C called me last night, as has become her habit this week. She couldn’t come to my house on Sunday, because there was a school picnic all day. We got kind of caught up in disorganized attachment pain/confusion (I like that term.) I thought she was lying to me, and expressing fearfulness around coming to my house on Sunday. She was afraid I wasn’t going to come. It wasn’t awful, but she hung up on me, and I was really, really sad.
I messaged the matron in a semi-unrelated way, and she confirmed C’s story.
Well, fuck me.
I had told C if she really did have a picnic, for sure I would come up tonight. I forget to tell her obvious things like this, I have realized. I think she will just know that. Obviously she doesn’t. Why would she? Then I sent her texts to a phone number I am not completely sure is with her. I said I was coming up, that I was sorry I hadn’t believed her, and then that I was bringing chow mein. Someone read them.
Then I got to the hostel and I began to see the girls and I was happy, just lit up inside. I can see this more and more happening to me. C is there or going to be there, and I feel lit up. I feel safe and I feel lit up. The thing about disorganized attachment is this lit-up feeling seems shameful. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I feel that way now writing about it. I feel sad and ashamed.
I have been thinking this about shame: shame is the precursor of remorse. In its dysregulated form, it’s awful, but at a more moderate level, it’s like, “I screwed up. I’m sorry. Please mend the relationship with me.” There is so much of it following childhood abuse, because there is so much of it and it isn’t coherent. It’s not some kind of problematic emotion. It’s just overdone.
I went into the hostel with C’s cousin, and she had gotten her results back from a mock exam and they were good, so she was happy. She was happy, I was happy for her, and I was happy to be coming to see C. C was in the toilet when I came, so I waited there with her cousin and some of the other girls.
C came in after a while looking raised from that dead—that total despairing look on her face. She had been washing up—her legs and face were still wet. I didn’t say anything. I ought to, I suppose, but I often say nothing to C when I first see her. I just wait for her to kind of settle. She was in that despairing state she gets into . We all do, those of us with attachment disorders, when it seems like the person you want will never come.
But I felt lit up.
I sat and watched her go through different modes and she toweled off and talked with her friends. She was probably responding to them and her conversation with them, that I didn’t entirely understand. She looked very defended for a minute—there is a recognizable defended look she has. She looked very angry. She looked vulnerable and needy. She had an angry child moment looking at her watch (I think the watch I gave her last December that she didn’t wear until recently), and realized the time. She wanted to change her pants. So she did that. All of this time, I said nothing as far as I can remember. I just watched her, feeling happy.
Oh, and for a bit, she felt happy too. In between all of the other emotions, she was lit up for a minute also.
After she finished changing her pants, I said, “Come here,” and patted the space on the bed next to me. I thought about VP Ma’am when I did that. How does C feel when I command her where to sit? But C doesn’t know she can sit next to me unless I tell her she can. It’s hard to know what to do sometimes.
Anyway, she came happily. I had bought a sweater for her, and I got that out of my bag and showed it to her. She didn’t like the colour, she told her friends, forgetting that sometimes I understand the Regional Language. I told her I know she doesn’t like the colour (something I had realized only after getting the sweater home), but I think that colour looks beautiful on her. I held the sweater up to her and asked her about it. Did she like it? She didn’t have to like it. She liked it.
As a caveat, I have to add I don’t like the sweater. I was relying entirely on the advice of colleagues. It looks to me like something my grandfather would wear, but with some mistakes in workmanship (intended it would seem to be stylish). However, this is Country X. They wipe with sticks after using the toilet. I don’t judge.
She had asked for chow mein, and I gave her that—she wanted momos, and I hadn’t had time to organize that. I forgot to give her the hot sauce she asked for and I felt too ashamed of the sheer quantity of chow mein I bought for her to also get the fried things she likes. But I gave her the biscuits she wanted, saying I think you need more biscuits as a joke, because it looked like so many. I don’t think it sounded like a mean joke. I am not sure. I didn’t feel mean at that moment. I felt happy.
Then she wanted to go study, so I hugged her and said I was sorry and then I left.
In the night, I woke up afraid. This happens a lot after I see C. Just fear in my whole body. It’s a muscular fear. It’s interesting, because I don’t really feel the emotion of fear. It’s not in my heart or breathing. It’s just in my muscles. I had the feeling I don’t know where she is. I lost her.
I was thinking about this the next day. I have been thinking this isn’t just the memory of disorganized attachment. I have disorganized attachment now. I don’t have the pattern established in my mind that the connection I have to important people comes back. I see them again. I again feel lit up inside. This is partly because it’s been difficult to establish connection with people. I have so much going on inside all of the time. It’s also that I am shutting things down in order to cope, so if I feel sad when I see C, I don’t feel everything. I shut that down and later it isn’t really clear that I did see her. I know, factually, I did, but emotional pieces are missing. So cognitively, at an adult level, I know I will see her again. I know it’s going to be okay, but the animal part of my brain that relies on pattern-formation doesn’t know. It just knows that she isn’t here.
When that feeling of connection and being lit up inside is rare, it’s like the Hope diamond. That’s why I feel so upset. I don’t know that I will feel that connection again. It’s a rare and wondrous thing, this lit-up sense inside, and I don’t know that it will happen again. So naturally it’s quite scary when it seems to be gone. I feel sometimes, fleetingly, that it’s safe. It’s safe to see my reality. I am registering connection and noting that lit-up feeling inside. I am noting its absence and registering the feelings that go with it. It was never safe before to have an attachment problem. I was supposed to “know” that I have reliable attachments, but I don’t. I do not believe I have felt this lit-up feeling for anyone in many, many years, in decades actually. Every time it seemed to be there, and that has only happened a few times, it went away. I stopped being able to experience connection with that person, and that lit up feeling went away.
I think this is where it’s at: I am starting to know that I feel the lit-up feeling when I see C. I am starting to feel safe enough that I can feel that. I am starting to integrate the feelings that go along with her not being here: okay, I feel afraid. I feel like I must immediately rush out and find the Hope diamond, because it is the Hope diamond. It’s precious and irreplaceable. I think that’s going to help me. I am going to be able see: it’s here, and now it’s not here, and now it’s here again. Oh, it comes back. The Hope diamond comes back again. But if I don’t process the feelings related to these two events, then I don’t entirely know that they happened, and the pattern never gets established. I don’t know that I always find the Hope diamond again. This has to happen.