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Living with someone with anxiety is no picnic.


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I suppose I could have added this to my existing "Just whining" thread, but I've come this far.

My husband was formally diagnosed with anxiety a couple of years ago. (He's also been identified as being on the spectrum.) He has some other stuff going on, too. He's on medication and such, but still has ups and downs.

The last couple of weeks have been mostly not good. Our daughter is here visiting, and I really hoped that would help, but he isn't even especially interested in engaging with her.

She is also not in a great place, due to her own emotional issues and some work-related stress that is spilling over into her personal life. 

Our bonus young adult resident has also been in kind of a funk -- hates her job but can't seem to rally the energy to change it, complicated romantic situation, very ready emotionally to move out of our house but not there financially -- and rarely has anything happy to share.

I'm dealing with my own stuff (depression, assorted physical health issues) and am finding the emotional labor of putting up a mostly positive face each day pretty exhausting. But I think I'm doing a decent job of it.

Today, our son texted me with some potentially very exciting news (which I cannot share publicly). I forwarded the info to my husband (complicated reasons for doing things by text when we're in the same house). My husband didn't say anything to our son, but walked into the room where I am working and expressed his suspicion that our son is about to be the victim of a fraud. 

So, sure, potentially a valid concern. And once I recovered from the small wave of sadness that hit me over not being able to just enjoy this one, small good thing, I figured out what I hope was a fairly subtle way to explore that concern with our son. He responded in a way that made clear he had already thought of that and done some research that made him feel comfortable moving ahead carefully.

This is not a big deal, really. It just comes after a string of several days of emotional tension and then I would have so appreciated a little break of positivity. It just burst the teeny little balloon I felt like I had inflated after my son's text.

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I am sorry. I live with a balloon popper/rug yanker/morale stealer (who is widely perceived as positive and energetic outside of our four walls), and it sucks.

People see me as the negative person in the house. Sigh. 

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It IS really, really, really hard to live with people with anxiety.

It is also really, really, really hard to be the people with anxiety.

Having been on both sides of the fence with this, I have massive empathy for all of you.

Hugs!

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10 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

It is really hard to live with other people's mental illness, and it's also contagious, mood wise. 

Hope you can continue to take care of yourself. Be a little selfish. 

Your son's news sounds intriguing. 

This.  

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3 minutes ago, Terabith said:

It IS really, really, really hard to live with people with anxiety.

It is also really, really, really hard to be the people with anxiety.

Having been on both sides of the fence with this, I have massive empathy for all of you.

Hugs!

Oh, I acknowledge I am no picnic sometimes. I'm a bit more stable now, but I recently had a bad depression dip that went on for months. I am sure he got really tired of being around me, too.

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I especially love when the "balloon popper" ends with, "you know that, right," as if I'm stupid for not realizing it. Ugh. 

I'm so sorry and I hope that this little bit of good news turns out to be good news indeed. You guys sure could use a break. 💗

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Jenny, I meant to add something on the whining thread, and this reminded me. Please know that I am saying the following from a place of love and caring:

I am concerned about you, because you have a pattern of putting your own mental health on the back burner to accommodate your family members. An adult person is responsible for their own mental health and needs to take whatever steps they can - medication, therapy- to manage it. It is not reasonable for an adult to expect their family members to walk on egg shells around them and evaluate each behavior so as not to trigger their discomfort.

So if you need to get away for your sanity, that's what you need to do - and it is their responsibility to figure out ways to deal with it.
You need to take care of yourself before you can be in a  position to take care of family. And from your repeated posts it sounds like you are not doing this, but putting catering to your husband's disorder before your own mental health. That may sound noble, but it won't work in the long term.

Edited by regentrude
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Are you following up with treatment for your own depression?  I was about to follow up similarly to regenetrude.  This is a very long standing pattern.  Please take care of yourself.  

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1 hour ago, Jenny in Florida said:

My husband didn't say anything to our son, but walked into the room where I am working and expressed his suspicion that our son is about to be the victim of a fraud.

Fwiw, that's not so much the anxiety as the flat affect. Now if he walked in very agitated, I can see why you're saying it's anxiety. But even if his anxiety WEREN'T revving, he STILL would have done that in some fashion, walking in and dispassionately bursting your bubble without any thought about your feelings, just focusing on the cold, flat, deadly facts.

I keep beating this horse, but the way to get that to change is for him to work on his interoception. He can't self advocate when he can't feel it. And anxiety is actually really hard and subtle. I have it (plus my colorful self plus interoception issues plus plus) and it has taken me a while to realize my anxiety has *layers*. I have one gene that was causing the overt, all the time constant level of anxiety. (indecision, butterflies, the constant level) It leads to pyroluria and is easily treated with P5P and zinc. I started that, boom no more need for my anxiety med. BUT there's ANOTHER layer that is this *agitation* response. And I found the gene for that too! It's a calcium channel gene, and when I'm stressed or anxious that heart rate goes up, etc. So there are theories on how to treat that with meds, but I haven't talked it through with my doctor. It's occasional, not constant. I was just surprised to tease these apart and realize I was feeling TWO things, kwim? 

