Uh-Oh

The irrational in the human has something about it altogether repulsive and terrible, as we see in the maniac, the miser, the drunkard or the ape.
~ George Santayana

Now that i’ve mapped out how i was indoctrinated and gaslit into thinking i was a bitch my whole life, and how i figured out that that just ain’t so, on to the next…

Another scary thing sits on my horizon. She looks like some kind of ape or monkey. Sometimes she’s sitting there crosslegged, with a massive grin on her face, her teeth too many and too big, and sometimes she gets up and does a goofy dance – a shuffle and hitch, toe-to-heel thing. If you’ve seen that cartoon orangutan dancing GIF, you’re there.
She’s Mania, and she wants to come out and play.

I’m not just a multiple, i’m bipolar. I don’t generally use “DID”, because i don’t see being a multiple as a disorder. My experience being bipolar though, definitely warrants the term. A brief history:

I wasn’t diagnosed until around 2006, in my late 30s. That might seem odd, and well, it is, but so am i. Heh. Being as involved in self-knowledge and therapy as i am, i think i, and the medical professionals involved in my diagnosis, have figured out why it took so long.

Fat.
I’ve had disordered eating since birth, being regularly starved, bribed, placated, and rewarded with food. I hit chubby at around 8yrs old and worked my way up to morbidly obese after i got married at 30. Food was my antidepressant and anxiety medication, and the resultant fat was my protection from people and the world around me. Fat kept me warm and insulated from the chill of rejection, and it put a wall between me and sex and sexual attention.
More than that though, i think it kept my system in a drug-like stupor. It fed the starved bits and numbed those born of sexual trauma, and shushed the angry ones.
I used food as a drug to take the edge off of the intensity of my thoughts, my physical sensations, and my emotions. I self-thorazined with fat and sugar. I over-satiated myself into an emotional coma. Zombified.

Seeing Carnie Wilson have gastric bypass on the internet woke me from my slumber, poking me with the sharp stick of possibilities. I might not be stuck in my ever-growing wall of bloated flesh. I had a vague, Suzy Creamcheese notion that losing the weight would help me get rid of emotional baggage. I had no clue whatever that a literal maniac (n. A person who has an excessive enthusiasm or desire for something, n. A person who acts in a wildly irresponsible way) lie dormant inside, awakened and gradually set free, her prison bars dissolving as the fat melted away. A dancing baboon.

I lost the weight quickly, and thoroughly, hitting my first big goal within a year.* I’d joined a club with others who were also seeking surgery, and we stuck together as one by one, we grabbed for what we all hoped was the brass ring. It was, for me, and though food, eating, weight, and body image will likely always be something i must be conscious of and deal with, i’ve never struggled like i did before WLS, nor have i felt hopeless, nor experienced the extreme end of disordered eating since.

I saw other women losing the weight alongside me, and i watched their lives do a 180. From shy, quiet hermit-types, to bombastic thrill-seekers. From a wardrobe consisting of dark colours and drapey, flowing fabrics to body conscious, flesh-hugging outfits and vava-voom. Makeup and hair and nails all done. Strap on some high heels and get yourself to the club gurl, your look is on point!

It looked like a lot of fun.
To a woman who’d been overweight since elementary school – it looked liked redemption and revenge, too.

The attention came at me hard and fast once i hit my first weight loss milestone. Everyone was nicer, and people wanted to do things for me. People like attractive people, and i was closer to societal beauty standards than i’d been since i was 8. So i had doors held open and was let in quickly during traffic jams and everyone smiled at me, and men…
Men wanted to carry my packages, and men wanted my attention at stop lights, and when i strapped on those heels and went to the club, all the chairs around me were taken and all my drinks were free. Because men.

That’s heady stuff for someone who was as wounded by school as i was. I never had a boyfriend, nor any male-peers’ sexual attention, save the odd grope that occurred from time to time. Always when no one else was around (and always followed by shock and anger when they were rebuffed, thanks to my system). I’d known i had a traditionally attractive face, but since my weight gain around grade 2, the information came with a sad trombone playing at the end.

You have such a pretty face /wahwahwaaaahh
<insertsighandlookofpityhere>

or

You’d be hot if you weren’t fat. /pickupline (No, i’m not joking.)
I could pity-fuck you. You know, if you want…

I’d never been pursued, so when men stopped in their tracks and stared at me or whistled when i walked by – it was a thrill. That hurt, angry schoolgirl inside me felt vindicated.
And then i got offered a job in the entertainment business and i took it, and the performer that had been stifled by parental interference and fat felt like a star.
I felt beautiful and sexy and wanted and i was the centre of attention. Any fear that came up or parts that were triggered as a result of it all was dulled, muted by alcohol, or handled by parts that were made for men who wanted sex from me. Parts that acted sexually sophisticated, or childishly naive, depending on what seemed to be required.
I was 10ft tall and bulletproof.
I was a dancing baboon.
I was manic AF.

What followed was a rather epic, and painfully pathetic disaster. I was spending all my time and money on myself, and my children and my husband suffered for it. I was in and out of The Bin, medications, detox, therapy, and facilities for long term care for crazies and boozers, too.

