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Dr. L
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist
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Lately I have been dealing with some stressful events and I

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Lately I have been dealing with some stressful events and I feel like I am numb to them. I also notice I overreact to good things (ie, I cry easily at happy news or if something good happens on a TV show). Am I going to explode one day and have a breakdown?
I would like to help you with your question.
I am sorry that you are feeling so fragile right now. I don't think you will explode and have a breakdown...that's unlikely...but something does seem to be awry. Can you tell me more about the stressful events? What has been happening? How long has this been going on? The more you can share with me, the better I will be able to provide assistance.
I await your reply.
Thank you.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Hello Dr. L, thank you for your quick reply. I will try to sum things up.
The bad:
1. My mom is being treated for lung cancer for the second time. She is undergoing chemotherapy. I do not feel afraid or scared for her life. In fact, I think I am mad at her. If it wasn’t for her addiction to cigarettes she would not be in this situation and she would not be putting my father through this. When the doctor told us, after her lung biopsy, that the cancer was back, my dad said “She can’t catch a break.” In my head I thought, “But she did this to herself!” How can I think like that about my own mother?
2. My grandmother (mom’s mom) is now in a nursing home full-time. She went in in February. It’ll be where she dies. She is 91 years old, senile, incontinent, mostly blind, can’t walk. She initially recognizes me but forgets in the next hour that I’d come to visit her. In her moments of coherence she will complain that she hates the nursing home and hates being there. But then I wonder if she remembers in the next hour that she’s miserable. I don’t feel sad…once again, I am mad, because she put herself here by not accepting help and being too stubborn for in-home care. She wouldn’t move and live with my mother when they retired, instead opting to stay home by herself. When it started getting too difficult to do normal everyday things like laundry or housecleaning, she refused home-care help. So when she was all alone and fell and broke her hip and was delirious because she was malnourished and dehydrated, it really was her own fault. That I think this of my own grandmother makes me feel guilty.
3. My friend Dave from college committed suicide by shooting himself in the head a few weeks ago and was taken off his ventilator shortly after. My husband and I just saw him a month ago, we went out for dinner. I don’t have many details but it seems completely avoidable and nobody had any idea he was in any kind of desperate, depressive state. I know I should feel sad and shocked, but I don’t really feel anything…just numb. I cried when we found out about the accident but it was more crying because my husband was crying and I felt so sad for him, as he was closer to Dave than I was.
4. My husband and I purchased a new house this year and we are due to move in in August. I hear major life purchases are a stressor. In my mind I am looking forward to this event but quickly feel overwhelmed with everything that goes with in...the packing, the moving, trying to fix up the old place to rent out, dealing with finding renters, the work that will go into the new house, etc.
The good (I think):
I have noticed since these events started that I get weepy at really silly things.....good events, happy news. Have you ever watched "Restaurant Impossible"? I cry when they reveal the new restaurant to the owners, because they are so happy. If I read about a heartwarming story in the news, I tear up. This is not normal behaviour for me. How do I know if I am handling this stress? Shouldn't I feel other than anger toward my mom and compassion or hope, not anger and guilt? I exercise 3-4 days a week and I try to eat well, but exercise doesn't seem to be helping with this right now.
It's obvious that you are in the midsts of several tough, grandma, Dave...and the pending move. Multiple stressors like these can certainly leave one feeling numb as the emotional upheaval overloads are system. If you were dealing with only one ..or maybe two...stressors you likely would be in an entirely different state of mind.
That you cannot access compassion and hope right now doesn't mean that you have no capacity to do just means that currently the stress is overriding your other emotional states. This will change as the stress diminishes.
As to your feelings of guilt and anger...I find them perfectly reasonable given what you've said about your mom and grandma. Yes...they made poor choices and those poor choices led to a recurrence of cancer and being in a nursing home. If you are able to work through your feelings of anger are likely to come to feel disappointment in their behavior rather than anger. And you might even be able to feel some sadness for the pain they are suffering.
Suicide is a socially unacceptable action. It leaves survivors feeling shocked and saddled with disbelief and an inability to understand why the person didn't get help. Because of what was happening with mom and grandma, I think it was far too difficult for you to even think about Dave.
In each of those cases - mom, grandma, Dave - the person could have made choices that would have kept them healthy! And...that fact is likely very upsetting to you. After all, from what you have exercise and eat well...that means that taking care of yourself is an important value for you....and likely you expect that those you care about also do the same thing.
Moving is a stressor no doubt. However, right now the numbness from the other events is robbing you of some of the excitement of the new house. This is all very understandable given the other situations. I would encourage you not to be so hard on yourself and, instead, to put this all in perspective.
Dave's death is a tragedy. Those who attempt suicide are often very good at keeping their true feelings from others and it almost always comes as a complete shock to family and friends. While you seem unable to grieve for him..that might come once the numbness from mom and grandma wears off. If supporting you husband's grief is all you can muster right now...then do that and let your own feelings come when they do.
It's okay to be angry at mom and grandma. You have the right to feel cheated by their poor choices.
As to why you are crying over such inconsequential things like Restaurant Impossible (which I have seen)...this is not uncommon. Something good is happening and it is cause to celebrate... so you are responding appropriately. What is happening is that you are seeing the happy ending that you wish for your own life...that is, you want mom to be cancer-free, grandma not to have dementia, incontinence and living in a nursing home, Dave to be alive and happy, you living in the new home without the stress of moving. These are things you have no control over...but for which you still are hopeful about a miracle or a happy outcome.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I guess I wonder how to start processing the bad stuff. Not that I want to be upset or sad, but this lack of feeling is concerning to me.Is it just a matter of time? could be a matter of time...the situation with your mom and grandma are going to resolve naturally...Dave, too, will become part of your past. The move will happen. So, in time, each of these will be over. But..the concern you have about how you are doing today is something that should not be ignored. I would encourage you to consider individual therapy. With the help of a Expert you can address these things pro-actively and not just wait for them to resolve on their own. Your behavior and emotional state is upsetting to you and that, in itself, is adding even more stress.

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