Emotional mapping

One of Fonagy’s points is that when the parent is unable to provide marked, contingent mirroring, the infant’s sense of emotions is not linked to felt, internal states. It lacks an underlying structure. The emotional map may become linked to other emotions, based on the parent’s emotions about the child. The lack of contingency creates inaccuracy. Lack of marking removes the link to internal states. Feelings are out there rather than in here.

This makes a lot of sense to me. I think it has gotten worse over time for me, as other people have misidentified my feelings. I recall a therapist remarking on my “flat affect.” It didn’t occur to her that the expression on my face may not easily display my feelings inside or that looking “flat” may not mean I felt flat. It might mean I felt scared.

A narcissist parent doesn’t brook interruptions to their views of the world. It’s wise, in situations of uncertainty, to become a blank slate which can easily be projected upon. It’s not that I am unfamiliar with feelings, but I don’t know how they link up inside.

I have been connecting felt sensations to experiences. Part of this is understanding that feelings are not reality itself. It is a perception of reality, but not reality itself. In the past, I might have been unable to contemplate my feelings, because assuming thoughts were real (psychic equivalence) made the experiences crushing. It’s not that my feelings are distorted, but they are brought down to the proper level of being feelings.

One of these connections is the sense of being unwanted. A narcissistic parent really sees the child’s needs and desires as an impediment to their agenda, because only their own mind is felt to be real or important. The child becomes like a fly buzzing. The child feels more and more needy, and the parent becomes more and more intent on their own agenda. This probably happens in any family: there are always moments when the parent is overwhelmed and just praying the child won’t have a need until some necessary task is done. In a family like mine, I think it was constant, and so it became a part of my understanding of myself, only you can’t live like that, feeling you are a fly buzzing around the important things in life. You have no choice but to maintain an incoherence.

It helps to identify these experiences. It resurfaces, and I know what it is.

The other thing is that I think one of the triggers in life for someone like me is being in the presence of someone who appears to lack object constancy. There are triggers which remind me of the circumstances of abuse and there are people. I am not of the opinion that we can label some people as “toxic” and from then on avoid them. For one, they would devolve into total collapse if everyone did that: their behaviours would become worse rather than better. More importantly, we don’t usually have a choice. They are our bosses ad coworkers or even the cashier at our favourite shop. We need to make it work.

If I want to help C or any other child with trauma, I need to be able to work together with her wildly dysfunctional family to support her and I need to do this without alienating them. I cannot come in as the expert (especially since I am not) and tell them what to do. It might seem simple to order people around, but it turns out almost no one responds well to that.

So I can expect feeling like a fly buzzing around someone else’s complete focus on themselves will happen again, and I can expect it to feel like unworthiness or lack of importance. But now I understand this as having to do with other people and my relationship to them in the moment, rather than an enduring truth about myself. The intensity of its painfulness comes from the lack of an understanding of it as part of a social exchange rather than a self.

I feel this is all very promising. I write it, and it sounds very elemental and simple, but that’s because I can’t actually describe something in myself going on inside or the fact that the linkage between thought and feeling is really important. I am writing about the thoughts and I could have written before about the feelings that go with them, and they wouldn’t have matched up with the felt states which go along with the feeling words. A blank is filled in and there is no adequate way to describe it.

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Resistance

Weekends have become these spirals into depression which I survive, only to return to school and busy-ness and fatigue. I don’t know why it is like this.

I don’t enjoy things I imagine I would enjoy. If I enjoy them, there is no carry-over of pleasure into the next moment. As soon as I am not doing it, it’s as if it never happened.

I slept for 11 hours last night, minus the bit in between when rats were fighting somewhere on the other side of the walls and I couldn’t sleep. I woke up on Saturday with a cold, and the long rest seems to have cleared it up.

I woke up with a feeling of dread, which has not really subsided. I have a lot to do today. None of it is that bad. I feel unable to motivate myself to do it.

