I love vacations. I know this is not a particularly startling revelation. But I think that I like them more than the average person.
I have perfected my escape-artist defense mechanism and there is nothing better than physically leaving home to appease an escape artist. If I did not have children, I would probably take a traveling job. That way, I would always be somewhere new. Nobody could ever find me. I wouldn’t even be able to find myself.
That being said, I am completely aware that “I cannot run from myself”. I tried before I started recovery, but it never worked. Now that I have miraculously lived in the same city for 20 years, vacations are my way of escaping for a week. And I usually need it.
So last week, I packed up and went to the beach with my kids. I was much more excited than normal for this vacation. I was intent on relaxing. I was sure I would be able to set aside the recovery work and daily tasks that make life more challenging when I am at home. I wasn’t fooling myself. I knew I was still a mom. I knew I was still doing the “mom” tasks and those are not small. But I was excited for the change nonetheless.
But soon after arriving, I discovered myself was following me. For most of the week, I was followed by a sense of impending doom. I was positive that the other shoe was soon to drop. I worried … all week. I worried about everything from gum disease to melanoma to a flat tire to bankruptcy. I worried that something was wrong back home. I worried about power outages. I worried about allergies. I worried about my bad parenting. I worried about the meaning of life. I worried the entire trip (until the last day of course).
In reality, nothing was wrong. Sure my gums were a bit sensitive, which sometimes happens. I do have this weird tiny spot on my calf which should probably be examined by a doctor. I do seem to have a slow leak in one brand new tire which needs addressing. And yes, my parenting needs work. But other than a jellyfish attack on my poor son, the week was perfect. Even the weather could not have been better. But there I was, worrying about everything, unable to escape myself.
And in reality, the impending doom is a valid feeling. I felt it when I was a child and it was very, very real. At any moment, something horrible was bound to happen when I was a child. And in many moments, something horrible did happen.
But sometimes, my brain gets confused. I sense a feeling and I spend the next week trying to relate it to my present circumstances. And it rarely has anything to do with the present moment. It is almost always an old feeling that I stored away in childhood to be processed as an adult.
So when I feel the impending doom, the manic anxiety, the deep depression, the overarching despair and the suicidal feelings, it is important that I don’t relate it to my life at the present moment. If I do, I will potentially act on those feelings. I will send myself in to a cycle of darkness that is very difficult to escape.
If I can say, “that is not about now”, I can feel the anxiety and sadness without attaching to it. And that is the key to my recovery. I can feel it. I can heal it. But I don’t have to live it again.
That being said, this is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
And the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life.
Isn’t that how it works?
So next year, I’m going to go on a vacation.