(Written in November 2008)
A couple of painful conversations with Eleanor. She asked about staying here more and I wasn’t able to say it would be OK. My dismay clearly showed on my face, and she called and left a long message about not wanting to stay here if it wasn’t good for me. She understood that the difficulty of her life would be hard on me, would weigh on me, and of course that’s the major difficulty. I told her so last night. The reality is that her life is unrelentingly painful. I want to be able to listen to her, to witness for her, I don’t want her to feel that she can’t tell me about her life because it will upset me — but it’s also true that the conditions of her life weigh on me, bring up feelings of sadness, anger, despair and helplessness. I’m not strong enough, generous enough, loving enough to really be there for her, to be able to help contain all the difficulty and pain. I feel sad about that. Though maybe it’s an unfair judgement — it’s really deep unhealed wounds of my own that make it difficult to be there for her.
I’ve uncovered a core belief that’s possibly the main piece in all this. It’s where the fear that I could be poisonous to babies comes from. The belief that just my presence can injure other people, that if I take care of myself, that injures others, that if I say “no” to someone, that injures them. Most of the time it doesn’t operate — at least recently, in the wake of this last round of PTSD, I’ve gotten much more comfortable saying NO and doing what I need to for myself. It’s become abundantly clear, as a practical not a moral issue, that I absolutely have to take care of myself first. But for whatever reason, that doesn’t work with Eleanor. I realize that every time I look at the little boombox I bought for her — the radio works but the CD player stopped working, I feel guilty that I haven’t replaced it. Eleanor hasn’t asked me to, she doesn’t expect me to, but I expect myself to do it, and feel guilty that I haven’t.
More thoughts: when there was the Deupree family reunion in Washington DC I didn’t go because of my health. But Mother told Susan I didn’t come because she was there — the implication being that I wanted to hurt her. Susan told me about it, also telling me she didn’t believe Mom. But that was typical. I’m sure she said many things like that over the years, implying that I hurt her when I did things for other reasons. And the stuff with the insurance. I realized that unintentionally making Kayla’s life more difficult, and her anger and upset about it, was the final straw that knocked me into major PTSD. It triggered the belief that if I do something to fulfill my own needs, it will hurt someone else and that means I’m evil, wicked, worthless, and should be dead. No wonder I lost it completely at that point.
The other belief that gets triggered is the one that if I don’t do what they want, I don’t care about them. Then I get angry at myself for not caring, and someone in me knows that I really do care and is angered at being invalidated, and the conflict makes me feel so sad and angry and ashamed and of course when I’m in that state I can’t possibly feel my caring, and I don’t trust my intellectual knowing of my caring. And it’s just a mess. I’ve been fighting this damn belief since early in my marriage with Dana when I accused him of “not caring” and he reacted with anger.