The Obligatorily ( It is TOO a word!) Painful Christmas Post

7:22 PM Edit This 19 Comments »
Of COURSE I have a heavy post for you pre-Christmas. It wouldn't be the holidays if I didn't have a bit of an emotional meltdown, now would it? In the course of 10 days, I will celebrate and/or pretend the following days do not exist: Christmas Eve, Christmas, my sober birthday, the anniversary of Jason's death, New Year's Eve and my real birthday. It's a whole mixed up bag of emotions. Emotions which I am grateful today to actually be able to feel without sloshing them away gallon-of-vodka-style. But they're emotions nonetheless and I am required to walk through them instead of ignoring their presence. Pretty much everything I work on all year in terms of growth gets utilized in these 10 days. It's a constant surveillance of what's going on in my head, how I'm managing that cacophony of voices and what I'm doing on the inside and the outside to make those voices whisper instead of scream. I can't say that what I do makes the voices go away, because they don't ever go away. They're just a lot easier to manage if they're not yelling at me. That's the key.

Let me tell you a secret. The thing I've worked the hardest on in therapy these past four years? Is this little concept of Object Constancy. It's something infants learn. But somehow I unlearned it when Jason went away. Here's a little tutorial.

There is a term for this capacity. It's one of the clumsiest, but most descriptive terms in psychology, and it's called "object constancy." It's the ability to maintain an internal emotional and outward real connection -- in relationships (with your co-workers, friends, or loved ones), to goals (your commitment to them), and to hope (your ability to look forward to the future) -- after you've been frustrated, disappointed or frightened. It's the ability to keep disappointment at disappointment without it turning into discouragement; frustration at frustration without it becoming anger; and fear at fear without it escalating to panic.

Did you read that last sentence? Because it puts everything I experience in a tidy little nutshell that's harder than a walnut to crack. Especially with just your clawing fingernails. Slight disappointment, frustration or a tinge of fear? IMMEDIATE RAGING PANIC. Even being too happy or excited leads to IMMEDIATE RAGING PANIC. It's the idea that no matter who I love or whom I allow in my life, they will just up and disappear without a backward glance if the going gets tough or if I love them too much. And I will be left. Alone. Horribly and terribly alone. That's where the panic comes in. That's what object constancy is and that's what makes me so untidy in the brain on occasion. Some people manage to process death in a graceful way. I didn't. Call it immature, call it unprepared, call it naive or self-centered. Call it whatever you want, but when Jason died, my whole life turned into a panic-fest of hopelessness and fear and it's taken all of four years to learn how to ratchet it down to an acceptable level.

The Good Doctor treated two patients last week that died. Just up and died. He doesn't usually deal in life or death things and his part in these consultations was not life or death either. They had bigger problems than the frostbite they called him in for. I never even met them, but when I wrote "deceased" on their records? I freaked out. As in, had to go into the bathroom and tell myself to breathe for a good twenty minutes. Because in my world, you can't die. You just can't. I mean, people WILL die. They do that, you know. But regardless of the work that I've done on trusting and growing and letting my love go freely the way I want it to, I'm still not prepared to deal with death in any sort of manageable fashion.

Reality is my friend today. See? I drank for 364 days straight after Jason died. So when I finally got sober? It was like it had just happened. According to my brain, he's only been gone for three years. The other year doesn't register him as dead. I spent that entire year thinking he'd come waltzing through the door any moment and truly believing that he would. And every night, I'd get drunk because he never showed up. No joke. That's how nuts I was. (Or how drunk, depending on how you want to look at it.) And still to this day, I catch myself thinking that "when he gets here, it will be okay." And then I have to remind myself that he is actually NOT here and will no longer be participating in my life. And it's like he dies all over again. But it doesn't hurt quite as much to remember that anymore. That's the acceptance part.

So when I love you today, I sometimes act like a clingy, teething one year old, slobbering and crying all over you. I'm needy and inappropriately attached and I do all kinds of stupid things to make sure you're still around. Because YOU WILL LEAVE ME JUST LIKE HE DID so you have to prove to me that you're not going anywhere. And that's what makes toddlers cry when their mommies leave them with the sitter. It's what makes a five year old say, "I hate you!" when you tell them, "No." And it's what makes it so hard for me to have relationships with people. Especially men. And it's what makes me hate Christmas sometimes, because I'm reminded all over again of that time in my life when my brain turned off and refused to accept the fact that when people die? They go away and don't ever come back. So just for today, I may wallow a little bit, but don't worry. Because this is the first Christmas in a long, long time that I'm actually not dreading.

