Calming down

I went to see C last night. I started to think it would help me to see her, and sometimes it is okay to do that, if I am respectful that she is still getting her needs met. I didn’t know how she would feel about switching up the meeting time from Friday to Thursday. Anyway, I sent a text that said I wanted to come to her friend and I didn’t get anything back.

I arrived earlier than I thought I would, and they were still in the classrooms for “evening study.” There was a dog that had taken a dislike to me so I was heading into the hostel when I saw C. She asked me why I had not gone inside. I told her because I had been talking to one of the girls and then I was talking to the dog. That seemed to be okay with her.

It is strange to feel her worry for me. That question was about worry. “You were outside in the dark and it is not where you are supposed to be and maybe you were not safe.” There is a feeling I have about it, kind of a picture in my head, and it’s kind of like I need to be in the place she put me last. I need to stay in those places, so that I will be safe. I have a feeling of being a toy in Toy Story being expected to stay on the toy shelf. It makes me think the worry comes from having adults in her life that are not actually very capable and do not seem to be capable of taking care of themselves. They cannot completely be trusted to decide where they are supposed to stay. The other thing about this is that I feel differently about myself and about taking care of myself because of her. I feel my own vulnerability more strongly and I feel more motivated to be responsible towards myself, because I know she values me.

Anyway, she went to wash the dishes then. When she came back, her cousin had come and her cousin went to get dinner. I had brought momos to C and she kind of hid them behind something. I don’t know when she planned to eat them. I didn’t say anything. I just noticed it. C straightened the books and clothes on her friend’s bed while she was waiting for dinner to come. She seemed very normal.

She asked if I had brought her phone. I told her no. It was not Friday and I told her I would bring it on Friday. So we discussed that. It seemed to be okay, but I guess she was probably disappointed. “You don’t want to come tomorrow?” she looked worried, but I think she was worried about her phone and not about seeing me. I said I would either come or send it up tomorrow.

I had been talking to VP Ma’am and then, on the walk up, a boy in her class about C’s participation in a debate on Saturday. So I told her I had heard about that and I had heard she did a good job. She disagreed with me and she asked who told me, so I said the boy’s name. I said I was proud of her. She was still folding clothes and arranging books in stacks. I made her stop and look at me. “I am proud of you.” I could tell she was not really taking it in. I wanted her to hear it at least a little bit, that someone could be proud of her.

Dinner came then. I didn’t talk much while they ate together. I was thinking about leaving her and I started to think she’s fine. For once, she is kind of okay, and I don’t need to tell her exactly right now. I can let her have a nice evening with me right now and talk to her later. I came to feel better and I do feel better. I don’t need to actually tell her. I asked if she would come down on Sunday. She said she would. I asked if they had an “outing.” She didn’t know. I asked what time she wanted to come. She didn’t know that either.

Then she said, “It’s going 7:30. You go now.”

I asked some other question about meeting her on Sunday, maybe the time again. I can’t remember.

She said, “Go now,” with kind of big eyes. I could see at this point she was having trauma activated. Her body had become stiff. I could see the stiffness of it. I suppose that is from intense fear. I pulled her to me and hugged her and kissed her. I did this twice. She was very stiff, but I think she still likes it. I told her I would send her a text when I got home. She doesn’t seem to acknowledge now that this is important, but I think it really is. I think she needs to know after the parting that I am still there. I am still safe.

I walked home after that in the dark, and it was a pleasant walk. I felt, again, very calm and grounded leaving her. I think there were moments when I had various trauma thing surface—they had before I came—and I just took note that it was happening. That had happened on the way up: I became very dissociated and felt unreal and disconnected. I just noted that it was happening and that I probably felt very scared to go up. The approach is going to be scary and it’s okay. It’s just baby trauma.

In the night, it became very difficult for me though. I was just terrified. I started to think this is how a baby feels when it cries for mom. It’s really terrified. Babies have no brakes on their feelings, and the feeling just consumes them. I lay in bed, and I felt the extreme tension in my stomach. I guess I slept eventually and I felt terrified in the morning. Later, I started to feel better though. I began to feel that I could think again. A plan began to form in my head about C.