I am reminded of the little boy from Thursday’s visit to C’s aunt and uncle’s place. slapping my hand away when he cried for various things. But after a minute he felt better and went back to playing.

The anticipation of the comfort being false in some way creates a need to defend against the disappointment of hoping for comfort that never materializes, which undermines whatever potential there was in the first place. He’s little and was able to move into a place of being okay again, but I seem to be unable to. I just want to lie down. I feel better, in fact, when I do lie down, but then nothing gets done.

I don’t actually know what to do. You can push through to do things that need doing, but you can’t force yourself to feel differently. I don’t actually know why lying down makes me feel better.

I realize in the situation with C’s dad, that my week is up and if he remembers that I have to tell him something. I am not any clearer about it. I had the idea I ought to know what my own feelings are. I really don’t. I know what he is doing is not fair to his wife, and that if I were in her situation, I would feel hurt. I know that C and his other three children need to be able to feel their father is a good man who does not cheat on his wife. He is raising two little men who need to learn how to be men and two little women who need to know what to expect from the men in their lives. Being discarded for someone better isn’t something his daughters should learn to expect as their futures.

That isn’t what I feel. It’s important, but those are my imaginations of other people’s feelings and not mine.

 

The Day After

Well, I survived. Out of any Halloween, this has by far been the easiest. My goal for the 31st was to stay reasonably emotionally stable, eat three meals and, if possible, wash some clothes that have been piling up. I succeeded on all counts, even with the laundry although it seemed to send me into some kind of emotional tail spin.

It doesn’t just evaporate when the day is over, but I do know life slowly begins to become easier. Other stresses surface—I need to go to the Capital City for visa purposes and it’s very long journey. I will meet C’s dad there, since that is where he lives, and I will need to more emphatically sort out the mess of our relationship. G would like me to visit his parents in Remote, Cold Village and cold is terrible for me…

I look at this and I think this sounds, in a way, normal. I have obligations to other people which strain my internal resources. This was never really true prior to coming to Country X. My therapist last year asked me about self-care. It was difficult to explain I don’t actually do anything aside from care for myself. Even work is to allow me to buy myself the things I need. It made me think we live in such different worlds. I didn’t have anyone tugging at my sleeve demanding care—just me. Other women have partners and children and even demanding friends. I try to eat three meals a day, get enough sleep, keep my house clean enough that I enjoy it, wash my clothes so that I feel okay about going out in public, leave for work on time so that I don’t feel stressed all the way there. That’s my self-care.

To move on from that, the 1st was also a holiday here, but not a real holiday. The shops were mostly closed, but we had a school program in the morning. It finished around 11 and I had in my mind to visit C’s aunt and uncle although they had not specifically invited me and I risked showing up and being an inconvenience to them. The odd thing about this is that VP Ma’am asked me for lunch.  (She is not our VP and has not been for years, but I called her that in 2015, when she was and it seems easier to stay with the same nicknames.)

I felt this terrible letdown when she told me to come for lunch. The thing is that I haven’t been to her house for quite a long time and there wasn’t any actual commitment with C’s relatives to offer as an excuse and it seemed to me I kind of had to go. There are other people who say “come to our house” and they don’t really mean it. It’s just said in the moment, but if you never show up they will not ever remember telling you that. She is not one of them. If she says “come for lunch” she means report at 12 pm sharp. Lunch will be ready and she will be sad if you aren’t there to eat it.

But she said it and I just felt my joy slipping away as I thought I also have tests to mark. I don’t have the energy for two social events in a day. Certainly not two social events and marking and also not crying for hours at a time. I felt really upset at being trapped into this situation. She was quite annoying that morning. There is a dance they do at the close of events and it’s not particularly difficult, although I have to watch people and copy them, so I have started to participate in this if the audience is not too large. She was behind me, and quite angry most of the time-singing loudly in a very unpleasant, harsh voice, complaining at how boring it is (I thought, “You’ve done this dance before. It ought not to be a surprise to you that it’s a serious, solemn event.”) Since I have to watch, it was really distracting.

