Let the Flooding Begin… “5 Lost Weeks”

I had therapy again last night and let me just say, I am so grateful to have started this process when I did, because I’m about to begin a super-challenging chapter of my life.

My mother-in-law and sister-in-law (who is 36 and sweet as can be but severely, severely mentally challenged) will be visiting/staying with us from El Salvador (where they live) for five weeks, starting August 15.

I won’t go into the specifics of why this is such a big deal…it’s not just cultural and language differences…and I am not here to bash them; I’m not a malicious person. She is a wonderful woman who has had many challenges in her life and raised an incredible son, my husband, and a wonderful, very special daughter–all single-handedly.

But, to be blunt, it’s a lot for me mentally and emotionally (as well as physically) having them here for that long for many, many reasons.

One of which is, I am a control freak, and I don’t deal well when I am thrown in situations that make me uncomfortable.

But really, let’s be honest here, five weeks is a long time to host anyone.

Complicating things, let’s just say it’s not only me who is upset by the duration. Last year she was here for four weeks, and it was incredibly difficult on all parties–even she acknowledged it was a long time to be here in our home.

In fact, it was a truly awful personal time for me, where the stress actually caused my period to be three weeks late (Steph at Back in Skinny Jeans linked to that story in my guest blog, Out of Pills, Out of Sync).

So this year, recognizing how tough it had been for me back then, my husband had asked her to call us before booking her tickets (not too much to ask!) and to look into three weeks in August because he was starting school and would prefer to have them here before that so he could enjoy the time.

Well, she went and booked without speaking to us first…and did it for five weeks, not three.

Needless to say, I was not pleased and neither was he–but because he’s such a wonderful person and because it’s his blood family, he handled it significantly better than me and can overlook it.

And me? I just don’t handle this kind of thing well; call it my “hardware…” but right away my stomach was in knots and I was in tears because it was something I had no control over.

After my initial hysterical reaction, my husband and I had several long heart-to-hearts (he does understand my feelings, which helps a lot) and we agreed to be the united team we are, and make the best of this situation, working together to enjoy the time as best we can.

But I’ll be honest, in spite of trying to look past it, I am still not ok with all of this; in fact, I’ve been stewing over this since we found out two weeks ago. I’m already a stress-case and just knowing what’s looming over me–five weeks of the “home invasion” (as my mother-in-law jokingly calls it!)–makes it even tougher.

Dr. G.’s advice to me, after listening to me rant and rave during the hour-long session, was really quite simple: instead of working on quelling my anxiety at this time and over the next five weeks, she wants me to look at this pragmatically as “five lost weeks”, where I have no expectations.

Not what I’d expect to hear from a therapist, but she explained further: If I have no expectations, I can’t be disappointed, and it might end up being better than I expected.

Essentially, these five weeks will be, as she said, real-life “flooding.” I’ll be put in a terribly uncomfortable situation in which I have absolutely no control. (They’re coming, and I can’t do a thing about it).

But I will make it out ok and, hopefully, end up with an even tighter bond with my husband as a result. As she noted, “flooding” tends to be more painful but it works.

And if I can put aside my own anxieties about them being here and all it entails, and make my mother-in-law feel welcome and loved, I might even end up being a better person, too!

My own parents arrive for a weekend visit today, and I am beside myself with joy to see them–I literally can’t wait!

I need to remember my excitement and, a week from now, for my husband’s sake, welcome my mother-in-law and sister-in-law into our home with the same graciousness and love I have for my own parents.

It won’t be easy the whole time, and I’m sure I’ll be relying on the blog and therapy to help me avoid emotional eating and over-exercising (two habits I fell into last year with them here…) but I will try to remember her words.

It might be “5 lost weeks” but I can gain some insight during them, and come out calmer and happier. It’s all in my attitude.

As my cheerleading coach used to tell us before a big competition: “Your attitude and your aptitude determine your altitude.”

How about you? Has the literal or figurative technique of “flooding” helped you overcome a challenge, food-related or not?

11 thoughts on “Let the Flooding Begin… “5 Lost Weeks”

  1. Reading about this made ME stress out. I think you guys could easily change the five to three by saying this: “We are available these three weeks. For the last two weeks, we’re not able to host you in our home for a variety of reasons….[insert big story here].”

    You could offer to put her up in a hotel, or simply say, “We’re sorry, but we did tell you that three weeks was all we had available.” I for one, do not believe you should be held hostage by this woman’s visit. Certainly, you can stand up for yourself and husband by stating the facts. Set the boundary. I’ll be looking forward to watching your progress.

