Situation #1739 I can not cope with

Hello everyone. I have not dropped off the face of the planet. I just haven’t been in any mind to blog. Situation #1739 I can’t cope with is when mom is sick.

Last Thursday my mom came down with a stomach bug, right away, early in the morning. It was nasty. I panic when mom is not her usual, healthy self. Not just feel annoyed or unhappy, but serious panic. I start to worry that she will die. That she will be unable to be there for me. Like, ever again. I feel like I am going to lose her. I know it’s unreasonable, but my emotions don’t care and react anyway.

So when mom started to be unwell, I went into panic mode. Mom said she needed me to be a big girl. And I think I managed, after a fashion. Biggest three year old ever. Crying and refusing to leave mom’s side, unable to focus on anything other than the fact that mom was sick. Helpless, afraid, alone, abandoned, angry, panicky… Not pretty.

Stupid stomach bug is hanging on like for dear life, the fierce fucker. Fifth day now, and mom is still struggling with it, but at least she is better than during the past days. And my sister came home on Friday to help take care of things at home a bit, which helped. But it was still a horrible weekend. Awful bug. I really can’t cope with mom being sick.

PS: thanks for the comments everyone. I’ll reply once mom is better and I am in right mind again. Or in whatever resembles my right mind the closest.

On Being Adopted – Identity Issues

The other day I skyped with my sister. While we were talking, the topic of my being adopted came up and my sister asked if I ever felt weird about being adopted.

I have read a lot about issues adoptees usually struggle with, and in a way I can identify with those, but in another way their experience is different from mine. Not because of anything mental health related, just because of the fact that I was already (legally, not emotionally) an adult by the time I was adopted. So unlike people who were adopted when they were little, I had a choice about it. I wanted it, too.

What I can relate to, however, is the whole part that deals with loss, rejection, shame and identity. I only ever became an adoptee because I lost my family. Because my mother didn’t want me. Rejected me. As a person. As her daughter. Because she just didn’t care about me. That comes with an unspeakably overwhelming feeling of inadequacy and sense of being awfully undesirable.

Painful stuff, so I don’t want to go into much detail here and it’s not directly related to adoption for me either. Those feelings were there for a long time before I even met my family. But what has made an appearance after the adoption were identity issues.

Some are tricky.

I don’t share the same family history as everyone else. Everyone in my family knows each other for a long time already. They share memories and traditions and knowledge about a family history that goes at least three generations back and that they feel connected with, somehow. And it’s THEIR history, not mine, yet at the same time it is a little bit of mine, too, now. Feeling left out of something that ought to be mine, too, and having family memories that are different from theirs is difficult sometimes. It sometimes makes me feel like I’m not part of my own family. My first family didn’t want me and being with my real one, the one I have now, makes me feel left out.

Looks. I know it’s silly, but I find myself forever comparing how I look to how my family looks. I find myself being relieved that my oldest sister has blond hair, like I do, because it means that my mom and my dad can have blond children together. That’s important to me. My hair is blond. Everyone has blue eyes like I do, too. That’s another thing that’s reassuring. It means I don’t stand out as being obviously different. But they are all fairly tall and I’m short. I’m relieved that people mistakenly think it’s because I’m still a teenager and have yet to grow, but I figure they won’t keep on thinking that forever. I also have buck teeth (as you see in the picture I posted) and nobody else does. Those small things make me sad sometimes.

My name. I share my family’s last name. My mom gave me her middle name to be my middle name, too, because I didn’t have a middle name. My first name was chosen by my birth mother. I don’t miss the last name I grew up with, because it was the last name of my stepfather, who abused me. I wasn’t biologically related to him and I’m glad I don’t carry his name any longer. But even so I often feel like the same mix of things that my full name reflects. Complicated.

The contradiction that my adopted family feels like my real family and my birth family feels much less “real”, when the whole rest of the world thinks it might be the other way around. I’m always afraid that people will think that I am “only” adopted. That I’m not a REAL part of my family. When to me my family now feels like my real, true, actual family. I always feel like I need to make sure that everyone realized that I am REALLY my mom’s daughter. At the same time I’m afraid I might not be good enough to deserve to really be her daughter.

