Chat

Just after getting in bed, I got up again to get my phone and send a message to C saying goodnight. I think she has her phone with her these days. I never really know. I send these very vulnerable messages and have to realize I don’t know who might read them. My heart is there for anyone to see. I was holding the phone and a message came.

It said, “Hi wats up [polite word tacked on]”

I don’t really know who that is. I mean, it’s C. I don’t really know what mode, maybe Teen. She really is dissociated into parts. I suppose the shame is so great, she loses track of some kind of social awareness that tells us fully who we are in relation to other people.

I say that, partly because the polite word tacked on doesn’t really make sense to use with me, and in other modes, she doesn’t do it. So, she is separating herself from social knowledge she has in other modes. It’s fine. It doesn’t matter to me, but it tells me something about her state.

I told her I was just writing a message to her.

“Did you take dinner”

So I told her what we had for dinner and asked about hers. She had potato curry. Also, she wanted a recharge. The distrustful part of me says, “Ah hah! So you don’t really want me. You want money out of me.” The rest of me has started to think that requests for money are these impulsive moves toward closeness. Some part of her remembers that getting money gives her a feeling of warmth and closeness. She wants that feeling, and impulsively she reaches for that. There are a dozen better ways to get that feeling, but she doesn’t know that.

There are kids who make disruptive noises in the class when they feel anxious or lonely. In some dim, animal part of their brain, they remember when they made noises, someone noticed them and looked at them and gave them attention and it felt good and they felt safe again. Granted, they were six months old then, and they are 15 now, but some part of them remembers this. I think it’s like that with the vouchers.

I said yes, because actually she needs to be able to keep in touch with me. When I saw her 3 times a week, it seemed better not to have too many ways to impulsively contact me (or lots of other people) in between. It was causing quite a lot of dysregulation for her to do that. Now, I see her once a week, and it is not actually enough contact.

I had a voucher with me in expectation of this event after returning to hostel, and I recharged her.

We chatted a bit longer after that. I told her to study, and I got back kind of Detached Mode. “We are studying in hostel.” I said some other stuff. I got back from her, “Love u too,” which felt really, really nice. And I told her she made me happy.

She said, “Same to you.” I assume meaning, you do the same for me. That was it. Eventually I wished her good night.

None of this has happened in a long time. She has not been able to reach out for me so much in quite a long time.

I had been thinking earlier in the day I don’t really know why she feels attached to me. I don’t know why she keeps coming back to tell me she won’t meet me and won’t sit next to me (or however she wants to say she is angry at me). I realized a few things, after some thought: at least she gets to feel something with me. She doesn’t have to deaden herself inside to be a normal human. The stuff she is dealing with internally can be felt and not shut down, even though it leaks out into our relationship. It doesn’t break the relationship. So when she interacts with, she gets to feel an aliveness she doesn’t often have.

I don’t know that I am explaining that well. What I mean is that in the course of a normal day, all of one’s crazy attachment stuff is out of sync with what most other people are doing. And it’s intense. If you feel it, it’s hard not to express in some way. There are lots of things we feel and think in the course of the day and don’t mention, because it’s our own personal thing, and the people we are with are not our great friends or won’t get it or we just don’t feel comfortable with them. When you are experiencing something very intense internally in the presence of people who are not particularly close to you and you don’t have trusting relationships with—or if you don’t have trusting relationships with anyone—then you have to deaden those feelings in order to maintain some degree of connection to those around you, because they are too intense to remain quiet thoughts in your head and at least you can all be watching the football game together or you are discussing your sewing projects or whatever. But the attachment stuff has to be stuffed down to go on with life.

C can feel the attachment pain when I am there. It doesn’t have to be entirely concealed and so it doesn’t have to be deadened. No matter how painful the attachment feelings are, at least she gets to feel alive with me. It’s safe to feel things when I am there. She can be at least connected to herself, and maybe to me, because I see the feelings she is expressing and I respond in a soothing way at least sometimes. I do something, so that she doesn’t feel she is this voice shouting in the wilderness. But the main thing is that the feelings don’t need to be numbed in order to get on with life, and she doesn’t have to choose between a connection with herself and a connection with me.