I was disordered, that’s for damn sure.

A geographical cure followed, which helped some. Then finding a therapist i clicked with helped ever so much more. Oh, and maybe regaining about a third of the weight i’d lost played a part, too. Which brings me to today, and that grinning primate. I figure i’ve lost about half of what i’d put back on, and that, coupled with this new work i’m doing, has been making me feel a bit giddy.

I’m pleased with myself – proud, even. The 2 manias i’ve experienced since being diagnosed were long and intense. Cleaning up the wreckage afterwards taught me a lot; i know how mania feels. It’s like the first time i ate raw onions. I hated them, and they made me retch, so i avoided them as much as possible over the years. But even though i rarely ate them, i sure knew when one had snuck its way into my salad or sandwich.

I remember mania, and i can taste it in my brain-salad.
Here’s the thing: i don’t hate raw onions as much as i once did. My guts don’t heave at the once dreaded crisp bite and strong smell. Sometimes, i don’t even ask for them to be left out, and sometimes i even add them to something i know i’m going to be eating. I’m wondering: do i search through my brain and pick out all the crunchy, stinky chunks of mania, or do i chew and swallow?

I don’t know, and i won’t be seeing my therapist until next week, because therapy is expensive and i was seeing her every week but now i’m feeling better about the whole process and more in control of what’s happening so i thought i’d be fine with biweekly.
Heh.
Fuck?

Oh, oobee doo
I wanna be like you
I wanna walk like you
Talk like you, too
You’ll see it’s true
An ape like me
Can learn to be human too
~ I Wanna Be Like You, Robert and Richard Sherman

*I won’t be talking numbers, because that’s dangerous territory for me. It triggers a comparison response, that in turn brings up perfectionism, that can shred my self-esteem as quickly as i can get fast food delivered.

I’m Not A Bitch, Pt. IV

Warning: Contains some indirect references to integration, and refers to child rape and trafficking. This is a positive piece, but make sure you have good support in place.

**********

So, as i was saying… I’m not a bitch.

But i’ve been told i was one, and called one, ever since i can remember. My mother often exclaimed, “Oh, you little bitch!” when i failed to live up to her expectations, which were unrealistic, unreasonable, and very often unattainable, for my entire childhood. To give you an idea of how high they were, i could cook an entire roast beef dinner when i was 4yrs old.

One time when i was 6, i came home from school and realised i’d forgotten to thaw the liver i was supposed to be preparing for supper, and so i put it in the oven. I didn’t know the plastic container it was in would melt as well, so when the intense chemical smell hit me, i yanked open the oven door and tried to pull out the container, which was stuck to the rack, but managed to drip onto my wrist – a scar that’s visible today.
Her response when she got home from work was, “You stupid bitch!” plus the obligatory beating.

When i would ask for money to participate in a school activity, i was often called a selfish bitch. I only thought of myself, she’s needed new work clothes for years, all i care about is going to the stupid zoo/museum/farm/play, do i think money grows on trees?

And on the rare day when i completely lost my mind and dared to question or correct her, she’d slap or backhand me and call me some form of smartass/smart aleck/smart-mouth, attached to the ubiquitous “bitch”.

I learned that asking for anything, complaining about anything, and questioning anything were all bad and dangerous, but more than that –  they meant i was a bitch. Once i’d learned that lesson anyone could control my behaviour by indicating to me in some way that i was being a bitch. I let toxic people become close friends and allowed toxic family members to maintain contact with me. And i let them all have control over my life decisions and manipulate me into behaving the way they wanted.

Some told me i was the black sheep.
Some reminded me i was only half related to them.
Some pointed out i was only attached by marriage.
Some informed me i was a drama queen.
Some called me a liar.
Some said i was faking.
Some simply acted as if i didn’t exist.
Most treated me like i was the problem.

If you’ve read enough of my blog, you may well wonder how this fits with a self-professed “good girl”.
It is simply one of the gifts of being a multiple. I have many facets to my personality. Some, i’m now discovering, are intrinsically me. Some are aspects i took on in order to please and find relative safety. I have some parts of me that i created to be for me – parts that were on my side 100% of the time. These parts would occasionally come out and get me something that i wanted to have or be someone that i wished i could be, but could not.

They could tell people off. In fact, they could lay a verbal smackdown that left some folks practically punch drunk. They were capable of the silent treatment, a certain stubbornness that wouldn’t allow me to grovel or beg family for anything.  And they were able to keep the wrong kind of intimate relationships out of my life, almost entirely.
When the first person i seriously wanted to be with physically was a girl, they got her for me, in spite of all my religious upbringing, and my mother’s vicious homophobia.

It took them a while to gain power. I’m not sure when they were made/created/born, and if they were around when i was being regularly sexually abused, i’m not aware of it. However, once my mother stopped trafficking me, they grew in influence inside my brain.
They mouthed off to my mother, and stole food from her for us – and took the beating that always followed.
They told opportunistic boys No, when those creeps figured the fat girl would be only too happy to give them sex because i was getting a little attention.
When it was men, they got me the fuck outta there. And there were men.
Of course there were.

