Family values

I know, I know, I’m shit and I haven’t been writing, and I’m sorry.

I actually started a post last week about how cutely gross/funny my relationship is, but I’m not feeling it at the moment, so you’re spared the schmoop. For now.

Instead, I give you Anxiety Girl™. You’ve met her before (well some of you, Bogart has been spared the worst of it thus far), and I know her well. I’ve talked about my journey with Seasonal Affective Disorder, but when the shit really hit the fan a few years back, it came with a whopping side of anxiety—something I’d never had to deal with before. I saw a therapist (who told me I breathe in a a way that puts my body into fight-or-flight mode, which then gave me anxiety about breathing. Thanks doc!), went to a CBT group, and found some things that worked for me and kept my anxiety in check (mostly) for the past couple of years. Here’s the thing: even with the most amazing tools, there are times when anxiety is unavoidable.

Certain relationship things are bound to cause … discomfort. Likewise certain times of the year. Bogart got a small taste of that when he invited me to spend Christmas with his family. It made sense, since I was staying in Toronto and would have otherwise ended up ordering Chinese takeout. I couldn’t very well turn down his (and his family’s) lovely offer on account of ‘I’m a bit crazy, sorry.’ However, given my already dicey relationship with the holidays, sure enough, come December 24th, I was thisclose to losing my shit. He didn’t help matters by telling me there ‘might not be oven space’ for the ridiculous (and delicious … ridiculicious?) hippie balls I was making so I could eat more than carbs (there was, as his mom’s relayed “Of course,” text assured). My ever-patient girlfriend-not-girlfriend was on the receiving end of my grocery store freakout that day (believe me, she’s dealt with worse from me). In the end, holiday and meet-the-fam nerves notwithstanding, I had a lovely Christmas, and his family was great. That didn’t stop the restless nights and anxious thoughts, but like most things I worry myself into a state about, I was fine.

Having met his family, conversation turned to when he would meet mine. Gulp. He didn’t seem to understand my hesitation at first, and he wasn’t buying my suggestion that we didn’t really have to travel to Chatham. Coming from such a normal family, and having such a calm disposition, he wouldn’t. My family is anything but normal,  my disposition in relation to them anything but calm.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. Growing up where and how I did helped create and shape my life into what it is now, and I wouldn’t change that. But there are a lot of them and they can be a lot. It’s hard to explain my family dynamic without devoting more words than I feel like today, so here’s a snapshot: my stepmom was one of my mom’s bridesmaids. My dad got custody of me in ’86, a time when men didn’t get custody. The two sets of parental units are not overly fond of each other, and they were not shy about that fact when I was growing up. As an adult, I prefer they don’t talk to each other because they weren’t so great were really shitty at it when I was a kid. Hearing one parent say, ‘I was talking to your father/mother the other day,’ is a sure-fire way to dramatically increase my heart rate in a very short period of time (who needs the gym when you’ve got family dysfunction?).  Every time I go back, I’m juggling up to eight people’s schedules and needs and expectations to make sure I divide my time appropriately, and now I’m adding Bogart into that mix. Decades of holiday sharing and answering the ‘Where are you staying?’ question have made me something of an expert. But I’ve always done this dance alone and I don’t know the choreography for two. We’ve already somewhat discussed the holidays for this year, since I tend to go back every other year, but I just fucking cannot deal with even the idea of that right now.

I also don’t feel quite like myself in Chatham. The best I can explain is I’m Stephanie there, the toned down version of my real self. And it’s not through any conscious effort, it’s just the role I’ve fallen into (or developed a long time ago), so not only am I worrying about what everyone will think of everyone else: will they like him, will he like them; I’m also stressed because I don’t know how he’ll feel about that alternate universe weird version of me. Or normal version of me since I’m very weird on the regular. Am I even making sense? Probably not. Who cares. Enjoy the ramblings of a mad woman (soon to be a drunk woman because gin will help).

Add to this the fact that I haven’t introduced anyone to them (besides friends) since high school and this is a Very Big Deal. Oh, and I realized on Sunday that we’re moving in together (another first for me) in two months, and I’m perilously close to tears more often than normal (which let’s be honest, is a lot, because all my emotions leave my body through my eyeballs). Not because I don’t want these things to happen; I do. They just scare the ever loving shit out of me. I have been having very vivid, very upsetting dreams lately, and it wasn’t until today that I realized they may be connected to the clusterfuck that is my emotional world lately. Because you know what’s great when you’re already feeling unsettled? Not getting a restful sleep.

Luckily, the few times Bogart has had to deal with Anxiety Girl™, he’s been pretty good at calming her down (Christmas oven comment notwithstanding). I also suggested he just drop Xanax in my tea throughout the weekend, and we already know he doesn’t have an issue with surreptitiously drugging me. It’s that or I pop into the local emerge for an IV drip to attach to a 4L bag of wine.

Speaking of alcohol, I have some juniper berries and pine that need to get in my belly. That’ll quiet the butterflies pterodactyls.






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