Friday, when my friends came to visit, I was aware afterward that I really didn’t want them to come. They came when I was sick, and I didn’t want them to come and see me. I didn’t want them to care about me, and I think I have never really been in touch with my feelings or even maybe had strong enough feelings for other people to be aware of that wish to push people away. And I was aware that I felt very angry at them for coming. A certain veneer has worn off and they are not being polite. They care about me. And I don’t want them to care about me.
It was a very little feeling. It seemed very hard to articulate, but very strong. Just a very little feeling.
So I was thinking about that. I was thinking where that anger was coming from, exactly and precisely. It seemed to me it came from that feeling a little child has when they want their mommy and not anybody else. “I don’t want Daddy. I want Mommy.” I don’t want my friends to care about me. I want my mom to care about me, and she doesn’t. I don’t know why that is. I don’t know what her issues really are, but she attended to me when I was sick in a very sporadic, undependable way that often lacked empathy. I particularly remember one incident when I was somewhat older—maybe 10 or 11—and I had a bad flu and she was home with me. On this particular occasion, she was trying very hard to take care of me. She wasn’t always like that, but this time she was, and there was this profound misattunement. It was lunchtime, and she had this idea I would want a light lunch, and that I wouldn’t be very hungry, but when I am sick, I am frequently famished. She had prepared something like soup and some toast and cut up apples or something. Healthy and nourishing, but very light. She was really trying very hard, but it was completely not what I needed. I ate the lunch she gave me, and I was starving still.
It really strikes me now that even when she tried to care, even when she wasn’t enraged that I had needs, she couldn’t attend to my needs. It might have been because usually she couldn’t tolerate my needs, and I could not express them, and so in the few moments of stability she had, there was no history. We lived in the same house, but there was no history. She didn’t know me. She didn’t know what my needs would be, but she also did not realize there was no history. She didn’t realize she needed to ask, and that because so often when I was sick she didn’t care or she was angry or I was afraid she would get angry, she knew nothing about me or how I typically felt when I was sick. It came out as a kind of widgety approach to taking care of a sick person, because she had never gotten to know me.
It really, really strikes me now, that memory. It is so telling. She really could not meet my needs. She couldn’t meet my needs because she could not tolerate knowing about them often enough for me to learn to express them or for her to gain a knowledge of them. Even when I was a baby, and couldn’t help but express my needs, the transference in her own mind must have been so strong as to keep her from really taking in what I needed, and so she was constantly misattuned to me. It was painful for me and I would imagine painful and frustrating to her. She must have felt, “I can’t do this. I can’t be a parent,” because so often she couldn’t. She couldn’t be in touch with her own emotions and someone else’s emotions enough to learn how to take care of me.
Our relationship would have been one where we were constantly out of step, constantly out of sync, constantly misattuned, and so she was incapable of soothing me.
It gives me a very different feeling. Her behaviour was abusive, clearly abusive and wrong, but I feel like I have a sense of where that came from and a feeling of peace about it. It is not entirely that she had no feeling about me, but more that she could not have relationships. She could not cope with feelings enough to be attuned to me. She was juggling her own inner world too much of the time.
To baby Me, it very often felt, “I am not important. I don’t matter. My needs don’t matter,” because she couldn’t see them. Sometimes she couldn’t stand to see them. Certainly, she could not tolerate having difficulty seeing them. The shame of that was quite immense for her. Sometimes I concealed my needs out of fear. Sometimes she just didn’t know. It would have been like taking care of a sranger’s baby, because she didn’t know me, but one with a huge amount of trauma and grief. She was always just meeting me for the first time, but I had all of these complex needs.
I wonder if, in March, this was part of the issue with C. I wonder if she had settled into the routine of school—she had been here for a month, but there had only been classes for a few weeks, and if she began to miss her mom. I wonder if she felt, “I don’t want you. I want my mom.” I wonder if she felt, “I wish it didn’t have to be like this, where I need an adopted mom to give me the love my natural mom can’t give me, and I wonder if she began to feel a lot of grief.