Fwiw, I'm not surprised he's not talking to her. He probably co-regulates to some degree so he's feeling her dysorganization and that she doesn't feel well. When she feels well, he'll probably be able to interact with her. You might consider moving her into an apartment or separate location to lower his stress. 

1 hour ago, Jenny in Florida said:

I'm dealing with my own stuff (depression, assorted physical health issues) and am finding the emotional labor of putting up a mostly positive face each day pretty exhausting. But I think I'm doing a decent job of it.

Does it make you feel better to do that? I agree that sometimes I can fake it till I make it. But it's really not necessary for them. If it makes you feel better, do it. You could consider more passive forms of positive energy, like peaceful music, candles, a pleasant movie, etc. 

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1 hour ago, Terabith said:

It IS really, really, really hard to live with people with anxiety.

It is also really, really, really hard to be the people with anxiety.

Having been on both sides of the fence with this, I have massive empathy for all of you.

Hugs!

This is so true.  My daughter has been dealing with so much depression and anxiety during this pandemic.  Medication and counseling is having minimal impact and some days are so very hard.  I am absolutely exhausted trying to do anything that I can to bring a little bit of joy into her life, as well as trying to encourage her to keep an inkling of hope for the future.  Basically, all of my attention is focused on that and it seems never-ending.

However, I have experienced depression and extreme anxiety myself.  So, I can identify with how she's feeling.  I try to be that constant source of comfort for her because I know that's what I needed.  

I hope that things improve for all of us.  ((Hugs))

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1 hour ago, PeterPan said:

Fwiw, I'm not surprised he's not talking to her. He probably co-regulates to some degree so he's feeling her dysorganization and that she doesn't feel well. When she feels well, he'll probably be able to interact with her. You might consider moving her into an apartment or separate location to lower his stress. 

Does it make you feel better to do that? I agree that sometimes I can fake it till I make it. But it's really not necessary for them. If it makes you feel better, do it. You could consider more passive forms of positive energy, like peaceful music, candles, a pleasant movie, etc. 

Our daughter has her own apartment. She's just here staying with us for a few weeks to escape from being trapped inside her teeny apartment and less-than-ideal roommate situation for the whole NY winter. She heads back this weekend.

As for whether keeping up a good face makes me feel better, the answer is yeah, kind of . . . until I burn out completely. I've known for years that I can serve as a sort of fire-break for everyone else's emotions, which keeps the general mood of the house as a whole just a little bit more buoyant and, therefore, more pleasant for me. I used to say that homeschooling my two kids and trying to keep everyone on an emotionally even keel was a lot like telepathically steering the Titanic around that iceberg.

And, sadly, none of the usual forms of "self-care" or relaxation seem to work for me. I don't do spas or scented candles or long baths (even if this house had a bathtub). I used to say that my form of self-care was buying theatre tickets, but we all know what's happening with live theatre these days. 

Sometimes, a long walk somewhere pretty will help, but I have to be so careful now that I've developed this tendency to fall down and hurt myself that the relaxation value is somewhat limited. (I actually tripped while out walking last night and was pretty sure for a few dreadful seconds that I was on my way to another face-planting. I caught myself, but it stripped the rest of the walk of any possibility of being recuperative.) 

Like I said, I'm no picnic, either. 

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1 hour ago, regentrude said:

Jenny, I meant to add something on the whining thread, and this reminded me. Please know that I am saying the following from a place of love and caring:

I am concerned about you, because you have a pattern of putting your own mental health on the back burner to accommodate your family members. An adult person is responsible for their own mental health and needs to take whatever steps they can - medication, therapy- to manage it. It is not reasonable for an adult to expect their family members to walk on egg shells around them and evaluate each behavior so as not to trigger their discomfort.

So if you need to get away for your sanity, that's what you need to do - and it is their responsibility to figure out ways to deal with it.
You need to take care of yourself before you can be in a  position to take care of family. And from your repeated posts it sounds like you are not doing this, but putting catering to your husband's disorder before your own mental health. That may sound noble, but it won't work in the long term.

So, I understand in theory that I am not responsible for other adults' emotions. The thing is that washing my hands of it winds up making things worse for everyone, including me. (See my explanation above about acting as an emotional fire-break.) This honestly isn't about trying to be noble as much as it is just trying to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number. 

And I am certain that, if you suggested to either my husband or my daughter that they "expect" me to walk on eggshells, they would not agree that they do. (I can virtually guarantee that my daughter would be downright offended and/or upset by the very suggestion.)  In fact, I'm not sure they actually do expect it. Things are just more unpleasant when I don't maintain that counterweight. 

