me now. For example, a few days ago I took my three year old son to a friend's house who also has a three year old son. We were going to try our first day of a neighborhood preschool. Our children did not cooperate; they wanted to play with (and fight over and throw tantrums about) toys instead of listen to storytime or do crafts.

Previously I'd be so embarrassed by my son's behavior that I'd haul him home and put him in time-out or tell him he's been a bad boy and then feel like the worst parent in the world and spend the rest of the day wallowing in self-hate. I'm sure I'll have more days like that to come. But Thursday I was able to think clearly enough to understand that both boys were just having trouble sharing (as is age appropriate) and were tired and cranky. There wasn't fault to be passed around; their behavior was normal. So we took our kids back to our receptive houses and I gave my son a hug and I'm optimistic about this week's second try for preschool.

I still get cranky when I'm tired (usually at the end of the day). But I'm nowhere near as cranky or unreasonable as I used to be. I'm feeling better about myself because I'm being proactive in getting healthy (and, I must admit vanity, I'm happy about losing some extra weight). So I must work on doing a better bedtime routine instead of dreading the end of day. Maybe that will be my goal for this week: keep up healthy diet & exercise, add in bedtime routine.

My weekly therapy appointment is today. Will report in any new homework. Must also be more consistent with homework...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Know Your Feelings Assignment

Monday's therapy appointment brought me a new homework assignment. Its purpose is to help me identify my feelings, the sources/causes of those feelings, and to help me realize that I have other options for my responses to those feelings. The assignment is as follows:

Once a day, at different times each day, answer these four questions:

1. What am I feeling now?
2. What is the cause or source of this feeling?
3. What are three things I typically do when I feel this emotion?
4. What are three things I could do differently when I feel this emotion?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Follow ups / Making Progress

Huzzah for progress! I have made my binder to track goals and calendars and stuff. I have made my list of support group people and put it in my binder. I have printed my exercise and diet charts and put them in the binder, too. Did I mention I've started going to the gym with my sister-in-law? That I've started making better food choices and have been cooking a LOT more than I used to? That I've been getting up early enough to see daylight and going to bed before midnight?

I've tried doing food and exercise and a normal sleeping schedule on my own for months with zero success until I told my sister-in-law I'd be there ready to go to the gym at 5:45 a.m. on Monday, and then I went Tuesday as well. (Wednesday I was sick and Thursday she didn't go.) We're going tomorrow again, so I know I have to go to bed at a reasonable hour tonight if I'm going to live through getting up that early. Kudos to my sister-in-law for being willing to take me with her to the gym and for all the good consequences that have come of it.

So YAY for progress! And for actually doing the things that I said I would and that I know will help me. And if I can do it, SO CAN YOU.

Homework Assignment Part 2

Question: How can I develop more trust with other people and develop a bigger support system?

Answer: I can develop a bigger support system by making friends with more people in different areas of my life. There are different groups of friends in one's life: people at work or school, people from church, neighbors, people from special interest groups like a writing group, etc. So my plan is to try to have/make two or three good friends from each group (instead of my 3 or 4 good friends period). By "good" friends I mean people I will actually talk to and open up to instead of being just acquaintances. Then I'm going to make a list of those friends and their phone numbers and put them in my self-journal that I will carry around everywhere that also contains my goals and calendars and stuff.

Which brings us to the trust part. I don't really know that there's an easy cure for expecting people to attack you or abandon you at the drop of a hat besides experience. Experience taught me that some people can and will lash out for no particularly obvious reason, but I've also had some really good friends who have had plenty of opportunities to hurt me and haven't. Soooo, if I have lots of good experiences with friends then maybe I will get over that fear, which is something that will never happen if I hide inside all day.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hello Newcomers, and Homework Part 1

My friend Moneydummy linked my blog on her blog. Which means that there are now people actually reading this blog. o.O So, um, welcome, visitors! And thank you for your kind comments.

Today's post is part one of my therapy homework mentioned in the previous post. I tried answering the first two questions, but didn't get anywhere. Instead, I kept getting ideas for the third question, so I'm answering it first.

Question: How can I learn to be less emotionally reactive? When am I more emotionally reactive, and how can I decrease those times?

Answer: I am less emotionally reactive (aka calm, content, capable of functioning without biting peoples' heads off) when:

- I have had enough sleep
- I have eaten (stable blood sugar)
- I have exercised
- I am in a clean environment
- I am not overwhelmed by noise/kids wanting attention/things to do/etc.
- I feel I have accomplished something / have made progress towards goals, especially long-term goals
- my kids and husband are calm/happy
- I am alone
- I have had alone-time to de-stress
- I feel I am doing a good job
- I am outside (and it's warm)
- When my husband is home

I'm not sure this list is complete, but it's what I've got.

