The Boy won’t go home. He has evidently gotten permission to stay at my house until Saturday. A part of me wonders how do these things just happen to me? A part of me is dumb-founded at my passivity in the face of life sometimes, maybe especially here. I remember the day there was a miscommunication about vegetables and I ended up with four bundles of wilted ferns, because I just kind of didn’t care. It was like, “Well, what is going to happen if I go along with this?” The farmer got to go home, I guess, about a dollar richer. I gave the ferns to a friend, which might not have been such a great thing, because by the time I thought of what to do with them, they were looking even more pathetic. She probably threw them out. Anyway, nothing bad happened. I spent four times what I ought to have and wasted some vegetables. It was okay. I think there are times I am curious about life.

I feel really stressed about the whole thing, the whole matter of the Boy and whether I can cope with this presence in my house all week, and with all of the emotions it brings up. It’s different than C, and that’s interesting too. It’s different with C, because C I have this commitment to her. In her case, I would be thinking, “What effect will this have on her? Am I going to be able to cope? Because I can’t not cope. I absolutely have to be reliable (or at least that is my opinion). I can’t promise her things I can’t deliver. Everything I do for her must be thought through. I do think about what effect my responses are having on the Boy, and I am kind of trying to think things through because there is some of the same stuff going on, but I am playing it more by ear. Maybe just because I don’t know him that well and I have to play it by ear. I know he must have trauma of some kind, or he wouldn’t be in my house all week. He wouldn’t get a worried look on his face when I leave the house. He wouldn’t say, “But you’re coming back?”

Anyway, I am just trying to process this, what happened, how I ended up with a 12-year-old fourth grader in my house for a week and what I feel about it now. It’s really, really hard. Just the connection stuff, I imagine. Nothing goes through my head particularly, but all night long, I was afraid. My stomach was knotted up, and I couldn’t un-knot it. I did sleep, but not well. Then I woke up late, and there was no time for me to process anything before it was time for me to make pancakes for C and for the Boy. (It’s hardly fair not to make pancakes for him too.) So my head is just kind of a jumble now. No time to unravel anything. When I am afraid, I shut down emotions. That interferes with thinking. Emotions and thought work together, and if I don’t have proper emotions I can’t really think properly. I also can’t remember shit. Little details get lost, and it becomes very effortful just to get through the routine of the day. I can’t remember things, because emotions are connected to thinking and without them, stuff just doesn’t happen.

I have not felt exactly real in a while though. I feel very “not me.” I have been thinking the reason for this is that, when I am fearful, I adopt a self-image that has more to do with my parents and the past and with the person I needed to be for them, and it doesn’t at all match who I am now.

I have also been thinking that when my relationship with C developed, I really wasn’t operating at full capacity, feeling-wise. I am still not, but I am in a much better place. So with C I did try to understand what I was doing and why I was responding to her the way that I was, but I couldn’t quite do it. It was almost as though my whole mind were behind a veil. I couldn’t communicate inside myself about things or interpret what was going on in my mind or being communicated through my actions. The Boy’s reaction to me recalls that, because it’s the same process and also different in some ways, maybe just because I know.

I remember when I began to have that impulse to want to touch C. I didn’t know what it was. It’s simple enough, but I couldn’t understand it, and I think that was because of the shame. The shame that happens with disordered attachment isn’t the shame that might go with normal things a person might be ashamed of. It is a shame about existing. So it got hidden in a child part who wanted to sit in her lap. That was the impulse. But it was just a desire to touch, which is a part of being human and having relationships and feeling close. And it is like being a child and wanting to sit in a lap. It’s almost like that was the last thing I could remember about the desire to touch.

I think there was this other layer added on because she was feeling so many things that I didn’t realize she was feeling: I couldn’t interpret what she was feeling. However, I do think I was aware she was feeling something without realizing I knew that and without being able to understand what those feelings were. The day I felt most like touching her, she was the student selected to raise the flag, and after assembly she was attaching the rope to the flagpole. I walked by her, and had that very strong feeling of wanting to touch her. In retrospect, I realize she was aware of me. I was always looking at her, and she never looked back at me, so I never realized she was aware of my eyes on her or that she had a feeling about it. I walked by her, and she felt something very strongly that at the time I didn’t realize she felt. My brain was telling me what I felt in response to her feeling about me. It probably was something like what was in my mind: “I just want to cuddle in your arms.” It was something very intense, and also something very split off and not integrated, so that it might have taken the form of a child’s thoughts.

I was walking down to the neighbour’s house to find the messenger, who turned out not to be home. I realized as I was walking down that I was in Vulnerable Child mode, and that the expression on my face was probably very innocent and childlike and it might not be the expression I wanted to wear on the way to a student’s house. It made me realize that in times of stress I do split still. That is still happening to me, but then my awareness of it in that moment is a change.

Another delivery morning

I just got to school and I have maybe 20 minutes before the lot of them arrive and I have to make sure I look normal and don’t have weird expressions on my face as I write.

I sent the Boy away last night, and I know this morning I will need to check on him, because being sent away will be hard on him. I saw the look on his face when I started telling him and his friends to go. It was like shock and terror. Something like that. So he’s going to have a hard time coping with that in the aftermath. I could have kept him in my house last night, but I am still not that strong and together as a person. I can’t cope with the constant triggers that human beings and connections represent, and I need time alone. I needed time alone last night and this morning to process things. I need to take care of myself or I can’t take care of the children who depend on me. I didn’t send him away because I didn’t want to be around him or he’s a burden to me. He’s nice to have around. I am just not there yet, where I can be normal all of the time. But he is going to feel rejected profoundly, and I want to reassure him that he is still wanted. He is still liked, and that sense of specialness and pride in himself that he was starting to feel can remain in him. I don’t really know him that well, actually, although he has been in my class all year and although I taught him for a few months last year before a new teacher came and took over his class for me. He is a nice boy though, and I like him. He can hold onto that feeling of being liked, even though I sent him away.