I suppose I felt more hopeful because she was coping when I came, or seemed to be. It might be better to try to keep her at the high school here: it will be less change for her and less upset than being with her parents. I can maybe talk to her uncle or her grandmother about taking charge of her later in the year, especially if she is doing well in school and I can support her financially through them. Then I can reapply to return in a year. I won’t probably get placed here, but they seem to place teachers at schools in this region quite a lot of the time. It might be possible to be at a nearby school so that at least sometimes I can see C. Meanwhile, I can try to concentrate on teaching her self-regulation skills more and on trying to explain how her own baby trauma is affecting her, so that she is more able to manage without me. I will ask C what she wants, but I think this might be what she wants. I will ask her on Sunday and we can go from there.

The thing is it is nice to feel my brain is still kind of working.

I just sent C a text though—I suddenly remembered she asked for a voucher, and I forgot. It was interesting to feel how much I felt afraid after I sent it. She’s in class. She won’t see the text until later, so it isn’t the lack of response. It’s the approach, even when she is not actually there at that moment. It’s very scary to me.

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Bad news

I got an email today from the office in the Capital City saying that, due to changes in immigration rules made last year, those of us who have already been here for 3 years will not be able to stay.

I don’t know what I will do. I really, really don’t. I thought I had more time to consider all of the complications.

Feeling foreigner stress

Special Country X annoyances I did not fully appreciate before:

People who yell when they walk into a room for no discernible reason. You know, just so that people notice they have walked into the room.

People who hum.

People who say absolutely every thought they have out loud, even when no one is listening.

Last, but not least, adults who cannot read silently. Seriously, in a staff meeting, if there is a slide on a Powerpoint screen, you will hear 24 adults independently reading out loud.

People who like to read out loud for me in case I failed in 2nd grade and cannot read independently. They get through a paragraph and I have to tell them I have finished reading the page.

Since I am on a roll here, I don’t know why people have to fight constantly about petty things. The conflict here is constant. And don’t kids normally stop arguing about who bumped into whom by fourth grade? Or am I just unaware?

 

Care

It feels like I have been struggling all week. I get kind of stabilized and then I lose it and I am not sure why. I mean, I am not sure why this week feels harder than last week or the week before.

There is something in what happened on Sunday that feels very painful though and maybe that is some part of it. It doesn’t make sense, actually, but it hurts so much I find it hard to even think about.

It is when I was leaving. I told C to walk out with me. I didn’t realize she was also leaving the hostel—I might have guessed that she was, because she had just gotten dressed, but I didn’t think about it. I pulled her by the wrist, and I said, “Walk out with me.” I don’t know what she said then. She might have said wait. That hurts though. It’s not the part that hurts the most, but it does hurt.

Her skin felt so good. I suppose I am feeling the vulnerability of that. It felt so good, because it is C’s skin. I know what her skin feels like, and when I touch I recognize it as being hers, and I think the recognition is painful in some way to me. I think it has to do with continuity. Hugging her is not like hugging anyone else, because it is her. I know what her body feels like to hold and I know what her body does when I hold it. I know what it is expressing to me when it does different things.

Anyway, we walked out, and I could feel her shifting into Detached Mode. I could feel the stiffness in her body, and a sense that was something like rage. I was walking very close to her and she lifted her arms to do something with her hair and when she did that, she bumped into me in a way that felt like a push.

The thing is, though, that she was walking with me. She was struggling with her feelings of fear and distrust and anger, but she was walking with me. Sometimes, I have this feeling that I “ought” to feel hurt by what she does or that I “should” feel rejected. But I don’t. I was walking next to her and I could feel how much she wanted to push me away, literally, physically wanted to push me, but she went on walking beside me and the sense I have instead of being hurt is how valued I am, and I think that’s what is making me struggle so much. It is so difficult for her to cope with what is going on inside her head. It is so painful and so difficult, and she is trying so hard because the relationship with me is so important to her.

