Monday, October 19, 2009

The family business: turning shit to gold

My mother calls me and says "you just don't seem like you and it worries me!". NO SHIT. I tuck my blunt thoughts back in my pocket and say, calmly, "well, I'm not arguing with you there. But what do you think it is, I don't quite get what you're saying to me". She can't quite describe it. She just knows that I don't seem like me...and she alludes to the fact that I used to be able to juggle so many things with so much less stress.

Oh lord. I say, "exactly...and it wasn't healthy". I say "I am taking medication and going to therapy and it's letting me see reality for the first time and it's stressful! ". "But you can't continue like that", she says. ", I'm not arguing with you, I agree." But I also can't control the fact that I'm suffering through an unprecedented onslaught of stress inducing factors right now, precisely at the moment that I am having this newly minted, clarity. She questions if the meds are working...unfortunately they indeed seem to be working, or at least doing what they should be doing at this point. She's not convinced. I asked if there was anything in particular that she was worried about. "Well you're talking so fast, and you're so intense, and you're so stressed". Well...yes, she's right. Unfortunately these things were all true before I sought treatment. I was just more able to gloss over the details of life because...I didn't care! Or didn't notice! Or couldn't deal with them so I ignored them!

Now, I'm living the same life, but I'm seeing the painful detail. And the meds? Well honestly the Vyvanse calms me, and the Remeron...the side effects seem to have mostly gone away. If anything I probably need to go up in dosage to be able to see if it will "do its thing". I fear that if I stopped taking the meds right now? I would still be painfully aware of my newfound clarity on the issue of chaos, and what it is, and what it isn't, and what I'm willing to put up with...I would just be even less calm about it, haha.

Mom grew up under extremely, constantly stressful circumstances. As a result, she doesn't have a very firm boundary between other people's emotional states and her own. Even now, when I'm having an emotionally expressive moment she immediately acts to control the situation or define it as somehow negative so that she can make sense of it. And unfortunately when you start trying to control other people's see how weird that territory could get. As a result, even though she spent many years as a clinical social worker (and a fine one by all accounts) I don't totally trust her when it comes to evaluating my mental state. she is telling me her opinion, with genuine concern. And truly...I appreciate my family members' input on these things, I just also know to take it all with a grain of salt. I'm agreeing with her, but she thinks (in fact hopes ) that I'm disagreeing...because that would be far more comfortable than having to acknowledge that I'm legitimately having a hard time right now. Awkward, but nothing I can change. Tomorrow I'll talk to my prescriber and hopefully we'll come up with something useful to address the things in life that are mine to address.

In the meantime, I'd like to discuss the family business. No no, not the family business I discussed in my last post. I mean THE family business. Because I am the first person on either side of my family to truly refuse to go into the family business...and really...THAT is what the conversation with my mum was about.

My family, on both sides, are experts in chaos creation. They specialize in the manufacture of chaos, wackiness, and for some, an altered version of reality. They're all pretty amiable and funny, and smart and interesting...until you suddenly realize you're in the middle of someone else's chaos-producing agenda that they may not even realize they are having, which makes it even less comfortable to behold. I feel I can also say with pretty high confidence that many members of my family, on both sides, are living with OCD, ADHD, bipolar disorder and other related issues, which doesn't help, and may start to explain some of the seemingly inexplicable chaos that marks the lives of generations of our family.

Of four uncles on one side of the family, three were alcoholics or drug addicts. My grandfather on that side was a heavy drinker. He also, very likely, had a severe anxiety disorder. Various female relatives on that same side of the family have had problems with prescription drugs, alcohol, psychiatric hospitalizations, possible bipolar disorder, and a few others quirks. Unfortunately, in my generation the tradition continues, in various ways.

On the other side of the family I have 6 aunts...all of them married either a child molester, drug/alcohol addict, or wife beater. The family tall-tale telling habit runs in degrees throughout, from amusing storytelling, to manipulative and habitual outright lying. I don't see much difference between the two myself. Even "storytelling", when it involves stretching the truth, qualifies as lying in my book. I've had disagreements with family members about it...but like I said, I'm not much interested in the family business. I accept it...I acknowledge it...but I refuse to engage it, trust it, or relive it.

So. Here I am talking with my mother. Knowing that it must be hard for her to see me moving yet further away from "the family business" because to her, that is what is familiar. I truly believe that both of my parents have "the ADHD gene" or something very similar that I am not able to distinguish because THAT really isn't my business either. But I am taking these demons by the horns and saying no for myself anyway. They know they have the option to do that for themselves. Only they can decide if it's something they want to pursue.

So I turn my back on the "family chaos business"...and she chooses to remain at this time, as is her right. I won't say that it creates least not for me, because I know that what I'm doing for myself is good. There's a few awkward spaces between the words though, when we talk like this. As much as I want their support, sometimes I see that it's really better for me to cut the cord for a bit and take my space.

A few years ago mom's brother, a young man, committed suicide after a lifetime of doing battle with anxiety, depression, alcohol, drugs and codependency. On top of her general emotion phobia, I know this weighs heavily on her mind, and worries her just a little extra when she knows that one of us is having a hard time. What she doesn't seem to be able to that by going through what I'm going through, I am actually doing direct battle with evils that have devoured generations of my family. I refuse to be eaten alive by preventable disease.

You can't turn shit to gold. I have watched generations of my family try. I would rather just turn and stare the shit in the face, roll in it, get to know it really well, and then figure out what to do with it. I can fertilize all kinds of good stuff with processed shit, right?

I had a dream after my uncle died, that we were all together without him, standing on the land that my grandfather used to tend as a garden. As they all talked about "what to do" and made proclamations at each other, instead of listening to one another, I stood separately, and laid myself face down in the green grass of the overgrown garden plot...and outstretched my arms, and just soaked in the energy of the earth, because I knew that this land was the dirt that had brought us all here, that the garden was one positive thing in all of our lives, and that land had been left untended. I just lay there, face down, wanting nothing more than to reclaim that land, and make it my own, and truly give it the nourishment that it deserved.

Here I am, finally. Letting shit simply be shit, and learning how to make beautiful things grow from it--while the rest of my family wanders around me, offering themselves up as sacrifices. I'll keep them company, if they can stand my smell...but I won't offer myself up that way. Call me selfish, but I won't do it.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully said. And not selfish - by tending your own garden you make the space we all inhabit in much more liveable.