I haven’t posted in a long time.  When it’s been this long, it’s hard to return to it.

Mostly, I was really busy. I also just didn’t feel like it.

Anyway, here I am. I did not see my therapist this week. I worked every day last week, and the week before, when we were making the appointment, I had no real idea. I wasn’t scheduled at that point for work on Monday or Friday. We agreed to meet on Monday. Then I picked up a job for Monday, and we switched it to Friday. Later, I picked up a job for Friday also. She has said she could do evening times, but this time she couldn’t.

She suggested we meet twice this week–once in the beginning and once at the end. But actually I am scheduled to work all of next week, and she didn’t have an evening time open on Monday–only Tuesday. I don’t really know if I can do two therapy sessions in one week or not. It takes half the week to calm down and feel normal again.

So that’s where things are now.

I suppose I saw her last Wednesday. The topic of Nata came up, and I don’t remember what it was in response to, but tears came to her eyes. Then she changed the subject to trying EMDR with her.

The last time something very intense came up, she also changed the subject. She brought up a movie that time, and it did relate to what I was saying, but it moved the conversation away from the immediate topic, and we didn’t return to it until towards the end of the session.

A pattern has emerged here, where I bring something up that’s very difficult and very painful for me and she moves away from it. One element of this is she believes if we don’t talk about it, the pain of the topic goes away–this belief came out in the first session, where she said explicitly that we would leave a topic for now because of the intensity.

This, of course, is not true. The intensity goes away for her, because it is not inside her, but it doesn’t go away for me. All that happens on my end is that I must now deal with it alone–if not in session, then at home. And I must also now make sense of my feelings about her move away from it. So the burden on me is increased.

I came back to therapy because I began to understand how, as human beings, considering something together reduces the effort required to manage the experience being considered. I began to think it could, in fact, be easier for me than it is.

I’m still wondering about this. What do I do when that happens again? I am really aware now–much more so than I used to be, that there are two people in the room. The therapist has to be able to engage with the horror of my experiences with me. She doesn’t escape feeling pain just because it’s my experience and not hers, and it’s not actually easy.

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Interview

I had an interview yesterday for a job teaching art.

They need someone for the entire year. They somehow have more students than they expected and they need more electives. So they are adding art.

I am not the ideal candidate for the job, but I thought it’s good to take opportunities. It’s good to have practice in interviewing. That in itself is a skill.

I have never taught art before, and I am not (I hope) available for the entire school year. I would not hire me, if I were the principal. I would hire someone else.

But I went. I tried.

I am really tired now, afterward, and also reacting really strongly. I feel hopeless and despairing and ashamed, hopelessly broken and bad.

I wonder about this. What set this off and why is it so intense?

And I suspect it’s just having attention. I sat for maybe 30 minutes in a room with two administrators and mostly I talked and they listened, and I tried to communicate what I was thinking and what was in my mind. I suspect the way I was raised, you don’t do that. You don’t try to communicate what is in your mind. Instead, you create an effect.

Authenticity always involves compromise: somewhere between saying what you need to say and what the listener is willing or able to hear. I grew up with people who could not hear anything.

I don’t understand the reasons for that. I don’t understand what happened to them so that they could not take in anything. I don’t know how they learned that the way they treated me was okay.

But I think I feel so upset today, because there were moments when I was able to take in that someone was listening to me and paying attention to me.

 

Not allowed

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The feelings of jealousy are important. They are defining.

Not my jealousy. The jealousy that narcissists feel. I might feel jealous too, but I am not thinking about that today. I don’t think I probably feel as jealous as my mother did, in the first place, because I have more of an understanding of what happened to me. I know it was wrong.

When you don’t know that what happened to you was wrong, then the whole thing is more confusing. I think the frustration is greater along with the feeling of deprivation. Why can’t I be happy? Well, I kind of know. I am not thrilled to be struggling with childhood trauma, but it’s not a mystery.

I was thinking about an ego state–I suppose that’s what my parts are. There is one that seems to feel peace and quiet. A while ago, I mentioned that this part seemed to be choosing gifts for C. There is a bookstore/gift shop where I often find things that C would like: bookmarks, pencil pouches, notebooks. Cards. They have basically a room full of cards. I go there to buy cards for her and sometimes find other things she would like also.