Going home with her—she was walking around the main part of town looking for dried meat to buy—she was equally annoying, complaining she had a headache and getting the meat was so difficult. It was hard for me to understand this: yes, headaches are uncomfortable, I’m all for taking a Tylenol and being done with it and I know she’s not going to, but eight times…I got it the first time. And about the meat, well, it’s a hassle but it’s not meat, for God’s sake. It’s not trying to find an organ donor.

She was like that for a while, repeating the same topics, complaining a lot, and then after a while she started to become less repetitive and more coherent and consequently more interesting to talk to. I enjoyed my time with her after that. I thought sometimes I just need to wait for people to calm the hell down, because I had anticipated an unpleasant, boring lunch in the first place.

Then I came home and collapsed for a few hours. I tried to contact C’s relatives with no luck at all and I wondered about what to do, but the thing is their son had told them that he was going to my house the day before, and I thought probably he didn’t show up, because I had imagined an early bed and then not been able to consider sleep. So the lights were out, although I was awake and home. I thought he must need something and I felt guilty it. Not that I had actually done anything wrong, but I would have helped him if he had felt welcome to come. I made him felt unwelcome unintentionally.

Finally, I went to their house and I found the son home alone. So he had a speech to give the next morning and a math test. That’s what he needed. I helped him with his speech a little and then the family came home: the little one was turning four and they had gone for a picnic. The little one has very pronounced anxious/resistant attachment and what seems to me to be controlling attachment. He gets loudly and dramatically into things to get his mother’s attention and he basically wants attention all the time. He cannot play with his older brother, who is eight, because he sees his brother as a threat. The one with the speech is the oldest boy (there is an older girl studying in boarding school) and I wondered how he could concentrate at all with the little one making so much noise.

I played with the little one partly so he would shut up and let the older one write. Certain things seem like new and exciting ideas to him. One is the idea of taking turns. So if you give me your car, I will use it play with you, and then I will give it back so you can have a go too. I am not going to steal it. Since I have been to his house a few times, he knows this and he gives me his toys to play with, but he had no idea this would happen the first time I took his toy from him. The other thing that struck me about him was how he both cried for comfort and struck out angrily when it was offered. It occurred to me later this seemed to be very much about trust. “I want closeness, but if you come close you may hurt me.”

There was this weird episode in the middle of the evening where I wanted to bury himself under his mother’s National Dress, which is a long skirt kind of thing. Of course, this was a bit much for her, as having someone pull up your skirt so they can get under it feels weird, even if it’s your son. I thought, “He feels ashamed.” Hiding usually means shame. It’s a specific social fear. So I gave him his jacket and put it over his head so he could hide in that. After a while, he started to seem to like that and eventually he came and buried his face in my side….”This feels so good….”

Shame is part of socialization. Without it, you can’t really accept boundaries or understand that you aren’t allowed to do something you want to do. This starts a kind of grief process. I want that toy. I can’t have it. Now I need find a way to feel okay without the toy. Without shame, the boundary isn’t internatlized: as soon as you can, you snatch it. So it’s important to be able to process xhame.

I recognized the signs of anxious/resistant attachment in myself the next morning when I got up, feeling that attachment pain. I want comfort, but I don’t trust myself to provide it. This seem reasonable when I grew up with people for whom my emotions were not real. I needed them, but they would be as likely to do something that helped themselves as to help me. I am my own attachment figure, so that’s internalized. The comfort I offer cannot be trusted to work. Some of what I feel inside is uncertainty about whether to trust the comfort being offered.

Jam

What I am getting at is that today is a difficult day for me. I feel that deep sense of sadness and longing which is like knives in my chest.

One layer of this is that I felt this way when Nata died. That is one connection. It is the same kind of pain, not because the past is living on inside me and repeating itself without my consent, but because it is difficult to process or cope with it all and I feel again the same impulse: I need help.

