I’m new to Psych Central. I started writing here in late September. I promised to write twice a week. I began slowly as I was finding my footing, but my first posts were decent and I was developing a rhythm and style. And then, November arrived.
The first full week in November found me in sunny Florida with my two daughters, ages 6 and 3, and my parents. We gathered in Florida for a mini vacation and, for some reason, I thought it would be fun for all of us to stay in a two-bedroom hotel suite. A cozy suite would be charming, like an overcrowded school bus or a cramped elevator or an iron lung. You know…fun.
We – three adults and two small children – spent six full days in that suite. With each passing day, the walls closed in on me a little more. My parents’ bickering got a little louder. My parents’ unsolicited advice (on everything from finances to child-rearing to career choices) became the focus of every conversation. The voice in my head stopped saying, “isn’t this nice?” and started shrieking, “MAKE THEM STOP! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MAKE THEM ALL STOP!”
By the time I arrived home, back to my house and my routine, I was spent. The confident woman who had cheerfully said goodbye to her husband the week before was gone. In her place was an emotionally and physically exhausted girl, full of doubt and self-loathing. I had a full-blown case of acute parentitis.
Parentitis is characterized by the sudden onset of the following behaviors and feelings only when exposure to parents is prolonged (i.e., when contact with parents lasts longer than, say, 25 minutes):
- Teeth grinding
- Overwhelming desire to use filthy language
- Inability to enjoy any activity (including breathing)
- Questioning (and subsequently doubting) all your life’s work
- Muscle tension as soon as you leave any private space and enter a shared space
- Frequent fantasies about moving to Montana and living in an end-of-days shelter as soon as the parental exposure is over
Parentitis is further characterized by the sudden disappearance of the above behaviors and feelings within 30 seconds of saying “goodbye” to your parents. Additionally, some people (myself included) may feel downright euphoric once the parental visit ends. However, be warned that this euphoria is short lived. For a few weeks after the parental exposure, you may be overwhelmingly exhausted. Not surprising. You just finished competing in every event in the Emotional Olympics, courtesy of your parents.
There is no real way to remedy parentitis when you are in the throes of an old-fashioned, god-awful family vacation. During this holiday season, the best you can do is take comfort in this: you are not alone. Millions of us will have parentitis this month and we’ll all feel a hell of a lot better come January. As the great Johnny Carson said,
Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.
(Photo courtesy of blisstree.com.)