Lots and lots and lots

I suppose I should write something. I have been meaning to and not really gotten around to it. There was an “education meet” which involved I guess five or six local schools. It was mostly sports, plus chess and ping-pong and maybe dancing or something. Anyway, we went to the high school for an evening song and dance show plus dinner, which kept me out until after 10 the first night and nearly 11 the next night. I go to sleep at 8 normally—this seems to work for me. So that’s a late night. The first night, it got to a point where it was just kind of torture, and I realized it: this is now just sort of torture. I am overstretched, and this happens sometimes. It actually happens quite frequently. Life is not designed to accommodate someone with a lot of childhood trauma, and conforming to normal social conventions makes it hard for me to meet my own needs. And that is just how it is. They do actually work for adequately for most people, despite Freud’s claims to the contrary, but they don’t work for me a lot of the time. It triggers all kinds of stuff for me that that it happens like this, but there it is. Acknowledging reality helps.

Something has happened with C, and I am not really sure what. I am not sure if it is a positive development or a negative one. She has been in contact with me all week. Last Monday, she actually called me. I think she called me twice. There were texts every day. She sent a note down with a friend. This is a child who rarely responded to anything. Not even, “What did you eat for dinner?” So she wants a lot more contact. The contacts are about practical things, recharges, her phone, sometimes money, sometimes whether I can request time away from school for her. There are moments when I feel like a vending machine, when something gets triggered and I feel momentarily like I am being used. And yet I know implicitly I am not. I know what it feels like to be used, and this isn’t it. The conversations are about whether she is safe or not. She is reaching for me to see if I am still there, but also to see if she can still get her needs met or her desires acknowledged.

In my core, I feel so privileged to be a part of that process for her. It is healing. When I get the time to ground myself, I feel so in awe of what is happening. I don’t even know what I think is happening, but maybe just that it is starting to feel safe to have needs and desires. She is discovering that this is safe. I usually say yes—I am probably spending too much money on her at the moment, but she is healing right now, and she is not hurting anyone. She is discovering she can want shoes, she can want shampoo and creams, she can want to see her grandparents. She can want all of these things she does not have the power to do herself, because she cannot get permission to leave campus herself and she does not have money of her own to buy anything. She can want these things and no one gets mad at her. Sometimes she gets these things. Sometimes she has to wait for them. Sometimes I say no. But I don’t get mad and I don’t leave her. I suppose that is why I am getting so many contacts from her this week. She wants to know can she still want things? Is it still safe to want things? Yes, it is safe.

It has been a hard week for her, actually. She was very sad and mournful. Her friends told me she was crying. She got headaches, which seem to be kind of a flashback headache. Last night, we had a long exchange over a recharge. It was 8 pm. They are meant to be studying. She asked for a 100 in local currency for a recharge. I said no, it is study time. The texting exchange went on for an hour. Lots of “please, mom, please.” I said mostly the same things over and over. It is study time, not talking time. I love you and I am still here. I am not angry at you that you asked. She finally said something like, “If you don’t give it to me, I am forever gone.” Something like that. I said, “You are pushing me away because you think I will leave anyway. I will not leave you.” She didn’t understand that, but the conversation went back to “please, mom, please.” I said it’s okay to be angry and sad now.

I am so privileged to be a part of this, to be the first person she could express her vulnerability to and she could be angry with and still be safe. I feel so sad about her past, and so privileged to be a part of her life now.

She said, “I don’t want anything,” and I said more about it being okay to be angry and sad. I saw I didn’t have balance on my phone anymore and it was nine o’clock, so I told her that. I said, “I don’t have balance now. Good night and sweet dreams. I love you lots and lots and lots.”

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Schemas

I don’t know what triggered this in my mind, but there was a point last night when I had a very distinct mostly felt memory of looking for someone. In the morning, I thought about that, and I began to realize I remember that so vividly because it really happened. It happened more than once. It happened quite frequently, and the reason that happened is that sometimes people disappeared unexpectedly. They went away and did not come back and I did not know the reason. I came to the place where they had been last seen, and they simply weren’t there anymore. I remember searching for people and finding them again, but I also think the urgency of looking for them came from sometimes being unable to find them.

