Thursday, March 24, 2016

Day 2,020: Rage Against the Dying of the Light

I never wanted to go gently into that good night. I see eye to eye with Dylan Thomas on that one. But at least, for as long as I could remember, I wanted to rage about something other than simple rage. I wanted to write about something, feel something, do something.

I haven't wanted to write this blog post. I haven't wanted to write any blog post. In fact, I haven't wanted to do much of anything. I don't know how long I've felt this way. Since early this year? My whole life? Now don't get me wrong. I do a lot of things. I get a lot of things done. I have done a lot of things in the midst of circumstances that astound even me, even now.

But I used to have more love for it. I used to have more heart.

I started to realize a vague sense of something at some point this winter. Every day when I woke up, as I said in my last post, I looked forward to going to sleep at night. That's been true for me for the entirety of my life--the fact of living was enough for me; I've always been easily satisfied, content. But this was different. I had lost interest in almost everything that happened in the course of my day--everything that had given me joy: working out; eating; cooking; working; sex; writing. And, of course, I was angry.

I said it before--I've always been angry. It's part of who I am. But this anger has been different. Instead of using it to defend myself and others, instead of it pushing me to accomplish things, to make things different, it was consuming me. It is consuming me. I just didn't see it, because I wasn't getting angry AT anyone, I wasn't doing anything crazy, I was still mothering and wifing and friending and working fairly well. But something has been off, and I knew it, but I didn't know what it was. And then, I read an article about depression in men, and how it often manifests itself as anger, and so doesn't look like depression.

That's me, I thought. Me! The woman whose negative emotions have always expressed as anger was learning what depression looked like for her. Other people, other women, might cry or get their feelings hurt or feel sad or emotional but I rarely feel those things. I stopped crying at some point in my life and I never really looked back. It's not good or bad, it's just how I am. I get angry. And then, my anger passes, and it passes quickly, and I'm me again.

Until now. Until cancer, I suppose, and cancer again, and everything that's happened. I didn't want to write this because no one wants to read this, not even me. Cancer is supposed to leave you feeling like a bad-ass, and though I've written here for years about the flaws in that theory, it's still the accepted practice. I always figured I could be depressed, but if I was depressed because of cancer, I was weak, or somehow doing this wrong.

It's possible that my depression isn't because of cancer. Who knows. I'm not sure it matters. When my son asked to go back to the therapist he saw when he was 4 and I was going through chemo, we were surprised. He didn't say he had any specific reason to want to talk to her, but we said fine, and have been sending him. And apparently he goes, and plays drums and talks about his unresolved anger and, of course, about death. Augie is more open about death than anyone I know. How many ways are there to die, mom? When bad people are in charge, people die, don't they? It feels the same to be six as it does to be 5 but I'm sure it feels different than being dead. In Star Wars, when all those planets blew up, man, I bet there are a lot of people who were glad they were already dead when that happened.

Me too, babe, me too. Who would want to live knowing that was coming? I get him.

So when Augie asked to go to therapy, I thought maybe I should give it a try. I've only done therapy a few times, including once after my car accident when I was 9 (it didn't help), and some couples therapy when we were first married. I didn't know what to expect. I know what my problem is, I just don't know what to do about it: I feel uninterested in everything, I'm angry all the time, too much shit has happened, I've started to not even want to talk to people I do like, I don't feel joy in writing anymore, I'm restless, I still have to do everything in the normal way anyway, oh, and I still have a 1 in 3 chance of dying young, and chemobrain took from me some of who I thought I was.

What could the therapist do for me?

Well, a lot, it turns out. And not because she offered any solutions. But she seems to see me as a person who needs a project, a big thing to work on and do, and she didn't suggest I change. She has helped me see things differently. When I explained that my negative emotions always express as anger, and that I rarely cry, she asked me how I feel when I do cry. That was interesting. I said that I rarely do it, but sometimes I cry, and I really want to just cry like other people do and let it all out, but the tears just stop after about 60 seconds. They actually dry up. Gabe has seen me cry, and he always asks afterwards "is that it? are you done?" I can't change that. I told her that it makes me feel unsatisfied, that the release I wanted wasn't there, that I envy people who can sob and weep. It's like a lot of things with me--I feel like I'm a fine person, I don't feel that I am inherently flawed or unworthy or anything, but I also feel like there's a bunch of things people do that I missed the training class on, like crying and flirting and caring how people view me and being calm and patient. I was ditching class the day they taught those things.