They built a wall of protection around me. Once the raping stopped, they began laying bricks. Occasionally someone would get through a hole in my defenses, and they’d brick it up right quick. They drew lines in the sand of me that no one could cross. No one. Kept my need for love and acceptance and understanding and compassion in check. Managed my levels. Made sure no one could sneak in and eat the fruit of the 1 little tree that had survived the violent plunder of my garden.

Pull out this brick, she needs some sun.
Shit, someone’s coming, put it back!
Shhh…

Then i met someone i wanted more than i’d ever wanted anyone — more than the girl all those years ago. I had relationships by pure accident. I wanted companionship, i occasionally wanted sex, but mostly i craved normalcy, and being in a relationship was what society and religion seemed to be telling me i needed to have in order to get that.
But no one ever got passed that brick wall. If the relationship fizzled or fell flat, i was fine in a day or 2, tops.
Then i found myself dating an excellent human, and i took down the bricks, crossed my own line to go over to him, and i pulled him close to me and haven’t let go for going on 24yrs. I found my person, my soft place to fall.
And i fell.

I’d been trying, before i met him. I tried my best sometimes, even. Like when a family member attempted rape, like when my mother died, like when my first son was born. But between not finding the right kind of help with the right person, and running from any hint of a DID diagnosis, i was just spinning my wheels. I couldn’t find any traction. I’d get exhausted and quit for a while, only trying again when crisis would hit.

When i fell in love with him and started building a life with him is when my work began in earnest, and although mental illness and the way my brain works has tripped me up hard here and there, i’ve never not picked myself up and gotten back at it as soon as i was able.
And as building a life with him created safe space around us, i set to rebuilding myself. As per my own specs.

I’ve put in a tremendous amount of work, i’ve suffered setbacks aplenty, and i’ve despaired at length. I’ve lost and/or eliminated a great many people. I’ve stripped myself down to the absolute barest of necessities: air, water, food, shelter, love. HIM. And at one point i was prepared to continue without him, if need be.*
Many times i’ve looked behind me and only seen wreckage, but ever so slowly, as i turned back, tightened my focus on the path directly in front of me and set my shoulder to the wheel, i found my perspective broadened. Each time i turned back i saw less of what i’ve lost and more how far i’ve come – what i’ve gained.

It was tough for me last year, when i thought i’d done all the therapy, and was so dang functional and fine, only to have my body pipe up and ask, then beg, then INSIST that there was more work to do, and it was deeper and more painful than that which came before. I panicked when i saw what i was looking at: to bring together my thoughts and my emotions, that have existed separate from each other since i was a baby.
To feel what i feel while knowing what i know. At the same time.

The last few months have been filled with terror. I lost sleep, i slid into fibro agony, my system worked up into a chaotic froth, bringing with it a constant headache, loosening my hard-won grip over who could be in the face and when – losing control, losing time, that old, internal imperative built into me to GO HOME. A place that no longer exists, and only held suffering and misery when it did. Between the hard switches and the drinking i was doing to cope, it was beginning to look like a stay in The Bin was in my very near future.

But the time and the work i’ve invested in myself and my quality of life have begun to pay off. Panic and terror are not fun to feel, but they don’t actually last for long. These are states of feeling that are intense, and they tend to burn brightly, but fizzle or at least fade relatively quickly. I know from my past that i can ride these feelings through, and they haven’t killed me. And they’ve had a chance to more times than i can count.
My therapist says that no one ever died from feeling their feelings, but they have from not feeling them. I don’t know if that’s true for everyone, but i can see it blazing bright in my own life. Feeling this stuff won’t kill me, i have that repeated experience to have at least a small amount of trust in. And if doing this chunk of work can bring me an even higher level of function and more opportunities for happiness, helpfulness, and success than i was enjoying back when everything went for shit last year (and my therapist –in whom i also have some not-insignificant trust in– assures me it will), then i’m not just in, honey i’m ALL in.

Now, finally, this is the part where i tie it all together.

Becoming a multiple is what i did to survive my childhood. My system has saved me countless times from losing my life or my mind. Dissociating from what was happening around me was the best i could do, but once the trauma had ended, it became more and more of an impediment to experiencing life on life’s terms, and inhibited me from building the life and the relationships i wanted. It all came to a head and burst when i fell in love and got married. I knew, both from intuition and from every single experience i had with him, that i could trust him, and he would support me as i fell completely apart and put myself back together again. And he did. He has. He will.

I’ve figured out how my brain works, and i’ve gotten to know everyone that lives in there, formed relationships with them that work, and helped them get along with each other. I’ve studied the people around me, the people who left me, the people i left and the ones i let go, and my relationships with them. I’m at peace with it all, and though my current circle is small, it’s tight and strong and healthy and there’s room for more if i so choose. My requirements for relationship are appropriate and well thought out, and i know what i bring to the table.

