Anxiety During the Holidays

Today was just one of those days that I tried really hard. Lifted. Went on a walk because it was gorgeous out.

And my anxiety was still very, very bad most of the day. I made it through seeing my two clients but overall my anxiety just ended up being unbearable.

I’m tired of my anxiety keeping me from doing things that are important to people. I can’t show up authentically at holiday gatherings like I might want to. And things that are supposed to be fun leave me feeling like I want an excuse to just get out of them so I won’t have to worry about how much time is socially acceptable to stay at a gathering before I leave. Not because I’m snobby but because I’m scared and it’s just physically exhausting for me to be around people for that long.

A point was brought to my attention today that I’m approaching these social gatherings in a defensive and self protective way and that that may not be helpful. I agree. But that’s what trauma does. I don’t know how to be in a crowded room with people I don’t know for an unknown amount of time and not dissociate a little bit. I’m not sure that’s possible for me at this point. I have to dissociate sometimes just to get through social situations where I KNOW PEOPLE. It has all gotten so much better over the years but the holidays can bring my troubles back in full force. Especially because of the hardships I have in my own family, I’m especially uncomfortable being around other people’s families

Here are some of my common thoughts/worries:

God, this person got me a gift and I didn’t get them one.

I hope so-and-so didn’t get me anything.

I don’t want any attention on me.

People are joking around, I’m uncomfortable and don’t know what to say.

I was invited to have fun and I can’t do it. I’m not relaxed. What’s the point of this ?

I’m just sitting here silent and can’t think of anything to say. Think of something ! THINK.

Can I go to the bathroom ? Did I already go?

I might be sweating through my shirt.

I just feel so bad that I can’t be authentically myself. I know that people want me to meet other important people in their lives but a group setting isn’t the best way for that to happen for me. And I feel so inadequate that I just can’t do it. I know I can graciously decline, but that makes me feel badly also. And it also throws me off that sometimes people want me to push through my anxiety to go to events. Like sometimes I’m just too exhausted. I’ll admit, sometimes I can’t tell the difference between if I’m just hiding from something versus if it’s actually unhealthy for me. But I do know I have made myself physically ill, like catching a cold, from being so stressed out/activated for long periods of time. First my mouth gets dry. Then throat scratchy. Then my face feels dry like the skin around my eyes is a desert. And then if I wake up the next day with my throat still scratchy and the back of my head hurting I know I took it too far. I’m always walking that fine line of trying to show up in life and challenge myself versus taking care of myself. I have already done so much more with panic than I thought was possible. And there are some days where I don’t feel much anxiety at all. Usually it’s now only over major things that the demon surfaces and closes its claws around my throat…

But it still does. From time to time.

Be kind to people if they choose to be alone on the holidays. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you, it just might mean that they are taking care of themselves and don’t express or receive connection the way that you do during the holidays due to trauma or panic.

Don’t be mad at people this holiday season for

  • staying on the outskirts of a group
  • Leaving early
  • Being quiet and observing
  • Saying thanks but declining your offer.
  • Making last minute decisions about attendance
  • Breaking commitments

Sometimes I wish I could be normal and not have to manage anxiety but I know that’s not realistic when it comes to being around groups of people I don’t know. I try to remember that I’m doing the best that I can but I hate when you feel like you’re just letting people down.

One thought on “Anxiety During the Holidays

  1. In the darkest days of my life, the 23 Psalm was my constant companion and reminder of God’s love and care. As I pondered your post today, I also saw a daily devotional that comes to me and offer it to you as solace for wounds that never go fully away. May it bring a reminder to us all that God is WITH us, and will touch us if we choose to let Him do it. I hope on this eve of our celebration of Christ’s birth – the purpose of which was ultimately to die on the cross for our peace with God (and ourselves) – that we see Him more clearly and rejoice. don
    Living in the Twenty-Third Psalm

    Casual confidence is what we see in passages such as Psalm 23. We need to take passages like this and meditate on them as something for our real life. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Stop there for a moment and think: You are going to go through this whole day without wanting. Obviously today is going to be different, isn’t it? But after all, that is what it says. And we have other passages from the New Testament: “My God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). Is that real, or shall we just make another song out of those pretty words? “My God will fully satisfy all my needs.” So now you have that in your head, but what is in your heart and in your life?

    My aim in this chapter is to get you to concentrate on that question for yourselves as Christians. I want you to have confidence in the constant interaction that says, “Because of my experience, because it is reality, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil.’” Today you are not going to fear any evil. This is going to be another new day. “I fear no evil, for you are with me.” Don’t you suppose that that is something we would know, something we would know because of the presence of God actually making a difference in our lives as we trust him? “Your rod and your staff—they comfort me.” Rods and staffs, that sounds like experience doesn’t it? “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.”

    Psalm 23 was not written so that we could recite it at funerals. One of our problems as a church is that so many of the wonderful statements in the scriptures that are meant to reflect the honest experiences of those who have learned to live in interaction with God are in fact ritualistically and magically quoted by people who don’t believe a bit of it, because they are scared to death! Nothing has ever happened to them that they are certain is the personal hand of God in their lives. And it drains the life out of those verses. Take Psalm 23 into the day with you tomorrow. It is the presence of the Lord with us.

    From The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus. Copyright © 2015 by Dallas Willard. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

    Liked by 1 person

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