I find it peaceful. And I suppose that is why this part comes out. But why is it dissociated? I know it is me. There is no element of it that feels it can’t be me, so how does it end up in this “not me” kind of place?

I was thinking about this, and thinking parts emerge under severe stress. So there is something stressful about this experience.

Yesterday morning, I felt very peaceful sitting in the back garden of the new house where I live.

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And I had that same feeling, of the dissociated part.

Well, jealousy would explain that–if my mother felt jealous and angry every time I found peace, then peace itself would feel dangerous to me.

This fits with what I was thinking about C. I haven’t had any contact with C for about 3 weeks or more. She told her aunt she misses me, but her phone (she has one now) is switched off unless she is making calls–which is sensible, except that then I can’t call her. So if you miss someone, why would you make it impossible for the person you miss to talk to her. And why would it often be like this?

Because of jealousy. Someone C knows–her mom or her step dad, or both of them, feels jealous when C is happy and destroys it. So it’s not allowed. I am not allowed for her. When I call her, that feeling of “this is not allowed” can sometimes be triggered very strongly for her, and she won’t talk to me.

It’s weird.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncertain

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I moved today. It took me most of yesterday to pack and most of today to move and unpack (still not quite finished). I find this astonishing, given I hardly own anything.

Moves are stressful. Probably for everyone involved in it: me, friend, daughter. But things went pretty smoothly.

One perk: I made dinner, just something kind of thrown together from the few bits of food I had taken with me. I dreamed of making a grocery trip today, and was just too wiped out. It tasted good.

Since the “incident,” I haven’t been cooking at all–just trying to heat something quickly and get out of the way. But, also, what tastes good to me, familiar and homey and comforting, is just so different. Not that they disliked my cooking in the end–I always expected them too and they didn’t–but we had a different experience of the same food. My food is a change for them, something new to try.

It doesn’t actually feel good. I probably cook like no one on earth at this point: it’s some kind of weird mish-mash of cuisines. But I recognize it somehow.

I had rice and vegetables made out of some kind of sweet potato I forgot the name of, hominy, and green chilis, with cumin seeds. I liked it.

So I had some observations today. The first one was about daughter. She went to yoga class and I guess was particularly judgy today. She said one woman in the class had some kind of strong body odour–not like didn’t take a shower, but food or something. Onions or something like that, I presume. So Daughter said she felt superior.

I have speculated about this on blog, but I did not honestly believe real people felt this way. I suppose I have felt that way in the past, perhaps, but that was before I began to realize if you want to sit down and count up my faults and short-comings and errors in life, I’m not superior to anybody. I looked back at the mustard comment back in the early spring, and I thought there are genuinely things my friend’s family feels they must do, or they will be inferior to someone.

Some things have to do with social class, but they have no idea that working class people have their own rules for how to live, and the professional class falls short frequently. I have never thought of myself as superior, but there is this odd feeling I have, which is probably the same as the feeling my friend had over brown mustard, which comes up when my friend or her family seem incapable of doing what feel like adult tasks to me: wiping crumbs off the counter after fixing lunch, for example, or taking your bathroom trash straight out to the bin instead of leaving it in a sack next to the kitchen trash for the gremlins to do for you. It’s just kind of disbelief. I had not realized not everyone realizes this is my own stuff, and not everyone does things the way I do, or even agrees with the way I have been taught is best.

Oh.

Something else is that, during the day, I felt suicidal–mostly in the midst of unpacking. I have realized this comes on sometimes–this kind suicidal ideation anyway–when my degree of emotional overwhelm is too great. It’s communication, and basically a request for help. I hurt so much I would prefer to be dead than keep doing this. Well, sometimes it doesn’t take a lot to bring my emotional temperature down. Sometimes I need to eat, or sit down for a minute, or have a cup of tea. It happens when I am shut down inside, so I don’t realize how overwhelmed I am getting or what might help.

