I discovered a new thing to add up to my Ways in Which I’m Fucked Up List this evening. Video calls. Who’d’ve thunk it. Actually, considering my sporadic issues with answering the phone and my ongoing inability to watch anything with more personal content than an archaelogy documentary without at some point sticking my fingers in my ears/ shutting my eyes/ leaving the room, it was kind of predictable with hindsight. Bloody hindsight.
Not sure that would’ve helped anyway.
There I was, on the sofa, merrily using an e reader app on my laptop to read a book, when my laptop made a horrible, insistant, sound that I’d never heard it make before. Slightly freaked I bashed at keys trying to work out what was going on and I realised that my sister-in-law was trying to connect a video call via facebook messenger. The sister in law that never seems to use facebook, is now using it in a function I don’t know existed. I fumble my way through some Grant Your Camera Permission type screen in time to see that she has hung up.
A nice, calm, short, text based interaction confirms that she was in fact trying to see if they could contact us that way. I let her know I’m going to extract my husband from bedtime and we’ll call back. I know I need my husband for this somehow, anyway, it’s his brother.
I go upstairs and settle a slightly hyper girl and in the middle of some random new ritual involving 17 teddy bears, and then go and try and extract my husband from The Boy’s room. The Boy is feeling clingy and has inveigled The Man into his bed and is lying there wide awake not looking like he’ll settle any time soon. I tell The Man that I need his help with something and he manages to get away a couple of minutes later.
I explain the situation, press the call back function, suddenly realise I can’t do this. I. Can’t. Do. This. So I mthrust the laptop at him muttering something like “I can’t do a video call, I can’t talk with myself on the screen” and scarper.
It turns out that was not enough of a chat to explain.
He keeps trying to get me to come and sit next to him on the sofa and look at our baby niece and join in the conversation. He tells me he’s changed the view so we can only see there end now. I have no way of saying to him with my brother in law and his wife listening that I simply cannot do this. I lurk nervously outside the room, pacing. In answer to questions thrown my way about a planned trip I grab the calender and throw it around the door at him, then I go and wash up. With the door shut (I nevr shut the kitchen door). Washing up is good. Washing up is calming.
Feeling a bit calmer, I make it back to the living room and sit on the floor, facing my husband, eyes closed, fingers in ears, trying to remember to breathe. I manage to take one hand away from my ear and make a fist and put it on my head, hoping that he knows the symbol I learned as a teenager that means “I’m invisible, behave as if I’m not here” (yup, I did some minor forays into Live Roleplaying in my youth). Surely that has cropped up in our 20 years together. Surely.
I start to relax a little. I open my eyes. I look at him. I reach out my foot so it’s on the edge of the sofa. He squeezes it, not giving my position away. I can do this. I just have to keep breathing. In a minute I’ll be able to take my fingers out of my ears. He turns the laptop screen around, I panic, but he’s just showing them the dog, not me. Still, my anxiety rate has shot back up.
Then he talks to me, and of course they can hear at the other end, asking me to sit next to him and see our niece on the screen. He doesn’t understand after all. I feel paniced, betrayed that he’s given my position away. I know this is illogical, that nothing bad can happen, but that is knowledge is not taking my panic away, and the thought of my in laws knowing how crazy I’m behaving is making everything worse.
I run from the room. Go up to my room. Lie face down on the bed in the dark, dry sobbing. Goddammit I can’t even cry properly. I can’t distract myself with my book, he has the laptop. Or noodle online. I check the bedroom, his tablet isn’t here, that’ll be with him downstairs then. I try and think what might calm me down, I could phone my friend, I have a landline phone here, only her number is on my mobile in the living room.
I feel paniced, anxious, stupid, ashamed.
It passes. Of course it passes. I even manage not to yell at him when he’s finished talking and comes to explain how everything was ok, that I needn’t have woried. He explains, like he did downstairs, that he’d minimized the image we were sending, that I wouldn’t have had to see it. I explain that I knew that and it was still a problem. And I manage, somehow, to gently remind him that he knows what a panic attack feels like and logic doesn’t help when you’re having one.
So now, I’m processing my latest crazy. Alone in my room. Wondering what my in-laws think of me. Mulling over how Asperger’s ish this behaviour is.
Happy Fucking Valentine’s Day.