For the person who lacks object constancy it feels that the events which caused the feeling are repeating themselves rather than the self repeating a similar reaction to different events.

I need help today because the burden of understanding an event that is painful is overwhelming and I needed help then because the task of saving her was also beyond me. It is not the same event repeating itself, but my perception of needing help.

She didn’t die again. I need help again.

There is a tendency to cope with overwhelming feelings by claiming they belong to our childhoods, as though only children have feelings. This allows a person with parents who had an impaired Theory of Mind to maintain coherence, because the adults in the child’s life lacked empathy, implying that the adult did not have the same feelings and could not understand.

Actually, the adult did, but could not remember them. If the chosen way to cope with dysregulation is to stop processing the overwhelming feelings, then the adult cannot actually remember being the person who had those feelings. The adult cannot place themselves in the child’s shoes because the adult never learned about those feelings.

People like me seek therapy because the strategy of moving on quickly past emotions stops working as life becomes more complex and demanding. There begin to be too many things to move past. We don’t want to actually change this strategy: that’s too difficult, and so often we find other ways to more emphatically and decisively carry on.

It seems easier to do this, and if we have someone else who encourages us to carry on like this, then we gain enough support that it may actually work. We don’t “heal,” but we can function again.

The other end of this is that the two strategies that worked with the parent were 1) wait until the parent happens to be in the mood to take care of you and 2) exaggerate your affect so that parent has no choice but to attend to you because it’s actually causing them pain.

This is the attachment “wound.” It’s uncertainty: do I exaggerate this emotion so that someone pays attention to it, or do I shut it down completely? The wound is not a wound. It’s a desire to connect, to be seen and to be understood, and to have one’s regulation needs attended to.

I find that as I dial down emotions to something tolerable, they begin to feel much more relatable and comprehensible. I can see better how other people have them and the other situations I have them in, and they frighten me less.

So that’s the other thing: if your strategy for getting paid attention to was to make it so uncomfortable for the parent not to attend to you that they were left with little choice about it, then your emotions become something frightening to the parent. They look at you and see someone who frightens them. You don’t mean to frighten them. It’s just that it works, and you need a diaper change or to be fed or whatever. You internalize this view of yourself as someone frightening, and become frightened of yourself.

This creates an isolation: you don’t want to see yourself reflected in someone else’s eyes, because that reflection may turn out to be monstrous. But the lack of reflection is deathly lonely.

What happens later is that you have to act like you are on fire to get attention and the thing is that you aren’t pretending to feel this way. You feel like you are on fire.  The dysregulation becomes not just a default, but a strategy. You begin to experience yourself as monstrous also, because the pain inside is so great.

It’s perhaps easy to justify this as “just survival.” The problem for me is I have such mixed feelings about it, that trying to survive is not necessarily positive. I wish my dad hadn’t survived. What I did at times to survive was so humiliating and so dehumanizing sometimes I feel I am alive but no longer human. I lost my dignity rather than my life, and I am not sure I came out ahead.

In the short term, I think that because of my parents’ narcissism, I didn’t develop a normal, healthy focus on myself. I don’t know how to explain this well, but it comes up in the context of today’s pain.

I was thinking last night as I came home that this is Nata’s death anniversary, but she is dead. I don’t think she cares one way or the other what I do. She has gone wherever dead people go. But I am very much alive, and I am sad. I wasn’t raised to believe it’s alright to try to alleviate my own sadness. Nothing I did to attend to myself worked, because my mother was so interfering. Only if I sent her off into a dissociated haze could I do anything.

This in itself is awful to think about. I didn’t cause my mother’s depression, but I contributed to it. Maybe. Or maybe not.

The upshot of this is that I bought jam, which costs a whole dollar fifty. If you calculate that my salary is about 400 a month and about half of this needs to be saved for the kids’ school tuition, then you can understand why jam is a luxury for me. Jam won’t bring Nata back, but it might take the edge off.