I can increase the time I am calm by:
- eating, sleeping, and exercising regularly
- getting regular breaks from kids
- tidy the house every day
- learn to meditate (I don't really know how to do that, but it's supposed to be helpful)
- keeping a journal of accomplishments and goal tracking so I can have visual proof that I'm not just spinning my wheels
- taking heavy-duty parenting classes or something.
- getting off the computer when people start fighting me for it?

If anybody's got suggestions, you're welcome to post them.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An Interesting Development & Writing Prompts

When I went to therapy today, I learned something new and interesting and potentially really helpful. I went in determined to ask what other treatment options besides individual therapy and Al-Anon were available or recommended for adult children of alcoholics, and my therapist's supervisor finally comes out from behind the two-way mirror and says (in summary): Psychology students used to have to read lots of material on adult children of alcoholics until research finally caught up with what was being taught. It turns out that adult children of alcoholics are just like anybody else who comes out of a dysfunctional or chaotic home. They all have problems in three areas:

- They have difficulties with trust.
- They have difficulties dealing with emotions.
- They have a hard time talking about it.

So I thought that was an interesting revelation. We went on to talk a bit about where each of these problems comes from, and in my opinion it boils down to growing up in an environment where reactions to things are unpredictable (you don't know if somebody's going to take offense and yell at you or hit you for doing or saying normal things -- you can't have actions or reactions without getting into trouble so you tell yourself to stop having actions and reactions at all. you end up spending your life trying to hide as much of yourself as possible so that you can't get hurt again). In my case, for example, I have a hard time trusting anyone besides my husband and children. I keep expecting rational people to suddenly turn savage on me or abandon me or I wonder about their motives for talking to me in the first place. I have a really hard time expressing emotions, so they come out in quirky ways or not at all, and sometimes I interpret my emotions poorly. And I can't generally talk about this stuff verbally without crying, which is something I really really really don't like doing in front of people, so I don't want to talk about it. I'm more likely to smile at you and tell you I'm fine just so you'll go away before I have an emotional episode.

So, my homework assignment(s) for next Monday's therapy appointment is to try to come up with answers to the following questions:

- What were the effects on my life as being the child of an alcoholic? (There are both good and bad effects.) The point of this question is to see how I can use the positive values I gained to help me get past the negative values/effects.

- How can I develop more trust with other people and develop a bigger support system? Because right now I limit myself to talking to the people I absolutely need to continue to function and shut everybody else out, and a lot of times those few people I depend on are busy with their own lives, leaving me with no support when I need it. So I need to make more friends in the different areas where I have needs (geek friends, friends with kids, friends at church). And I need to extend them more trust than I previously have (for example: admitting when I need help instead of hiding).

- How can I learn to be less emotionally reactive? When am I more emotionally reactive, and how can I decrease those times? - I was thinking that my post on irrational thoughts is relevant here, because those irrational thoughts are always caused by negative emotions.

I am to conclude with, "What did I learn? What are things I can draw from this to work on in my therapy sessions?"

So I'll be working on answering these questions this week and probably write a post for each one.

They also gave me a writing prompt structured as a free-write, which is where you're supposed to take a writing prompt and just start writing without worrying about punctuation or grammar and continue at it for at least 15 minutes without stopping. Free-writes are meant to work as a way to get your creative/mental juices flowing and weird stuff usually comes out that doesn't normally see the light of day. These free-writes (you're supposed to do them once a day for 3 or 4 consecutive days) are not for anyone else to see but the writer, so I won't be posting those. But I'll post the prompts in case anyone following along wants to try the same exercise:

- Write about something that you are thinking or worrying about too much.
- Write about something that you are dreaming about.
- Write about something that you feel is affecting your life in an unhealthy way.
- Write about something that you have been avoiding for days, weeks, or years.
- Over the next four days, write about your deepest emotions and thoughts about the most upsetting experience in your life. Really let go and explore your feelings and thoughts about it. In your writing, you might tie this experience to your childhood, your relationship with your parents, people you have loved or love now, or even your career. How is this experience related to who you would like to become, who you have been in the past, or who you are now? Many people have not had a single traumatic experience but all of us have had major conflicts or stressors in our lives and you can write about them as well. You can write about the same issue every day or as a series of different issues. Whatever you choose to write about, however, it is critical that you really let go and explore your very deepest emotions and thoughts.

And now that all that is finally out of my head, maybe I can sleep.