People seemed to just vaporize. That was my world. No continuity. Not merely one person who seemed to be different people at different times—and I had that—but many people who seemed to physically disappear. Because I had no reliable primary relationship, every other relationship was doubly or triply important. And those people just disappeared sometimes.

That is always my fear about walking up to the high school. I will get there, and C will just be gone. That’s a schema for me, because of my particular past. People vaporize. They physically disappear with no explanation. I think it is a stronger schema than any other schema for me. It’s the abandonment schema with a twist, and it less about rejection and more about life being unpredictable and inexplicable. Logic says C ought to be at the high school because the school session is on and the matron won’t just allow her to head off with some well-meaning relative. If she ran away or caused some other problem, they would call me. They called the last time. And yet there is this baby logic that says none of that matters. People just vaporize sometimes.

I suppose that is death. The person’s consciousness no longer occupies their body. It might be, if there is such a thing as souls, that their consciousness lies elsewhere. I guess this is what I have been trying to tell myself: this is how I understood death. The body was there (sometimes), but the feeling of a person was no longer in it.

There was a cobra at school this week, a very large one. We have a lot of snakes on campus during the summer, but they are usually quite small. This one was a full-grown, healthy, well-fed snake. Two of the teachers killed it. It was a total madhouse, and reminded me of my own school days. Counter Xers assume, I think, that their problems are unique. No one else in the world has snakes at school, but that is not true. We had snakes at school. The lunch ladies told us to go inside. We went inside. Then animal control came and took the snake away. It was all fairly organized. I think this happened at least twice in elementary school. Maybe five or six times.

At our school, everyone ran to look at the snake, the children gathered in a screaming crowd while two teachers first drove it into an unoccupied building and then out again. I went away at that point, because the whole thing seemed so insane to me. Apparently, the teachers continued to throw rocks until the animal died. They might have called our forest service, who would have captured the snake and taken it into the forest—it is, after all, an endangered species. But they didn’t. Better to throw rocks.

But I went to look at the snake as it was dying—Maths Ma’am kept her son inside. He is seven. She told him the snake was very dangerous and to stay inside. It made me think of C’s cousin, who is five, and is not very obedient. I went to get him—sure enough, he had gone close to the snake (not very close, but too close for my comfort), and I told him to go away. Anyway, the snake was dying by then. I had this feeling as I watched it, first of sadness and pain, and then of relief. It seemed to me I was imagining—or maybe I really did feel—that moment of actual death. A minute later, he opened his jaws for the last time and convulsed. That would have been after death. It happens after you die. I am sure I have seen that before. I am sure I have seen that many times, and it would be familiar to me. My dad killed animals in front of me and not just people. I would know that feeling of the animal dying and their consciousness no longer occupies their body, but it would have been hard for me to understand. At 2 or 3, when my dad was torturing me in this way, I would not have known how to make sense of it, except to feel that they were gone. They were not inside their body anymore, and it would have felt like their consciousness had gotten lost to me. It would have melted into a sense of people physically disappearing out of my life. I wouldn’t have understood the difference.

The other schema that has been surfacing lately is irrelevance. I know parts of me feel bad. I mean feel from the inside out that I am a bad human being, and I will have to deal with that. But there is this other one that I just don’t matter. I am like a stone. You can put me anywhere and it won’t make any difference. That gets triggered in many situations. No one wants to be a stone. I don’t like it. That is the memory that surfaces with it. It makes me angry to be a stone and not to matter to anyone. I don’t want to be a stone, but it is the baby logic that pops up as a way to explain many, many situations.

No Control

I was deep in thought—it’s first period, and I don’t have class, but everyone else in my staffroom does. I was thinking about mattering to C, and about having my needs considered, because that is what is going on for me: she considers my needs sometimes. She doesn’t sometimes: She behaves like a child, who doesn’t consider the needs of others and just asks for what she wants in hopes that it will be accommodated, and has no choice but to accept the boundaries laid down. Lately, it seems like she is thinking about my needs more. Not necessarily needs I articulate, but the needs she imagines I have. So I was thinking about that, about being considered, and it was hitting a very tender place in me, because I know this is about real connection. She is polite, but not to me. This isn’t politeness.

