It’s Not in the Bag

Posted: 7 June 2017 in therapy
I am struggling to breathe. My heart is racing over in over in short bursts all day long. Even when I think I’m focused, or calm, or even bordering on relaxed (though let’s be honest, lately relaxed means something entirely different than the actual definition of the word). This isn’t grief over the loss of my dad in the sense that I need his presence or miss the role he played in my life. You can argue with me, but I have so much else, I believe wholeheartedly that I’ve handled those specific things well enough. My pounding heart tells me there is so much else.
My relationship with my mom, of course. It’s a lot, of course. Our connection is frayed and knotted together, different textures and itchy, abrading, too rough to hold. I don’t like it, I’m not strong enough to sever it, and I’m too practical – every so often you wish you had a piece of rope and anything will do, as long as you have it.
My relationship with my colleagues and professional commitments. Suddenly I feel like my work was less important that it was. Maybe that change was coming before my dad died. I feel like it happened when I wasn’t looking, while I was too distracted to try to catch the rudder before it turned. I feel like others have taken on my responsibilities and my value is reduced because I prioritized my family over my work. I feel unduly punished and taken advantage of by people I’d have considered above it.
My relationship with activism and my own identity as a highly privileged person who is shockingly (to myself) fragile. I’m angry about that and while I want to fight and advocate and resist, I have needed to rely on others to do it. I’m ashamed of that and I know I need to do better.
My relationship with death. I hold a lot every day and I’ve fit it into a sloppy, ripped bag in my brain where it regularly leaks and smells and leaves stains I have to scrub for days. My chief coping skill with so many other things is to write. Sometimes it’s in my head. Scrolling words I don’t share. Sometimes it’s here or on an ever-unpublished note between meetings. I do not write about the things in the bag. I don’t acknowledge the bag except to constantly clean around it. The closest I’ve gotten is a Facebook message to a former teacher who publishes raw works about witnessing the death of his friends in the Vietnam War. His advice was to write it down, even if others read it who can’t unknow what they’ve read. I’ve tried, here, I can’t. It’s not so I can keep it in the bag. I just…can’t.
I’m spending a lot of energy and committing intellectual space to take each of these relationships and find a resolutions. I’m also seeking my courage which is pitifully lacking. Most of these are daily pursuits. I can’t always look my shame in the face. I can’t manhandle my work environment minute to minute when I can focus on my emotional reaction to those minutes. I can’t look in the bag. The contents of the bag look at me. Death doesn’t care what I’m doing or what other things I’m tackling. The things in the bag prefer dreamtime, the moments when I think I’m on a break from this work, and undermine the accomplishments I make in any other area. The bag dines on my confidence.
That’s bullshit.
Tomorrow I’m going to the new therapist to tackle some EMDR. I’m hopeful but it’s weak hope. I’m scared and anxious and (there goes my heart). I don’t have the required safe space I’m supposed to have discovered by now. I don’t know what this looks like and I didn’t (was unable to chose not to) do any research about the technique. I told myself when I tried that it was “confidence in my therapist” or “a commitment to avoiding misinformation” It was probably more of the same though, more of my inability to navigate my brain with the bag. I have to go to work afterward. It’s a tangle.
I’m terrified.

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