Then I also realized I don’t know what her feelings of attachment to me feel like exactly, because I shut them down in myself. Of course I don’t know why she feels it. I don’t let myself feel it. Empathy starts at home.

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Bad

I analyze what is going on in my head a lot (and in C’s) and often I am still left wondering what is really going on in there. I know that ripping sensation inside is sadness, but why so very sad. What is that feeling of insanity that starts coming on? What do I really mean when I say to myself that I feel completely insane?

I was thinking about this yesterday because that insane feeling was closing in again, and it did occur to me that I felt like hitting someone. Is it always like that? Is “insane” when I feel on the verge of lashing out? It might be.

What do I do about the ripping sensation? What do I do about the insane feeling?

I have a bit of time before class today—lots of work, needs to get done, feel I need a bit more worked out in my poor melted brain before I go deal with children. So I am thinking about it.

I know more and more that C is still there. The last thing she said to me was that she wouldn’t meet me on Sunday. She looked very frightened when I said I would see her on Sunday, and then lashed out saying she wouldn’t meet me. I asked why and she said “Like that.” Ok, just to hurt me then.

I wish I had been more able to be in touch with my own feelings yesterday. It wasn’t my best day. I remember it now, and I feel sad. My child was hurting. I feel so much tenderness for her in that moment of hurting and lashing out. That very angry child she was feels about three to me, stomping her feet and saying, “I hate you.” You were gone and I missed you and I hate you for leaving me. If I had been able to feel all of that, it might have been better for her. She got someone instead who was rather wooden. Not reactive at least, but wooden.

Anyway, she did that and I still felt she was there. She is angry at me and part of that—maybe a big part of it—is distortion, but it’s also honest. She didn’t say why she wanted to hurt me. I imagine she had no real idea, but she was mad. She was just so very mad. She was expressing that to me. Not in the best way, but she expressed it. She was able to communicate that to me. And I communicated back to her. I said that is your choice. What she got back is I am still here. You can be mad at me and I will not leave you. I am not going to force you to sit in my lap and cuddle. You do not have to pretend you feel nice right now, but I am not going to leave.

So I think one thing that happens in these reunions is that there is a kind of fantasy expectation about how it will feel or what it will be like. Even though she did not tell me to come to meet her—I didn’t even know she would be there. I was just getting a pancake delivery person. Still, I think there is this expectation, like it will be a joyful reunion. Of course, it isn’t going to be a joyful reunion. We both have attachment issues. It will be a fraught, fucked-up, difficult reunion.

I think it is possible in both our minds there is a sense that we have failed. We can’t do reunions right, because we want things to be other than how they are. This is what reunions are like between two people with attachment disorders. They are difficult. We work perhaps at not creating total ruptures and disasters. But they aren’t happy times. They are instead times of trying to at least somewhat communicate honestly about pain, which I think she did. I came and she was in total despair—the little parts all wanting to meet me, and big C telling them no you can’t. And then the angry parts pushing me away. I think there might be a degree of shame and self-hatred over that. I can’t even do a reunion right. I can’t even be happy to see someone I missed.

There is still something about that honesty. With everyone else, she has to pretend it’s a happy reunion she isn’t having. So maybe there is a degree of connection over that. She at least gets to express her feelings openly. I wonder if that is why the rage can become addictive for some people. At least it’s an honest expression of feelings. At least the connection to the self gets reignited again.

Those are meanders though. I was thinking I do feel more that she is there, that I am still connected to her even when things are a mess and it’s difficult. I feel like it’s still her, instead of WTF happened there? I am getting some kind of object permanence.

The thing about that maybe is that then I feel seen in some way. She is still there. She is at her school and I am at my school and from time to time, she thinks about me. Various things. Maybe she misses me. Maybe she feels she hates me. But I feel I continue to exist for her.

And I feel bad. It’s like if she is always there, and I am always here, then what she sees is the bad me. The bad me is me all the time. It’s not something I can just not be. I am the same me all the time. That bad me is the me I always am, and not just when I am having a shame shower.

I need to prepare for class now. But hell and damn. That’s a big thought to have.

Still be there

I saw my daughter.

