Beloved Intruders: Four Days of Holiday Stress and How I Survived It
It plays out like a psychological thriller.
Innocent me, minding my own beeswax, going about the quiet business of living. Then comes November, the start of the holiday season. I’m in a form of denial, not anticipating, still operating as usual. But my birthday is November 25th, occurring on or around Thanksgiving. This is when the home intrusion begins. On November 23rd, my guy makes a surprise visit to celebrate my birthday. Fine, but I’d needed and planned to have a long block of alone time to do my work, which had fallen behind. And, I don’t sleep well with someone else in my full-sized bed. If I can’t spread out, my body hurts and stiffens. What’s more, a man’s body heat is like a blast furnace to my post-menopausal, MS-compromised thermo-regulator. I get maybe five, six hours of sleep, not nearly enough and not restful besides. After he leaves, I need and look forward to a full 24 hours of doing nothing in an effort to quiet my mind and rest. Writing work is delayed again.
That same day, sleep-deprived, brain dead, and still anxious about my neglected writing, I find a new intruder in the form of a text message. My dear friend from Florida is in town and wants to take me to dinner for my birthday that night. I haven’t seen her in a year and I can’t say no. I go, but feel nothing, numb, wanting desperately to be alone. I look over my shoulder as though I’m being followed. I’ve suddenly lost control of my life. Pursued by loved ones, but feeling just as violated as if I were being stalked by strangers. I seriously consider turning off my phone. My legs are weak and I’ve developed vertigo. I feel shackled to a sackful of fatigue I’m dragging behind me and it’s getting heavier by the hour.
The next day is Thanksgiving and I am slated to spend a quiet dinner with my sister and her husband. For the previous two days I have eaten too much for my slowed, MS-compromised digestion to break down. Food sludge clings to my gut wall like ice to a hillside. My stomach has swelled to the shape of a beach ball. I have a full, traditional Thanksgiving dinner to eat, and I clean my plate. I figure I’ll take Miralax that night, hoping it will clear the log jam. It is a restful visit, thank goodness. My sister is stressed, too, having felt the pressure of the holiday and the cooking. We are very close and empathetic towards one another. She purposely refrained from inviting a lot of people. We are of like minds that day and lay back as best we can.
My new plan is to do as little as possible for the rest of the month. This includes foregoing showers and doing dishes, making my bed and checking my mailbox. Nada. Like a single-minded mountain man roaming the hill country alone so he can go about the task of simple existence. I need a calm head and at least ten hours of sleep to be able to write again. On November 28th, I wake to this perfect storm. I feel rested and strength has returned to my legs. My mind is clear and calm enough to write. The intruders are gone. I feel no animal-like impulse to bolt away from sudden noises.
A young deer saunters past my patio looking for apples. She’s been absent for the past four or five days, having been a frequent visitor earlier in the month, unafraid of humans even when I stand outside and quietly speak to her. It’s as if she sensed the holiday anxiety and stayed in the woods until Thanksgiving was over.
We are face to face now, about fifteen feet apart, she, putting her nose in the air to sniff at me, I, softly speaking endearments to her. Suddenly a squirrel runs down a tree trunk followed by a noisy cascade of nuts and pine needles. The deer bolts away and disappears into the woods.
Now there’s a guest who knows when to leave.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We want to check in. How are you feeling?