    For me, once I started telling the truth, my eating reflected this. In my FOO (family of origin), when things were too stressful, I would eat. And eat. I couldn’t tell MY truth, so I stuffed my face. I believe that standing up for myself with my family increased my ability to have control over other things in my life as well.

    Good luck! Send her on a sightseeing tour!!!

  2. Thanks Ms. V…but trust me, it’s not that simple (trust me, I’ve thought of all options but none work…this is a really unique situation, a cross-cultural situation, and a highly emotionally charged time for me. Like I said, it’s a complicated situation and one I didn’t go into in the blog, but trust me it’s unique.

    If there was a way to ship them off somewhere, we would. And they can’t stay at a hotel. It’s family and they’re not American; you don’t ship family off in my husband’s culture. We’d thought about taking a trip to DC to see some family and sending them to stay longer, but even that isn’t panning out.

    I’m stuck–and just have to get through it without gaining weight or losing my sanity!!

    Just keep me in your thoughts 🙂

  3. i dont know for u, but when something i didnt plan happen, i usually comfort myself with binges… not a good way and i know it, but i cant help myself. And i hate unplanned events. Everytime im disappointed or pissed, i turn to food. I like the advice ur therapist gave u : Stop anticipating things in the future and let the flow goes. I realize that i expect a lot from everyone and everything and im always pissed because what i expected dont happen, my expectations are usually too high. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. I’m really confused as to how flooding can help one overcome a challenge. For me, flooding is an overwhelming setback. I’d love to hear more about this.

    And parental visits often do this to me. Five weeks! Eep!

  5. Man….I got a little stressed thinking about your situation, too!

    For me, I’ve learned that my eating is so much about control. When I feel like things are out of control, or someone (AHEM…enter Mother-in-law) is creating disruption or throwing things off, my outlet is food. That is the one thing I CAN control in those situations – by eating too much, or eating too little. I know now that this isn’t healthy…it’s just hard to “un-learn” habits like that, ya know?

    Maybe you could talk to your husband before hand and come up with some kind of escape route if things get really, really bad? Like, visiting a friend out of town for the weekend, or even going shopping on a Saturday? You could say these are plans you already had, so it won’t seem like you’re avoiding them.

    Family situations are tough…hang in there. You are going into it optimistically, so that is a good thing! 🙂

  6. I know exactly how you feel! My mother-in-law has early-onset dementia (it’s very sad – she is 53 and needs a full-time caretaker). Suddenly, at 28 years old, I find myself rearranging my life to visit my in-laws (who live 10 hours away) once a month with my husband, giving up time with my own parents/family to spend more time with my in-laws, and shelling out our hard-earned nest egg to help pay for her hospice care, since my in-laws have been careless with their money their entire lives and we’re smart savers. I COMPLETELY understand and respect why we need to do all of this, and I know if it was my mom, my wonderful husband would do the same thing without a second thought. But deep down, it makes me angry and frustrated. I didn’t think I’d have to deal with this stuff at such a young age. I’m glad to read this because it makes me feel a little less guilty about the anger I feel!

  7. Thanks Nikita, that’s what I plan to do–try not to anticipate the future!

    Ellie, from what I understand, systematic desensitization is a gradual method where the therapist slowly raises the person’s anxiety levels and only moves to the next level when the patient is ready (for example, no journaling for a day, no exercise for a day, then maybe a day with no journaling AND no exercise…these things would make me anxious but not overwhelmingly so).

    With flooding, I’d maybe be told no journaling, no exercise and do it for like a week or something (this is my example, not hers!). You’re made to be anxious at the get-go from the highest level. And I guess it works b/c as she said, everyone has a threshold, and once you reach the top of your anxiety level, the only place to go is down. (and the anxiety goes away apparently).

    Thanks CDLover…we have some ideas floating around and actually we might meet up with my parents all together in Niagara Falls–as a midpoint meeting ground!! That would help me a ton! I don’t want food to be a comfort or a solution and you’re right, food is the only thing I CAN control–and that means sticking to journaling and exercising and focusing on that and not the anxiety of them being here.

    Artie, that is a really tough position to be in and like you, I didn’t think I’d be dealing with this kind of stuff either… sending thoughts your way!

  8. Good luck!

    I think I might have flooded myself regarding a family situation that we had going on the previous year. It was happening weather or not my husband and I wanted it to. We stuck together and although we were disappointed, hurt and angry we kind of pushed that to the side and got through the situation at hand.

    As hard as it was for me to put all those feelings aside at the time, I think it was beneficial. It gave me great insight to certain relationship dynamics. It made me reevaluate them and adjust myself accordingly so that from then on I wasn’t constantly disappointed or emotionally overloaded when dealing with certain people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s