Loose ends

I said I felt better. I actually do. The grumpiness has lifted. I have stopped hating everyone. It usually does lift eventually. Mine seemed linked to personal traumas that surface in the springtime, but I think patches of discontent happen to all expats. Culture shock isn’t a single moment, but a process of adjustment that is sometimes easier and sometimes harder. There is no one here to talk to about it, but I think it happens to other people for different reasons.

I have been thinking about those times when my brain seems to kind of break apart, when I can’t seem to identify why I feel so bad but I really do feel very bad.

Children with abusive parents are not able to form a coherent model of their parents’ minds or themselves. The best that can be done is to form discrete images of multiple attachment, somewhat like how to talk to your parents in a bad mood vs, in a good mood.

I think my models are of the neglectful parent who might pay some attention to my problems if I exaggerate my emotions and express them very forcefully and the abusive parent it’s better to do without.

The times which are really difficult are when the parent seems neglectful, but help is possible, and I intensify my emotions to the point where they cause me pain. The “parent” is not my actual parent, because we have no relationship but the dynamic occurs anytime help seems possible or necessary and sometimes is me.

I also think our ways of attracting the attention and support of our parents becomes how we attract our own attention, and the ways our parents taught us to control our impulses becomes our own way of regulating them.

So what goes on in my head is much like my relationship with my mother only I am not her. If my mother knew mainly negative means of influencing behaviour, then I am likely to use punishment, criticism, invalidation and contempt to keep control of myself, which creates this spiral of needing to alleviate negativity, as my attempts to control my urge for comfort or support increases my need for it.

I was thinking about this partly because C’s cousin has begun to experience something intense when he sees me, whereby he catches sight of me and pretends not to see me, looking down or away with a look of despair on his face, and then is lit up with delight when I acknowledge him. I think he can’t decide if I am the neglectful parent who can be persuaded or will enforce the neglect with punishment.

Of course, I am not his parent either, but children with traumatic backgrounds so badly need support and feel so chronically frightened that the attachment system is easily activated and the small degree of support I give him may be enough. Or something.

Advertisements

Stronger

A bit of the mental shroud is lifting. I do think there is anniversary effect of Nata’s birthday in mid-April, then Easter, then a degree of stress on May 2nd.

I have felt physically weak. There are things I find myself unable to persuade myself to start and I’ve realized it’s because I feel like I can’t carry through with them. I anticipate being physically incapable and needing to stop midway. Then yesterday, I caught sight of my arm in the mirror–it’s getting to be warmer weather and I have started wearing a T-shirt under the other two layers. I am not frail. I don’t know why I feel frail. It bears thinking about.

My family of origin always said I was weak. My mother said I would shrivel up and blow away. Maybe that’s why. Maybe it’s a kind of negative halo effect from memories of events where I could not do things.

I could not carry the pieces of broken bodies to put them back together. I could not stop Nata from bleeding to death.

But I also wonder if my first experiences of life were of lacking impact and if that sense of lack of impact has persisted. Even as infants, we can provoke a response from the world. Cry and someone helps you. Smile and people smile. What if no one comes when you cry? What if they frown in reply to you?

But also, and hete I am reminded of something said about traumatized children, because they don’t know how to work together with a parent to take care of them. It’s like driving backwards in the dark with an octopus over your face.

Narcissists and others on that spectrum also don’t know how to work with others to co-regulate. They self-regulate at the expense of other’s well-being.

I had this experience I neglected to mention about the neighbour boys helping me with the rest of the garden on Sunday. The Boy used to also “help” but I found everything harder when he was there. I had him help in order to teach him responsibility, but it was actually easier and faster for me to do everything without him. The neighbour boys made it easier and did more than half the work.

Some people are octopuses who make everything harder. My parents were octopuses. I may have learned to expect to have less success than typical children do.

Anyway, these are ideas.

Stronger

A bit of the mental shroud is lifting. I do think there is anniversary effect of Nata’s birthday in mid-April, then Easter, then a degree of stress on May 2nd.

I have felt physically weak. There are things I find myself unable to persuade myself to start and I’ve realized it’s because I feel like I can’t carry through with them. I anticipate being physically incapable and needing to stop midway. Then yesterday, I caught sight of my arm in the mirror–it’s getting to be warmer weather and I have started wearing a T-shirt under the other two layers. I am not frail. I don’t know why I feel frail. It bears thinking about.

My family of origin always said I was weak. My mother said I would shrivel up and blow away. Maybe that’s why. Maybe it’s a kind of negative halo effect from memories of events where I could not do things.

I could not carry the pieces of broken bodies to put them back together. I could not stop Nata from bleeding to death.

But I also wonder if my first experiences of life were of lacking impact and if that sense of lack of impact has persisted. Even as infants, we can provoke a response from the world. Cry and someone helps you. Smile and people smile. What if no one comes when you cry? What if they frown in reply to you?

But also, and hete I am reminded of something said about traumatized children, because they don’t know how to work together with a parent to take care of them. It’s like driving backwards in the dark with an octopus over your face.