I think I have been struggling, because I don’t feel confident I have a right to interpret my world in my own way. The ways her behaviour might be interpreted by someone else would be very different, and I know that, and I don’t feel I have the right to my own view about it. I don’t feel I have the right to feel very honoured by what she is doing or to believe that she is working so hard to cope with what is inside her because she values the connection with me. There was a point when maybe she controlled her behaviour because I am an authority figure, because she was worried about what other people will think, but now I don’t feel it’s about that. She is controlling her behaviour because she values me and she doesn’t really want me to go and she doesn’t actually want to hurt me. There are times when she is angry at me and she says hurtful things to me—when I told her we had called her mother, one of the things she said was that at midterm, she will go to some other place, she won’t stay with me. Actually, I don’t think her family will consult with me about where she goes at midterm. Maybe they will, but I think she will just be given instructions. Anyway, the point is really that not staying with me at midterm doesn’t hurt me, but she could say things that would hurt me if she tried harder. She said it to hurt me, because she was angry, but with a little more effort she could have found something much more hurtful to say.

She wants to hurt me because she is in pain, but she doesn’t want to hurt me because she loves me and this restraint she exercises when she is in so much turmoil inside is as expressive of how much she values me as a different child constantly reaching out to me.

In popular, we have the idea that we might make someone fight their demons for us or that somehow our love can save someone and inevitably it turns out to be untrue. The person always loses their battle with addiction or whatever it is. Love is never a strong enough motivator. I suppose I am putting her behaviour into those terms, but that is what it looks like. She is trying to cope with what is in her head so that she can have a relationship with me and so that she does not really push me away. It won’t be enough if I cannot help her cope, but there is just something so profoundly moving about seeing someone work to maintain a connection and a relationship when it is so clearly difficult.

When we got to the gate and began to go in different directions, I hugged her. I probably kissed her hair. I usually do. I said, “I love you,” and she said, “Okay, go now,” in hoarse, wounded kind of way. It was clearly hurting at this point, and she could not reveal her vulnerability in her words. She couldn’t say, “I love you too,” although she says it when we text. She had said it before I came up. So I suppose that’s something else I need to interpret in my own way, because I don’t feel rejected by her being unable to reveal her vulnerability in her words. It felt to me to be in her body and in her face. What I saw was, “It is hurting so much that you are walking away from me. As soon as I can’t see you, I worry what will happen to you.” The pain is not because she loves me: it is baby trauma. The fear about what will happen to me is not love either. That is also baby trauma, but the baby trauma gets activated because of the care between us. And I have just never felt cared about like this. Never in my whole life have I felt so much care.

And More Still Me

It seems like I had some insight last night and again this morning about the importance of self-constancy and object-constancy or whatever it is called. It’s so important and I think also so much a part of the pain.

I was imagining reaching for a parent figure who isn’t reliable, who is suddenly triggered by anger or is overcome by depression or is just not in an empathetic frame of mind. As a child, you are forming your sense of self, and we get that from other people. We see ourselves as we imagine others see us (the mirror self). And the idea you will get from that is that you are not the same all of the time. Sometimes, it seems that the child does not exist to the parent at all. They have kind of disappeared to the parent and it’s going to create a sense of one’s own self as someone who disappears. Other times the child is bad or shameful to the parent, and then it’s like still being there, but being an entirely different person. It’s confusing, but I think it creates an ongoing grief for the child in the heart of the child. The connection to the parent cannot be retained, but the self cannot be held in mind either.

I look back at my childhood, all the terrible, shameful, painful parts of it, and I think, “But I was still me. That happened to me and I was still me. Different things are happening to me now, but I am the same person. I have grown up and learned a lot of things since then and I have a lot more power too, but I am still me. That was me in my memories and I am me now.” There are times when more conventional approaches to trauma seem to deny that and keep the feeling of inconstancy alive.

A sense of connection to the past—to all its good and bad parts—is necessary and important. Those things happened to me. They were very painful, but I was still me. I don’t have to chop off bits of me to survive. I don’t have to shut down certain feelings or deny particular feelings in order to be okay. I can be okay now, like this, with these memories and the feelings I have about those memories and inside the memories.

