I am in a reactive place today. Things were settling down in my mind. I was feeling like I could kind of be normal after the anniversary stuff, and get some work done. Today is shaping up to be very hard. One thing I have realized is that I get into a sensitive place and then become more and more hypervigilant and reactive until I get a chance to calm down. The longer this goes on, the harder it is to calm down. I don’t mean reactive in my behaviour, but reactive internally. Mostly the reactivity leads to shutdown, so that I feel less and less the more upset I am. The less I feel, the less I am able to maintain attunement with those around me, and the worse my problems tend to get.
I hate it.
So C called me last night and asked when “we” were leaving. She is going with me to the airport, which is a 2-day’s journey from here. This brings up all kinds of issues for me, and puts me in a sensitive place, which I am not out of. I saw the Boy had brought vegetables for me after school before I got home. In the morning, I noticed he also stole a notebook from me, which is my diary.
I was pretty livid. I do need to talk to him about it, but I also know I am in this reactive place right now, because of talking to C and because she is thinking about my departure and I am also thinking of my departure.
One concrete-ish step I took was to email my therapist and ask for her advice. That was the original thought in emailing her a few weeks ago—the C piece was overwhelming me. Then the anniversary got overwhelming also, and I didn’t ask about C. When I talked to her about the freeze issue I was having, her advice was basically just to start, but to think about it in small pieces. She asked a hundred questions, said I would have her full attention when she got back from a trip, and then suggested that I practice some deep breathing strategies. I thanked her and tried not to think she imagines I am an idiot. The thing about being dissociative, is that once you shut down, it just gets worse. It’s easier to pull yourself back from it early on, otherwise it might be days before I feel safe enough to have an emotion or to process anything. I don’t think most people really understand this. They get started on something and it gets easier for them as they go on. VP Ma’am I think was really setting me off—she was feeling vulnerable and so was I, and her attempts to seek my support made me feel trapped.
Then I emailed her about C.
This is what I said:
“I know a large part of it is disordered attachment and she is fairly dissociated, so that her life seems to her to occur in pieces, rather than in a continuous fashion. Abandonment and separation is a very big trigger for her, as one might expect and she feels a lot of shame around being herself or having needs. I know she is under more stress now because I am leaving and because she has the pressure of exams soon. She is having gaps in her memory that are stress-related. I think they might be very brief, but I am not sure. She says things to me that later she doesn’t remember and she is genuinely confused by. I am not her therapist, but I am her guardian this year. She does not talk openly with me about abuse she has suffered. Actually, she does not talk to me openly about anything, but she clearly feels a lot when she is with me.”
I got this back:
It is hard for me to address your needs at such a distance after not communicating with you for several years, especially when you are struggling with someone else’s situation. She sounds like an injured and damaged child whom you have tried to help. Your own life experiences make it easier for you to respond to and identify with her. What does it mean that you are her guardian? Is she an orphan who lives with you? Is she cared for by other people? Housed? Fed? Or are you primarily a caring friend who contributes financially to her support and education? If so, have you been able to make a plan to do so after you leave Bhutan? Who will receive those funds and other forms of help or goods you may send? It is hard to predict the impact of your departure on her since she is not communicative verbally, but one can guess your leaving will be experienced with some pain and distress. I don’t know how she will absorb and process the experience since the extent of her emotional illness/ damage is unknown to me. However, all that said, you can talk to her and tell her how you feel, even if she seems unresponsive. Talk to her about the provisions you are making for her, including how you will try to maintain communication with her. Have pictures of the both of you taken together and put in some scrapbook/ keepsake. Give her something of yours as a token to keep. These physical objects can be helpful in your absence. If you are in a position to make a video or recording of yourself talking to her about your memories of past shared experiences, you could do so. I don’t know if she has access to a computer to maintain contact via Skype or an app. Those are some of my ideas
So, lots of questions, but nothing a non-expert wouldn’t be able to imagine doing. Again, does she imagine I am an idiot? I thanked her and answered all of her questions. I don’t think she does, but I am looking for something she can’t give me. I am looking for a connection to someone who thinks deeply about things, in whose presence I can also think deeply. In some way, I think I need to understand something about the world around me. I need to understand that most people aren’t deep thinkers. They are content with whatever comes to mind for them, and they don’t have the deep curiosity that I have or the need to know.
I was re-reading my email and thinking, the problem with transitional objects (a keepsake from me) is that they are painful reminders of a person’s absence, rather than a reminder of the comfort of that person’s presence. Someone with disordered attachment gives those objects away, as C has done with pretty much everything I have given her that was mine and had meaning for her. I need something that will continue to remind her I exist in the present, rather than reminds her the past no longer exists. And I need strategies to help her cope with the fear of reaching out for connection, so that she can get the comfort of my presence.
But I don’t think she thinks that.
For me, with the situation with C and my departure, it feels that there is something missing for me. I am not able to put something together or I don’t know something that is important for me to know about the situation. If someone sat patiently with me while I tried to find this piece, it would help me I think. I need that feeling of being supported while I do what I need to do, and I keep reaching for it. I think it isn’t there, and it touches this wound when I am in this reactive place already: no one is actually interested in me. That’s a very deep feeling of loneliness, this kind of loneliness in my mind, that I really have no one I can talk to about the things that are important to me. No one is patient enough to understand what I am saying.
And then it touches this other wound that really no one wants me to be me or likes me. They would prefer that I make a scrapbook and call it a day. But I think I also need to see beyond this woundedness and understand that this is an authentic response.
I don’t know. It’s hard.