I have been thinking a lot about dysregulation. It plays out in a few important ways I was thinking about today–dysregulation and mentalization. One of them has to do with shame. I feel shame when I run up against a boundary–something that isn’t okay with someone, some behaviour or trait or preference of mine. I feel huge amounts of shame because of the dysregulation, but actually what needs to be understood or done about the situation is simple: someone doesn’t like this about me at this moment, and I can make some choices about that. I can stop doing it if I think that’s reasonable, or I can stand up for myself and insist I ought to be allowed to do it, or I can continue to do it, but not in front of that person. But the reason it is so horrible for me has to do with the problems in regulation that come from being abused and neglected as a child.

Last thing: When we reach out to others in moments of uncertainty, we expand our knowledge and experience base by quite a lot. Two heads are better than one, because we have lived (at least) slightly different lives and learned (at least) slightly different things. It is instinctive when we enter a situation we aren’t really sure how to approach to think of pulling someone else into that same situation with us to get a good look at it.

We might only notice ourselves wanting attention, and not realize the attention has to do with wanting a second opinion. We might not even get that second opinion the attention is supposed to lead to. But I think that’s instinctive: I am uncertain, so I want attention, because the person able to lend me attention will contribute their brain power to signalling what might be done about it.

Part of the disorganized attachment is just that: I feel uncertain, so I want attention, but now I realize that’s not socially acceptable or the person I thought to be most likely isn’t available just now or whatever. So shame follows.

But there is the problem with dysregulation, so it’s not just, well, maybe later or maybe not this time, but something more global. Like I ought never to have been born.

There’s more to this, and I probably ought to explain better. The point tonight is just sometimes I want to reach out because I am feeling uncertain about something. It’s not always connected to some great trauma. I just want someone to enter into my experience so they can help me understand and respond better.

I think there are times when it might help me simply to acknowledge: I feel uncertain right now.

 

 

 

Jealousy

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I think this might be an important idea.

I was thinking about my friend and also about other people with similar traits, maybe including myself, and I thought she frantically avoids abandonment. I am leaving her house so that her daughter can have, essentially, the entire downstairs of a two-story house to herself (Family room, bedroom, study).

Otherwise the daughter might go and find her own place with more space and also that she can make her own. She’s getting married in about 2 weeks, but she has no job so far and her husband’s job is based in Silicone Valley. He’s working remotely. They are looking for a place south of here, although Daughter might not be able to find a job there.

It doesn’t seem a particularly wise plan and as was noted earlier, my friend is “adamantly opposed.” Well, fair enough, but the urgency may have something to do with avoiding feelings of loss.

My friend has a vegetable garden, and the dog one day stole two beautiful cucumbers from it. My friend’s reaction was pretty intense.

Loss.

But what I thought about this was that the impulse to avoid loss is probably not connected with or owned and the feeling of loss itself may not be even really be felt. In her world, and mine probably, you aren’t supposed to feel such things, and the only thing that can be done is to pretend you don’t really feel them.

It becomes then, like an addiction. This force driving some of your behaviour that you don’t acknowledge and maybe can’t even feel, and what I think happens from there is the decisions you make in that state of please-don’t-leave-me may not always feel like your decisions. They are the decisions of this disowned state.

Later, you might wonder why your life is the way that it is. Why have you made the sacrifices that you have made? What led you to make so many concessions? You don’t know.

So that’s how the resentment starts up. You don’t entirely realize how you got into this position. You know you don’t like it. You know you have given up too much. It seems to be someone’s fault. Resentment at what you don’t have and jealousy of what other people seem to have, what might easily be yours too except you will give everything not to be left and in some cases you have.

Resentment and jealousy, because you don’t know why your life is the way that it is. Why it seems to be so constricted, so devoid of joy, why you don’t seem to be allowed to do anything, why you have no freedom.

As I write this, I want to state this isn’t really about my friend. It’s about a certain kind of mind that she reminds me of, but other people do have, even if she might not really. It’s a way of thinking, something that can happen to someone when they have relational trauma. You give everything to avoid the pain loss reminds you of, and then you resent what you have given away in its stead.

I think that’s the chronic anger that goes with some personality disorders–some of it, anyway. Narcissists don’t risk humiliation or vulnerability and what they give up instead is genuine connection. Borderlines avoid loss. When you cannot take risks anymore, you lose more than what you have retained by not risking anything.

