I feel so incredibly heavy. How do I work through this?
I told C I would meet her again and she got this look in her eye that I can’t identify, but I recognize from other experiences. Angry, maybe. First, she said, “Not needed.” Okay, well, let’s leave need out of it for the moment. It’s hard to feel so needy, isn’t it? Then she said, “I will tell.”
Anyway, it got to be Monday evening, and I had this idea I ought to follow up. There are buses that go from Y-town on Tuesday and Wednesday. The taxi was ridiculously expensive. They don’t go to C’s village, but they drive by it. I think it might be an hour walking. That would save a lot of money.
C hadn’t been reading my messages. She answered the phone when I called, but she didn’t read my texts. She was reading along, and then suddenly stopped. I thought she had gotten overwhelmed. I kept sending them anyway, not really knowing if that made the situation better or worse.
Finally, after more than a day, I realized no one was reading my messages. Oh, nothing to do with her emotional state. It’s the network. So I turned my phone on and off again and presto! I sent a message and she read it.
I don’t know if that has anything to do with anything, but it did mean shortly after I left her house, she abruptly stopped getting any texts from me. She didn’t get told good night or greeted in the morning, which is something I have done most of the year for her—whenever she has had her phone with her. It might have made her more distrustful, to suddenly have this change in our routine.
So, I talked to her on Monday evening and told her I had thought of coming to her village the next day. She refused. They were very busy doing something or other that I couldn’t understand. And she won’t come here because she is weaving.
I was talking to her and the thought flashed through my mind, “I have done so much for her. Can’t she spend a day or two with me?” And for a second, I felt very offended, very hurt, and then my adult mind kicked in and said to me I don’t want it to be like that. I don’t want that guilty tone leaking into our relationship. I don’t want it to be, “I did this for you, so now you owe me.” She does need a lot, and that needs to be free. It needs to be given freely, or not at all. If there are going to be strings, I shouldn’t offer it to her. It’s true that she ought to consider me, she ought to make time for me, but I don’t think it happens like that. You don’t get consideration via emotional blackmail. Anyway, I didn’t say anything like what I was thinking. I just asked again if she was truly busy, or if she was feeling shy.
It was a disorganized attachment moment, but it wasn’t massively disruptive. It was two people, feeling needy baby feelings, and trying to still behave like somewhat grownup people. I think it went okay.
We hung up then, and I thought over what had happened. I felt so sad. I lay in the bed, where I had been talking to her, feeling really sad. Weirdly, I thought nobody likes me. Every part of me is bad. I had been thinking earlier about needy baby, and how bad it feels to have needy baby—which is what I have been calling that state of feeling really intense longing and sadness. I thought that was happy baby, and she doesn’t like happy baby either. I thought that for about five minutes. Every part of me is bad.
I have been just kind of letting myself feel things, even when they suck. I have been trying to have an attitude of curiosity about it when it feels shitty, and I have tried to notice how it feels in my body, what goes on in my mind when I am in these shitty feeling states.
Anyway, it lifted rather abruptly. Maybe I shut it down. Suddenly, I thought C is talking to me from the perspective of what is normal in her family. What I mean is I feel rejected, and that is accurate, but she is rejecting me based on conditions she believes exists. She isn’t rejecting me because of me. She is rejecting me based on her preconceived notions of how she should be and how people should be.
Our parents are our idea of generic people. We unconsciously believe everyone thinks more or less as they do, with variations on that, so if she is saying I am too busy to see you, she is telling me, “I am supposed to be too busy to see you. I am expected to be doing the things I am telling you I am doing.” And whether she actually is as busy as she says she is, or whether she really is expected to be busy, whether she is outright lying or whether these are distortions or even the absolute truth, that is her understanding of life. It gave me a feeling of being machine-like. I sat with that feeling of being machine-like, and I recognized it. I thought of what VP Ma’am told me—that she would see C doing laundry and in the middle of laundry, her mom would call and demand C take the baby for a nappy change (while her mom was socializing with friends) or do some other chore. Before one chore was finished, another one started up. That would make you feel machine-like, wouldn’t it? If your mom sees you as someone mostly there to do work, you would experience that perception in a felt way, as a machine-like state.
So I sent her a series of texts about that, that I feel worried about her, that I wonder if sometimes she feels like a machine who has to just work, and that she isn’t a machine. She is a person with feelings.
That was last night. I saw when I got up that around this time, during my series of texts (which she didn’t respond to—normally doesn’t, but I think still help), that she had posted on Facebook about her siblings being her soulmates. So she might have felt understood.
I have thought recently about how my own mind works, as someone with trouble regulating emotions and with mentalization and basically it’s not clear a lot of the time why I am having certain emotions, what connects to what. It’s not just about trauma, but like that all the time. And I think that probably happens with C. She may very well not know what connects to what. I was having an intense chat with her, and she very well might not connect a feeling of being understood with the texts I am sending her. She may think instead of her siblings, who are much more acceptable to have that feeling about. Not everything is about me, but it’s also possible that when things are about me, she has absolutely no idea.