It’s hard.

I had another delivery problem this morning. I suppose because I was mixed up about the time. Yesterday in the morning, the Boy was looking at the clock. I think he was worried about getting to school on time. So I told him it was 10 minutes fast, and he changed the time, not understanding that the clock is a part of my punctuality strategy. I am not necessarily by nature that punctual, and fast clocks are part of my strategy for coping with that. Then I set the time in the evening when I got home, but I set it by my phone, which turns to have been behind. I don’t know if it is losing time or if I set that wrong at some point. I am having time problems lately.

To get to the point of that, I think I wasn’t looking out the window when my messenger passed by. I ended up taking too long in the bath somehow as well, and I got to the corner and the girls who sometimes wait there for their dad or an uncle or somebody to drive them to school weren’t there yet. I think they often aren’t that early. The man was waiting, but the girls weren’t there. I was too scared to ask him to give to his daughters. That was one step too much for me.

Then I got to the bridge near school, and the group of girls who sometimes gather there before heading up the road to school were not there and I thought probably I had missed them. I made a call to VP Ma’am to see if her daughter had left the house—she probably had. The call wouldn’t go through. Ah, so I think I don’t have balance anymore. My phone wasn’t working for the longest time—I had to buy a new one, then a new sim, so then I wasn’t using it and wasn’t aware of the balance. I thought I had checked it, but maybe I hadn’t.

I went to buy a voucher for my phone. Not that it mattered at that point, but I was close to the shops. I went to a small restaurant. A girl there who is the cousin of the owner was eating breakfast in her school uniform. I kind of know there, because I go there for vouchers or to buy bus tickets and I used to eat there a lot when I first came and was too sick to deal with cooking and all the rest of life. I asked her if she was going to school and if she knew C. She thought for a minute. Indeed she did. I asked her to bring my little package of things up. Chilis and pancakes. She saw the package and smiled a little—kind of a soft look.

I walked up to school then. On the way, I began to think not everyone thinks it is bad to take care of C. Some people find it sweet and touching, my little package of things. However, I have spent a lot of time with people who are like me, who feel that it is not okay to be vulnerable and who also cope by trying to stay in Detached Mode most of the time (and in that way not trigger all of the stuff that gets started up when you start wanting connection). I have thought I needed to surrender and in that way “trust” and I have also thought that my desire for connection was selfish. It’s not selfish. When you are little, you just don’t realize. You can’t take care of your own needs, you lack impulse control and so that impulse to connect just drives you like a little love-seeking machine. Also, you don’t have enough experience with other people’s minds to anticipate that sometimes they don’t want connection. At that moment, they might want to cook or to sleep. You honestly don’t know that when you are small. You want to hug them, and when you are very small you cannot quite imagine that they wouldn’t also like a hug. Then suddenly you find out they don’t want a hug and they are mad at you for wanting to hug.

Other people want hugs. J

Stuff sinking in

A lot is going on these days. It seems to be giving me a sneezy cold. One thing is that there is this little boy who won’t go home. He’s 12 and in my 4th grade class. He really just wants to move in here, quite suddenly. I gave him a pencil one day, and something clicked in for him. Anyway, I have to deal with that. He is beginning to act like C. I leave the room and he gets a worried look on his face.

Something else happened, which involved my calling C by mistake and my phone giving odd responses about things. It’s not important, but the main thing is that I thought for a bit it was possible she had blocked me. As I thought through the possibilities for why this might have happened, and kind of tested it out to see what the possibilities were, I realized I was having fairly normal emotions about it. Not the particular emotions necessarily, but the process of having them and thinking about having them.

There was something smooth about the process of thinking and feeling that was the opposite of being in parts. I felt very hurt, and I realized I felt hurt about it, and I also thought it’s my job to stay kind of stationary in her life, just be a constant. I don’t really know what the difference is, but normally there is a kind of jaggedness to that process of looking at an issue from multiple perspectives. I might think, “I need to stay stationary in her life,” and the feeling of hurt would get abruptly shut down, rather than having the feeling of hurt continue while I also take in what seems to me to be the realism of knowing she will do things that hurts sometimes and I just have to cope with it rather than reacting to it.

So there was that too. It turned out I don’t think she did set her phone to reject my calls or anything. It is just switched off, but that isn’t the point. The point was that I had this more normal experience of having feelings.

The other thing is that, although I have a long way to go with this, I am taking it in more and more that this isn’t my fault. My trauma issues aren’t my fault. It’s true that people don’t understand them and they do judge me for them, and it’s also true that at times trauma stuff has not made me the nicest or most considerate person, but it still doesn’t brand me as someone devoid of worth or ruined utterly. I have the ingredients for being a good person. It takes time and has taken time to become that person, because actually you don’t behave as nicely when your experience of life is fragmented. The fragmentation inside makes it hard to integrate things you might consider all at the same time, like other people’s needs or your own needs or the perspectives of everyone. Sometimes this makes you very not nice. It’s quite possible it has made me very not nice in the past and it still might not make me very nice in the present.

But my trauma issues aren’t the result of my being valueless. The lack of understanding or accommodation for my issues doesn’t mean that it’s my fault. It just means understanding them is hard, and most people don’t understand them.

I also can’t get a do-over for all the relationships I didn’t get to have because of my past. I am never going to have a mother who took care of me. I am never going to be that child she would have taken care of. This is a really, really sad thing. It is absolutely, unspeakably sad, and I cannot explain to anyone who doesn’t share that experience what exactly is sad about it or why it hurts so much. But there it is. Regardless of the possibilities the future might hold, the past retains its pain. The converse is also true. The pain of the past does not erase the possibilities the future holds. Things are still possible for me. I don’t really know what, but things are. I don’t need to have the things I don’t have and can’t have in order to have a fulfilling life, and I also don’t need to deny or minimize the pain that I feel in not having had the things I missed out on. I have been confused about that for a long time.

