An assignment

I’ve decided that, given how unsafe I feel at the moment, I am going to try to write out what I’m feeling every day (or most days) while T is gone. The more this stays inside, the more it festers and the more I feel like I just can’t take it.

Today. I’m fantastically unproductive at work. I feel on the verge of tears, and I keep thinking how much I’d like to just lose all awareness of everything – of what I’m feeling, of what I need to do, of who I am. There is a knot in my chest that keeps tightening. Every minute here feels like torture.

I miss T. After more than 2 years of therapy with her, I have reached the point of attachment. It hurts that she’s gone, and I wish she were here just so I could feel that comfort and safety of being near her. At least when she’s in the same town, I know she’s close. It almost feels like I’ve lost all object permanence and I think that, just because she’s out-of-town, she’s never coming back. My mind knows that’s not true, but my heart feels like it is.

I know, theoretically, that these feelings are normal, but it still feels ridiculous for me to be this way as an adult. I should be able to manage being by myself and take care of my own emotions without relying on someone else to help me regulate. I should know better by now that suicide isn’t the way out. I should have more appreciation for my life. T told me this story last week about her father who was a Holocaust survivor. She said that when he was on his death-bed he said, “It’s still a beautiful world.” She went on to say how we all survive our own Holocausts. I know she meant well, but I now feel like I am a horribly ungrateful person who has absolutely nothing to be unhappy about, especially in the light of what others have suffered.

And yet, I’m still stuck in this place and I’m trying not to do anything bad to escape it.

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7 thoughts on “An assignment

  1. I’m sorry you are struggling so much right now. I’m glad you are working on releasing those feelings however you can by writing about them. I can relate to your feeling that because other people have suffered atrocities, that you have “no reason” to feel the way you do. There is something I want to share that I read recently, and I hope it will be helpful for you. There is a psychiatrist named Victor E. Frankl who survived the concentration camps during the Holocaust. About this same issue over the magnitude of suffering, he writes: “A man’s suffering is similar to the behaviour of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the ‘size’ of human suffering is absolutely relative.”

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that the fact that other people have suffered terribly does not negate the fact that you are in tremendous pain. None of that is your fault or a problem with your attitude.

    Take care.

  2. Hi again Kashly!

    I’ve been following the blog, and I want to tell you how sorry I am that you are feeling so untethered (my T’s word, which I love). It’s a terrible, rotten feeling, and I’m so sorry that you are experiencing it. I think it sounds like a great idea to write out what you are feeling, to give those feelings a voice, to give that little injured person inside of you permission to have the feelings and to say them. I write a ton (most days) and I find it really helpful most of the time. Some times my feelings feel “slippery” and I can’t get a lock on the little person inside me, and the feelings slide around too fast. But most of the time, it helps me.

    I want to say that the body sensations – the verge of tears, the tight chest, those are me, exactly. It’s taken me a lot of work to learn how to “be” inside my body with these feelings. I desperately want them to go away, I want to come back to myself, to wake up to the goodness that is my life *now* and not be tortured by feelings from before. But if I turn away from those feelings (and I often do) then I am self-abandoning. There is a part inside of me that is scared. She is sad, and she is scared, and she is alone. All she wants is someone to stay by her, choose her, protect her, love her. She *thinks* that someone is my attachment figure. But then I get into a constant state of need for that person, and no matter what they do, it isn’t enough. My therapist once said to me, “It feels like you need your wife to come home. That’s not actually it. You need YOU to come home.” The great, great news is that someone can help my little person. Someone can soothe her, quiet her down, help her to know that she is safe and never, ever alone. That someone is me. I have to turn towards her feelings, I have to give her permission.

    My wife often says to me, “Of course you are scared. Of course you are sad.” And I find that really helpful. Of course you are upset, Kashley. Of course you are scared, of course you are sad. Bad things happened to you. You have permission to feel upset.

    I have some of the same issues with object permanence. Just going to work (away from me) can feel like a sort of death. I can’t go with her, I can’t “feel” her when she is so far away. It’s a double whammy for me, because not only do I lose the comfort of contact with her, but it feels scary to have her out of my vigilant eye. With my own (abusive) mother, it was safer to have my mother in the room with me, raging, than it was to have her come into a room after being away – at least if she was in the room I had a sense of her trajectory, her mood, and could predict the next moment, her next move. If she went to work, and then came home, I had no way of knowing where her mood was, and how safe I was. So it feels terrible to have my wife leave, and literally the farther away in terms of distance, the WORSE it is. I’m so sorry your T is away. But she is not gone from you.

