As devastatingly shocking as this entire situation has been, I've been able to sort of "prepare" for a lot of the feelings involved. Don't get me wrong, it's a lot like training for basketball by reading about the sport as opposed to running drills or taking free throws— wholly inadequate, but at least I know where the ball is supposed to go. Ish.
Depression, listlessness, difficulty prioritizing and concentrating, all these I was expecting and have been more or less dealing with. I was even half-expecting that weird thing where I feel like I'm watching myself have emotions as opposed to actually having emotions. That's at least been fairly useful in identifying depressive thought loops and illogical, blamey reasoning. I'm kind of grateful for this: identification and logic-testing are two super useful tools for dealing with negative thinking. So, aside from the (relatively) minor resentment about not being certain what feelings actually feel like, that's probably more win than lose.
I was definitely not prepared for how much this would affect my self-esteem.
It's not that I didn't predict that it would. That goes hand in hand with realizing that I probably should consider anything I do that meets the before-sibling-death bar of "acceptable" a major victory for myself. It's the vast magnitude of it. I can't seem do anything halfway worthwhile without having some kind of nasty conversation with myself that sounds like a teenager arguing with their parent. Perhaps not coincidentally, my teen years are likely the last time my esteem was this low.
It goes something like this:
I do a thing. Getting anything done is a goodness and an achievement right now.
Some part of my mind/brain/self/thoughts sneers about how not so great whatever minor accomplishment is, since it certainly doesn't measure up to my previous normal standards.
I tell myself, "Normal is going to have to mean something different from now on." But knowing this and being this are two totally different things. And the snarky part of me is hardly ever that easily dissuaded.
And this is such a great opening for the guilt. While guilt is the most predictable of negative reactions, guilt is tailored so specifically to you that expecting it in a general sense does not do much for dealing with it when it rears its head. There is always something more, your brain tells you, that you could have done. And logically, this usually checks out to some extent, because it is impossible to do everything. You can tell yourself that you cannot do everything, but it is hard to argue with the statement that you could have done more.
Especially when you find yourself standing at a place where literally nothing more can be done.
A better person than you would have done more, Guilt likes to point out.
And while you might be fully aware that you are what you are, that you have to live with yourself (as opposed to another person), and all you can do is try to be better, there's a part of you that keeps looking for data to support the claim that you're not a very good person.
There's a strong temptation to draw this, well as strong as any temptation is right now: I think about doing it, and then remember I have an unfinished one of those about my friend's death last year:
And I'm super critical of my art right now and doubt my ability to start it, let alone finish it. Sure, I got a lot of great compliments on the painting I posted last week:
And sure, it took me like four or five conversations to find what was "off" about it when I hit the point of Almost Finished But Still Not Right, but it's only a still life.
We could talk all day about how much I don't like the first two paintings I worked on in October:
I still can't put my finger on why I dislike them in such a visceral way. It's got nothing to do with their being unfinished— I barely got the underpainting laid out before I closed the doc's in a fit of nope. I just don't feel like they're very good.
I don't have any specific reason why, though. And this is unusual for me. It's not even like I was having especial trouble getting the image to mirror the imagined. The best I can come up with was that I was trying to depict an emotion too close to home in the body-distorted style (here's its origins) that too much represents my issues with myself and trying to paint like that can't be executed properly while I'm busy hating myself for something someone else did. Like that last sentence, it's a bit too on the nose.