If the past year and a half has had a theme for me, it has been understanding mental health and what maintaining good mental health requires. Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I have always been a worrier, constantly fretting about bad possibilities and such. When confronted I was always laughed it off with, “I’m a worrier; it’s what I do. It’s my hobby.”
Somewhere along the line I realized that maybe that’s not quite normal. Maybe being in a state of frequent anxiety, lying awake at night worrying about things I can’t change, wasn’t always necessary. It took me a long time to figure this out - years, actually. And it was a big step when I finally talked to my doctor about this a little over a year ago and started on a path to setting myself to rights. I can honestly say it was the right decision, and my life has improved immeasurably since. I admit that sometimes feel guilty concerning myself with self-care, but I need to remind myself that sometimes you need to bail out your own boat before you can sail to assist others.
I have given a lot of thought to stress and anxiety: what causes it, how to avoid it. I am fortunate that my current job, while occasionally stressful, is usually pretty easygoing. Travel is always stressful to me, so after consideration I realized that the smartest thing to do is to do what it takes to lower that stress - TSA Precheck, buying upgrades to premium economy (or first class, if the pricing is right), allowing plenty of time at the airports. This has made it a much more pleasant experience and business travel is much less likely to leave me a total wreck.
Similarly, I’ve given a lot of thought to social interactions. Over the past decade+, the organizational bug has led me to want to plan Big Events - big parties, restaurant outings, that sort of thing. I came to realize that while the sense of accomplishment was great, at the end of things I frequently wasn’t happy. I didn’t get to spend as much time with friends as I would have liked, I was physically and emotionally exhausted, and sometimes I was just glad that it was over with. I finally recognized that I was creating stress for myself for no good reason.
From a social standpoint, we shifted to smaller gatherings at our house for dinner. While still a fun organizational challenge, it also allowed for greater interaction with friends and was a more enjoyable experience all around. The downside of this is that we can’t invite all of our friends to every gathering, which invariably means that someone will hear of something going on that they are not invited to. I feel quite guilty about this, because I hate the idea of anyone feeling excluded. The reality is, though, that this is necessary to help keep me balanced. To all of our friends, I can only ask for patience and your understanding. If all goes well, now that we are off the strict dietary program, I hope to make small dinner parties a more frequent occasion at our house and invite a constantly-changing group of friends each time. (And yes, part of this this is a very long-winded apology in advance lest anyone ever feel left out.)
At conventions, while throwing huge parties has been a thing for us, I have to admit that I’d be OK letting that fall by the wayside as well. Smaller, more laid-back gatherings are more likely to occur. Something that will not change (overall) is Wuffmeet, our annual party. That is our one big fun event and I love helping to organize it. The one thing that must change, though, is finally committing to what we have said that we needed to do for a long time: offloading some of the responsibilities of the event to friends who have said they are willing to help. What this looks like is still to be determined, but it is something that needs to happen.
In all of this you have probably noticed I’m talking about “me” and “I”. What about my husband? Dan has been incredibly supportive through all of this, putting up with my ups and downs, and always helping to keep me grounded. While not a complete introvert, he has introvert tendencies, and I have come to understand that better. We have agreed that keeping our social event planning more limited is something that works well for both of us, and that there are times when it just needs to be us alone doing something together and that’s OK. I cannot begin to describe how grateful I am and how lucky I feel to have wonderful man like him by my side.
So this is where I am right now. I am in a constantly-evolving state, learning what works and what doesn’t, and making changes to my life as necessary. It’s not easy, but I believe in the end I will be happier and more at peace, and those dear to me will be happier as well.