Scary Toast

I just jumped, and audibly gasped, at a toaster popping up -- while I was doing literally nothing other than standing in the kitchen, looking at it, waiting for my toast to finish toasting. That was when I realized that I'm having a severe anxiety episode today.

It's a bit of a relief, to be honest. I've been feeling off all day, and it's good to know that it's not a symptom of an oncoming physical illness -- just the mashup of daily discomfort, grief, the knowledge that my younger brother will be living at home all next week, and putting out the new episode of Solarpunk Press and getting ready for Readercon -- the latter two of which are things I'm thrilled about, but knowing that I have to do these difficult things, which I want to go really, really well, amidst an atmosphere of hightened stress, is really fucking with me.

I should probably have mentioned this earlier: my cousin died yesterday. She was my favorite one. I assumed I was fine, since I've been grieving her for about a year now -- she's had cancer, and it wasn't going away -- but the evidence presented by my reaction to toast suggests that I'm not totally right about that.

Of course, maybe it's just the fact that my brother's going to be home. He normally lives in Alaska, so I don't have to interact with him much. But this means I won't be able to sneak downstairs at 11 p.m. to use the kitchen, since he'll be up every night until 2 a.m. drinking. Maybe it's knowing I have to get ready for a funeral. Family can be hard to interact with in the best of circumstances. And who knows how many times I'll have to hear "She's in a better place" without letting my discomfort with the phrase show on my face: there are members of the family who, I have no doubt, will be looking for the chance to prove to everybody that they're really grieving by picking a fight with someone else for not grieving hard enough, or not grieving right.

And I almost definitely won't be grieving right. Knowing that other people are watching, making internal judgments about how sad I look vs their mental checklist, pulls my mind pretty far away from thoughts of the deceased, in my experience. I won't be speaking along with any of the prayers, because (a.) I don't know them, and (b.) I don't believe them, and I think it's disrespectful to feign belief at a moment of religious importance to others. And I won't be talking a whole lot about my cousin, because what the fuck am I gonna say? "I'm sad because the only member of my extended family I don't mentally list as 'extremely racist' is gone?" There will be no one in attendance who wouldn't be insulted by the reasons I feel so deeply about this.

Normally this kind of anxiety would fall well into the "irrational fears" category, but this is my family. By which I mean, this is the group of people whence my dysfunctional perspective came. And this is a group of people who all feel that they have a personal interest in the outcomes of my life. The reason that I have social anxiety is that I map expectations I have for my family onto well-adjusted strangers, and strangers with their own families' shit to deal with. It's going to take different coping skills to get through this than it does to get through meeting a room full of strangers. There are real alligators in this water.

I'll be leaving the funeral and going straight to the hotel for Readercon, which on the bright side of things means I'll have a few hours to decompress and recalibrate before talking to a room full of complete strangers about bees for an hour. And if I accidentally do anything that complicates my family situation (which I very much don't intend to do, but I don't know how tightly wound I'll be -- today I jumped because of toast) I'll have four days away before I have to deal with the aftermath.