My uncle got married when I was 7 years old.
I still remember the wedding reception. It was held at my grandparent’s turn-of-the-century home in the little community where I grew up. My mom made the cake, and I thought I was a big girl because she let me help. We took family pictures in front of the big fireplace in my grandparents living room. My cousins made trouble as usual, and there was laughter and love.
It’s a joyous memory.
As I got older, I wondered why my aunt didn’t come to family gatherings. Didn’t she like spending time with us?
It wasn’t until I was grown that I understood that she had very serious health problems.
Fast forward a few decades to multiple surgeries, multiple hospitalizations, and multiple diagnosis, and I rarely see her: family gatherings are just too stressful for her.
Before my illness, this completely baffled me. How could her family be stressful?
We loved her.
We supported her.
We wanted to see her.
But now… now, I understand.
Even family that loves you has drama. I doubt there’s a family on earth with no drama.
Am I right?
You know I am.
Plus, the amount of self care that’s necessary to make a family gathering work can be very overwhelming.
When I go to a family gathering, I have to bring my own food.
I have to bring medication, supplements, etc. I don’t like to admit how many pills I have to take just to live a somewhat normal life. Some of those supplements are suppositories which I would rather not talk about or have anyone see.
I don’t like worrying that I’m going to bleed on someone’s new couch or have to make an emergency trip to their bathroom to try to discreetly clean up blood coming from places it naturally oughtn’t.
Preparation requires physical energy which, honestly, unfortunately, sometimes I don’t have.
My day-to-day existence takes priority, and a family gathering isn’t, honestly, necessary.
Dealing with people requires mental energy. If you have never dealt with low energy, this might not be something you’re aware of. (See my energy chart for more information)
People require energy.
Sometimes… especially family!
It all depends on the relationships.
Sometimes, there’s no reason for the stress –at least nothing I can explain. Sometimes, the stress has nothing to do with family at all.
When I’m mentally stressed, I yell, I say impulsive things, and, basically, I function like I have no filter between my brain and my mouth.
I don’t want to be around people when I’m like that.
People don’t want to be around me when I’m like that.
I try to set aside rest days before and after family functions so that I’m not mentally stressed and I’m better able to handle the level of social interaction expected of me. I try to give myself lots of time to mentally and physically prepare, so that I’m not rushed or stressing.
But, sometimes it’s not enough.
Sometimes, there’s still gross stuff happening that I would prefer to deal with at home.
Sometimes, I don’t have the energy to prepare food, clothes, medicine, and supplements ahead of time.
Sometimes, my own drama is so extreme that I can’t handle anymore.
Even family drama.
Even my family that I love.
This is just a reality of my existence.
I now understand so much better why my aunt rarely came to family events. I’m certain that it wasn’t her first choice to stay away. I’m certain that it was a function of protecting her health.
I’m confident she wished she could be with us.
This is something I understand all too well.
I want to spend time with extended family, but I want to get healthy more. I want to see our relatives, but I want to maintain my character (not biting people’s heads off due to my stress) more.
If I can’t behave, I’m not going: my testimony matters to me.
If this is the case with family, it’s even more so with friends (although, sometimes, family is more drama and stress than friends).
So, if I say I can’t come, or if I come and have to leave early, or if I seem like I’m unwilling to commit to absolutely coming, this is why.
And, if I go through all the effort of food preparation and risking the stress affecting my health to be with you, please know, you must be very important to me indeed.