Clearing a spot for me to do this next-level therapy has not been easy. I had a home safety issue that i’d been avoiding, because i wasn’t getting the help that i’d repeatedly asked for to deal with the problem. I had to get that squared away. Then i had to simplify and streamline my day-to-day routine, because my energy was limited, and my current therapy needed to be my priority. And i also had to ask people in my circle for understanding, for patience, for help. I had to take a hard look at what others were asking of me, prioritise, and say No to people. Dearest loved ones, even. No, i can’t do that, and No, i won’t do that anymore, like ever. I put up some walls and drew some lines in the sand, and when they weren’t respected, i raised my voice and pumped my fists until i was heard. I require this, and that, and ohbtw, that must stop immediately.

I built this safe space for me to live and be and work. And if you’re not on board with that, either you go, or i will. Whatever. I’ll build another place to be safe. I’ve seen a light coming from somewhere just over this next peak, something bright and beautiful.
I think it’s me. Or maybe it’s a mirror.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with mirrors my entire life. I’ve always hated looking into them. I have to be careful not to look into my own eyes. I can glance quickly, but if it’s more than a second or 2, i dissociate. I pull back – retreat inside myself. I’m suddenly further away from the mirror. Quite a number of my Bits N’ Pieces love to look in the mirror, though. They’re curious. What do *I* look like? When i first began getting to know them and stopped fighting all the switching, some of them had a field day. Makeup, clothes, the mirror, and hundreds of selfies. As i’ve brokered a mostly peaceful coexistence with them, i’ve lost a lot of the fear and loathing i had for the mirror, but it can still be a trigger when i’m low or tired or already sliding around a bit.

Yes… I think it’s a mirror. I think i might meet the person i’m creating inside that mirror, and i’ll bet when i turn around i’ll see who i once was – all of them. I think the work i’m doing right now is a pretty huge fucking deal.

Something has happened over the last month and some, and i think it’s empowerment.

I’m moving into all the spaces inside my brain and my body – i’m filling myself up with ME. Sharing space with my system and moving into the cold and barren places, letting in the light. I am the light.

I’m not afraid.
I’m not afraid to piss anyone off.
I’m not afraid that someone i love won’t like who i’m becoming.
I’m not afraid that people won’t “get it”.
I’m not afraid to lose someone i love to this process.
I’m not afraid to be alone.

I’m not a bitch for focusing on myself.
I’m not a bitch for needing or even just wanting things, and i’m not being a bitch by asking for them, or going out and getting them myself.
I’m not a bitch for creating a safe space, and defending it against all who threaten it.
I’m not a bitch for demanding to be heard and respected in my own home.
I’m not a bitch for saying NO.
I’m not a bitch for calling out abusive behaviour.
I’m not a bitch for refusing to take anyone’s shit.
I’m not a bitch for not taking on other people’s burdens.
I’m not a bitch because i’m tall, and strong, and smart, and pretty, and funny, and wise… I’m not a bitch because i take up more room than someone wants me to, and i’m not a bitch if i intimidate the absolute fuck out of anyone.

This is my road.
Move or i’ll move you.

~H~
*Hey, every relationship goes through rough patches, if they stay together long enough. It shone a light on both our flaws and made us painfully aware of our personal baggage that we’d brought with us. But that’s a story for another time.

 

Still Not A Bitch

PART III

Lately i’ve been thinking on the reactions to this person that i’m becoming. I’ll tell you flat out and straight up that i’m incredibly self-focused. It’s not that i don’t care about others – i’m chock full of sympathy and fairly bleeding empathy. I believe that turning an intense and unflinching eye inward is how i not only saved my life, but made myself into a decent and functional human. My mother intended for me to be someone quite different than who i am today. To put it mildly, she wanted me as slave labour, as a receptacle for her rage, to worship her as a deity (you think i’m kidding… ) and as an ever-flowing fountain of unconditional love for her and her alone.

The best gift i got from her other than my life, was her early death. It might have been my only chance to escape her conscious and deliberate indoctrination of me. I’m not sure i would have had the insight, the will, or the strength to free myself from her iron grip. When she died, while i was immediately emancipated from serving her, i was still left with a personality and behaviours that had been designed to ally myself with selfish manipulators who mostly took and rarely gave. I was a slave without a master.

My system didn’t just save me from the horrors of my childhood, they kept me from bad relationships, and some potentially awful friendships. I still managed to make best friends with 2 of the kind of people i’ve described above, though. Not deadly like my mother, but toxic AF. They both did me the favour of ending our friendship, which i’m grateful for today. (More commentary on that later.) Some of my more developed and powerful parts would exert their influence in other areas. For instance, i avoided roommate situations, preferring to live alone. I could perform the sex act, although it was mostly other parts in control when it was happening – or i was heavily medicated with alcohol and/or other drugs.  What i couldn’t do was commit. I never thought about marriage or children. I became pregnant due to unsafe sex practises, and was engaged for a time because i was asked and i was very religious and thought it was expected. It was my system that made the decisions to keep the baby and ditch the dude (to be clear, he wasn’t the father).

When i accepted that i was bipolar and a multiple (years after these events), my level of function plummeted. I practically abandoned my children and nearly destroyed my marriage (a different, way more suitable dude). On the plus side my crap friends ditched me and i became estranged from what was left of my family. I had no one to pretend for, anymore. All that was left was my husband, my children, and a couple of excellent professional health care providers – one medical, and one therapeutic.

