Insight

I was wrapping up my last post, when it came to me suddenly that C’s texts in the evening—and there are often texts in the evening—are about making sure I am home and I am safe.

C’s mother goes to social events like the ones I feel mostly obligated to attend and drinks.

A baby shower is very worrying to C.

She asks for a lot of recharges. Sometimes she actually wants them and sometimes she just can’t figure out how to get what she needs, but she called last night because it felt very urgent to her to make contact with me. Because her mother goes to these things and drinks, and doesn’t come home until late, and gets drunk and gets hungover. And C has secured for herself a way of finding out when I leave and to make sure that I am still functioning.

My heart breaks thinking this, and I think it is really true. It resonates for me, as though it actually lines up with the facts I know.

There are these little parts that are very frightened and don’t want me to leave, and there are adult parts of her who want to take care of me and they intersect at times. Last night was an intersection.

I feel so overwhelmed, thinking this. She was making sure I was still okay, that I left, and that I got home safely. She didn’t know she was doing that, but that’s what she was doing.

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Why can’t I be me?

Yesterday was hectic. I managed to get some work done in the morning—it’s getting cold now, so I can freeze alone in the staffroom while the other teachers sit outside in the sun. It works out. Then there was a quiz game put on by my club, which was really a National Language teacher and VP Ma’am. It went from 11 – 12:30.

The teachers got together—some of them—to do some work at the holy site so they can tick a box on their performance evaluations. I need to tick that box too, so I went. It was supposed to start at 1:30, but people didn’t show up until 2:30.

Last night, C had asked me to come up to see her. She said she misses me these days. We agreed I would come at 5. (At 5:30, we had a baby shower to attend, but I had forgotten when I made the agreement.) She had given me a list of things she wanted—shampoo and lotion, things like that. So I had some shopping to do. I worked for an hour and then left the holy site.

I went up and met her around five. It was a little bit after, because I had gone up with some boys in class 11, and I had to walk a bit slower for them. I can get from my house to the C’s school in 30 minutes, but most people can’t. When I saw C, she had that dead look on her face, like she was in total despair. That’s how it feels to be with that longing for connection for so long. It feels absolutely like you are dead.

Anyway, it didn’t last long. The expression went, and it wasn’t as absolute as it sometimes is. Which could mean it wasn’t as strong.

I sat with her on her bed, and she was very little. She got her scarf out and wrapped it around her throat and buried the lower part of her face in it. She wasn’t absolutely three, but headed in that direction.

On Wednesday, she had said her mom was sick and she wanted to call her. Yesterday, I asked C if her mom was okay. She was puzzled. Her mom hadn’t been sick—something I thought might be the case, anyway. She said, “Who told you?” I said, “You did.” A very quizzical look passed her face. I just told her I was glad her mom is fine and changed the subject.

After a few minutes, she said she wanted to do something or other—I didn’t really catch what it was. I needed to head down to the baby shower, although I was going to be late in any case. I was just hoping everyone else was also late. She came close for her goodbye hug and I said I wanted to give her the things I bought for her. So we put those away, and she came for the hug again. She put one arm around me, as she does, and she put her head against my chest.

The funny thing about this is I remember kissing her, and I remember her head on my chest felt really, really good, but I don’t know what my own arms did. It’s like there was no feeling in them, and there probably wasn’t. That probably got shut down. There is such an intense pain associated with holding her in my arms, that I kind of feel the periphery of it. I feel her hair, and I feel the kiss I gave her on the top of the head, but I can’t feel my arms, because it hurts, and I am holding in that pain while I do it.

I don’t know really why it hurts so much, but I know that it does hurt. It has to, or I wouldn’t shut down the part of it that is more intense.

I was thinking about her at the baby shower, and suddenly VP Ma’am called me and wanted me to sit next to her. She didn’t really notice when I came in, although I came in late and there wasn’t really a place to sit. I did sit next to her this time, unlike at the farewell party when I refused, because she seemed a bit more settled and less likely to attack me.

But it’s odd. Why does she have to interrupt my thoughts when I am contentedly having them? Why must my connection to myself get interrupted? This happened in the staffroom a few weeks ago. I was thinking about something quite similar. I was thinking about being physically close to C and also feeling worried about her. C is clearly losing bits of time. I don’t know how much time she is losing, but clearly she does things and says things that she cannot honestly remember later. She did not feel guilty she lied to me. That was evident in her face. She felt worried that she didn’t know what I was talking about. Anyway, I was thinking about that physical closeness and also feeling worried, and VP Ma’am walked into the staffroom and asked about a word.