It happened like this. Yesterday, we had a long conversation (through text) about giving her a recharge. It went on for maybe an hour, because the shops were all closed for voting and then once I found a shop with the voucher she wanted, I mistyped something or other and God knows who got the recharge. So I had to go out again and search.

Then there was another, not quite as long conversation about money, because she wanted to go shopping on the way back from her village. There is a medium-sized town (for Country X) between here and there with better prices and more selection than Y-town, even though Y-town is actually a bit larger. I transferred money to her grandmother’s bank account, and there was a discussion all through this process.

“Will you do it today?”

“I’ll try. I have never done it before. I think you can do through the ATM.”

I keep her updated through these transactions. (I am changing clothes now. I am going to go out to the shops in a minute.) For the little parts, it’s forever. I think really it comes down to trust. When you don’t know if something will really happen the way someone says it will or not, then you feel anxious until it does happen. And you also want it now, in case later never comes.

I got different modes. I got a child who tacked a Country-X polite word onto the ends of sentences, which normally C doesn’t do with me. But anyway something happened, I think. She got some kind of connection in spite of it all. The last thing she wrote before retreating was “I miss you alot” [sic].

Today I wrote to her about pancakes. She responded. “No thank you.” Well, that was polite. At that moment, TW from Class 8 came to the door. I kind of lost the thread. I think I got all vulnerable child on her and scared her off. Maybe. Who knows.

I said I would make them anyway and she could come or not come as she chose. I had in my mind this is a very frightened child hiding behind indifference and politeness. I did eventually make the pancakes. Then I figured probably she wouldn’t come and I went to her cousin’s house to enlist a delivery person. It turns out that C was there at that moment. She was sitting in the doorway. She was sad, like old woman sad. Her aunt called me into the house and told the girls to make tea. C was ordered to go in the room with me and keep me company. (I understand a little bit now.) She didn’t sit next to me. She still seemed old lady sad. I told her some things—that The Boy liked her but he didn’t like her friends. That made her laugh, and she kind of came out of the sadness a little bit.

Eventually I remembered I had some National Dress sewn for her and I wanted to see if it fit her: this is important, because I also had a going away present sewn that I need to know whether it will fit based on its less significant twin. I told her to come to my house and try it on.

Something happened on the way. There is really something about coming to my house that affects her very strongly. It might have been the gift, but I don’t think so. I think it is my house. She was various kinds of angry on the way. A little girl, fussy angry and a more grown-up angry. She got to my house and I showed her the National Dress and she held it up to herself and fussed, again angry. She was speaking the Regional Language, but I know she was fussing it didn’t fit. I told her to try it on. She wouldn’t.

It was so much like a sad, hungry, tired 2-year-old right before that point where she doesn’t want ANYTHING.

Then her cousin spoke sharply to her and she tried it on. Indeed, it did fit.

I understand these bouts of anger in a different way now. These are reactions to an awareness of lapses in attunement, and I think it does go back to being about 2 years old. The angry parts are very little. The 2-year-old mind has enough experience and is cognitively developed enough to know in more complex ways when there is a lapse in attunement. The dance between the parent and the child to stay in synch is more complex now, and more is expected of the child because she can actually do more. She is expected to control impulses, expected to accept limits. And she can also mourn now, because she understands that objects have permanence, and she knows when they are still there but she cannot have it. She has the attention to want something not in front of her. So there is a lot going on. The child has to learn at this point that the relationship is still there. The connection can be re-established after a disruption.

But when the parent is reacting to attachment sensitivities and rages in response to lapses in attunement, the little child doesn’t know what to expect when she reaches for that attunement. She has to work very hard at maintaining attunement with her parent, because the parent lacks the skills to do more of the attunement work, and if the child cannot maintain that connection herself, it gets dangerous for her when the parent acts out. So reaching for the parent and for attunement is very fraught.

In other words, when I see these angry bouts of C’s, I see a person reacting to a lapse in attunement. The fussy child is reaching for support in order to cope with that break in attunement, and the furiously angry child is lashing out or wants to lash out because she feels actually threatened. The lapse in attunement might be something less about me and more about life not being attuned to her. (I remember an incident with wanting to buy some things and not getting outing time: “Mommy, there isn’t a pink one. I wanted a pink one. Can you go find a pink one for me? I really want a pink one. Why can’t I have a pink one?”) But it’s basically about reaching for someone important in order to regulate her emotions that come up in relation to attunement mishaps.

