you would think a family consisting of 5 women might be able to figure out how to coexist peacefully–or even superficially–but that is not how we roll. on vacations, we have to split off into groups of two or three; otherwise the discomfort and tension is unbearable. the dynamics might even make you feel sick. some people will never be paired, or if they are they ignore each other. I usually prefer to spend time with each member of my family one on one, and only under certain circumstances will i be okay with two other family members at the same time. none of us live in the same city, and the closest distance any two individuals live is an hour away on the freeway. my mother didn’t even show up last christmas, instead spending the time with her boyfriend.
communication, as you might imagine, is shit. traditionally, the rule is to talk to anyone BUT the person you should be talking to and to process all of your anger/grief/annoyances with the other members of the family.
needless to say i have not been looking forward to getting in contact with them. i know whatever conversation i have with anyone will be only a fraction of the total conversation going on. they all have doubts and they all seem to be edging away from me, my diagnosis, my behavior. this is all while simultaneously trying to offer help. it’s confusing, to say the least.
let’s review the cast of characters.
trying to get my bearings after a year of what look a lot like bipolar episodes topped off with a healthy dose of trauma. in summary: a train wreck.
also trying to get her bearings after 10 years of physical abuse, substance abuse, an eating disorder, and myriad other emotional problems, including depression, anxiety, and a bipolar diagnosis. she is now rejecting the bipolar diagnosis, and members of my family support this. interestingly, she has been very sweet-sounding and patient with me, like i am a child who needs an explanation about the way things are. it sounds a little like pity.
coming up with every alternative explanation possible for my symptoms and behaviors. the only right answers are the ones that agree with her narrow worldview, which does not include having a mentally ill daughter and most certainly not two mentally ill daughters. that wouldn’t really go with her volvo. says she wants to talk, but spends the conversation talking about anything but the diagnosis or, if it does come up, contradicting everything i say. is satisfied that my sister received her second opinion from a fucking MFT who is NOT qualified to diagnose a major mental illness like bipolar. refuses to listen when i try to explain this. i am a PhD candidate in psychology and i can’t get this woman to listen.
my aunt is more like my mother than my mother. however, she is angry with me for “alienating her” after my sister’s hospitalization (we’ll get to that story later). even though i sent an email letting her know i was not well and needed to wait until my class was over to talk again, she still apparently felt like saying “fuck it” to our relationship and told my grandma this as well as that she didn’t think she would talk to me again when i was ready. told me all of this. poked and prodded around my life and my experiences; i feel more like a lab experiment than family. said i should forget about my sister’s diagnosis, that my sister doesn’t have bipolar in her opinion and that i should leave her alone. proceeds to “remind” me about my tendency to keep adding things to my plate and notes “that’s your mania!” but fails to recognize it when she describes my sister doing the exact. same. thing.
poor thing. doesn’t know what to make of any of it. the DSM wasn’t even created until about 1950 when the military needed to evaluate the mental health of soldiers during World War II, so mental illness was simply unrecognized. her motto is “grin and bear it!”
it’s interesting. i can hear it in their voices. it’s like they think they’re walking around some kind of ticking time bomb and they have to be reallllllllly careful because i might go all Here’s Johnny on their asses.
the stigma with mental illness starts at home, i guess.