in the blink of an eye #mentalhealth #recovery #mentalillness

August 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

We had an amazing trip to the family reunion. I was so anxious about getting there on time I started preparing for the trip the evening before. Despite my best efforts, we were about an hour late getting underway to make the 45 minute drive. Road Trip!

My anxiety got the best of me as I left the city and managed to miss the on ramp to the freeway. We ended up driving out to the airport, traveling west instead of south. When I realized my mistake, I had Grandson get Google Maps working on my iPhone and give me navigation instructions. As we turned east, making our way to the freeway, we got a text from Brother1, who had just landed at the airport and was picking up his rental car. Hooray! We weren’t going to be the last ones to arrive, even if our trip was only three quarters of an hour and my brother and his family had flown in from the east coast of the United States.

I was so happy to be travelling with Nephew5, Nephew6 and Grandson. And RescueDog2, our 14 year old fox terrier. There was no end of conversation, and they gave me great emotional support, knowing how much I dreaded attending any family get togethers. Nephew5 shared that he has taken steps to deal with his anxiety. He is now on anti-anxiety medication and is starting group therapy. Wow. What a courageous step to take. The beauty of him sharing this news of his own self-care was that Grandson, his second cousin, was able to see us model an unstigmatized talk about mental health and mental illness. Grandson told me he has suffered from depression for 3 – 4 years. I think that conversation helped him to realize that there is nothing wrong with mental illness, depression or anxiety. They are conditions that we have in our family and when we take care of them we feel better.

When we arrived at the family reunion I was excited to be there and to see everyone. I was too excited to eat the delicious buffet of grilled salmon, salads and blueberries. Because it was the middle of the day on a weekend, there was no alcohol in sight. I was very happy to see that. I felt much safer knowing there wasn’t going to be any drinking. With my phalanx of young men I felt safe emotionally, knowing there were a few among the party that understood me and did not judge me for who I am.

My sister was in high drive, very happy and excited to have family over to her beautiful home. She has a wide expanse of lawn on the south side of her house, shaded by a copse of ancient cedar trees. She had set up a stage beside the house, and chairs were ranged on the lawn for audience. Brother1 and his family arrived from the airport not long after we got there, and with that, the music began.

I have a very difficult relationship with music. I was raised in a musical family and I have some musical talent, nothing outstanding, but I do enjoy playing. My family has used music as a way of connecting over these many years, but it has always felt strange and hollow to me, because of the emotional distance and denial. Everyone in my family has lived with their guard up, whether it was emotional withholding, various forms of alcoholism, addiction, workaholism, and ill mental health. But they were always willing to get up on a stage and perform music together, presenting this cohesive front, an enviable impersonation of a tight-knit family expressing the joy of family belonging through music. The truth was that none of them were particularly close, but they were good musicians, and were very good at faking musical closeness as if it were also a form of familial closeness.

This time it was different. Because Brother1 had let his guard down with me when we talked about [summercabin], I felt more connected, and that I could let my guard down. I allowed myself to feel safe to play music with my family, even though I am not a professional musician and most of the members of my family are professional musicians in some way.

There is much to write about this reunion, many beautiful moments of connection. They will have to be disclosed in short posts, though, because I have to get to work. Suffice to say this was the first family reunion where I felt my siblings let their guards down and we had a great time. There is so much love in my family, so much frustration, so much pain and so much fear. It truly felt miraculous that we could come together and enjoy an afternoon of music, storytelling, and clowning.

There has been a deep sense of peace in my soul since that gathering. In the blink of an eye. What a difference a little love can make.

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