Historically, there wasn’t someone she could do this with, because her mother also became dysregulated. Emotions are catching—I have noticed this with VP Ma’am. She goes into these states of being in absolute terror and I get the terror inside her pretty quickly. It takes seconds to end up in me. Thank you, mirror neurons, for allowing me to imagine the emotions of others so well.

Anyway, C’s distress would have transmitted to her mom. An adult who could regulate her emotions would feel that emotion, understand what that emotion was, and act to soothe C. She would understand the emotion as a signal to provide soothing for her child. C’s mom, for whatever reason, can’t regulate either, much like my mom can’t, and C’s distress became simply distress within C’s mom and she acted out—either lashing out at her or withdrawing and in that way abandoning her, or just going into Detached Mode and not giving a fuck her daughter was in distress.

Because of that, C is very sensitive to misattunement—due to the disasters which followed attunement problems—and she also never learned how to soothe the reactions to misattunement which all young children have. Instead, she learned to suppress these reactions in order to get at least some of her attachment needs met. They come out when she is with me, because it is safe. It feels safe. Maybe they are also stronger reactions, because it is a more intense relationship than she has with many other people. But it is also safe. I don’t counter-attack. I don’t invalidate her feelings. I problem-solve or simply stay close to her. I don’t force closeness on her—when she sat one chair away from me, I didn’t sit next to her, but I opened up conversation on a neutral topic to bring her closer to me.

Her parting words to me today were that she wouldn’t come to meet me when I came on Sunday—something she seemed to have completely forgotten I do. I didn’t do anything. I just said that is your choice. But I didn’t walk away or turn away or give her an angry look. I know some part of her is so mad at me for not being with her the last 10 days, even though she chose to go to her village without seeing me. She is so, so mad.

Your kids get mad at you. They slam the door. They tell you they hate you. But they want you to be there still. They want you to know how very mad they are. She needs someone who will stay there and not leave when she slams the door and screams I hate you, Mom. She needs it so badly.

I love her. I love my angry child who pushes me away so much. I really, really do.

 

Attachment issues

I am trying again to write something, even if it doesn’t make sense or isn’t interesting. It’s difficult these days. Really difficult.

Here goes.

I am absolutely dead, dead tired. I sent The Boy home a few days ago, because he stayed out playing video games until 9:30 in the evening. In my view, that is too late to be running around without permission from anyone to be running around—mainly because the boys who don’t have adequate adult supervision in their lives are the ones doing it, and eventually The Boy might get caught up in the things those boys do to kill the pain of not being cared for.

I was very, very angry. I told him to go to bed and we would talk about it in the morning. In the morning, I made breakfast. He went and played in the park we have now while I cooked, and then I told him to go home. He came back a few hours later: My mom isn’t home. Where is your dad? At the local holy site. Go find your dad.

He went.

The next day his mom showed up at my house. Where is The Boy? He’s not with you? Well, obviously not. I made coffee for her and her semi-English speaking friend and went to find The Boy. It didn’t take long. It’s hard to hide in the bazaar. I brought him back, contacted his mother (who isn’t really his mother, it turns out. His mother is dead.)

Then sent him off, explaining there is a lot of work at home (they are farmers), but he has no work and he didn’t bring his books home, so there isn’t studying to do much, and it’s better he help out than run around getting into mischief. Very teary, he went.

I know it’s terrible for him. Sending him home is absolutely the worst possible punishment for him, but actually I cannot provide the structure and supervision he needs right now during the holiday. I am too fucking tired.

I would never do this to C. I most certainly have an attachment to The Boy, but it’s not the attachment I have for C. I would never tell her to leave my house for any reason. But maybe they are also different. C can’t approach. The Boy can’t leave. Clearly, they both have attachment problems, but of slightly different varieties.

So I was thinking about attachment. My issues are not all the past. They are also the present, and how I am responding to attachment concerns in the present because of the person I am now.

