You say “bitch” like it’s a bad thing.

Would you like to know my definition of bitch? Beauty In Total Control, Honey. [i]

We sang this at the top of our lungs.

My brain is calmer today and I haven’t even picked up the meds my psychiatrist added to my regimen to make it shut up. I need to reset to a state where I can manage my dysfunction.

The drug’s called loxapine, and the reviews on effectiveness by people who’re struggling with thoughts beyond their control are good. I’m going to ignore the side effect that jumped out at me. Weight gain. Even now, after two and three-quarters years without vomiting, my eating disorder is unhappy with that phrase. [ii]

I’m calmer because my family left me alone yesterday. Not my son, who lives at home, and not my daughter, who’s still ghosting me. [iii] Mom and dad left me alone, however, and it was a relief, and don’t I feel guilty for saying that.

Not completely relevant, but not completely irrelevant.

Yes, they’re sick and frailer than they were, but also they’re also stable and driving me insane, and I don’t mean that in a charming, “my parents are sick and a little demanding” sort of way. I mean every dysfunction is worse, and I’m back to being treated like their tripod/whipping boy. It’s passive-aggressive comments and a refusal to listen on an epic scale.

An example: My mom called a couple of days ago (the second call from my parents that day and I’d been over in the morning to visit) to discuss renovating my en suite now that it’s gutted. [iv] To discuss it despite my repeated requests that she not. She then moved on to talking about renovating the main bathroom. They have a friend coming to town who’s good with tiles. Did I mention I didn’t ask? Did I mention I’ve asked her not to do this? Lots?

I exploded a bit. Told her to stop making plans for my life. Asked her to leave my project alone. Again. I explained that I’m struggling. That I need space to get some calm, to work on alleviating the intrusive thoughts that feel like they’ll drive me insane.

(I always justify my boundaries. I’m going to stop doing that. You need to justify boundaries the way you need to justify breathing.)

“Be the bigger bitch” is my new motto.

Have I mentioned that my parents don’t listen to me? Most of the time, they wait for me to stop talking (or don’t wait and interrupt), and then debate my feelings. Disagreement is fine if you acknowledge the other person’s thoughts and feelings, but my parents don’t do that. My reality is regularly dismissed in favour of their opinion.

Many people confuse opinion with fact.

The calls continued after my ask and from both parents, because, of course, they did. I did have to visit, to say goodbye to my sister-in-law who’s returning to New Zealand three weeks before my brother. A brief conversation, a bon voyage gift and wishes for an easy flight, and I was gone. Except for the thrill of my mother being short with her responses. This is so I know she’s upset. It’s not my first rodeo. My mother is why I react so strongly to passive-aggressive. Though when I bring the behaviour up, I get told that my grandmother was worse.

True, and also irrelevant to the issue at hand.

In the interest of giving me space, my father followed me out and stopped me for a conversation.

He had to sit on the stoop, contradicting his ridiculous claims that he’s fine. He tells me he’s talked to my mother (this is not unexpected; I never tell either something I don’t want the other to know). He asks me what they can do to help.

“You could listen to me,” I say. “You could hear what I’m saying. I tell you what I need, but then you ignore me. I need space. I need to get this flare-up of PTSD under control. I tell you this, but you both keep texting and calling. This is not giving me space.”

My father: “I don’t call. When do I call?”

I lose it, just a bit. “This is you not listening to me,” I tell him. “I tell you guys something and you immediately try and prove me wrong. And then I snap and get mean because I’m tired of repeating things that get ignored. And then I feel guilty because I was mean. I’m not going to give you a list of times and dates. I’m not going to debate my reality with you, again.” And then I left. And yesterday, there were no calls. No texts. No emails. This is unusual . I get multiples a day, and we’re not even in crisis anymore.

Well, except for me.

(I did check my phone record when I got home, because proving rightness is a family trait, and yes, calls and texts aplenty. Though in my father’s case, sometimes he doesn’t remember. Another stress.)

(I do sometimes feel guilty about standing up for myself with my family when it’s on its last legs. But then I remember, if not now, when?)

Time does run out.

I used to worry about spilling my guts on my blog, but my family doesn’t read it. They’re very interested, of course, and when I’d mention it, they’d always ask for a link after expressing surprise that I was “still doing that.” I’d send it. A link to the page or a link to the latest post. Again and again to no avail. And then we have our most recent request that came after I discussed essays from several blogs I follow and things I’d recently written.

I said “no.” I struggled with this some. I worry that it’s being petty. I told my family that I’d sent any number of links, and now, I was done. I wasn’t angry, and I don’t think I sounded angry. Just factual. Maybe a little hurt.

They could find the blog with a little effort (my mother saves emails forever), but they don’t make it, despite their testy response to my refusal. I’m tired of getting my hopes up in anticipation of caring or interest. Hope can be painful.

These are the kinds of behaviours I get criticized for. Interestingly, other people are allowed boundaries. The prohibition is just for me. I suppose that’s why I don’t share many things. If your boundaries aren’t respected, it’s hard to trust. My family talks a good game about boundaries these days (terminology also infects), but they still only respect the ones they like.

Nobody seems to like mine.

I’m bitchy, it seems.

It’s possible. It’s hard to accurately analyze one’s own behaviour. I think, however, after some contemplation, that I’m being nothing more than firm. That can read as bitchy after a lifetime of doormat. My family and friends have my sympathies.

Thoughts and prayers.

Final note: it’s interesting to me that men who stand firm are seen as being principled and of strong character, while women are bitches or worse. Social conditioning is a funny thing, and not at all harmless as my family’s argumentative responses (on more than one occasion) will attest.

Personal conditioning is also a funny thing. I feel better and more at ease for the day’s grace, but I also wonder if I should call. I keep wondering when the blade will drop (at four p.m on the day I wrote this, as it happens, so “space” is apparently thirty-six hours).

Anxiety is climbing.

My bitch-spine still needs work.

Final, final note: “I Try” doesn’t connect to the above narrative. It played after Meredith Brooks, and it’s a song I’ve always liked. It’s good for car karaoke, which is how I evaluate much of the music I listen to. You’re welcome.

I love it, but this song is the worst for ear worms.

[i] “Beautiful, intelligent, talented, caring human” is another I like.

[ii] There’s more to my eating disorder recovery than not vomiting, but that’s a quick way of providing a reference. The mental stuff takes more lines.

[iii] This passive-aggressive behaviour on her part is costing me much, emotionally.

[iv] I gutted it last year just before my parents’ health and all our lives went sideways. I will get it done.

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