I got kind of a job offer on Friday. It’s a long-term sub position, and they seem to just want to get me in the classroom quickly, without any further vetting. Okay.

I forgot actually some things should be more ready before I do this, and not everything is in place to start working that ought to be. I should have gotten a TB test already and have to get that done. I did that on Friday, but it needs to be read on Monday and I am meeting with them on Monday. Also, I don’t have a transcript I need. I think it will be fine, but it makes me think remember that under stress my working memory falls apart and I can’t plan well.

I went to a clinic for the TB test and forgot to bring any ID, had to walk home, get it, and head back again.

My friend mentioned this as a trend—I was going to head into downtown for a protest about immigration and forgot my metro pass. It’s a 20 minute walk to the station and I was running late anyway, so I just headed back home.

I am not particularly surprised this happened, but my friend is. I seem like an organized person, but part of the reason I do is to simplify my world for me, so that I have less to process and less to remember and so in moments of stress, you can’t see that I can’t process anymore. I can rely on routine and habit. She doesn’t know that.

Some of it is the shrinking of working memory that happens during stress—brain activity gets shifted away from higher-order thinking and away from your executive functioning, which is how you organize tasks and work towards goals. Some of it is that I am fighting a freeze response. I think I mainly go into freeze mode during moments of stress, because I was so little when I was abused. You have no other survival strategy as an infant. You can’t run, and you can’t fight back at that age, and I think freezing is very hard-wired for me because of that.

I had a psychiatrist who is very psychoanalytical—I hadn’t really realized this when I met with her. She pretty much just adjusted my medication when I took it and we kept things pretty light. But I know now what she would think is I didn’t really want to go to these things or do these things, and these are expressions of ambivalence and inner conflict.

I was thinking about both of those points of view: my friend’s view (possibly) that I am kind of hiding a tendency to be scatterbrained, which is a view VP Ma’am articulated to me before I left (“You are like me,” she said, “A little bit panicky, a little bit absent-minded.” Not exactly. I am afraid of you.) And this psychiatrist’s view that maybe I don’t really want a job or I don’t really want to go and support the rights of immigrants, and I now feel space in my mind to see things differently, because both of these issues have to do with my childhood and with how it affects my present.

A job search is stressful for many reasons, but there’s a lot about the past in there. A lot that is only partially processed.

One theme for me is that in trying to understand my internal world, when it is missing my real history, my parents’ mental illness, and the lack of nurturing and protection I received because of that, I have no real way to understand my own mind or cope with what is going on in my life. I end up resorting to explanations that might be true of other people and their lives—I am reminded of my bloggy friend’s grandmother. Yes, someone else might be homesick. You were sad for other reasons she couldn’t guess.

The doctor is frightening, because I was seriously assaulted, taken to hospital and then into care from the hospital. Being taken into care was a positive outcome, but you have to think how this feels to a child. It feels basically like an abduction, like you can just be picked up and moved at any time. So the doctor’s office is like window when being abducted feels like a real possibility.

But I think also the issue of documentation is very real for me. I don’t know if there ever specific traumatic events, but an ethos of fear—like being around people who all share a fear of spiders. You learn to be afraid of spiders too.

Anything to do with immigration or legal status really, really frightens me. When I am truly aware of my physical, emotional state, this is really startling. I think it’s something I just need to know about. I will need to be conscious of them, and calm those fears as they come up.

I have realized that any psychological work I did in the past was really product-oriented, rather than process-oriented. A focus on achieving insight meant that I expected when I could come to or accept the proper conclusions, the pain would go away. Now, I realize it’s about the process, which does involve insight, but insight doesn’t solve the problem or make the feelings go away. They only help me understand how the feelings got there, so that I know why the process is necessary.

I have to unlearn what constitutes danger, and the way to do that is not to ignore one’s fears and dive into the source of fear. The way to do that is to calm those fears as they surface, and they will surface repeatedly. It’s not about thoughts. It is about a sensory experience. We learn from the calm in our bodies that there is no real danger—we once learned from our parents’ calm bodies or from their efforts to calm our bodies that we were safe—or other people with competent parents do anyway, and now I need to do that myself, intentionally. It won’t happen automatically. I didn’t learn how to calm my own body down.

So each of the things I learned were frightening, I will need to soothe my fear as it comes up. The things I learned were not allowed, I will need to soothe my sadness about not having. This is going to happen as frequently as I choose or am required to extend myself into those areas I learned were forbidden or dangerous. It will get softer and less intense over time, but I am going to need to do this for quite a long time. Probably years. Multiple times a day.

 

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