02 June 2009

emotional exhaustion and the royal road

So, I went to counseling last night for the first time since the miscarriage. I have been finding solace in body-centered work these days, hiking, yoga, sleeping, making a lap for the cat... but talking? Not so much. It feels almost re-traumatizing. But last night I wanted to kind of get it all out, talk about what sucks and what is working. And try to gird my loins (indeed) for whatever is to come.

As a semi verbal person, I know I can bullshit myself with my talk talk talk talk talk about all that is or is not working and why, and I can sound all clever and insightful and like I am working on it, but it is bullshit. I rarely allow myself to feel it, to be with it, and then, to truly face and start to address or change it.

I told Connie, my sweet therapist, that I felt blue, and I started with the talk talk. Maybe it is the old grief, maybe it is the crazy hormones, or the lack of sleep or maybe

it is because this really, really, really sucks.

Ha. In that moment, I realized something I had not truly realized-- that of course I feel blue. There is nothing wrong with me that I do, it is a perfectly justifiable response to something that deeply and truly sucks. And I also reasserted to my stubborn self that feeling blue is not the same thing as being blue. It is something that I feel, it is not who I am.

Today I read about angel-voiced Susan Boyle being hospitalized for "emotional exhaustion" and thus began a quick internet search as to what the heck that is. Wikipedia has a good overview of what appears to be the job burnout interpretation, but I am interested in the concept more generally. What does it mean to be emotionally exhausted?

So-- I stumbled across this link which reframes depression as emotional exhaustion. It is from whence this little gem comes:

"Grief is a profound, painful, complex response to a major loss the loss of a loved one, of a relationship, of physical health or competence, of a life goal, of a community. Grief often involves powerful emotions, e.g., anger, sadness, forgiveness, hatred, confusion, moments of new clarity. These emotions can be contradictory and yet follow in swift succession. Despite rational inconsistencies, each emotion reflects a partial truth. Grief can shock and confuse us. We may have emotions that we did not know ourselves capable of and that may be in conflict with our values and self-identity.

Grief may frighten us because we cannot control the experiences and we may fear they will define us; for example, we might worry that once we begin crying, we will never stop. Grief confronts our deepest values. We must confront who we are now, and what is important in life now without this relationship, or that career, or life situation. We must confront our sense of meaning; what is the meaning or importance of life now? No one likes to go through this process and we may minimize or deny it. But blocking a genuine emotional need does not make it disappear. Furthermore the effort to avoid important emotions, such as grief, will result in psychological exhaustion. Grief, which can be resolved, is replaced by depression which cannot be directly resolved. Ironically, while grief often confronts us with our greatest psychological challenge, it holds the possibility of change and increased self-understanding. Grief can be a royal road to meaning and wisdom."

So, there. I remember last time I grieved so deeply, it took weeks and months to realize there were gifts in it. AND THERE ARE-- remember all those many days ago (a lifetime, say, like, 3 weeks or so) when I said next time I would revel? If that is not a gift, I am not sure what is.

I am intrigued as hell by the idea of shifting self definitions-- I face this all the time. I say to myself, I can't do that, I never... or I always... or I am.... and quite a while ago, I started to ask myself if this is still true? It may be, but maybe, just maybe it isn't. And wouldn't it be cool to see roads open up where there were none before?

Having changes things-- and so does losing. It can clarify and muddify, it can make stronger or break things into pieces too tiny to mend.... but the one thing I know for sure: it does not leave things as it found them.

So on this day, this one, I am trying to see myself for what I am and where I am, not what I wanted and what I lost. Trying to peel away the pile of shoulds that stick and sting like nettles. I am succeeding in 2 nanosecond increments but, you know? That is better than I expected.


sprogblogger said...

I really love reading your posts. Some days it's like "Yes! That's it! That's exactly how I feel!" and other days it's like "I never EVER would have thought of it that way."

Today was one of those.

And you're absolutely right.

Thank you for reminding me to have a look around every so often to reevaluate. Thank you for reminding me that grief is natural and normal and oh so much better than the alternative of never feeling anything. Thank you for writing the posts that make me feel normal, as well as the ones that wake me up, shake me by the shoulders and say "Look! A totally new perspective! Look!"

I'm looking. Thank you.

Michele said...

what a beautiful and insightful post. than you for sharing...

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post. I hope when you try and see yourself today, you see the warm hearted, insightful, spiritual and spirited person I see here every time I stop by.

Nic said...

Pleased you are talking to someone, I find it helps to make things become more clear. I like the quote 'But blocking a genuine emotional need does not make it disappear'. This is what I do all the time, but it makes things worse and everything builds to exploding point. Maybe we should embrace the emotion, let it run its course and then say goodbye to it and move to the next emotion.

Grade A said...

So poignant, so true. I love the talk talk talk comment-I'm so good at that bullshit, too. Toasting you and those nanosecond increments-the alternative just ain't good, sister! Glad you are taking care of yourself.

Nic said...

Thank you for your sweet comment, they always lift me up. I am upset about the suggestion of going straight to IVF as it is such a big step as you know! I had not mentally prepared myself for that. It had always been in the back of my mind, but I kept pushing it out, telling myself I would be fine. You never know, I have my surgery in 6 months and I maybe fine. 6 months is such a long wait! I dont know how I will occupy myself untill then!

Nic x