In the morning, I sent another series of texts to her. I was thinking about a feeling I have with her that I should not leave my house, I should not leave Y-town. When I walked down from her school in the evening after meeting her, she would get really worried. There might be snakes. She worried about snakes. Well, I was thinking about disorganized attachment and that feeling of not knowing where an attachment figure is. Drives me insane, personally, but I hadn’t thought about that affecting her. I thought about how terrifying it is to feel you don’t know where someone is. I want her to get that pattern, that I go away and come back again, but it might be she doesn’t really want to know I go away and come back again. That implies people can move. They might get lost. My little parts feel that acutely. C might get lost. Her whereabouts must be known at all times, because that lost feeling is so terrible. And mostly I stay home. She imagines me at home, not going anywhere much or very far. She might not like to imagine me going away and coming back again, because in between, I seem lost to her.
Maybe. Anyway, I said that. I asked if she felt worried about it. I didn’t get a reply—she frequently doesn’t.
And then I said something about babies, and when they are left alone with no one to talk to them or play with them, they feel really, really lonely and sad. They feel so lonely it is like being dead inside. I said I thought that might happen to her and when important people leave, she might feel that way again. She might feel the loneliness from when she was a baby.
Later, I noticed she posted an update on Facebook: I hate him.
Evidently, she has been fighting with her boyfriend. A few days ago, it sounded as though she felt sorry over something. Now she’s angry. I don’t think it’s probably disconnected from my texts. If you want your mommy to come, you really, really want her, and she doesn’t come and doesn’t come and you feel so lonely you feel dead, you also might feel angry.
I felt, for a long time after that, very, very heavy, just quite exhausted, and I think it was from imagining that baby sadness. I keep thinking about that film about the mother with postpartum depression trying to get therapy for herself and her baby, and how in the Strange Situation experiment, her baby collapsed on the ground. That was a memory. Mom, I remember when you used to leave me alone for hours. It was like this. I lay on my back because I was a baby and couldn’t sit up yet, and I stared up at the ceiling and I felt dead inside. Absolutely dead. Wanting to cry because I was so lonely, but no one came, so I got tired and stopped crying and then I just felt dead.
If no one sees your emotions, I think you don’t know that they are real. If no one responds in any way, you don’t know you have emotions or that they are information. It becomes like pixels that you don’t see anymore—non-information. If your parents, instead, become dysregulated in response to your emotions, then it’s like your feelings are dangerous. Either non-information or dangerous.
I think probably C’s mother’s family is something like mine. I don’t really know, but she likes being around her grandmother just as I did when I was growing up, but her grandmother created a daughter who abuses C. That is what happened in my family. My grandmother was a narcissist and didn’t respond to my emotionally sensitive mother, who then couldn’t control her emotions around me. Narcissism was easier to cope with than an emotional cyclone, but it didn’t mean that relationship was healing for me.
If so many interactions in real life trigger that kind of implicit memory and either it isn’t seen at all, because to most people it doesn’t make sense, or it pushes the people around you into highly dysregulated, dangerous states, then you never have a chance to integrate that memory. It never becomes a part of you that you can understand, and it remains this mysterious intrusion on normal life. I think that is what usually happens. These baby states keep getting triggered, and they are never seen or understood or soothed.
I am trying to do that differently with C and with myself. I am trying to see that the baby states are real. The feeling of deadness inside that was my lonely babyhood, the needy feeling inside, the sadness at being so lonely—all of those feelings are real. I am feeling them now and they are telling me about the present in their own way: someone just left, for example. Indeed, they do leave. I am alone now. The deadness inside is telling me, yeah, this is the same thing. I am alone. I remember being alone. It felt like being dead. I remember that feeling. I think once the feelings start to seem real, then my experiences can be organized, and I don’t need to have the feelings so intensely. I can be alone without feeling needy or dead or very sad. I don’t know if I am right, but that’s what I am trying at the moment—trying to make those feelings seem real for both of us, so that they can be organized, and attachment can stop being something we lack coherent strategies to form.
I don’t know. But it is just hard work.
The other thought I have around this is that maybe this is why some very explosive relationships develop: when you have similar traumas, you recognize each other’s emotions that aren’t actually real to other people. So at least you feel seen and responded to, but both partners might also be unable to regulate their own emotional states, so there is a lot of friction. You are seen, but not soothed and no one is able to soothe themselves. Also, when people are caught up in very intense emotional states, they stop being able to think about other people’s needs. They are consumed by their own needs. So then there isn’t a lot of give and take. There is more impulsively responding to one’s own needs, more grabbing, more simply running away. The draw is that at least you are seen, and you can start to feel real, but you don’t end up feeling safe. Safety requires less impulsivity, more self-control.
Anyway, I hope that seeing my own emotions and seeing C’s will help both of us.