People say there is the family you are born to and the family you choose, and that’s true, but regardless of who you choose to have in your life in the present, it doesn’t take away the pain of not having had that family of origin, nor does it take away the pain of the relationships I have missed out on because of my problems in having relationships as an adult. This boy has been hanging around, and I realized after I sent him away today that I miss him. I like having him in my house. He’s nice company.

I like kids. I would have liked to have had my own kids, and it’s now quite a bit too late for that. I am not going to have that, and the reason I am not going to have that is that ten years ago, when having children might have been a good idea, I would have made a shitty mother. I had the ingredients of being a good mother, but it wasn’t pulled together yet.

And that isn’t my fault.

I wasn’t abused because there was anything wrong with me. The trauma symptoms I struggled with later were effects, not causes. No matter what anyone said to me, I did not get abused because of some failing in my character. I have many, but they aren’t the reason.

Lots of things. Lots of stuff sinking in today.

Taking perspectives

There is no electricity today, and one of the students informed me it is expected that we will have no electricity for two days. Now, it so happens that sometimes these are 24-hour outages and sometimes they are workday outages. So it might be that we will have electricity again in the evening. But in the event that this is the last of our electricity and the last bit of battery here on the laptop, I am writing before everything shuts down for a bit.

The rest of my life will go on as usual—electricity or no electricity. I have gas. Cooking isn’t a problem. The only difference is that I will be taking cold baths and maybe washing up incompletely, since by flashlight, I can’t see the grime that well.

This is nice. It’s nice to have no electricity and feel like, well, that’s fine. Life will more or less go on. I think these things used to throw me more, and actually it makes a bigger difference when there is no water. It somehow affects the whole routine of the day substantially even though I have adequate water stored in my house. All the carrying and pouring, maybe.

Anyway, it’s Saturday now. So Friday evening, I got this very insistent knocking. I was finishing up dinner and bussed the dishes out of the bedroom and went to the door. The other friend with a note from C. This is sort of routine now. Last week, the note came on Thursday. She must have been more anxious, but I actually don’t know why she would have been. I was sick, but I don’t know how she would have known I was sick at that point. She would have found out the next day, in my reply, or from some other friend. I made the handoff Thursday of last week, complete with pancakes, and said nothing to C or her friends about being sick. I suppose she felt more anxious because it wasn’t an “outing” Sunday, and there was no reason I needed to come to the school. Would I come? In retrospect, I think that was the reason.

So, Friday evening, I got this note. C wanted rolls of tape, some bread, and lots of money. Oh, and she told me not to come on Sunday. I don’t know what to do about her requests for money. I am a parent. I am responsible for setting boundaries for my child, but I don’t really know what my child needs or what helps her. I have the money to give her, but that’s not the point. The point is that I am not preparing her to live a life of wealth. If she is lucky, she will grow up to be middle class and be like me, someone who normally has to watch how she spends. The only reason I have the money to give her is that what she wants is 40 bucks, and I am living in this odd situation where I think what is 40 bucks anyway? My needs are met. I don’t want for anything (except pepper, ground coffee and dark chocolate). I want those things a lot. Especially, especially coffee. In the US, I have a sense of what 40 bucks means. Here, I kind of don’t. It’s weird.

Getting back to it, I read her note. I bought the bread and the tape and debated with myself about the money, and didn’t find myself with an answer. I know I am being inconsistent about money. I know that it’s a problem for her that I can’t decide. It helps that regardless of what I do or how I respond to her, I don’t feel angry. She’s a kid. She has no sense of what money means. You don’t when you don’t earn it or need it. So I don’t feel angry at her for asking me for it. She can ask, and I get to decide. But it would be nice if I could decide clearly, within myself, how to handle her requests for money. And I don’t know. So I debated with myself about it, didn’t come up with an answer, wrote a letter to her that in the morning I decided not to send anyway, and went to sleep.

In the morning, I made pancakes that fell apart somehow. The electricity went out at some point. Maybe that was it. I couldn’t really see them. I wrote another letter, in which I basically translated her note for her. I don’t know if she will be able to understand that or not. I said, behind the words you wrote, this is what I hear:

“Mom, I need you. I don’t know if you will take care of me or not or if you still want me, and I feel frightened. It’s frightening not to know if you are still there for me. I don’t want to need someone so much when that person might not be there for me.”

I said something like that. It wasn’t exactly that. And I said something about it being okay not to know if I am still here. It will take a long time before she feels she knows that I do care about her, and I am not going to leave or go away because she finds it hard to trust me. I said I know that asking for lots of money is kind of a test whether I really care about her, and that it actually isn’t going to settle the question for her. She still isn’t going to feel secure, but kindness will help. It will help if she is kind to herself. But I did send the money. I don’t know if that was the best thing to do for her, because I think we have established this pattern, where she feels very clingy, she asks for money, and then she feels ashamed for asking. It actually doesn’t matter whether I give her the money or not. She will feel ashamed either way. And I do have the sense of filling a leaky bucket, because she is trying to soothe this enormous pain inside her that there is no easy way to soothe, and that I actually don’t know how to soothe. I have all of these strategies that will help her, and I don’t know how to establish enough trust that she believes me enough to try them. I don’t know how to get her to use them without sparking so much intense shame about being broken that she pushes the strategy away. So.

That’s what I did.

The friend didn’t come. It was less unexpected, as she hadn’t gone to school the day before, and I had a plan in mind. Get ready fast. Try to leave the house by 7:30. (By 7:15, I had decided she might not come. Actually, she might, but I have to start thinking about probability at some point. I took a bath peering out the high window most of the time. I don’t think I missed her. I could have. It might be easier on me to just go to the girl’s house at the time prior to when she leaves, but this seems to be even more triggering for me.

At least the trucks weren’t idling this morning. Just the power sander going.

