This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Turkeys, mental illness, hypochondria, and decorating

What do turkeys, mental illness, hypochondria, and decorating all have in common? They have all been on the forefront of my mind for the past week.

I roasted my first turkey EVER this Thanksgiving. I was quite proud of the result because it looked good, it tasted good, there was enough of it, and all of the trimmings were done by the time the turkey was done. I can't believe how nervous I was about cooking this bird, but from the relief I felt when it was all done I guess I was angsting quite a bit. Luckily for me the guest list was very short this Thanksgiving: my immediate family and my brother Rob. Short and sweet you might say, though the sweet part was bitter. I haven't lived in the same house or town with my brother since 1987. I haven't spent more than a day with him in 22 years. He came to stay from Wednesday to Saturday. I was a little nervous about him coming - mostly the what am I going to do with a houseguest that will be easy enough for me but entertaining enough for them? kind of nervousness that I always feel when having extended-stay company. Ignorance truly was bliss because had I known what I was in for, I would have been terrified. I think my brother may have a mental illness. I don't use the term lightly, or in jest, I think the man may have a diagnosable-and-hopefully-treatable-mental illness. From the time I picked him up at the airport until the time I dropped him back off 3 and 1/2 days later he spoke almost constantly about his higher self that is really from another planet that chose this incarnation to fight the forces of good and evil and how this fight isn't going very well right now because the forces of darkness are trying to suppress his higher self and once he learns to levitate he will fly around the world at the speed of sound and do I think he'll need any special equipment to do that? 'cause he's thinking he may have to work out the physics of this and he's trying to lose some weight but the person inside him is trying to stay fat was quite scary. Sometime early Wednesday morning my eye began twitching and by Saturday it was twitching so much that the muscle felt heavy and it was hard for me to keep my eye fully open. I kept telling myself this was stress, just stress, relax Beth relax, but the eye just kept on twitching. The twitching eye was the first and earliest symptom of the Epidermoid brain tumor I had 5 years ago and so as the eye kept twitching I began to worry: what if the tumor has grown back? What if my eye doesn't stop twitching and I have to have brain surgery again? What if the tumor grows back more quickly and I lose the ability to swallow this time? The what-if scenarios my brain was creating were as scary as the words my brother was speaking.

It made for a rough Thanksgiving.

And just like the smell of turkey, the effects of Rob's visit are lingering: what, if anything, should I be doing for my brother? If someone thinks they are an alien incarnated to a human form does that make them crazy? And even if they are crazy, so what? Does going around thinking you're going to learn to levitate and then fly around the world make you a danger to yourself or anyone else? And if there is something I should be doing, how should I do it? He's a functioning adult. He seems happy. He is law abiding and tax paying and productive. Who am I to say he's not an alien?

The turkey is gone, the pies are eaten, the cranberry sauce discarded. My eye is still twitching. It is twitching less. The tightness in my face is gone. I know it was stress and I know that my lifelong challenge will be to find healthy and appropriate ways to deal with the stress that mostly seems to come (for me) from family. I made huge strides on Sunday and Monday by throwing my agitated, nervous energy into holiday decorating. The house looks festive and beautiful. Last night Steve made our first fire in the wood burning fireplace. The stockings are hung by the mantel with care. The tree is decorated. Everything sparkles. I felt at peace. I felt supported by my husband, my friends, and God. I felt like I could handle anything: odd brothers, tumors, life -- as long as I had a center to return to. The paradox is that I create the center, just as much as I create the stress by how I react to odd brothers, tumors, and life.

I am challenging myself this holiday season to break my old patterns and create new, healthier ways to deal with life's everyday stresses. I don't know if it will be exercise, meditation, music, or blogging (or maybe even a combination of all of the above) that will help me to create that "centered" feeling, but I know that I am thankful that this Thanksgiving showed me where I still need to do a lot of work on myself.

Learning to handle stress appropriately: what better gift could I give myself this holiday season?


Sarcastic Bastard said...

The paradox is that I create the center, just as much as I create the stress by how I react to odd brothers, tumors, and life.

This is very wise.

Barbara said...

My adult son had a brain tumor removed 13 years ago. I would like to be more positive about his state of mind, but unfortunately for the last 3 years he developed mental illness. I often wonder if perhaps they gave who to much radiation?

Thank you for sharing, I wish you well on your journey through life.

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