I’m home from writing group and really wired. I’m both enjoying the activities I’ve set in motion since December, and being stressed out by them in equal measure. In the writing group, it’s hard to know how to critique someone’s piece, and I have trouble remaining as calm as I’d like while doing so. Argh….There is just a lot going on. It’s a social type occasion, at least, we’re interacting with each other, then there are all my feelings and opinions about writing, then there is the fact that something I wrote was read and discussed, which taps into feelings I have about both performing well and also about the subject of my piece, which is always a bit personal. Then I disagree with some of the critiques (not so much about my own piece, but about others), but need to of course give them space and not intrude with my own views until it’s my turn…..The whole situation is complex and difficult. But also stimulating and interesting, and I seem to have made one new and excellent friend there, so that’s exciting.

I want to practice being calm in social situations, so I need to try to develop that in less fraught situations I think. I’ll see.

My choir has two concerts, one past and one upcoming tomorrow, both for charity. Stressful. I haven’t managed to learn the pieces perfectly unfortunately. It’s not totally easy, as I sing a harmony part, and we have to memorize everything. However, it’s maybe a lesson that imperfection is still worthwhile. I sing most of it, act calm, if I don’t remember something I just mouth some words until I remember. I’m proud of myself for persevering.

I don’t know how I’d be doing all this if I were working, but as I’m not, this is very good for me.

I did go back to therapy a week and a half ago. We discussed my problems with Ron’s approach. Then we spoke a bit about a birthday party my brother had and my feelings about that.

I don’t know what to say. By about half way through the session, I no longer felt like I wanted to quit. It’s just difficult to know how to act with feelings so very changeable.

Ron did ask me for my feelings about him….and I did start the session very angry, feeling he wasn’t understanding me or my issues. Maybe because he’s so accepting….I don’t know, before I knew it, I wanted to tell him about my life and the anger had dissipated. I think I did switch to a more vulnerable childish part for the second part of the session.

I think this is the wonderful world of dissociation. Huge feelings appear, and then they recede again, leaving me on the shore wondering where that storm went that seemed so life threatening just minutes ago.

We agreed to meet again in two weeks, because I didn’t want a therapy aftermath to deal with when I had to perform in a concert the next day. So I go back this Thursday again.

I had a massive therapy hangover. I was so depressed I couldn’t function at all for a couple of days after the session. Then I was still depressed for a week, until this weekend basically. It’s very hard to figure out what happens to me to cause this. I know it’s not Ron who causes it. We didn’t talk about trauma. We talked about my brother’s party, which upset me because it involved my family, and I felt my brother felt ashamed of me.  But I knew all that. There were no revelations.

The depression must be some kind of emotional flashback. I suppose with dissociation, I didn’t feel things as a child, instead I tucked them away, to emerge later, unprocessed. Somehow, therapy, or my relationship with Ron, is dislodging this pain and it’s just incapacitating me. It’s just a lot of pain.

I emailed Ron about this and he wrote that he wondered if the fact that I was alone with the feelings made them incapacitating. Which maybe is the case. I do wonder sometimes if I had someone to tell and who could be in some way helpful – i.e., accepting and not freaked out, someone who didn’t run and who believed I was a good person throughout. That would likely help me to move through the feelings. But I don’t have that, the same as lots of other people. I do have to get myself into some kind of better space before interacting with people.

He also said the trigger must be complex, because we haven’t been able to figure out what it is. What can I say. I wish he had an answer but I guess he doesn’t.

I do avoid a fair amount in order to manage my emotional responses. So maybe I’d have this reaction more if I did more in my life? I’d have other triggers?

One thing, with the depression came a new ability to sleep. I slept relatively well the whole time I was depressed. And I had no anxiety whatsoever, as opposed to my regular state, where I have a lot of anxiety. But, I couldn’t really function. I missed the choir dress rehearsal, which was almost a week after the session, because I was too depressed to be able to organize myself to get dressed and get there, plus I was concerned I’d start crying instead of singing. However, every day was a bit better than the last, so the next day, I got myself to the concert and it was OK.

Now I feel back to normal, which is a mix of feeling OK, anxiety, sadness…..But I can now do what I set out to do. What a relief. It is a bit frightening to be unable to do what I usually can do. It’s like suddenly being unable to walk, or to see. Suddenly disabled and not able to account for this.