My social class identity. I’m from a working-class / underclass family. I grew up hearing that anyone who had a good job and money sucked, basically. That they were arrogant, self-righteous people, born with a silver spoon in their mouth, who have no idea of what life “really” is like and who look down on and don’t care about “people like us”. That’s what I believed for the longest time. And now my mom’s a shrink and my dad’s a lawyer, as white collar as it gets. They have a really neat house, can send all their kids to college, money is never an issue although my mom isn’t even working anymore, and I’m technically what my birth mother would have considered a “spoiled, arrogant rich kid”. Which adds so much guilt that I feel awful for even writing about it, much less identifying with it.

I suppose there are more issues, but those are the ones that came to my mind the easiest. So while I really, really like the fact that my family adopted me and that I belong with them properly and forever, it’s not always easy. It’s okay because my family knows and they help me and are understanding when I’m upset about stuff, but it can get complicated.

But even so, I’m very, very happy that I’ve been adopted and it is infinitely better than not belonging with anyone. I love my family more than I can say.  🙂

The Dreadful 15th

Like my previous post already said, I’m having something of a crappy time. It’s probably all the good stuff and progressish stuff coming to kick me in the ass. I learned not to fret too much about it, because it’s what always happens after a good stretch, but I hate that it came with a lingering headache. I mean really, that’s overkill. I wish it fucked off.

Anyway, I suppose what also contributes to the crappy time is that the 15th is drawing closer. Dreadful date. In 2002 it was Tuesday and a social worker lady and a police officer barged into 6th grade math class. I had just turned 15. (And if you are better at math than I was and wonder what the heck I was doing in 6th grade at age 15 – I got enrolled in school a year late and then got held back twice, repeating 1st and 5th grade, but it didn’t matter because by looks I fit in with the others and I never really cared anyway.)

Anyway, the police officer and social worker lady called my name. I panicked. I thought I had somehow gotten into trouble, big-time. I was mortally afraid of what my parents would do to me once they found out I had attracted not only the attention of some concerned teacher or something, but of the police and whatnot. They demanded I take all my things and come with them. First they took me to the social worker’s office, then to a children’s home.

I didn’t comprehend until a couple of weeks later that this was not some temporary thing but that I wasn’t ever going to see my family again. At that point I seriously freaked and my foray into mental health care started with a hospitalization.

Ever since then Jan. 15th is a bad day. The day I lost my life and everything in it, basically, and had to trade it for shit. Not that my life wasn’t plenty shit before that, but at least it was the shit I had grown up with. Familiar shit. I would have given anything to get it back. Especially since by then amnesia had set in and I wasn’t remembering most shit.

Fast forward eight miserable years and some months and my future family picks me from an advertisement text stating my name, age, diagnoses and a short summary of what the shrinks-in-charge perceived to be my advantages and disadvantages, along with a 2×3 inch picture. They probably figured that since I have no next of kin who might complain, I’d make a good guinea pig for some foundation’s family care project. I didn’t care. I didn’t care about most things.

FirstPictureTurns out it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I got kicked out of the project, but my family kept me. Adopted me, even. And ever since I am looking at the picture – they kept it – and wonder why on earth they chose me. Why did they want to meet me and not some other chick?

I still remember the day they took the picture. The guy with the camera was all ‘smile, put your best foot forward’. Well, you can see for yourself how well that worked. Maybe if I hadn’t been drugged up so much I would have smiled. But then no, probably not. So it certainly wasn’t because of my engaging smile that they picked me. And I hate to think it was out of pity. I really can’t tell what it was, so I return to the picture again and again trying to find out.

Mom assures me it was because when they saw my picture they felt like this might work out, having me at home with them. She says she can’t explain exactly what it was that brought her to this conclusion. She calls it intuition. Which is one of the most annoying non-answers because it tells me nothing at all.

Ah well, but I’m rambling. I guess I just wanted to put the crappiness into words that the 15th comes with. Losing everything. Eventually meeting my family for some unknown reason. Maybe it was random. Maybe my whole life is random. I don’t know. I try to make the best of it anyway. I just wish the headache would fuck off.

Q & A Tuesday ~ On BPD, boredom and frustration

QandA

I’ve gotten a bunch of questions in a comment, and since it would be a novel length comment back, I’ll answer them in a post instead. Here we go. Please be aware, though, that even when the questions ask “how is this for people with BPD in general”, I can’t really say.  I can only say how it is for me.