For the record, both are on medication, and my daughter has been in therapy for some time. They are both "better," in meaningful ways that they have been in the past. It's just . . . a lot.

I do understand the idea that I need to "put on my own oxygen mask before assisting family members." The problem I'm having is that I literally don't know how to do that under the current circumstances. It's one of the themes that the counselors I've seen on and off over the last few years have circled around to again and again, this truism that I need to take care of myself. Unfortunately, not one of them has been able to help me figure out how to do that, especially during this time when most of the activities that feed me are unavailable.

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2 hours ago, FuzzyCatz said:

Are you following up with treatment for your own depression?  I was about to follow up similarly to regenetrude.  This is a very long standing pattern.  Please take care of yourself.  

I'm not sure what following up would mean at this point. Over the last several years, I have made three attempts at counseling/reaching out for help. The first two ended after just a few sessions with a counselor or social worker, each of whom basically told me to be more kind to myself and to practice more self-care. (See notes in posts above.)

The third time, beginning this past fall, lasted longer and was more involved. I did weekly sessions with a counselor and monthly check-ins with a psychiatrist. I took a variety of medications, none of which were especially effective and a couple of which had serious and very scary side effects. After I ended up in the hospital as a result of the side effects of one of the meds, the psychiatrist decided to wean me off the then-current cocktail and essentially told me to call her if things got worse. 

The counselor seemed to run out of steam and just plain not know how to help me when none of the usual advice clicked. Eventually, he decided I was having "an existential crisis," and suggested that I be more kind and patient with myself, practice more self-care and call him if things got worse.

The last time I opened the mental health treatment can of worms, it kind of ate my life for months. There were weekly counseling appointments, monthly psychiatric check-ins, frequent phone calls with and trips to the pharmacy to fill or refill whatever the current medication(s) were. It made just working and keeping up with normal life stuff even harder. And given that I am already dealing with physical medical stuff that requires multiple appointments/phone calls/pharmacy calls and trips every week, the very last thing that would reduce my stress level would be to add more stuff to my schedule. 

So, the short answer is, no, I'm not really following up, except to acknowledge that the depression exists and keep an eye on how bad it is from day to day. 

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1 minute ago, gardenmom5 said:

I understand it's hard to live with someone with anxiety - 

it's no picnic for the person with anxiety either.

Since this is, I believe, the third time someone in this thread has posted a similar reply, I'm starting to feel like the perception is that I lack empathy. I'm not sure what else I would have to say or do to convey the idea that I do get this concept, which is one of the many reasons I am venting here instead of getting pissy with the anxious person/people. I get that this is not something that is under their control, that it's a hard way to move through life. And I acknowledge and accept that I am no picnic, myself. 

What else can I say?

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7 minutes ago, Jenny in Florida said:

 

What else can I say?

express understanding that you understand it is out of their control.   That you understand they're not doing it deliberately to make your life difficult.  That it isn't some "flaw" of their character.  Because those of us with anxiety - have heard it all.   (which is probably why I can be more patient with dudeling's anxiety than I would have been otherwise.)

Then people (especially those of us who have been on both sides) will be more likely to be empathetic because it's easier to determine that you're just venting, and in need of a hug.   There are ways to proactively mitigate the stress of the "caregiver", and give them the nurture they need - while the anxious one is getting care.     

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Jenny, I think you have empathy.  
I get what you mentioned upthread about being the emotional fire-break.  It’s exhausting, and it’s a lot of responsibility. While you don’t resent the role, you’re going through your own trials and it’s understandable that you might be feeling like when is it going to be your turn to just focus on your stuff instead of trying to keep the household functioning as well as it does.  Hang in there through this week- once your Dd heads back to NYC I think things will start to improve. It’s not your dd’s fault or anything, it’s just that having her there is adding more stress than you can comfortably handle.  I’m sure when she’s in NYC you worry about her but it’s different having her there all day every day. 
I hope things improve. I’m sorry. It sounds all around sucky. Especially since your solo walks are no longer bringing you happiness. 
 

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1 hour ago, Jenny in Florida said:

After I ended up in the hospital as a result of the side effects of one of the meds, the psychiatrist decided to wean me off the then-current cocktail and essentially told me to call her if things got worse. 

 

Any interest in running genetics? Who knows what interesting actionable stuff you'd dredge up. There's nothing like looking at RS numbers on a Friday night.

1 hour ago, Jenny in Florida said:

Sometimes, a long walk somewhere pretty will help, but I have to be so careful now that I've developed this tendency to fall down and hurt myself that the relaxation value is somewhat limited.

Could you operate a scooter safely? Might be time to rent one, see how you do. If you rented for a week and liked it you could buy. They're maybe $150 to rent for a week and $1500 to buy. 

