Your stories for the week
What I have learned, instead of beating myself up for not going with the flow, is to reject the idea that I need to go with the flow. Being socialized as a woman is to be constantly told to subjugate your needs, to be easy, to be chill, to be calm, quiet and friendly. Screw that honestly. That is society training you to be taken advantage of for the convenience of everyone else. Don’t go with the flow. Listen to your needs. Take breaks. Don’t let your in laws come for 2 weeks. Send your partner to the rental house and see them less. Make a clear cut schedule. Whatever feels good to you. In short, don’t go with the flow, embrace your needs and stop feeling guilty for having them.
It took me until I was 36 to start antidepressants. I was doing everything else right, I was working out daily, eating well, sleeping (well as much as you can with small kids) and going to therapy. But my brain kept yelling at me, no matter what. It took a disastrous event where I was crying every day to start antidepressants. My only regret is I didn't start sooner. After a few days, it's like someone turned down the volume in my head after a whole lifetime at 11. Most of the time, my brain is silent and I can be at peace. That voice is still back there, but it's just no longer in charge. I wish you luck and love, life is hard enough.
TWO WEEKS IS SO LONG!!!
1. Exercise. I particularly like rowing: you can get a full body, low impact (on your joints) workout in like 10 minutes or less. It took me 1,000 years to accept that you cannot fix the mind with the mind. Get in your body.
2. Write down (with actual pen and paper) the things you like about the people invading your space. (i.e. my partner and I could actually go for a walk, I took a long shower and was able to actually take my time and not rush because they are here to watch the kids, I like that grandma wears bright color glasses, I'm grateful they traveled and spent their money to just sit in our living room not doing much). Just getting in the practice of actively looking for things to like.
3. Acknowledge that no one actually likes perfect. That's not what anyone wants or expects from you, and they will like you more for accepting your own failings. I'm very introverted in a family of extroverts and it took a long time to not feel bad about who I was, like I was letting everyone else down. But they all know this about me-- its not like I hide it particularly well when I'm overwhelmed, so it's silly and futile to pretend that you're something else. Recognize that they are here to bond with you, as you are. People- especially grandparents- want to help. So let them feel helpful. To the extent that you can catch yourself in the moment, just say, "I'm feeling a little overwhelmed with peopling and I'm being short with you. Sorry about that. Do you mind if I [INSERT WHATEVER HERE] (go upstairs to read, take a walk, exercise, whatever recharges you-- and then ACTUALLY DO THAT. Like actually. Don't put a time limit on yourself. Don't go hide and ruminate. Do NOT do chores. This is a great time to get in your body and exercise, but we're all different so do what feels good for you.)." Let them watch the kids -- expect that this will mean that grandma will give them more sugar than you like, or do something off-routine that digs at you. But that's what grandparents are for. If you don't have to witness it- ignorance is bliss. But ask them to meet you where you're at, you don't have to fix everything alone. They want to be a part of the solution, they just don't know how.
I also struggle with my in-laws (and my own parents really) after people-pleasing for most of my life. I’ve always felt like I just have to go with what others want, especially if it’s family or I’m hosting or visiting them etc. My therapist said something one day that has stuck with me which is that “not wanting to do something is enough of a reason not to do it” - I’ve felt the need to over-justify anytime I say no or disagree or want to do something different...but this mantra has really saved me a ton of energy and effort. “I don’t want to is a valid reason” - it has helped me a lot with family situations. And the other mantra I have held on to is “people are capable of dealing with disappointment” - so even when my no disappoints someone I know it’s ok. Best of luck to you, those voices in our heads can be so overwhelming, you’re not alone.
Whenever there is a big family event my husband and I choose which parts we will participate in and which we will skip. For example, he might golf in the morning and I’ll hang out with the moms and kids, but we’ll do something in the evening on our own ( “early night”). That way we get to see family, but we don’t overdose on them.
My first response is MEDS. Absolutely consult a doc about anxiety or antidepressant options. Our society is no longer built for people to survive and thrive without meds, sadly. No one needs to face everything without help.
Next though, I’ve embraced the concept of Come As You Are (CAYA, from the book How We Show Up, and credit to my bestie who actually started this concept in our local group) and communicated this to everyone around me. I used to feel like I needed to “host” when people come over, or to look my best when visiting family, but leaning into CAYA and telling people that I’m going to show up exactly as I am has relieved so much of that. If I’m in the mood to host, then I can enjoy it more. And if I’m not, my friends and family are still happy to show up and order pizza in our PJs. I feel like it’s helped set a precedent with my “village” too. I don’t want them to feel like they need to clean their house when we visit, so I’m not going to do so either. It’s made for more supportive and authentic connection around us, and I’m a little less pressured all the time!
What you’re describing is perfectionism and perhaps some social anxiety, too. I’ve struggled with both my whole life, which, naturally, brought me to become a therapist who specializes in these things (lol). Here are my thoughts: 1. Find a therapist (or helping professional of any kind) who specializes in perfectionism. There are evidence based ways to change, but it will take dedicated effort and likely someone to cheer you on and keep you on track. 2. The research on perfectionism points us pretty clearly towards one solution: self compassion. It doesn’t rid you of perfectionism, per se, but it DOES mediate its effects on depression (aka, suffering). I highly recommend Dr Kristin Jeff’s book on Self Compassion. Lots of actionable goodies in there! 3. Specifically, for the social gatherings, ask yourself what you need *right now* to cope while you work on these other things. Maybe it’s not going to the functions. Maybe it’s putting a clear time boundary on it (say, I only stay for 1 hour). Maybe it’s setting a timer on your phone and going to the bathroom once an hour to take a few breaths and be by yourself. Do it, take it. Anywho, I hope this helps!!