I feel a mix of trepidation and interest about going back to therapy. I don’t want to get triggered like this again. But since I don’t know what it was that triggered me, it’s hard to manage that. If I am going to feel that awful, I want to feel some of it with Ron there so he can help me with it. I don’t feel like quitting. I’d like to discuss what happened to see if we can figure it out.

I believe there is some value in this depression. The fact that I was suddenly able to sleep (which is now worse again), that I had no anxiety – these were positives. I believe the depression is telling me something, but I do not know what this is. Painful childhood – I know, I know. I’d like something more specific.

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I wish I wasn’t in such a bad space.

The heat is oppressive here. We’ve got a ‘feels like’ of 30 c and it’s already 10 pm, so it won’t be cooling down much, despite some rain. I live in a steam bucket. I keep pointing the AC unit at wherever I am, and it does help, but the sound oppresses me somehow.

Last day of my contract today. I’ve barely met anyone in the organization I contracted for. Still, it was a pretty good experience, the project successful. I went in to see my manager and drop off the laptop this afternoon. She seemed to have little time for me. But perfectly nice I guess. I think paranoid thoughts. What does it mean that she doesn’t want to chat? Did someone say something against me? But really, it is likely just her personality. And maybe she felt anxious about my last day – people in full time jobs can’t picture not having a job. In that case, she would want to have as little to do with me as possible, as I’d be causing her anxiety.

I quit therapy on Tuesday by email. I’d had a bad session last Thursday, but had pulled myself together and brushed it off. Then I became very anxious over a number of days. A bunch of things triggered the feeling off – a birthday party my brother had that I attended, then the heat, job ending. Then I went to my writer’s group, which I’d been enjoying, and found when I tried to give feedback that I was super anxious and speaking in a fast, loud way, and unable to get my thoughts in order.

I went home from that feeling ashamed. Like my mind had been hijacked and so I was judged by people there. I’d gotten so confused, and at the same time, I hadn’t had the awareness that this was happening. I just felt a sense of pressure and a need to express my point of view.

In an effort to calm down and figure things out, I wrote to Ron, explaining about the anxiety and the last few days. I used to write to him all the time, and it often helped clarify my thoughts. Even if he didn’t reply, I’d feel less alone. I’d stopped doing that this past year or so, as I’ve felt more distant from him.

So I wrote, and he replied right away. The reply was so very off. It seemed he hadn’t understood anything I’d said in the email. He went right back to authenticity, and said it can be hard to be authentic when you are ashamed of how you feel.

I hadn’t said I was ashamed of how I feel. I hadn’t said I wasn’t authentic. He just seems to be on this stupid track of authenticity as the cure for social anxiety. It isn’t.

I replied angrily that I didn’t need more authenticity and that I was frustrated with his response. Of course he didn’t reply further as I knew he wouldn’t.

Next day I emailed to cancel my next session, and then next week I won’t be able to go because my choir has a concert and I don’t want to be triggered by therapy. So I left it at that, and thanked him for helping me in the past. I didn’t outright quit, but I didn’t book another session.

He responded that it sounded like I was quitting therapy, and he thought it would be beneficial to come in and discuss things and wrap up.

So then I ended up agreeing to come in to discuss.

I think I am attached to someone who helps by being a listening ear. But who doesn’t know how to help me otherwise.

I hate that I need help. I hate that I can’t find what I need. I feel like a fly caught in a sticky trap. I do feel hopeless and that I will never be able to leave. I can’t afford this anyway.

Therapy went back to difficult as usual this week. We mostly seemed to argue about Ron’s theory of therapy. This time I mentioned my social anxiety as being a huge problem for me. He sees it as a problem with being authentic out in the world, so that causes anxiety. I don’t think that’s the problem.

I thought about it after the session. The thing is, people who have been toxic to me were quite authentic. My ex is very authentic to who he is. He rejects social expectations, dresses in very old clothes, lives in a kind of a strange way…He expresses his anger freely. In fact, he has so much emotion, there isn’t room for anyone else’s authentic emotion at all. All this authenticity, which impressed me as a very young woman, doesn’t seem so desirable to me anymore.

I guess theoretically I can see how if you have to repress a lot of yourself, it leads to anxiety. I don’t know. I know lots of people who repress a lot of themselves who are not socially anxious.