I got up this morning and felt a lot of negative feelings. A ripping kind of sensation in my heart, which I suppose is sadness, shame, despair. I started to see how I cycled through these. There would be a reaching for connection during which I was anxious and dissociated—the desire to connect being too shameful to bear—and then I would feel shame and despair. First sadness, then shutdown and reaching, then shame and despair. This is about attachment. I used to have a hard time in the mornings. I just felt so much sadness when I woke up. Probably because I was alone, but also because I wanted the connection I might get later. I wanted C. Last year, I began meeting her in the mornings to help her math. She avoided it, but I went, and I checked in with her (Did you finish your homework? Mainly.) From the time I woke up, I missed her.

This isn’t about the past. It’s about attachment and my reactions to it in the present. I have trauma from the past, and that adds to it and complicates things, but this is me trying to cope with the present. I don’t have a sense of an attachment being continuous or reliable. I want to continually check on it, from the moment I get up, like the relationship is an animal about to breathe its last breath. And I can’t. Socially, you can’t do that. It’s intrusive to do that. I am like this because I haven’t had reliable attachments. Historically, people have come and gone, if not physically then emotionally. That is my knowledge of how relationships behave. They disappear suddenly. In that sense, it is the past, but it is also the present. I am sensitive to indications that the relationship is at stake, and I am responding to those clues in the present, just like I respond to a sudden rise in wind and gathering clouds by bringing an umbrella, because that is an indicator of rain.

The hard part is that I was also shamed for seeking confirmation that the relationship was still there. I was rejected and I was shamed. So I am also sensitive to indications that my search for connection might not be welcomed, that it might be intrusive and inappropriate. I don’t really know what will be okay in relationships—in general, but also in the particular relationships I have—and I am responding to these clues about what might be crossing someone’s boundaries. I certainly don’t want someone checking in with me every ten minutes to see if the relationship is still there.

I have to be able to cope with the shame, actually with each of those feelings. I have to be able to cope with that feeling of my heart being ripped apart, which I think is sadness and longing. I think it is so intense, because it isn’t regulated. I am learning to regulate it, but I am also learning that it is allowed. The feeling has to be allowed before it is regulated. You can’t regulate feelings you are shutting off. I think it will get better. I think the despair will get better, since I know what it is about better. It’s not this alien experience: why do I feel so depressed? Because I am not getting the connection I want right now, and at least some part of me believes it is best to stop trying at least for the moment. The feeling of “better not to try” is despair.

That’s where I am today.

Different states

I meant to write something all day. I am having a hard time writing at all—both on here and privately, just in my journal. Writing in my journal actually feels even worse. The shame shower is intense. I feel almost instantly suicidal. Seeing myself is all it is.

I read something about attachment sensitivities in adopted children. It really said something to me. It matched what I am seeing in C and in other kids in my classes. The sensitivity mentioned was breaks in attunement, and it gave the example of a kid asked to pick up her napkin who doesn’t really want to (as kids don’t). And she pouts and maybe stomps her feet or something—showing sensitivity to the break in attunement. And I thought of C. I thought of C having attachment sensitivities and then displaying them at home in front of her parents, and how that sensitivity to the break in attachment would not get soothed. She would get scolded or beaten. I thought about myself, and what would have happened to me—that I would have been spanked or given a lecture about my attitude or something even worse. And what if our parents had the same sensitivities to breaks in attunement and then we didn’t want to do what we were told, and we needed to be soothed through the experience of being sensitive to it. What if our sensitivities sparked insanity in our mothers. It made a lot of stuff make sense, that those feelings would get shut down instead of integrated into the person.

And it also said something about the normal socializing effect of shame and what would happen if the child was not able to do that due to lack of secure attachments. Yes, I think it could feel like it does to me: like shame is all you are.

The last thing I thought (in this chain of thoughts the brief article sparked) was how my caregiver likely didn’t see me as the same child over time and didn’t respond to me as the same child, and I think that’s where the sense of being a discontinuous person comes from. The child experiences feelings as total, as the whole self, but most caregivers experience the child as the same child in the grips of different emotional states. Because of that, the child also learns to see herself as the same child in different emotional states. In my case, my mother had the same problem with attachment and trust that I do, and she did not, and I did not. Feelings were shut down, creating these jagged emotional states, and I was responded to as though my feelings were me. I can see how I did not develop a sense of self-constancy.