I love this ParentData community so much! These comments are all so thoughtful and compassionate, I hope everyone takes time to read them.
I’ve got a mantra/prayer practice below for anyone who thinks it might be helpful to try or to provoke thought:
Two years ago at our church women’s retreat, a therapist taught us this prayer called, “Paradox Prayer.” She used it in her practice, it can be done on one’s own or in pairs (we did pairs).
One thing she said was that if we have some negative/shameful ideas about ourselves (we’re not enough, we’re unattractive, no one loves us, we’re a bad parent, etc.) that those ideas are actually stored in an emotional place in the brain, not a rational one. So if someone automatically says, “that’s not true” it doesn’t actually change our viewpoint. In fact it might make us just believe it more fully as we dig in our heels emotionally if that makes sense.
Her concept of this prayer is that we verbally agree with these negative thoughts and turn it over to God, so that he can make the transition of changing our view. I think this can also be done without the spiritual component if that works for you.
So here is the prayer format:
Even though I’m ____________, I am loved and accepted by God.
Even though I’m _____________, I love and accept myself.
Even though I’m ____________, I trust you Lord.
Even though I’m ___________, life can still be good and fulfilling (or any other phrase of your choosing).
In pairs we filled it out and then switched papers. So my paper went to my friend Monica. Then she read the prayers/mantra aloud to me until I felt I could repeat it after her. Then I repeated them aloud. Then we switched. It was powerful.
Hope someone finds this helpful!
First of all, two weeks is too long for anyone to entertain their in-laws! If it seems particularly hard for you, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you... you may be slightly more introverted making constant social interaction taxing and exhausting. However, you don’t have to live with guilt and beating yourself up, cognitive behavioral therapy could be very effective in helping you change these thought patterns (this type of therapy is backed by a lot of research). Hope you feel better soon!
These comments are great. I’m very hard on myself and can be on others which often leads to disappointment. I’ve let go of entertaining in-laws and asked my partner to take over most of that effort. I will plan one day (zoo, park, etc) and make one dinner reservation and let my partner and his parents figure out the rest of the week. And if anything feels not great or triggering to me, I find a way not to participate. I’ve also had to have many uncomfortable conversations with them such as wash your hands (why is this not a thing?), don’t visit when sick, a week’s visit is good, etc. It took a couple’s therapist to tell us that this is actually my partner’s job to reinforce our family’s boundaries with his parents. That has taken a lot of the pressure off of me although he still really struggles with this. In terms of my own internal conflict and anxiety, finding a therapist who specializes in trauma and who does EMDR has been life changing (previous therapists just did talk therapy which was fine but not as useful for me).
I suffer from severe guilt as well. It’s awful. I will keep my self up at night for the most mundane things. When I had severe postpartum anxiety and a very sick toddler and a newborn we had our in-laws unexpectedly show up for a quick visit. At this time, I’d been keeping my kids separate as I was afraid of the newborn getting the illness and I was afraid it was RSV. When my in-laws asked to hold the baby, they had already washed their hands but had been touching surfaces in the house that were covered in my oldest’s germs. I felt like a crazy person but I asked them to wash their hands again because we had a sick toddler in the house with his germs everywhere. I said it apologetically and with embarrassment but I ended up making them feel bad/angry and they left without holding the baby. I felt so awful. I spiralled and my anxiety made it worse. I ended up sending them a huge apology and explaining my anxiety. I don’t think all that was necessary but my anxiety demanded that I do something instead of sit with the feelings of discomfort I was feeling. Since then, I’ve been going to therapy and I still have a lot of work to do but something that has helped is journaling every evening, box breathing, and allowing the uncomfortable feelings instead of trying to push them away (journaling helps me to get curious about the discomfort rather than fight it). Writing down how I feel while journaling and getting it on paper has helped me to figure out my thoughts and feelings every day. It’s not going to change everything but it certainly has helped. I hope it can help you.
I can definitely relate to this! What has helped me is practicing being "team good enough" in smaller moments, like telling myself "my kids bellies are full" when I served them a pile of random snacks for a weeknight dinner because I didn’t have the energy to cook. In place of "I didn't serve a vegetable, they didn't get enough protein, etc."
I just wanted to comment to say that I am literally reading this from a parked car where I am taking time to breathe because I am in that situation at this very moment. Allowing myself to not be on and the discomfort that causes others is a new practice. Also, taking long breaks to walk to an ATM or the car for something etc.
I feel this so much, especially right now. I started a new job, the kid is in daycare full time, no one is getting enough care or quality time, the house is a wreck, and we’ve got a rotating list of visitors each weekend from here to eternity.
When I feel myself start to go into a spiral of negative self talk or feeling like I’m doing everything wrong, I take a moment to get alone. Then I acknowledge that this hard thing is in fact hard. Then I remind myself that I do not have to be perfect for anyone—family, in-laws, myself. Perfect is a trap that doesn’t exist. It’s an endlessly moving target, and I deserve to be my actual self, no matter who I’m around. Then I try to slow my brain down enough to ask myself what is the most important thing in this moment. Sometimes it’s washing the dishes, sometimes it’s letting the mess exist and trying to be emotionally present with my loved ones.
Be gentle with yourself, you are worthy of that care.
I remove the source of pressure. Maybe that sounds harsh but I see my patience, time, and sanity as limited resources. I literally see them as a meter that gets zapped throughout the day. It refills if I get enough sleep and food. With a 4 year old and 8 month old, sometimes the meter gets drained quicker than other days, depending on whether they were kicked out of daycare this week because of HFM, or got lice, or pinworms, etc. I prioritize and make a judgment call. Do I have enough patience/time/sanity in my meter to fit the immediate needs of my family, my job, AND my relatives? Oh not today? Alright then let’s reschedule the relative visit.