This week I talked to my counsellor about anger. It wasn't an intended topic. I thought I'd started counselling again to deal with my PTSD, trauma I know was in part caused by the loss of our very much wanted baby, but also from being so sick for so long. See, my current doctor thinks that trauma is in part responsible for my continued physical suffering.
Turns out, there were other issues I needed to talk about that I wasn't even aware of, and a lot of them I was / still am hugely angry about. The counsellor talked about how often women struggle with anger, over seemingly small things. They fester into huge things that we're not consciously aware of. Then the stress of this anger that we've not acknowledged eats away at us, has the ability to make us sick.
So in a bid to own and accept it I want to say I'M ANGRY! I'M SO BLOODY ANGRY.
And the thing is that a lot of what I'm angry about - things people said or did, or didn't do - I have been rationalising so much about, that I wasn't giving myself permission to be mad. Like, I rationally know that so-and-so said that stupid thoughtless thing because they were also going through their own trauma. So in my head I was like, "Well, you can't be angry at that person because they're also struggling and didn't mean to say that thoughtless hurtful thing". But after my counselling session this week I call bullshit on that. Just because someone said or did something from a place of anger, grief or whatever, doesn't mean that my own feelings about it aren't valid. I mean, sure, I'm not going to confront that person and make them feel bad about it, that would be what Nick would say "a dick move". What would be the point? But by not letting myself feel that anger I've done myself a disservice. I have been swallowing that anger. I have been unconsciously feeling bad about it and blaming myself. How is that fair or constructive for me? And in fact, it's manifesting into anger about insignificant daily things, things I'm not really angry about, or, should I say, aren't worth being angry about.
And you know what, I'm mad at circumstance too! Things that are no one's fault, like the fact we lost our baby, that we've suffered a period of traumatic events over the past 6 years. As my Dad would say (even has a song about) "I didn't sign up for this".
None of that is fair and I'M SO ANGRY. Even writing this I'm having to employ my mindful breathing techniques so that it doesn't consume me. But perspective is an amazing thing. Letting myself own the anger doesn't make it go away but I've given myself permission to feel an emotion I was avoiding because I didn't think I had a right to feel it. And I can't tell you how empowering that is. I am allowed to be angry, damnit.
And to a special friend of mine going through their own journey not allowing themselves to feel anger - look, I wrote it in black and white! It's now here on the interwebs, and everything you read online is, as we all know, 100% fact. So you feel angry and you own that anger! It doesn't make you a bad person!
And to everyone continuing to follow our journey from when it started at the beginning and to the new followers we've picked up - thank you for helping us embrace this conversation. It's not always easy to talk about your struggles, but everyone has their own version of trauma and stress, no one has it all together. We just don't all write a blog about it!
As you may have guessed, my wife is angry. But she is learning to own that anger, and that's great for her. Well, actually it's not great for her. It's enormously shitty, which I suppose is the point.
It's not always easy living with a person carrying some Grade-A-Anger. It is often surprising, like when you forget to clear the dishes off the bench and this becomes the basis for a 30-minute argument. It is sometimes surprising the other way, like when you forget to put the car seat back in the car (are we noticing a theme in Nick's failings here?) and you expect a blow up, knowing that will create a real challenge during school drop off time but it turns out to be a non issue.
I can appreciate the anger. I can understand it. I can accept it. What I have not yet been able to do is deal with it in any sort of positive way. Anger often generates more anger, especially when it's directed at you, and often we have ended up in fights I had no intention of getting into and even though I know she's not really angry at me... Well OK, by that point she is angry with me but that's because we've spent the last 10 minutes shouting at each other.
What do you do? I've tried acknowledging it, apologizing, saying it will be OK. This sort of works when I can muster it, but even then we sometimes end up debating degrees of remorse - "I said I was sorry!" "Don't just say it, show me!".
But what I've come to understand is that my wife isn't angry at anything for the most part, and she's generally not angry at whatever is happening in this moment. A bunch of shitty stuff has happened (as it does to many of us) and the injustice and hurt of that has left a mark. I can't erase that, any more than I can bring back all the people that we've lost. I just have to sit with it, give her the space to feel it, and try not to take it too personally (something I am not great at, to be fair).
I'd love to tie this all up in a neat little bow for you all, give you some kind of life lesson to take from our experience. Sorry sunshine, not gonna happen. We're flawed people, still trying to wrap our heads and our hearts around everything that was and is, without unravelling ourselves on the way.
Ok, so those of you who follow us on Facebook will have seen that we've continued to share snippets from our lives and articles that catch our eye. But here, on the blog, we've been a wee bit quiet.
Why? Well, to be honest, because of me. Nick has continued to write regularly, and let's face it, he's better at it than me! But my strength is pulling it together, developing it into something people can read. Make it look pretty, so to speak. But me, I've been fatigued (incidentally, Chronically Fatigued, but that's another story), and actually tackling my own thoughts, let alone sharing them, has been overwhelming.
Part of me says that's the time we should have been continuing to share, because we've been so transparent about our journey so far. But it's actually been too hard. Sam started school at the beginning of the year and while that had it's own challenges for an entire term (again a story for another time!), I made a resolution that with this extra time I would find a solution for my ongoing illness and I've been on a journey of discovery ever since.
I've been seeing a holistic doctor who has delved deep into my symptoms and has been Sherlock Holmes-ing through my long list of ailments. It's been a time-consuming and expensive journey and we're not there yet. But I've been on a roller coaster - blood tests, specialist appointments, gastroscopy, colonoscopy, hypnotherapy, mindfulness, yoga, counselling, IV infusions, antibiotics, multi-vitamins, probiotics. I've been trying a lot of different things and seen some amazing wellness professionals. But at the end of the day, it always seems to come back to the trauma. Trauma has put me in a compromised state, allowing my body to invite in a massive infection into my gut. Trauma is triggering my ongoing nausea and malaise. Trauma is likely the cause of my fatigue. And I'm actually a bit fed up with trauma. I'm a bit fed up of life passing me by and not engaging fully in it.
But I have moments of hope, moments where I can appreciate how far I've come on my journey, where I see glimpses of the person I want to be. Trauma is always with me, but it doesn't define me. So going forward, on this wave of hope and the energy I have at this precise moment I decided to write for the first time in 8 months. And that alone is a massive step, so watch out trauma, I'm on a journey of discovery and you're actually not invited!
Annamarie is being very generous in her assessment of my continued writing. I've bashed out a few things here and there, done a little journalling, but nothing particularly special.
For me, it's been about time - I haven't had it. Or rather, I have and I've done other things with it. Work for example (lots of that). And exercise (I've been in the final stages of injury rehab, after my escapades last year). And being a Dad. And trying to support Annamarie through the next stage of her health journey. And trying to have time for an actual marriage in there somewhere. So yeah, not so much with the writing.
Annamarie has done a great job at staying connected on social media. To be honest sometimes I forget we even have a blog, until my phone pings me to say somebody has liked something "we" shared. I'm still on board with the stuff we share, with the reason we started this thing, I still think this is important stuff (maybe now more than ever), but, like most people, I've had shit to do. But it turns out we're still receiving quite a bit of traffic to the website, so maybe it's time to re-visit sharing our journey.
So, there you go. I don't think either of us know how we'll keep going with this, whether this is a re-set, or a new start, or just a one-off. But for now, here it is. Here we are. And so are you. Hello again.
And hello above from Richie, now a big part of our little family unit.
We are a family of 3. This blog is the story of how we almost became 4, why we didn’t, and what we are doing to recover from that experience.