The thing about seeing C is that I feel immensely loved. I feel valued and significant, as though I matter a lot to her.
I can’t say why I feel this way. She does not do anything overt to stroke my ego. She mostly struggles to get away, and I hold onto her in some way, because somehow the shyness has to be dealt with. She has to be with me enough that it is old news and not interesting and everyone goes on as usual instead of “looking” at her. I get a lot of rejection from her, which usually vaguely hurts or I feel I ought to be hurt and I mostly take her rejection as an indication that she is in some kind of pain I want to help her with.
I have no idea why I feel the way I do. I mean, I know why I would matter to her, but I don’t know what I am seeing in her behaviour that tells me I do in our brief interactions. I can’t deal with it enough to see it. I know I am seeing it. I am remembering it. And I can’t deal with it.
Because I also feel, very deeply, this cannot be me. The person I really am is worthless and bad and can never be wanted or cared about. When people appear to care, it is because they are deceived by a mask I am presenting. They care about a false self, and not a real self.
My shame is an identity. My parents looked at my child’s needs to be nurtured and soothed and protected as an irritation and inconvenience for so long and so consistently, I thought it was who I was. They looked at me with contempt so often and for so many years I felt I must be contemptible.
I could tell myself, “But that isn’t me,” except that when I don’t feel my way through the thought process, stuff doesn’t “take.” It disappears for a while, because I have silenced my feelings with a “correct” thought, but the feeling comes back again in response to the same triggers and I have to keep doing it all over again. Since I can manage the emotions I have about it, it’s better to feel them.
The feeling of a “false” self comes from being dissociated. That mask-like feeling comes from not directly experiencing feelings. I do have feelings—I know what they are from my thoughts and sometimes from my behaviour or what is going on in my body—but I am not feeling them very strongly at a “gut” level. And it is the absence of that “gut” feeling that makes it feel like this isn’t me. This is a new realization, because I used to almost never have any sensation in my “core.” My enteric nervous system wasn’t talking to my brain. They were not on speaking terms. Now, I do. Sometimes more than at other times. It is not a simple on and off switch, but more like a dimmer switch. I can feel it sometimes at home when I am stressed the sense of it going “off”—usually first thing in the morning, or when I am in the throes of getting ready. I don’t need to turn it off at those times. I just feel stressed and it’s habit. So I can turn it back on. At school, when I am in the midst of doing things, I don’t have time to notice when it switches off usually and I don’t have the feeling of safety that lets me turn it back on.
It seems to me that C’s value for me feels more “real” because I am less switched “off” when I with her. I think this is the case, really, because I cannot switch off when I am with her. I would not be able to respond to her the way I need to if I did. In that way, I have to try much harder to be “present” when I am with her. So however she feels about me, those feelings seem like they are about a “real” me.
My friends here appreciate me and care about me, but I am much more switched off when I am with them, and so I have the sense that the person they are interacting with me is not really “me.” In reality, I probably go on providing a good imitation of who I would be if I did feel everything, so that they are seeing someone very “me-like,” but it just feels different, and it doesn’t bring up the same sense of crisis inside. Which is lucky, because that would be totally exhausting.