On Sunday, I went to meet C. When I first saw her, she was sitting on her bed doing homework, and it was clear I was meeting Detached Mode and she was in a very untrusting state.
The next morning, I think what this would have been like for me, because my own mother clearly had disordered attachment, as do I, as does C. I am an adult now. I have power, and I also have the ability to understand what is happening inside C, but I am thinking now what this would have been like to have a mother who cycled through trauma-induced states. It would have made my mother seem like a very inconstant person, as though there were 4 or 5 different moms, and I did not get the one who was safe and cared about very often. I would have looked at Detached Mode or Abused Child and thought, “Where is my mom? Where did she go?” and I would have had no explanation as to why she was behaving so differently or why she was interacting so differently towards me, and I would have struggled mightily to try please her and get the “good mom” back. I don’t remember that, because after a certain age, I permanently gave up on her. I didn’t try to connect with her anymore.
Anyway, she was clearly in Detached Mode and very untrusting and somewhat hostile. She really wanted to study—she had a test tomorrow and had missed a whole week of classes and evidently not kept up in the evenings as intended—and I just sat there. I explained that my meeting with her and giving her advice was what the school had asked me to do, and they expected this to be done, that it would only take a few hours, and she could study in the afternoon. I was just quiet and calm.
She had a question about spelling and called a friend over who was in my class two years ago. There was a search for a dictionary. “Why don’t you just ask madam?” seemed to be the exchange. I said, “She doesn’t want to ask me.”
I asked if there was an outing. Her friend said there was, C said there wasn’t. Her friend corrected herself and said there wasn’t. I didn’t know if this was the truth, but it didn’t particularly matter. I called the matron, who wasn’t terribly excited for me to take C, but relented when I explained it was a “sensitive topic” (they have limited vocabularies, “sensitive” has a lot of uses) and C was not “feeling comfortable.” (My Country X English is really coming along.)
So we walked down. The walk seemed to help C soften up and relax, and I talked to her on the way down about her anger, and that I wondered if sometimes she feels very close to me and she wishes she had that same closeness with her own mom, and she nodded. There were bits of tears. We talked about her stepdad, that she is worried about him. She said he has stopped drinking, but I think we both know he is sick. I don’t think I directly said that, but it was implied. I said, “It’s very scary when your parents are sick.”
She wanted chow mein, so when we got to my house, I sent her to buy it. We ate, and then I began to talk to her. I asked her about meeting the boy and what time it had happened. It was about 30 minutes after she had read my last text. She said she hadn’t wanted to go, and I believed that. I asked if it was like being pulled by a chain, and she nodded. I talked to her about the “healthy” pattern of interaction with a parent, that the child comes close when she needs it and then goes off to play and explore the world, and keeps coming back, and as you get older, you spend more time away and go farther, but you always come back to get that connection to your mom. I said in your family that isn’t happening. You aren’t able to come close and get connection because your mom might get angry at you and you aren’t exploring the world, because she doesn’t allow it. I said you are like someone starving. Connection is like food for our hearts, and you aren’t getting very much. I said, “You are like someone starving.” So when something like this happens, where it feels you might be able to get connection, you feel you have to have it, because you are starving. I said I want to teach her some strategies to cope with the fear, so she is getting connection and won’t be so starved for it.
There was a lot of crying after that. Not many words, but a lot of crying. And it was clear she was cycling through different states, but she did not entirely withdraw from me. She never got to that place of not wanting me to be near her or not wanting me to touch her, or maybe I was just attuned to her enough that I gave her only as much closeness as she could stand. After a while, she kind of came back. She wanted to call IT Ma’am. IT Ma’am hadn’t answered. She made a second call, and while I was sitting there, she deleted the call from the phone’s history. I asked, in a very worried way, who she had called.
“I called my own phone to see if it was working.”
It created enormous rupture between us. “You don’t trust me.”
After a few minutes of rupture I realized she was about to leave. In 10 minutes or so, I would need to go call a taxi. The rupture was coming from that. We were parting from each other, and it was affecting both of us. So I calmed down. After a while, she could look at me again. I had asked her earlier in the conversation if she knew why I always ask her to look at me. She didn’t know. I said it is so you can get that feeling of connection again.
This time, I asked her to look at me, and she did. I asked if that felt better. It did. I think after that, I went to get the taxi, and we went up to the high school together. We got to the gate and she asked if I was coming in. I said I would take her back to the hostel and I wanted to leave her with a note she could read later in the week. I had talked earlier too about meeting. I said I think it’s better if you know the time, and if it is always the same time, so you can count on it. And I also said I think once a week is too long a stretch in between. She didn’t really agree, but I asked if she would get angry if I came on Friday evening just to “check in,” although I didn’t use those words. So I said I will come on Friday at 7, when they will be eating dinner, and then on Sundays she wanted me to come at 2.
I sat on the bed next to her for a few minutes. I wrote the note for her to read. Then I left. As I was walking away, I said goodbye to her again, so that she would look at me as I was leaving and see me and have that moment of connection before I went.
We had agreed I would send a text when I got home, so I did that. I said some things about her test coming up on Monday—good luck and study and all. I got back, “K mom love you!” I wrote back, “I love you too.”
After that, there was a crisis with refreshments for the football game, so I had to go to my school quickly—no time for lunch. She texted back, “K.” I can’t remember if I answered that. I think I said something more about studying. After a while, she wrote, “KK Mom are you ate lunch?”
I said, “Not yet sweetheart.” Then I didn’t hear anything more. It is someone else’s phone, so I didn’t take any meaning from her silence.
At night though—around 10:30—she wrote, “Mom goodnight.” I got it in the morning, and I wrote her back on her friend’s phone and said good morning and something about good luck on her test.
On another note, I have a new friend. There is a new teacher at school, and I spent the afternoon with her.