Fear, anger, and loss walk in to a bar
As much as I believe in espousing the virtues of fearlessness, kindness, and strength when faced with adversity, there are times when I just don’t feel like it and struggle with taking my own advice on the subject.
It is time to come clean folks. Grab a beverage and get ready for a brutally honest story about what happens when authenticity, anger, and resisting emotions collide. But first, some context. For nearly five months, we have attempted to get answers about why a medical claim related to my wife’s cancer diagnosis was denied.
Dealing with insurance companies is a fact of life if you are fortunate enough be insured and unfortunate enough to get sick. Errors happen all the time that result in phone calls, waiting on hold while someone “researches” the issue, and giving the patience muscles a good workout.
Another fact of life is the four way badminton match between the insurance company, hospital billing, imaging department, and primary care physician’s office. Sigh. In the past, these would just be a few more items to add to the list of things to do today.
Not this time. The frustration with the lack of resolution reached nuclear levels. My customary business approach to handling pressing issues went out the window last week when I lost my shit on the phone with a customer service rep from the insurance company.
Yes, I was frustrated about the lack of closure and the amount of time spent dealing with the problem. As I screamed, yes, actually screamed, at her, I was angry and tired of the run around. It was not among my finest moments and a complete departure from how I behave on a daily basis.
I will spare the details of the conversation because I suffered from rage induced temporary amnesia. However, my wife did mention the call ended with an indignant “This is total crap!”
The instant the call ended, I felt it. Yes, I was angry, but my reaction and response to the insurance issue was completely out of proportion to the situation. Oh shit. The truth hit me hard and it has taken me almost a week to fully understand and absorb the lesson at hand.
Along with my scratchy throat came the realization my wife having cancer both scared the shit out of me and pissed me off. My inability to make the tumor disappear or spare her painful procedures and surgery made me feel helpless. I wanted this snippet of time in our lives to be over, done, and filed away.
Instead, of dealing with those emotions, I acted like lunatic. What was brewing underneath bubbled over and exploded like metal in a microwave.
When I shared this with my better half, thankfully she just nodded instead of calling me out on my stubbornness and telling me “I told you so.”
Being able to mourn the loss of my wife’s breasts and my step mom, which happened within 24 hours of one another, was too much for my brain to take in so I shoved it in “deal with it later” box. I hid it right behind the “be strong” and “stay busy” boxes.
The poor woman from the insurance company unknowingly walked in to my storage unit and experienced the full force of my failure to unpack and take care of my emotional and mental health boxes.
She had no clue the steam blowing from my tea kettle was a release of repressed fear, sadness, loss, and not being in control. She took one for the team and I am grateful she didn’t respond similarly. Any guilt about my behavior is more easily forgiven because in the end, I got the message. The hard way can be a great teacher.
Since my wife was diagnosed with cancer we have operated in survival mode. Living in survival mode is not intended to be a long term solution to handling life and the unexpected. This mode is filled with pitfalls and eventually evolves in to numbness and being distracted from the present moment.
When I came out, I boxed up many emotions and paid for it down the road. I honestly thought I was doing fine. Back then, I did not know I was avoiding feelings. However, in this case I was fully aware of what I was doing, and thought I could handle the delay. Days turned to weeks then months.
The belief that stuffing emotions and not feeling things as they happen works as well as an alcoholic who believes one drink won’t hurt them. There is a difference between being in survival mode and making the decision to avoid feelings when you know they are there and need attention.
Resisting the urge to feel like an idiot for willingly choosing to avoid what I knew needed addressing is difficult. In my mind it was a wise choice. My biggest support was down for the count and instead of reaching out to anyone else to help me process everything, I sabotaged myself.
Sooner or later everything we repress comes back around. The timing is up to you. Whether it is cancer, coming out, or dealing with loss, or daily nonsense, be mindful of the presence of buried emotions and fear and how it is affecting your mood, choices, and behavior.
Dealing with feelings and emotions requires vulnerability, trust, and a dash of courage. If these are not among your favorite things, you are not alone. Go there anyway. The wisdom and growth that is possible in the most out of control moments of our lives is astounding.
The Waters Chicks are still figuring out what our new normal looks and feels like since cancer came calling. Part of our continued work in progress is moving forward with a personal project we are sharing with the world.
We created a website devoted to the search for “the gay and lesbian lifestyle” and our everyday life as women, lesbians, and whatever else we may think of on any given day. Humor has always been a staple in our lives and our goal is to remind others of the healing power of laughter, authenticity, and living in the present moment.