Resentment, or, on Trains
am pretty fucked up.
New Zealand had a 2-month-long lockdown in March of 2020, and I’d just come off my antidepressants at the end of February. Since then, my life has been on an amazingly nosedive trajectory, and I have pretty much fallen apart.
I haven’t put myself back together, yet. I’m trying.
But it’s not this last year. It’s the last 3 years, since I had a back issue that kept me from going to a co-working space. It’s the past 8 years, since I burnt out so hard that I had to stop working for two months, and still haven’t fully recovered.
Almost a decade.
The last few years, this last year in particular, I’ve been dealing with a lot of resentment and anger. Anger at my mental health. Resentment at feeling isolated, at feeling like I’m initiator of the social connection with my friends, that without me there is no contact.
Feeling deeply resentful and angry and sad
when no one reaches out to me when I’m in a dark place.
I resent so much that even when people do reach out, I can’t respond. I can’t actually say the words I need to say, that I am so fucked and that I desperately need a deeper connection than pleasant trivialities.
My brain has gotten really good at telling me to look at the timestamps for text messages on my phone. To look at the weeks, months even, since I’ve been contacted by my friends.
I’ve gotten really, really good at using that to build that resentment, that miserable and horrible feeling of worthlessness that, well.
I feel worthless.
What was …
This feeds a resentment loop.
I resent my mental illnesses, my burnout, my back injury for isolating me. I resent that it gets in the way of doing the work I want to do.
I resent that when I sit down, when I have enough capacity to do something more than sit in the black fire of depression and barely hold on, that the words are gone. Every word I want to say about culture, or videogames, or media, or anything just evaporates into the cloud of seething resentment. Of misery. Of loneliness.
The only words become those words of resentment and anger, and I am left staring at my text editor, where only bile remains.
There’s four different blog posts in the Drafts folder in my editor right now, all of them trying to channel that resentment and sadness, trying to give it enough of a voice and enough airtime that maybe it’ll abate.
It hasn’t, yet.
I resent that too. I resent the resentment! I resent that this isolation that makes me so resentful as to keep me from doing anything.
I resent that I can’t tell my friends that I resent being isolated, that I resent that I don’t get contacted, that I resent being ignored. How do you say those words? How do you put it into useful words that you are so upset, so angry, so deeply hurt? How do those words become anything but guilt that I would say those things, guilt at the hurt that my words have caused?
So I bury it, I catch the rage in my teeth and I don’t say the cutting, vicious words that would make me feel so much better for that one, beautiful, splendid, scintillatingly disastrous moment.
I sit down to write. And the only thing left in me to say is resentment.
One of the issues I’ve been working on over the last decade is emotional regulation. It’s easy for emotions to get away from me, especially anger at perceived slights, to the point where I would lash out extremely, disproportionately hard as a result.
I don’t like being that sort of person, it tends to make my relationships very push-pull, filled with an “I hate you DON’T LEAVE ME” dynamic, which has historically made people around me … cautious. Reserved.
So I’ve been working on it in therapy.
I’ve found that I work best with metaphors, when doing the metacognitive work of learning from therapy, and the metaphor that my therapist has given me to work on emotional regulation is a train.
Yes, a train. Stay with me.
See, every day, I’m standing on a platform.
My emotions can be thought of as trains coming into the station, pulling up to the platform I’m standing on. Opening their doors. Inviting me in with plush seating.
I can’t control when the trains pull in to the station. I can’t control that they do pull into the station. I can’t control that I’m standing on the platform.
The trains will pull in regardless of my desires.
But I don’t have to get on the train. I can, instead, choose to acknowledge that the train has arrived and, through that acknowledgement, allow it to pass by without carrying me into an emotional feedback loop that so often ends in chaos and destruction.
If I can notice that I’ve gotten onto a train, I can choose to get off at the next stop, and let the emotions pass on.
I find this a really powerful metaphor, it beautifully encapsulates everything about emotions that’s important - I can’t stop them, they happen regardless of my desires, and they can totally carry me away - but tells me how to exert some agency over what’s going on. It gives me agency.
My emotions are real, valid, and unstoppable. They will happen. I can’t control that.
But I can control how I respond to what I feel, and that response isn’t “bury the feeling until it explodes out of you.”
… Will be …
I’m trying to write this piece shortly after I’ve noticed that I live in this resentment loop, trying to talk through how resentful and angry and sad I am in therapy. Trying to find ways of dealing with these feelings that aren’t being a sobbing mess.
I’m trying to write this when it’s still close and raw, acknowledge the reality of the train of resentment being so inviting and welcoming and overwhelmingly loud.
I resent how much my mental illness impacts my ability to be successful. I resent how much my ADHD gets in the way of executive function.
I look at the ruins of my life and I feel so much shame, ashamed that I’ve fucked up so hard, that I need so much support, that I am so helpless. I feel ashamed that I suck at doing a business, that I can’t write words that matter anymore, that quite often I can barely do more than play videogames all day.
I feel so much regret, that I’m nearly 40 and I have done so very little, shame that I had so much potential and could have done so much.
So we talked about metaphors for that. We talked about trains.
And we flipped the idea around.
Success, we talked about, was a train, a train that I want to be on. A train, even, that I’m already on.12
We talked about regret and shame and resentment as train stations. They’re stops that this train I’m on, this train that could go towards Success will stop at.
I can’t stop that. I can’t change that the train will stop at Resentment City or Guilt Valley or Shame Beach. It will. It has. It has, and I got off the train and now I’m in Resentment City and I bought a lifetime subscription to Guilt: A Magazine for Self-Hatred.
I keep getting off the damn train.
Acknowledging that is … hard. Not in the sense that I’ve chosen to abandon a path towards success (again, definitions will vary) but in that I have a choice over how I responded.
It’s hard to look at being mired in resentment and having to look at my own agency at getting out of resentment, that I can choose to get back on my train to somewhere else. It’s hard to look at or acknowledge how comfortable and familiar the shame and resentment and guilt are, that I am willing to endure this because it feels so …
Of course, this is its own loop. I feel worthless, like I deserve to be marginalised and isolated, so I feel like I have to be here, so I get resentful of being worthless,
and so on
and so forth.
I resent being afraid of leaving.
… what was.
I’m pretty fucked up. My life is pretty fucked up.
I’m ashamed of that, ashamed of how little I’ve done and how small I feel. I resent how big I used to feel, how meaningful, since it makes how small I am now feel so much worse.
I don’t want to feel that anymore … but I can’t control that. I’m going to feel it no matter what. My train is going to pull in to the station marked “Shame” and it’s going to look
that I’m going to walk off the train and straight into all my regrets and wishes and what-could-have-beens and I’ll just … stay in this loop. Go around, all over again.
But I don’t have to stay here. I can’t control that I feel this way, but I can control if I acknowledge it and let it pass by. I can control how I react. I can control that much.
I don’t entirely know how to get out of here, yet. The newest antidepressants seem to be working well and the depression seems, for now at least, to be abating.
I’m sad and resentful and miserable and very, very lonely. I’m fucked up.
I’m finding tools to help. I’m acknowledging it. I’m …
… hoping …
that things are getting better.
Let’s just ignore the socio-economic and intersectional oppression and the falsehood of the idea that “hard work” will ever equal “success” in the current apocalyptic cyberpunk dystopia we’re all trapped in, since I need this metaphor to be useful↩︎
besides, we get to define “success” however we like, we’re not compelled to use capitalist mentalities around what “success” is↩︎