Everything inside me fell apart. Some fully sentient creatures (by the broadest definition), some feelings and memories that had developed their own personalities, and then all the other things that make up a person, like: my good qualities, my flaws, my skills, how i coped (besides being crazy), my hopes for the future (mostly for my loved ones, and for my relationships with them – i never really had much in the way of life goals or aspirations – too busy just surviving, i think).
Everything that made me who i was became detached and scattered about. I’ve spent the last dozen years or so trying to put myself back together. I’ve spent it trying to become the captain of this ship of fools. Learning to read the stars. Making repairs. Trying to fix the goddamned rudder.

I started out with a blueprint, but somewhere along the way i decided it wasn’t mine. I decided on a major overhaul. I decided i would be the architect and i would have precisely the ship i wanted.

I didn’t know enough about myself to know how to rebuild me, let alone how to REMAKE me, but i didn’t do this much work at this much cost for this much time not to have exactly what i want.

I started out with only the vaguest ideas, mostly based on not wanting to be in pain or stuck in chaos or hurting those i loved anymore. But somewhere along the way i discovered that there was more to life than that, and i wanted some of it. I discovered that i was a capable and talented architect. I discovered that i already had almost everything i needed to build the ship of my dreams. I discovered good and hopeful dreams inside me. And i discovered that i knew how to get, or at least could figure out how to get, anything i didn’t already have, in order to be shipshape.

Some of the changes i’ve made have upset those around me, and a lot of those people are now gone. Mostly it was their choice, and it happened before i realised what i was doing or how it was affecting them. And all the leaving hurt. Often, it hurt so much i would fall into a deep depression or act out in some way that caused chaos. But i kept doing the work, the remodeling and the cleaning up after, and now? It still stings a bit occasionally, but less and less all the time. Now i know i have choices, too.

Some of those toxic people have tried to contact me. Sick, passive-aggressive bullshit that’s so obvious to me now. And those parts of me that my mother built so carefully, those parts that think that people who love me abuse me because i’m bad and i deserve it? Those parts that think abuse IS love? I’m gathering them to me and showing them what love really is – by keeping the bad people away. By helping them form alliances and friendships with protectors in my system, including me.

Those sick and dangerous people who wove a false narrative. That told me not to tell the truth. That told me not to be angry or sad. That expected me to act like everything was okay and no one is bad (except me) and no one is hurting and everything is great because Jesus and the Cross. Those people that never, not one of them, not one, single time, said sorry to me for anything they did to me, ever.

My ship is a sailboat: small, sleek, mostly slow and just soaking up the sun, but fast as fuck when she wants to be.
Underneath, my ship is also a submarine, full of sailors who love the life, and we’re slowly building a yacht.
(This is almost more allegory than analogy, because the way they treated me is a moral issue.)

My mother made me a tugboat and she used me constantly, with no decent or regular maintenance. I was already in terrible disrepair when she died, but it didn’t stop the rest of ’em from having me haul their shit around. None of them believed there was an invisible submarine underneath. I’ll bet if they saw me, they’d still see an old tugboat, too.

Well, they won’t get more’n a glimpse, and no Ahoy! cuz i’ll trim the sails and hightail it outta there, lickety split. They can just stay on the shore, danglin’ their feet in putrid water and tellin’ each other how fine the day is.

If these parts don’t seem quite connected, stay tuned. Heh.

Stories, Not Poems

Maybe with more love i could write a song
but all i have are these clunky words and choppy phrases
qualifiers that try to rate my pain for your assent
Pump up my happiness so you can
Bob your head along

A tender homage to the city i’m from
How it’s tough and steel and glass but
we’re just one big family, really
Cowboys in suits who love Jesus
Oil and chocolate bunnies

Maybe with more time i could change the world
but i can’t shake the small town off me
Everyone who thinks they know me
Arms bent at the elbows
Clucking and scratching the dirt

A reedy tune about the romance
of being left alone, running through short oats
and corn gathered too soon
The cows don’t care that they eat and die
But i do

Inside My Skin

There is a part 3 for I’m Not A Bitch, but today i’m posting a little blurp-up on how i’m doing right now.

Last year i had a schedule, with routines, regimens, and rituals aplenty, and i was hummin’ along like a vintage car that’s still with and well cared for by its original owner. I was as functional as i’d ever been in. my. life. and i was proud of what i’d accomplished and excited for more and better in my very near future.

That was when my body started poking my brain and saying, Ahem? Ah, excuse me?
I need some help.

It’s a little on the airy-fairy side for a firm atheist like me, but i have come to believe that it’s possible that it’s not just my brain that houses my memories, but my body, as well. Like, when i feel threatened, i can feel it immediately in my feet, my calves, my knees – the urge to run, to get away. The memories of being trapped by my abusers and unable to leave might be there, i think. Nestled in there with my muscles and tendons, lying dormant until a situation triggers old thoughts and feelings about the past and my fast-twitchers spark awake, GOGOGONOW!