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Q: You stated that when you’re bored, you want someone to share that pain with you? Is that a common trait of BPD?

A: Like I said, I can only speak from my own perspective and I’m no shrink or anything, but I’d say boredom itself is a fairly common trait in people with BPD and I might not be the only one who has a tendency to end up sharing the misery. For me it is not about actively wanting to make anyone miserable at all, though. I feel bad about making others miserable. For me it’s more that I feel like it’s so unfair that everyone seems busy and content, yet I’m so endlessly bored and don’t know what to do about it, and then it kind of starts to feel like “if anyone cared about me, they would help my misery”. Then I’m like “hey, look, I’m bored” and if nobody reacts I get a little more annoying in the “heeeeeey, really, I’m bored!” way. Then, if nobody reacts still, I start to feel like they don’t care. My thoughts go something like “great, nobody cares about me, I knew it! They don’t like me, they just pretended, but when it gets inconvenient for them, they show their true colors. I hate them. They suck. They don’t deserve to be so content doing whatever they are doing.” But sooner or later my thinking gets a twist again and my thoughts turn on myself, like “but then, they are right in not caring. Why would they care about me? I’m horrible. I can’t even keep myself entertained. Like a baby. Of course they don’t care. They wish I wasn’t even here. They think I’m despicable and they are right. I am despicable…”

So depending on where in my line of reasoning I start to act, I’ll either try to make them miserable in return because I get angry and hurt over them not caring, or I do something to punish myself for being the way I am if I’m already further down the line. That usually forces them to interrupt what they are doing, too, because chances are I’ll do it somewhere where they are sure to notice, just to see if, by any chance, they DO care after all. (Luckily it doesn’t really get to any of those points for me, because I have a mom who is aware of my sensitivity to relationship messages. So she usually reacts to my ‘hey, look, I’m bored’, takes it seriously and helps me find ways to cope with it.)

Well, and of course, this is what happens with me, and I can only speak for myself. Others with BPD might have different mechanisms and different lines of thinking. Everybody is different.

Q: Would it be possible for someone BPD to do an activity by themselves instead seeking someone else to ‘share the pain’?

A: I think it would be possible. Not everyone with BPD will probably want to share the pain in the first place. Like I said, everybody is different. But I think that even with someone like me, who has a certain desire to ‘share the pain’, it’s possible to do an activity by myself instead. It depends on how well I am at that moment and how well I am able to resort to my own coping skills. If I feel pretty secure in my relationships at that time, if I manage to remind myself that it’s NOT them not caring, but just me being bored, then I just try to busy myself, like by drawing a new zentangle or blogging or, well, trying to engage mom or someone else at the house in a more positive way.

Q: Is ‘Non’ the right term for someone who doesn’t have BPD?

A: Suit yourself. 🙂 Non is fine because it’s short and I know what you mean. I’ll take anything, as long as it’s friendly and I know what you mean.

Q: From what I’m gathering here, there’s a lot of narcissistic traits, or at least from what I’m reading, and a lot of self-pity, with a disregard for others, notably your loved ones?

A: For me, I wouldn’t say there is a genuine disregard of others. Not in the ‘I basically don’t care about others’ way. I care a lot about others. I try very hard to be kind, I want especially my loved ones to be pleased with me, I admire and love them a lot, and how they feel matters greatly to me. What gets in the way is my emotional mess when it comes.

My feelings are easily triggered and pretty intense. I think that may be the part that ‘Nons’ have the hardest time relating to. I get pretty much the same kind of feelings everyone does, but very quickly and several times as overwhelming. Add to that that I have emotional coping skills matching that of a little child. My emotional regulation skills don’t suffice. So I do what any child who is overwhelmed does – I cry for my mom to fix it, and stop caring whether that’s convenient for her at that moment, or whether I hurt her, too, in the process, and I feel upset if I perceive her attitude as uncaring, because that directly ties in with traumatic experiences for me.