I am still me.

I guess I was contrasting this with how I imagined it before, which is simply that maybe I never had the experiences that allowed me to form a continuous self. Now, I think of it differently. It was not a failure to develop, but a development in a different direction. In reality, I had experiences that created a discontinuous sense of self. I had a parent who did not behave as if I could be remembered or held in mind as a continuous person, and that is a part of the trauma—these experiences where I seemed to no longer exist to my parent. There was an ongoing loss of connection, self and other, because of my parent’s inability to behave in a consistent and predictable manner towards me. My mother appeared to stop being herself and I seemed to stop being myself to her. Every time that happened, and it probably happened many times a day, I felt grief for the connection, for my mother, and for myself. I had all of these actual deaths to contend with and there was also this. The people who died were the ones who seemed to be able to remember me, who seemed to be able to hold me in their minds as someone who existed through time and remained the same person, and I think that added to things. When they died, there was a loss of the person I was to them, but I persisted. I am still here. Whoever I am.

Worries

The last 36 hours or so have been very difficult. I don’t know why exactly. I have been too wound up to even be able to pinpoint the reason. I guess Sunday was the first time I have really spent that long in C’s hostel. Most visits have been brief, and I was there for I guess about an hour and a half. It seemed like there was a lot of closeness during the discussion about the phone. C seemed very present, and she probably extended more of herself. It was probably also the first time something like that had happened to her, where an authority figure listened to her talk about her needs and desires and then considered them in a thoughtful way. I think it probably triggered a lot of feelings for her.

I wasn’t with her most of the time I was there. She was running around doing her own things. That might have triggered her even more. Somewhere in her mind, she might have wondered and been anxious: “Am I allowed to do my own things? Am I allowed to flee from the closeness when it feels too scary for me?”

I don’t know exactly. But when I left, she was in Detached Mode walking out and slipping towards Abused Child as we parted. I sent her a text when I got home, and no one replied to me—not C, not the girl whose phone it is. So I know that triggered me for my own reasons. But it also worried me because it’s a shift in the pattern. For two weeks, I have sent a text when I got home, and then got a series of follow-up texts in reply from her. There was a shift this time, and it was as though I finally had the old pattern of relating worked out.

Real people are moving targets. Their needs shift. Their experiences vary. I don’t know how to respond to the new pattern or what it means.

I am keenly aware that, with C, I am just guessing. It’s a totally new set of needs for me, I am playing it by ear all of the time, making it up as I go along and hoping for the best. It’s harder sometimes because I have no one in real life to talk about it with. I can talk about it, but the responses I get are not really helpful. I don’t know anyone trying to parent a child with an attachment disorder and you really can’t parent a teenager with an attachment disorder in the same way as a typical teenager. I have learned this somewhat the hard way. There are times when reaching out to others only serves to emphasize my isolation, or it gives me more triggers to deal with than I had before. My least favourite response is a frequent one: “Don’t worry.” Okay, I spent 42 years trying not to feel unpleasant emotions. As it turns out, that doesn’t work out well in the long run. The fact is, I don’t know what to do, and until I know I am going to feel worried. The key isn’t to disconnect from the feeling, but to understand that I am worried. I cannot turn to someone else for advice and feel that I know, because no one around me knows either. Even people far away don’t know. They might understand the issues but they don’t know C. They don’t know what is going on for her at this moment, and neither do I. I need to be with the worry and to accept it, and that’s going to bring down my level of anxiety much better than trying to disconnect from my feelings.

The other thing is that I am not entirely sure what has triggered my worry. The change in the pattern is certainly part of it, and the feeling that I don’t know what to do. I am not sure how to respond to her or whether or not I need to step in with soothing. I sent a text to her friend last night and asked if C had recharged her, because C has used up quite a lot of her balance texting. I thought the voucher C had asked me for was for this girl, but I didn’t feel sure we had understood each other. I got a response back that seemed to be from C—no, she hadn’t. the voucher had been for someone else. Probably, she hadn’t told me, because she thought I would be angry at how much time or money she was spending talking on the phone. I don’t think C quite understands yet what my own criteria for phone usage is: it should be to get support from people who care about her. That’s probably a conversation we need to have when I give her the phone back for the weekend.