There really must be something on my face that makes her feel like she must be with me when I am getting that connection to myself, and trying to process something important to me and getting the connection to myself that I so badly need.

It makes me feel so unsafe though, that this cannot be allowed to happen. I was thinking about that in the staffroom, and having a nice think about it, and after she interrupted me, I didn’t feel safe enough again to approach it again for two weeks.

Anyway, we had a decent conversation. C sent a text in the middle of it, and I answered, and I noticed VP Ma’am felt very restless when that happened. She began to get angry, and she said something randomly mean to someone sitting across the room that was cloaked in humor and no one thought was funny.

After while, C called. She wanted a recharge, as usual. I don’t think she has the faintest idea why she does this. Life in parts is weird. You frequently don’t know why you are doing what you are doing, and you kind of imagine reasons for doing things that other people have for doing those same things. There is no model for your own mind to use as a guide. It seems very evident to me that C felt a really nice connection to me while I was with her, and she was checking to see that the connection was still there. She has no idea how to do this, but recharges feel like a safe topic to her for historical reasons.

I came back from the call, and VP Ma’am asked who had called. Well, who else would call? I told her C had called. And VP Ma’am asked about the content, so I told her honestly she wanted a recharge. A weird thing happened then—weird for me, anyway.

The teacher on my left and VP Ma’am both had very strong, angry reactions to this. The woman on my left said, “Slap her. She should be studying.” VP Ma’am said something similar. I said she really wants to say she misses me, but she doesn’t know how.

VP Ma’am said something awkwardly intended to be a scathing kind of ridicule. “I miss you and give me a recharge.” Something like that.

I said, “She can’t say that. She can’t say she misses me.”

There was silence then and the conversation moved on, but it was weird. It really struck me as weird. Some of it is culture and some is dysfunction and some is my sensitivity, but why can’t I have any freedom? Why must I be told where to sit? Why must I be interrupted when I am having a nice think? Why must someone feel uncomfortable when I briefly take time out of a conversation to send a text? Why must someone get angry over a question?

It makes me feel so unliked. That part touches upon my own issues. Somehow, I am so unlikeable, so bad and so wrong that I cannot even be myself in my own mind, in private, and in actions that affect no one.

And I am sure that is not really the dynamic going on. It is how it feels to me and probably felt to me when I was little. I am dealing with someone who feels themselves to be unloveable and unlikeable, and if I want to be with my own thoughts it touches on their sadness about having been unwanted. VP Ma’am feels sad and angry over being unwanted. I went outside to take the call, and I left her. My mind was diverted for a minute by the text and I left her. There isn’t any confidence that the connection can be re-established, and so it feels very frightening.

The weird part is if I shut down and I am not getting connection from anyone, that’s okay, but if I am getting connection from myself or from someone else, she feels the impulse to disrupt that and bring the attention back to her.

Insane.

 

More later

I ended my last post abruptly because Toddler Man wanted my advice about writing his child adoption report. (We have been assigned 2-3 “adopted” children we are supposed to give additional academic support to. One of mine is the Boy’s sister. At midterm, she failed in 3 out of 4 subjects. She has disordered attachment, so mostly she flees from me. Good times.) Anyway, it’s good people do this, because I don’t know what I am doing or what kinds of documents I need to compile for my performance evaluation coming up the week after next. But I was trying to write a post about a sensitive topic, and it was totally triggering to me not to be allowed to do “my things.”

Despair sets in. I can’t even sit at my table and be allowed to write so that I don’t lose my mind today.

Anyway, I looked at what he had done, praised him (seemed good to me anyway) and went off to pee. Then it was time for assembly. I decided not to stand in my usual place, not to stand next to VP Ma’am, not to stand in what is now unpleasantly cool shade and I stood in the sun towards the edge of the grass overlooking the assembly ground, which is where all of us teachers stand.

VP Ma’am came and stood next to me. Good for her. She is at least not trying to force me to stand next to her.

She was angry. I hate this. She’s frequently angry. I know the reasons, but I don’t care. I get angry for the same reasons. C gets angry for the same reasons. I do not want to be her person. It happened by accident. I never meant to be someone important to her. I thought we could just be friends.

Anyway, assembly lasts about 20 minutes. So I stood for 20 minutes next to a furious person, and by the end of it, I wanted to die.

