Mom vs. Dad

My parents have, for the record, been very supportive through this, but there is a distinct difference in their approach to this.

My parents are divorced.  They divorced when I was eighteen.  Their marriage lasted more than twenty years; their divorce has been generally as amicable as divorces ever are.  My mother has a wife; my dad lives common-law with a very lovely woman.  When they get together over some family event, they tend to catch up on each other’s families.  My mother is in contact with some of my paternal cousins on Facebook, which she honestly loves.  They’re on good terms, for exes.  I am on good terms with both of them.

My dad views what I’m going through as a wonderful thing.  I am learning about myself, I am paying more attention to the cycles of my thoughts, I am learning how to deal.  If some of that help comes in pharmaceutical form, then so be it, because he can see me growing strong and being capable and being the person I have always had the potential to be.  He  loves it.  He is curious about my thought processes, about what makes me anxious, about the patterns I get into.  He wants to know about what’s going on in my head, even the really bad stuff, and he wants to learn about this and how it affects me and how I’m getting over it, because he has a thirst for knowledge.

My mother worries.

Don’t get me wrong.  She is just as supportive.  But this all honestly scares her, and I can hear it in her voice when I talk to her, and I can see it in her face, and that is the reason this blog exists, because while I want to tell her these things, I don’t like to frighten her.  I don’t like feeling like I’m putting my mother through hell for this, for letting this finally come to the surface and dealing with it.  And it’s strange, because mom works in mental health.  Maybe that’s why.  Maybe it’s just that she knows how bad this can be, maybe it’s that she blames herself for not picking up on what was going on in my head when I was fourteen (although honestly, I couldn’t put it into words myself then).  I am in a better place right now than I have ever been.  I am stronger than I have ever been, but I’m also talking about the sort of shit I put myself through in this battle against myself which I’m learning not to fight (because fighting it is worse) and I think that terrifies her.

My father, on the other hand, doesn’t approach it from the point of view of someone in mental health, and approaches it as a new thing to learn about.

I don’t like the guilt of putting my mother through shit by getting better.  I had a long conversation with her this morning, over the phone, and while I confessed some things that stress me out and make me anxious, I was also aware of how I was stressing the positive, that yes I’m more aware of the things I’m doing wrong, and yes I’m talking about it more, but I can do that because it isn’t anywhere near is bad.  And, most importantly, that I’m glad I’m going through this, that this is a good thing.

I think it might have hit home.  I hope so.

Audrey is having an Oscar cocktail party tonight.  As always, with her parties, I’m invited.  Typically this would be my cue to vanish up into my room in a fit of nerves, but I think I can handle this tonight.  I can handle the influx of guests I don’t know, I can handle the inevitable mess that will result in the kitchen, I can handle the party, I can handle all these things that typically send me into fits of anxiety.

Not sure about the alcohol.  I really shouldn’t drink.  This, at least, is my first day without the clonazepam (woohoo!) so I’m slightly less medicated than I was, but.  Well.  A little should probably be okay.  Audrey picked up a bottle of pink champagne, which we’re both extremely partial too.  I may indulge.  One drink, though, no more, and we’ll be careful.  I haven’t had anything to drink since Christmas, after all.

Letter to my mother.

This is what I would like to say to my mother, but seem unable to make her understand.

Mom, you seem to have no problem comprehending what I’m going through.  You seem to have no problem letting the pieces settle in and admitting that an anxiety disorder is very likely what I’ve been struggling with for the majority of my life.  You’re aware yourself of the many issues with depression and anxiety on your side of the family.  You work in mental health.  None of this is difficult for you.

Why is it difficult for you to accept me being on clonazepam for a short time?

Yes, it is a drug that can be abused, that become addicting.  So can morphine, but I don’t recall you being verbally worried about Cortana receiving morphine several times in the emergency room when she was having troubles with her gall bladder.  Please, please think of it like this.

I suspect if I could probably explain to you what this experience is to me, you might grasp it, but I can’t seem to really be able to bring myself to explain.  I censor myself a lot, because I know you take it hard, and I know you are upset by it, and I hate, hate doing that to you with my own troubles and pain.  So I will likely never be able to tell you this.

The truth is, I’ve been fighting this a long time.

I have been depressed for a long time.  You became aware of my having suicidal thoughts when I was about fifteen, but truthfully, I was having them years earlier, when I was thirteen, when I was younger.  I am twenty-seven now.  There were antidepressants at some points, counselling at others, and the latter was more helpful than the former but it was all just band-aid solutions, because I never, even at the good times, the times when I felt okay and was reasonably functionable and could handle it, felt all that great.

And I have been declining.  You know this.

I’ve had breakdowns before.  Quite a few of them.  You know this.

