Anxious times

Maybe if I write it out it will help. I’m feeling crazy and paranoid at the moment. I have been sleep really badly, which makes it hard for me to see what is happening, plus I feel I then act oddly sometimes.

Work is so difficult for me. All the people I was making these tiny connections to have disappeared (one is on vacation, the others I don’t know), so some days, I don’t say a word to anyone. Which is lonely, and also makes me more anxious. Then this boss, for whatever reasons, and despite being nice, really makes me anxious. I’ve had one meeting this week, including him and some people in another country (on the phone). I was running the meeting, though he was obviously the important person, and a lot of the time, he talked. But at one point, I was speaking, and all of a sudden he shot me this look, just a blazing look, like a warning? I was too busy with what was happening at the time to think about it, but after, I thought, wow, what did I say? And in general, I worry I talked too much, and my tone was wrong, somehow, too anxious maybe.

Then after this, I haven’t talked to anyone else that day or the next day. They leave me completely alone to write this document. I just feel dismal. It’s an unclear situation, there’s no reassuring people contact, and I’m getting strange looks, and I’m f’ing exhausted because I’m not sleeping properly.

I just tried watching Homeland Season 3, but have turned it off – too much paranoia for me. I identify with the Carrie character at the moment, who is descending into mania and paranoia, though believe me, she has really good reasons, unlike me. The CIA is not plotting against me after all.

Two things have set this state off for me. One, my doubts about Ron’s therapy have continued, and I feel awful about that. I hate to leave, but I’m thinking about it, and it is so painful.

Two is a family visit and situation that happened on the weekend and was really hurtful. I went to my sister’s birthday tea, with my siblings and parents. My son also was there in the second half. I was observing what happens when I go see them, as I’m trying to figure it out and explain it to Ron. There is a lot of polite chat about prescribed topics – the garden, the food, and a drama festival they go to every year. No one ever talks about anything personal – I guess it seems too risky. I don’t mean deep and emotional, but even just – I got a flat tire on the way over, or I bought something or other – nothing personal ever. I noticed I sometimes bring in something personal, but it puts me in a one down position, because it tends to be something awkward. For instance, my brother talked about his research (not how he feels about his work, or anything that happened to him there, but his research), and it reminded me of a system that I ran foul of in my first job, years ago. So I told that story, and laughed about it. But in my family’s eyes, it likely looked like one more way I screwed up.

Anyway, that wasn’t the upsetting part. The upsetting part was when they stopped all the chat, and started telling me about my son, one after the other (this was before my son got there). It was the way they did it, so focused, one after the other, all telling me how awful my son is. And because it’s true he’s not functioning at all really, I just sat there and didn’t say much. They said how he doesn’t relate to them, he is in bed most of the time, etc., etc., ‘completely hopeless’. Because he’s living with my parents, they bear the brunt of this. I know it’s hard, when you don’t know what to do. But my siblings don’t have that excuse – they don’t live with him at all. They just all felt free to dump on me and him.

It’s pretty unusual for my family to talk about anything real. This was real, but it was overwhelming. I felt so awful, sitting there while they told me all this. No one seemed to have compassion, though I know my parents are very worried. No one had anything even slightly good to say about him.

I suppose they think I should do something. Do they think I didn’t lecture him enough? He has refused to see almost everyone I’ve suggested and offered to pay for. He’s ditched his family doctor and has not yet found a replacement. I don’t see what I can do except worry and keep visiting him. My family is not big on compassion. I want to tell them, especially my siblings, just try and relate to him, instead of trying to fix him. He will talk, if you stop lecturing him.

So, I got really afraid when they were all talking. Then my son came down, and they immediately switched back to the flowers, the cake, and the drama festival.

My sister has found some social worker that works with families of the ‘mentally ill’. She didn’t say those words at the time. My mother, and maybe I, are supposed to go see him. I don’t want my son plugged into the mental illness system. They put you on mega drugs, then sign you up for disability, and that’s it, you’re desperately poor for the rest of your life.

Of course my family totally believes in mental illness, that’s it’s all biology, and has nothing to do with a person’s past or circumstances. Someone’s broken, they want him fixed with medical science. I don’t share this belief.

I wrote Ron about this, and he didn’t reply, as I didn’t ask for a reply, because I’d just emailed him the day before and asked for a reply. Anyway. There’s not much he can say. But I do feel terribly alone. There seems to be no one on my side.

I am terribly angry with my siblings. I feel like cutting them out of my life, not that they’re in it much – we just see each other at these family functions. Where were they when Karl was a child and I was struggling so? Too busy to pay him any attention whatsoever. Now they sit in judgement.

I’m continuing with metta practice though, and switching out caffeine for chamomile, and it all helps some.