If anything, I think I used to be too authentic. I didn’t modulate my emotions, I’d say my opinion even if the person wasn’t likely wishing to receive it, I couldn’t read other people well or even see why I should. Sensitivity to other people should help with social interactions rather than all kinds of authenticity.

It just seems like such a useless romantic concept to me.

At the end of the session, when we were discussing this issue of social anxiety, I started to shut down. I feel it as an immense fatigue, like a wall coming down. As I was in therapy, I told Ron about it. So then he went on about how it would be better for me to feel the emotions instead of shutting down.

Well, that’s the whole problem. I don’t know how to do that. So then I angrily explained about how this was automatic, and he said some more things about feeling everything. And I angrily stomped out the door.

It’s one of the times I’ve felt truly angry with him in particular. We’d spent the previous session discussing how I think trauma works, and he’d seemed to be a bit interested in reading about it, and now here he was, back to this idea that it’s best to let myself be overwhelmed, that this is how I’d heal.

It made me so furious. He really doesn’t understand. Not just what to do, but what it’s like to be traumatized. Everything is one problem for him, just an avoidance of emotions.

So I’ve been thinking whether to quit. I know a reader will be saying Why the heck would you stay? Because….he does offer support, and I have no other. I like him as a person. I am not continuously depressed anymore the way I was before I went to see him. What if I leave and fall into a worse depression, now with no one?

How can I tell if a lot of my feelings are transference? It is very true that my father abandoned me when I stood up to him and argued with him as a teen. And I had and have a lot of rage at my father and mother also for that matter. If that’s what’s fuelling my fights with Ron, would it be helpful to work this through with someone who is not defensive and will not retaliate?

I cannot afford a psychologist. I can afford Ron’s rate, which is at the low end for a licensed therapist. It is difficult to find a specialist in what I have with room in their practice in any case, apart from the rate question.

Also, younger parts are attached to Ron. I am afraid I would lose functioning if I leave and they melt down.

And Ron is loyal, kind, will listen quietly, never condescends. He’s intelligent. He wants to be helpful.

So here I am again. I wish we could have gone somewhere with talking about our relationship. I think that’s important but I don’t know how to do it and Ron doesn’t lead that kind of discussion.

I went tentatively to my last session, having cancelled the previous. It actually went better than I thought it would though.

The topic of the hour was how I feel after sessions. I’d cancelled my previous week’s session because it took me so many lost days to recover from. I tell Ron that I need to know how this pain I feel after sessions is helping. Also that I need some kind of framework for understanding what is happening. The way I feel does not really seem to relate to how upset or not I become in a session. Ron says he has not been able to determine what it is that sets my despairing feelings off. Sometimes we have one kind of session, sometimes another. It’s not clear what is going on.

I once again talk about the newer ways of approaching trauma, and recommend the book The Body Keeps the Score. Ron says he is working in a different paradigm – it’s as if I was trying to explain homeopathy to him and he was practicing Western medicine. And I argue back that knowing some of this new research doesn’t mean he has to act a certain way. It’s just good knowledge to have. For instance, the way trauma can led the nervous system to swing to extremes, and that it’s a good goal to therefore try to find a middle path between huge emotions and shut down.

So there was that discussion. I started to feel like it was an argument, which then made me uncomfortable, but Ron said he didn’t feel it was an argument – we were just having a discussion. When I used to argue with my father, he ended up completely rejecting me, shunning me in the family. So I’m not that comfortable with argument, because I think I will be rejected.

At some point, Ron hit on the idea that it may be our relationship which is triggering off my hopelessness after session. Which just gave me pause. This could be. I hadn’t really thought of this. So we were supposed to discuss our relationship, which to tell the truth, I didn’t know how to do.

We discussed a bit how I felt about him. How younger parts are very attached, but that I personally feel detached and indifferent.

I actually think this is true or at least part of the truth. I somehow feel rejected after sessions. Since Ron is not rejecting me those feelings must be coming from me. I feel like it’s the end of the world, which as a young child, maybe I felt like when my father rejected me. I loved my father very much, whereas I didn’t bond very much with my mother.

This time after session I felt better. I let myself feel supported by Ron, and there are traumatized parts of me that are so thirsty for acceptance and care, it’s scary to feel them. The next day, I was again very sad, but I kept reminding myself that Ron cares about me and is on my side. And by Sunday, I was fine again.

