Anxiety makes me crazy. Like… literally. By definition, in fact.
I used to think that people with anxiety disorders were pathetic cry-babies who couldn’t handle their crap. People who would go to the doctor demanding highly addictive drugs; refusing to man-up and come to terms with their daily responsibilities. People who couldn’t hold a mirror to their lives and stare at the reflection staring back at them.
I’m up at one in the morning losing my mind. I can’t sleep. I’m exhausted, but sleep itself is frightening to me. Falling asleep. Slowing down. Shutting off. Feeling my senses drift away jerks me back to reality with an ear-splitting screech. Blindness, the thing I’ve loved since the moment I got it, becomes the absolute worst kind of sensory-depravation. I begin to hallucinate floating lights and dazzling colors. Then I feel like I, too, am floating. I feel as if gravity is holding me aloft, spinning me and spinning me and spinning me around and around and around—
And then I stop. Suspended. Alone in silence… alone, period.
I feel the suffocation of impending doom. My throat gets tight. I find it difficult to breathe. I’m not even sure if I am breathing.
I feel everything slow down. I start to fade…
And it all happens over again.
Until all that I want is to run and scream and slam on the walls to hear something—anything—to free me from my cage.
Sleep is my trigger. As is fatigue. As is loneliness. As is drama. As is that ineffable lack of control that comes from soon-to-be-in-laws who just don’t freaking get it, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Tonight was a home-grown therapy session for the Beloved. We lay together on the living room floor and sorted through childhood memories of some of the mind-bendingly abusive stuff he went through in his teenage years. Not the run of the mill, “You’re ugly, selfish, and nobody’s ever going to love you,” stuff—but the somehow exponentially worse, “You’re stupid. So stupid that you can’t even trust your own thoughts and feelings, because you’re not intelligent enough to have thoughts of your own. You’re so weak, so inferior, that you can’t possibly be blind AND gay, because both of those things require strength. You’re hardly strong enough to be blind. Let’s not overcomplicate things.” (You think I’m exaggerating? Those are almost exact quotes.)
I’m furious. I’m so unbelievably furious that I can’t think straiht. Who the heck does that to their kid? Who thinks it’s okay not only to belittle them, but to cut so deeply into their developing identity that you tell them to their face that their identity is fundamentally invalid?
Unfortunately, a lot of people.
Being a parent doesn’t mean you have the right to treat your kid like they’re less than human. Being a parent doesn’t mean that you get to use love as an excuse for cruelty. Being a parent doesn’t mean that you get to devalue your kid to the point that they devalue themselves.
I don’t care that you did it six years ago. I care that you’re doing it today, right now. I care that you’re doing it in the present moment.
He’s called you 20 times in 12 weeks. He’s gone out of his way to just. Reach. Out. And you tell friends and family that he isn’t trying? You say you haven’t heard a word?
Well I have. I’ve heard every word and every tear and every splash upon the ground. I’ve been there by his side as you close him into his cell and let the tears flood upwards toward the ceiling like the drowning flood of Noah. I’ve breathed life into his dying lungs as you stand there and watch him die over and over and over again all because you JUST DON’T FUCKING CARE.
I’VE BEEN THERE OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN AS YOU SMILE SMUGLY AT HIS CORPSE BOBBING SOLEM IN THE WATER.
I’VE BEEN THERE TIME AND TIME AND TIME AGAIN AS YOU DO NOTHING *FUCKING NOTHING* FOR YOUR SON—YOUR OWN **FUCKING** SON, AND INSTEAD YOU ONLY BLINK AND STARE AND BLINK AND STARE AND SMILE SMUGLY AS HE BEGS FOR AIR
You’re a mean, mean man.
I’ve fought for you. I’ve screamed and shouted. I’ve defended you. I said that you were hurting. You were grieving. You were confused. And this is what you choose? You think it’s fun? You think it’s funny? Either way, you’re wrong.
Your son loves you. He can’t stand you, but he loves you. And as well he should. You’re adventurous, intelligent, and generous.
Too bad you’re also self-righteous, pedantic, and narcissistic. And remember, friend, that narcissism only means you hate yourself differently than how you hate the rest of the world.
I’m sick of this. I’m sick of not knowing if you’re coming to our wedding because you won’t just answer the phone, or respond to the card, or do anything ANYTHING to give your son the time of day.
It’s a game to you. I’ve figured it out. You can’t control him with your words, so you’re controlling him with silence.
That sickens me.
He’s asked you how to make you comfortable. He’s asked you how you’d like to be involved. We’ve expected nothing from you, and thank God, because that’s exactly what we’ve received.
I’m so angry. I’m angry because if you would just answer the phone, you’d have a son you love. You’d have the son you’ve always wanted. But you won’t, because you refuse to admit that he’s becoming the person you never knew he could be, and you were holding him back.
That’s okay! It’s okay to not have known! It’s okay to have missed the mark. It’s okay to have made mistakes. It’s okay! We’re all learning. But what’s not okay is lying, pretending, avoiding, and rejecting. Least of all, acting like a child, and accusing him of wrongdoing simply because you disagree.
Look, friend. Disagreement does not a failure make. Having an opinion doesn’t make it true. So how about we all pull up our big boy panties and get back to work on rebuilding some semblance of a cohesive relationship? Your son doesn’t like your drugs. So what? He doesn’t need to be okay with your drugs to have dinner with you every three months at your favorite restaurant. He doesn’t need to watch sports to ask you how your day was. He doesn’t need to pretend like he doesn’t love a man just because you love a woman. You’re different, and that’s okay!
Your relationship could be so good. Instead, you’re ruining it by constantly finding fault with everything he does, and then finding fault when he stops doing anything, too.
He’s been honest with you. He’s been destructively honest with you. And you won’t even be enough of an adult to answer the phone?
And you’ve lost, in a big, bad way.
But you know what I have that you don’t? I have hugs from your son whenever I want them. He tells me that he loves me a hundred times a day. He asks me how my day was, and when I don’t know, he has me make things up just because he’d rather hear me say something silly than not hear me in the first place. He makes me a healthy breakfast every morning. He does the dishes every night. He goes grocery shopping twice a week. He plays the most pleasant music you’ve never heard on that mandolin you bought him—but you’ve never heard him play, because you’ve never wanted to. So you go ahead and stay on your high horse. I’ll be down here on the lowly ground, atop a picnic blanket with the boy you won’t call back.