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.