Afterwards, I had this very clear sense of how dangerous my childhood was. You don’t really survive because you want to. You survive because when you are six, you don’t have the executive control to make yourself dead. You live in spite of yourself.

Today is going to be hard.

Self-image

I don’t remember if I mentioned this, but my former therapist did respond. I made a call and left a voice message and she responded that day. She had been traveling. When I saw her, I don’t remember her taking many vacations, so I didn’t have that mind as the reason she didn’t respond. Anyway, she responded, asked a lot of questions (as she does), which I mostly answered in an email that turned out to be somewhat embarrassingly long. But they were a lot of questions.

She said she would be able to give me her full attention Tuesday 10/25. It is now Thursday 10/27. Of course, it isn’t really for her. It is for me. For her, it is still early evening on Wednesday 10/26.

It’s hard to wait.

Yesterday was mostly a shitty day. VP Ma’am left me alone most of the day, thankfully. In the evening, we had a farewell party and she came in later than me, because she had been in the group that cooked. I was sitting between two other teachers, and I was content to sit there. Naturally, VP Ma’am didn’t like that. I shouldn’t like sitting with other people. I should sit with her and give her attention.

When she is not stressed, VP Ma’am is a fine person. We have some nice talks even. When she is stressed, I hate her. I don’t want to be around her. She does nothing but contribute to my own stress, which I find hard enough to manage anyway.

And at social events, she hits me or she pushes me, and she does it really hard and the other thing is that I know she is doing this because she is angry. She is angry and she wants to hurt someone. It is a sneaky way of expressing anger.

I said I was fine where I was, and she did not really talk to me the rest of the evening. She gave a farewell speech to the man leaving, whom she doesn’t actually like as far as I can tell, that was really quite mean.

My leaving is going to be hard.

Anyway, so I am waiting on a reply from my therapist. VP Ma’am creates this kind of daily sense of threat, because she tries to force me to meet her need for physical proximity to a safe person and then gets angry when she doesn’t get it.

Meanwhile, I do think my memories that surfaced last year might largely be true and someone really important to me really was murdered 30 years ago next week.

My mind is a fucking mess.

Anyway, in the midst of weepy cooking this morning, as I thought about things I can’t even articulate except they were kind of like no one has any real interest in me. The best I can hope for is indifference.

Well, I took a bath, made the easiest lunch I could manage and got dressed. I muddled through anyway.

Walking to school, I began to think about how I felt, and I began to think about the authentic self-image of an abused and neglected child. I had a picture in my head of kind of a turd. Like a disgusting, small, unlikeable creature kind of begging to be allowed to survive. And I also had a sense of feeling I needed to be totally self-reliant, a sense of being unable to depend on anyone to help me, groveling for help when I needed it and otherwise needing to go it alone.

If my mind had been fully connected up instead of dissociated, that’s the person I would have experienced as myself. That would have been my whole, authentic self-image. I don’t think that’s the reason I am so dissociated. Maybe one reason. But I don’t think ego is the main issue. It’s that when you are a baby or a toddler, and there is no one to respond to you or help you regulate, and when your parent is very irritable, very reactive, and lacks empathy for your distress, then the only way to manage those intense, frequent episodes of painful feelings is to manage your attention and not think about them. I can feel it now, the shutting down of selected feelings that goes on.

I feel okay. I feel better.

I’ll tell you what did it.

I was really, really angry after I came home. Really angry. I couldn’t calm down. My whole body was activated. And I started to think, why won’t this settle? Why does it just keep going on? They are intensely evocative. That is absolutely true. They tie into old angers. Also true. But it seems like there has to be some upper limit to the intensity of feelings. I don’t really know what causes anger in our bodies—is it a hormone? No idea. It just seemed like this isn’t right. Something isn’t right here. The intensity and the duration don’t make sense to me.

Because things aren’t getting through. I am afraid to feel the feelings, and they are in my body, but some part of me is still afraid that they are there. So some part of me is shutting down the awareness of my feelings. I don’t feel safe feeling, and so I don’t entirely know I feel. Feelings are part of what we know. They allow us to know things. So not feeling means I don’t entirely know what is.

I don’t entirely know I stood up for myself. (At lunch time, I kept walking. After the fourth “Is it like this?” I went to the toilet. Not all of me knows that happened. Not all of me knows I didn’t allow myself simply to be trampled.

