Struggling to Function

[CN: mental illness, emotional instability, family dysfunction]

The last few weeks have been very difficult for me. The biggest problem is that I have a whole lot to get done and not much time left to get it done in. My lease is up on July 28th (20 days from now) and I still need to pack, have a yard sale to get rid of the stuff I’m not giving away to friends, finish my graduate work (it’s very close to done, but I’ve been struggling to do it), try to find a job so I can find a place to live, and try to figure out what to do with my cat Sen (he probably needs a knee surgery that is both expensive and perilous, and I don’t want to subject him to that right before moving him, especially if we move far).

If my lease runs out before I get a job and a new apartment, I can move in with my mother, however there are myriad other problems there. For one, while I love my mother, we don’t do well living together. For another, she lives in NC, while I’m in OH. There’s a reason I don’t live in NC anymore, and I’d really rather not go back. And lastly, she lives in the middle of nowhere, and I have no friends where she lives (very rural and conservative part of NC, not where I grew up), so I would have nothing to do and no one to see and that would be very bad for me. I already have too much of a tendency to hermit, but I also get very lonely very quickly, and my mood gets very bleak when I don’t leave the house or see friends for too long, so my depression could very well go into a tailspin.

Unfortunately, my depression and anxiety have already made a difficult situation almost impossible. My anxiety about having so much to do ends up paralyzing me so I don’t do anything, which in turn causes me to become more depressed as I feel that I’m getting nothing done and the deadline looms closer. I end up in a loop of frustration and fear that just gets worse and worse until I implode. It also doesn’t help that I realized recently that my parents embody the main voices of disapproval in my head. My mother, even though she is a good person and a good mother, doesn’t understand my anxiety. She gets frustrated with me and tells me “well you can’t just mope, you need to DO IT” and that turns into the voice in my head telling me “you’re a failure as an adult, you can’t do anything right”. My father berates me similarly, although with different language.

I remember, when I was in college and my mother took me to get my driver’s license. I resisted getting my license for a long time, in large part because driving gave me enormous amounts of anxiety (the first time I got behind the wheel I had a panic attack), which was probably because my earliest childhood memory was being in a car accident at 18 months old (I don’t really remember it now, but I remember remembering it as a child). My entire childhood and young adulthood I had nightmares about being trapped in the backseat of a car with no driver, careening wildly down a hill toward a busy intersection. I was very afraid to drive. My parents got very frustrated with me (and my older brother, middle of us three, because he was the same). They both grew up in Michigan and had been around cars their whole lives, had learned to drive even younger than was technically legal, and my oldest brother had jumped at the chance to be more independent, so they truly didn’t understand why my middle brother and I refused. Eventually, though, through a combination of threads and bribes, they got their way. I took driver’s ed, made it through my panic attacks, and practiced enough that I felt I could take the test. And when my mother and I went to the DMV, the day before I had to go back to college for the spring semester, their entire system was down. I had a panic attack in the parking lot and became hysterical. I was supposed to drive 3 hours to college the next day but I wouldn’t be able to do it without a license, and I sobbed uncontrollably like a small child in the middle of a public parking lot. My mother was FURIOUS. She yelled at me, she almost slapped me, dragged me back into the car and berated me for acting like a baby. I couldn’t calm down, especially in the face of that, and when we got home she stalked inside and left me sitting in the passenger seat, desperately trying to function enough to leave the car, get inside the house, and get to my room so I could feel safe and calm down.

My mother probably doesn’t remember that. There are a lot of moments in my life that I remember vividly that she doesn’t remember. And if she does, she probably remembers it very differently. She didn’t think I was having a panic attack (I didn’t even realize that’s what it was until years later). She thought I was acting like a spoiled child who had been denied a treat, not like a very sensitive and anxious person who’d just had all their careful plans upset. She was embarrassed that her 21-year-old, 6′ tall daughter was sobbing like a child in public, she wanted me to stop because she was afraid someone would notice and think there was something wrong with me, she wanted me to stop because no rational human reacts like that, she wanted me to stop because it annoyed her.

It all ended up fine, of course. And she knew it would, which was also why she got so mad at me. But she couldn’t understand that for me, in that moment, NOTHING was okay. I couldn’t see past the next 24 hours, I couldn’t consider my options, I was already so incredibly anxious about taking the test that just one nudge set me off and made the entire world stop being a safe and logical place for me. And the one person I was with who could’ve helped, instead made it worse.

Part of what’s probably unhealthy about my relationship with my mother is that she’s had to bear the brunt of my emotional instability for a lot of my life. My father simply wasn’t around, and when he was, he didn’t know how to deal with me. So I learned to try to suppress my emotions around my father, which just made my outbursts around my mother worse. And although sometimes as an adult I am able to suppress my anxiety long enough to function in certain situations, I still use my mother as an emotional relief valve, which she doesn’t have the time or energy for. There is a big part of me that wants her to just say “I know, I know, it’ll be okay” and gets so frustrated and angry when she instead says “just put on your big girl pants and do it”. I KNOW I need to do it. What I want from her is acknowledgement that it is difficult for me, and for her to say she’ll help if she can, and that everything is going to be okay. Because when I’m anxious, I don’t know that. I don’t know that anything will ever be okay again, and I need someone to tell me it will.

Sometimes my friends can help. But most of them don’t really understand either. And the ones who do understand are the ones who have similar problems, and also need help (which I give, when I’m able). My therapist helps too, helps a lot, and I’m also scared because I’m going to lose her after I move, and finding a new one is very anxiety-inducing as well. Will I live somewhere that has a free clinic like here, if I don’t find a job with insurance? If I do find a job with insurance, will I be able to afford the copay?

As a person who suffers from anxiety and depression, I need a bigger and stronger emotional support network than the average person. And yet, I often feel like I have no one. My issues make it more difficult for me to make friends, especially friends who understand and can help me in the ways I need help. The fact that I’ve moved so many times in my life (as a child, even before adulthood) also means I don’t have a lot of long-term friendships with people either. The difficulties inherent in trying to make friends as an adult are also a barrier. So I end up falling back on my mother, who is not as young as she used to be, and has her own life and worries and problems to deal with.

And all that is part of why I’m struggling to function. Many of my local friends are gone for the summer, and I’ll be gone before they get back. The few that are here have their own lives and schedules and can’t help me very often. I struggle to escape this weight that’s pressing down on me, and I feel like if I had a couple other pairs of shoulders to share that weight, maybe it would be easier. But I don’t know if that’s even possible. So instead I just struggle, and mostly fail, and feel worse and worse.

So that’s where I’m at right now.

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