Saturday, October 20, 2012

Minding the Gap

Sometimes I wonder if I'm making all of this up.

Maybe this is how everybody is. Maybe this is just what feeling feels like.

Then I think, well, if you have to ask, the answer is probably no. 

And then I think it's just the healing part that I'm making up. I have broadened my PTSR vocabulary considerably and can say a lot of fancy things, but inside I haven't felt much change at all.

But then I write a really positive blog post (most of my blog posts are essentially positive, actually. I do like an overarching message and an uplifting metaphor and a nice pretty bow on the end), and I think, wait a minute, I couldn't have written that if I didn't feel it at least a little bit. It has to be coming from some well of internal truth, right?

And then I think, I'm a pretty smart girl. I can speak very convincingly about a lot of things, from my head. And I've developed a crack-proof facade of normality over the years that has persuaded a lot of people-- myself included-- that there wasn't a major element missing from the equation. So being able to talk about it is hardly proof that I'm actually feeling it.

I do know what feeling-- the major kind-- looks like, on me.

First of all, regardless of the type of emotion it is, I am bawling my eyes out. Uncontrollably, ridiculously, sometimes alarmingly so. A few cases in point:

  • During a crazy career blowup a few years ago. I won't go into the details (and it was eventually resolved in spectacular, satisfying, Hollywood-ending fashion), but suffice it to say my husband was afraid of me for a few hours. I was howling like a trapped animal.
  • At my wedding (although nervousness at being on stage, literally and figuratively, kept me from letting it show most of the time). (I did a good job, didn't I? Fooled you!) (Except for that moment when the bride and groom were making thank you speeches at the reception and Mark said some lovely things and then handed me the microphone and I croaked, "Thank you" and handed it back to him and everyone stared at me, open-mouthed, like I'd just grown a second head, while I stood there reeling that I'd been able to muster a single syllable.) 
  • At every major milestone during my pregnancy and the birth of my daughters. I don't even know how to describe it. Hysteria. Everything at once. My barbaric yawp, perhaps.
          I freaked out a lot of doctors. Doctors. 

Secondly, in these big emotional moments, I know I'm not just talking my fancy words because I have no words. Every one of these moments is marked by an uncharacteristic and utterly complete lack of language.

I had not talked myself into it. I could not talk myself out of it. I could not explain to the people around me what I was thinking-- I think because what I was mostly doing was feeling, and I don't know that language anymore.

It was as if the articulate part of my brain had to shut off in order for the emotional part to turn on  (and yes, I know, there's a lesson in there. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.). It's a binary switch. One or the other: language center or emotional center. 

Like a house with a faulty electrical system, I can't have too many things running at once. 

The point is, I know what 'genuinely emotional' looks like, and I know that most of the time, I'm not anywhere near it.

On the other hand, I'm no robot. I am motivated to act every day by love and kindness and compassion and frustration and anger and all the same things that motivate everyone else. That stuff is instinctive, most of the time, and doesn't necessarily need to pass through your language center to be real.

So I think maybe it's not that I'm not having these emotions, it's that I am not experiencing them with my conscious mind. I'm not processing them through my usual processing center. That stuff all gets handled down in the basement somewhere. No windows, leaky pipes, flickering lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. That place. I don't go there.

I'm not having the emotional experience of my emotions. But my body carries on just fine without me.

Oh man. I remember my husband saying this exact thing to me a few years ago, when he came to the same conclusion during some therapy he was doing. He had been working for a while on getting in touch with his own feelings, and one day he told me, "I've figured something out. I think I actually am having emotions, I just haven't ever known what to call them, so I couldn't identify them for what they are."

Shockingly to me now, I almost laughed at the time. I thought, Of course you're having emotions! Everyone has emotions! How could you not know that?

Um. That was my head talking. My head, as has been established, thinks it knows a few things.

If my heart had been consulted, it would have said, Wait a minute, you can know about this stuff?! How do we make that happen? Because seriously, you are an idiot when it comes to what's actually going on in here.

Despite my best efforts to the contrary, I think my heart did win that battle in a small, subtle way. If I had to name a moment that this whole journey really began, the moment I began to realize things were not as they seemed and something was wrong, somewhere, that would be the one:

The moment my husband said he'd become aware of something that had been happening all along and was only now learning the language to name it, and revealed to me that such a disconnect could exist in one seemingly self-aware, articulate brain.

He was right, that marvelous, emotionally-competent man. My fancy-talking brain may not have recognized myself in that statement, but my body sure did. And it's been endeavoring to let me know ever since.

Okay, all right, I admit it: I believe. This is happening, and I'm healing, and sure, the horse might be following the cart in some of these soaring blog posts, but like an onion being peeled, layer by layer, I'm getting there bit by bit.

See, I told you I liked a pretty bow at the end.

1 comment:

  1. "I do like an overarching message and an uplifting metaphor and a nice pretty bow on the end."  I do too!  And lo and behold, you've provided one.  I had to laugh.  

    Also *two* blog entries in a row with Walt Whitman references, ahahaha.  (Cue Count von Count's thunder and bats.)  Madam, you spoil us.  "Secondly, in these big emotional moments, I know I'm not just talking my fancy words because I have no words."  Yow.  That's pretty conclusive, all right.  What an amazing observation.  

    Your husband sounds like a treasure.  I'm glad you found each other.