Thursday, May 3, 2007

Allowed to Feel

Creep update (see yesterday's post) : My friend is fine-ish. She has no broken bones only a lot of bruising. She was unpacking her suitcase when I called. She had been on the phone with the insurance company all afternoon. The car was totaled. They had to use the jaws of life to extract her. The appraiser kept saying it was a miracle she was alive. It was. I am grateful to God for sparing her. Amen.

What does "allowed to feel" mean? (With thanks to Debra) I have been puzzling about this for a couple of days. Seems very important. Also feels very connected to yesterdays creepiness. Allowed to feel what? Allowed by whom? These are the main queries I separated from the confusion this phrase evokes.

What is it I am allowed to feel? Nothing. In ruminating over this statement I realized I believe I am allowed to feel nothing. Poor dumb girl. How sad for me. It has taken me fifty years to recognize this erroneous, soul sapping belief. (But better late than never. Thanks Debra.) I believe normal is feeling nothing. I know I eat to stop the pain of feeling, but I also believe in my heart of hearts that I should not feel pain. Good heavens. You know the only people who feel no pain? Dead people.

I have rules about feeling. I can feel only at appropriate places and times. And I have to feel only the emotions I deem appropriate for the place and time, i.e. sadness at funerals. I was a hospice nurse for a number of years. I went to a lot of funerals. Toward the end of my death and dying tenure I was getting hysterical at the funerals. I laughed. I began giggling with the eulogy and was guffawing by the time they wheeled the casket out. Makes me laugh as I am writing this. I just this moment see this for the defense mechanism it was. I have been ashamed of my inappropriate responses. I should have felt sad. Instead I felt like Shecky Greene. I believe that daily life should be emotionless. A feeling of unruffled contentment is permitted the "good" Christian, but otherwise nothing. I have seen myself as a failure because I get emotional over the price of zucchini. I expect myself to mostly have no emotions. I see any "non-appropriate" emotion as out of control. I have hated my emotions because I could not seem to control them. Of course I can't control the onset of emotion. Like trying to control my digestive system. But I can control how I will react to the emotion. I do not have to sob in the produce isle. But I can if I want to.

What does all this have to do with yesterday? I felt the wrong emotion. I should have felt anxiety and compassion. What I actually felt was irritation. I am sick. I have been sick for a week. Not a nice clean illness like a cold or the flu. I am having a grand mal herpes attack. Fever, nausea, open lesions, the whole nine yards. We also may have to move again. Mark may be being transferred to the main office. I do not want to move. I volunteered to host the first of the revolving dinners for the church. I have to do "company" cleaning. I love Penny but I did not want to drive a million miles and then take care of someone. So I was irritated. And I should have felt compassion. Then I felt guilty. (Guilt is the one emotion I seem to permit myself at all times and places.)

I now feel tired. I no longer feel guilty. Penny is okay and with God and Zovirax I soon will be too. Feeling is normal and I can choose how I will react to what I feel. A great lesson learned. Stay tuned for how I got to be emotionless. A bunch of "non-allowers" in my past.

Take care of your emotional selves. Love Bea


Debra said...

So much here, Bea. First, I'm very glad your friend is in the kind of shape that permits you to stay home and take care of yourself.

I think a lot of us have chosen to feel nothing -- I know I have. Much better than the seething cauldron of feelings I actually have, or so I thought. Unfortunately, the seething caldron doesn't actually go away just because I refuse to acknowledge it.

Instead, it surfaces as the drive to eat. Instead, it manifests itself as neurotic guilt. Instead, I have false feelings and I get further and further away from myself.

I do indeed become as a dead person, especially to myself.

My understanding of Christianity is a bit different than yours as well. I believe that Christians are free to feel whatever they feel; they are just not free to act it all out.

Unacceptable feelings cannot be rejected without the whole self going with it -- the baby self of who you really are going out with the bathwater of false guilt over what comes naturally.

I think what you should have felt yesterday was irritation -- it is what you did feel. In allowing the irritation to be felt, I believe you would have quickly also felt the compassion you condemn yourself for not having.

Feelings don't usually exist by themselves, but come in a blend. Your particular cocktail yesterday was irritation, anxiety, compassion and frustration.

It happens.