I recognise that this may not be measurable in a scientific sense as of yet, but that’s okay. I’ve been working on getting down into my feelings,
<feelfreetorollyoureyesherebecauseicertainlyam>
and the deeper into them i get, the more i experience how connected my thoughts and emotions are to my physical body, when i feel safe enough to allow it.

As a highly dissociative human, i put distance between emotion and sensation and thought, because they have historically been too much for me to cope with all at once. I also never had a person safe enough and knowledgeable enough to teach me how to process these things; the why-am-i-like-this and the how-do-i-fix-it. Now that i do, when she (my therapist) suggests that my memories are not just in my brain, but in parts of me that exist in real time below the neck, well…
I experience, observe, and exist consciously in those moments when i sit down in the armchair by the window in her office, and my girl parts are buzzing like they’re covered in a thousand bumblebees, and she asks how i’m doing today, and my vagina starts to burn, like the bees are stinging me, so she has me take a big pillow and hide myself behind it, and wrap my arms around that pillow and pull it in tight, hugging my genital area, protecting it with a soft, warm barrier and my loving arms, and she asks me,

“How does that feel?”

And i roll my teary eyes and say, “I don’t know. Weird. Better… I guess. Good.”

Or how i pull my legs up onto that armchair, fanning them out alongside me because if i put them on the floor, they’ll start bouncing like corn popping, wanting to run. I feel safe with her in her office, and i come ready to be conscious of my body and be in it in real time. But other people that live in my brain, especially those that exist in a painful moment from the past, come wide awake and all they feel is trauma, and they want it to stop, so badly; they want to get away, nownownow. So my therapist has me put my feet back on the floor and bounce my knees and flex my feet and sometimes i’ve even placed the bottoms of my feet on the bottoms of hers and pumped my legs, HARD, like i’m riding a bicycle away – away from pain, away from danger, away from evil.

And i’ll be damned if it doesn’t help. I think my body is purging the memories of all the terrible things that were done to me when i was little. When i was with my mother and dependent on her for everything – helpless and unable to get away from the things that she did and allowed to be done to me.
It’s like i’m shedding “psychic” pounds.
I know, another metaphysical word coming from me, but i use it as a poetic description of what i’m experiencing, rather than an actual, tangible thing that exists.
What i mean is, i feel lighter in my feelings and my mood and my outlook on life, when i do these things –when i directly address the sensations in my body, and act out the movements it seems to be itching to do– i feel better.

So this is what i’ve been doing. Learning to tune in to my body, rather than distance myself from it. Letting my fists ball up, kicking my legs, covering my breasts, my belly, my nethers, with blankets, pillows, honouring the need for a barrier. Pulling my big dog into my lap and wrapping my arms around her, burying my face in her neck and feeling her warmth, her weight, her protection.

And walking again. Not taking off. Not getting away.
Recognising and honouring the need of my feet, my calves, my knees, my thighs, to move. The memories of wanting and needing so badly to get away from what was happening to me all those years ago and being unable to, all trapped there in my flesh and fascia. Pumping it out of me with each determined step, the pain and the fear pouring down into my toes and out, like i’ve lanced an infection and i’m draining the pus, leaving a trail on the dirt road behind me.

Lighter. Healthier. Cleaner. Freer.

It’s constant work but i don’t mind. I can see and feel the benefits. Unlike the brain work, where i slogged and slogged through the muck, such slow-going. Putting in so much time with little to no change, but hoping. And then seeing that which had been unravelled, ever so slowly knit back together.
The body work yields refreshingly immediate results. They don’t always last, but i can do it again, and the good stuff lasts a bit longer each time. One day, it might just settle right into my bones and that will be that.

So here i am today.
I’m sober. I’m not doing anything to numb myself, neither brain nor body. I’m living my life as simply as i can so that i might teach myself to be present and feel it all. To make conscious, thoughtful decisions on how to handle and cope with the day-to-days, and those times when life just happens. I mean, i wish it wouldn’t do that, but even to have the presence and awareness inside this skin sack in real time to think, Geez, Universe, now why’dja have to go and do that?! is a priceless gift.

I’ve lost the booze bloat and the grey cast to my skin. I’m back to managing my food choices and eating at a calorie deficit, nutritionally sound and designed for slow and steady weight loss, my goal of a single digit clothing size before summer hits is doable.
I often wear my clothes a bit on the tight side because:

1) I like having my business held in, hugged, and smoothed out;
2) It boosts my self-esteem and motivation to be wearing smaller sizes; and
3) It keeps me consciously in my body, that tight squeeze, that occasional escape of flesh over the top of my jeans.

Understand, this is not a shaming technique. I’m proud as heck of what i’ve accomplished, and any shame i carry about my body is due to childhood stuff, which i’m working through, tyvm. I’m also not suggesting anyone else do what i do for my weight, my body, my brain, my relationships – none of it, period. What i’m doing is sharing my process, in every way and on every level (save sexual and spiritual, although that may come some day), not so that you can do what i do, but so you can see that it can be done. 