This wrapped up into wondering why C is so often averse to being with me, why she has so often been angry when I came, why she often doesn’t answer the phone when I call, and she would often refuse to come to my house.

And I felt at those times she wants to. She doesn’t do it, but she wants to. I don’t know if I am right or wrong about that, but the feeling never went away.

She wants to be in my house, she wants to talk to me, she wants me to be there even though she is angry at me for being here. She used to walk out with me to the gate when I came to meet her, and she always got tears in her eyes when I left and her lower lip came out. It was a very young state. And we would walk for a little ways, and after a minute her posture would become very tense. She would often raise up her arms to fix her hair (raising your arms is so universal for “pick me up”) and then behave kind of aggressively towards me. Jostle me, perhaps. She felt she needed to get someone away from her, and I was the one with her. It was clear at those times she was angry.

Eventually, she decided this was too much for her, and she started sending me off with her cousin. After that, I hugged her goodbye in the hostel, and she got tears in her eyes, but there weren’t so many eyes on her and she didn’t become angry.

I think that fits in somewhere to all of this. Why would I feel at all of these times when she was angry that she is not really angry at me? Why would I feel she seems frightened to see me or talk to me, but I am not the person she seems frightened of?

Why would she be angry if someone were watching her, but not when there wasn’t?

Because someone in her life is always jealous and resentful. Someone is resentful of anything that brings her joy and not only neglects her, but deprives her of anything she finds for herself. “If I have something, someone will take it away from me.”

Someone will criticize or scold me or otherwise shame me into not having it.

I think that’s the sense she has.

Missing

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A move is on my horizon, so of course this stirs up feelings. I see these events partly as opportunities. Complex trauma has layers to it. The traumas are related, and many events call up multiple traumas. I used to think, “What is this really about?” as though there needed to be a single “real” cause, a “core” issue, but the brain is connected laterally, not linearly. Freud was a fraud, but he was onto something with that.

So one of these feelings is that I miss C. She is back at school and I haven’t really gotten any word from her. She sent a single message over Facebook a few weeks ago and I haven’t heard anything since. I got a phone number she had used to call her parents, and tried that and someone else answered and I only learned yesterday that this is her phone and not the phone of the friend who answered.

And I just really miss her. Part of the confusing thing about this is that it is not entirely clear why I miss her. I called her over summer vacation, and she usually talked to me for two minutes, sometimes in a very guarded way and then ran off. There were a couple of conversations where she seemed to open up, and she asked for things and talked more freely, and this seemed to be right before she hatched a clever plan to meet her boyfriend. I think that was a part, and it’s a charming part, but it’s born out of some kind of pain. I don’t really understand this part, and I sometimes feel drawn in or manipulated by her in this state. I don’t know what it is, but there is something I just don’t understand about the emotions of this state.

So I suppose there is some cognitive dissonance. I miss the presence and realness of her, but I have in my mind that I ought to miss something that might make me feel good in a more easily identifiable way. I feel like I ought to miss affection or warmth or nurturing, and she doesn’t really do any of that for me most of the time.

If these aren’t the things you are supposed to miss about someone, then do I really miss her?

But I think what I get instead of her is instead a feeling of significance. Maybe that is what is shattered most dramatically by trauma–a sense of meaning and order to the world. None of it seems to make any sense, including oneself. I have meaning for C though. Our connection gets prioritized over feelings of fear and distrust, and there is an order to that and a meaning. The effort involved creates a sense of structure within the chaos. This impulse to be connected to one another, it seems to keep coming back. It seems to be ongoing and coherent. It provides something organizing about my inner world.

I suppose that means something to me.

Second session

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I went.

Not being an intake, it wasn’t quite so overwhelming. The same kind of thing came up in the beginning: Tell me some good things about your childhood.

Of course, I remember the girls and I miss them so badly.

She steered the conversation away after asking me about it briefly. (I cried.) I didn’t think of it this time as shutting things down out of discomfort. I saw it as easing into difficult things.

The memory thing came up: she commented that my memories are fragmented, which is true. To me, that feels like the issue. They are fragmented. I think they need to be formed into coherent wholes, and it’s hard to do that alone. It can be done, but I feel so tired.