I also began to think—and I knew this, but I thought more about this—all of this is very reminiscent of my childhood, which was a lot of being disallowed from doing what I think of as “my things.” I just wanted to read a book. I just wanted to play with my dolls. I wanted to write stories. And a lot of my childhood was, “Go do something else.” I was playing quietly. I wasn’t hurting anyone or being annoying. I just wanted to fucking read.

I have been generally reliving this in the staffroom. I noticed it recently—maybe yesterday or this morning. I was very intent on my work, and everyone who walked in made some loud disturbance. I think four teachers did this. The old man-toddler who shouts shouted. Arts Sir did pretty much the same thing. Somebody else I can’t quite remember did something.

I have also noticed there are two teachers who, when they have the same period off together, talk continually, which ought to be fine. They aren’t talking that loudly although it is typical Country X style—from opposite sides of the room. But they annoy.

I realized why recently. Although I don’t understand most of what they are saying and I mostly don’t care, I know that tone of voice. It’s a whiny, “Pay attention to me. Please pay attention to me. Mom mom mom.”

In the morning—whichever morning it was—I am deep in my work, and for some teachers, that touches a wound. I am being ignored. I feel lonely. Pay attention to me. They are making noise and disturbing me on purpose. The two look at me teachers annoy because they want attention. Actually, they don’t want my attention probably, but they want someone’s attention and I remember that.

I remember that hurt, “You aren’t paying attention to me, so I am mad at you and the thing you are doing that you enjoy.”

That’s probably the experience of someone who is introverted. An extrovert remembers being pushed away more. An introvert remembers being interfered with more. It still adds up to, “I don’t want you.”

I began to think why this happens. Because VP Ma’am acts on impulse. She doesn’t think what will happen if she behaves the way that she doe. She doesn’t think that when she constantly tries to control and interfere with someone’s activities, they don’t want to be around her. She has this fear that they won’t, but makes no connection. And I also thought I am sitting here trying to calm down from all the rage of being interfered with continually in pursuing my own goals of whatever kind, because I don’t want to be like that. I do understand the consequences. I do get that I am a shitty teacher when I go to my class angry. I do understand that even handling VP Ma’am with finesse will be problematic if I cannot calm down. She doesn’t. So she has no idea that after dealing with her, I have to go and calm down for a while. She doesn’t. She just lays into someone. Naturally, she has no empathy for me. She isn’t trying to preserve her relationships. For her, the chips can fall where they may. She doesn’t understand my experience at all.

So I thought all of that—why VP Ma’am seems to have no empathy for me when she constantly seems to intentionally impede my progress toward whatever goal I have. Why it’s such a part of my childhood memories. Why the anger won’t calm down. I felt a little better.

I went to buy some things then—things I needed, things for C. The whole time, no one tried to prevent me from doing anything. No one demanded I stop and pay attention to them. No one got alarmed when I walked to where I wanted to go. I felt quite a lot better. I also started to realize this isn’t normal behaviour, is it? It isn’t normal for someone to want constant attention, is it? It isn’t normal, for example, to go to the vegetable market and have someone have something negative to say about everything you buy. (She’s done that. I will not be going shopping with her again.) I feel very trapped right now, because I cannot get away from her and quietly do my work anywhere. Whatever I do, she finds me and prevents from doing whatever I want to do at that moment. But it isn’t normal. It won’t happen forever or for the rest of my life. Because it isn’t normal. Not everyone does that.

When I was 11 and trying to sit quietly and read a book, I didn’t know that. It seemed like it could be forever. It seemed like it could be everyone who wanted to stop me from doing “my things.”

VP Ma’am vent

I think I need to get it out.

So today has been a VP Ma’am day. I am sorry. I am not at best, and I do not have nice or pretty things to say. I don’t feel patient or understanding.

I wish death on her. Or myself. One of us has to go.

All day long. Before school, after interval, at the beginning of lunch, before 6th period.

First there was hemmed and hawed. Yes, yes, yes, yes. I am not kidding. It was four times. The same question, which I answered four times. I believe that was before school.

Then she wanted me to look at her questions. Okay, sure. She wanted to ask questions that included common mistakes. Well, the teachers make these mistakes. The principal makes them. Put them in a quiz game for 7th and 8th grade students and they will get them all wrong. I said that yesterday. If you want a game where everyone loses, go for it, but I don’t think anyone will like watching it. And your evaluation is next week. You might try to make an interesting game as your last public event. I dunno. Seems worth a shot.