My eyes suddenly welled up with tears as I thought about it. At that particular moment, the “dry sweeper” came wandering into the staffroom. He just came in. He had nothing to do in there. I covered my face, because I did not have time to wipe away the tears before he walked in. He clumped around the staffroom for a while in his boots, while I tried to pretend there weren’t tears on my face. It seemed he was going to stay for a while, clumping around, so finally I wiped the tears and went to close the blinds, as though the light had been making it hard to see the screen. (It was going to soon—it’s a bright, hot day.)

I asked him if he was looking for something, because he was walking around looking at all of the teacher’s tables. “No.”

“Just bored?”

He didn’t answer, but wandered out again.

Five minutes later, the office secretary wandered in, looked at someone’s table, and also wandered out again—seemingly also without purpose.

It scared me to have someone walk into the room suddenly when I was unexpectedly crying. I felt scared and angry (is there some reason you need to disturb my solitude? No, evidently not.)

I am free in second period also, but the other teachers will be. They might come in the staff room and work diligently. They might stay outside under the metal umbrella outside. They might come inside, turn on all the fans (which gives me a headache because of my shitty sinuses), and shout and terrify me for a period.

I have absolutely no control.

I don’t have control over what people do and I have no control over my delicate nervous system, which is wired to look at every stimulus as a potential life-threatening situations. Everything that happens, I must assess and calm myself down after realizing it is not a threat. I have no control over my nervous system and its automatic reaction to things. I have no control over how other people trigger it or don’t. None whatever. I get to react to life. Constantly.

What is stressful about Country X for me is that everyone else is kind of doing the same thing to some extent. Everyone responds to everything like someone is bleeding to death. There’s a pencil on the floor and it’s like, “Oh, my God! Someone dropped a pencil!” No one ever says calmly, “Excuse me, I think you dropped your pencil.” It’s always, “Pencil!” as though someone has just spotted a king cobra in the class. What is most stressful about teaching here is that people are continually alarmed, and they communicate this alarm to others without really thinking about it. I mean, no one ever takes a breath first. I don’t know why this is or why Americans seem to be able to take a breath first. But I know they seem to be able to cope with this constant reactivity, and I can’t. My nervous system is unable to handle it.

I think I had been fighting this. But this is just how it is.

Protective Streak

They are cutting wood right outside my ears. Not really, but it feels that way. It is outside the staffroom somewhere. I have no idea why they are chopping wood, but they are. With a chain saw. It does seem as though any loud, mechanical device designed for cutting things frightens me. There is no electricity, but they are somehow managing to use a chain saw. I am, as you might imagine, triggered. Very triggered. And I am alternating between having suicidal thoughts and thinking I will die.

The timing is not great, because I was triggered like hell anyway. I don’t really know what happened last night. I went to see C. The night before she had said come back tomorrow, so I came. There was no electricity, and when I went into the hostel room, it was dark. She had already gone up to get dinner—either they let them go early from evening study, or I had come later than usual. She must have decided I wasn’t coming by then. I don’t know. But she did not come into the hostel room for a long time. She ate outside and maybe came in 20 minutes after I arrived.

It was hard to wait there in the dark for her. It seemed someone must have told her I was there. Maybe they hadn’t. But I thought she has to come inside sometime. I just have to cope with my feelings that she is “lost” and I don’t know where she is. That’s all I have to do. Sit here and try to cope.

She eventually came in. It was still dark and I could not really see her expression. She almost immediately said to go. She asked why I came first, as though she had forgotten she asked me to. Maybe she had. Then she began to tell me to leave. It seemed she was afraid of the dark, and so I turned on the flashlight on my phone. It doesn’t give a lot of light, but maybe if you are afraid of the dark, it helps. Most Country Xers are afraid of the dark. College kids will sleep with the lights on, from what I hear. It is kind of insane. She began to tell me about the dog that bit the matron—it bit me last week, but not hard. I mean, if it wanted to bite me, it could have. That was just to let me know how it felt about me, and the next day, I fed it bred. It ate at my feet. I don’t think it will bite me now so long as I don’t startle it. She said it bit one of the captains also. It might have. Anyway, she is worried.

