My sister sent me a text last night. After 2 or 3 months of absolutely no interaction with her, she suddenly sent me a text around 8 pm saying her daughter liked 9×6.
Not important, but weird.
Anyway, I am very, very tired these days and also just frequently want to get today over with in the perpetual hope that tomorrow will be better. So I went to sleep before eight pm. Then I got her text about an hour later, and was awake for two hours.
I was thinking about whether what I am doing is working, if it’s healthy, if I am just delusional in thinking it’s working. I don’t know what else. After almost two hours of that, I started to realize I am telling myself stories. I am scared, and I don’t know why I am scared, and I am making up stories to explain my fear to myself. I am wondering about my mental health because I don’t know what else to be scared about.
I am scared of my sister. I am lying awake in bed for 2 hours, because my sister scares me half to death.
I am telling myself stories. And I think I don’t recognize that I am telling myself stories because they are my unique stories. I am worried about the kinds of things I worry about, and it doesn’t look like other people’s worries. I don’t know what other people worry about, but it is not this. I don’t always tell myself stories when I am scared. Sometimes I just lie there for hours, trying to calm my body down, but without having any concrete idea what has set me off—a vague one, yes, but not anything specific. Sometimes after seeing C, I come home, fall asleep, and wake up in the night terrified, and I know that the terror has something to do with her, but I don’t know exactly what really. I just know I need to make my body calm down so I can sleep.
There was one day this happened. I met C, I came home, I fell asleep and then woke up again, totally terrified and just lay there, trying to concentrate on my breathing and trying to calm down for hours, and it must have shown on my face pretty clearly the next day. VP Ma’am said, “How are you? Did you get good sleep? No, I don’t think you got good sleep. You shouldn’t worry. You shouldn’t worry about all these useless things.”
Gee, thanks for your concern. Glad you sorted that one out for yourself.
Anyway, I don’t worry about small things, and so I hadn’t realized I am telling myself stories sometimes to explain my fears.
I had a similar experience today. I was writing in my journal, got hungry, had a snack, knew I was disconnecting to myself, couldn’t get settled. Check my phone to see if C had read my message—I have started telling her good morning and good night every day. When she got all panicky and dysregulated the last few weeks of school, I began to do that and I have continued to do that over the holiday.
I thought to myself, “I want her attention.” Then I began to think what my attachment needs are that she might be getting pressed into meeting without my conscious awareness, because that would not be good for her. I began to think over whether I generally want her attention, and I began to ponder the idea that generally she ignores me. I go to see her, she eats something, and then she either studies or talks to her friends, and I either talk to her friends or just sit there and think quiet thoughts to myself, and while she ignores me, I can feel that this is helping her settle. Is she meeting my need for attention anyway?
And then I realized I am telling myself stories. I feel bad, and I am telling myself a story about using a child to meet my attachment needs in order to explain that feeling of badness to myself. Whether or not that story is true, I don’t know. At another time, it might be worth thinking about, but I am not thinking about it now because it’s worth thinking about. I am thinking about it because, at this moment, I feel bad and I need a story to tell myself about it.
I did not realize this, because I had not placed it in the same category as the stories other people tell themselves. This is my mind, and the stories my mind makes up are suited to me. I think it might be more subtle than the stories other people I know tell themselves. It is certainly quite analytical. There is less overt berating going on. I am not telling myself, “I should be doing x. I should not be doing y. Oh, God, I did z again.” There is real, actual, curiosity in my mind, and I am truly trying to ascertain whether my concern has any basis in reality.
And it’s still a story.
This happens with the saw sometimes. Stuff will start popping around in my head, I’ll start to feel suicidal or otherwise very hopeless, and then suddenly I will realize, “Oh, they are sawing shit again. It’s the fucking saw doing this to me.” I don’t need to figure out if life is worth living. I just need to recognize that this feeling is alerting me to the presence of a power tool in my vicinity. That’s all the feeling is trying to do. There’s a power tool. Yup. There is.
I think this happens because it is incredibly hard to connect to the child I was. It’s incredibly hard to have a memory of being a child and feel what it was to be that child. It was hard to be that child. It’s hard to re-experience being that child. It’s hard for that child part of myself to recognize the pain I was in.
I think my adult self can recognize it. There is a remove to being an adult and no longer the child being hurt which makes it easier to acknowledge the abuse I experienced. When I think about the abuse as an adult, I don’t feel the same emotions I had as a child. I don’t feel helpless. I don’t feel rage. I don’t feel unworthy. I feel indignant and I feel angry, but I do not feel rage. I feel protective of myself. I don’t feel worthless.
In other words, I feel about my own abuse a lot more like someone else feels in hearing about my childhood abuse. I think that seems more acceptable to me and less scary. I think my adult perspective can make it seem like it did not really happen to me. It happened, but not to me. Being in those child’s feelings makes it clear it happened to me, which gives me a sense of connection to myself that is vital. It’s the only thing that will give me back a feeling of having a continuous self. But it’s very, very difficult, and I don’t know why it’s so difficult, except that perhaps as a child it was just so crucial to deny the abuse. If I acknowledged the abuse, my parents would not take care of me, even to the extent that they were taking care of me. I would lose absolutely all protection and support. And I would also not be able to turn my ability to trust back on enough to soak up the little crumbs of affection and love I was getting.
That seems closer to the real story. I had to keep booting my ability to trust back on after my parents abused me, so that I could still get the bit of nurturing they were capable of giving to me, and that required denial. They would not have tolerated the feelings I would have had and the needs I would have had should the abuse been openly acknowledged, but I think more to the point, I wouldn’t have been able to trust enough to get any of my needs met. I had no one but them to meet them.
I think that is what keeps happening to me. I connect to myself, and connect to pain. I connect to the pain of rejection, the pain of not being considered, the pain of being neglected and not taken care of, and I automatically shut it down, because that pain makes me feel afraid. I know it makes me feel afraid, because every time I feel deeply connected, I get washed in fear, and then I shut down. I had to shut that fear down so that I could get my attachment needs met the best I could.
The fear I feel when I feel connection is historical. It’s a memory. It’s the knowledge I had, at an implicit level, that these people are going to hurt me. And I had to keep not knowing that, because I had no choice about whether I got hurt or not, but I did have a choice about whether I got a hug that day or not. I had a choice about whether I showed my mommy my drawing or not. I had a choice about whether or not I helped my dad fix the car or my mom make dinner. If I didn’t do those things, and didn’t risk being hurt or attacked or rejected, I got nothing at all from them. I had to keep pushing down that fear, by denying the causes of that fear. I had to keep not knowing how much they hurt me, so that I could still get some good stuff from them. I had to keep playing this kind of emotional Russian Roulette.
I feel so shocked.