Then, a frantic, “Going home for lunch?”

Indeed, yes.

Another frantic, “You didn’t bring your packed lunch?”

Indeed, no.

(In my head, is there some kind of problem with that? Are you also going to prevent me from going home to eat along with keeping me from my work by asking the same questions repeatedly?)

Before sixth period, “Do you have any international news items?”

“No, were you expecting me to get some?”

(There is a man on campus who, every week, writes news items for the students to say at assembly. Perhaps we could ask him. That is what I said yesterday.)

“Yes.”

(In my head. Seriously?)

Why do I move my mouth when no sounds seem to come out? And why does she keep wanting my ears and my eyes on her? What exactly does that do for her?

Then, after school, asking everyone else in the staffroom to provide the portion of the quiz I said I would do.

And it is always, always like this. Only this time worse, because the performance evaluation is next week.

It is my job to help her. I am the assistant at this. But what is the point of doing anything? What I do, she rejects. What I say no to, she keeps expecting me to do.

Little parts on the loose

We have a performance evaluation coming up—all of us do. English teachers are first. Math teachers second. They start next week, so VP Ma’am is losing her mind. What she does under circumstances of stress is what anyone with childhood trauma does: she wants someone with her. She wants to know she is seen and someone is there if anything happens to her.

So she demands a lot of attention. The hard part is that she transmits a lot of terror, and I can barely regulate my own emotions under normal conditions. I can’t co-regulate with her, nor can I calm down her after her little whirlwind of stress passes through. It’s fucking hard to deal with, especially since I know that Punishing Parent is next. If she feels under threat, which she might, she will punish me.

It was so painful the first time I realized she really does want to hurt me: the time when she looked at my National Dress, complimented it, and then immediately criticized something else about. Oh, yes, that was on purpose. She is punishing me. It was so painful when I realized in the C situation (when C got in trouble at school in April), that she was angry at C and wanted to hurt her and what she was doing was repeating every nasty rumour about her that she had heard and then telling me people were saying this about my daughter, so that I would be hurt also. It was so hard to recognize that someone wants to hurt me. Just knowing that is so painful. I am sure it echoes the pain of my mother’s punishing parent. You aren’t trying to guide me or teach me. You are trying to make me hurt.

I handle it as delicately as I can.

It means she finds these excuses to talk to me throughout the day. It’s never at a convenient time. It’s always 2 minutes before the bell rings or when I am walking to class, or some time when it intrudes on what I need to do. Probably because she holds the urge in, and suddenly it comes out. It’s not thought-out.

Today, she wanted to know what the expression “hemmed and hawed” means. Now, she is not very computer literate, so I can forgive her for not asking Uncle Google. However, she asked me four times. Actually, she did know, but there was a typing error in the textbook—of these, there are many. Still. It was literally four times.

“Is it like that?”

“Yes.”

“Is it like that?”

“Yes.”

“Is it like that?”

“Yes.

“Is it like that?”

“Yes.”

I had to go to the toilet then. I did anyway—badly. But she does that. The same question, repeatedly. Fucking yes. Is there some part of yes that confuses you? Is it not an emphatic yes? Is there something wrong with the yes?

Then walking to class, suddenly needing to discuss the questions for a quiz game on Saturday. Which we had discussed. And I had stated my opinion about already. And she had disregarded those opinions. So.

I went to class full of the triggered memory of simply not mattering. Thank you, VP Ma’am for sharing the disordered attachment love. Now I can go and see if I can activate every child in that class who also has disordered attachment. (I did.)

I don’t mind if someone doesn’t like my ideas, but if you don’t agree with me, stop fucking asking. I have other work to do. I would prefer to do it.

Anyway, it is an excuse for contact. She knows the meaning of hemmed and hawed. And she is stretching it out, because she wants something more than just yes out of me. I am reminded of the C’s vouchers, and my blogging friends cancelling and rescheduling. The little parts are sneaky. Or try to be. I did it on Sunday myself, suddenly remembering that I didn’t know if C had gotten a 1000 I had sent up inside a letter along with pancakes and hot sauce.

That was a little part, wanting contact. C didn’t respond. Clever girl. I am playing. Stop interrupting me. Fair enough.

As soon as I sent the text, I realized what I had done. Yup. Little parts. Nothing wrong with little parts, but C is a child. She isn’t my mommy. VP Ma’am, I am your colleague. I am not your mommy.

It’s going to be a hard week.