One last thing, and then I think I need to clean my “muddy” house (as C once described hers).
I have been really hurting over the lack of real connection in my life lately.
At the same time, I have also noticed that when I leave the house to go to school in the mornings, I inevitably begin to emotionally shut down. Little by little, over the couse of the day, I ratchet down emotionally to the point where I am about 50% numb. When I come home, I might be able to unwind enough to feel again, but I might be fully back inside my body until some time the next morning.
I wake up shut down and have to work to feel again.
Basically, people scare me. They scare me so much I can’t feel emotions anymore. If I did, I would have a hard time concentrating on anything aside from the fear.
My lack of connection doesn’t come from people not wanting me to be the person I really am. It comes from the fear the perception that I will not be allowed to be myself creates—I am so afraid, I lose my connection to myself.
I feel a lot less scared of C—I don’t know why, but that’s how it has always been. I am less afraid of everything when I am with her. So this connection I have to her feels very vulnerable and very precious. She is precious—she’s a unique human being—but part of the vulnerability comes from feeling she can give me connection and she can take it away. But in reality, the connection flows out of feeling safe. When I feel safe, I can connect again. It’s just people make me disconnect. As I learn to feel safer, connections will be easier for me to make. I can have more connections, and they won’t disappear so quickly.
I think I have never talked to anyone who understood what I was experiencing in my own mind and heart was disorganized attachment, or that it was real and existed in the present. I didn’t understand and I have never spoken to anyone who understood that in my daily life I am starved for connection because I am too afraid, and it isn’t a matter of pushing through the fear and connecting anyway, because when I am pushing through the fear to engage socially I become too emotionally shut down to create any sense of connection with anyone.
I remember sitting in a therapist’s office—no idea whose, it might have been a “trial” therapist I didn’t end up seeing more than a few times—and having that person comment on my flat affect. At the time, I didn’t really know what affect was, which in retrospect I find rather funny. For years, therapists talked about “affect” and I didn’t know what affect was. I thought it was my facial expression and my body language, because so often that didn’t match what was going on inside. Anyway, I don’t think that particular therapist ever considered what it feels like to be so frightened you don’t even think you can have feelings while sitting in the office of someone you are expected to discuss those feelings with. I was doing my best to talk about my feelings, but I was terrified. I was too terrified to have any expression in my face at all.
She wouldn’t know, although she ought to know, that someone who was tortured throughout their childhood will know show fear when they are most afraid, because that child did not grow up having relationships where expressions of fear resulted in protection.
Anyway, this process of shutting my feelings down because I assume my feelings basically won’t be acceptable—and also that this is a physical, procedural memory, not a conscious thought or perception—makes life very, very lonely. So much of what went on in therapy was that: I feel lonely and I feel hopeless. I never said I felt lonely. I didn’t know that the feeling I even had was loneliness. I had no way to even talk to myself about my feelings. I didn’t recognize my own feeling states. I didn’t know loneliness felt that way. My feelings were so profoundly detached from my thinking mind I had no way to express them. I could talk about where I was when they happened. I had kind of a lexicon of locations which represented emotions to me, because I didn’t recognize them as being the same experiences that happened to other people. No one else described their feelings the way they felt to me. I couldn’t call them sadness or loneliness or despair, because I didn’t know that was what they were.
So much of what I needed to communicate was about this loneliness I was experiencing in the present. It wasn’t the past. I went to therapy and said, in my own way, I feel lonely. And I was told, because I wasn’t able to communicate accurately how I felt, “You don’t feel that.”
It made me not feel real.
So I needed to talk about that too. I don’t feel real. I feel lonely. And I feel hopeless, because there seems to be no way out of this loneliness.
And that didn’t exist either. That was also something else, because I didn’t know how to express what I felt so that someone else could understand it—I didn’t understand it, and neither did anyone else.
But I get it now. Until it feels safe enough for me to connect to other people, I am going to feel lonely. It is not hopeless anymore, because I have started to figure out how to help myself feel safe, and for part of the day at least, I can connect to myself. I am able to connect better to other people, so that might change. It’s possible I might eventually feel connected to myself and to others all day long.
I’m only 43. There’s still hope for me.
Part of the sadness I feel about C being in her village has to do with the rareness of the feeling of connection in my life. I am able to feel connected to her when I am with her. I don’t know why, but I do. When she isn’t with me, I am not able to form connections with anyone else in a reliable way. I can’t even always keep the connection with myself, because I just get so scared and I shut down so fast. So it’s like she’s gone, being alive is gone along with her.
I think this has happened throughout my life. There have been people here and there who helped me to feel safe enough that I felt a connection to them, and then something happened to them: they died, they moved away, we had a rift in our relationship, and it wasn’t just the relationship that was lost, but my whole sense of aliveness that was lost, because I didn’t know how to help myself feel safe without that person’s help.
I just never appreciated how very scared I am.
“Frantic efforts to avoid abandonment.”
Yeah, that’s what you would do if that person took with them your very feelings of aliveness and you didn’t know how to get that feeling back again without them. It doesn’t have to be like that, but it was. It was like that for a very long time.