I'm glad you're letting yourself go there. I think you'll really like the person you find -- we can all see her in your writing. She's wonderful.

Cindy174 said...

I really had to laugh out loud at the Shecky Greene part and I do not even know who Shecky is but I am googling Shecky after this comment. I think irritation is a natural response, especially when we are overwhelmed and I think I would have been overwhelmed in your situation. Not all of us would want to admit it, either. Here is a little ugly secret about me- sometimes I get irritated when the kids get sick, and sometimes when they get hurt, I have to try really hard not to let them know, because I don't want to make them feel worse, or guilty about being sick, etc., but sometimes it is just that one more thing to take care of and the stress pushes me to irritation, instead of the soothing, compassionate response. It is not that I am not compassionate or that I don't care, I am just overwhelmed by it all. As I read your post I realized, that you needed to be taken care of, yourself. So I hope you are taking care of yourself today. The whole feeling thing is really an oddessy.

Vickie said...

glad your friend is doing pretty well. hope that you are better soon too.

BigAssBelle said...

I felt the wrong emotion. I should have felt anxiety and compassion.. . . Bea, I think you felt what you needed to feel. It was real for you ~ the body-mind-spirit's effort to tell you that you had nothing to give, despite the needs of another.

It's okay to have nothing to give. It's not a usual state for any woman and it's certainly not a usual or generally acceptable state for women with eating issues, because we have to give and give and give to earn our place in this world.

I am really trying to listen to what I'm feeling in my heart, my body, what I'm thinking. This is incredibly difficult because I have told myself I was done with all that. Felt it, moved past it, it's over.

What I'm realizing is that I felt through the great big deals in therapy, it's true. But life is about feeling and sometimes those are good and sometimes they're bad.

I have NEVER paid attention to what I am feeling and then acted upon it. I have spent a lifetime acting in response to others demands or feelings or my perception of their feelings or what they need (a real killer and a behavior which can keep a woman very busy).

Your friend was in a bad spot. So were you. Who assigns precedence to these things? I know that when I assign precedence, it's everyone else first, me never.

That way lies emotional exhaustion, abandonment of self, compulsive eating, addiction, depression and despair.

I hope you are soon feeling better. That Zovirax really worked on my shingles, but all of those wretched herpes viruses are miserable. hugs.

jen said...

It sounds like you're learning a lot about yourself. And I imagine that if you had given yourself full permission to feel irritation and been kind to yourself about it, compassion would have been just underneath it.

When I found out recently that my mother's uncle died, at first I didn't feel much. I thought only that it was probably for the best. I didn't try to force myself to feel grief that wasn't there. It was only at the mortuary and at his funeral the next day that I remembered the man he had been when I was a child, and not the sadder and faded version that had come along after his wife died, that I remembered how wonderful he was and felt, not grief, but a deep respect for who he was and the loss to the world that this very decent man was no longer in it. I also felt a lot for his family and felt a lot of connection with everyone there. But at first, I had felt not much of anything. Sometimes it takes time to get through the layers of things.

Glad your friend is OK.

daisyk said...

The part of Augusten Burroughs's DRY that I love the most is when he comes out of alcoholism rehab with a sheet of emotions on it: sadness, boredome, anger, anxiety, hilarity, etc. He's told to take it with him everywhere so that when he feels something he can cross-reference it on the list.

Many of Us need such a sheet. I have a physical response to most events L-O-N-G before I find the word for the emotional response. & without food, some situations are simply impossible for me to cope with at all. I either shut down, cancel, or eat.

You did neither, Bea, & I congratulate you on that. You were much closer to your emotional response than you gave yourself credit for.

Cindy174 said...

Well that does it, Now I really want to read this Augusten Borroughs who I keep hearing about lately. MY daughter and I had the tee shirts with the faces and the feelings underneath. I also have the sheet. I hope you are having a great weekend.

jen said...


I recommend that you start with Dry first and then move on to Running With Scissors if you like it. I liked Dry the best of the books I've read, though I also like listening to Magical Thinking on Audio CD in my car.

Big Ass Belle said...

i have half a dozen copies of that sheet of emotions my own self. they've been handed to me by every group therapist, every shrink, every psychologist i've ever been to. always in response to my complaint that i don't know what i am feeling, i don't have any feelings, they're just not there.