I got dressed okay. That was good too. I mainly told myself to lower my standards. Just get the thing on. To hell with making it look nice. That seemed to do it. I was thinking about the whole situation as I was getting ready to leave, and I thought about being exploited. I thought this is triggering my memories of being exploited. It is the distrust schema at work right now, just the feelings inside me, and it reminds me of times when I needed to allow someone to really harm me in order to get any kind of protection or warmth. C isn’t harming me. The amount she asked for won’t hurt me. But it’s triggering that worry.

And I think, in reality, it is triggering me to be able to imagine her mind and to be able to feel the sense of vulnerability hidden behind her requests. As children, when we are abused, we cannot understand our abusive parents and I think we don’t want to. I think we don’t want to know what is in their minds, because what is in there is terrible. What is in the abusive parent’s mind is: I hate you, I resent you, I wish you had never been born, I despise you, I wish you did not have so many needs I must find a way to meet.

In life, I think I have reverted to not wanting to know or to understand other people, because I didn’t know what might be in their minds. I didn’t know if I tried to imagine things from their perspective, if what I imagined was going to turn out to be horrifying. In this situation, I am imagining C’s mind—and that ability to imagine her mind is the source of my feeling of connection to her—and I am not sure what I am really going to find there. I am imagining her feelings of vulnerability and fear, but I don’t know if it would be more accurate to imagine: I hate you, I resent you, I wish you had never been born, I despise you. I think that is what is going on. Trying to imagine someone else’s mind is frightening, because it could turn out that the contents of that person’s mind is terrible for me.

I was thinking too, as I embarked on my quest for a messenger…I found one, not a good one, VP Ma’am’s daughter, who is in her way very heartless. She will make the delivery, but maybe ask C a million questions, or make a comment to C that will hurt C. She won’t just give her the package, the way the friend does…

I was thinking there are people who perceive vulnerability and maybe are conditioned to think of it as bad and wrong and in need of punishment. There are people who have been raised like me, and they see vulnerability and feel an automatic, implicit sense of threat about it and attack in response to it. People are not all the same, and there are people who react to vulnerability in that way. There are people who don’t have that feeling and don’t have that reaction, and there are people who do, and when I am in these vulnerable positions, that is something to be aware of. Someone might attack me.

The good news is that I am not five anymore, and I am not being raised by people who attack vulnerability. I can escape. I can avoid being close to people who are like that. I can decline to care what people like that think of me, because I don’t need to keep people like that close to me. I can push them away. I don’t need to push everyone away from me. I can push away only the people who are more likely to hurt me.

Good person

Today seems like a day for big realizations. I have tons of work to do, but maybe I will turn my attention to this and to connecting for a while and see if that settles things down inside me a bit.

I was waiting for the friend today. It’s tough. She didn’t come and didn’t come. Then two trucks started up, not just one, it started to be time to put my clothes on. They are sawing things nearby or sanding or I don’t know what. Every possible trigger at once, it seemed. Meanwhile, I need to think. That’s the hard part. My brain needs to keep functioning, because the pancakes need to get to C. I bought chilis also, but that part is not terribly important. It’s just something needs to get to her, because now she expects it. Now it is part of her world, this morning delivery, and it is part of the routine and what makes her feel safe. Now it is Mr. Rogers feeding the goldfish, and if it isn’t there, if Mr. Rogers forgets the goldfish, then something is terribly wrong.

It’s going to make it hard for her. And that’s okay. Except other things already make it hard for her. It’s like for me, the girl didn’t come. That’s okay. Except life being what it is, there is also a truck idling. Oh, no, not one truck. Two trucks. Plus power tools. That’s life. Nonstop intense triggers. It’s hard to keep life within the range of what you can cope with.

So I needed to be able to think: the girl isn’t coming, it’s 20 past 7, I’m not dressed, and the girls near school leave around 7:30. What do I do? I have to be able to think reasonably about that question.

I started to put on my clothes. That seemed to be the place to start. I put on my clothes, decided to skip the bath waiting for me, and to rush up to school. I was putting on my clothes for maybe 5 minutes—it wasn’t going well, but the main thing is to keep trying and not panic about it. Then I saw her. She wasn’t in her school uniform, but I went out anyway.

She stopped when she saw me, and turned away. I think she was spitting. Anyway, I asked if she was going to school. No, she said. Are you sick? I didn’t hear the answer, but she came to me and I handed her the chilis and the pancakes and she said her friend would take it. Okay, so that was settled.

It was about 7:30 then and I decided to reconsider the bath. I was washing up and thinking about what happened, about how I felt waiting and how I felt after making the hand-off, because it felt really difficult. The whole thing felt difficult. Everything about it. Before, after, during.

It seemed kind of 2×2-ey, like that might be part of it. I was thinking as a 2×2, there is almost no way to feel good or to enjoy being alive. It promises that you will feel good, but psychologically it is set up so that that is impossible. You are not allowed to feel good about anything actually. How do I explain that? The only thing you are allowed to really feel is shame. You are supposed to feel intense shame, because you are bad. Human beings are basically bad, and the only morally sound position in life is to recognize your badness and accept your punishment for it. You are supposed to strive to be good, but recognize that you are not good.

The other thing about this is that if you are good, you can expect to be punished for this, because “the world” hates goodness. But if you feel good about being good, that is pride, and there you are—bad again. So it’s impossible. It’s impossible to be anything but permanently broken and ashamed. It elevates this broken, ashamed feeling that comes with infant trauma and disorganized attachment to the level of virtue. And then also promises that you will be punished for being virtuous.

That is what seems to be left bumping around in my head, anyway.

So the girl walked by my house, accepted the delivery, promised to pass it along to her friend (whom I also know, because she was on C’s football team for a while, and she danced in a number with C last year in the fall for the school show.) The friend was in my class the year before last. She’s a nice kid, never caused any problems. It turns out I know the girl’s mom. I used to see her all the time at the Holy Site. She doesn’t speak English, but she’s a very friendly, nice lady. I am pretty sure she has given me something before—a peach or something. So a nice kid from a nice family.