I haven’t worked with C on using any grounding techniques and that somehow needs to happen to, so that she can recognize when she feels more grounded and when she feels less grounded. She needs some kind of standard to judge things against in terms of whether or not she is okay, because the one she is using now is probably a lot like mine was: Am I having unpleasant feelings right now?

I suppose I need to consider that: When is a good time to do those things? I was thinking of calling her to my house on Saturday night—Sunday is my Easter and I wanted to play with her. But it happens to be a busy weekend for her also, preparing for Teacher’s Day. And I also think spending the night in my house is too much right now. It’s too intense and too many feelings.

Maybe I was worried about that: my gut instinct is than an overnight stay is too much, but there are all these other reasons it makes sense to do it. Except that C is C. Except that she has an attachment disorder. Except that she is not like other teenagers. Except that I live in reality, and not among widgets. Maybe I was afraid to live in reality. Sometimes the sense of compulsion to live among widgets and not acknowledge her uniqueness or my uniqueness is overwhelming. Our own minds are always the models for how we imagine other people. Added onto that we have our experiences with other people. So when I talk to other people about her or about myself, that is what they are doing. They are starting from themselves and their own experiences in order to understand me and to understand her. It leads to a sense of widgety-ness, because I am not like them and she is not like other kids they know.

It makes it harder, perhaps, because I am worried and they are not worried. So, in some cases, my worry makes it very clear that I don’t know what to do: Because I don’t know what to do. They are not worried, and so it makes it seem to them and sometimes to me that they do know what to do. It’s an illusion though. They just know less and so they have a feeling of confidence. I know more. I know more about C and I know more about disordered attachment and that is the reason I am so worried. I know more and I also know what I don’t know. The people around me know less, and they don’t know what they don’t know.

If I think I shouldn’t call her to my house for an overnight stay because it will be too intense for her, I am probably right. Invisible people in my head imagine this is not a big deal and that she is not as fragile as I think she is, but they are wrong. Invisible people in my head also think that because she cannot cope with her grief and trauma that gets triggered when she feels close to me, she does not care for me or she is not grateful, but that is also not true. She is grateful and she does care. That is part of what she cannot cope with.

She pushed me away, emotionally, at the moment of our parting, because she does care and she is grateful and she cannot cope with her shame about needing to be taken care of and she cannot cope with her feelings of vulnerability at worrying what will happen to me when I get out of eyesight and she cannot make sure I am safe anymore. If you don’t know what disordered attachment is like, you won’t know that. And most people don’t. Most people have absolutely no idea about it. I have a vague idea, but most people have no idea whatsoever.

More later. Time for school.

Another Sunday

I am in an odd place at the moment. I went to see C in the afternoon. I left my house around quarter after 1 and arrived at her school at right around 2. She wanted cake and momos and pancakes. She has asked for pancakes 3 times in the last 7 days, so I know that is actually what she really wanted, but I went searching around for momos and cake as well and didn’t find them. Oh, and junk food, but that is easy. Junk food is everywhere.

It was the most settled I have felt preparing to go up that I have ever felt and I enjoyed the search for cake. I enjoyed, really, the whole process. I had to get a new gas cylinder in order to make pancakes, and I had arranged to borrow someone’s gas ID book yesterday. (You need one. At the time everyone was applying for them, I didn’t know I would be staying so long, and I didn’t get one. Now I have no idea how to obtain one. It remains a problem for another day.) I arranged for a lift with a friend to the petrol station where you can also switch out the empty gas cylinder for a new one. So I did the laundry and cleaned my house and bought vegetables and junk food and then went with my friend to get gas. Following that, I made pancakes. Finally, I embarked on my fruitless momo and cake search.

As I said, I enjoyed all of that. I had a sense of being close to C while I did that, and also a sense of aliveness and joy, as though I had this little, lively person with me reminding me to do things like look for cake. Alone, these things are just a chore for me, but with her in my mind I had a sense of the fun of doing something different.

