Family [Poetry]

This is a poem by Abby Thompson.

I am a conjoined triplet, but I hadn’t formally met my counterparts until I was 15. A lady in a cream colored sweater in a faux zen office with a desk fountain, introduced us. Fortunately for her, she never had to meet them in person, only read their biographies in the DSM and watch people like me try to get away from them. Meet your new worst best friends, Anxiety and Depression, cousin to Bipolar, ex girlfriend of ADHD, and sisters to PTSD, OCD, and Ed, short for Eddie and Eating Disorder.

I was 8 when my youngest brother Michael was born. I have two other brothers, but Michael and I were the only ones who were quiet when we were wrapped in a blanket and placed in the delicate arms of our beautiful mother for the first time. No crying, just simply admiring her. I was 8 when my youngest brother Michael was born, that same year Anxiety and Depression emerged as part of my family too.

Anxiety is a drill sergeant. Always shouting, early for being punctual, and forcing us to bounce our leg up and down, up and down, up and down. Anxiety is also a hypochondriac, because she is a hypochondriac. Anxiety is one of those people with a bunker full of soup and HAZMAT suits spouting crazy conspiracies, because everything to her is the end of the world, and because she’s Anxiety there’s a chance she’d kill herself in that bunker, because she’s afraid to die in the apocalypse.

Depression loves death, so much that she had her birthday party at a cemetery. She’s that emo kid with the really bad eye-liner you made fun of in middle school. Depression alternates between shooting my entire body with a sort of mental Novocain you can’t find at the dentist and being an existential philosopher who quotes Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot”, reminding me that everything I do is completely meaningless.

I try to get rid of them, but putting them up for adoption isn’t quite an option. The strands of DNA that have sewn us together, often are stronger than my will to break us apart. They know this, that there’s a comfort in the familiarity and like siblings who know you at your worst—they take advantage.

My other brothers always put Michael down. Reminding him of his inferiority among them, despite that he is significantly younger. He was the tag-a-long, always trying to impress, but never measuring up. The first time I saw myself in him was when he was six, except I didn’t even see myself. I saw Anxiety and Depression, poking their heads out from behind his shadow as he cursed the wind and threatened suicide in attempts to get my mother to know how bad he was hurting.

Anxiety tells me my body is a temple and Depression chimes in that they get to run it.

When Anxiety plays her music too loud in the house that is my brain, she orchestrates heart palpitations as the beat and hyperventilation: the melody, to a song of panic that we’re convinced will play at my funeral; that according to Depression, no one will attend. That’s the only good part of mental illness, you’ll probably get your funeral to be exactly what you want, because you’ve thought about your death hell of a lot more than anyone who is going to be there.

Panic is Anxiety’s hobby; she pushes herself seeing how long she can hold my breath, measuring my heart, and racing my thoughts against each other. Depression is an enthusiastic spectator, reminding me that if I can’t breathe normally, much less think normally, what is the purpose of my life—then she likely returns to the Pale Blue Dot idea.

Anxiety disagrees, trying to flip my thought process away from suicide, like a kid fighting over the TV remote with their sister to play a show she likes instead. This TV program, is not a casual Netflix binge—but a live stream of every embarrassing moment dating back to November of 2003, along with steps on how to prevent them from reoccurring. Depression, adds that if I really don’t want them to happen I should just kill myself. They bicker back and forth, I guess I’m lucky Anxiety is more convincing.

Michael is 11, and eloquent versions of my triplets have clipped themselves to him now. Anxiety pulls Michael against his disheveled mattress during the mornings before school. He begs not to go, despite his extreme intelligence, he hates it. When he comes home from school on the days he actually goes, I see Depression hold his hand guiding him to his bed where he remains lethargic on his phone watching YouTube videos or playing video games. Always with his headphones on and blankets wrapped around him, barricading his brain from anything but his own thoughts.

Depression and I get in a fight; I try breaking free but she wrestles me against my bed suffocating me inside the sheets while she pierces me with loneliness. Anxiety joins in on the fight, pinning me down letting tears escape my eyes.

Michael appears through the gap in the doorway. Our eyes meet in an understanding that the rest of our family will never comprehend. He leaves me, with the two remaining triplets. The ones I am bound to by a bad combination of genetics and stuck together without choice. You’re supposed to love your family unconditionally; blood is thicker than water. How am I supposed to love something that hates me so much it slices my mind letting the droplets of blood we share fall like rain against my skin?

I want to strip myself free, I want the medicine I choke down everyday to become wings so I can escape this pain my own brain leaves me. Then, I look in the mirror and behind all of the cruel whispers Anxiety and Depression sneer as I see my reflection, I see Michael and I know now that I have to hold onto my family so he can learn how to hold on to his too.


Abby Thompson is a filmmaker, writer, artist, and student passionate about telling stories relating to the human experience and one’s connection to others. She is also the founder of the small media arts content creation and consulting company, Elemental Media Arts. Abby is from St. Paul, MN where she attends Hamline University and is majoring in Digital Media Arts with a minor in Studio Art. 

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