I have no idea if this girl minds making my deliveries or not. She wouldn’t feel entitled to be annoyed with me, probably. Nice kids here don’t.

The thing is that I think some of the kids like that I am helping C. Kids are like that. If you help one of them, and they see that the child you are helping needs your help, they really like it, and they respond to that. As a teacher, I have noticed that. When you help one child in the class, and the other children see it and feel the child you are helping needs that help, they respond to that. If you praise the best kid in the class to the skies, they hate it and they will hate you, but if you take time to help that kid who knows absolutely nothing, they will love you. Children respond to kindness, even if the kindness has nothing to do with them, because they feel the kindness does have something to do with them. They see you helping the class knucklehead, and they think, “If I get confused, she will also help me.”

One of the students at the lower school whom I taught in class 6 and feels close to me sometimes asks me about C, and why I am doing this thing or that thing, and she always gets it, because her mom is an alcoholic also. She always says, “You have a good heart.” Like she asked me about something I do every day or often—I can’t remember what, and I said I am doing it, because C doesn’t feel secure that I still care about her. If it seems like I care one day, by the next day, she doesn’t feel secure anymore. And this other girl immediately got that. Yeah, I know what that feels like to not know from one day to the next if someone still likes you or cares about you.

So the thing is that it is possible the girl making deliveries thinks something positive about me. She sees my effort to be consistent with C, and to show my care to C each and every day, and it’s possible that she actually admires me for it. In the moment, as I am waiting for her, I feel freakish, because I have to constantly look out the window, and there is this terribly stalkerish feeling about it. The thing about being a stalker is that it is unwanted pursuit, isn’t it? And I don’t think it’s unwanted—at least, from C. I delivered pancakes and some apples (a rare treat around here) to C on Tuesday, and she was grumpy toddler walking down the hill, but when she heard the explanation (no messenger) and saw what it was, she had a different attitude. She probably had some kind of thought, and then a feeling in response to that. I suspect the feeling was warmth, and I suspect the warmth came from a thought of some kind that generally fell into the category of, “This is a good person.”

The other thing is that I can’t stand that thought. I physically feel like kicking it away. I do not want anyone to think I am a good person. I don’t know why. I suspect the 2x2s have something to do with it though, that my morally upside-down universe has something to do with it.

A better morning, still hurts

Something is really happening to me. I don’t know what, but it really, really hurts. And it hurts a lot longer and in a more complicated way than I feel able to cope with. Anyway, I guess I might be coping. Who knows.

I woke up again very angry. I was angry last night, slept soundly at least, and woke up angry again.

She’s not doing this, I eventually found myself thinking. She isn’t hurting me. This is a conditioned response. This is my brain hurting itself, because it has been conditioned to do that. Damn.

The morning went a bit smoother at least. I woke up at a little after 3, eventually decided to just get up. I wrote a bit in my journal, made pancakes for C, made breakfast and lunch, cleaned the kitchen, did the laundry. After that, it was like, okay where is the friend? Where is my messenger? The messenger doesn’t leave earlier than 6:50, and she usually leaves by 7:15. Sometimes, she doesn’t leave until 7:30 though. So it’s a big window. That was part of yesterday’s problem. When I start thinking the messenger is on her way, I start doing work in the bedroom, where I can see her walk past the house. I used to be able to see her from the kitchen also, but these enormous sunflowers have grown up and block my view of the pathway.

I did my work. I did some extra work. No messenger. It was edging towards 7:10, and I wondered what to do. I thought of yesterday’s dilemma. How do I make sure I can reach a backup messenger? Damn. It’s such a small thing, getting pancakes to a child at boarding school, and it seems so unimportant, but it is important. The consistency of it is important. I went into the bathroom and considered taking a bath. I can see the path below from the bathroom window—it is on the same side of the house—but then if I’m naked, I can’t get outside to see the messenger in time.

I was washing my face, I guess, and I saw her, threw an extra shirt on, and she was just disappearing when I came out. But the girl, who knows I want a messenger, hears the bolt of the door slide open, and turns around now. On Saturday, I sent her up the hill with a big box of stuff, so I feel afraid now that the messenger is fed up being a pack horse for me, and wants to avoid me. I mean, I might. And there are lots of other ways to walk to school. Anyway, she heard the bolt slide open and turned back. Maybe she isn’t fed up, and if I indicate appropriately that I recognize she is a human being and not a pack horse, she might not mind being my messenger too much. I gave her a candy bar, said thank you, she said thank you, and I went inside again.

Now, I’m terrified. I was relieved for a while, made tea, and then terror came back.

It’s a conditioned response. C isn’t doing this to me. I want her. I am getting a handle on that feeling that I want her, this feeling of wanting that hurts so badly. I understand now it hurts so much because it isn’t regulated. Feelings that are not integrated do not get regulated in the normal way. They remain like baby feelings, full-blast on. The feeling isn’t integrated, because I am conditioned to think I can’t have it. So, it’s getting integrated now, and that means experiencing it first in this very unregulated, over-intense, really horribly painful way until it starts succumbing to my ability to regulate my emotions.

C gives it to me partly because of the joys of mirror neurons. She wants me. My mind goes about imagining that feeling of wanting someone which she is having. I want her, and I also imagine her wanting me, and so it’s harder to avoid feeling that wanting that I don’t want to feel, that I have been conditioned to think isn’t allowed. Along with that feeling of wanting, comes everything else that is conditioned with it: fear and anger and shame. I am not allowed to have it, I am afraid of being punished for having it, I feel angry and ready to defend myself from attack, I feel ashamed I can’t control the impulse to seek it.

It sucks.


I am really angry. I was angry kind of all night. I took an antihistamine to sleep—convenient side-effect—and then woke up periodically in the night. I woke up feeling like smashing my head against rocks. I had all of these pictures of blood on things in my head. I wanted to smash myself. They weren’t memories. They were things I wanted to do.