She began to say something about coming Friday. Then she began to say something about there not being classes for a week and she wanted to go to her village. I find it highly unlikely there are no classes for a week. We don’t have classes for three days here because of an “Education Meet.” I don’t think they are also having an “Education Meet” at the high school simultaneously, nor do I think it is for an entire week. It is usually around a weekend—ours is Thursday, Friday and Saturday. But something is up.

I said I would check with her principal. She began to say, “If you don’t want to send me…” I said, “I didn’t say no. I said I would check with your principal.” This is an important distinction I want her to learn. Yes means yes. No means no. Anything else means we are still in the discussion stages, and I am gathering information. You are welcome to provide more information also. She subsided a bit, and again wanted me to go.

The whole interaction felt very distressing to me. She was talking, but it felt sort of Wild Animal the whole time, like she wanted to climb out of her skin. I don’t really know what helps in those situations. I think what might help is if I understood something I don’t understand yet, and could be calm and solid and give validation to something she is not able to say. But I am not there yet. She seemed to slip into a very Detached Mode, but she was still talking to me, she was telling me to leave and about the dog again. She said, “If you don’t listen to me, I won’t listen to you.” I said, “I am worried about you.” She asked why. I said, “Because you are hurting inside.” “I am going to hurt if you don’t leave.”

So it was like that. I didn’t feel I handled it well. I decided to leave shortly after that. Wild Animal State I cannot leave. Detached Mode I trust more. She will take care of C. I have that feeling. She might not be nice to anyone else, but she will take care of C.

Walking down, I got hit really hard with shame. I felt worthless and suicidal. I don’t really know why. There are a million reasons I could have. She was very rejecting, but actually I feel that is not the part that hurts. What is hurting is that she cares, and I hate it. I think I feel more comfortable when she is a little part, and she needs me, and she does not really think that much about my feelings or what is happening for me. She trusts me to be an adult and take care of her, and she is warm as the Vulnerable Child, but not able to really think of me as someone who needs things. I don’t know if that makes sense, but the Vulnerable Child is warm without understanding it takes time to make her pancakes, it takes energy to walk up the hill and meet her, it takes money to buy cake and junk food. Maybe there are gaps in her ability to empathize. Something like that. It’s not that she doesn’t care in these little part states, but it is different. And Angry Child is just full of need—no space at all to think about other people.

This other person she was last night, that person thought about me. She wasn’t thinking about me in ways that I wanted her to, but she was thinking about me. I think it is her schema at work: she is bad and will be punished by having bad things happen to the people she loves. But it’s somehow genuine. It’s also her personality showing through the trauma symptoms. She said, “There is no light. Otherwise, I would keep you here.” “Keep” in Country X has the sense of “to put and to retain there.” It’s a different meaning than it ought to have, because they have borrowed an incorrect usage from other non-native speakers. When I decided to leave her at the high school, I told her, “I will keep you there.” It’s that usage. So, I am someone who can be “kept.” It’s odd.

It’s that odd feeling I have about her.

Me

I wrote about C and the visit with her. I didn’t really write about me. I meant to, but it all gets confused then. Sometimes it feels that life is proceeding on two different tracks, probably because what I am experiencing is sometimes only tangentially related to events. A lot of it is trauma, just as a lot of C’s response to me is trauma based.

I was waiting for her in the hostel, sitting on her bed. I had come early—someone I am not sure I remember correctly gave me a lift up, and I was there maybe ten minutes before they finished evening study. The same man has given me a lift before.

Anyway, I sat on the bed for a while. After a bit, I began to feel something: a calm. It didn’t last that long. When I began to think, “She ought to have come by now,” and she hadn’t, then I lapsed back into paranoia. But there was this while where I sat there, and I had a feeling of calm so strong, it was like I had taken a drug. That is happening to me these days. Not every time I see C, but sometimes. Usually it is after. This time I got it just from sitting there, just from sitting there on her bed. It’s amazing. I sat there with this calm feeling and after a little while I began to feel fear at the same time—calm and fear together. It crossed my mind I feel afraid to feel safe, and I think now that makes sense. Not because the safety doesn’t last, but because safety comes from being with your attachment figure. It comes from the reassurance they give you. I was never allowed to have that. I was never allowed to run to mommy when I felt scared so that I could feel safe again.