Attunement

Lots of stuff floating around in my head.

I have been thinking why C and I have the relationship we do. I think about this from time to time, think of answers even, and am not satisfied. I was thinking too about what makes contact with me so scary for her—she is in her village. They are voting here, and it involves many of the educated people around needing to do pollwork of some kind, and it also involves people traveling to the places their families live or used to live. (There are a lot of ancestral houses which sit empty the entire year, because no one actually lives there anymore. Once a year, people come home, have a big religious ritual, do some house repair and go off again to their jobs and families elsewhere.) The voting comes back-to-back with a holiday. Anyway, we get five days off, because people need to travel “home” and then back again.

C called me from her village when she arrived there, and sounded happy kid—kind of normal. The most normal I have heard her sound in a long time. Then I called her the next day and gave her holiday greetings, and she was much more guarded. She hasn’t answered the phone since then. I send a text message in the morning wishing her a nice day and things like that, and I call once in the evening and let it ring. Then since she doesn’t answer, I send a text before I go to bed. Just good night I love you I am not mad we are still connected. Usually I get a request for a recharge twice a day also.

What came to me after the crazyland on Thursday was that I am most likely right about how I interpret her behaviour, and what it means about how she is feeling inside, and that is the basis of our relationship, or some part of it. She is communicating in this very indirect way that I understand well enough to respond to in a way that feels attuned to her. So she asks for a recharge and I know, while she also would like phone time, what she really wants is some excuse to feel the connection with me. The feeling of connection comes from the sense of attunement. It comes from feeling someone gets you and is responding in an attuned way, even if none of it is stated.

The recharge request says I feel vulnerable and I want to know if I am wanted and if someone can take care of me, and that’s how I respond to her. If it were for a long period of time, I would have to think about the money this is costing me to just recharge her, but I do feel that when she feels safe enough to ask for attention and care from me in a different way, she will do that. She does know other ways of relating. I don’t know how the recharge came up as a safe point of interaction, but it is that for her. It might have come up because when her parents were here, and C lived near school, I knew she got home when she came online, because she never used to take her phone with her. It stayed in the house. If she was using her phone, she was home. And usually she came online around 5:30 or six at the latest. So she might be at the neighbour’s house or whatever for an hour or so after school, and then she would come home to do her chores, and I knew she was home, because I saw her come online. If she didn’t come online, then I knew she didn’t have balance on her phone and she couldn’t, and I would recharge her. I recharged her because it made me worried not to know if she had come home on time in the evenings and because it made me worried to feel she had no way to reach out to me if she couldn’t cope on her own. It is probably that memory, of my noticing when her balance was used up, and then doing something about it that makes her feel safe. It is this memory of having her need for connection met—the phone, after all, represents connection, doesn’t it? Before midterm, I felt much more ambivalent about these requests, because they were frequent and I was thinking how will this affect her relationship to money in the longterm. Since then, she has stopped asking. I do give her money every day. Not that much, but enough that she can buy a voucher for herself or a bag of chips or a pen.

On Thursday, when the distortions took hold, it seemed to me that I am wrong about this. No one else would interpret her behaviour in that way. They would see greed and a desire to take advantage of me. After I left crazyland, I felt more secure in thinking I am right. I am, at least, more right than anyone else would be. If that weren’t the case, we wouldn’t have the relationship we do. What feels good to her, and also makes her feel so ashamed, is the attunement. She gets her needs met or at least some of them, although she is afraid to ask to have them met.

Maybe that isn’t quite what I mean. It is getting needs met, because she has needs, but in a broader sense, it is someone responding to her in a way that acknowledges her real feelings. The interplay between two people is what makes you feel connected and alive, and it is missing for her most of the time, because she is trying to constrain her own feelings and she is also trying not to see the feelings of others so that she doesn’t have to feel the judgment and rage she expects to find there. The absence of that connection between two people makes us feel lonely and dead inside.