I’m 52yrs old, and there’s no shame in that, either.
I am not who i was born to be.
It’s taken a lot of hard, intense, terrifying work to get where i am today.
Nobody could do it for me and a lot of it i did alone because i couldn’t find the right person to do it with me. But i persevered, taking little nuggets of wisdom from this place and that person, knocking on door after door, taking class after class, asking “professional” after professional? for help.
(That word though, what a loaded word in this particular field, heh.)

I got disheartened, led down wrong paths, misunderstood, misdiagnosed, ignored, unfairly judged, and many times, told i was Just fine! and/or Highly functional! because i was so willing to open up and do the work, and already had so much self-knowledge and personal insight and i’m clearly intelligent and have a large vocabulary and i’ve never been arrested or lived on the street, so… What’s your problem?

With such narrow definitions, it’s a wonder anyone gets any, let alone enough help, but some of us do.
If you have stuff inside you that needs work, i want you to see that i’m doing it, and so maybe you can, too.
If you need help with that work (and who doesn’t?), i want you to see that i found some (FINALLY!), and so maybe you can take heart and keep trying until you find that good fit: that person, that place, that program, that system -whatever it is- that clicks with you and helps you get your feet underneath you and walking forward. Or running, swimming, flying – however it works for you to figure your shit out and get through it. Whatever gets you moving towards something that you’ve always wanted for yourself.

I did it and i’m still doing it.
I should be either dead, or locked up, or completely non-functional, or just a shitty, awful human. I am none of those things.

Every time i blog it’s for me first, because it’s been very effective.
But it’s for you, second – because i want you to hang in there. I want you to find help, answers, love, success, happiness. All of it.
I wish i could do more, but i’m a lot of work, and this is what i can manage.
So far, anyway.

I’m pluggin’ away. It’s what works for me. I go through some tough, scary shit, but i just keep plodding along, learning about myself and how i work and doing the work that’s in front of me.

Then there are moments, beautiful, transformative, life-affirming moments, where i can see, not only how far i’ve come, but the depth and the breadth and the weight of what i’ve been able to achieve. It may not look like much to the rest of the world, but that no longer matters to me. What i’ve been able to do with my brain, my body, my life, is incredible and amazing. TO ME.

I hope that i can inspire others to just hang in there and keep trying. Stop and rest and feel how hard it is when you need to, you deserve that, but as soon as you can muster, try some more.

Love and Peace and So Much Thanks,
~H~

Image: Reclining Nude (c1887), George Hendrik Breitner

I’m Not A Bitch, Pt. II

Growing up with very few safe spaces contributed greatly to my hypervigilance, my distrust of others, my obsessive need to be liked and accepted, and my extreme emotional reaction to anything that looked remotely like rejection.

Once i left home i had a few roommate situations, which i eventually learned were not for me. I preferred being alone, and when my first son was less than 6mos old, i moved in to my first apartment on my own. I didn’t live with anyone else until i met the man i married, years later. Having my own place, my own space, helped change me in many positive ways. I began to relax a little, internally. I wasn’t so tense physically, i wasn’t so busy mentally, and i wasn’t as close to meltdown emotionally.

I had a place to decompress after a day of peopling. I had somewhere to escape when i felt overwhelmed. I could figure out how to be a grownup and a mother privately, without other pairs of eyes always on me, and to my mind, constantly judging me. I had a safe space where no one hurt me, no one blamed me, no one wiped their unwanted emotions off onto me or made me carry their past baggage. It allowed me to be more who i genuinely am, albeit still unconsciously.

I rarely had people over. It was me and my kid, and i loved it.

Associations with friends and family would be done in their homes, or parks, playgrounds, restaurants, malls, wherever – as long as it wasn’t my place. The only people besides my son that i regularly wanted in my space were my siblings.
I took the occasional lover, but they weren’t permitted to come around until my kid was asleep, and they had to leave before breakfast.

This home base allowed me to grow as a person. I made closer friendships, and began allowing others more access to where i lived. I still couldn’t figure out how to be in an intimate sexual relationship, although i tried. I ended up hurting a few young men, and eventually found myself pregnant again.
The recovery home that had helped me years before, offered me a nice, cheap apartment in a great neighbourhood that also housed other women who’d been through the program, but could still benefit from the financial and emotional support they offered. They also hooked me up with free counselling, and access to other programs to help me continue to try to deal with my childhood trauma, and to figure out how to be a decent single mom to 2 wee boys.

In this 4-plex, i made the most intimate friendships i’d ever had. We visited each other daily, and everybody was always welcome in everyone else’s apartment. It was a busy little commune, and it was the happiest i’d ever been in my life. It taught me that there were good, kind, SAFE people in the world who wouldn’t hurt me – who just wanted to be my friend and love me. We did practically everything together, and we were first on the scene when any one of us were struggling or in need.
Without them and their friendship, i’m not sure how much longer it would have taken me to be able to trust anyone enough to have a serious romantic relationship, if ever.

We all eventually moved out of our safe little “halfway house” – they got a place together, and i got a place which was soon filled with the man i’m over 20yrs married to today. They both approved of him, and i trusted their judgment even more than mine then, because the guy before was a hard lesson in why one shouldn’t date bad boys.