I’m not sure how to talk about a relationship, but the little I did seems to have helped. This is such a new thought for me. It feels hopeful, because this explanation does make sense to me of something that I couldn’t make sense of and that seemed destructive and not healing. We’ll see. Maybe we can continue somehow by talking about how I’m feeling about my therapist.

It’s funny because I have no trouble believing he does care, once I let myself do so. It’s not like I have to argue myself into it. Maybe for whatever reason, where other people assume an important person cares about them if they act in trustworthy ways, I do not assume that. I assume that anyone close does not care about me at all. Assuming someone cares would make the therapy feel better I’m sure.

It’s surprising but choir is often kind of a political experience. You would think it’s all about the joy of song, but it isn’t. Members don’t like some members. Some are considered great, some useless.

The choir I joined in January is specifically supposed to avoid this kind of stuff. It’s a women’s choir. We don’t use written music, instead, we have lyrics and recordings of parts. We sing arrangements of pop songs from the sixties and seventies. Members are a range of ages, with more people in their fifties and sixties than in their twenties and thirties, as is usual for activities like this. Twenties and thirties are busy with careers and families and have nothing left over for hobbies.

I quickly decided this was easy. The songs were catchy and I kind of knew some of them already. So I switched sections, which you can do at will. There’s a very small ‘response’ section which is a middle voice with some harmony and echo type effects. This has turned out to be much more difficult than I was bargaining for. Without music, there’s a lot of stuff to remember, a lot of bebopalula type phrases which you have to remember to fit into the right places of the song.

In addition, we are to memorize everything, which it turns out is close to twenty songs for our upcoming June concerts. Yikes! I’ve never been strong at memorizing, making up for the deficit with a good ability to read music. Since there is no written music, that ability isn’t helping me.

For the last few rehearsals, the politics of this have also struck. One of the ladies of this very small response section (last night there were three of us) is extremely devoted to getting it right. In her enthusiasm, she only includes the ‘best’ singers in her comments, saying things like it’s up to the two of them, or if there are more, praising the two she considers good and completely ignoring myself and another new member who has ventured to sing in this section.

It makes me feel two inches tall to tell the truth. I suspect it also bothers the other ignored new person, though she is quite outgoing and so has others to talk to. Still. To be singing our hearts out and then completely ignored, in a small section of 3-5 people, is painful. We do get most of the notes. And I’m not sure that these longer time members are completely wonderful all the time.

I was surprised though how angry this made me, especially once I was back home. So this is obviously hitting at a weak point in me. I don’t need to be so upset when someone doesn’t include me. I know it says quite a bit more about how this woman looks at things than about me and any abilities I might have. I mean, this is not the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or anything. We’re explicitly there to have fun in an informal choir.

The fact is, what the section needs is not one or two people getting every note perfectly, but a few more singers who will venture into out section. The choir has about forty to fifty members on average, so two or three for one section is not enough. My guess is this woman’s perfectionism is scaring women away from trying our section. Maybe not, but I suspect it is.

Anyway, I’m looking at this as an opportunity to let things roll off my back in low stakes circumstances. Last night, I’d thought both of quitting and of moving off to another section to avoid this whole scenario. But now I’m thinking, I was to be secure enough in myself not to let this crap bother me.

I’m thinking back to the way I felt I had to quit a full time job I had two years ago. I was genuinely falling apart under the mistreatment by a strange boss. But I think I didn’t need to let this upset me to the extent it did. I want to be able to bounce back, to not be thrown off every time someone doesn’t treat me nicely. The world is a mixed up place and I don’t want to retreat every time there’s a problem.

The choir practices in a neighbourhood church, and it is really quite lovely to stand at the head of this grand old building with the arched ceiling, stained glass and dark wood, and sing out, surrounded by other voices. It has it’s moments. It’s a nice thing to do. So I’m not going to quit the section, I’m going to go back even though I’m angry, I’m going to suck it up and sing out. I know I have worth. I don’t need to be validated.

At the end of practice last night, this woman kind of came after me. Maybe she sensed I was irritated and leaving abruptly. She came up to me and said, don’t worry, you’ll get it together eventally. Don’t worry.