The whole topic reminds me of the incident with the most recent therapist when she accused me of having distorted thinking when I believed my friend was trying to hurt me over not cleaning her house when she wanted me too.

I am working at object constancy, not maintaining incoherent views of my objects. I can think my friend is trying to hurt me and still value our friendship, but also get out of the way of her emotional arrows. I can think I had a terrible relationship with my mother and still care about myself and try to learn how to have constructive and helpful relationships with other people. This is what is missing in people with regulation problems–an acceptance of the whole of the person. The “goodness” is kept separate from “badness.”

I am not arguing for keeping abusive people in your life, just for coherence.

I am for some reason thinking a lot about Yuri. He gave me his own world, one in which no one cared about him or helped and he needed to rely on a combination of acting and magical thinking to cope. I may be mistaken about him, but I imagine a childhood of orphanages, delinquency and prison. There is an image out there on the internet somewhere of a helpless kid some idiot parent has tattooed on the knees with stars, a la Vor V Zakone, as though their one ambition in life is to get their kid to be a criminal.

Whether the image is real or not, I don’t know, but it reminds me of Yuri. He had other choices, but he didn’t know what they were. I learned from him how to stand there and take shit. I learned how to control myself from him, not because I knew how to be calm, but because I knew how to make myself do things even when I wasn’t calm.

It’s hard to think about today and not remember his brutality. For him, that was how life was. I hope he’s dead now, but he’s also a part of me. The difference is only that I know I have other choices. I don’t need to be brutal. I can be, but I can be otherwise.

 

Mother’s Day

It’s a holiday today, a real one, where we don’t have to go to school. (Tomorrow is a holiday too, but it’s a public holiday, which means it is not actually a day off…) So I am really grateful that all I need to do is survive.

I have the idea that difficult times are opportunities to chip away at the trauma so that some resolution is reached. I’m taking it in that way, anyway. I’m a mess. Something good may come out of that.

Last night, I got a Facebook message with no explanation that she would call me tomorrow. I was sleeping, but I hadn’t left my phone on silent and it woke me up. I wrote back something mild and warm and non-committal and went back to sleep. In the morning, I saw she had posted a “story” about Mother’s Day. I had no idea it was Mother’s Day somewhere.

The thing is I think that the holiday is triggering for C also, although not so extreme. If nothing else, there is no structure to the day, and she may feel lonely. Kids with little ability to self-regulate need to reach out even to cope with boredom, but if you have disorganized attachment, reaching out is so fraught that you cannot use other people to help you be entertained. So holidays can be stressful.

At the same time, other kids will get picked up by their parents or be visited by relatives, and it leaves other children feeling lonely or forgotten about or left out.

What I am getting at is that while she is reaching out to me (the message is also about her own mom, but her mom can’t read it), I think she has learned the only way to get her needs met is to conceal those needs behind someone else.

I think the big problem is actually the impairments of Theory of Mind in her parents. What is one’s own mind, for them, is all that is felt to exist. In order to be attended to, the child must make their own needs coincide with the parent’s desires. The parent cannot imagine the child and have this be real or important. The child will only be fed if the parent feels hungry.

What it has led to is a manipulative strategy which conceals the child’s true feelings and needs. It feels dishonest and manipulative because it is, but it is what the child has learned as being what one must do in order to be good. If C strokes my ego, I may give her some attention. It leaves me feeling used, but she doesn’t mean to make me feel that way.

I think this is the root of the “attachment pain” many of us struggle with. It comes from having a caretaker who could not imagine the child, but instead needed to have her own mind happen to coincide with the child’s needs in order to meet those needs. The child then had very little influence over the parent. The parent became someone buffeted about by external circumstance. The child was given attention when the parent was lonely. It’s instinct to speak up about one’s loneliness, but the child of a parent with a Theory of Mind problem must wait for the parent to become lonely rather than speaking up.

