I called C on her friend’s phone. The phone was ringing and I was really conscious while it rang that I felt like hurting myself. It really sunk in that reaching out feels very, very bad to me. It really does feel that I am so bad and I am doing a very, very bad thing.

I am finding it astonishing to see these feelings as they happen, to know that I have this feeling in my body and it is shame, and I have thoughts and impulses that go with them, and really they are mainly there because I was a baby and I looked at my mom and she wasn’t happy to see me. Regardless of whatever abuse and neglect occurred later that I remember in a conscious, narrative way, it started with that. It started with not being wanted as a baby.

It really isn’t what someone tells you or what someone consciously or intentionally disciplines you for that sends a message. It’s how people behave around you that matters when you are a child.

The other thing I have been thinking is that as a child, I had feelings about this. I had feelings there was no space or luxury to process. I had feelings about not being wanted or loved or valued as a child. I had feelings even about having a mom who was depressed a lot of the time and spent a lot of time in bed and not interacting with me or playing with me or even wanting to be around me. As a little child, I wasn’t stupid. I saw other children with their parents, and I knew that other parents don’t do that. Other people are happy to see their children. Other parents have a light come on inside when they see their child, even if things don’t always go smoothly between them. There is still that light that comes on, and that really did not happen with my parents. There was very little warmth.

I was thinking too that for years after I became an adult, life was mostly about getting through things, getting through the day, getting through washes of emotions I didn’t understand and that made functioning difficult. I didn’t bring to therapy my childhood feelings about my deprivation. I didn’t really have time or energy to know they were there, and I didn’t know I could know what my childhood feelings even were. A lot of energy went into getting on with life. I didn’t come to therapy and say, “I felt really sad as a child, because other children are loved and I wasn’t.” I just reacted to sadness and tried to cope with sadness without understanding it or knowing what prompted it. Why I had so little support for processing my past, I don’t know. I don’t know if that was a product of my own assumptions about how I ought to be healing, or if that’s the best therapy I could find. I do know I told a former therapist in an email that I was having a hard time because it was Natalya’s death anniversary and she told me I could take comfort in the fact that this was in the past—entirely missing out on the fact that people remain dead forever. Death is not in the past. Nata keeps being dead every single fucking day.

A lot of losses are permanent. The moment of loss might be temporary—and that’s probably what my former therapist thought about, simply that moment when the loss began, without realizing that the loss is forever and I have to find some way to live with that. Just as Nata will always be dead, my parents will always be incapable of having a loving relationship with me. I am not going to have parents who loved or wanted me as a child, and I am not going to have them now. I can’t make my parents become more capable than they are, nor can I find a substitute for that bond between a parent and child. There is no other relationship like it, and my parents will always be the people they are. I have to find a way to live with that.

But it does start with realizing what the loss is.

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