Last Wednesday’s therapy session left me triggered, and I couldn’t shake it off. Thursday I just stayed in bed, unable to take up the work I had to do, unable to think about anything except (repetitively, obsessively) everything I felt was wrong between E and me. How it kept going wrong. How it should have gone differently. How unseen I felt, how misunderstood.
I was surprised how upset I felt, given that it wasn’t really a terrible session. I suppose in part I was disturbed because we’d reached a place of calm, only to stumble straight into another uncomfortable spot. One step on a soft patch of grass, then right back to walking barefoot over sharp rock. It seems like there is no end to the sharp rocks these days.
I lay in bed thinking things like: I should just stop therapy now. Going is worse than not going. Seeing E and thinking we can connect and finding we cannot is much worse than not seeing her.
Then I shift to: I cannot tolerate this. I have done my breathing and my meditating and my drawing and my yoga and nothing stops this rumination. I am going to go ahead and burn myself. At least I know that works.
And a bit later it’s something like: Why, why did she act like it was okay to be close, when in wasn’t? She should have known better. I should have known better.
I could observe myself, lying there, doing none of the things I needed or wanted to do, perserverating and torturing myself. I could see it was unhelpful, but I couldn’t stop it. What stopped it, finally, was that I had agreed to meet a friend at the park to walk my dogs. Funny how it is–I can’t seem to make the effort to get up and move for myself, but to meet a commitment to someone else, and to take care of my dogs, I can.
I was a little better after the walk. I couldn’t focus enough to work, but I could do a little housecleaning and a few minor tasks. Doing anything more than lying around feeling upset is a small victory.
Friday was only a little better. The level of distress declined from “all-consuming” to “highly bothersome.” Saturday I saw more improvement. My husband was home, and we tackled the euphorbia and weeds that needed to leave the front yard. Then we cooked together and listened to the music. I thought about my relationship with E far too much, wondering: Perhaps I should propose a therapy break for a couple of months, to see if that might help me center myself. But no, maybe that is just another way of harming myself. In between that thinking, though, there were moments when I let it fall away and could be present with my husband.
So now it’s Sunday afternoon, and I still haven’t let it go. (At least no one will accuse me of lacking tenacity!)
I realized this afternoon that while I don’t want E to tell me she knows better than I do what I need, that’s not really why I’m obsessing. I think instead, underneath it all, what’s really going on is that I am not over the not-texting. Ending the texting between us was hard enough, but the surprising, abrupt way it ended made it worse. I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me. I guess I still feel that way. I think it colors everything about my interactions with E, makes me touchy and suspicious and quick to feel dissatisfied.
But, really, how long am I going to obsess about this?
I texted a dear friend about this earlier today. I told her, Part of me feels like I can’t get over this. But of course, I can, I will. In time, we get over things.
I mean, let’s be honest. I must get over this, whether I want to or not. Because the truth is, there is no undoing it. It’s not possible to go backwards now. Even if E told me tomorrow that I could text her whenever, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t because I can’t unknow the truth, that she doesn’t me to. And reaching for someone who doesn’t want to be reached for doesn’t offer any real comfort.
It’s done. That time when I could reach and reach and reach again, and she’d respond–that time is done.
Like I texted my friend: just imagine someone hits me with their car in an accident, and I lose my leg. It hurts terribly. I feel an enormous loss and anger, even though I know it wasn’t a deliberate attack on me. I spend a lot of time dwelling on it, thinking, It didn’t have to be this way! If only this! If only that!
But no matter how many “if onlys” I conjure up, my leg is gone. I can’t retrieve it, and reattach it with duct tape. There’s no going back. I can only go forward. I can go forward obsessing on the loss, crying, screaming in frustration. Or I can go forward and see if I discover something good in front of me, something I might find if I let go of wanting that leg.
Easier said than done, of course. In fact, it’s not easy at all. It’s painful and awkward and difficult. Some days I will feel sad. Some days I will fall over because I don’t know how to balance without it. Some days I will feel flattened by it, because big emotions tend to flatten me. That’s okay. I can have some compassion with myself as I adjust to this new reality.
As I think about this more (lying on my bed, where else?), I realize that some days I will feel MAD. The truth is, a lot of days I have felt MAD, about this and many other things. But I haven’t believed it is all right to be mad, so I have pretended MAD wasn’t there. I have denied MAD.
I think back to one of my favorite meditations on Insight Timer, one on dealing with difficult emotions. It has you imagine that you are sitting on a bench in a beautiful setting. The emotion you are struggling with comes up to join you. You imagine what it might look like. You allow it to sit next to you, quietly. You accept it being there. Maybe you even put your arm around it. This is what it means to embrace your difficult emotions.
Perhaps I should make an effort to get to know MAD, to embrace her. I realize, with sudden clarity, that MAD is a bear, a big mama bear, enormous, fierce. Her teeth and nails are long and sharp. She is powerful.
She’s been there all along, I think, but I have turned my face away from her. I have pretended not to notice her because she isn’t ladylike and I’m not supposed to know anything about her. But the hell with that, I decide.
Big, beautiful, mighty, smelly, muscular, ferocious, amazing bear, I invite you in. Come right up here next to me. Come keep me company. You can stay as long as you need to. I will see you, smell you, sit next to you, listen to you, let you be here with me as I try to learn how to hop forward on my one leg.
CREDIT: Photo by Thomas Bonometti on Unsplash
I really love this metaphor for anger! You write with such honesty and clarity, really enjoyed it.
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Thank you, Janel, that’s so nice to hear.
I am on one leg, too, after a revoking of texts (although mine was literally one that said I was coming in person and not Skyping on a Friday) at Easter – and I’ve been mad and sad and am nowhere near glad because I feel like I must be in some way bad!!! – seriously, though even that change in communication felt huge so I am not surprised this has made you feel so off. This attachment stuff is such a minefield. I was wondering, do you think maybe you could get some good shoes to protect your poor remaining foot seeing as you keep stumbling on the rocks? It must be painful. Know we are here as crutches whilst you learn to balance on your leg. I’m always watching to see how it’s done and learn a lot from you. Right now I’ve taken to sitting down and pretending I’m ok! Hugs x
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Perhaps I’ll just ride the bear! (You could try that, too!)
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