Saturday, December 5, 2020

When Someone With Anxiety is Getting Ready to Visit the Boyfriend's Family for the First Time

Two weeks from tomorrow we'll be on the road. So many emotions are going through my head... fear, excitement, anxiety, hope, and a myriad of others. You see, for the first time in the 3 1/2 years since I met my boyfriend, we are going to visit his family for Christmas.

When he first told me he could get off work and that we were going, I was excited. His parents still live in the house he grew up in - and I've wanted to see it. He has a huge, close family and I've wanted to meet them. Plus it's a chance to do something different for Christmas and get out of town, which is a huge treat because of being home so much due to COVID.

Then the anxiety started. He made an offhand comment about how his sister doesn't like anybody... it's the first time I realized I might not be liked by his family. When we first planned it, COVID issues should have no longer been a factor... they still are. 

The worries multiplied... What were we going to do each day? Where were we going to stay? Will my ankle handle the activities planned? Will my mental illnesses get in the way? What about my weight - will that be an issue? How will I deal with my new meal plan in the midst of lots of food and also not wanting to draw attention to myself?

I'm thankful that the work I've been doing with therapy, support groups, and my sponsor kicked in. I decided I needed to be proactive concerning the trip. I'm so proud of myself for both realizing that and for actually taking those steps.

For one thing, after discussing it, we decided that we needed to drive instead of fly as well as stay in a hotel instead of with his family. 

There are many reasons driving makes more sense to me as someone with anxiety. For one thing, my car is an extension of home. It's something familiar when almost nothing will be familiar for eight days. 

It's also practical - both on a general level and concerning my anxiety issues. I'm very overweight so with some cars the seatbelts are tight. I won't have to worry about that embarrassing and safety issue if I have my own car. 

This will also give me somewhere to escape if I get overwhelmed with his family. He has a large, loud, multigenerational family and I know enough about myself to know that the noise could be hard to deal with. Having my own car gives me a place to go - either to just sit in the car for a while or to head back early to the hotel if needed... without inconveniencing anyone.

Staying at a hotel gives me even more of a chance to breathe. I don't have to have "guest behavior" every minute if I have a space I can relax in. Even though I know the family is sincere when they say that it's not a bother to stay with them, I'll still feel that I am intruding. Until I get to the point in my recovery that I truly accept that I'm not always in someone's way, this is a great way to deal with those feelings within myself.

There's a part of me that is concerned about the financial aspect of staying at a hotel. Yes, we are saving money by not flying, but gas adds up so it's not that much cheaper (especially considering flights are inexpensive right now). I wrestled with that at first but finally realized that my mental health was worth it... I am worth it.

In addition, there's the ankle injury I had earlier this summer. I recently got to the place where I could walk on it without a lot of pain but not for long periods of time. My boyfriend's family has already expressed an interest in taking us to some attractions that involve a great deal of walking. 

I felt both a lot of fear and sadness when I first heard. I hate to be a bother and the thought of making everyone change their plans because of my health and needs is at the top of the list of ways I could be a hassle. At first, I  just hoped I could somehow make it with the new brace my doctor ordered for me and a cane that I bought for "just in case" times.

Then I did more walking to test my ankle and I realized that this was a pipe dream. There's no way I can make it around their zoo, for example, without being in a lot of pain and possibly re-injuring my foot. I was looking at the website for one attraction we might go to... and wondering how I could possibly walk that much... when I considered renting a wheelchair. 

However, remember how I mentioned I'm very overweight? Though I've been too scared to test them out, I'm almost positive most regular size wheelchairs are too small for me. When I reflected on this, I got pretty discouraged and very, very sad until I decided how I needed to be proactive in this area too. 

My ankle could be an issue for a very long time and hoping it would get better won't just make it get better. I have other health issues that come into play both in how long it takes to heal as well as how much I will eventually recover. So I decided to go online to see how much it would be to buy a heavy-duty wheelchair.

This decision is also scary. A very overweight person in a wheelchair carries a lot of stigma. It doesn't matter if there's an injury involved... I know that many people will see me and think, "She is lazy and has no willpower. If she just would stop eating and start walking instead of coasting along in a wheelchair, she wouldn't need it." 

That stigma, that issue, is for another blog. All I can do now is know that even though it will be a pain to deal with both physically (I'd much rather walk than be pushed in a wheelchair, and it also won't be fun to have to find room for it in the car) as well as emotionally (trying to not be embarrassed when people see me riding instead of walking), it's something I need right now. 

Like the hotel, there's a part of me that is concerned about the financial aspect of buying a wheelchair. It makes sense to not rent one each time I need one at an attraction in the long run but right now, it's an investment. I again wrestled with that at first but finally realized that my physical health was worth it... I am worth it.

It's hard to understand that I am important. It's hard to believe that I'm worth others going to the trouble of dealing with my issues. It's hard to spend money on myself and what I need. It's hard to recognize that I'm doing the best I can and it doesn't matter what others think.

But I'm getting there. I might not be at the place where I can take all of this in stride, but at least I'm now at the point where I think proactively about what needs to be done to make a trip like this the best it can be... for me. And I'm worth making that happen.

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