    I use a lot of what I tell my kids for my own little person. When my wife is away, the little person in me feels between the ages of 1 – 6. So my own kids are in that age range, and when they are sad that someone is leaving, I tell them that our hearts are connected to our loved one’s hearts through heartstrings. It feels best when we hug them, when our hearts are mere inches away from each other. But no matter how far that person goes, our heart strings connect us. Sometimes we can literally feel the string stretched taut, that longing, that missing. But the very longing and missing feeling is proof of the strings, of the connection. *We feel a tug because we are connected*. For me, I try to literally picture the string between my wife and me, always there, proof of the connection. My kids often ask for “something to hold” when one of us has to leave them. They like having something tangible, like a hair tie from my hair on their wrist, or a pen from my bag, to hold onto. I try to do that, too – pick an object that I can hold in my hands that reminds me of the person, of their love, of their commitment, reminds me that they are coming back.

    But the mind-knowing vs. heart-fearing thing is something that is so, so true in my life. And I find it frustrating. I *know* the truth. Why can’t the suffering end? But I know that it’s only in turning towards these feelings that I can process them, and let them go.

    And yes, I deal with all the same self-loathing around needs. I was taught in my house that a “good girl” doesn’t have feelings and doesn’t have needs. My feelings got me hurt, my needs got me hurt. So, literally to BE SAFE, I have to shut them down. It feels incredibly dangerous, self-indulgent, ridiculous to need the way I do.

    But I look at my children. I don’t think they are ridiculous to need me. I don’t think of them as weak, or a pain in the butt. I understand their needs, I WANT to meet their needs. And as long as I have all of my own self-care stuff (like sleep, down time, time to connect with my wife) I can easily, willingly meet my children’s needs.

    The adult part of you CAN take care of yourself, all on your own. Look at how well you are able to do that. Look at how well you are doing at work. The adult part of you is totally able. But the small, injured, child part of you can’t. Of course she can’t. She’s small. She’s scared. She’s hurt and she’s sad. She is allowed to be all of those things. If you can allow her to be all of those things, if you can turn towards her and let her cry, let her be scared, let her be angry, her feelings will diminish.

    You can do this, Kashley. It’s just a breath at a time. What you have right now are big, bad, scary feelings. I know so much how much they are. But they are feelings. They will pass (my feelings are the clouds in the blue sky of me, and I watch them float by. My breath is my anchor). They are not what’s true. My wife says to me, “now is nice, now is nice.” And it’s true. It takes a lot for me to believe her MORE than I believe what I am feeling. But my little person’s feelings do pass. Especially if I can let my little person have them.

    Hang in there – you are not alone!

    1. 3M, thanks for the thoughtful reply.

      I often turn away from those parts and feelings, too, and T tries hard to get me to not ignore them. I often find it hard to take care of those parts and soothe them because the part of me that is the most “put together” doesn’t want to acknowledge that there are hurt parts, because then that means coming to terms with the idea/fact/postulation that something *did* happen.

      And yes, the bulk of my therapy has not only been to deal with the feelings that come up but has also been to re-learn how to feel, because I didn’t think I could.

      Anyway, thanks for commenting 3M. It means a lot to hear and see, and maybe feel, that I’m not alone.

  3. Kashley, I know that I’ve got a few years on you, and all I can say is when you haven’t had that safe feeling of attachment in childhood…. once it hits, it doesn’t discriminate against age. My T is away for 6.5 more days, and yes, I am counting down. It’s a rotten time for her to be away cause I have a lot of family stuff right now, but it is what it is. We all have our struggles, and we’re all equipped with different ways of coping with them – some of us better than others. Even after all this time with my T also, I still feel ill equipped when she’s away. You CAN make it. You WILL make it. Heck, you ARE making it, one moment at a time!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I think I’d thought that since I hadn’t become attached after 2 years with her that I just wouldn’t (and maybe was incapable or something). But it appears as if it’s happening, and it’s scary as hell! ((hugs)) I hope the few more days that T is gone go by quickly.

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