Anger Builds a Wall

Barra Cottage – Ron Lawson

I slept in. Massively! It was just after 11am when Adam came in with coffee and opened the curtains. Let the sun stream in. It’s beyond a joke, I don’t know what the hell is going on with me and sleep right now. Since Anna stopped working with me my will to be routined and disciplined has just disintegrated. I stay up until sometimes 3am and then sleep poorly and then can’t wake up when the kids get up (which is usually 7am). It’s so unlike me. I’ve been reflecting on what is up with me. I’m not depressed… I’ve thought a lot about it. Depression and grief masquerade as the same thing… similar symptoms. Makes you wonder if depression is just unprocessed grief. I need to talk to Linda about this but I’m certain it’s grief mixed with needing time by myself (hence staying up late when everyone’s asleep) and then a reluctance to spend time with Adam and the kids (hence sleeping in). To be honest this is completely bizarre for me. The only time I remember being like this was when I was a teenager. I tried so hard at the start of this pandemic to be Superhuman and I think I burned myself out. ‘Lockdown fatigue’ Linda called it… but all my adult life I’ve worked so hard at making sure everyone is okay and especially in recent years working harder than ever trying to do everything perfectly for the kids and then I guess I just hit a brick wall. Losing Anna was like losing my lifeline and I just collapsed. I couldn’t do any of it for anyone anymore. And now I’m doing none of it. I feel like I’m barely making any effort with anyone or anything. I’m not eating properly, not doing any of the good things I know I should be doing. It’s so hard.

The session was at 12 noon. I told Linda I’d only been awake for an hour. We made some chit chat about it being cold for July and I had a cardi on that she pointed out and she told me she’d turned the heating on… the usual Scottish weather banter. Then she asked how I’d been since the last session. I said I could remember the jist of what we’d talked about but not the details. I told her that my birthday had been the best I’d ever had and explained what had happened. One of the things I told her which I haven’t journaled about yet is the conversation I had with Adam a few weeks ago. I told him that I wanted him to involve the kids in choosing and buying me birthday presents because it’s a lovely thing for the kids to experience. I told Linda that he doesn’t really do presents, hadn’t ever really got me anything for my birthday before and she was like, ‘woahhh what? What do you mean he doesn’t do presents?’ I said, ‘well I think I’ve always just told him that I can buy myself anything I want and to not bother… I think he’s probably worried he’d get me a shit gift.’ Linda said, ‘what exactly is a shit gift?’ I thought for a bit then said, ‘a present that shows you don’t know the person at all.’ She nodded and I explained, ‘a few weeks ago Adam asked me if I wanted him to get me something or do something for my birthday and I said that actually I did want that. He asked me what I wanted and I told him that what I really wanted was for him to choose something. He said he was really struggling with that and asked me for help. I asked him to tell me three things he knows about me and he said, ‘you’re my wife, you’re a mum and you’re a teacher’ and I was so disappointed and angry, I was like ‘those are just roles I play in my life they’re not who I am!!!’ Eventually I coaxed it out of him, coached him through realising some things about me… that I love astrology, the moon, crystals, beautiful crafts, drawing, psychology, aromatherapy, illustration, make up. Anyway, even after that conversation a week later he asked me to go over it again with him and I refused, I told him to think about it.’ Linda was listening and smiling occasionally. I continued, ‘So then comes my birthday and you know he really pulled it off! He tried very very hard. He painted a beautiful painting for me that’s a copy of a painting I love of a little white cottage on a Scottish Island. He gave me a crystal and some aromatherapy oils and a phone cover with the moon cycle on it and made my favourite meals on my birthday… so yeah he really did try. He asked, he listened and he tried. But of course there’s the part of me that’s annoyed that after 19 years I have to do any of that at all. But maybe I haven’t been forthcoming enough. I’m very self protective and closed off.’ We talked a lot about that and Linda said she was glad my birthday was so lovely. I told her that I really believe that by allowing myself to feel all the grief I’ve been able to let all the other feelings be felt. That I really felt loved on my birthday. She was so pleased to hear that.

We talked about other things that escape me right now. I told her that Adam didn’t really understand my grief and that he would say things to me that made me realise he didn’t get it, which hurts and makes me feel like he doesn’t love me. Linda asked if I keep myself from reaching out to him because I don’t want him to fail and I said, ‘yes, because failing means he hasn’t tried, which means he doesn’t really care.’ I told her that I tried to explain to Adam that Anna leaving is worse than if my mum had died because she was such a powerful force of good in my life and I saw her so often and loved her so much… that losing my mum would be no real loss. Linda said, ‘I remember you saying that to me and it really stayed with me, I really felt it and I know it’s true, I hear you.’ At one point I said, ‘I miss her so much still Linda, I think about her every day. She’s still the first thing I think about when I wake up and I think about her before I fall asleep and you know she’s everywhere. I scroll down my messages a bit and there is her thread of texts and if I look at my calls list, 19th of May there’s her name, the last time she’ll ever call me… and when I pay for my sessions with you on my digital banking, her name is there in the list of payees… there she is. I carry her with me all the time, and not in a morbid way either, she’s this ‘what would Anna say’ idea in my mind, this voice or sense of support inside me… there’s good along with the grief.’ Linda was smiling and nodding and agreeing. I could feel her supporting me and that she understood but she didn’t take me deeper into the feelings.