So I wouldn’t say I am particularly self-pitying, just that when faced with the full force of my emotions, I have trouble looking beyond it. Kind of like that: if you got acid on your hand and it burned terribly and you could see your flesh sizzling away, you’d probably stop caring whether it inconvenienced someone if you cried for help and got in people’s faces about it, because it hurts so much and gives you a panic. It wouldn’t mean you have a general disregard for others, but just that you are in a situation where you are suffering so much that you temporarily can not be bothered with caring for others, but need relief from the acid on your hand and need your wounds attended to. That’s how I experience emotional distress. So even when it looks like I wallow in self-pity and disregard others’ over it, I don’t really. I just don’t know what else to do about the emotional acid.

Q: On the last bit, would you prefer everyone to fail as you were to? Now, when I say fail, I mean you may inevitably come to succeed, but another has done so before you. Would you rather be stuck on the same problem and get frustrated (and who knows what else… would something like that trigger a psychological regression?) until you give up or eventually get it (and feel satisfied, possibly?) or have someone help you?

A: When emotionally well, I don’t want anyone to fail. When I get into an emotional unbalance (like because I am failing with something and get these overwhelming thoughts that I must be truly retarded or inept, a terrible failure myself, and certainly nobody will want such a failure in their lives) I can temporarily want others to fail, too, for two reasons.

1.) To feel better about myself, because if others fail, too, then the task must be real hard, which means that maybe I am not such a complete failure after all, if they don’t manage either, or

2.) In the hope that they will see how terrible I feel about it, because they experience the same thing, so they will then understand why it upsets me so much.

I don’t really do very well with being stuck with a problem by myself, because I easily slide down the fateful line of thinking “I must be a failure to suck so badly at this, nobody wants me if I am such a failure, I will lose them”. (Okay, that’s shortening a really long line of reasoning, but this is the essence of it.) So instead of keeping trying I will get discouraged, blame the problem for being too hard (so nobody starts thinking it might be me being the failure) or become overwhelmed with emotion (which leads to drama, that’s probably where the regressive behavior would start, so yes to that) or have someone help me (which is, all things considered, probably the best possible solution, if I manage to get someone to understand that I really need help and what reason for). Well, yeah, and if I do keep at the task long enough to actually get it eventually (which doesn’t happen so often, for abovementioned reasons), I feel very satisfied and pleased with myself.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okay, that’s it. Today’s little Q&A. I hope that my answers made sense?

This should be me! – a.k.a Gone Baby Gone

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

There was a terrible situation yesterday night. I went to the kitchen with mom and in passing I looked through the door to the living room and caught a glimpse of a scene from a DVD dad was watching, Gone Baby Gone. I have no idea what was going on, but the scene was in this shabby house with a woman who was, like, a drug addict or a boozer or something. You could see from the way she looked and talked and behaved that she was really fucked up, unstable and unpredictable, able to turn violent and stuff.

It was the way my mother used to look. Except my mother had brown hair and that woman’s hair was blond. Like mine.

The resemblance to how my mother had been was horrifying. My heart beat like crazy, I felt frozen to the spot, instantly detached from reality, and I couldn’t look away from the screen even though what I saw made it worse.

Mom noticed I hadn’t followed her into the kitchen, so she came back and got me. She’s really quick to pick up on stuff like that, so I never needed to explain what had happened, she could already tell I had been triggered and was in a bad place. So instead of taking me to the kitchen, where we might have overheard stuff from the DVD, because the living room is right next to the kitchen, she took me back upstairs, and helped me come back to reality and calm down.

Which worked for a little while, and we snuggled, but then I got this thought that this woman I had seen should be me. I mean, really, it should. That was exactly the kind of home where I had grown up. Our house had looked cleaner, because of my mother’s OCD, but the whole atmosphere was exactly the same. I got this overwhelming feeling that this was the life that had been planned for me. That this is what I ought to have become: A fucked up drug addict and alcoholic who has a shabby home and a pathetic, miserable life.

But instead of that, I live in this really nice house, with people who I’m not even related to yet call mom and dad, exploiting them, messing with their lives, taking all those things they give to me that I don’t deserve, because the life that I was chosen for was never this life, but the kind of life I had seen on the TV screen.

The noise in my head was unbearable: This should be me. My life should be like that. How dare I exploit good people. I deserve a life like that, not the life I live now. I took something that I had no right to have. I should get punished. I must leave them. I do not deserve people who love me and care for me. I should be doing drugs and alcohol and have a shit life, just like my mother had . . .