Narcissists and others on that spectrum also don’t know how to work with others to co-regulate. They self-regulate at the expense of other’s well-being.

I had this experience I neglected to mention about the neighbour boys helping me with the rest of the garden on Sunday. The Boy used to also “help” but I found everything harder when he was there. I had him help in order to teach him responsibility, but it was actually easier and faster for me to do everything without him. The neighbour boys made it easier and did more than half the work.

Some people are octopuses who make everything harder. My parents were octopuses. I may have learned to expect to have less success than typical children do.

Anyway, these are ideas.

Garden: part 2

The rose has begun to bloom. The odd thing is the amaryllis, which I remember blooming very early last year has not bloomed his year. It does seem a shoot has begun to emerge from the ground.

There is another flower which I can’t really identify. They look like chrysanthemums, but live via a tangle of tuberous bulbs. So I don’t know what they are. Those my neighbours chopped down and they will have to grow again.

I went out yesterday and pulled up the rest of the grass that I ran out of energy to pull up last week. I want to plant roses there. I have learned you can grow a rose from a cutting. I hadn’t realized this before. The sad part of this is that I don’t intend to stay, so I won’t see the results of this. If my neighbours tear them up next year to plant corn in front of the house, my work will be for nothing. But somehow it’s still fun for me.

I learned yesterday that the ground is soft in the rain and pulling weeds is so much easier. There is one more patch of weeds near the steps leading up to my house that I want to tackle today.

Yesterday was an odd day. There is a hurricane coming, but the force of it ought to be significantly reduced by the time it reaches us. We have mostly to face the dangers of floods and mudslides and not high-speed winds.

Maybe because we are all scared, the streets were empty. No children played in the park. It was raining, of course, but not very hard. Just continually. The emptiness was spooky.

I have had several thoughts recently about what goes on in my head that makes life difficult for me. I don’t know how to apply it yet, but I suppose I’ll get to that.

So one way of regulating emotions is to name them. It creates a sense of distance and control so that you feel yourself to be someone having emotions rather than being the emotions themselves. It engages your prefrontal cortex to do this, which enables you to prioritise and plan a response. Simply feeling the emotion activates your attention, but on its own doesn’t lead anywhere necessarily.

So I think I attempt to do this in times of stress, and that I try to down-regulate the intensity by naming my thoughts and feelings internallt, but I revert to my mother’s names for them.

Her understanding of my emotions and mental states was distorted by her need to set boundaries with me, which was something I noticed in myself last week when I was weeding. Every time I saw the corn and beans growing where I had had flowers, I noticed myself devaluing Country Xers generally.

I think I was working with a sense of being intruded on, and having wills clash, and in my brain this was somehow out of control so that I was splitting people black. I don’t know why it was so extreme, but I think this happens to me and to other people at times. It’s not a good thing. But for my mother who had no emotional insulation at all, it was a terrible thing, because then she became like a soldier in battle, set to destroy, when maybe what I needed was a time out or the loss of a privilege and not to actually be dead.

I have issues with the sink, and I think there are multiple reasons for this, but the main one is my mother lost her shit one day at the sink and the story I have begun to put together in my mind (without much certainty) is that I was playing in the water, pretending to wash dishes and maybe I just ran the water for a long time or maybe I made a huge mess (I suspect both). I think I may have been four or five. And she reacted by nearly drowning me.

The way I feel now around the sink is pretty awful and I have been working at updating my mentalization by replacing thoughts like “I want to die,” with, ‘I feel ashamed.”

Because what a kindergartener who just made a huge mess in the kitchen and ran the water for hours during a drought would feel is something like, “Oops, I made a mistake. I’m sorry, mommy.”

But if that sorry does not lead to a repair on the relationship, then I think the remorse just spirals into something terrible.

Anyway, I have been practicing locating more accurate names for my feelings and then trying to ascertain what it’s attached to. So, “I am bad,” is likely to end up being, “I feel guilty.” “I want to die,” is almost certainly, “I feel ashamed or embarrassed.” “I am worthless,” seems to be, “I feel hopeless. This is too hard or it isn’t working.”

It’s not that I am entirely disconnected from emotions, but my knowledge of feelings does not seem to be attached directly to felt states.

So this is where I am today.

Black hole

I feel like I have fallen into a black hole of negativity.

The neighbours who dug up the marigolds cut down the chrysanthemums and the amarayllis yesterday.

The rose is still standing, but its days may be numbered. I do not know what to do about this. I do have an idea that they just didn’t look. They ought to know those are flowers and not weeds, but I think they just didn’t look. They cut down the banana trees when they moved in, so I ought not to be surprised.

I thought maybe what they need is for it to be spelled out to them clearly. This is a flower, this is a weed. Maybe what is obvious to me is not obvious to other people. That seems wrong, because I have been living here for going on five years and some of these flowers I have seen before, but others I haven’t. They have been living here all their lives. Certainly, they were here last year.

