I walked out of the book filled room and soft furnishings, blinking in the rare, bright sunshine with a lightness I hadn’t felt in a long time.
It was my last session of counselling and a chance to reflect and see whether we had achieved what we set out to do together over the last 6 sessions.
The sessions had come about once I was able to admit there was something wrong and I hadn’t been coping as well as I thought. It took some gentle prods from my wife and self reflection before I was able to see that I needed some help to deal with emotional triggers, taming the chaos in my head and my anger.
Identifying and tackling triggers
This was tricky. The obvious ones I know all ready. The flippant use of twins as if it would be the worst thing in the world, the phrase everything happens for a reason and such are easy ones. What’s more interesting is why other events and encounters push the button marked *FOOM*.
What I’ve been trying to do is an assessment of whether these things are worth my psychic energy and generally, no. If there is no chance of changing someone’s mind about your character or motivations or basic right to exist then nothing is solved by trying to convince them otherwise. Smile sweetly, present the smallest possible target and wait for them to drift way like an angry cloud.
There are other triggers though which come from deeper hurts. The ones that remind me that the past is never far away. It can come from the most unexpected place. It’s out there and it’s going to get you.
These are harder to deal with as these are the wounds that will never heal. The unresolved matters promising only further painful revelations and ever shifting history and shattered memories.
For all the best will in the world 6 sessions or 6000 sessions will never be enough to make peace with that constant war.
Handling the overwhelming rush of emotion
Regular readers will know (because I keep telling them) how this blog was intended to be a way of getting all the chaos out of my head. To a certain extent it is still is.
Early drafts of posts are often closer to stream of consciousness or automatic writing. I then go over it with a clearer, cleaner mind and start editing out fluff, purple and tortured metaphors and try and give it structure, order and flow.
Sometimes it’s all too much and the other option is to practice some mindfulness techniques. I had reservations but thanks to @bipolarblogger’s post and the free app Headspace I gave it a go. I was pleasantly surprised to find the first session effective at tempering that weird murderous apathy that comes with a daily commute.
Taking 10 minutes to still a racing mind and allow it to float like a balloon and then gently tug the string to bring it back was unexpectedly soothing. Also helps me get back to sleep after night feeds and vivid creeping nightmares.
Dealing with anger
We didn’t go into this in depth but touched upon being angry and the fear of openly expressing it.
The danger is by not finding a healthy outlet that it leaks out in unexpected ways or finds its expression in hateful passive aggression or worse depression where the rage turns inward.
Anger and depression are reflective of each other. Anger is a furious hurricane capable of destroying all in its path and leaving behind only wreckage and dust. Depression is quicksand pulling everything under its deceptive flatness into an inescapable abyss.
Of the two only the first can be harnessed for good. Depression produces nothing good. By its nature makes its home in a bleak wasteland where nothing grows, a merciless, pitiless non-existence. It doesn’t produce art or action, its brutal numbness smothers creativity.
Anger can be translated into action. Sometimes destruction is needed to wipe away the old structures that confine and allow something new, something better to be built.
It was anger that pushed me to do more in our boys’ memory and take a more active role in pushing for change and offering support.
It’s anger that made me attend consultation events making sure my voice was heard so that parents could be spared the agony of a preventable loss.
It’s anger that millions of babies are dying each year and effective prevention is strangled by a misguided belief that preventable deaths are inevitable. It’s anger that cultural stigma works against the bereaved leaving them lonely, isolated and belittled.
Time to Talk
By making use of the counselling and blogging I’ve come to understand more about my motivations and thought processes and how to work with them rather than fighting them.
I think of myself as a pragmatist but it’s hugely unrealistic to expect that there is one job that will fill all my needs. Thinking that there was made me frustrated and miserable.
By using this blog to let my creative side play and in doing so contribute to campaigning for preventing stillbirths, better maternity care and bereavement support I can achieve what I can’t in my current role.
Through bereavement befriending I can directly help others to talk about their experiences and emotions to provide reassurance and support.
Counselling can seem like a soft option or a sticking plaster but by going for it and doing the homework I feel better and have a clearer idea of what I need to do now and how to handle the dips when they happen (and they will happen).