Surviving the Stress of a Family Reunion

Lynne Taetzsch Health Guide
  • Family reunions always seem to bring out the worst in me. In the morning, I drink too much coffee. In the evening I drink too much wine. I can’t sleep. And basically, I revert to my craziest self.

    I’ve heard from others with bipolar disorder that they feel the same kinds of stress from family gatherings. It seems that our siblings still think of us as we were when we grew up with them. Even if we’ve matured and taken charge of our recovery, they don’t let us forget the past.

    The highlight for me at family reunions is playing tennis with my three older brothers, or as one of my sisters refers to us: “Dad’s four sons.” At our reunion in San Diego last year, I didn’t get to play with them because my brother Bill set up a game with his oldest son instead. Well, that really made me mad, and I let them know about it. At one point I forced a sister-in-law to play because “I came to play tennis and someone has to play with me.”
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    Yes, I was more than a bit hyper at that reunion, so this year I promised myself I’d monitor my consumption of alcohol and caffeine better, and try to be more relaxed. But remembering how I blew up last year, my brothers made sure I got to play tennis with them. In order to make the teams even, I took Bobby as my partner, though he can drive you crazy with his banter and procrastination. Bobby and I were doing great, too, and the score was five games to two when I saw my grandson dejectedly walking around the edge of the courts with a racket in his hand and no one to play with.

    Oh boy, did Grandmother’s Guilt get the best of me! “Just one more game,” I said to him, “and then I’ll play with you.” But we lost the next game, and the next, and then we were in a tiebreaker and lost the set.

    Playing three hours of tennis was good for me, though. Physical exercise, especially outdoors, always helps to keep me on track. Taking time out to be alone and rest is useful, too, even though I always hate to miss anything.

    Family reunions are stressful, but they are also wonderful and necessary, as long as we don’t let them make us sick. It’s going to take me a week to recuperate from this one, but it was worth it, and I’ll do it again next year. My brothers are in their seventies now, and I’m in my sixties. Who knows how many years we’ll have left to compete?

Published On: October 17, 2006