Anyway, that was yesterday and I began to think the best thing was to pull the weeds which have overwhelmed me since last year, and put little stones around the flowers the way people do here so that you would have to be truly stupid not to notice it.

So that’s what I did. I was tempted to pull up the corn and beans they planted. (If you can dig up my marigolds, I can dig up your vegetables.)

But I didn’t.

The thing is the corn is going to block my view of the flowers as it grows, so I worked with something of a feeling of despair. I will have beautiful flowers in the summer which I will not be able to see. But at least they won’t kill the flowers which someone invested time in planting years ago. (And I did others last year.)

It turns out they chopped down the flowers because someone had seen a snake by the house. They thought the plants were attracting snakes. Of course, what’s actually attracting snakes are the rats. As long as your house is full of rats, the snakes will try to take these off your hands.

People here believe you will get sick if you see a snake, so the danger is not actually you might get bitten. I have heard there are very few poisonous snakes here, but we do get cobras occasionally. Snake bites are extremely painful and tend to get infected, so that’s probably the greater danger. I used to feel really afraid of the snakes, because I am not familiar with them, but I do know what cobras look like. I have lost some of my fear, partly for that reason, and maybe also because there was a day I was rushed and not looking where I was going and nearly stepped on one and it still didn’t bite me.

Anyway, it sort of fit what I had thought; it wasn’t malicious, just impulsive.

This is the garden, with all of its sad, chopped down chrysanthemums (possibly). They left the day lily and the rose alone. I could not get all the grass up. It was just too strong for me.

Black hole

I feel like I have fallen into a black hole of negativity.

The neighbours who dug up the marigolds cut down the chrysanthemums and the amarayllis yesterday.

The rose is still standing, but its days may be numbered. I do not know what to do about this. I do have an idea that they just didn’t look. They ought to know those are flowers and not weeds, but I think they just didn’t look. They cut down the banana trees when they moved in, so I ought not to be surprised.

I thought maybe what they need is for it to be spelled out to them clearly. This is a flower, this is a weed. Maybe what is obvious to me is not obvious to other people. That seems wrong, because I have been living here for going on five years and some of these flowers I have seen before, but others I haven’t. They have been living here all their lives. Certainly, they were here last year.

Anyway, that was yesterday and I began to think the best thing was to pull the weeds which have overwhelmed me since last year, and put little stones around the flowers the way people do here so that you would have to be truly stupid not to notice it.

So that’s what I did. I was tempted to pull up the corn and beans they planted. (If you can dig up my marigolds, I can dig up your vegetables.)

But I didn’t.

The thing is the corn is going to block my view of the flowers as it grows, so I worked with something of a feeling of despair. I will have beautiful flowers in the summer which I will not be able to see. But at least they won’t kill the flowers which someone invested time in planting years ago. (And I did others last year.)

It turns out they chopped down the flowers because someone had seen a snake by the house. They thought the plants were attracting snakes. Of course, what’s actually attracting snakes are the rats. As long as your house is full of rats, the snakes will try to take these off your hands.

People here believe you will get sick if you see a snake, so the danger is not actually you might get bitten. I have heard there are very few poisonous snakes here, but we do get cobras occasionally. Snake bites are extremely painful and tend to get infected, so that’s probably the greater danger. I used to feel really afraid of the snakes, because I am not familiar with them, but I do know what cobras look like. I have lost some of my fear, partly for that reason, and maybe also because there was a day I was rushed and not looking where I was going and nearly stepped on one and it still didn’t bite me.

Anyway, it sort of fit what I had thought; it wasn’t malicious, just impulsive.

This is the garden, with all of its sad, chopped down chrysanthemums (possibly). They left the day lily and the rose alone. I could not get all the grass up. It was just too strong for me.

Complaint 2

I posted without mentioning my other complaint…it’s possible I posted about this before. My neighbour dug up my flowers. They were just little sprouts seeded from last year’s marigolds, but they had been so bright and cheerful; I was do looking forward to them. I came home one day at lunch and found they had mostly been dug up, along with the peach shoots I thought would be lovely in some future spring in front of the house.

It was on one of those hard days, when it felt as though losing my flowers was a sign of life’s total inhospitability. I think it was one of those days when no matter where I went to mark tests, someone came and began to play music or speak in unbearably urgent tones at ear shattering volume about problems that usually turn out to be nothing.

Here in Country X people take your shit. You have to be able to fight. If you leave a ruler out, someone will “borrow” it and not return it. You have to hide everything. The thing is the people who take your shit do it because they don’t keep track of their own possessions and they have nothing to give in return. In other words, they are not the one to come through for you when you need a ruler. It’s not reciprocal. The person who comes through for you gives your stuff back.

So it’s not a total surprise someone also took my flowers. And I think someone else would complain to the neighbour, and a feud would start up. But that won’t bring my flowers back to life. It will just create hard feelings.

I didn’t know what to do. But that along with the tea has somehow changed things for me and made the world feel malevolent and greedy.