  1. Sending hugs Ellen! Thats a tough situation your in. I hope you can get the right help or your son. Its kind of unfair that your family arent a little bit more compassionate towards him. You’ve done your best for him. XX

  2. Rachel said:

    Hi Ellen, my first thought is that your family sounds terrible, and worthless to be around. I’m sorry they aren’t more for you. I really don’t like how unkind they are to your son. He is doing his best, and you are right, support and compassion will go further than criticism. I don’t like being around most of my family either, it is hugely triggering. I empathize.
    I imagine your perception at work is different than your co-workers’ perceptions of you. You did earn the job, so you deserve to be there. I know it’s hard to feel anxious and not know if the anxiety is because of what is happening, or would be there regardless. I think you’re navigating all of this stress quite well, especially while doing soul-searching about Ron and therapy. Xx

    • Ellen said:

      My family is problematic, but I’m slowly figuring out in what way. I didn’t used to know what it was that felt so bad, being around them, but now I realize – they’re fake, they’re afraid, and they’re judgmental. They have some good qualities, but overall, they’re not worth spending much time with. I used to be somewhat like them, but more of a victim. Now, I hope I’m a compassionate person – I’ve grown.

      Work today was a lot better. So yeah, it is hard to know about the anxiety – what part is caused by real things, what part is my own stuff.

      Thanks Rachel.

  3. I’m so sorry. It must be heartbreaking to have to watch your son struggle so much and yearn for those days when he was small enough to pick up and hug and make everything better.

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, it’s one of the great sorrows of my life. He was a very cute baby and toddler, and has so much potential.

      Thanks Cat.

  4. I think they don’t have any compassion. I think they don’t really take the time to consider how it feels to be in pain. They’re worried more because he’s like a part of the machine that’s not operating, or he’s like having an unsightly wart. He’s not doing anything. He’s not trying to get better. He just sits there and makes them look bad. So they are trying to criticize him into performing his role properly, which is making the family look good.

    On the nothing personal aspect, it’s to avoid criticism. No one wants to venture anything that could make them vulnerable to being seen as imperfect, because what they need to do is look good. Anything personal could turn out to be wrong. You never know. So no one will risk it. If you bought even tea towels, well, maybe there’s something wrong with the tea towels. Maybe you overpaid. Maybe you bought at the wrong season. So the garden, the food, a performance that has nothing to do with anyone personally are the discussion topics. That’s why your family is so insanely lonely to be in. You can’t connect in any way, because any sign of being an individual is too dangerous to reveal. My exes family was a bit like this. They were so insanely boring to be around they just made me want to scream, because there was no connection. It was awful. I hated seeing them.

    I think disconnection creates paranoia. It does make one feel no one is on one’s side, and that you are terribly vulnerable. I am on your side, if that helps. Keep reaching out. Some days and weeks are just hard.

    Who knows what is going on at work…It is so hard when you can’t quite process all this stuff that is happening. I realize that goes on for me. Later, when things come up, I’m not really sure of what I even saw or exactly what happened sometimes, because I couldn’t take things in properly. I don’t have any advice about this. It’s just hard.

    • Ellen said:

      Sadly, I think you’re right about my family’s lack of compassion. The exception is my mother, who does feel for him, but she is so under my father’s thumb, she is pretty much powerless. She’s never been a nurturing kind of a person either, so her feeling bad doesn’t help. It’s so true – looking good has always been a top priority for them.

      So interesting your exes family was like mine. You’re right – it must be about avoiding criticism. He he. Yes, tea towel discussion could be fraught with danger! So crazy, and yet true. It is boring. I actually start to feel sorry for their inability to talk, and tell little stories about myself, but it doesn’t help. They see stuff I think is funny as showing a lack in me somehow. I do tend to talk about things that go wrong, but just a bit, and it seems funny to me, but not at all to them. Odd I never noticed this stuff before.

      About the paranoia at work – yeah, that’s why I miss these little connections I was having with people – they anchored me a bit in the present. It got better again today, as my cubicle mate is back, and just the little chats we have help.

      I’ve been reading your posts on how it’s hard to process what’s happening in the present, when so much past stuff hasn’t been dealt with, and I relate to that.

      Thanks for your support Ashana.

      • I know you feel like the weird one, but reading your posts, it’s astonishing to me how normal you are. Laughing at your own mistakes and your imperfections seems so normal and human. The day before yesterday, C was asking me why I was wearing my national dress too short. (That particular one is too short anyway and I spend 30 minutes getting it on straight. By the time I’m finished, it’s hiked up to my ankles and I don’t care anymore. I just feel lucky it’s not hiked up to my knees.) I couldn’t process it at the time. (This was post-top-fixing and i was too triggered to deal with anything else). Anyway, I thought about it later and realized for them, it’s like that person hiking their pants up past their waist. And it just struck me as so very funny. Here I am trying so very hard, but I’m like that nerd that can’t figure out where his waist is. Your family just doesn’t get that we are imperfect as human beings. It’s like they are in denial that the sky is blue. They keep noticing it’s blue and getting all shocked and perturbed by it.

