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.


5 thoughts on “Distortions

  1. Ellen September 23, 2016 / 6:12 am

    I love the image of the your “craziness” breaking like funhouse mirrors. I totally relate to that. That state of fear and paranoia, that seems so true, and then suddenly falls away. Glad you figured things out and it all seems OK now.

    • Ashana M September 23, 2016 / 12:51 pm

      This has actually never happened to me before. I am not sure I have ever been so acutely aware that I am in crazyland, but also it’s never just suddenly disappeared. It has always taken a long time. It was a nice surprise. 🙂

  2. Rachel September 26, 2016 / 8:35 am

    That imagery really stood out to me/resonated for me too (funhouse mirrors crashing). The distortions, agh. Really hard to see past/through, or that it isn’t “real.” Or maybe the “most real” option.

    • Ashana M September 26, 2016 / 8:50 am

      One thing that has helped me when the distortions are really strong is to think just that :I don’t know what is real right now. I don’t know what is a distortion and what is the truth, and to allow myself to be in the space of not knowing, but also to proceed as though I really do have to live in this world. I cannot push everyone away. I cannot push myself away. I need to wait for it to pass, and to take small, slow steps that leave the door open for people to remain in my life in case it turns out that they do care about me. It’s hard.

      • Rachel September 27, 2016 / 9:09 am

        I love this approach. I take it too, when I remember to. I remember about the nature of the mind, and distortions, and I keep in mind what I want – connection, love, intimacy. And the possibility that I am lovable and won’t be rejected every time I open myself to loving someone. It is challenging.

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