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1 hour ago, Jenny in Florida said:

Our daughter has her own apartment. She's just here staying with us for a few weeks to escape from being trapped inside her teeny apartment and less-than-ideal roommate situation for the whole NY winter. She heads back this weekend.

As for whether keeping up a good face makes me feel better, the answer is yeah, kind of . . . until I burn out completely. I've known for years that I can serve as a sort of fire-break for everyone else's emotions, which keeps the general mood of the house as a whole just a little bit more buoyant and, therefore, more pleasant for me. I used to say that homeschooling my two kids and trying to keep everyone on an emotionally even keel was a lot like telepathically steering the Titanic around that iceberg.

And, sadly, none of the usual forms of "self-care" or relaxation seem to work for me. I don't do spas or scented candles or long baths (even if this house had a bathtub). I used to say that my form of self-care was buying theatre tickets, but we all know what's happening with live theatre these days. 

Sometimes, a long walk somewhere pretty will help, but I have to be so careful now that I've developed this tendency to fall down and hurt myself that the relaxation value is somewhat limited. (I actually tripped while out walking last night and was pretty sure for a few dreadful seconds that I was on my way to another face-planting. I caught myself, but it stripped the rest of the walk of any possibility of being recuperative.) 

Like I said, I'm no picnic, either. 

The cost is pretty high, being the household firebreak.

Not saying you shouldn't do it, just saying it's work, you've been doing it a long time, and no-one could blame you if you decided to sometimes not have to do that. 

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1 hour ago, Jenny in Florida said:

Since this is, I believe, the third time someone in this thread has posted a similar reply, I'm starting to feel like the perception is that I lack empathy. I'm not sure what else I would have to say or do to convey the idea that I do get this concept, which is one of the many reasons I am venting here instead of getting pissy with the anxious person/people. I get that this is not something that is under their control, that it's a hard way to move through life. And I acknowledge and accept that I am no picnic, myself. 

What else can I say?

You're fine. You said it was 'just whining' and 'no big deal' in the very first post, and quickly added that you can be hard to be around as well. You don't sound harsh or lacking in understanding to me at all. 

 

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It is so exhausting to be a caregiver!!! Yep, it sux to be the person with anxiety too.  But don't let that take away from what the caregiver role takes from a person. Adding the weight of worrying about that person, to the load of trying to prevent that person's anxiety, to the extreme emotion spewed in an actual anxiety event.......is very exhausting on a caregiver. People saying versions of "....it is horrible to experience anxiety" makes it sound like the OP isn't allowed to have her own emotions, without first weighing the magnitude of the person with anxiety.  This pressure, is part of why it is so hard to be a caregiver in the first place. The caregiver isn't allowed to have thier own feelings!!!!!  The caregiver's own feelings are viewed as less than the person with anxiety. But honestly, the caregiver is a victim, and saying that thier own feelings aren't allowed without first considering that of the person with anxiety, is a form of victim shaming. I am not saying one person's feeling are more or less important. They are both important, but don't minimize what it takes to be a caregiver. 

I am sorry you are having to work so hard to maintain a level of peace in your own home. I know you love your family so much and they love you. It doesn't change the fact that the unbalance of emotional stability, requires so much energy for the caregiver to keep in check. And then when you aren't able to help, the emotional turmoil can be so great, that the caregiver is left just as raw as the one who had the event in the first place. 

I understand that everyone says to take time for oneself, but sometimes there are only so many hours in a day. And when you are helping so many people who are teetering in and out of anxiety, it is hard to step away and actually take a break. I don't know about you, but for me, I can step away, but then extreme turmoil when I get back, isn't worth the tiny break I had in the first place. It is easier to live in constant stress, than to dread coming home and dealing with the intense fall out when I walk in the door.  Last spring I left for 2 nights and in that period of time, dd14 was in the ER twice due to me being gone. There were events planned for each day for her, and people to be with her. It wasn't enough. I was trying to only step away for two half days and one full day, and I ended up spending parts of two of them on the phone for hours with ER doctors and a week of rebalancing once I got home.  Totally not worth it! I paid twice over in stress, what it saved me.  

Yep, it is important for the caregiver to get a break, but sometimes when you have so many moving parts, it isn't as easy as just "taking a break".

 

((((((Hugs)))))))

Edited by Tap
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@Tap said it better than I could. I totally get it being better for everyone for you to keep juggling and also how hard that is on you. Acknowledging that does not take anything away from how hard it is for the person experiencing anxiety. The person in my life with depression and anxiety gets angry if anyone ever mentions their own feelings. That’s not right either. 

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@Tap Wow.  Thanks for saying all of that.

Jenny, I get it, too.  It’s exhausting be the firebreak, the caregiver.  I am one, too, and some days are just terribly hard.  Even going in the bathroom can feel like a break from putting on the happy face.  Ugh.

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