Then I went up. I walked nearly the entire way with Class 5 students, one of whom was my student last year for the whole year and the others were students of mine for a month or two before a new teacher came and lightened my teaching load. So it made for a pleasant walk. I can’t remember what we talked about—favourite colours and things like that, I guess.

Sometime in the morning, C also sent a text to me, asking for me to bring her phone to her. I sent back that we would talk about her phone when I got there. After that, I expected to see an angry C when I arrived, but it wasn’t like that.

She was getting ready to take a bath when I came, but her cousin was there and scolded her that I was there—this time, I was back to being “Madam,” but her cousin was in my maths club in Class 8, so I don’t mind if I am still her teacher for her. Anyway, I told C to eat and she did. She shared her pancakes with her cousin and one other friend and saved the rest of them for another friend. We sat for a while and eventually she asked me if I brought her phone.

I said I hadn’t, and that I was going to keep it for one month, until May 10th. She asked if she could have it next weekend. I asked the reason. She hedged, saying something that didn’t mean anything. I said, “You need to explain properly so that I can understand.” Then she came out with real reason: She wants to take pictures. It’s Teacher’s Day next Monday and there will a whole day full of activities she wants to capture in pictures. So I understood that, and it’s not as though I had told her ahead of time that the consequence for misusing her phone would be losing phone privileges. If I had told her ahead about consequences, then this would be a teachable moment, where she could consider why she might want to think ahead about something. But I hadn’t. I hadn’t felt I had a solid enough relationship to talk to her about consequences. I wanted to, but it seemed like an exercise in futility: imposing consequences really takes the cooperation of the person being punished and I didn’t feel like I would get it. I felt I would just get fear.

Anyway, I thought that and said yes. I said she could have it that weekend and on Monday to take pictures and she said she would send it back down with a friend—the same friend she sent it with when everything happened.

I told her then I was concerned having her phone all the time would interfere with her concentration. Friends would call and disturb her when she was trying to study. It’s a temptation, and so on. I said I thought of letting her have her phone on weekends only. Of course, that’s when the whole issue of meeting the boy came up, so I’m placing her in the same position of having contact at her fingertips during the very time when other kids are most likely to be messing around, but I also feel she might be in a better place now, a more stable place and be able to cope with what comes up. I think the structure we have right now is working, and it’s keeping her more settled on weekends, when she is most likely to feel lonely and forgotten about because she has unstructured time: I am seeing her on Friday evenings and on Sunday afternoons, so she is getting this sandwich of what I hope is real connection around that difficult time period. It’s possible that my idea is not a good one, but I feel like she has to have some freedom and there has to be some trust in the relationship. Otherwise, she is not going to be able to grow up. She is going to keep getting starved for individuation.

Regardless, I said that, and I asked if she understood. She said she did. I am not really sure who I had during this conversation. She seemed vulnerable with me and maybe sad. Writing this, I have an idea that distantly in her mind she might have had the idea that someone cared enough to set boundaries for her. Someone cared enough to be thoughtful and to consider the pros and cons of an action that involved her and didn’t simply punish her or indulge her on a whim. I was glad, though, we could have this conversation about giving the phone back earlier and she could see negotiation is possible and she can put forth her needs and desires and not be rejected or punished for having them, but have her feelings taken into account in a thoughtful way. I was really very glad about that.

A while after that, she went to take a bath. Then “her brother” called some other person’s phone and she took the call outside. Then some other students came to me with math questions and C went to eat watermelon I had brought with some other friends nearby. Finally, she came back and started changing clothes. Her cousin explained what they were getting ready for, but I didn’t get it and it didn’t really matter. I wrote a note to C and handed it to her. She tucked it into one of her books. After a minute, C said, “You want to go?”

It was maybe a few minutes before then that I realized I had become very dissociated. I felt like I wasn’t me at all and that nothing was real, and I realize it was getting to me, either to be with her or to leave her. Maybe both. I just noted it and was aware of it.

