Embracing ugly feelings

Living with the cold of the soul

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  • Published 20210428
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-59-7
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

THE FIRST TIME I was hospitalised, my mother visited me in the dank psychiatric ward bearing a three-tiered lacquer bento box packed with handmade delicacies. I told her I couldn’t eat. She began to sob, and in between wet gulps, confessed that my severe depression was her fault – the cause must be the frequent soap enemas she had inflicted on me as a baby, she explained. I began to cry then too. We hugged each other. We might even have shared a subversive giggle. Later that day, I informed the psychiatrist that I’d had a cathartic breakthrough, hoping that he’d release me from the horror of the locked ward, its floors reeking of spilt urine, the walls stained with other people’s anguish.

My mother knows nothing about Freud’s stages of psychosexual development. And far from a breakthrough, I’d merely experienced extreme emotional exhaustion masquerading as catharsis. The truth is, I was desperate for the doctor to see through my well-honed ability to neatly package up my despair, like a bento. I wanted him to see me, with all of my messy, dark, ugly feelings.

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