Tuesday, October 30, 2007

is it the drugs and therapy or is it just me?

It appears that the best thing I ever did to treat my generalized anxiety disorder was move away from home.

I had no idea how stressful life at home is. And it’s not because there’s non-stop action/drama at home. It’s my sister. She just has to freak out over EVERYTHING.

For example, the Saturday I was in the OC was jam packed with stuff to do. In my head, I had a schedule:

9 a.m. – 10:30-ish a.m. Hair appointment with my colorist (I am now Goth Liz, with dark brown hair and red highlights)
11 a.m. – noon-ish Go to In-N-Out for lunch.
Noon-ish – 3:30-ish Watch the USC/Notre Dame game. Teach Serena the USC fight song.
3:30-ish – 5:30-ish Take a quick nap
5:30-ish to 6:30-ish Get ready for party.
6:30-ish to 10-ish PAAARTY!

In my sister’s head, the schedule went like this:

9 a.m. – 6:30-ish STRESS, STRESS, STRESS

The hair appointment turned into a family affair. My mom, sis, and I all had appointments with the same person (my colorist, Mischa, is very multi-talented). We all took turns babysitting my niece, Serena Rose, who was often content with checking out her cute self in the mirror. I am truly amazed by all of the simple things that can entertain kids for an extended period of time.

Mischa did my hair first. When she was done, my hair elicited the following comment from my mom: “It’s so dark.” Whatevs. I loved it.

After my mom’s hair was done, my sister was in the middle of her cut and color. While under the hair dryer, my sister started her freak out. She looked at her watch and saw that it was 11:15. “Oh my God. It’s so late. We still have to go to the grocery store. I still need to buy the frosting for your cake at Michael’s. We still need to…” In a previous life, I would’ve stressed out along with my sister. Instead, while she rambled about all the stuff we needed to do today, I calmly thought, Looks like I’m going to miss the first few minutes of the USC/Notre Dame game.

While my sister was getting her hair cut (which was going to take a while considering how thick her hair is), my mom, Serena, and I went to the grocery store to get some liquor and other last minute stuff for the party. Serena was content hanging out in the shopping cart, playing with a leaf, and singing her ABCs. By the time I finished putting the groceries in my sister’s car, it was noon and my sister’s hair was finally done.

We all piled into the car and tried to decide where to go for lunch. Obviously, I pushed the In-N-Out idea. My sister, still stressed about the stuff we needed to get done, snapped at me and said, “Why do we always have to do what you want to do?” Realizing her anger had nothing to do with me, I said with evenness, “Because you live here all the time and I visit maybe three times a year.” My sister replied with agitation, “Well, Serena doesn’t like hamburgers.” WHAT? How could my niece not like hamburgers? Especially In-N-Out ones? My sister went on, “She doesn’t like beef.” I thought, Not a problem. That’s what the In-N-Out secret menu is for. (Serena ended up getting a grilled cheese at In-N-Out, which is not the on the menu; it’s essentially a meatless cheeseburger.)

My sister’s stress level was starting to worry me. The last thing I wanted for my birthday was for my sister and me to have some kind of blow-up, knock-out fight. So I told her, “Look, I don’t want to stress on my birthday. I don’t want to fight with you. I just want everyone to be happy. The party doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be fun. The house doesn’t have to be flawlessly clean for people to have a good time. I just want to enjoy what little time I have with my friends and my family. So let’s relax and take a deep breath and stop stressing out.” With some reservation, my sister replied, “Ok.”

My sister ended up having a nervous breakdown in her car later on in the day (my mom and I weren't with her), but I managed to keep my mom calm while we talked to my sister on the phone, trying to help her figure things out. My sister, while out getting the frosting for my cake, was locked inside her car. Her car wouldn’t unlock and she didn't know what to do. My mom suggested she call the dealer where she recently purchased the car. After calling the dealer AND our trusted mechanic, my sister eventually figured out what was wrong. She didn’t put her car in Park after parking the car and turning it off. Ay.

I’m surprised with myself for managing to remain calm in a world of overly-stressed-out situations. I told my mom later that my therapy must be working. But honestly, I think that being this far away from my sister and her needless stressing out has helped me tremendously.

And that makes me sad.


startingtoday said...

My situation is not quite the same as yours, but for quite some time, I couldn't figure out why I was anxious and upset. Then I removed myself from a situation that I didn't even realize was bothering me, and it was like a big "Aha" moment. So THIS is why I was so messed up.

Golden Silence said...

I agree. Getting away from a stressful situation helps. When I finally got a place on my own (no family, no roommates) it lifted a burden off my shoulders.

I wonder if your sister should consider therapy like you did. She sounds like she has a lot of stuff going on and maybe she needs someone to talk to.

Madame M. said...

I think that part of is the fact that you sound more mature than your sister, actually. Perhaps the moving-away and the forced introspection have pushed forward a change that you were ready to make. Maybe your sister isn't ready to let go-- after all, stress is like a drug.

lizzie said...

startingtoday--thanks for commenting. now that i've removed myself from a situation i didn't realize was unhealthy, i can see all the things that are wrong with my family and how they deal with things. distance = perspective.

golden silence--my sister has been in therapy for years. she actually used to be a lot worse. poor thing.

madame--i've been forced to grow up at quite a few points in my life, whereas my sister hasn't had those opportunities. honestly, i think my sister is emotionally immature in general but that's a whole different post.

stress is a drug i hope never to be hooked on!