I don’t know what she thought about that, but it seems to me that explained to me what she was noticing about the memories I told her about.

She gave me some referrals for other people who are more experienced than this. She said she’s only been a therapist for 4 years. Well, I have seen experienced people who still didn’t know what they were doing.

This time, I felt cared about. I felt she was listening and thinking about things and while we weren’t going into a lot of depth and it still did cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, which does tend to be triggering, but I felt she was with me in some way that felt good.

I feel really hopeful.

Progressing

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The good news (in my mind) is that in spite of my intensely unpleasant reaction to Monday’s therapy session, my brain seems to continue to chug along, integrating as I am hoping it will.

This morning, I began to think I might be able to guess at the therapist’s perspective, and it was adequately explanatory. I didn’t, with this hypothesis in mind, feel befuddled by her responses to me or some of the decisions she made.

It has to do with what aspects of the self seem to be “I.”

If you take the Apparently Normal part as “I,” then washes of intense emotions will seem to be intrusions of someone who is not the self.

Go back a step. If the Apparently Normal part was formed by authority figures who lacked empathy and did not model an awareness or responsiveness to feelings–either their own or the child’s–then one’s developing sense of self is likely to be minus emotions. Either minus all emotion, or minus emotions deemed to be too intense or minus unacceptable emotions. Competent adults don’t have those emotions, and they cannot be included as elements of the self. Children might have those emotions, but adults don’t. You learn to disavow them and when they come sneaking back, you might consider them to be childish leftovers. Because they have not been integrated into your present, adult view of yourself, they will come heavily linked to unprocessed childhood events when they were most intensely activated.

The person who disavows these experiences and emotions will seem to be the “self.” The disavowed emotions and experiences will be seen to belong to some other “self.” Past selves or child selves.

You won’t, in that case, see that the feeling of loss experienced when you dropped your freshly brewed cup of coffee was the same loss you felt when your mother, for example, took all your toys away and burned them. (Didn’t happen to me, but this does happen.) You won’t see that loss feels like loss, and dropping your coffee as an adult evokes some of the same emotions as your mother’s unresponsive, heartless abuse. Adults experience loss as well as abused children.

You might be surprised by the intensity of your reaction to the dropped cup of coffee, which could be more intense because you have disowned it: why should you try to regulate it? It isn’t your emotion. It belongs to this troublesome, unwanted child within you who persists in trying to point out that, while your mother might not be part of your life, you continue to experience feelings of loss and it could, potentially, be useful to consider how your mother intentionally or negligently pushed you into situations where you felt it with painful intensity.

I presume I saw things this way once. I didn’t always see my felt emotions as part of being alive. I saw them as intrusive elements of the past I needed to expunge. Seeing things in that way did help me, I would imagine, to get through life, hold down a job, and stay focused on present-day goals rather than find myself dysregulated and overwhelmed by all the linkages I might need to make to pain.

At the current moment, I don’t feel that way. I think felt emotions are part of being authentically myself. They aren’t always pleasant, but they are real, and they do tell me things about the present as well as the past which are information if, at times, confusing and unclear. I think Apparently Normal is something I do when I feel too frightened or ashamed to be authentic. It is a retreat from life.

But if my therapist, whom I am prepared to meet again on Monday in order to be sure it really is not going to work out with her, is of the mindset that Apparently Normal is me, and my washes of intense emotions are dissociative states, which are not me–if somehow, she believes I cannot be washed in fear of Yuri and simultaneously be located firmly in the room and aware I am with her and reporting on the state of my own mind to her, then she will be alarmed that I sobbed and alarmed that I took a minute to digest surprise what fear feels like and also that I feel it so intensely for Yuri, and she will try to keep that from happening.

Which makes her acceptance of me in what felt (to me) to be a checked-out, numb state make sense, and her alarm in moments when I felt authentically connected to myself–emotional, but still able to think and reflect (my criteria).

Integration is an interesting process.

Thursday

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I woke up at 3 am worried that C was having a pregnancy scare.

I do not know why.