So then I felt mightily condescended to. I was keeping up my part. I didn’t know what she was trying to say. So I retorted that I actually wanted to sing with the sopranos, which I do, because this part is too low for me, but that I’d felt sorry for the response section, as there were only two of them. Then I left.

Then I went home and stewed about it. And decided to go back and not be intimidated, condescended to, or made to feel less than. The stakes are low, and it’s good practice.

Not a fan of mother’s day. The day here has been beautiful enough I suppose – clear blue sky, trees in blossom, sunshine but not hot. But I have had a crappy day. Weather can’t make up for sadness.

My brother texted me earlier in the week that he was organizing a dinner for my mother at a restaurant, would I come? This meant I had to miss my 12 step group, which I haven’t been able to get to for a while. However I felt guilty so I said OK.

He didn’t organize very well. It turned out to be simply a whole family dinner including my dad and my brother’s girlfriend. He left reservations too late and they were booked. Then the next restaurant that he reserved online unexpectedly closed. We ended up in a Thai place.

My parents are in their eighties and their hearing is no longer the best. The restaurant was small and noisy, and my parents basically sat at the end of the table and did not say a word. They couldn’t understand the conversation enough to join in. I was sitting right at the other end of the table, so I nudged my brother, who sat beside my parents, to talk to them for god’s sake. So he did try, he asked my mother a few questions and she responded politely. His girlfriend, who I think is odd, sat beside my mother and didn’t make a single effort to say anything to her.

Anyway. My family is extremely socially awkward. They are so boring. Everyone is afraid to say anything, because it could be criticized presumably. Only my brother will chat a bit. It reminded me of the pain of growing up, where nothing was ever discussed, and chill silences filled the hours.

However, I also felt kind of grounded and tried to be helpful and accepting. For years I was kind of sullen and angry, but I feel I’ve grown beyond that. So I was pleased with how I behaved.

My sister sat right across from me, and we do not get along at all. However, we were being polite. Then, she ended up screaming at me, then turning to talk to the girlfriend and ignoring me entirely.

It was stupid. The waitress came by after the meal, asking if anyone wanted tea or dessert. We all said no, but my sister didn’t seem to notice the waitress was there. My brother and I raised our voices, calling to her to see whether she wanted dessert. I genuinely thought she hadn’t noticed the waitress. My sister stopped her conversation, looked only at me, and yelled – I never have dessert! Leave me alone. And kind of made that angry grimacing face. She didn’t yell at my brother, who had also been trying to get her attention. Then she ignored me again immediately and returned to this pointless conversation with the girlfriend.

At the time, I just let it slide. I figure she’s pretty damn fragile, I’ll let it go.

But today, I keep thinking about it. I see now that she was purposely ignoring the waitress, my brother and me when we tried to get her attention. That’s a classic passive aggressive move that she excels in. I didn’t get it at the time at all, but I should have. This is typical for her. It’s not at all typical of her to yell at anyone, though if she was going to directly express anger, I’d be the safe person to do that to, since I’m kind of the family outcast anyway. She’s been training to be some kind of art therapist to special needs kids(!), so maybe in the course of that someone has told her that it’s good to express anger directly. Could be. Of course, she would do that in this weird way where it’s not clear what she is angry about, and in a way that you can’t have a conversation about, because you don’t know what is going on.

My sister also was raised in my family, and is damaged as much as I am. However, I’ve spent years trying to heal some of this damage, while she has not. I was in more pain IMO.

As is the way in my family, I immediately pushed this incident out of my mind and carried on. I could have said something about it to my brother after, when we happened to be walking together, but it didn’t even occur to me that there was anything to discuss, until today.

So, that happened. Then today, I had planned to go to a board games afternoon event, then didn’t go due to headache. So I’ve been alone all day. I’ll be alone tomorrow also.

Then, my ex called. He’d gotten into the usual mess he makes of his life, he’d missed a big concert his brother was giving that he’d wanted to go to and had promised to attend. I gently pointed out what he could do next time, but he wasn’t real interested. He’d done the same thing last year it seems, and is not too interested in changing his ways.

But, I know this bothered him. Then he launched into a harangue about my son’s plans, how they were to be financed, how he’d be wasting a ton of his money, how everything he is trying to do is the wrong decision. He raises his voice, talks faster and faster, has everything all figured out, and my role is to listen to all this. I hate this. I don’t respect his opinions much, and I resent having to spend half an hour listening to his tirade. It was very upsetting and a lot of his anxiety and fear was just offloaded onto me. It also reminds me of how awful he was when we were together. At first I tried to discuss it with him, as it is important stuff, but after a while I noticed I was becoming more and more upset, so told him I had to go.