I don’t really know why. I feel really angry again now, in the evening, and I again don’t know why. The morning was especially hard today, because I have been sending things up to C every day via some other girl—mostly her friend that is my neighbour down the hill (across the street from me). But there have been back-up people when I fail to locate the friend. Today, I didn’t see the girl (she usually walks past my house in the morning). None of the backups were there either. Mostly, my timing just sucked. The backup kids who live close to school leave earlier. The girls who live at the corner leave later. I left my house too late for the kids by my school, and too early for the girls at the corner. Then I walked back to my house, wondering what to do, and the girls were in their dad’s car driving away after I came back again.

And the thing is the whole time I am waiting for this girl in the morning, I am kind of out of my mind. Then the power tools started up, a truck was idling outside my house, and I had to put my clothes on (which weren’t going on) and it was like every freaking trigger together. I finally realized I have clothes that are easier to put on, and changed the day’s outfit at least. Sheesh.

So I don’t know what’s wrong with me, actually. I seem to be very, very triggered, but I don’t know what started it. I did have a talk with the matron about C, and there was this incident last week where one of the National Language teachers was basically strangling two kids who did something small and disrespectful to him. Corporal punishment is routine here, although it’s against education policy. But that kind of cruelty is fairly rare. I mean, I haven’t seen it before. I have seen some things that disturbed me, but that was absolutely the worst in 3 three years of being here. We had a different principal my first year here, and he really discouraged corporal punishment, and I do think there was less of it then. It was less open, anyway, and less cruel. Now it’s being done openly much more. I think, maybe I’m wrong.

Anyway, that was last week—maybe Monday. Whatever day it was, that was the same day C’s grandmother came to see me, so I didn’t really have time to process. Then I was busy planning for the Literary Club activity Saturday, got sick for 2 days, and muddled through the program Saturday on ibuprofen and Tylenol combined. Then Sunday I was fine, went to meet C’s matron to try to get a regular visit schedule back in place, because I don’t think C will be able to cope with seeing me only once in 2 weeks. As suspected, C has been having more psychogenic symptoms. Ear pain, teeth pain, headaches. I think these are flashbacks of getting hit on the head, because blows to children’s heads are common here. A fist to the skull is like a spanking. Insane. Anyway, I got Sundays out of the matron, although she insisted I meet C outdoors, which will cause no end of stress to C. The matron has an idea that no one will know that I am there, and she will be safe (I suppose) from accusations of partiality. Which, of course, is total nonsense. I mean, the whole world will know. It’s a small place. I am the only white person around. If I go and meet C, everyone knows it.

I suppose that feels stressful to me. C needs to see me. It helps her. But not if the process of going to me increases her stress level. So maybe that triggered me also. I don’t know.

But something is happening to me.

Getting back to missing my messenger. I went back to school, resolving to go at lunch time, because now that I have made a habit of sending something up to C absolutely every day, the absence of a token of some kind takes on a meaning for C. It’s rejection or anger or something happened to me. She will lose her mind, or at least feel she is. And I also thought that the longer a trigger lasts, the harder it is to deal with it. That was one of my thoughts about the situation: I missed the boat in the morning, does it matter what I do after that? Yes, I think it does, I decided. The longer her wait for some kind of contact from me, the harder it is for her. I taught 2 classes before lunch—it was a nice day in that regard—hurried home, scarfed a bit of lunch, located a taxi and went up. It took a long time to find her. It wouldn’t have, but I was trying to avoid walking all the way to the girl’s hostel. Well, she didn’t come down. I didn’t have a choice, but to go up. I had to teach after lunch, and I deliberately ate my lunch first because their lunch period (I think) is a bit later than ours.

I saw her coming down the hill from the kitchen, plate in hand, and she looked very much like a grumpy toddler. I think grumpy toddler is kind of a different part than I have seen a lot of before. On Sunday, I saw a flash of grumpy toddler. When she came into the hostel from outside, she didn’t see me sitting on the bed waiting for her. It was sunny outside, and dark inside, and her eyes hadn’t adjusted. C came in the room looking like 1000 year old woman, which is how she looks when she feels rejected. She absolutely looks aged. She entered the room as 1000 year old woman, flipped into grumpy toddler, and then saw me, and kind of lightened up. Grumpy toddler came back a bit, and there were some other modes in there, but I hadn’t every really noticed grumpy toddler before. The odd thing about grumpy toddler is that she looks rounded off and stolid in a way that she doesn’t ordinarily look. Physically, her whole body looks different. Parts are weird.

Anyway, grumpy toddler came down the hill. I suppose she knew I was there. She got to me and said, “Why you come?” I said I couldn’t get a messenger, and I took a bag of pancakes and apples out of my backpack. She said thank you in an entirely different voice. I told her to come here, and I hugged her and kissed her and she hugged me back. I looked at her earnestly, said something or other like take care or be good or something, held the side of her face, and walked quickly away. (I was going to be late.) That last bit probably has something to do with the pain of parting for both of us. It’s a pain I see in her, but that I always shut down in myself. I imagine I feel it though. It’s just a matter of time before I start letting that in.

Coming back to school in the taxi, I did feel better. I had a very odd feeling of being settled, that I hadn’t expected at all.

Now, at almost bedtime, I feel angry again. I have been feeling angry all evening, for no reason I can really pin down. I think it might be that the pain of being close to someone is actually so great that I hate C for making me feel that pain. She makes me want her, and I hate it. That might be it. She lightened when I came to the hostel to meet her, not lit up, but just kind of lost the imaginary 50 kg she was carrying on her shoulders, and that really hit me very strongly. I don’t know what I felt: I couldn’t take that feeling in. But I felt something, for sure. I think it was something like “I am wanted. C wants me. It’s really nice to be wanted like that. It is nice to mean something to someone.” It was easier when I felt more that I had a mission and a purpose, and I was focused on the charity aspect of what I was doing. It was nicer when I felt mostly just responsible, and not this other, more personal thing.