There are logical pieces to it. Rather ominously, she replied to someone who asked about the photo she took of meeting her boyfriend–one where she looked very sad and worried–“You know the meaning.”

To a worried me, that could mean I decided to have sex with my boyfriend.

I don’t really have any idea what her actual sexual experiences have been. Country X kids are somewhat confusing about this, and somehow manage to appear more and less experienced as Western teens simultaneously. And C does not always want me to think of her as a little kid who knows nothing about these things. So I am not sure if she has had sex before, or if she is still in the stage where holding hands is a huge deal.

And then there was also my chats with IT Ma’am and C’s aunt, who mostly seemed to be worried about pregnancy. Not about being sexually active when she might be too immature to know what she actually feels comfortable doing or not doing. Which, of course, makes it seem more possible she might be sexually active at 15, when I have been assuming she isn’t.

Dysregulation and ordinary teenage narcissism can create an internal environment where things can seem like a big deal which really are not.

What I am getting at is there are vague reasons to worry and yet there is nothing I can do about it. It’s not especially helpful to worry about it. Possibly not helpful at all.

I think I am worried because the Country X people in Canada said she hoped to get a contract to me soon. Me, poking my frightened little head out. Lots of fear, and at 3 in the morning, the fact that my daughter could be pregnant and forced to drop out of school despite my best efforts, is the most reasonable cause of that fear I can think of.

Let’s get back to narcissistic jealousy. Happiness for me = narcissistic parents ready to attack me. My head’s a hard place to be lately.

Making connections

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So I like to look at things in different ways. I mean, if I have been looking at something in one way and that way of looking at things doesn’t seem to be helpful, then I might start to think: well, what if that were not true? What if I were to look at it in some other way? Would giving this a different meaning or seeing it within a different context feel better? Would it seem more accurate? Would it account for little bits that didn’t make sense before?

I was thinking about self-harm and suicidal ideation, because I had pretty intense urges to hurt myself yesterday. I have been thinking (assuming) this is about guilt and/or shame: I am so bad, I deserve this.

And yet, when the part came out, the part did not say, “I am bad.” It said, “It’s too loud,” which I took to mean, I am too dysregulated. The activation inside me is too intense, too confusing and too overwhelming.

This has happened before. I can’t remember what happened–maybe just a very long day at school. I came home and a part told the same friend something much the same: “Everybody is screaming. It’s too loud.”

I was out for a walk, thinking about this. It crossed my mind that we, as humans, most deeply wish to communicate. What if I looked at self-harming as communication, rather than as an actual desire to harm? I thought, “Let me just try on that thought and see what happens when I do that?”

I thought, “What if, instead of this most deeply about a desire to hurt myself, what if this is about trying to communicate the pain I am already in?”

And that was interesting. That was an interesting thought. I don’t really have a doubt that, as part of the trauma, we remember my caregiver wanted to hurt me. She or he felt rage and believed I needed to be punished and then that person hurt me like this and this and this. I don’t doubt that we clearly remember that rage against us, nor do I doubt that we don’t sometimes enact that. I am not discounting that.

But what if some other piece of it is this: Someone raged at me and then I hurt. It hurt like this and this and this. What if, picturing my skull breaking open the day before, I was thinking: the pain inside is so great it is like my brain is breaking apart?

Maybe this is communicative rather than malicious?

It seemed to bring me full-circle, as though a thought had been carried to its logical conclusion. It connected me to the child who had been hurt. When someone humiliates and shames me, I hurt.

It’s hard to explain the importance of that–the importance of this subject. The shame is about disconnection. When children are abused, their abusers never behave as though the child is actually hurting or has any reason to be hurt. At best, the child is treated as though she ought to understand about this: after all, she was bad. This is to be expected. The shame is so great, this hurt child cannot be owned as oneself, because the need for connection to other human beings is so great.

Connection is what we do. We might talk about standing alone, being courageous, but look around–standing alone is incredibly rare. We are supported by people who exist in our minds when we stand against those who are in front of us.

Coming back to the “I” who was hurt and claiming that experience as our own–this was me, it happened to me, and it hurt–well, I think that opens up possibilities. It opens up the idea that I might be hurting now, and I might need to do something about it. All kinds of things.