19 comments:

The Good Cook said...

Powerful and honest post.

Jeff D'Antonio said...

Sounds like a good first step - not dreading Christmas, that is. Maybe next year will suck a little less. And maybe each year after that will suck less and less. And then maybe one day you'll wake up on Christmas morning and find that the magic is back.

As always, you seem to have your head around what you're feeling. You might not know exactly how to control the irrational thoughts, but just knowing which thoughts are the irrational ones is huge.

buffalodick said...

It's a time for joy, yet we end the year pondering past, present, and future..

Daisee579 said...

Interesting lesson - one I needed too. So maybe I don't drink my problems away, but I still do the panic thing. It drives people nuts. Your posts usually touch me in ways perhaps you didn't foresee, but I appreciate them all so much and try to learn from them :)

Happy holidays, Kate. Every day is one more step along your journey :)

Kyla Roma said...

So beautiful and honest, I hope that you do alright over the next couple weeks, you're in my thoughts <3

texas math said...

You have such an amazing way at expressing your thoughts/feelings.

I sincerely wish you the best in the upcoming weeks.

carrster said...

Hey you - as evidenced by the fact that I've known you for, oh...I don't know....at least 19? 20? years? (more???), I'm not going anywhere. I love you & love your honesty, your forthrightness & your strength. Merry Christmas, Kate!

PS - did you get my package??

melissalion said...

I need that Object Constancy. Where can I purchase that? Because, for me I go from sadness to despair in a millisecond.

Christmas is really, really hard. This year I'm adopting a fake it til I make it approach.

Kelly Hogaboom said...

I think many people can relate to aspects of this post, if they're honest with themselves (and many can't be). I hope your Christmas eases off and surprises you with an even better time than you expect. But if it doesn't, we'll still be here.

Thanks for writing.

artemisia said...

Thank you for demonstrating what it means to experience your emotions, your sadness and your fear.

You will get to the other side of this one. And I think you know it.

Thinking of you.

Sparkling Red said...

I really feel you on this one. When I was a kid, my father smiled, waved goodbye, walked out the door, and then I didn't see him again for many months, as that was the day that he moved out of the house. No one warned me. From then on, anytime anyone left the house I'd be terrified that they'd never come back. Then the first time that someone I knew died - I was in a state of panic for a full year. A friend was late to meet me? They must have died on the way. Someone didn't call? They must've been hit by a car. I know, I know. It does get better with time, but I don't know if it every completely goes away... We'll see.

Kristen said...

I think I have this same problem. I can go from okay to absolute panic and rage and despair in an instant. I freak the hell out and everyone is like, um...what is happening? I don't understand.
And then I go cry my heart out for 20 minutes.

Don't even get me started about how I don't sleep at night because I have to go check on the girls to make sure they're breathing because if they die, I die.

The crazy is strong within me, too.

Summer said...

You've come so far. At least you're able to acknowledge these things about yourself. I'm like Kristen, I check on the boys a thousand times. If something happened to them-- I'd lay down in the floor and die. Just die. I haven't dealt with death very much in my life. I think it's why I'm so afraid of the rug being swept out from underneath me. See even saying that much, puts my stomach in knots.

LiLu said...

"Because this is the first Christmas in a long, long time that I'm actually not dreading."

That is my favorite sentence you've ever said. Love you, lady friend.

justme said...

thank you for writing this. it's really amazing on different levels. i like the fact most of all that you recognize that you need to recognize these times. you will get through...and you have gotten through so much already. you are already so far ahead of many people by realizing the things that you have.

Sweetly Single said...

hugs

BrianAlt said...

Beautiful.

SoMi's Nilsa said...

I hope you bookmark posts like this one. Because, there will be someone in your life important enough that they/he should read the post to really understand you, your quirks, your fears, to really get you. This is a beautiful, if not haunting post. That said, I'm excited for your Christmas celebrations this year.

Abel Pharmboy said...

I'm so grateful that you came over and started reading and commenting on my blog. You inspire me with your honesty, passion, and courage. I know how very difficult the holidays are for everyone in recovery but I had no idea you had these additional emotionally-twisting anniversaries.

I can tell you at least that there is a community out here who cares about you and shares, in our own ways, some of the common themes in your story. But I'm so impressed by how aggressively you've seized upon the joys of this holiday, to the point of even being excited about the blizzard. I wish you all the best on the next few days and heartiest congratulations on your sobriety birthday (although those congratulations are due every single day.)

And, yes, "obligatorily" is indeed a word - you spelled it correctly and everything.