It’s tragic. It’s absolutely tragic. I thought of myself at 2 or 3 years old and I thought what would it look it for that to happen? It looks like a parent who is, perhaps, annoyed. Who lacks empathy—for whatever reason, overwhelm with one’s own problems, pure lack of giving a shit. It’s terrible to think about.

I had had that feeling on Saturday, after she left. I don’t know when it hit me exactly, if it was right after she left or some hours after. I felt it again at night on Saturday night. I thought of her having slept in the bed next to me. The beds are against different walls, but the heads meet. A few times, I put my hand on her head when she slept, and it was like being awake. She pushed it away. The last time she slept in my house, I had only one bed. She slept in the bed with me—it’s a narrow bed—and in the night she suddenly moved to put her head on my chest. Now, she has her own bed. Before sleeping, she said, “I will sleep here.” I said, “Yes, it is your bed.” I wonder what she thought about that—if it felt like she had a C-sized space in my life, or if she felt like I had pushed her away. Probably both at the same time.

Anyway, the night after that, I thought of all of this, and I remembered her lying there, and it gave me that calm feeling again.

Sunday was different. Then I missed her. It hurt. It hurt when I woke up again also. She wasn’t there and I missed her.

On Sunday, at the hostel, I got that feeling later. C was sitting on the bed, being Angry Child again, trying to get me to leave and seeming worryingly more agitated as I didn’t. Even five minutes more seemed to be too much to cope with. I did leave because of that—I don’t know if I should have. She wanted so badly for me both to stay and to leave at the same time. It felt that way. But I was sitting there, next to her while she did this, and I had the feeling of being so calm I felt drugged.

This is safe. This is what safe feels like. It’s okay to feel safe.

That is for the little parts, who feel scared to feel safe.

At the moment, writing this, they are vaccinating the kindergartners. The children are silent, but the adults are yelling like someone is bleeding to death. I love Country X. I hate the yelling. It is so hard to cope with all the panic all the time. I don’t know how they cope with their own internal states. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they are all dissociated. I have no idea.

Sunday Night

When C walked into the hostel, she had Angry Child face on. She smiled at me and Angry Child seemed to go away for a while. She was kind of average, adult. She went to get dinner—without saying anything this time, just went. She came running back maybe ten minutes later, grabbed her pillow, and ran out again. I figured someone must have fainted or something. Indeed, someone had. I wandered out of the hostel room and saw her in what I guess is the Class 11 room. Or one of them. I guess there are six rooms. There must be fewer students in Class 11 and 12 because they have to pass an exam in Class 10 to continue. It is not a standardized score they must achieve, but a norm-referenced score of some kind. Only a certain percentage make it.

Anyway, she was there. The young woman in the bed seemed to be unconscious. I touched her face, and she wasn’t feverish. Someone was talking to her and after a minute it seemed she was speaking again.

C led me back to her hostel. I think she had this feeling I had escaped. I was not in the room she had left me in, where she feels I am safe. I was wandering off again, doing things. I could get hurt. I don’t know if she really feels that way, but sometimes I have this sense about her. Sometimes it makes me think this is how abusive relationships develop. The person is frightened their attachment figure is not safe, and they exert control to keep them safe, and they do not have the empathy to realize this is harmful to their attachment figure.

That is an aside, however. She came back with me, ate quickly, and wanted me to leave. She wanted me to come back tomorrow. She had an excuse about wanting to tend to the sick girl and feeling worried about her. I think she did feel worried, but didn’t know what to worry about. The sick girl is what came to mind. She said also the Class 11 girls are “saying things.” I asked what. I imagine she just felt fearful. (She was telling me to leave. When I am leaving, she feels fearful, just as I get paranoid when I am leaving her.) Anyway, she said they are saying she is not giving time to me.