I said something about she had something to do now. I made her walk out with me. It was clear she was edging into Detached Mode as we walked out together. At the gate to the hostel, we parted. I was going to walk down the hill and was going to walk up, so I said goodbye to her there. I said, “I love you,” and I hugged her and she said, “Okay, go now.” I thought about how much this was hurting her.

Walking down the hill, I began to worry whether she was drinking—I saw one of her friends with a beer can badly concealed in something black I couldn’t see clearly. Then I realized what was happening to me. I don’t know whether C will develop a drinking problem this year or not, but I was thinking about it at that particular moment because I was leaving C and it was triggering massive fear which I wasn’t regulating, and it was manifesting itself as paranoia. I stopped thinking about it and shifted my attention to the walk.

It was a nice walk down. For a few hours after I reached my house, I felt more grounded and calm and inside my own body than I have in a long time. Being with C, I had felt a lot of warmth for her. I think I usually have that warmth and shut it down. I think it’s too painful to feel it, and I was in less pain this time, and could feel it. I think that is why later I felt more grounded. The warmth gave me a wonderful feeling of connection and it was like food for my heart. I felt full afterwards.

Later, it dissipated—I began to cycle through all the stages I go through with separation again, the longing and fear and shame and anger and despair. Then a friend came—I was expecting her. She wanted my help. I came out of it and felt a bit more settled again. It might have triggered me that after I leave I have been sending C texts via a friend, and usually the Vulnerable Child keeps the connection for a while. I get a few texts later, and this time I sent one and there was silence.

It struck me later, as I thought about this as a trigger, that the reasons I supplied in my own mind were either innocuous (maybe she hadn’t seen her friend, maybe she felt reassured enough not to need to reach for me) or worried (maybe she was struggling too much to reach out for me), but they weren’t the ones I would have thought in regard to my parents. I didn’t think it was because she didn’t really care about me or that the connection would be severed, and it again made me sad. C is 14 and a teenager. She is not mature. She has disordered attachment. She can’t regulate her emotions well. And yet I feel a trust for her that middle-aged people responsible for my welfare couldn’t make me feel for them. I felt they forgot me when I wasn’t there. I felt I couldn’t believe what they said to me. They said they loved me and I didn’t believe them. I don’t expect C to take care of me, but I trust that the care is in her heart, and I really believe it is there all the time, even when she is flooded with all kinds of emotions. I know when she is angry, she really wants to hurt me, and she does say things to hurt me, but I know if she tried she could probably actually hurt me. It made me really sad to think of that.

I had this other idea that I miss her. I miss the sweet texts she has been sending me when I leave her, and I need to be able to validate that in order to cope with the feelings. I need to tell myself it is okay to miss someone. I guess that is the next item on the agenda.

Then also I was thinking about what might have been going through C’s mind—things I hadn’t been conscious of in the moment, but occurred to me later. I told her, kind of in every way possible, that she is wanted. She wanted to take a bath when I came, and her cousin scolded her so she didn’t, and I told her it was okay. She could go. She was going to sit on her friend’s bed instead of her own—where I was sitting—and I insisted she sit with me. My gestures to her the whole time were very open and inviting. I touched her a lot, and I think for someone who feels shame about herself and her own body, that can have a meaning. When someone touches you in a gentle way, as I was doing, I think it can feel that your body is okay. It isn’t dirty or shameful. I was telling her too—we were talking about dance, that she isn’t dancing this year at all—and I said whenever I see the students at our school dancing, I really miss her. I listened to what she had to say about her phone. I elicited her reasoning for wanting the phone and was open to what she said. Then I left her a note that said everything about her is okay, and I love her for the person she really is.

I asked her cousin if C had talked to her parents at all. She hadn’t thought so. I am visiting C twice a week, and walking up a steep hill or down the same hill in pouring rain or paying a taxi 150 in local currency (which is not cheap, actually) and her parents haven’t contacted her. It has to be incredibly painful to feel that you can be wanted, but your parents in particular for their own reasons don’t want you. It has to be terribly painful to start to see that it isn’t you—it’s your parents. The grief must be tremendous.

Those are my thoughts. Now I am going to sleep.