The topic of the day was anger. The last 2 weeks, around the time of the 6 month anniversary of Salome's death, I have found myself trying to stand upright in a fast flowing river of anger. Funny thing is, it was my hormones that started it. I was pre-menstrual, and that's never had me feeling angry before, but this time it was like the hormones lowered the wall of the dam and this huge water-wall of anger was on top of me before I knew it and it wouldn't go away.
Normally I am not adverse to anger. I wouldn't say it's my favourite emotion, but neither does it freak me out or scare me. But this anger is something else. The power of it was / is astounding. Of course there are triggers, and the triggers won't surprise you. They are things like
- thoughts about why and how Salome died,
- thoughts about how hard Salome's pregnancy was for me,
- thoughts about what life would be like for me if Salome had not gotten sick and / or had not died,
- being faced with another of the innumerable negative consequences of Salome's death on our little family,
- seeing my friends 6 week old daughter (the anger exists alongside a genuine happiness for my friend and her family),
- seeing the 6 month old baby who goes to my playgroup (born 2 days before Salome, bless him, and now a gorgeous chubby boy sitting up by himself),
- contemplating the memorial cards we need to write and the tombstone we need to organise,
- thoughts about whether Matt and I will ever be able to face trying for another baby,
- thoughts about the nausea and sickness I will most likely face if I ever get pregnant again.
There are also things that lower the dam wall further, that aren't connected with my grief but that nevertheless reduce my capacity to manage the anger, such as:
- lack of sleep;
- ongoing physical pain (from my back injury)
- hours of very clever baiting behaviour from X
- feeling stuck in the house
- lack of time to myself (I have an insatiable appetite for time alone and X seems to have an insatiable appetite for 1 on 1 time with me. A bad match.)
When I discussed this with Jane today she invited me to practice what I preach. How many times have I urged clients to get more comfortable with their anger? How many times have I talked with clients about the importance of acknowledging anger because otherwise the anger will go underground and pop up somewhere? Jane was reminding me that the anger is a huge energy that can be channelled in a constructive way. The question is what am I going to do with this anger?
When the sadness was with me I was more comfortable with that. I snuggled up on the couch with my sadness, and it was company in a way. My sadness was a very poor substitute for my baby, but my sadness for Salome was the closest connection I had to her. Now here at 6 months, along comes this anger, no less a part of the grief than my sadness was, no less worthy of respect than my sadness was. But I am not even prepared to offer my anger a chair. In fact I seem to be trying to cram my anger into a cupboard.
The problem is I can't be arsed with the anger. It's too tiring. It's unbecoming. I don't have the time to unpack it. But keeping the lid on the anger is no picnic either. The anger is like a mega-size strong black coffee, no sugar. It is not my preference to drink my coffee strong and black, but that's what the universe has set in front of me at the moment, and there is nary a soy decaf cappuccino in sight.
I have also been reflecting on the ways I have been complicit with people's impression that I am doing OK now and we don't need further support. I suppose now that I am back at work, I have more practice in presenting myself as doing well and in some situations a higher incentive to do so. I am indeed feeling better than I was 3 months ago. I am not proud of feeling better. I am proud of hanging in there, proud of working so hard to stay connected to Matt and the girls, proud of staying engaged in the world enough to let time heal me. If I was doing all those things as best I could and still not 'feeling better' (What do I mean by that anyway? Feeling less?) then I would I feel no less proud. No matter what emotions I have, I do Salome proud every time I get out of bed and re-engage with the world in whatever way I can. I suppose I am proud of the small decisions I make ever day to inch myself towards happiness and contentment. As for the reduction in unpleasant emotions, I have no more cause to be proud of that than of my hair growing back.
So let me be absolutely clear, at least in this comfy little forum where I can choose my words at leisure: I am not doing well at the moment. I am very angry that Salome got so sick, that a stupid bacterial infection left our daughter with such severe disabilities, and that she died before we could bring her home. I am angry that I find myself at age 37 contemplating one day attempting to do another pregnancy, something I thought I would never put myself through again. Otherwise I am angry about a whole lot of other trivial shit that just bugs me up beyond my low threshhold between calm and cranky and beyond that from cranky to angry.
Therefore, if you have had thoughts in the past about what you might do one day in the future when you see me or someone else in our house having a bad day, this might be a good time to start your engines. In the past some people have given me a kicking (at times quite rightly) for being quick to offer help but being crap at asking for help. Here I am once again proving that is not always the case :)
To finish here are 2 quotes I have found about anger that I like. I am also going to change the quote on this blog's banner some time soon.
The world needs anger. The world often continues to allow evil because it
isn't angry enough. ~Bede Jarrett
Anger as soon as fed is dead -
'Tis starving makes it fat.