It’s hard for me to relax to the point where I feel the pain of being wanted, but the few times that I have been able to get there recently, it really, really hurts.



Coming back online

I watched this other video on Youtube, just a short clip. No babies in this one, just a guy talking. Dan Siegel or something. Anyway, he says the obvious actually: in disorganized attachment, the attachment system is saying, “That’s your attachment figure. You need to go be close to her.” And the fight-or-flight system is saying, “That’s a dangerous person. You need to run or hit them or maybe go hide under the bed.” That’s why you get these behaviours that seem to make no sense, because the child has been conditioned to see the attachment figure as dangerous, and the brain is sending two very contradictory messages to the body.

That’s what I feel inside. It is a physical sensation in my body, of needing to go close and needing to flee or fight back. It is most intensely in my stomach, like a terrible clenching feeling, and it lasts a really long time. Like all day or all night. I dissociate to get things done, and come back and, oh, there it is again. I did, for the first time, seem to be able to make it subside the night before last. I think it went away—not just numbed out. It was mostly just a lot of deep breathing that did it, but that doesn’t mean I can repeat it.

It seems to be a mix of longing and fear. So Dr. Dan Siegel or whatever his name is makes that sensation makes sense. That is my baby feeling. I need to go close to that person. I am feeling vulnerable and need physical proximity right now. And, at the same time, I am afraid of that person. I need to run away from her. She is going to hit me.

I was thinking about this also, because I was with VP Ma’am yesterday, and after a few hours, she began to behave very oddly towards me. It was clear she was going into modes, that she wasn’t the normal VP Ma’am anymore. She didn’t attack me, but she got very needy. Her voice became very high-pitched and panicky, not just in interacting with me, but about everything. At one point, I reached down to pick up my things where I had left them on the ground, and she grabbed hold of my sleeve, like I might run away. She was trying to pull me somewhere, and I didn’t have any idea where or why, and it made me very angry, to be prevented from picking up my things. But I didn’t say that. I just said, very lightly, “I want to pick up my things. What is it you feel so worried about?” So she wanted a photo with me. Okay.

When she gets like that, I have absolutely zero compassion for her. She strikes me in this completely different way than C does, and I wonder about that. C can behave however the modes prompt her to behave, and I don’t really feel angry at her for any of it. I might have a flash of anger for a minute, and then I soften towards her. I realize why she is doing it, and I soften. I don’t exactly know why there is this difference, if it is just that C is a child, and I don’t feel threatened by C—pretty much no matter what C does, I feel like the adult. I feel in charge of the situation, and it is much, much easier for me to stay calm. I also want to meet her needs. I don’t want to VP Ma’am’s. I want VP Ma’am to take care of herself. It puzzles me. There are explanations, but I don’t really know what fits.

Maybe it is also that C expresses the modes more fully. When C is feeling young, she looks very young. Without thinking, I respond to her little self as though she really is little, because she becomes that way. VP Ma’am is able to maintain a certain veneer over her young feelings, and they are harder to recognize.

But I don’t really think that is it either.

Anyway, VP Ma’am was behaving oddly, it was clear that the modes were surfacing, and physically she wanted to be near me. After the Literary Club program yesterday, we had a meeting, and she sat next to me. She wanted to be near me. And I was thinking later I can’t relate to that. Country X-ers—in general—want to be near other people. They feel very scared to be alone, and if there is a problem, they want people physically next to them, and I can’t really understand that. There is a tradition of visiting people when they are sick, which I totally cannot understand, because basically the sick person has to try to get up and function and play host. To me, it seems absolutely like torture. I feel like hell, I want to lie in bed and moan, and here there are people visiting and I have to comb my hair at the very least and make tea for them. But people here like that.

I mean, I would like people to visit me when I am sick if they did something helpful. If they brought fresh vegetables so that I don’t have to go to the market, or if they washed up in the kitchen, but that is not the tradition here. People visit and the family of the sick person entertains them and the sick person does their best to look perky and presentable. So we visit people when they are sick, do absolutely nothing to help out, and create more work for the family. But Country Xers feel better, because physically someone is present.

I cannot relate to that at any level. I do not feel better just because someone is physically present with me. If they are physically present, and actually helpful to me, then I fee better, but otherwise they are often just one more stress for me. But not everyone is like me. Clearly, Country Xers are not. VP Ma’am’s son has quit his job and moved back in with his mom to be a presence there, which is part of the reason for the money problems. Now, VP Ma’am is supporting herself and 2 grownup children and one teenage grandchild on a teacher’s salary. But the son seemed to think it more important that he be a body. So there is something physical that happens, maybe almost chemical, when your loved ones are present, that is soothing, and it doesn’t happen for me.

Except with C. It hits me usually later, as I am walking home. I just feel very, very calm. Whatever has happened while I was there—whether it was a nice visit, or a dramatic, confusing visit, there are many times when I feel deeply calm after I leave. Because attachments do that. They are settling, and C is making my attachment system come back online.

Only 2 triggers

I’m sick. I am not deathly ill or anything. Just this viral flu-ey thing that I could probably muddle on with except that I don’t really feel like muddling on. I feel like resting. So I am resting.

It’s scary to do this. I have been thinking about that and several other things amidst the resting.

I am sick, and I want to take care of myself more for emotional reasons than physical reasons. Sickness is very triggering. There are lots of other triggers in my life that I can’t do anything about: there are power tools going all day, the Literary Club has an event coming up that I have been organizing in VP Ma’am’s absence, then VP Ma’am came back all atwitter because she suddenly realized she has money problems due to her husband’s death last year—he left her with a lot of debts and then died, depriving her of his pension, because there is no concept of spousal benefits here after a partner dies. Meanwhile, the interest is compounding.

