I seem to be okay now. Sort of. I had a lot of crying jags in the morning and during the night. Just enraged, terrified crying. I suppose I’ll have a few more of these before it really all sinks in.
It’s hard to explain this.
But it seems to be that I needed to feel all of the fear and the rage that people’s bodies were getting broken before I could understand that anyone I care about is not going to be broken. I mean, not just currently not broken but likely to remain unbroken in the future. I have had whiffs of this, brief brushes with the relief that C is safe, but not the full realization.
It’s the kind of thing that is obvious to anyone else, but it seems to me I have to fully experience the fear and rage of it happening before I can process that it has not happened recently and will not happen.
It has been triggered this week because she is clearly not okay. She is in a state. There is an adult-like, mature C who can tell me politely she would prefer I not walk up the hill with her, but that Healthy Adult C has gotten lost. She is probably lost because C has gotten scared. She is trying to set a boundary, only C is afraid of losing the relationship. The dynamic that gets set up, that I haven’t completely been able to step out of and away from is that she is so scared to set the boundary that she sends out these acute distress signals. I hear her say, “Go now,” and I just hear, “I am scared.” Which she is. She is scared of setting the boundary with me. I don’t immediately get this, because I can’t quite get that this would be a big deal. I was trying to be there for her. I don’t need to be there for her. Good, less work for me.
But she is used to people who take everything personally. I can feel that, actually, when we interact. I feel I am meant to take something as rejection that doesn’t feel like rejection. I mean, actually, she is rejecting me. She asked me to meet her and then could not even say hello. I should be mad about that. I could be mad about that. I am probably meant to be mad about that. But she is scared of her need for me. Yesterday, she felt needy and asked me to come. Today, she feels ashamed of her need. Her behaviour might mean, “I hate you. I am angry at you. I want you to feel badly treated.” Culturally, that’s the meaning. She is treating me badly. And that intuitive knowledge gives me feelings about that. At the same time, my stronger sense is that it does not mean that. It means she feels ashamed of how needy she is. It is not about me. At a core level, a deep level, it feels to me this is not about me. This is about feeling ashamed of having the need for contact with me. It isn’t personal.
The other thing is that somehow, in all of this, I feel very loved. Very nurtured and very loved. It doesn’t make any sense, but I feel that way. It might just be that C is starting to feel a solid connection to me. She is terrified I will leave, but I am no longer someone who dies every time I am not standing in front of her. And that is sort of the most loving thing anyone has ever done for me, is to remember me when I am not with that person. I feel that, and I feel valued and loved.
But I don’t want to be. I want to be forgotten about. I don’t want connections, because every connection is this body that might get broken. Anyone who has a deep connection to me is someone I will also feel a deep connection to, and I will feel it when their body gets broken. I will feel everything that happens to them as if it is happening to me. And I hate that. I hate it. I don’t want to be worth anything to anyone, because then I might care.
On a different note, when she sets a boundary she expects me to feel rejected and angry, and I am angry. I am not angry at the boundary though. I am not even angry that she behaved badly and I came when she asked and she could not speak to me. I am angry she spoke rudely to me in front of her friends and made me feel ashamed of her. I am angry she couldn’t get it together and put on the appropriate social mask in front of my neighbours. People are not going to think good things about her if she acts like that, and I don’t like that. Behaving badly in front of other people feels very unsafe to me. So I am angry about that.
Anyway, I get all these distress signals. A boundary and a distress signal, and I end up in a very frozen position with it, because I cannot figure out what she needs, and the feeling inside me is that she is not okay. She is in danger. Abused Child, which she switched into at the end, feels she is in danger. I feel she must be in danger. But she is not. She is fine. I am the person scaring her.
C has never had rights before. She never had any autonomy before, and while it seems obvious to me that she can actually choose whether I walk up the hill up with her, she does not realize it, and the fact that I did not immediately comply made her feel very scared and prepared to defend herself against attack. Intellectually, she might know how to express her needs in a mature way, but when she is scared like that, she isn’t going to know. She is going to flash back to being two and getting punched in the head for expressing a wish or a need. So it should not necessarily disturb me if she responds to setting a boundary with fear. Until she learns it is safe to set boundaries, she is going to react that way. And I need to remember I am the threat. I am the thing scaring her. There is nothing more I need to protect her from aside from myself.
She does not know how to have close relationships. Her models are abusive relationships that are unpredictable, violent, and alternatingly neglectful and intrusive. I should not be surprised if she does not know how to act with me. She will learn. She will learn because the attachment, whatever way it plays out, as long as it is consistent and respectful of her, will help her learn.
The thing is that I had kind of this experience of her life flashing before my eyes. She was scared. She has been scared for four days now, or maybe an entire solid week. IT Ma’am got her all activated and scared by bringing up the possibility of abandonment, and now she is on hyperalert. So I get the sense she is in danger. Maybe only from herself, but still in danger. That is what I reacted to last night and this morning. It’s like she stepped out in front of a moving train. She didn’t die, and I need to take in the feelings I had about her almost dying so that I can take in the idea that she isn’t dead and isn’t going to die.
In reality, her physical wellbeing was never at much of an issue, but that’s my go-to fear. That’s the trauma that still isn’t fully resolved. People died. I saw them die. Death seems very commonplace and realistic as a fear, and it’s not just an absence of life, a psychic vacuum, but a terrifying, horrifying thing rife with blood and viscera. I mean, I think about death and I think about having bits of intestine in my hair. That’s what I have to be able to be with, as an experience and as a set of feelings. When that happens, you feel really scared and you also get really mad, because someone is hurting the person you love. You get really, really mad.
That’s what happened. C was scared to set a boundary with me, and I saw her scared and I got really, really mad, because it automatically felt that someone must be hurting her. Then no one was. So I felt mad at her. That’s what happens. There ends up being no one to be mad at and you get mad at your kid for being in danger. On top of that, I flashed back to blood and guts, and I had to deal with that. I had to deal with my feelings about dealing with it. None of this is fun. I hate it. I hate that I have to do it. I wish I could put off facing the reality of what happened in my childhood forever. I wish I did not have to feel all of my feelings or have all of the memories that relate to the present. I wish there were just some other way to do this.
There just isn’t.