A publication of the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis

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Mad or Sad?

Elizabeth H. Thomas, PhD
Member, Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis
October 2022 | Volume 8 | Issue 8

Here I am, taking comfort in the sunroom and emailing off another cartoon to my sister. I have two sisters and have always been especially close to sister number two, Patti. It could be said that we are close because we are nearer in age, but really, we are close because we are pretty much on the same wavelength. We enjoy a lot of the same things including guffawing over clever memes. We like to laugh.

One day, Patti wrote to say that she loved me, but she could not have contact with me. That was almost two years ago, following the murder of George Floyd. This point of reference is relevant because of Patti’s political leanings, which are opposite of mine. I am heartbroken about this turn of events, and I do not understand how this rupture took hold. I can only speculate as to why.

Sometimes I wonder if the sadness and anger I feel is akin to that felt by Patti since the death of her daughter, Amanda, five years ago. Over the years of Amanda’s life, Patti often mixed us up, calling me Amanda and Amanda by my name. Unfailingly optimistic, Patti had kept busy tending to Amanda, which kept the crush of impending death at bay. When the end finally came, my dear sister was cast into bottomless grief. Maybe Amanda and I became conflated in her mind so that the loss of one implied a necessary loss of the other.

Can this be the explanation? Is the angry banter in our culture a cover for unbearable losses of the pandemic? I wonder if my sister’s anger is really sadness that had no place to go for a very long time.  But I am only guessing. It seems that all I can do is sit here in the sunroom and listen to the click-click of my laptop, the wheeze of an old dog, and the drip, drip, drip of ice melting off the roof.

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