I don’t think they probably are. I don’t think they necessarily notice her enough to say anything much, although they are vaguely curious about me. However, I think that is her own conscience pricking her. I think she feels guilty she takes from me—warmth, connection, money, recharges, food—and then runs away. In my mind, her job is to take from me and to use that to be a good person, to study, and to make good decisions in her own life. I think that is probably a fairly Western attitude about raising kids. We expect our kids to mostly pay forward. I can talk to her about that more, about the idea of paying forward rather than paying back. But I also think this is her issue to wrestle with, and she has to sort it out.

I think she feels guilty she didn’t spend the holiday with me and she didn’t want to spend it with me. All day long, I sent her texts, because on Friday I had spent the evening with her and she had spent the night at my house. I knew the next day, she would be struggling. I just said things like we are still connected. And it is okay you are not with me. Every few hours, I sent one. I sent maybe four or five over the course of the day. She never responded to any of them—she used to never respond to any of them, but now when she is settled, she does respond. So I knew she wasn’t settled. In the evening, she was online. I just said hi to her. She said hi. I asked how her day was. “Nice.” And then she never read anything else. I think she felt so ashamed.

It’s the shame that happens after loss of connection, and it’s also the shame of individuating, but I suppose it’s also her conscience. I think she loves me more than anyone in the world, but she cannot stand to be with me, and she doesn’t understand why she feels that way. She sees herself constantly pushing me away, and she feels guilty about it. It’s easy for me to say be patient with this. It won’t always be like this.

For her, it’s a real issue. It’s a thing. She understands the pushing me away is wrong, and she is feeling less and less entitled to do it. Maybe. It’s something she has to sort out for herself though.

The other, real issue was, I think, that it was Sunday. The weekend is over, and now the routine changes. The routine changes and she doesn’t see me. If she is upset, then I keep coming, but it’s not like the weekend, when she sees me Friday evening and then Sunday afternoon and Saturday she can think I am coming tomorrow. She just has to wait one day. And then if she is not upset, I don’t come at all until Friday. It is five long days without me. I think there is a grief about this, and that’s why she sent me off quickly. She didn’t want the grief of feeling that change. She wants to be grown up and independent, but she also wants me there, and it’s very difficult. She wants my body next to her at dinner time. I think I need to come one other day of the week, so it does not feel there is this long stretch of time without me. I think it is too long. Something in the relationship has changed, and there is more trust, and that means there is more loss, and the feeling of loss is too great.

It’s getting late. I better get to school.

Afterwards

I did not do anything much yesterday. I was so tired. Partly, I hadn’t slept much, but also I just was tired. I had had a lot to process the day before, and I was tired. I think maybe I also felt safer to be tired—I think usually feeling tired is very unsafe for me. There were many situations where I was not allowed to be tired. I could not sleep. I could not do things in a tired, sleepy way. It was night time and I had to be awake and alert and energetic. So, although I take a lot of time to rest, it’s hard for me to cope with the actual feeling of fatigue. It means being tired is usually more tiring for me, because then I have fear to cope with as well.

I took four naps yesterday, and lay in bed most of the time, and I fell asleep without eating dinner at 7:30, with the lights still on and I only woke up after 10, when I turned out the lights and slept until morning. I don’t know when I have felt so tired before.

It gave me some time to think that I think I needed to have. Something got worked out in my mind—a simple thing, but I think it will help later. I just kind of have it worked out how this happened for me, the whole disordered attachment.

We develop a moral sense from being punished, whether the punishment is the naughty chair or a beating or a disapproving look, that’s how we develop a feeling of right and wrong. I was punished for seeking connection. It was never explicitly stated this way—there is no conscious sense that connection is bad. But it happened. There is an implicit sense of it. And so when I want connection I feel afraid, the way one might feel afraid if you want to do something you know is really bad, and when I have had connection I feel ashamed afterwards, and I also have feelings of loss around it. I feel angry at the connection I am not getting, even if I have decided for some logical, rational reason that I ought not to pursue connection in this instance or from that person. I feel sad about not having it. I feel hopeless that I might never get the connection I want and need.

That’s the cycling I do following connection. I am afraid because I had connection I wasn’t supposed to have. I feel angry at the loss of the connection I was getting and then lost. I feel ashamed at having had connection because I have been taught that my need for connection is bad. That’s the core of it. It might manifest itself as any manner of thoughts in my mind, but that is what is really going on inside me.