“So you’re not writing at all about this wedding and your feelings about it?” My therapist looks at me like I’ve just admitted to stopping all sustenance in an attempt at passive suicide.
“Well… no. I haven’t really wanted to think about it. I mean, it’s going to happen, and it’s probably going to be really hard for me, so why would I torture myself in the weeks leading up to it by thinking about how hard it’s going to be?”
She cocks her head and makes her ‘I understand your point but I also disagree with it’ face. “So you’re avoiding the issue, and you’re not writing about it. For creative people, whatever they do with their creativity – painting, writing, singing – is usually an outlet for things in their lives that they find challenging. So if you’re not thinking or talking about the wedding, and you’re also not writing about it, it’s like you’re doubly avoiding the subject.”
I agree, with a defensive ‘so?’ tone to my voice. As far as I’m concerned, the avoidance is still a good thing. My sister is getting married in two weeks to her partner of nearly 20 years. They have two kids together and after plenty of ups and downs seem to have leveled out to a lovely family life; in theory I’m happy for all of them, and I adore my niece and nephew, but in practice the wedding is like a perfect storm of all the worst emotional triggers in my own life. Every time I hear a detail the party sounds more and more like the one I was planning and never saw come to fruition, down to the rehearsal dinner being catered by my own wedding caterer (this is due more to circumstances and similar tastes between my sister and me than it is to intentional cruelty on her part, but it’s still hard for me); I’ll be watching a happy couple tell each other how in love and supportive they are, while their adorable children look on and I think of nothing but the person I was writing my own vows for; I’ll be surrounded by my whole family, among whom I feel very uncomfortable and on edge now that their insidious gossipy nature has truly come to light; and I’ll be doing all this alone, without the partner who stood by me through so much of the recent years’ family drama, and without even another single person to buddy up with. In fact the people I’m most likely to hang with, my brother and his girlfriend, are part of the most lovey couple I know. So yeah, I’m feeling pretty fucking anxious, and I don’t really want to think about it.
“But if you avoid thinking about it altogether, you also avoid working through your feelings, and possibly making a plan for dealing with the pain – other than getting very drunk, which I still think is not the solution I would recommend.”
I nod. I figured she wouldn’t support my idea of getting so blotto that I might be able to black out the whole day. To be fair, I don’t really support it either, just because my body hates me when I booze too hard, but it seemed like the only way to get through a weekend that’s looking like my idea of hell. Even if writing about it would help me formulate a plan for dealing with the wedding madness (which I’m not even convinced it would), it sounds like a lot of extra effort in the time leading up to a shitty weekend I’m just going to have to live through anyway.
Finally, I admit that I’ve been feeling really depressed lately, and while I know that writing is a sort of catharsis for me and a way to work through difficult emotions, I also often avoid it when I feel this way. “I’m so sick of feeling like everything I write is depressing. Sometimes I just figure if I can’t put a positive spin on it, then I shouldn’t put it down in words at all. Nobody wants to know about my pain unless I’m learning something useful from it, and this time it’s literally just anxiety and sadness and more anxiety…” I feel my voice tighten and the tears start to well up as the truth she was getting at comes pouring out of my mouth. Crap. Always at the end of the session when I need to go back out into the world and look normal.
My therapist eyes me as I try to sniff back the emotions I don’t feel I have adequate time to purge. Then she says, in her quiet, succinct way: “But what if those sadder pieces of writing can help someone feel less alone in whatever they’re going through?”
And then I know I have to write about the wedding, just like I write about everything that truly hurts. Sometimes I write through the pain because that’s the only way I can see to deal with it, like a sort of emotional bloodletting, and sometimes I do it out of some hope that it might help someone else in a similar situation, the way so many blog posts from writers all over the world have helped me at times. But I always write it out in the end – if I don’t, I never deal with it, which means it only gets shoved deeper down inside me and gloms on to other ignored hurts, and eventually these nasty, gummy, unidentifiable balls of pain surface in ways that are much harder to understand and work through.
I have a lot of painful writing ahead of me; some of it will even require going back over emails and texts that had a hand in blowing apart my life, and will likely bring to the surface a lot of gluey meatballs of pain. But somewhere in all the hurt there are lessons, and I aim to find them, and hopefully provide solace for others at the same time.
And starting in September, for a few months at least, there’s always tiramisu and pizza and perfect cappuccinos to help me recover.
PS Sometimes I wonder if my therapist will become a huge secondary character in this next book. I’m thinking probably… I should check with her on pseudonyms etc.