Her being atwitter makes me stressed, because she randomly attacks me. She might have always randomly attacked me, but anyway I have put it together now. So I am constantly braced for it whenever she makes an appearance. She may randomly attack me now. I have no idea. It would not matter, except that it’s so triggering for me, to have someone feel actual malice for me. She has also asked to borrow a whole bunch of money. Unfortunately she knows I am paying for a college loan with savings I have in the US, and she has no concept of money for me, or that she is asking for an enormous sum. She has promised to pay it back in November, which is just a few months away, because I know financially that I am going to struggle quite a lot next year. I am making a significant sacrifice to come back to Country X in 2018 in hopes that this will help C, because for 12 months it will essentially make me unhireable. VP Ma’am said very lightly, “Oh, your sister is there. You don’t need to worry. You can borrow money from her.” But she has no concept that my sister has two small kids, works part time, just went through a divorce last year which is always expensive (and lost the house in the process), and loaning me money would cause my sister no end of stress. VP Ma’am seems to have no concept that in the West we do not merely transfer our problems to other people, and it is not acceptable for me to help VP Ma’am at the expense of my sister, and that I feel comfortable making a sacrifice for C only if this does not really affect other people too profoundly.

The fact is that actually I have no way to withdraw money from that account. There ought to be a way, but there isn’t. After 3 years, I have completely forgotten the code for my debit card (which is in the US). I am pretty sure it is written down somewhere, but I don’t know where, and no one has been able to find it. I have designated a friend as having Financial Power of Attorney and she has the documents to prove this, as does the bank, but they do not seem to care. I have been through all this because twice now I have had to activate a new debit card and the first time around, it would not work until we finally realized it was linked to a different phone number and all that needed to be done was to call from a different phone.

I did sort of tell her this, and she pressed me. The thing about Country X is that no does not really mean no. It means you need to get all upset and emotional so that I give in. It’s basically an extension of the tantrum, which you see in action here among small kids. The parent says no, the child tantrums, and the parent switches to yes. Meanwhile, Country X parents frequently complain about their kids being badly behaved. Well, why is that? Because no has never meant no, and your child spends a lot of time trying to figure out how to get no to mean yes.

So I am stressed about this, because I will have to tell her clearly no and I half expect a grownup tantrum. It’s nice for me that I do have this ironclad reason that the answer is no, and not just that the amount of stress loaning that amount of money to someone is not worth it, if you feel you can get the money you need in two months anyway.

Anyway, the fact is that I can’t really handle all the triggers at once. The hard part about being sick is that it is a trigger, so I get to try to process the trigger of being sick while feeling less than 100%. Also, they are using power tools again across the street, and so I am not really able to rest. I am able to lie on the couch with that pain in my stomach that I think is a baby screaming, trying to cope with that and be sick, but at least minus all of the other stresses. Not the Literary activity, not my students, not VP Ma’am’s random attacks.

I hate me

Something else happened yesterday. I came home at lunchtime because I needed to buy something for Literary Club. I bought it and then had a cup of tea before going back to school. (We have a 1-hour lunch break, which is kind of unbelievable.) When I went to the shop to buy what I needed, I saw there were also some bunches of cilantro and one of green onions, and I thought I would buy that too. Only, the shopkeeper was not actually selling them. She was keeping them there next to the counter for her own family, so it was quite funny, as the shopkeeper doesn’t speak English and this had to get communicated to me somehow.

I came into my house, had my tea, felt really relaxed and went on back to school. As I was walking back to school, maybe because I was really relaxed, I began to think I don’t like this person. I don’t like being this person. I don’t like being this person who tried to buy something that the shopkeeper wasn’t selling and had a good laugh about it. I actually didn’t know why I felt that way. I don’t want to be me, and I really don’t know why.

I went on and taught, but I have been thinking about that again. This morning, I feel really, really angry. I have these baby angry feelings inside me, and it seems to be about being me. It was okay to be me when I was more dissociated and I kind of didn’t know this was me. I am getting less dissociated, and also less depressed, and me is becoming apparent, and I don’t like it. I don’t like being me.

I have no idea why.

I began to think about my family, about my mom and also her mother. I especially began to think of my grandmother, because I felt more comfortable with my grandmother—she never hit me, she was much more competent to take care of me, things got done in her house so that it felt safe to be there. It felt much more safe to be there in her house than in my own house. It was probably easier for me because she wasn’t my mom. My trauma didn’t get stirred up so much, and I didn’t have to figure out how to cope with so many feelings, but it was also just that my grandmother was reliable. Food got cooked, the house was clean, the routine was adhered to. My mother was intensely depressed a lot of the time, or she was having melt downs and these things didn’t always get done. She could not always manage daily life.

But the other thing about my grandmother that I remember is basically she just worked. I don’t remember her ever playing with me or making a joke. I was allowed to play outside with my sister or quietly in the house, but she did not play with me. She told me stories, and I liked that, and some of the stories were humourous, but basically she worked. She didn’t play. She worked and in her free time, for relaxation, she complained. She complained and she gossiped about other people. It was kind of a typical 2×2 approach to life—really quite joyless.

It made me think of my family differently. These were people just trying to survive. For the children in the family, the message would be, “Don’t need interaction. Don’t need warmth or connection from me, because I am maxed out. All of my energy is consumed by the demands of daily life, and there is nothing left over for you.” This wasn’t a family that worked hard all day and then sat around the dinner table and laughed and connected to help them unwind and relax and prepare for the next marathon of hard work in the morning. This was a family where connection was too difficult to manage, and the children had to survive the best they could without much help from the adults. My mother couldn’t cope with that. She couldn’t cope in a family where her parents were too busy to play with her, and where play really wasn’t tolerated because it might interfere with the work that needed to be done.

This was a family living in Detached Mode, and my mother couldn’t do it. She needed warmth and love and connection too much. She didn’t make a good robot. To be precise, as a robot, she failed utterly.

I think that is what is wrong with me. That is what makes me feel I hate this person who is me. I am not a robot. I can’t do it. I can’t get through life just going through the motions. I tried, and I can’t get it to work. It’s not me.


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