To cut a long story short, the night turned into drama. I wanted to hurt myself and screamed and cried and it took a long time until I calmed down again. Most of it is hazy to me, but I think dad stopped watching the movie when I started screaming and helped mom with keeping me safe, because I have half a memory trying to kick him because I was so angry that they wouldn’t let me leave. Which in turn meant that I woke up several times during the night in a panic over losing everyone. Mom didn’t leave me during the night, so it was okay-ish, because I wasn’t alone, but this morning I feel exhausted, because of the bad night and waking up early, and awful about giving everyone such a terrible night, after it turned out to be me, who ended up “gone baby gone”.

Feeling exhausted and guilty is a dangerous mix for me, so that even when it has the potential to make me feel even more guilty, I’m also grateful that mom keeps me close by today. Crisis watch.

Mom insists I skip today’s part of the Sexual Healing Journey and I can’t argue that. I’d be a mess today. So instead I’ll do something a little more uplifting and try to make a list of things that I like, to get my thoughts (and hopefully my feelings, too) into a good direction again.

I hope you all had a nicer start into your Sunday.

Borderline, PTSD and Trust Issues

Trust BPD PTSD 1

Trust ~ the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, character or strength of someone or something.

The inability to trust is a painful thing. Both BPD and PTSD make it difficult for me to trust people, to trust situations, to trust myself. Struggling to trust makes it hard to feel safe. Not feeling safe makes it hard to stay calm. Thusly being in a constant state of vigilance, stress and anxiety is exhausting and it’s terrible and unhealthy.

In healthy people trust develops when they are babies. When they experience – over and over and over again, with no major exceptions – that their cries are heard, their needs attended to, that they are the cause of joy and smiling faces, that touch is pleasant, warm and comforting and that good things happen when they call attention to themselves. That is how children come to trust that other people are good, that they mean it when they are being nice, that the world is a safe enough place and that they are good and capable little people who can rely on themselves.

This very first kind of trust – achieved by a healthy and secure attachment to a caregiver – can be seen as a foundation for all other kinds of trust people develop later in life.

As you can read on my page Borderline in more detail, I have, for myself, come to the conclusion that BPD is essentially a relationship disorder. That it’s not my personality that’s damaged, but my view on relationships. That by the way relationships worked at my childhood home, I have come to expect that they are dangerous, unstable and all-or-nothing. That people will change in the bat of an eye. That words are deceptive. That nobody will protect me or stand by me. That promises are empty and care is shallow. That trust leads to pain.

That the traumas I experienced where solely interpersonal (as in caused by people, not by circumstances or natural disasters or anything) only reinforced that nobody and nothing is to be trusted. That no situation is truly safe. That I can’t trust myself to keep me safe. That even I can’t trust my body not to betray me. So lack of trust is an essential part of my PTSD, too.

In daily life so many crap results from that, I don’t even know where to start. I think most of my issues actually do go back to trust, either directly – like second guessing people’s intentions, feeling incapable or suspecting that getting abandoned is an imminent danger – or indirectly – like my impulsivity (if nothing seems really stable or permanent, what do I go by other than the impulse?) or my dissociation (if I don’t trust myself to be able to cope with something, don’t trust the situation to turn out okay, don’t trust anyone else to keep me safe, then disconnecting myself from everything seems like the only option left) and even my feelings of emptiness (nothing is “real” enough to fill the gaping void, everything appears too shallow or like it won’t last anyway).

 So if trust is such an issue, yet at the same time the foundation I got when I grew up means that my default setting is now “DISTRUST” – what can be done about it?

Let’s start optimistic and with the good news: I am increasingly able to trust.

The bad news: it requires constant effort.

Trust DistrustMy ability to trust works like a light switch. At first it had been jammed in the distrust position, but after lots of work it can now go up to where it says ‘trust’. But it doesn’t stay there by itself yet. The moment you let it go, gravity pulls it back down to ‘distrust’. It’s still the default setting.

But hey, at least it isn’t permanently stuck on distrust anymore. That makes a big difference for me.

