I might be feeling a little more grounded today.
I got a text from C last night. In the morning, I had sent a text in the morning about being gentle with herself and forgiving herself when she makes mistakes, because she is still growing. Then later, a friend sent me a text and just asked if I needed anything sent to me. Well, I am fine, but I immediately thought of C. Impulsively, I sent another text to C, “What do you like?”
So, I got a response to that, which I will translate into non-text English as, “Why? Are you fine? Miss you.”
I answered and said some other stuff and asked if she was fine.
The thing about her texts is it tells me where she is emotionally, at least in that moment. Most of my texts are not intended to get a response. They are advice and encouragement, and I do not have any expectation she will answer them. I just expect her to take in what I have said, and maybe feel that I am there and remembering her. But the two where I asked a question, I kind of know if she answered them, she is okay. If she doesn’t answer, then she is feeling very fearful and distrustful, and she cannot figure out what to say to me or she is in too much pain to take in the warmth.
The first one she answered—I just said, “I am worried about you today. Are you okay?”
That one sounded like Healthy Adult. I don’t know why I have such a vivid sense of the emotional state that one word communicates, but I do. Totally fine. Confident. Okay. That is how it sounded, and it really reassured me.
The one last night sounded Vulnerable Child, which is okay, but more worrying. If she doesn’t reach too far, if nothing dramatic happens with other people in her life, if she does not feel rejected by my response, she will be stable. But it’s a vulnerable place to be in—as the name implies—and if she reaches too far, and feels too ashamed of reaching, then she will be overwhelmed, and she is going to cycle through shame and anger and distrust and reaching.
One thing is I do keep in mind she is vulnerable to feelings of rejection. So even though she just says, “Yap,” I answer her. I just said. “Ok. I love you.” And then I didn’t say anything else. An hour or two later, she was online. It wasn’t long. Just for about two minutes. It was hard for me. I know she is reaching. I know she is in a vulnerable place when she does that, because they are not supposed to be using their phones at school. If she is taking that risk, she is feeling something strongly and she is impulsively trying to connect. Mentally, I just said, “Stay still.” That is kind of what I tell myself when I feel worried about her. Be still. Be constant. Stay in one place. Be a presence, but don’t smother her and don’t get all Vulnerable Child, because that will call to her Vulnerable Child to answer, and she will be more destabilized. Just be there. She is trying to regulate herself. Let her do it. I can’t do it for her, because she has grown up too much to be regulated by someone else, and because she cannot trust enough to do that. Just be still.
I have realized in the last few weeks that it is very difficult to let her go through this. I feel a lot of grief over it and a lot of anger, and I have started to realize there is no way to take away the pain she is going to feel to be in a close relationship. I am trying to hold her hand through it, but that is pretty much all I can do. I think when she first came here, I had the wishful thinking that I could really rescue her from her pain, and I have come to realize I can’t. This has to happen. She will hurt, and there is absolutely no way to avoid except deprive her of the warmth and closeness that trigger the pain. Which is basically even worse. But it is like watching your kid go through chemo. It hurts and you can’t do anything much to take that pain away from your child.
Except someone did this to her. This is not some unpreventable act of nature. Someone did this to her. Someone did this to her when she was very, very small. They did it to her when she was most likely an infant and a toddler, and I cannot fathom that. It really, really makes me want to murder her parents, personally, with my bare hands.
But I can’t be angry at them in front of her. This is her grief, and being angry in front of her puts her in the position of needing to soothe me through my grief about her—in addition to just being frightened. This is the importance of being still. And it also puts her in a position of needing to confront feelings she isn’t ready to. She isn’t ready to be angry at her parents. She isn’t ready to see that she is not the cause of her problems in relating to others. So, still. Be still. Be angry at them when she isn’t around.
I have a lot more work to do on that. I am so, so angry.
I should say I am not really better because I got a response to her, although that helped. It gave a clearer picture of what she might be needing. I am better because I sat with the knives in my stomach a lot yesterday. I was just with it. I don’t really know what the pain and the fear is about. I suspect there are a lot of layers to it—both past and present. But I sat with it for a long time yesterday, and I think it helped me get back to a settled place.
The ritual—where she would have been a presence, but wasn’t—and not seeing her on Sunday and seeing she was reaching and feeling unsettled made it difficult for me. And I had some time to sit with that, and sitting with it helped. It was too much for a while, and I got totally thrown off, but it did need to be done.