Lessons In Self-Care

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. Time to watch football, eat ourselves into a coma and enjoy togetherness with family and friends. Oh, and yes, to be thankful for what we have while knowing that other people are out catching the early Black Friday sales and running over each other in the process. (I did Black Friday shopping once. ONCE. Never again.)

It was also time to try out some coping mechanisms to help myself deal with the stress of having a houseful of folks over for the festivities. If you know me at all, you know how hard being in a crowd is on me—I quickly become overstimulated and overwhelmed, and I must find a way to deal with it or lose my shit. I love everyone who was here, and I do enjoy having company from time to time (even if some of them spend much of that time drinking). But 12 people in a medium-sized house is a bit much, and I noticed myself getting agitated. So, without explaining myself or apologizing, I left the party and went to my room for a time-out at several strategic points during the day.

It helped that my favorite football team was playing on TV, which was a great distraction. Bouncing back and forth between game and dinner preparations kept me sane and made me a much more pleasant person when I was out there. (It didn’t hurt that my team won by a decisive 28-6 score, either.) I don’t drink, so the fact that everyone else does is a sore subject with me. I never realized how obnoxious I must have been in my own drinking days until I quit. Not that anyone was being ridiculous, but it’s another source of stress and I don’t deal with it well. I try not to be judge-y about that, because I realize my idea of normal ETOH consumption is one or two drinks, and only once in a while. Other people can handle much more than that and not be alcoholics. Not me.

So dinner was finally ready and we all gathered, buffet style, to get our food. It was funny how little conversation there was as we ate; the turkey was amazing and the side dishes, including my homemade stuffing, were delicious. But the L-tryptophan in the meat soon did its work, and several of us lazed on sofas fighting drowsiness. It wasn’t long after dinner was finished that folks started getting ready to leave, and once everyone was gone, all four of us breathed a big sigh of relief, happy that they’d had a good time but oh-so-glad to have our quiet house back again.

Soon Ethan and Clark, and then Shelley decided to go to bed, leaving me alone to watch TV and surf the ‘Net as usual. But then something went wrong: I suddenly became over-amped and the feet started tapping, the thoughts started racing, and I was all over the map emotionally. It was like a mini-mixed episode. I muted the TV and began listening to all kinds of music on the iPod in the hope of soothing myself; I played Bach and Elvis and Lawrence Welk. It didn’t help. I forced myself to go to bed at midnight after checking my pillbox to make sure I’d taken my meds; I had, but I couldn’t settle down. The last time I looked at the clock, it was almost three in the morning and I still wasn’t ready for sleep, but I must’ve drifted off shortly thereafter because the next thing I heard was my alarm going off. Thankfully, I’m back to normal today though.

The takeaway lesson here is, I still have some work to do in learning self-soothing techniques to use whenever I feel overwhelmed and/or anxious. I’ll face the ultimate test next month at Disney World, where I won’t be able to escape the crowds. But I give myself some credit for having come this far; it wasn’t so long ago that I’d become angry and snap at people when they got in what I considered to be my space. I don’t do that anymore. 🙂



Published by bpnurse

I'm a retired registered nurse and writer who also happens to be street-rat crazy, if the DSM-IV.....oops, 5---is to be believed. I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder at the age of 55, and am still sorting through the ashes of the flaming garbage pile that my life had become. Here, I'll share the lumps and bumps of a late-life journey toward sanity.... along with some rants, gripes, sour grapes and good old-fashioned whining from time to time. It's not easy being bipolar in a unipolar world; let's figure it out together.

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