I am an empath; like most people labeled “sensitive” or “anxious,” I am frequently dismissed and almost always out of step with those around me. It’s no wonder, then, that I married whatever the opposite of an empath might be (a Stone, I might say in my less generous moments)–we can’t have two quivering lumps always in a tizzy and hope to get anything done.
Find that framework too Star Trek? I’m an engager, and my husband and his family are avoiders. While I believe Engagement is always superior, years of therapy suggest that perhaps each has its merits. BUT. What happens around my husband’s family is that I am like a cat with its tail in an electrical socket. All the unspoken information, hostility, passive-aggressiveness, anger, rage, etc is invisible to them even as I am absolutely drowning in it.
Over the course of this holiday visit, my MIL was unwell. No one was willing to acknowledge that a) this was cramping EVERYONE’S STYLE or b)that it might be serious. So we sat around the house for three days while she carted a bottle of Pepto Bismol around and spent hours in the bathroom. Everyone else seemed okay with this situation, while I felt like I was being flayed alive. I finally said something on Sunday evening, along the lines of, “She seems very unwell, are you going to do anything about this?” I was shut out, “Oh, she won’t let me do anything” and “Oh, this is normal” etc. I insisted, gently, that I felt it was otherwise.
Thus, while one might expect to be wracked with guilt, I was actually tremendously relieved when we had to have her carted off to the hospital via ambulance due to congestive heart failure. What? Yes. Suddenly my anxiety lifted, and I realized that all of my agitation (door slamming, fits of temper, feeling INSANE) was due to the fact that something very serious was being tacitly ignored. Once it couldn’t be ignored, it was like I suddenly returned to normal–the boiler had burst, and now the waiting was over.
That lasted all of yesterday. Today the anxiety is creeping back up, as it seems Denial Fever has again been contracted and the FIL is saying things like “Out of the hosptial today” and “feeling fine” which, really, are not the things we say in relationship to “Congestive Heart Failure.” Right? I’m sure of it. We say, “Long term care” and “potentially fatal” and “Must get to the bottom of what is causing this” and “THIS IS A HUGE MOTHERFUCKING DEAL”. At least, that’s what the voices in my head are shouting, even as I again lose step with the rest of the crowd and find myself on Reality Island, all alone. Well, not entirely alone; my husband is trying to balance between the two worlds, which is a demanding and likely impossible task.
In The Emperor’s New Clothes, they don’t talk about how it felt to be that child–the one pointing to the naked Emperor–as everyone stared at her, shushed her, maybe even shamed her for naming what was happening. That’s the real story–trying to stick to the story in the face of a hundred frowning automatons who want nothing to do with reality and would very much like for you to shut the hell up.