The Feeling After The Feeling

Anger isn't the end of the process. Allegedly.

When I titled my previous post The Anger Inside, I thought to myself, “What a shitty title”. Which is, you know, par for the course. I published it anyway. My consistent inability to come up with a decent title never stopped me. Not yet anyway. It’s an important part of the end product, but it’s not THE important part, not for me. Still, despite its shittiness, the title ended up being prescient. A few days after I wrote that post, my therapist described depression as “anger at the world turned inward onto the self”, and well, that made me angrier. Especially since I was, and am, so depressed. So I tried doing something I hated. Again. I allowed myself to feel my feelings. AGAIN.

I talk about my feelings so often. I write about them, I get interviewed about them, I read about them, but those are usually all the ways I go about not actually feeling them. I’m so good at convincing myself that engaging with the idea of my feelings is the same as sitting with them. It’s not. It’s just the only way I’ve learned to do it. But the old way isn’t working the way it used to. For the last two weeks, outside of my obligations to be physically present, I just…sat with myself a lot. When I got frustrated with the symptoms of my depression, my spouse, my dog, my work, or whatever else sprung up around me, I told myself, “Let yourself feel it. It won’t hurt them. But holding it in will hurt you.” It helped ease some of the darkness I felt shrouded in for weeks. Not immediately, but over days and then weeks of practice. I’m still practicing.

Then I stopped smoking cigarettes. Again. In a matter of hours, what used to make me frustrated or irritated, made me so mad I couldn’t see straight. I’d been trying to write an essay for two hours that absolutely wasn’t working, so I figured I needed a break before I casually tossed my laptop into traffic. I moved on to edit a transcript for a different project, and found I’d sent the wrong recording to be transcribed, and was looking at twelve single-spaced pages of a conversation I couldn’t use. I started to shake. Talking with myself stopped working at that point, so I don’t even try. I just sat and breathed, feeling like a stick of dynamite with a short fuse was taped to my back.

Instead of immediately looking to soothe my anger, I went to my office, closed the door and screamed. I threw things at the wall, ripped pages out of an old notebook, and screamed and screamed. It felt terrible and amazing. Then I stopped. I was afraid. I was tired. It felt wonderful to let my outsides match the intensity of my insides. I didn’t grow up in the kind of home where you could lose yourself for a moment and not pay for it in pain. I knew I was alone. Kel left for a bow hunting trip the same day. But I couldn’t help imagining someone around the corner, someone on the other side of my locked office door waiting to punish me for daring to be mad out loud. For screaming when I needed to scream.

I was quiet for an hour before I unlocked the door. It took me that long to feel safe with my own anger in my own home, and as it turns out, that made me angry as well. All over again. How had I become an adult who cowered in her office waiting to be struck down for the sin of emoting? I know how. I won’t pretend not to know. Still, sometimes I ask myself the question like I might get an answer that won’t make me feel so damn mad. So betrayed and insecure about my worthiness. I don’t think that’s going to change. But I’m pretty sure if I keep screaming, writing, and talking, it will temper the hot stab of anger I have about all the ways I’ve felt helpless. At the very least, it won’t be the blade I drive into my own chest anymore. That would be enough for me. To get the feeling after the feeling instead of weaponizing my pain against myself.

Yes, I am still depressed, and figuring out how to work through it and show up exactly as I am. I get a little closer every day, slowly convincing myself my best is enough. Even when it comes with a shitty title.

Thank you for being with me here, and being with me now.

Ashley