Or, one must voice one’s distress so powerfully that the parent attends to you just to get you to stop screaming–but this doesn’t mean she likes you. So as the child grows, she knows that’s the trade-off: I can be attended to, but I must tolerate the feeling of being unwanted and disliked.

The Girl’s strategy is the latter, and she used to talk about this. I tried to get her to see that maybe the way she was going about getting attention caused people to dislike her, but it never went anywhere. She didn’t like feeling disliked, but she never saw this as something in her power to change. I didn’t know how to explain to her that it’s possible to get people to attend to you, if you don’t get their attention by hurting other people. I see this as an opportunity I missed.

The “attachment pain” is the urge to speak up and to connect when there is uncertainty about whether or not this can be voiced.

Well, maybe I know….or maybe not.

I had an idea about C’s dad and his romantic interest in me. There are other possibilities.

I am working from an assumption of transgenerational transmission of trauma and disorganized attachment in C’s family as well as the underlying characteristics of personality disorders falling on a continuum.

These traits I suspect to be in operation in C’s family generally are difficulties with object constancy, problems with regulation and high degrees of impulsivity. These characteristics lead to using dissociation as a regulation strategy. There is a sense possibly of alternating between feelings being muted so that people can behave normally and intrusions of problematic behaviors that can no longer be contained.

I think, incidentally, this is where parts come from. The behaviours aren’t connected inside to an emotional map of sensations, so they don’t feel like part of the self. The behaviour is observed, but it doesn’t match the felt sense of the self, which is instead braced for danger.

I also think Dad has a sense of feelings being “out there,” but because I am in parts, I express them. I am the feelings out there. He expresses feelings too–feelings I don’t expect–but not anger or disappointment or sadness. That’s not unusual here. There are people who say every upsetting thing is natural and it’s incomprehensible we might be sad and others who dramatise it. There is not much in between.

I think I am the extroject with unacceptable feelings and who allows him to have unacceptable feelings. The starvation for the aliveness of feelings cannot be understated.

I think all of this partly, because I had told him about Nata just a little, and last night I told him it was her death anniversary. I said I was very sad.

He told me death is natural and not to be sad. He did not intend to be an asshole. This is what he has learned to think and to say, never realising you don’t learn from experiences this way.

His father died when he was nine and it changed his life completely. From then on life was a struggle. Someone told him the fathers of third graders die all the time although he looked around and saw other fathers not die.

I feel for him, imaging a little boy not allowed to cry or receive comfort and never realising you can cry and still get on with life.

So that’s the idea. Feelings are out there–in me. If that’s the case the way to regulate my feelings in interactions together is the we he regulates himself.

Death anniversary

The 31st of October in 1986, Nata died.

I write this and wonder if that’s true. I also wonder if she existed. I wonder if what I think I remember are real things or if I have imagined them.

At 4 in the morning–which is when I normally get up, it’s not as shockingly intrusive as it sounds–I woke up feeling as though knives were carving up my chest.

I have learned this is what sadness feels like. I had not expected sadness to feel like knives, but it seems to. Actually, it may be loneliness. I missed Nata. I fell back to sleep, but still feel the same pain when I woke up to daylight. It waxes and wanes, but does not go away.

We have the school concert this weekend. I don’t really have anything to do at school. I am supposed to look after the girls, but they don’t need anything from me. I loaned one of them a safety pin. I also made sure no one stole the bottled water we had kept for the head of local government for about an hour. That was the extent of my usefulness. Other people speak in the regional language and I try to sort out what they are trying to do and can only work this out after they are well under way.

I miss C, because the time of the school concert was this intense experience for her, where she sort of came alive. It might have been because of me, or because she had a new boyfriend, or her parents were temporarily gone. I was consumed with worry, because they were gone and her boyfriend was in tenth grade and three years older than her, and I have been teaching boys for a long time, and pretty much boys in tenth grade date middle schoolers because they like the power trip and not much else.

So it was intense for me too, for different reasons.

