I was having trouble a while ago with freezing up. Nothing important seemed to be possible to get done, because as soon as I thought of it, I panicked and my mind shut down. I couldn’t think anything, and most of what I need to do requires thought. I asked my therapist about this, and she suggested I write down each thing I needed to do on a separate paper, and then two things that would move me in that direction.
It hurt. Evidently, she doesn’t know when I am frozen I cannot remember what I am supposed to do. I know I am supposed to do something. I can’t think of what I should do about it. She has confused freezing with anxiety and not being able to choose a plan of action. She doesn’t realize I can’t remember my own phone number in this mode. She doesn’t know what freeze mode feel like, or that the harder you try, the worse it seems to get.
But some things did help, and I could get out of it. Writing out that I needed help in itself helped.
VP Ma’am seems to be a large part of the trigger, actually. It is VP Ma’am on top of other stresses that does it. She caught me going to class yesterday. It’s so frustrating. I want to enter my class calm and focused, thinking about the dynamics of the students, the topic that needs to be taught. I don’t actually want to talk to anyone on the way to class, because I am thinking about the class.
Anyway, she caught up with me somehow and asked if I had finished my performance evaluation report. Mine is next week. Oh, thank you. I wanted to think about a stressful topic before walking into a class of restless, frustrating 3rd graders. Now I am primed and ready to go.
She had come into the staffroom to complain because her performance evaluation had not gone well. We are supposed to gather documentation and she had not done so, nor really tried very hard to do so. She kept complaining that she couldn’t do it. Our principal is a bit of an asshole anyway, but she shouldn’t have been so defensive about it. She just should have tried her best, instead of expecting to be excused from something that the Ministry is demanding we do. It isn’t our principal’s brilliant idea.
I had an awful class, and felt angry all through it. Well, because I was in a vulnerable state and felt attacked and fearful right before, with no time to collect myself. I knew this was happening and couldn’t pull out of it. The desks had been rearranged, so that all of the students are sitting at 2 long tables, very crowded, constantly in each other’s spaces, very restless and very distracted by having so many bodies so close to them. I have no idea why the class teacher decided to do this in the morning, so that contributed to things. I had this moment of feeling attacked, then an unexpected challenge.
It takes a long time to get out of this.
I saw VP Ma’am again this morning. She was again in that agitated state I think of as disorganized attachment mode, wanting connection, ready to attack if something should happen. I was sitting at my table, realizing whatever I do, if she comes to me, she will criticize what I am doing or she will say something panicky about the work I need to do. It was sort of hopeless. I had to basically just wait, do something mindless that reveals no vulnerability and wait for her to leave. So after assembly, I noticed I was slipping back into freeze mode. She is the one triggering this in me.
I know this must have to do with my mother, and with my mother’s restless, agitated states of wanting connection and feeling afraid of being unable to find it which tended to end in sudden criticism or in rage. Whatever I did, she could be expected to attack me for it, not for any particular reason, but because she was in a sensitive state and her previous behaviour made me distrustful of her and I wanted to keep her at a distance: either because she would hurt me, or because she would spread fear and panic through her own fearfulness. I know that’s what I am setting off when I go to my classes in an agitated or angry state. Whether I am attacking the students or not might not be important. Quite a few of them have histories of people who seem to be in that emotional state attacking. They would be wary of me, restless, and very needy, because I am in this state that frightens them, just because of my affect. I recognize it in VP Ma’am, and the ones with similar issues in their families would recognize it in me. Our emotions are in our bodies, and children can feel my emotional state.
I don’t know what to do about it, but I know that it is happening. It affects my teaching in ways people without disorganized attachment never have to deal with. They don’t go into a state that upsets all of the students with behaviour problems.
Anyway, this morning, I was recognizing that VP Ma’am was setting off this reaction in me, and making me feel very helpless, because there was really nothing I could do until she took it upon herself to kind of go spinning off, seeking connection or an outlet for her rage somewhere else. I got why I hid in books as a child. I could at least escape mentally when I couldn’t escape physically.
It made me think I grew up with a wildcat. It’s very hard when you have this unpredictable person you can’t escape from, just as I can’t escape from VP Ma’am, and you know first of all that that person wants to harm you, that they are actually intentionally malignant towards you, and you never know when they will strike. It’s very different than a normal childhood, I would guess, with a parent who might lose their temper sometimes, but in a more or less predictable way.