In the last post I began to break down your specific experiences to show their relationship to the Stress Response, this post continues that break down.
- General Adaptation Syndrome
- Emergency Response (Alarm)
- Fight-or-Flight OR Tend-and-Befriend
- Prolonged Stress Response (Resistance)
Adaptation to the new normal
- Panic & Anxiety
Stress Response Cont’d
Not only have you lost your social support that was your spouse, your spouse is the person bringing the stress. Their cycling moods and behaviors make life unpredictable, they are trying to control the outcome as well as just about everything else and instead of improving the situation is getting worse. These conditions have served to increase your worry which leads to greater anxiety which secures your chronic stress. Everything that goes wrong causes more to go wrong which causes more anxiety which causes more to go wrong which causes more anxiety which causes… Stop the insanity! Anxiety inhibits relaxation. Oh no, reading that may cause more panic! When does it end? How does it end?
You get to control how you respond, but your spouse’s midlife crisis is not your fault. Your body is reacting to the external factor of someone else’s crisis. Can you see that? Whose body wouldn’t go nuts on them within such circumstances? You are normal. Unfortunately being normal does not always mean being healthy. So it is time to give yourself a break and take some conscious control. What can you do to change how your body is reacting?
You can request medical help from a psychiatrist, but there are alternative options that you can use, or combine such options with medical treatment. If you have a history of anxiety disorders, you may have a chemical imbalance or malfunctioning response to situations that are not dangerous. But for most people this situation is not your normal. Short-term pharmaceutical assistance may help you get back on track.
Your challenge is that the circumstances which caused and are continuing to cause your stress are ongoing. You need to learn to stop the your own insanity during your spouse’s MLC insanity. Your MLCer is not going to stop their crisis because it’s driving you crazy. It’s still their crisis and they still have to go through it. So you need to learn to handle the trauma without panic and anxiety. You need to condition new responses to ongoing crisis circumstances.
When You MLCer Lives at Home
Speaking of ongoing stress, those with MLCers who never leave may live in the midst of the storm for a few years. It is more difficult to find outlets since your MLCer is right there impersonating a vegetable on the couch. Most at-home MLCers may be of the lower energy type; their depression may be more overt than covert and they may not be having an affair, it is over or it is or was emotional but not physical. These MLCers may also have less frequent Monster episodes. So there are some stressors that may not be there. You may not have the high level of infidelity and in-fatuation. You may not have the same level of taunting and flaunting. You may not have threats of divorce or leaving. But you have an MLCer in your face. Your MLCer may refuse to join the family for meals, sleep in a separate room or even live in a separate part of the house and avoid as much familial interaction as possible. Or there are those who cycle between loving kindness and blame and projection. Some are intimate physically but withdraw in all other ways and this may go on for years.
Your worries are great. What motivation is there to progress in the MLC tunnel? You panic over whether you should be handling things differently. You are anxious because you don’t know which personality will be present today.
Very few left behind spouses become stuck in poor-me victim mode and thus this is not my concern for those with at-home MLCers. But like those in poor-me victims you are spending more time than the typical 6 weeks to 6 months after Bomb Drop saturating in adrenaline and glucocorticoids. You are thus more at risk for serious health problems from the stress and of reaching physiological as well as emotional Exhaustion.
The next post will close this series. I will review the final stage, Exhaustion. Most of you will not reach this stage emotionally—though it will feel like it to you, everything is relative and in the context of MLC LBSs, exhaustion is an extreme state.