(Halfway through our 9-hour flight home. Looking tired, but still smiling)
One reason I keep comparing this recent family holiday to England with the one four years ago is because the similar circumstances let me compare the real-world effects of my work to deal with depression and anxiety. The first trip I was just about at my lowest, and was coping with sleeping aids and a sessions of counselling. Four years later, I’m taking sertraline (an anti-depressant), have had years of amazing therapy, completed six months of yoga teacher training and regularly practice yoga and meditation.
Even though I now have TWO small children, the difference in my reaction is dramatic.
Before treatment (August 2012):
My mother-in-law casually asks about our travel itinerary – our departure airport, departure time, checked-in status.
My response: Oh no, I have no idea. Now she thinks I’m even more of an incompetent loser. In fact, since she already thinks that, she must only have asked to show me up. I’d better go find out ALL the answers and bring them up again and again until she realizes that my finger really is right on the pulse, AT ALL TIMES.
After treatment (July 2016):
Father-in-law asks what time our flight leaves next week.
My response: (Guffawing loudly) I have no idea! Details aren’t my department.
Father-in-law and I share a hearty laugh.
The big change is just laying out on the table what I’m great at and what I don’t do so well. Once it’s all out, there’s no need to maintain a poker face of competency. There’s also no reason to feel shame, since my flaws only represent one aspect of my humanity, just like everyone else.
It’s easier when I balance my shortcomings against my competencies, like this:
On the downside
- I don’t know about changing money, health insurance or car rentals.
- I cannot plan itineraries that include everyone without getting overwhelmed to the point of weeping.
- I hate planning meals in advance.
- I will not cook for people who expect pre-planned meals.
On the upside
- I am good at entertaining the kids. Really good. I can think up more games and activities with a shoelace than Dr Seuss has rhymes for ham.
- I will play Mummy bird/Baby bird or Kitties or any other pretending game that requires me to talk in funny voices. (My in-laws told me this is a skill.)
- I happily wash dishes after every meal.
- I keep it light and don’t complain about late or cancelled flights, getting lost, being late or other people’s schedule mix-ups.
- I pack carry-on like no Mary Poppins you have seen before. You will be amused.
- I can talk to your parents about Brexit, though they are on opposing sides.
It’s so amazingly freeing to just admit my flaws as part of me, instead of trying to hide them as though they were evidence of my whole inferior self.