I feel intensely the need to share with someone who understands attachment disorders.
I have been thinking about what to do with C, and whether to try to take her with me. I thought at first I wouldn’t take her with me. I think I assumed it just wasn’t possible. Then it began to feel that I ought to at least give it more thought, so I have. And one of my first thoughts has been that I needed to be able to imagine what school would feel like for her. I needed to look more at the various schools that might be possible to send her to. So I did that. I looked at a lot of schools that take international students and I found three (thus far) that might be appropriate—I mean, she wouldn’t feel like a robot or an ant wandering lost among thousands of strange faces and where teachers might take a personal interest in students.
Having found that, didn’t mean she would just get to attend one of them. Just this is possible. Now, are other things possible? Like, could she cope with the adjustment of being away from everything she knows? Can she cope with my not physically being here? Can she cope with physically being with me every day, because that is stressful for her too? Is either bad situation less bad than the others?
And I began to think there is a loss that goes with the effects of trauma. I took an interest in her life because I knew she needed someone to do that, but there is still a feeling of great loss and sadness that these are the realities that go with that. For example, there is a loss in acknowledging that because of her attachment disorder, having her spend even one night in my house with me is destabilizing for her, let alone living with me full time.
I began to think also that children with attachment disorders develop attachments to places and to routines in place of people. The schedule at school, which helps her to feel safe and that life is predictable, is important. It helps her cope. In Class 10, she will have the same schedule. She will not stay in the same hostel room, perhaps (although she might)—the room might simply become a Class 10 room instead of a Class 9 room. Sometimes they do that. But the hostel and the routine of school and the familiar faces are all a part of what helps her to feel safe. If I take her to the US, I am giving her myself, which is not a clear-cut safety. It feels both safe and dangerous to her. And I am taking away the safety of Y-town, the bazaar, the shops she knows, the hostel, her bed, the bell schedule, the teachers who may or may not really care about her, but are there.
I don’t really think I should take her. I think these external things help her to remain stable. I think that is the reality. I think in between these very difficult visits with me, these other things help her to get her balance again, and without them she will flounder mightily, at least for a time. The fact that it might get easier later—and probably will get easier—doesn’t mean I am not risking her having to flounder more than she can manage. I am not entirely certain, but I think it is part of the reality that I need to consider. I think school is helping her to feel safe, and I need to take that into account.
Of course, because of my trauma, I thought this and immediately began a kind of mental spiral. It felt absolutely like I would die, as though life would lose all of its colour and vibrance, and nothing of interest was left. It’s an echo, I assume—an echo of what I felt when important attachments were lost, because when I was a child, important attachments were lost totally. There was no way for me to maintain them. I did not have the adult ability to stay in touch with important non-relatives. I could not independently visit them or call them up or write letters or do anything at all to maintain that connection to them. So I am going to remember that, and I am going to remember it in an implicit, felt way—not as a narrative, because that is not how two or three or even seven-year-olds remember things. They remember them as felt responses to things. I have to cope with it. I will probably have to cope with more than once. It won’t be enough to simply note, “Oh, this is because I lost my foster parents when I was little and never got to see them again or even talk to anyone about them, and that made the whole world feel black and hopeless to me.”