She asked specifically about how I was after the last session and I said it triggered a big conversation with Adam about me and the emotional labour I feel I am doing. She asked what would happen with Adam and what would it feel like for me if I just stopped carrying all the emotional labour. I said it would be like watching a car crash happen and she reacted in a really massive way saying things like, ‘Oh my god Lucy, a car crash!!’ I said, ‘wow the way you’ve reacted makes me feel like that analogy was a bit much,’ she said, ‘well it’s really a very powerful analogy,’ I said, ‘well let me think of a better one… it’s slower than a car crash, maybe it’s like watching someone drown… slowly… why would you watch someone drown when you know you can help them?’ I told Linda about the time I walked in on Adam preparing his work clothes for the next day and how he jokingly tied a noose round his neck with his belt and how I had pleaded with him to never joke about that. It sparked a very serious conversation about how he had in fact considered taking his life at points, mostly when Grace was a baby. I said to Linda, ‘I know I’m not responsible for his healing and his mental health but I love him and don’t want to lose him, or leave him behind.’ She recalled the analogy of me running ahead and him staying standing still. As I’m typing this I had a thought… I don’t want to leave him behind, do I really need to move so fast? What am I running from? I know that I think I’m running towards some sort of ‘healing goal’… but what am I running from? Surely I’d rather get to the ‘finish line’ later but with him, rather than sooner but without him?

I told her that everything has changed since Anna left. That everything was fine before. I said, ‘my relationship with Adam was really great before,’ she said, ‘and how do you gauge that, Lucy? How do you gauge that your relationship was so much better before?’ I said, ‘hmmm… how do I gauge it? Well… I mean the first thing that comes to mind is uh… how much is too much information?’ she didn’t respond so I said, ‘right well… I mean… how do I gauge that my relationship was great before… a lot of really great sex… to be honest… all the time, every day usually… really great sex. And uh… then that all just stopped.’ Linda said, ‘okay so what is it like now?’ I said, ‘I don’t want it now, it’s like… what happened with Anna was the most painful thing that’s ever happened to me as an adult and he was completely absent from my care circle, you know? He just didn’t know how to support me and I mean, he would have done whatever I asked him to do but I just didn’t have it in me to coach him through that! I was in the worst pain I didn’t then want to have to teach him how to help me… so a wall grew between us.’ Linda said, ‘yeah and we’ve talked about your anger, anger is a great wall, it gets in the way of things, when you’re angry with him you’re obviously not going to want to have sex with him.’ I said, ‘the sex was the best part of our relationship. I’m really not great with emotional intimacy but I can do physical intimacy. We’re really great together. Going from having a lot of physical loving and affection and lots of sex to nothing for so long, well I mean I think we’ve had sex three times in the past 7 weeks which is a marked difference you know. Now h’s saying things like, ‘do you still love me, are you still attracted to me, don’t you fancy me anymore… which is driving me nuts! And the week Anna dieeee… ooh my god that was a Freudian slip!’ Linda said, ‘oooh wow yes!’ and I said, ‘it really was like she died though!’ and Linda said, ‘yes I know, one minute she’s there and then she just vanished, gone.’ We sat with that for a minute then I said, ‘When she called and finished with me, I didn’t want to do anything that brought me back to my body, I was in this fog… and then I was on the meds, the Diazepam killed my sex drive I think and the propranolol made it really hard to eh… to climax… so it was just this foggy, loveless, joyless mess… and then I just shut off to it, pushed him away… there was no desire in me to be physically close to him… then when it was my birthday we did end up doing it coz I think I just didn’t want to fight it anymore. But I didn’t want to do it. And I felt gross and yuck… I hated myself for having sex with him when i didn’t want to because it just, it’s horrible. I hate feeling like this but I don’t know how to move past it. How can I move past this?’ Linda said, ‘hmmm I guess it’s about drawing your attention to the anger, which you are doing, and talking about it, and working with that… that’s what is standing in your way, that’s the wall between you and Adam.’ We talked a bit more about that. I said I felt really embarrassed and that it was cringey to talk about this.

Then she said, ‘what has happened in the past when you’ve been emotionally vulnerable with Adam, when you’ve cried with him?’ I said, ‘I haven’t really… I mean I’ve been upset about certain things like when our cats died or when a relative died but I’ve not gone to him for support in those moments I just dealt with it myself or went to Anna. That’s not true I have cried with him in the dark, silently… I imagine you have a very different view of me because I seemingly have easily opened up to you and cried with you but that’s not what I’ve ever been like before.’ She said, ‘I know, you made a conscious decision to feel it in our sessions and express it and be open with me, I know that, and it’s helped you grieve and process. What would happen if you did go to him?’ I said, ‘I don’t think he’d do or say what I need… he doesn’t know how.’