So what kind of work helped against the jamming? I must admit I couldn’t really say all by myself, so I asked mom. This is what she said helped me:

  1. Considering the emotional age regarding my ability to trust
    Well, let’s just say my emotional trusting age started out at below zero. Mom said that at the beginning I was like an infant in this regard, that either I got my needs met now, or I could not emotionally understand why not and reacted with distrust and pushing her away. And go figure. I can only second that. I still remember that I didn’t even trust her consistency and immediateness for a long time and pushed away despite it.
  2. Reinforcing trust on as many levels as possible to make it more palpable
    I have a hard time trusting words. I have a hard time trusting actions. I have a hard time trusting affection. Or experiences. Or my feelings. So each of those channels alone isn’t sufficient, because each lets through only a weak impulse towards trust. Combining them increases the strength.
  3. Awareness that trust needs to be earned
    So often a little bit of trust was the reward for a hard struggle mom and I had with each other. I test. A lot. That’s what being distrustful does. Trust is what can lie on the other end of the struggle if all goes well. So one needs the willingness to get there together, even when getting through sucks real bad.
  4. Willingness to take risks  
    On both sides. My mom never knew for sure if it was going to work out. Neither did I. I suppose what kept both of us going was that the relationship appeared worth some risk taking.
  5. Monitoring the switch together
    Mom says it’s important she knows where my switch is – on trust, on distrust, or in between – and let’s just say she’s very good at reading my behavior to figure it out. But she says it’s just as important I learn to become more aware of what the switch is doing early on, too, so that I can learn to recognize that it’s sliding out of place before it is all the way down. So we talk about it a lot to monitor it together.
  6. Being trustworthy
    Maybe a no-brainer, but mom said I should add it anyway. So I decided to write a follow-up post on being trustworthy: How to be Trustworthy.

Ideas for Coping With the Holidays Despite Mental Health Issues

Making Christmas Fun

Since I’m already struggling with the looming calamity that’s called Christmas, my mom suggested I write down my ideas for making it a better experience than in previous years. So here we go, my ideas.

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Idea 1: Let’s keep it simple.

I have an (adopted) grandmother who would love to make any new Christmas the biggest and most glamorous family Christmas that the history of Christmases has ever seen. Yup, the same grandmother who still calls me “that girl”. But the more fuss, the more I am afraid of messing up and spoiling it for everyone. So let’s keep it simple, please.

Idea 2: Let’s keep some familiar routines.

Our routines mean a lot to me. I like to know what happens when. I know many of our routines don’t go well with the holidays, but losing the routines is really hard for me, and if we could maybe keep some of them at least, it would probably help.

Idea 3: Let’s have breaks from the family / alone time with my attachment person.

Having everyone there is stressful. I fret that my mom will like everyone else better than me. That I won’t get what I need. I’d like to have breaks from that, breaks that I can spend alone with my mom, so I don’t get too overwhelmed.

Idea 4: Let me know that you know it’s hard for me.

Okay, I don’t really need to suggest that to my mom, as she’s already doing that, but I want to say that I appreciate it a lot. It really IS hard, even to prepare for Christmas, and it’s giving me all kinds of stress. Having my mom acknowledge that even when I’m functioning on a level way below what would be expected of someone my age, I could be doing much worse and am actually working hard to keep up even this low level of functioning.

Idea 5: Let’s gently watch out for nice moments together.

I tend to get preoccupied with everything that does not work out, goes not as planned, with what I’m not good enough at, and with negative feelings that arise. While I hate it when someone tries to shove all that’s good in my face and tells me to appreciate that instead, I think I could use some gentle prompts to find out what things I do like, what I am doing well, and what feels good about the whole Christmas deal.

Idea 6: Let me know I’m not alone, but have a go-to place for all that’s sad, too.

Again, that’s something I don’t really need to suggest to my mom, but as it’s important for me, I write it down anyway. I tend to keep my struggles and sadness to myself for too long, because I don’t want to spoil the holiday for anyone. Which works until I can’t cope anymore and stop caring about everyone else. So it’s really helpful that my mom is sensitive to how I feel and gives my sad and troubled feelings space, too.

Idea 7: Let me know that if I can’t take any more of it, that’s okay, too, and help me with a face-saving escape plan.

Just what it says, really. I’m very worried I’m going to look like a baby or like I’m totally incapable or retarded or something in front of everyone. That’s horrible. Knowing that if I absolutely can’t take it anymore, I can get away from it all in a way that feels safe and does not make me look terribly inept, would help enormously.

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That’s what I came up with. Do you have ideas that help you cope with the holiday season?

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