Last Sunday, C came down, and The Boy was also here. C’s friends were asking him a lot of questions, and he felt very shy. He said he felt so shy he couldn’t even understand them. C sensed his feelings of vulnerability, and because he had gotten food on his face eating, she took her thumb and wiped food away from his mouth. That’s attunement. He felt like a little, frightened boy, and she responded to him as thought that is what he was, although he is 12 years old and quite able to wipe food away from his mouth. That is what happens with me and C, at least sometimes. Enough that she keeps coming back, hoping the feeling of connection will still be there and that she can still have a feeling of being attunded to someone.

 

Distortions

Something else kind of emerged from this.

I have been really worried this week about C. Really, really worried. And I know some of it was my normal disorganized attachment stuff. She left. I felt sad.

Then (not consciously), I felt, “She’s gone. I must have done something bad.” So worried. Part of it. It didn’t seem like all of it. Gradually, it started to emerge to me that it was also that C had blocked me on Facebook. I think I had realized just before she came to my house on Sunday, so not much time to process, and it didn’t seem like such a huge thing except that at some time earlier in the week, she had felt threatened by something or other and felt the need to push. So she pushed. I was busy and didn’t notice the push.

Last night, in the small hours of the morning, I began to think she hurt me on purpose. That is what is wrong. It frightens me because that is punishing parent, and that is one piece of it. She hurt me intentionally.

But also because it means she was really frightened or hurt by something that day. She wasn’t okay, and that’s why she felt the need to hurt me. So I was worried. What frightened her and why did she push? Well, I was writing to her about shame earlier in the week. It might have been around then. Specifically, I was saying, you are the same person when you feel ashamed as you are when you feel good, and when you feel you are bad and worthless, I still love you. I feel the same warmth and care for you when you feel you are bad as I feel for you at other times. It might have been that, because that would have been a very big deal for her to read. I don’t think she necessarily reads all of my letters. I don’t know how many of them she does read, but she might have read that one. Of course, the trigger might have been something I had no way of knowing about and didn’t cause, but it might have been that.

So I wrote her a letter this morning, and I said something like you hurt me and I still love you. It was a variation of what I had said last night: the relationship between us is still there. And that helped me, I think. It helped me to articulate that. It’s hard to know how to meet her needs, because she is meeting me along with friends and trying to pretend these are normal social occasions instead of deeply emotional events. Also, I don’t get any feedback in between. But that does meet her needs, or could. As a little kid, I think you need to know that you when you throw a tantrum and hit your mom or whatever, she still loves you. She’s not going to lock you in your room and go away forever.

I have very different thoughts about relationships now than I used to. I think they are very much my own thoughts. They aren’t things I have picked up from other places. Maybe I mean relationships with people who have attachment disorders, since I have one and many of the people I spend the most energy on do also. One of them is that one difference between C and VP Ma’am is power. When I can see that C is in a mood, I stay with her. She can do whatever she does, and I don’t leave until it has subsided somewhat. When VP Ma’am is in a mood, I emotionally duck. I stay physically distant from her, because she hits me or pushes me sometimes and she also makes sudden, critical comments. Those things wind me up. On top of everything else in my normal life that is difficult, I can’t cope with VP Ma’am’s disorganized states.

I can’t cope with hers, because she has power than I do. She is more senior than I am in the school and she is also about 10 years older. At a practical level, what I think this means is her motivation not to hurt me is lower and my perception of her desire to hurt me is different. When C wants to hurt me, it really, really does hurt. It hurts that she wants to hurt me, but I don’t actually feel vulnerable. I don’t feel she could do something that had an actual impact on my life. I think that’s quite a huge difference, and it explains to me in my own mind that while C and VP Ma’am seem to both have disorganized attachment, I want to help C heal and I don’t have any such motivation to help VP Ma’am. If you don’t have greater power than someone, then you end up in a very vulnerable position when that person cannot control the impulse to punish a loved one they feel anger towards. I have more power than C, and I think it is likely that I always will, because of the nature of our relationship.

