Burnt. Toast.

“It’s just what you do all the time.”

I’m back from my brief stint in relative seclusion, and I have nothing left today. Everyone is going to get “no” as a response. Everyone.

I deeply enjoyed my weekend in the desert. I did not enjoy coming back to sub-freezing temps, and that short break was enough to highlight the things in my life that are really weighing on me.

It really bothers me that no one asks me how I’m doing. No one close to me, that is. If they do, it’s a surface level question, and any response I have that isn’t “great!” gets dropped as though I didn’t just say “I’m not doing well today.” My people aren’t checking in with me. Strangers and acquaintances, sure, but not my family and close friends. No one asked how my flight was, and I’m scared to death of flying. No one celebrated with me that I didn’t have to take Xanax for either flight. My Mom wanted details of my trip while I was hauling my luggage upstairs. Yes, I want to give you every detail of my weekend while I’m struggling to drag a suitcase and a couple of small bags up to my room. Can it wait ten minutes?

I hide most of what I experience because sometimes I don’t even understand it, and because I have yet to see it help for me to say what’s going on. “I’m having a bad day” or any other version of it gets met with the appearance of indifference. I can understand it must be hard to look at me or talk to me and know that I don’t blurt out what I feel, I need time to work out how to talk about it. If I ever did blurt it out, I would terrify everyone, because I exist in a painful reality. There would be screaming and yelling and probably a few punches thrown. So I keep it in, and I don’t get the time to slowly release it to someone. And they otherwise don’t see it so…it’ doesn’t exist? And I’m fine. And I can do anything. And Ashley is so strong and capable.

I am because I don’t have an option. There is no space in your life for me to be anything else. I do what I have to do to survive.

Therapy was rough this morning. I cried a lot. When we got to the root of my tears, it was that I don’t feel like I matter. I have been busting my ass for a lot of people, and don’t feel like I’m getting any of that in return. My business partner picked me up from the airport in the cold yesterday, and that was the most someone has gone out of the way for me in…ever? As much as I can grouse about him, he can hear what I need and just do it, no questions, no judgment and no making it about him. He said such a kind thing to me yesterday when I thanked him for picking me up, “It’s just what you do all the time.”

I’ve been driving around, working with clients, writing documents, getting us more work, taking care of my increasingly frail grandma, trying to keep the chaos at home to a dull roar and being emotionally supportive to the point that I feel burned up. I wanted to say “no” to everyone today. I don’t want to answer calls or respond to emails. I certainly didn’t want to comfort my grandma or work on my business partner’s project to help him finish or be supportive of David while he swoops in long enough to be supported and encouraged then disappears again to go help someone else. Anyone else but me. Because for whatever reason, me not having a good day only merits an, “I hope you feel better.”

Well shit, I hope I feel better too. It’d be nice if I didn’t have to do it alone…

A Little Holiday Magic

Holidays are hard for those of us with anxiety.

I am a bucket of cliches right now. Dating during the holidays, stressed about getting everything done (just bought and began sending out Christmas cards today!), blowing off work to decorate and snuggle, everything is feeling merry and bright…it’s a hard turn to the right from where I was last year. Hell, it’s a hard turn to the right from where I was two months ago.

My aunt, who doesn’t know about David yet, sent me a holiday card with a cute bit of paper mistletoe, with wishes for holiday kisses. I laughed because she was so on point for me this year! I’m going to make good use of it too…

We’re in a bit of a sticky spot for the holidays this year with my family. My mom, who is still recovering from the trauma of my brother’s accident, is being a little grinchy. She isn’t really working right now, but what work she is doing is challenging because of some misbehaving employees. It stresses her out because she isn’t there to be in control, and it – along with a lot of other concerns – are smothering her holiday spirit. She didn’t want me to make cookies, she has been a bit mean about decorating the inside and outside trees, and I don’t want to upset her (and I’m still not sure what all of this is about), so I didn’t make a big deal about any of it and quietly went about tree decorating and light wrapping. She hasn’t been very appreciative, but then again she isn’t throwing any more fits about it. I’ll take it. My dad may not make it back from a work trip for Christmas, and one of my brothers was a no-show at Thanksgiving because of drama with his ex, so maybe she just isn’t in a place to make some effort that may not see the results she wants.

I’m trying to help my grandma through Christmas, and have the job of getting her new assisted recliner to her. My uncle dumped this on me, and she isn’t going to be happy because she doesn’t like new things or being old. It’s a lot of emotional energy to care for my grandma, and holidays are that much more work with her because she has gotten pretty negative about it. She can’t do what she used to, so she just doesn’t participate.

So where is the magic? It’s in me doing it anyway, in not letting my family take me down, in spending time with a many I deeply enjoy getting to know in the middle of my crazy schedule and taking time out to make Christmas a great thing for people who aren’t able to make that happen for themselves. Holidays are hard for those of us with anxiety. Holidays are hard for those of us who have survived trauma and who care for our families, for those of us who are surrounded by more negativity than joy. If you’re in that place, I hope you find some holiday magic to help you through. I’m so very grateful for mine.