Elaina 10/06/14 – Detachment


October 6th, 2014

Dear Elaina,

Sometimes you feel like a cold-hearted b*tch. The way you emotionally detach from stressful situations is disconcerting. You didn’t flinch last week when they stuck the IV in your son’s arm. You held his hand and comforted him, kissed him on the forehead, assured him the pain wouldn’t last, but inside you turned clinical. Your emotions crawled into their shell. You watched the needle sink into his vein, you squeezed his hand, but nothing touched your heart. When they said he might need surgery, you nodded, accepting the possibility. Your heart didn’t clench. Your gut didn’t drop and you listened as the doctor planned out your next 24 hours.

As the night progressed, you made a bed out of the hospital chair and watched television with him. You read your book while he played video games, you chatted about friends, and the only thing different from every other night was your location. Perhaps your reaction, or lack of reaction, stems from the fact he’s already had multiple surgeries. Perhaps your dispassionate views mirrored the mildness of the diagnosis. Whatever the reason, you wonder at your ability to detach and stay separate from the emotion.

Last month, one of your friends accused you of apathy when she and a mutual friend argued. You sat apart and watched the tennis match as they volleyed barbs, accusations, and insults. You knew neither would budge and the argument was pointless because they clung tight to opposing views. The louder they argued, the more you detached. They felt passionately about their stance, but you felt sad because your friends were at odds. You had no interest in what they argued about. In fact, when she accused you of apathy, you believed it. You didn’t understand how you could remain outside the argument and not care about the outcome. To you, the outcome represented degrees of insistence, degrees of chest pounding, without hope of a redeeming end.

What is wrong with you? You stay detached, clinical, separate while others are willing to go to great lengths over things they feel passionately about. The only thing you seem to feel passionate about is your lack of passion.

You’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this the past several days. For reasons you cannot place, this detachment seems connected to the void inside of you. Maybe this is a byproduct of PTSD and keeping yourself separate keeps you safe. Perhaps the distance between you and your emotions could be a coping mechanism. What if it’s just who you are? What if you’re broken? Does it matter?

Will this detachment keep you from your goals or will the ability to detach during stressful times going to help you achieve them? You spend a lot of time worrying about these things, and the worrying causes you more angst than the initial problem. At what point do you stop judging your perceived flaws, accept your qualities, and move on with life?  How much further would you be, if you stopped worrying about why you are the way you are and just accepted you?

I see a theme in these letters. You’re holding yourself accountable to some arbitrary standard that has no basis in anything other than your perceptions. You judge yourself far worse than anyone else, ironic since you rarely care what others think, especially when they don’t know you. This week served as a great distraction from your plan of getting to know and to be comfortable with the void you feel exists inside you.

Maybe this detachment is a normal, healthy mechanism. Panicking when your son was sick would have served no purpose. He wouldn’t have gotten better any faster. Crying or reacting to his receiving an IV wouldn’t have prohibited his need for one. Seeing you in control helped him stay in control. You judged your detachment as bad, but perhaps it was stoicism. What would have happened if you’d chosen a side when your friends argued? Their argument ended and they restored their friendship. Had you picked a side, you’d have one less friend, possibly two, over something that didn’t involve you in the first place. Maybe the only thing broken is your ability to love and accept yourself.

How about instead of imagining yourself a cold-hearted b*tch, you choose one goal and make a plan. Not a “what’s wrong with Elaina and how can I fix it” goal, but a real goal. What would your life be like this week if you didn’t judge how you responded, didn’t judge how you looked, how you did things, or whether or not you fall into some realm of normal?

Focus on a goal. Accomplish one thing on your list that needs completing before you can achieve your dream. Do that and stop allowing yourself to be distracted from your ultimate goal of finishing your novel. I’m on to you, Elaina. You’re very good at avoiding success by concentrating on failure.

Choose one goal and do it.





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