My other thought is that when you feel connected to someone—you feel that person cares about your problems and your point of view—you develop an interest and motivation to have empathy for them. You start to care how you affect them. I once had the idea that it was all about boundaries. I no longer think that. I think it’s about that delicate dance between trying to attune to other people, and then letting them know what it feels like for you when you aren’t being considered. Boundaries are part of that, but they aren’t all of it—not by a long-shot. If you are in a relationship where someone is constantly lashing out at you, being firm is probably not going to make a difference, because detachment makes people care less. I don’t think it’s about being vulnerable all the time either. I think actually you cannot make someone with equal power who lashes out at you stop. They have to want to, and they might not. But if you aren’t able to attune to them, they won’t care very much how their behaviour impacts you.

Anyway, to return to C and worrying about her, I had this awful day on Wednesday. It felt more and more I was losing my mind. Then I had this thought in the middle of the night about C hurting me, that it showed she was worried or frightened and was pushing, and I felt better thinking I know what is troubling me. She is frightened by something. That is what is worrying me.

Then I went to school, and I was free during second period, as was Arts Sir and for some reason he took it upon himself that day to discuss my departure from Country X, including the question, “What will you do if you can’t come back?” So I began to lose my mind again. I was already stressed and he was talking to me about it and I could feel myself just absolutely losing my mind as we talked. I went home at lunch for a coffee in order to escape and get some down time, and that helped. Maybe not much though. Then the class next to mine did not have a teacher last period, and they were fighting. The day period they had been fighting rather seriously over some name-calling. That is Angry Boy’s class, and he’s in this vulnerable place of feeling valued and loved and special for the first time in his life, and really trying to please me. Which means he is in a very vulnerable place. I was worried about that class and I also had to be very harsh with both classes to get them to behave, and I was not able to stay in the class I was supposed to be teaching for long. It was pretty chaotic and unpleasant.

At the end of class, I sent The Boy to my desk with my backpack, and I went to meet with the Literary Club. When I got home, I discovered my purse was not inside my back.

Shit like this always happens to me when I am on the verge of losing my mind. It’s a combination of losing small bits of time and upsetting the students. I don’t know whether it might have been lost or stolen, because the chaos in the classes meant I wasn’t watching my things the way I normally might, and I also might have set off all of the loose cannons in the class. I am not skillful in handling difficult behaviour when I am losing my mind.

So. No purse. I imagined many, many problems arising, and I felt sad at the sense of possible betrayal, because a student might have stolen it. I was quite a mess.

Then in the morning, I made the pancake delivery, and the Friend gave me a note from C asking for money, which I couldn’t give her, because I had lost my purse. She was going to her village.

I lost my mind completely. The distortions were amazing, like actually everything I think about having use and value in her life is mistaken. She does not care for me. She only takes advantage. I have essentially no worth and I don’t know how I will go on with life. It’s like a form of cruelty to have to live.

But I had breakfast to make, Club members to meet with, classes to teach, so I got on with the day. I got to school, and one of the Club members presented me with my purse. The effect was amazing. It was like the funhouse mirrors abruptly broke. I felt in that moment that it was clear my insanity was insanity, and not me discovering the truth (which is how it can feel). I also felt that the way I normally interpret C’s behaviour (as disorganized attachment, and not sociopathy) is accurate or at least more accurate than thinking I have no worth to her or anyone else. Everything felt suddenly clear. It was odd.

It occurred to me not long after that what had been wrong all week was that C was leaving. I had forgotten, I guess, that they were expecting a week-long holiday for elections, and it would come immediately after a holiday already set on the calendar which signals the end of the monsoon, and it would make sense that she would go to her village for that week.

I thought later also that it makes sense that this would be difficult. If you have a parent who also has disorganized attachment, then departures feel like punishment—they feel threatening, and the parent is likely to mount a (counter) attack as a defense against the perceived punishment of a departure, so for C, leaving would feel very worrying, very frightening. She would be very primed for an attack.

And that is why she pushed, and why sometime mid-week last week, she hurt me, probably intentionally—maybe in order to protect herself from the anticipated attack or maybe just to hurt me enough that I would go away and leave her safely out of harm’s way.

I felt better then. The mystery of what was wrong with C had been cleared up.

In the afternoon, she called me and told me she had arrived at her village. We had a very normal conversation—the most normal conversation I think we have ever had. Something is working.