I have been spending a lot of time in shame. This is mainly because I have to do various things to prepare to leave. Mainly, I have to write a letter of recommendation for myself that the principal can edit and sign. That’s hard. It’s hard to sit down and write good things about myself that I think a future employer might want to know about me. I didn’t directly have bad feelings about myself while doing it, but it hit me at other times, in the convoluted way my brain seems to work. But I know those kinds of things do it to me. I know things like that are a core reason for it. I know, later, when I am cooking and life feels unbearably impossible for vague reasons, it’s because of the letter I was writing early.
It’s so hard to offer myself up for approval.
I have noticed people with attachment problems (according to my totally unprofessional assessment) vacillate between being very sensitive to the views of others and not giving a shit. I don’t think that’s probably healthy. I think a middle ground on how much you care about other people’s views of you might make for a better life. Don’t give a shit, and you won’t notice that you are pleasing anyone even if you do happen to—and you aren’t likely to, because you aren’t holding in your mind things you can do and might like to that would also please other people.
So I have been writing this letter and trying to still give a shit, which makes me feel horrible basically. I am trying to stay in that and still kind of cope. Essentially, I feel like I am offering up a turd. Like, this is the best most wonderful turd I can offer you. I know it’s a turd, but a turd is all I have to give you.
It sucks. It sucks to feel like my best possible turd.
Last night, I started to think to some part of me emotions really do feel like separate people to me. To my baby brain, these really intense emotional states did not feel like they could all belong to the same person. I was thinking how shamey-turd state doesn’t feel like it could be the same person as happy baby state or dead baby state (totally dissociated, staring at the mobile for hours kind of state). I was kind of trying to help myself imagine these states as being continuous: shamey-turd baby is the same person as happy baby. I also began to think that to shamey-turd baby, happy baby feels like a forbidden object, not an emotion happening to the same person, but a totally separate object that shamey-turd baby wants and is not allowed to have.
I think maybe these imaginings helped, because later in the afternoon, it suddenly came to me that I am angry at not getting to feel happy and loved and wanted. I am angry and sad. And I don’t mean in an adult, “this is unjust” kind of way, but like “I want that balloon. I really want it a lot and nobody is giving it to me.”
You know how toddlers get really, really angry about things.
Also, I was thinking how the things that seem to trigger me—some of them, the narcissistic wounds, like I am not important, I don’t matter, I am not being considered, my boundaries and my rights have been violated—those are sensibilities that are supposed to alert you to relationships that are not very sturdy. If someone doesn’t seem to consider you as part of the group, maybe it’s because you aren’t part of the group and you need to move on.
But that was my family. I needed them. There wasn’t some other group of girls to sit with at the lunch table when these people didn’t want me.
No wonder I remember those feelings and impressions as being significant. They were meant to be significant. Those are significant indicators of group membership. Not that we are considered in all things at all moments even by the people who care about you most, but if you keep getting the sense that your point of view doesn’t matter, probably the relationship you have with those people is not very strong. People with whom we have a strong alliance attend to us. People who don’t, well, don’t.
I ought to know. I have been a foreigner for three years. I know why sometimes I seem to just float invisiblity. I am, for some people, simply not there.
Anyway, these were my parents. And yet I had this periodic sense: these are not people I belong to, this relationship is not trustworthy, I don’t seem to matter or to be important. Trauma made that feeling patchy for me, not integrated into other experiences, and so now when similar things happen that are not so devastating as child abuse, those feelings of being disregarded sweep over me like I have been dropped into a bucket of low self-esteem.
There’s more to this, but the “Oh, yeah,” factor is giving me a headache right now.
So that’s what this is. When I feel overwhelmed with shame, it’s that perceptual, emotional piece of what happened that I haven’t been able to form into a coherent memory, because for normal memories to form, you need to have emotions within a range of intensity that allows your brain to function smoothly, and I could not regulate this feeling before. It was much too intense.
Our memories are associative. They aren’t linear. They branch. So my brain frequently comes upon other things that involve that same perception, and I can’t make sense of it. Again and again, I have not been able to make sense of it, because it stopped working properly.