I have been frustrated at my own frustration. I have wanted to rant about the world and about life but I haven't written those rants because even I don't want to read that. I've felt...stuck. I've also felt unable to tell anyone else how I feel, because it isn't the message anyone wants to hear from a woman who has been lucky enough to survive all the different things I've survived. I've always been content with life because I was happy to still be living it. I used my anger to fight injustice and to be productive and to try to make the world a better place because I never believed in fate, or accidents, and I believe that injustice exists, and while we can't help some of it, we can help the rest. I don't work well with the idea that we need to have "dialogue" or cordial exchanges with people who threaten other people's well-being; I believe in the rage brought about by seeing a woman openly heil Hitler at a rally in my hometown for a man who might become President of this country. I believe she isn't welcome here, and she shouldn't be, and I believe in the anger that makes me believe that.

But still, here I am...stuck, somewhat joyless, ambivalent, quiet, waiting for the sun to go down.

I still do the things I need to do. For example, I went with the family to my daughter's volleyball playoffs. They lost. She was upset for a minute that she didn't get to play much, but she wasn't upset that they lost. She tried to make her friend feel better, because she was crying over the game. We hung out for a while afterwards to give the coaches the gifts and cards I had coordinated. Augie was tired and restless. He was angry about something, so he started to slam his body against the pads on the brick wall. He clenched his fists and his face turned red and he pounded his body against the wall like a cartoon version of himself. I looked at him and thought about his outburst of anger the night before, over his common core math homework that for a change he didn't understand (he loves common core math) and that I, in fact, did understand. I told him what he was supposed to do and he got furious. He started yelling and I walked away from him, laughing, telling him he was ridiculous and that he had to go to his room and never speak to me like that. He stomped his feet and I could picture the little clenched fists. He got quiet eventually in his room. Later, he came downstairs and laughed, sheepishly telling me I was right, and he had done the homework the way I suggested. He laughed at himself. He did the same thing at the gym after I glared at him for fighting the wall.

That's it.

I need to learn to do what my 6 year old son already knows how to do. We don't tell him not to be angry, but rather how to manage it, how to let it go, how to direct it, how to not let it get him in trouble. I need that. I need a wall to hurl myself into, I need to just unleash it and let it go, and I've forgotten how to do that, or maybe I never really knew, because my anger wasn't ever like it is now. I've always been like my daughter, silent in my thoughts and feelings when they got too hard, handling everything myself, carrying that weight. I don't want her to feel like I do, though I do want her to learn to use anger.

I'm a highly functioning person. A lot of shit has happened to me, even before cancer. I've kept it together and I don't intend to stop. But I'm depressed, and I'm angry, enraged even, and I can see it now, and I need to work on a solution.

I think I might need to take up boxing.

That's it, folks, that's all I've got. Some words and a notion to rage. Wish me luck!


  1. *Yay* Not *yay* that you're depressed, but that you've found someone to help who seems like she can help. Holy smokes, lady, hang in there. This is gonna get so much better.

  2. I commented on a couple of prior blogs, encouraging you to continue to write because you are a good writer and I would love to see a book (about anything.) And as a fellow traveler BC person, and as a person who also experiences anger, not tears, as a reaction to the to the crappiness of the miserable BC thing, I totally get where you are. I am not triple neg, but am super HER2+++++ and a good bit older than you (and I declined chemo and Herceptin.) So I know a thing or two about living on the edge and totally understand your reality right now-which is a weird space between still trying to give a damn about living while reconciling yourself to not being here. But you are here, and I feel you are going to be here for a long time. See the shrink, do whatever you need to do to ground you in the here and now. You have a lot more to say, and I sincerely want you to keep yourself in the here and now by whatever means necessary.