I’ve spent the rest of the day trying to feel better. I know I attracted this kind of person into my life because of the depressed and helpless space I was in when we met. I am better now, and would attract a better type of person. He always thinks he is more clever than anyone else, and it’s up to him to solve other people’s problems, and then he dumps all this really boring rationalization all over everyone.

Aargh. I’m angry.

I’ve also been struggling again with insomnia, but thankfully, today was a day where I slept enough that I was not feeling the weight of fatigue pressing down on me every minute. Hopefully that will continue. I am trying to get up at night when I wake up and sit at my table for a while with a book. That seems to help me get into a deeper sleep than lying there dozing all night.

Well, onwards. I did go to a knitting circle Saturday. I feel more confident there than I used to. I feel like some of the women like me now and I feel more accepted. I just put myself out there a bit, ask a few questions, but don’t get into anyone’s space. Plus, I like the scarf i’m knitting. It’s a variegated yarn, very soft and thick. The colours are nature colours, like you might see on a Canadian lake in winter – grey, white, olive green, tan. I’m putting in ribs, so I have to pay attention and try not to make too many mistakes. So I did accomplish this at least this weekend, despite the disappointing rest of it.

 

I’d missed the previous week session, because I woke up on the day of with a severe back ache and wanted to go to the doctor instead. Even though it was same day notice, Ron didn’t ask me to pay for the session. He’s nice that way. I get the impression he is completely unmaterialistic at heart.

This Friday’s session was one of those that severely trigger me. I can barely remember it really, and nothing earth shattering was discussed at all. There was a lot of not speaking, of me drawing, and saying a few things. I was feeling encouraged because I’d just had a coffee friend date with a new person, a woman from my writing group whom I rather look up to, as she is a really good writer. She wanted to tell me a story from her life that a piece I’d submitted to the group reminded her of. A love affair gone wrong basically. She’s interesting and well spoken. She practices a kind of Buddhism that meditates by chanting a particular chant – it has a long name which I forget.

Anyway, she’d asked me if I wanted to meet, and that almost never happens. I feel that if I’m going to be friends with anyone new, I have to chase them down. And I don’t want to do that anymore. So I’ve been down to one or two friends the last few years.

I went to my session right after meeting this possible new friend, and felt all optimistic. I told Ron a bit about this. He never says much in the way of encouragement, like that’s great or seems like you’re getting more social. He just listens quietly.

And then what? We speak a bit about going out even when I’m triggered, and I tell him it’s too severe at that point to do that, but that I do go out many times when just feeling blue or down. I still feel like he doesn’t get it, but he doesn’t argue.

I remember saying something about my mother, how although she may seem calm as she is so withdrawn, she’s actually very anxious, which you notice if she has to make a decision or if you try to talk to her about anything.

A child part of mine spoke to Ron for maybe 5 minutes about meeting this woman for coffee. Not crying or upset at all.

That’s about the whole session. More must have happened in the 50 minutes but I don’t remember what.

The next day, I woke up very confused and sad. Which basically continued until this afternoon. At times, I’d lie down curled up, where all I could do was breathe, it seemed like the pain was so intense. I was in all this emotional pain, my thoughts all cloudy, and furious with Ron for once again putting me into this triggered state. This is what I pay him for?

This afternoon the pain receded. It was like a fever breaking, or when you wake up after being very sick and the world seems so beautiful. I felt kind of calm and relaxed. I was no longer angry at Ron and no longer wanted to quit therapy.

I do not know what happens to me or why it stops happening. I did do a guided meditation this morning on accepting and softening towards painful feelings. It didn’t seem to help at all, but maybe the effect was delayed?

Luckily I am working from home and they can’t really tell that I was unable to work this morning. As long as I press a keyboard key once in a while.

I do not know if this is good or not. It’s not the case that therapy has no effect on me. I don’t know if this is a beneficial effect. I wonder if Ron’s empathetic sitting there affects child parts, who then come forward and spill all kinds of pain? Is it good that this pain comes up? Or is it useless suffering?