Seems like lately I’ve been having a lot of family time. And I don’t necessarily mean this in a good way! I mean that my brothers, sisters and parents have been making plans for family get-togethers and I find my anxiety creeping up with each one.

I grew up in a large, boisterous family, and when I got married we proceeded to have three kids in three years. Add that to the two my husband already had, and by age 30 I had another large, boisterous family. You’d think that would be good. But it sent me into serious Anxiety and Panic. Turns out, I’m really a rather introverted person who adapted as long as she could to the wild, extroverted, in-your-face living in a large family. But by the time I was in my early 30’s I couldn’t take it any more. But now, instead of siblings, these were my children!

I’m lucky. My girls are terrific. My stepkids are wonderful. We had help from babysitters and au pairs. And, time passes. Now the youngest is 18, very independent and about to graduate from high school. We’ve slowly gotten into a lovely routine of co-habitation – my husband, my daughter and myself. We all have plenty of space, free time, quiet, etc.

Now add these ‘gatherings’ with my siblings to my calendar and I’m crammed into a house full of kids, grandkids, nieces, neighbors etc. I find my eyes glazing over. My back stiffens up. I breathe about an inch deep. When I get in the car to go home I’m clutching the wheel for dear life.

I love my family – dont get me wrong. But it is imperative for me to remember what I’ve learned about myself!! And I can only take so much chaos and confusion without being sucked into a vortex of anxiety, followed closely by a panic attack.

So this morning is lovely — cool, quiet. I can hear the birds chirping outside my window, and the coffee pot gurgling down the hall in the kitchen. No one speaks to me. My ears unwind from their taut defense against an onslaught. My shoulders are relaxing back down to normal. My breath is again getting somewhere close to my belly. I notice my jaw has stopped clenching.

This is good. It hasn’t taken me a week or a month or a year to figure this out!