In Which I Have Unexpected Teeth

I talk about any of this only because I have the benefit of anonymity.  My family does not know about this blog — or rather, some of them know about the existence of it, but I’ve also explained that it’s a place I can talk without censoring myself for their benefit, and that’s something I need (although I am finding it less necessary as time goes by), and I have no intention of giving them the URL, ever.  They accept this.

My family is, as a general rule, fairly well-adjusted.

We have our quirks.  We have our dysfunctionalities.  My mother’s family was distinctly unconventional for the time, with my grandparents repeatedly separated and then divorced.  There are issues with depression and anxiety on that side.  It has been suggested that my grandfather was undiagnosed bipolar, because he had these great surges of energy and ambition and poor decisions, and being very charismatic would sweep everyone up and along with him,  and then would collapse into a deep depression.  My father’s side is somewhat better, though bizarrely rife with hypochondriacs and sharp tempers (this latter being something I certainly share).  My own immediate family, well, my parents are divorced, my mother is married to another woman, and my issues I have gone into in depth.  We have plenty of the components of dysfunctional families, but we all seem to get along.

There is something seriously wrong with my dad’s younger sister.

I feel utterly screwed up at times, but I am at least aware of what’s wrong with me, and I’m working to be better, and I am doing better.  I am doing better than I have ever done in my entire life, which is a huge thing to say.  Even at the worst of times, though, I never hurt anyone more than myself.  I was the only one who has ever suffered from my own mind.  My dad’s family, however, is beginning to finally acknowledge, after thirty years, my aunt’s behaviour as being abnormal.  The full scope of her manipulative behaviour, her utter lack of remorse and compassion, her vicious attacks on who she perceives as weak, her pathological lying: it’s all becoming very clear, now.  Normal, moral people do not behave in the way she does.  Her husband enables her behaviour.  Her children echo it.  It is, frankly, hideous.

On Monday I was sent a very vicious message over Facebook, after years of refusing to even acknowledge my existence while she chatted happily with all three of my sisters.  The message was passive-aggressive, condescending, and vicious as hell.  She made reference to my mental state.  It was, in every way, shape, and form, completely out of line.

I said I have the family temper.  I lost it.

So angry I could hardly see straight, I responded.  I told her, in no uncertain terms, that she did not get to speak to me like that, that she had no place to lecture me for anything, and she had better get the idea that she could out of her head, because it stopped, right now.

The second message she sent me was worse than the first, further accusing me of “major issues” and “serious baggage,” the apparent implication that Audrey is my girlfriend, and that while most of her family has good “Zen,” not all do, and she’s in a place now where she won’t allow negativity into her life.  And she blocked me.

I found out later she then defriended all my sisters, and send Cortana and Florence a message to the effect of “I’ve been talk to your sister, and I’m very concerned… is everything okay with her?  I think, if you’re not aware of it, that she’s going through something, and you should make sure she’s okay.”  This is… two-faced, and manipulative, and low.  Florence responded privately that whatever was going on between her and me should stay between us, don’t drag her into it.  Florence has the family temper too.  She was not impressed.

I laid the whole thing out for my father, that night.  I asked, had I gone too far in my response?  He said no, he said my response was perfect and he was proud of me.  That is a strange thing to hear for losing my temper.  He said I never made it personal, I never attacked, I merely said that her behaviour was unacceptable and drew the line.  I mentioned how sick with anxiety I had been all day, and my dad said, “No, listen to yourself.  You’re dealing with it.  You’re handling it, and you’re doing wonderful.”  And this is true.  Had this happened a month ago, I would have fallen apart.  Now, I stood up for myself and fought back in an appropriate manner, without emotional collapse.  Dad says it’s wonderful to see me do that.

It’s not about me.  The more I learn about the situation — and half of it I’m forbidden to talk about for the time being, particularly to my sisters, and I’m hesitant to do so even here — the more I realise is that this is a footnote in a frankly huge amount of family drama that is about to unfold in a family that’s been relatively free of drama, and it’s all centered around my aunt and her increasingly out-of-line and disturbing behaviour, and the slow wearing down of her siblings’ patience.

But it’s also becoming clear that it was, most likely, a calculated attack.  Already quietly disliking me (not because I did anything, but it’s also becoming clear this stems from the fact that I’m queer and so is her youngest daughter and she and her husband are definitely not okay with that and it is somehow my fault), my aunt perceived from what little about this I have talked about on Facebook that I was going through something, found an excuse to go after me, was vicious in regards to my mental health.  It was designed to wound.  She was unaware that I am stronger right now than I have ever been before.  I was not the victim she expected.

She’s trying to spin herself as the martyr, I think, and me as dangerously unbalanced and mentally ill.  There is nothing I can do about this.  It’s all out of my hands.  I can only stand back and let things happen.  But I know Dad’s got my back, and I know I’ve got his approval, and I know that I’m not twisting events to make myself look better, that my aunt really was nasty and out-of-line and looking for a fight — just, possibly, not exactly the one she got.

And I’m strong enough right now to handle it.

And that’s what I’m taking away from it.

A short thought.

Florence sent me a text message today, out of the blue.  It made my day.

Hey jess!  I’m just on my way to clinical but I wanted to say I hope you are having a good week and I love you!