At the show, a kindergartener seemed particularly happy to see me, so I talked to her for a while, and I was surprised to observe how little kids in Y-town can now speak English. I believe she may have been the kindergartener who came to my house, but I am so oddly distracted here that people are vague to me for a much longer time than they ought to be.

I let her sit in my lap, because Counter Xers have an entirely different sense of what it means to be in an audience and they don’t give a ripe fig whether the people behind them can see. If they want to see, they just stand on their chairs and God help you if you are seven and too short to see a thing. It’s been years since a child sat on my lap, and this was an interesting experience for me.

The thing is she sat there and I couldn’t help but think I sat on my father’s lap and he sexually abused me and I cannot fathom it. I really can’t. I don’t know how you imagine a seven-year-old as a sexual object, never mind the morality of it. I know, intellectually, it’s because you don’t see the seven-year-old. You see your own mind and assume that’s all that exists.

Then I came home, famished, having gone too school too early for dinner and gotten home well past my dinner time, and I chatted with C’s dad while I figured out what might be easy to throw together.

He said he missed me, which he says sometimes. I find it kind of disarming how unafraid he is to show a softer side of himself, like he doesn’t know men aren’t supposed to have one. Or maybe my idea of masculinity is 100 years behind.

Anyway, I said maybe I should call him. I was thinking he probably feels some kind of separation anxiety. C’s disorganized attachment comes from a family with disorganized attachment, I would guess, and probably no one has stable object relations. It’s possible I made the wrong choice in this situation.

We talked for a bit, and I think I was sort of overwhelmed with processing the evening and also the mechanics of life and I rather distractedly ended the call when dinner was just about ready.

We went back to chatting, and he said, “Did you hear me?”I had an idea he was still talking when I hung up the phone, but doubted my perception of this and anyway this is what Country Xers do. They are done talking so, click, they end the call. Goodbyes and hellos are not big things here. If you have something more to say, well that’s too bad, because they are done listening.

I did, however, feel like an asshole for hanging up on him, so I said sorry and asked him to repeat it. And I also called him back so we could have a do-over. I am not keen on being an asshole.

He said, I love you, which he has said before and I have written about on here and I don’t especially know what to make of. I said, “I love you, too.” Because I do care about him. I felt aware of his vulnerability, although he doesn’t seem to be.

We then had a chat about what this meant, probably mainly because I can’t grasp he means this in a romantic sense. Well, he does. I can’t actually connect those particular dots. Country X somehow makes me feel like a granny. It’s hard for me to understand that I have evidently not shown how I feel about myself to other people. Just because I feel like a granny does not, it appears, mean other people see me as a granny.

I was aware he had opened up to me and I couldn’t formulate any kind of coherent response. I told him I was speechless, which was true. I was aware that it’s probably possible to respond without hurting anyone too deeply, but I couldn’t think clearly enough to respond at all.

He is aware it evokes a sadness for me. He has said this before, that he feels he has hurt me when he shares his feelings with me. I didn’t respond to this well either. I think it’s ok to tell someone how you feel about them. Feelings are ok. People won’t always love you back, but there’s nothing wrong with telling someone you do. The sadness has nothing to do with him, and it only occurred to me later that this doesn’t mean he doesn’t see it.

The thing is Nata is fucking dead. She bled to death in my arms, and it’s hard to imagine how life just goes on. I have gone on, but in such a state that I didn’t entirely notice, but the rest of the world is not me, and it does not care. People fall in love, have affairs, give birth, keep their house clean or let it fall into disarray, eat, sleep, carry on with daily life.

C’s dad said he would ask me again in a week. I am, in a way, not surprised about this. I am a mess and it’s possible, unconsciously, my mess has invited other messes. When I might otherwise simply want to survive until after the day has passed, I have tests to mark, exam preparation to navigate, and an extra-marital affair to work out.

Oh, and Galay has a heart problem of some kind, and I don’t know the nature of the problem, because the doctors don’t tell people anything coherent unless you ask them yourself, and I am afraid he will die too.