At some point I said, ‘I just wish it would all go back to the way it was before.’ She said, ‘hmmm, yeah, and sadly it can’t go back to the way it was before, but what we can do is keep moving forwards, things can change and the future can be different to how it feels now, can’t it?’ I nodded slowly and looked out the window. She asked how I was feeling in this moment and I couldn’t really think, I felt a bit spacey. I told her I was sad and embarrassed. I said, ‘I’m so ashamed and I hate this part of me and I think about all the stuff I’ve read about narcissists and how they withhold love and sex to punish their partners and I don’t want to be like that I don’t want to be like her at all I don’t want to be like my mum but then I think I’m not doing it to punish him I’m doing it because I need to protect myself.’ Linda said, ‘I think the key is to bring awareness to that, yeah? To just bring awareness to it. I know a part of you thinks you might be like your mum and you absolutely don’t want to be like her. And I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, you are not your mum Lucy, yeah? You are not your mum. I know you are frightened that you might be like her but you are not.’ She did this really beautiful warm smile she sometimes does that really feels very caring. It was nice.

There was a bit of quiet at the end and I said I felt overwhelmed. I said, ‘this is all a lot.’ She said, ‘and I’ve noticed that today, just like on Saturday, you stuck with one subject, you didn’t jump around from one subject to another, you’ve stayed with Adam and Anna. I wonder if that’s why you’re really feeling it today.’ I said that was an interesting observation. I felt very floaty. It was 12.50 and she asked me what I was doing this weekend. I talked about the kids for a minute then we ended the video call. Oh and as we were ending the call I thanked her as I always do, except I started to call her Anna! I said, ‘okay, thanks AaaaI’ll see you Wednesday…’ She may have noticed… it was fairly noticeable! I was so embarrassed. The whole things was very overwhelming and just too much for me.

I’ve spent the afternoon typing and crying and looking at Anna’s texts and emails. I just can’t believe she’s really gone from my life. I didn’t even know this grief was around for me today but it has been massively present. There aren’t the words to adequately express how painful and how lacking any power I feel. I am not allowed to talk to her any more. I can’t reach out to her. She is still alive yet she is dead to my life. It’s hit me like a train again today. I ache and long for her. I really need a cuddle from her so much. I find myself fantasising about her texting me telling me she’s suddenly fine and is starting up her practice again. I just can’t believe she’s gone.

5 thoughts on “Anger Builds a Wall

  1. I think grieving someone who is still alive is a complicated grief. There are so many underlying feelings that are hard to reconcile. I have a lot of complicated grief in my past that is still unresolved today. I don’t think our hearts or minds no how to work through this kind of grief alone. Trauma itself can make us feel stuck, and complicated grief can do the same thing. It sounds to me like you are suffering from feeling stuck and you can’t find your way out. I have been feeling “stuck” for decades and have been filled with a lot of shame for it. I wasn’t able to even talk about it to my husband. For a long while I thought it was a part of the deep depression I was in, then I thought the medication I was on would fix it. But none of it did, and so I just continued to suffer and hide it as best I could. It does feel like a kind of depression of its own. I saw that Caroline Spring was doing a webinar on treating trauma that is stuck. I watched it yesterday and wept through the whole thing and for hours after. I felt validated and as though finally someone understood. And that it is a normal symptom of trauma. And it helped to remove some of the shame and allow me to talk about it openly. What you are experiencing is a symptom of trauma and grief. I don’t think the way out is a fast one, but I have hope it is possible. I hope you can be kind to yourself. Sometimes it does feel as though life will never be the same. Finding compassion and co-regulation in therapy can be helpful. I don’t think we can fight it or beat ourselves out of it. My heart goes out to you Lucy. I don’t know if you ever watched the movie “Shadowlands” with Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger. It is based on C. S. Lewis’s marriage to Joy Gresham. There is a quote from that movie where Joy says to C.S. Lewis, “The pain then is part of the happiness now, that’s the deal.” 

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    1. Yes you’re right, it really is such a complicated grief. In a way, feeling the grief of losing Anna has shifted some of the stuck old trauma grief and I’ve often felt like I’ve been crying about past pain as I’ve been crying about her. Massive painful sobs, you know? I’ll look up that film, it sounds interesting. The pain is definitely part of the happiness. And kinda has said similar, that in order for us to do any meaningful work and have a relationship, Anna and the grief I feel will need to be worked on and talked about as much as I need. It’s part of me now. 💔💕

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Definitely! I think this is what happens with trauma. Any time we experience another loss or more trauma it triggers all the old stuff as well. And that is very overwhelming and complicated. What you are experiencing is so normal Lucy for all that you have been through. None of this is a failure or weakness on your part! 💕

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