Thursday, January 28, 2010


Anxiety has become such a regular part of the fabric of my existence - I don't remember what it was like not to feel it. But that doesn't mean I don't notice it anymore. It is nausea mixed with a chill of fear mixed with a knot in my stomach and a feeling of not having taken a breath in too long. Sometimes it's right up front - and big - sometimes stuffed way down and small - but there.

My sister, R, is pregnant with #7. She'll give birth at 42. Her due date is right around her son David's birthday. David died, lost to suicide, at age 15 a month after his birthday, in 2008, a little over a year ago. She does not want to give birth on David's birthday.

R is very thin. She is always tired. She has been drinking to excess in the year plus since David died (but has stopped with the news of her pregnancy, and I don't judge her for the drinking, she's suffered an indescribable loss.)

She has 5 other surviving children .. 20 years old - having trouble dealing with anger. 18 years old - dealing with OCD. 14 years old - holding steady. 5 years old - a delightful princess. 2 years old - very needy and still nursing (nothing wrong with that! I'm a big fan of extended breastfeeding. But perhaps not so much when mom's been drinking. I don't really know the extent of that - nor do I want to, frankly. And she's not drinking now.)

My other sister, L, has a 22 year old mentally ill son who is angry, mean, and verbally abusive to her and to her two daughters, his little sisters - 16 and 8. He spit at the 8 year old the other day - in public. She, my sister, has very little money to get by on. Her husband died 4 plus years ago of an accidental drug overdose. Her son has no insurance. He lives at home with them. He refuses any treatment or medication, and also refuses to try and get disability "welfare," he sneers. He is paranoid and riddled with anxiety. He lived with his grandparents for a while after a particularly ugly meltdown - but eventually moved back home. And so her girls grow up with a menacing adult male in the house -- and a mother who suffers from depression, ill equipped to deal with the very harsh cards life has dealt her. She loves her son - but has no idea what to do about him. I don't either. There are no easy answers. There may seem to be ... "she has to tell him to leave!" ... "she has to get him help!" ... sure. She has to do a lot of things. None of them "easy." (He has not gotten physical with her or the girls. But his words undoubtedly take a toll on his little sisters - as they struggle to grow up amidst a very chaotic, very messy (figuratively and literally), very unstable environment.

And then there's me. In love with my son ... struggling with my marriage (never having been in or exposed on any long term basis to a healthy marriage - I wouldn't know one if it landed in a flying saucer in my backyard. Sadly - my father was also abusive - verbally and physically. Certainly I know this is a large part of the reason for my sisters' dysfunction. And my own.) I want my son to be healthy ... happy ... loved.

I cannot live my sisters' lives. I tried to - before I had a child. I got people insurance ... healthcare ... assistance. I made (millions of) phone calls ... I made bold strides (or so I thought) ... I encouraged ... I applauded ... I purchased ... I saved pet's lives (well, one) ... I spent money I didn't have ... I cleaned (and cleaned and cleaned) ... I talked ... I listened.

But after so many years ... and with the arrival of my own child - who I want SO much for (and who I wanted so much) - I stopped. Literally. I just - stopped.

I am still available to my nieces. They know I am a phone call away and they come to my home and spend time with me. I do not go to their home, although it is just 10 minutes away. A fight with L a couple years ago, right before I got pregnant actually, over how dirty and chaotic it was and how unhealthy that was for her and the kids that resulted in her telling me not to come over anymore if it bothered me led to - exactly that. I don't go over there anymore.

And even after I "stopped" ... I reapplied for the girls free state supplied health insurance when my sister forgot to. I gave them a refrigerator when theirs broke(and broke my foot, whilst 7 months pregnant, in doing so. That too was a moment of clarity for me - as I fell out of the Uhaul van I rented and drove to my home that day because somehow L couldn't pick it up - but her giant pregnant sister (me) could - a moment of clarity that I needed to STOP ... as that day could have resulted in unspeakable tragedy had I landed differently after that fall. I was lucky to only end up with a broken foot - and not a broken soul that day.)

I did not attend my nephew David's funeral. I was in my 35th week of a high risk pregnancy - physically ill (sinus infection) - and was advised not to travel. So I didn't.

It is a stressful life. I am very lonely sometimes. My husband has a hard time dealing with my extended family's chaos. But he does the best he can, and when my 8 year old niece called the other day, feeling frightened of her brother, he raced over to their house and collected her and brought her to our home.

My mother has high blood pressure and is pre-diabetic. She is a wonderful, loving, kind grandma to all of her daughters' children - especially my Jack - who she cares for 4 days a week while I'm at work. She regrets every day that our childhood - her daughters' - was difficult. And chaotic. And sad. She wishes she'd done better .. known better .. but she too had very few tools at her disposal. Her parents were not going to win any awards in that department either - between their alcoholism and neglect of her when she was a child - that which pushed her right into the arms of an abuser - my father.

I used to think that bad situations eventually turned out OK ... if you tried hard enough - if you just "believed." I don't anymore. Some bad situations do NOT turn out OK. And for those who think "everything happens for a reason" - I roll my eyes at you. And then roll them again. Tell THAT to the children in Haiti who survived the earthquake and are now wandering around starving and terrified - with no one to hug them or help them. Tell THAT to children who are being trafficked, right now, by sexual predators around the world. I don't think they'd appreciate being the means to an "end" - to a "reason."