Sometimes I think Florence gets this more than a lot of the rest of my family.  In high school she attempted suicide, once, and I think she can grasp the agony that can come out of your own brain better than the rest of them.  Mom knows about anxiety, and she’s had troubles with depression, but not, I don’t think, to the same degree.  To my father, it’s all completely alien; I know he’s trying to understand, but he has acknowledged to me that he and I, for all our similarities, are wired very differently.  It’s nice, though, to have an “I love you”  just out of the blue like that.

I had a very good day, in fact.  I worked, I was left in charge for quite a few hours, I had a few incidents pop up, and I was not consumed with anxiety over dealing with them.  It was a slow day, and my boss took off, and I spent the afternoon with three of the part-time high school boys.

I also had a surprising bit of sympathy from an unexpected source.  It’s not really well-known why I suddenly took three weeks off work out of nowhere, other than that is has something to do with my having a bit of a meltdown.  One of my coworkers, who got off as I started, asked me in tones of genuine interest and concern how I was doing.  This coworker… I am not close to him.  He’s at least ten years older than me, has worked there perhaps not quite as long, and while we’ve always been friendly it’s never been anything more than that.

Half jokingly, I answered, “Pretty good.  I’m on some interesting drugs.  All doctor-prescribed.”  Joking about this is easy for me, and the easiest way for me to deal with it.  I’m not always very comfortable with the idea of brain-chemistry-altering drugs.

“Valium?” he asked.

And I admit to being slightly taken aback.  Valium is a benzodiazepine… as is clonazepam, which I am taking.

“Close, actually, ” I said.

“Prozac?”

And again, a bit of a surprise.  Prozac is an antidepressant often prescribed for anxiety disorders… as is Cipralex, which is what I am taking.

“Still close.  Bit of both, actually,” I think I said.  “Giving me one while I wait for the other to start working.”

“Well,” he said, “as long as you get better.”  And he smiled.

And it was genuine, and it was from a completely unexpected source, and I think he very possibly had put the pieces together without anything being said.  I am sure there are rumours about me going around at work but no one will tell me, so I’m not sure what he might have heard.  It’s strange, though, to suddenly find yourself that transparent.  Was it a lucky guess, just the first drugs to pop into his head?  Is it something he’s gone through?  Someone he knows?  I won’t ever know, possibly, because I can hardly go ask him why he guessed Valium, why he guessed Prozac, why he seemed so completely at ease and understanding about the idea that his coworker was sorting through some personal issues and how he had guessed what those personal issues might be.

“I hope so,” I said.

And I do.

Today I am on drugs.

The clonazepam, while it lifts the anxiety from me to a point where I feel like I can think, for the first time in years, has some unfortunate side-effects.

I’m supposed to take it twice a day, morning and evening.  The morning dose makes me decidedly loopy.  Sort of a half-a-beer-drunk-too-fast sort of feeling, not really drunk but decidedly impaired.  I’ve worked two days like this, no problems.  I would not want to drive in this state, but then, if you’ve seen what the streets here are like, you’d understand that I wouldn’t be keen on driving, period.  I don’t own a car, actually.

Actually, the similarity of effects here may have a great deal to do with why I’m the happiest drunk in the world — alcohol does the same thing to me as clonazepam does, making my brain shut up for a while.

The evening dose mostly just puts me to sleep, but that’s all right.  The problem, I’m finding, is that I need to take it around supper — if I take it much later, I am groggy as fuck in the morning.

My mother is a social worker and works in mental health, particularly geriatrics, particularly elder abuse and… wait for it… addictions.   She is transparently very anxious about me being on a habit-forming drug, even temporarily.  She is quick to remind me of the negative aspects of the drug, and eager for me to try cutting back past what the doctor prescribed.  Today there is a blizzard, and my place of employment is not even opening, so to humour my mother, I’m skipping the morning dose.  Because it’s a quick-acting drug, this isn’t going to screw me up the way skipping an antidepressant would, and because I’m not working, because I’m not sure I should even leave the house today at all, I can see how it goes.  If it gets unbearable, if I have a panic attack, I can take one.  Little is risked with this experiment.

I’ve been up for an hour.  I can feel the tension building in my muscles already.  It starts in my legs, and then my arms.  It doesn’t bode well.  I will try to relax.

Most of the rest of my family has been joking for a couple of weeks now, as I go through this, that I really just need to smoke pot.  At this point, I’m wondering if that wouldn’t be a better solution.  Relaxing?  Potentially less addictive?  Get me a vaporizer and a medical marijuana license, please.   I’d hate trying to buy it off of anyone around here.  It’s all so skeevy.

My sister — and for the sake of clarity, because I have several sisters, I will give her the pseudonym of Florence since she’s a nursing student, also because I think she’d be righteously annoyed and amused at being called Florence — takes a different view, which is one I sort of need to hear right now.  She’s honestly interested in the entire diagnosis, because, well, this is what she’s learning, this is what she’s passionate about.  She worries about me, she says (perhaps more so because it was her birthday party I broke down at), observed that I don’t talk to people about this, but she has a great big drug guide and she can look up clonazepam and is more likely to see it as a useful tool than a potential addiction.

And I think I need to hear that input right now.