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Hello Friends!

Summer is in full swing and with it comes cook outs, camping trips, rodeos, BBQs and 4th of July
festivities. I used to measure “fun” when our kids were little by how filthy their feet were by the
end of the day—sticky popsicle hands and faces.

I love a bonfire and a cold beer with friends and family, but holidays and gatherings can be
overwhelming for those with anxiety and depression. For those who have never suffered it is
confusing and difficult to understand why a person would feel an overwhelming sense of dread
when faced with something that is “supposed to” be fun.

We talked a little in our last blog about the phrase “supposed to”. By whose standards do we
determine what is or isn’t “supposed” to be fun? It is different for all of us. Before my mom died,
I could see her anxiety ratchet up as our annual summer camping trip rolled around. She was
full of “what if’s” for every possible scenario—food, fires, clothing, family dynamics, pets,
mosquitos, even the logistics of getting in and out of the boat. It paralyzed her.

My sister and I revel in the planning. It’s as much fun for us to sort through the minutia in
preparation for our trip as it is when we get there. For Mom, it was more than she could handle.
Even when we took on every single ounce of planning and prep, she still stewed and worried. It
was like this for every occasion and holiday. The worry was all-consuming.

There’s no rationalizing anxiety. In fact, I probably made it worse by trying to apply logic to her
angst. “Mom, all you have to do is pack clothes and toiletries for yourself. We’ll take care of the
rest.” It changed nothing. Her anxiety overruled my logic. The phrase “all you have to do” is right
up there with “supposed to” in terms of trying to reason with a person battling anxiety. Would
you tell a person who can’t swim and is drowning that all they had to do was get to shore? I
would become frustrated which only added to her stress. I understood that she was anxious, but
no one could truly understand what it felt like to HER.

So, what does all of this mean? I have learned to look at those that I love and accept their
boundaries without offense or judgement. What’s fun and exciting for me could be someone
else’s idea of torture. It doesn’t have to make sense to me. I just have to respect it. It’s not my
job to coax, cajole or seek to change their mind. It is my job to be mindful, empathetic, and
loving. So, when I invite you to my next BBQ and it sounds totally overwhelming, I hope that you
smile and say “no thank you” and can go on with your day in a way that makes you feel safe
and happy and I promise not to judge you or take offense.

Smile On! Be good to each other!