I don't want to be jaded, and cynical. I miss believing that things eventually turn out OK. I miss faith. (And I have not abandoned a belief in God - it's just less comforting than it used to be.)

I try to be a good person. I like to help people. I love to help people, actually. (Nice people. Mean people can go eff themselves.)

But yes, I suffer from anxiety. I mull going back to therapy ... perhaps going on an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety med. I wonder what's next ... I wonder what my family will look like in 2 ... 5 ... 10 years. Will they be "OK?" Time will tell.

Life is hard. Life is difficult. But life is precious. My son is precious. I want so much for him. And I want to not pass on my anxiety. And my family's dysfunction. But J and I are struggling. I hope we can find our way back onto a better path. And be good parents. And good to each other.

What a horribly long maudlin post. But it feels better sometimes to put it "outside" ... to type it out ... and let even just a little bit of it - go.


Leah Spring said...

Oh wow! Your sister has my son!!!! My 21 year old has paranoid schizophrenia. He just moved back home a couple months ago. He happens to be "well" at the time being. But that can change literally overnight. He's been 'well" for several months, so I'm waiting, because the change is coming soon. I can feel it. Like your nephew, my son refuses meds and any type of treatment. He attempted suicide for the 3rd time last spring. The first time he was only 16, and thought a bottle of Tylenol would kill him. Instead it only made him violently ill, and with some damage to his liver. 6 weeks later he tried again, but I walked in on him. Last spring he was quite high on a couple different drugs. His attempt to overdose. At some point he slashed his arms to the bone...12 times on one arm, and 15 on the other. To THE BONE!!! Afterward he passed out. Somehow he didn't bleed to death. Somehow, what is estimated at 5-6 hours later, he woke up in a pool of blood, a bit more coherent, and freaked out. He called 911. I was in bed, at home, when the hospital called me. "How soon can you be here? He's lost a lot of blood!"

That attempt was one of those very odd blessings in disguise. we'd spent the previous 5 years trying to get him committed for treatment. This attempt got him a 6 months court order psychiatric stay, and court ordered meds.

He's fully recovered from the incident. But he still has Paranoid Schizophrenia. It's never going to go away. And when he starts turning the corner to "sick" again, he'll be very dangerous.

There ARE things your sister can do. I've done them all. None of them are easy, all of them cause different stress, but they do help keep the rest of the family safe.

ONE OUT OF SIX said...

Leah .. any insight/advice .. I'm open! One problem is my sister's own depression/lethargy - she's just not a go-getter, take charge type of person. And even when you lay out it out for her "here's what you need to do - x then y then z" .. no guarantees it will actually get done. But if you have any advice you're comfortable sharing - let me know!

One small "blessing" - my nephew's paranoia is such that he is really afraid of dying. So suicide attempts are one thing we don't have to worry about with him. But there are plenty of other things to worry about. Ugh.

Unknown said...

Sometimes there's no fix to these types of situations: just doing your best to get through them one day at a time.
I have no advice for you. Just hugs.

Megan Elise said...

I really have no idea what you are going through in your marriage but I know how bad it sucks feeling like it is NEVER going to get better and feeling all alone. I will pray for you and your family and while you have given up on "everything gets better," I'm still young and naive and so I'll think it for you.

ONE OUT OF SIX said...

Thank you Megan Elise. I really mean that - thank you for thinking it for me. (And I will bounce out of this sad sack place, at some point. I'm just a little less spry than I used to be - so it takes longer.)

Davezwife/Tracie said...

hon, I wish I had magic words, but I don't. But I do want to recognize something - You See All This. People who are inept (?) at solving problems, moving on, etc. ... they don't see it. You GET the whole picture. You KNOW what you need or want to do.
Although that and $1 won't buy you a cup of coffee... at least you have insight.
I hope you know how truely valuable that is.

My thoughts are always with'cha.
much lurve,

Nico's and Natalee's Proud Parents said...

Family...sometimes great, but most of the time not. Your family sounds a lot like DH's. I am sorry you are going through such a hard time, and I really hope you and J are able to sort through everything. Just take it one day at a time.

Jen & Jeff said...

Ahh A.. there's always more material for our roadshow. If only I had 5 weeks to tell you about the crazies I call siblings and nephews (ya know... one with autism, one with aspbergers is just the start of it).. anyway.. I agree. Things don't happen for a "reason". If that were true, then children wouldn't die of cancer of at the hands of child abusers. Really.. can someone find a reason for that? No.. I think not. Instead, I'll just give you a virtual hug and say sometimes... life isn't fair and can really blow. Now lets get drunk.

Hugs as always.. Jen

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for the stress in your life. I share some of the same things in my background which makes it especially challenging to know how to lead a healthy life. One thing I truly believe in is counseling in order to learn those things, those coping skills, those tools to deal with family, that I never learned before. I also believe in space. As much as I've needed from the original crazies, I've taken. For my own health and sanity. Take care of you first. That isn't selfish. It's survival. And as they say, you can't give from emptiness. Peace and wisdom to you.