Saturday, March 15, 2014

Permission to grieve, please

It's been a year since I've felt brave enough to put any of my thoughts in writing. I've been floundering in a turbulent ocean of emotions. I apologize in advance for the inarticulate ramblings below.

When I try to reflect on the past year, there is a haze. I think I am probably still in that haze. I'm in the middle of an ocean; I can't see solid land. On rare, sunny days, I enjoy riding the waves, it feels exhilarating, I try to convince myself to be excited for where they take me. But many days are grey, I am treading water, just trying to conserve energy. And suddenly the past week, I feel like I might be drowning again, looking up from the bottom of the ocean. I know there is light above, but it is so far away.

Last year was one of the darkest periods I've experienced since attempting suicide at 14. Therapy wasn't enough. I started an anti-depressant for the first time in my life. As weeks passed, I slowly floated up, I thought I was riding the waves pretty well. I ended my regular therapy appointments. We talked about having a second child, and I felt confident enough to slowly wean off my antidepressant. (Just because I'm Asian, doesn't make me smart.)

You know how they say you should consult with your doctor, you should pair therapy with medication, blah, blah, blah.

I'm that idiot who never listens.

And now I'm sunk again, feeling stupid and sad and angry and numb and confused and lost and alone. I know I need to ask for help. But it is so hard. And so humiliating because I feel like it is all my fault I am here.

This last plunge seems to have started with the Baby Veronica case. On one hand, it spurred me to advocacy. I felt brave enough and strong enough to begin posting about the case on my personal Facebook page. I started talking to my broader circle of friends about adoption, and being more "public" about my thoughts and experience. I began to follow and share voices and perspectives in the adoption community. I didn't feel like I needed to hide behind this anonymous blog.

And yet, maybe I was never fully truthful -- even to myself.

I like to think I'm pretty self aware, even if the facade doesn't match the interior. On the outside, I am a successful wife, professional and mother. I am respected for my communications skills, my ability to work with others, my intelligence, my get-it-done (nicely!) attitude.

When it comes to the ability to perceive emotions in others and manage them, I'm a straight A student. [My latest therapist suggested this was actually a survival skill developed in childhood. Hypervigilance, perhaps.]

And yet, when it comes to my own emotions, I am flunking out. I have been able to compensate, to hide this weakness, somehow, in my professional life to date. (In my personal life, well ... I have a very patient and accommodating partner. Those who know my dark side might suggest he is a saint.)

But lately, I feel like the mask of control, of promise, of perfection, is about to fall. I cannot sustain the act. I am about to be revealed for a fraud.

Triggers are a bitch.

I heard Eminem's song "Headlights," featuring Nate Ruess, on the radio for the first time Wednesday. I started crying in the car, but I didn't understand why. I brushed it off, picked up my daughter from preschool, and pushed the song (and my reaction) out of my mind.

Thursday, I read Deanna Shrodes' conversation with Rebecca Hawkes, "Adoptees and Anger Toward Our Natural Mothers (And Others)." My initial response was, "Amen!" I wanted to share with my friends, but couldn't figure out exactly what I wanted to say about it, so I tried to push it, also, out of my mind.

Yesterday, I heard a nationally-known rape survivor speak. I was there for work. Before she spoke, event organizers made a point of saying the event was a "safe space." They acknowledged the speaker's talk might be triggering for some people, and they had trained crisis-intervention counselors on hand. Professional hat on, I was thinking how that could make a great angle for a story. How we support each other? I suppressed any personal feelings; after all, the professional me is still in the (nutcase) closet..

Today, I am wishing I had never heard her speak. Instead of feeling inspired, I left feeling confused and, today, depressed.

She spoke of how we all have problems, and when we have hard times, we always have a choice. We can stay in bed feeling sorry for ourselves or we can get up and "do what has to be done." She talked about not living in the past, not wallowing in self pity, punishing your abusers by being happy and moving forward.

On a good day or week or year, I can get on the empowerment bandwagon. In fact, times when I have come out of the nutcase closet, revealed some of my personal struggles, and been complimented for my "success," I'm pretty sure I've said those exact words.

But I had trouble finding comfort in those words last night. And that wasn't the worst of it.

Over and over, the speaker emphasized her family's love, and how it helped her survive. That no matter what happened to her, she knew her family would always love her. She focused on the sound of her mother's voice, memories of her father and brothers. She was so secure in her knowledge of their love for her.

As I'm taking notes, I'm trying to ignore the emotions that begin welling from that strange, uncomfortable place in my gut. I'm having flashbacks to my childhood with a mother who convinced social workers, ministers, teachers and reporters that she was Maria von Trapp instead of Joan Crawford. I'm remembering sadness and fear and hurt and ... oh my god, I used to be so angry. Must. suppress. anger.

At this point, had my head been anywhere besides my ass, I should have excused myself. Or at least put down the pen, stopped listening to the speaker and tried listening to the sad little girl inside me.

But I didn't. So I was still writing when I heard her say she was grateful for what happened to her. Whoa. What? I looked up. She repeated, "I am grateful." My fingers suddenly clumsy, I struggled to record her exact words, but I managed to scratch out "grateful ... for experience ... for what allowed me to do ... people allowed me to meet."

I don't have to explain to "angry" adoptees and our allies why I have an immediate reaction when the concepts of gratitude and opportunity are connected with trauma.

I believe we should accept and validate each other's feelings, and even the speaker was careful to note that everyone's experience and feelings are unique. Rationally, I know her truth is not mine, and that is OK. But emotionally, I can't help wondering, what the eff is wrong with me?

I want to get to that place where I can choose to "move on." Where I can be grateful, not sad and angry about what has happened in my past. Where I can be sustained by the love of the family I have created. Where I can focus on what I have, not what I don't.

But I'm hurting.

The raw pain in Marshall Mathers' voice when he raps about his absent father: "Oh, what a tangled web we have. Cause one thing I never asked was where the f*** my deadbeat dad was. F*** it, I guess he had trouble keeping up with every address. But I'd have flipped every mattress, every rock and desert cactus. Own a collection of maps and followed my kids to the edge of the atlas."

It breaks me.

And yet, I am still so afraid to be angry.

No comments:

Post a Comment