        You’re able to process more in the present. That’s good.

        • Ellen said:

          Just wanted to say that is a funny and touching story, about the national dress. Of course all kinds of what seem to you and me to be tiny details are obvious and large to them. It’s so human. Like a lot of men about women’s shoes – they don’t get it.

          I never thought of my family that way. That is so interesting. Thank you.

  5. Grainne said:

    Hugs from me. My old workplace was like yours. There were only a handful of people, all of whom were stuck up, clique like groups of middle aged women.

    Every time I read about your work I wish we worked together.

    The stuff with your family makes me so sad to read. My family split on me when colt was born and have never been able to cope with his disabilities. I’m actually quite glad they aren’t in his life. The support from your parents is great but I wish they would rally together to love you and your boy, not pick and complain and reject. Xx

    • Ellen said:

      Yeah, we could go for coffee together. It would be good. It is funny how age matters. So I seem surrounded by very young people, and I think they prefer to be among themselves, and not have an oldster around! And I’ve noticed, people my age seem more interested in talking to me. I’m getting better with work relationships, a bit, but some days are just brutal.

      Yeah, the whole family / son situation is not good. The problem is, I don’t have a space big enough for him. Though I could get a bigger place, but not as big as I’d need. He tends to be up all night, and he wakes me up, because I have terrible sleep anyway. There are a whole lot of reasons why him living with me is not really possible. And his dad is too unstable. So I appreciate that the family lets him stay with them, despite their discomfort, but it would be a lot better to have some sane, nurturing people for him to live with.

      Your family is of course very terrible, and I’m so glad Colt has a safe home with you.


      • Grainne said:

        Sometimes what is best for our kids is not the way we would prefer things to be. I’m sorry his dad isn’t any help at all but it sounds like that is a good thing, in the end. You never know what the future may bring, and although it’s great that your family can keep him there, it’s a real shame they can’t just love him as he is and not complain. He needs to be loved and supported more than anything. Deserves it too…just like his mom does.

        The younger group at work clique together here too. Some of them like me but more in a ‘house mother’ way than anything else. They come to me with their pregnancy fears and work stresses but I’m never invited to the events or parties. Not that I’d really want to go….I have a hard time letting people exist in my private world. Big time.

        Many hugs for you, my friend. xxxxx

        • Ellen said:

          You never know about the future. I’m hoping something shifts for my son, because that can happen. Everything changes.

          The young ‘uns at work see me as a mother type too. lol. Even though a lot of the time, I’m somewhat afraid of them, though not as much any more. I’m becoming more self-assured I think. I’d also be reluctant to mix my private and public worlds – too much trouble lurking. I really need to keep it all separate.

          Hugs to you. xox.

  6. Cat said:

    This doesn’t sound good at all and I understand why you would feel uncomfortable, maybe they’re not the best people for your son to be around. As you say, the last thing he needs right now is judgement and lectures. Their avoidance of talking about anything ‘real’ and personal is probably to avoid themselves and any emotion that might entail. Whether a MH team can help is really down to your son, I think, although I don’t understand why that and disability would be for life. He is refusing help from elsewhere and he might not take too kindly to an intervention from someone he hasn’t asked for. It might be difficult and frustrating for them, but they seem to be only thinking about their own feelings. I am sure it is a lot worse for your son to deal with.

    Would you be able to ask your boss at the next opportunity if you talked too much at the phone meeting?

    • Ellen said:

      Yeah, it’s not good. I haven’t written about it much here in order to respect my son’s privacy, but it’s been an ongoing struggle. I think yes, they definitely avoid emotion and connection in general.

      We don’t really have MH teams here the way you do in England. This social worker works with families, rather than the clients themselves. My son feels his problem is physical only – his allergies, and he is on a mission to get rid of dust. He was very offended when I tried to get him to see a therapist.

      My distrust of the medical profession in mental health is pretty strong, though I’m glad it’s working out for you. I used to go to support groups, and there I met a lot of people who were simply on big meds, and went to support groups, and had no plans or hopes of ever getting back to the working world. It seemed like it’s own culture of patients. No one was asked to look at their past, or feel painful feelings, but they never got any better. It seemed like a huge trap to me. That’s where that comment about disability for life came from. Sorry if it was hurtful to you in any way though. You are obviously trying to heal at a deep level.

      My family does mostly see it as a lack on my son’s and my parts. With the possible exception of my mother. It is hard on everyone though. My son doesn’t seem depressed – more kind of numb I suppose. It is very frustrating to live with someone who doesn’t function, and I realize that.

      I might ask my boss something about the meeting. I don’t see him much – but he is pretty approachable, so perhaps I’ll do that.

      Thanks Cat.

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