But this last one has been devastating for me, and I am thankful as hell that this time I managed to put into the right words what was going on in my head, or someone listened to what I was saying, or someone put the pieces together, or whatever it was happened, and that someone realised that the depression was only a symptom.  Because this last breakdown?  I was feeling so worn down trying to drag myself through everything, trying to face everything I had to do to “make myself better” and “get through this” and even when I was being reassured that I always get through these things and come out stronger, getting through it felt so very, very beyond me.  To get over depression, they tell me, you must do this and this and this, you are socially isolated and should do this and this, and it all only made me feel overwhelmed and anxious and worse to think of all these things I had to do.  I didn’t feel capable of any of it.

And it was becoming harder to imagine ever getting through this.  Under normal circumstances, I don’t think I was a danger to myself, but there were a few panic attacks where I seriously considered doing myself harm, because it hurt too much, and making it better seemed beyond my means.

Having a label of “potential anxiety disorder” and the first appropriate prescription for that in my life has made a world of difference, Mom.  Even if you don’t like the clonazepam, even if you worry that I will become addicted, I wish I could tell you properly what it means to feel like this.

Because, for the first time in probably fifteen years, I feel like I can handle the things I need to do.  It’s not going to be an exhausting, will-destroying battle to do my day-to-day tasks.  It’s not going be anxiety-provoking to try to get better from the depression caused by anxiety, because, without that anxiety, I am miraculously not depressed.  It is worlds better.  I recognise there will be effort in keeping in this state of mind, I do.

But I feel alive.

And I feel competent.

I feel like a new person.  I am not entirely sure who this person is, exactly.  I’m still learning that.  But for the first time in a very long time, I like her.

Religion and things.

I went to church today.

I have a peculiar relationship with organised religion.  I was raised in the Unitarian Universalist church, which is, quite frankly, a weird church, and one that is often criticised as not being a “real” church, because it has no formal creed.  It can be summarised, if you need a summary, as a religious group that encourages questioning and personal inquiry into spiritual matters, that it’s better to find something worth believing in through personal search and inquiry than to blindly accept what someone tells you to believe, and that there is equal value in all forms of belief.  Believe what feels right — whether that’s Christian or Wiccan or Muslim or atheist or agnostic, whatever feels right to you — and respect the rights of others to believe what they want, and in general, just try to be nice to everyone.

I believe it’s Sikhism that describes all the religions of the world as rivers flowing into a single ocean.

But essentially, yes, I was raised in a weird, liberal heathen church, and those ideas have stayed with me, and I still consider myself to be a UU.  There is, however, no Unitarian Universalist church in town here.

Some years ago, my mother began attending a very liberal Anglican church, and I occasionally accompanied her for no real reason I could put my finger on.  She still occasionally goes, although she expresses a little bit of frustration with the sheer archaism of the language used, that while it’s one (and entirely valid, don’t get me wrong) way of expressing and attempt to understanding the higher forces in the universe, which we as human beings and mortals can never truly grasp, it’s a way that is firmly rooted in language and thought processes that are thousands of years old, too, and my mother finds that frustrating.  I do too, to be honest.  But when she started going, she was going through a very difficult time, and needed that spiritual support in her life, and this church, for all the things she found difficult about it, was a good fit.  And while the minister that made that church so unique and special has since retired, my mother still goes occasionally and volunteers in the kitchen.  She sees this, she says, as her way of paying the community back for what the church was when she needed it.

I helped out in the kitchen.  I had a blast.  Two weeks ago I would have been eaten up with anxiety and found the entire experience agonising and unbearable, but I bounced around and chatted and grinned and enjoyed myself while I took over various duties.  I told Mom I’d like to go back when she volunteers in the kitchen, because it was enjoyable, it was something that got me out of the house.

I saw, briefly, the now-retired former minister of the church.  I see him occasionally, and he was at least tangentially aware of my last terrible breakdown, five years ago, and he is a wonderful person who is still, even retired, deeply involved in community outreach.  When my mother and her girlfriend got married a year and a half ago, he insisted on doing the ceremony.

He asked me how I was doing.

I said, honestly, that I was doing a lot better than I had been doing in a long time.

“Oh?” he asked, in that way people do when they want you to explain further.

“Well… I’m in the process of being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.”  He’s an easy person to talk to, one of the reasons he was always such a wonderful minister, and I was not in the least hesitant telling him this.

He was sympathetic, frowning a little.  “And how’s that going?”

“Well, it’s like… things are getting better, and it’s good to know… that I can… that I’m not…”  And here, I completely faltered, at a loss as to how to put into brief words what it was like to suddenly have a working brain that doesn’t cripple itself with unnecessary anxiety.

“Fucked up?” he supplied, straight-faced.

“Yes,” I laughed.  “That.”

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.