Since the coronavirus shutdowns, I’ve been having a tele-session with my shrink every two weeks or so. The first time, I did it while I was cooking dinner and the kids were wandering around and the dogs were barking. That was distracting.
I’ve refined the process and now I get shrinked while sitting in the car in the driveway, chatting with the doc through my AirPods (apple’s fancy wireless earbuds), staring at the garden and touching random things in the car, or rubbing my face weirdly, my head lolling back against the headrest in a way that would be entirely inappropriate in polite company. I have to admit, I think I may prefer this to showing up at an office and sitting on a soft dust-mite-filled sofa that smells faintly of other people’s perfumes and butts and takes me to OCD code red. I also don’t have to shower for tele-health.
This week, I said to Dr. G (that’s what I’ll call him) that I feel like I have nothing real to complain about in this COVID-19 era. I hate wasting his time in these strange days. All my concerns are petty and non-existential and selfish.
I have claustrophobic panic attacks in a mask, while I shop at Whole Foods. Millions of families are starting to look at food pantries to source food for free. One out of five American kids doesn’t have access to enough food.
Some days I go crazy about my kids following me around; I just want to be alone. All around the world, people are trapped in quarantine in their homes alone, desperately lonely and in need of support.
I feel displaced from my basement desk and computer, because Anthony has necessarily taken it over for his income-generating job, and I’m displaced at the kitchen desk as well because of my kids schooling from home, and I have to wander around looking for somewhere to plop myself with my laptop, and it just makes me grumpy. Some people don’t have homes anymore, let alone a portable laptop.
I have sensory issues with my hair and it’s just driving my batty; I could sure use a haircut. My regular stylist has had no income for two months.
I desperately miss my elderly mom. I worry this pandemic won’t end until it’s too late for me to see her again. For nearly 300,000 people in this world, it’s already too late.
The only really big thing I’m coping with right now is a strong feeling of guilt.
Dr. G did The Shrink Thing: “Why do you think that is?”
Side benefit of tele-health: he didn’t see my eyes roll up in my head. Very rude. I said aloud, “I don’t know.”
We’ve been at this long enough together that Dr. G seems to know I like to go home with something to work on. He also knows I’m not lacking for ideas. When it comes to psycho babble, I’m a random idea generator.
He paused just long enough and went on. When we have strong persistent feelings, they’re usually an indicator of something else.
He paused again. I random idea generated. White guilt? Well, half-white guilt. Elite liberal guilt? Guilt as a way to avoid other feelings of fear and grief? Honest, well-deserved guilt over having so much wealth and security and not doing enough to help other people? Guilt over not being able to be in California to help my mom and a brother who just got out of the hospital? Guilt over not earning any nominal income?
He didn’t say anything and eventually I stopped generating and waited for him to explain to me what’s behind my guilt.
He said, so that would be something good to meditate on, and try to figure out what’s behind the guilty feelings.
OH FINE, thanks for NOTHING!
We went on to chat about these things, the feelings of guilt that have always nipped at my heels. Dr. G gave me the basics, of course, on the “guilty for all my riches” front: you worked hard for what you have, you don’t have to feel badly about having built a safe and secure life for yourself and your family, you don’t have to feel badly for being healthy, you don’t have to feel badly for making choices that potentially protect your mom from infection.
Yes yes, I know. But also I know that plenty of other folks have worked harder than me, they just didn’t have certain demographic advantages that made it possible for their hard work to pan out. So I really can’t pat myself on the back too much for success. There are a lot of other backs to pat too. It all feels pretty random. Yada yada.
Maybe my guilt is as petty as the petty things I feel guilty about.
Huh. I have my homework from Dr. G. I will meditate on why I feel guilty. If and when I have some answers, I might let you know.