They’re both gone now, and i wish i’d had this insight sooner and been able to share it with them. My gratitude is boundless, and my grief, ever-deep. As we drifted away from each other (the reasons were quite serious then, but now seem so unimportant), we all fell apart, tired and winnowed huskless. Trying so hard to figure out who we were, what we had to offer, and move past the constant pain, sorrow, and dysfunction that had resulted from our childhood traumas.
I ache so to be the only one still here.
I’m swollen with the need to speak with them, to say Thank you! and to touch them, to hold them close and feel the heat of their skin, to clutch their hands in mine and to cry and laugh and talk too loud with them.

None of us knew how to be a good friend. We were all closed in on ourselves, curled tightly around our wounded cores. Trying to find love, acceptance, understanding, belonging… Somewhere. Anywhere. We all knew how our families expected us to behave, and we knew how we should act when we were out and about, around other people. However, it took a great deal from each of us to do so, and we all needed long lengths of solitude to rest and recover from each encounter with the world outside our slapdash treehouses.

We’d hibernate in our dark, chilly caves, padding ourselves with the protection of food and eating, the escape offered by reading and movies. We were the only people who could fairly easily enter each others’ sanctuaries, with the least amount of effort to engage, the most genuine kind of engagement, and the lowest level of fallout after our encounters. We tried to talk to each other about things that mattered, we sifted through old boxes of memories together, and even peaked into the occasional old attic trunk, whose lock had been bashed off by our ham-handed counsellors*.

We tried to relate to one another. We tried hard to be friends to each other. And none of us were particularly good at it, but we’d laugh at ourselves and keep trying. The stories i could tell of our adventures. Late night rescues from addictive behaviours. Hospital visits. Life skills classes and religious retreats. Police. Lousy boyfriends. Falling in love. Christmases and birthdays and cooking and cleaning each other’s homes when we got too low to do it by ourselves.
In each other’s spaces, we learned there were people who could come in and not take away from us. Someone who would add to us, and not deplete our resources. They brought warmth to my chill and pulled back the curtains on my dim, grey spaces, letting light in. The sun of their smiles. The safety of their understanding and respect when they didn’t touch me. The depth of their love when they delicately asked if they could…

It was all unconscious, then. I was so dissociated. I lacked the diagnosis, the knowledge i needed to knit it all together, a key insight that would finally be a flashlight into the dark places inside me, the places where other people hid.
Little people, big people, young, old, broken bits and fully fleshed out persons.

Perhaps it was finally having real and true friends who’d been through things i’d been through and were trying to “get over” them as i was, that helped me put that last piece of the puzzle in the right place.
I know they gave me my first taste of what it was like to not be alone.

I wasn’t the only fucked up person.
I wasn’t the only person who didn’t act “normal”.
I wasn’t the only one to feel weird, different, odd, other, strange, outside.

And i can see now that we probably unconsciously supported each other in creating a safe space around ourselves, as individuals, a place where no one could approach unless we wanted them to come closer.
And i can see now how wounded and broken we all still were; we didn’t have the right tools yet, and hadn’t all the information we’d require. So we still let in the wrong people – ones who crossed the line and then broke the circle – who penetrated our barriers and broke down our defenses.
And i can see now, them being overcome. By the past, by people, and finally, by life.

It’s breaking me, but it’s girding me, too.
I was so closed off from how deep my feelings were for them, because it was scary, dangerous, to feel so much. I see now, both absolute shit reasons and self-preservation reasons for my pulling away.
I could wax poetic about why they aren’t here now, but i’ve learned too much to do something so selfish and grandiose.
I don’t know why they aren’t here anymore and i am, still.
I do know that i wish they were, with all my heart.
I also feel a deep regret that things went the way they did, but i know i did my best, and i don’t in any way blame myself for their absence.
I believe now that they were the best friends i’ve ever had, until i met my husband.

There wasn’t much light in our lives when we found each other. I’m so grateful that they grabbed on to me and pulled me close, and then let me run away, and come close again. Over and over. Accepting me for who i was, letting whatever i could give be enough, and never being angry over what i could not.

I know now that they taught me so much that i needed to know in order to be where i am right now, today. They were there, helping me lay my foundation for friendship. They helped me know how, when i knew enough and was ready, to build strong walls around me, and what kind of door to put in, and that a good security system was necessary and smart and right… They taught me, with their lives, that it’s okay to be careful, vigilant even, to whom i give entry and to whom i do not.
I have a safe space today, and they’re part of my blueprint.

Their friendship, their personal struggles, and their lives are forged into my armour and their memory stands at my battlements, as i fight for my safe space today. And i am fighting and will always fight, against any and all comers.

I’ll fight to protect this, my safe space, my motherfucking castle. Most don’t even get across my moat, but i’ve found over the years that sometimes, even those i’d once welcomed in must be put out. I’ve pulled up the drawbridge on many, and you bet i’ve tossed some over the wall and pushed them from the turrets.

I’m the queen of my castle.

*We’d met each other through a home for women in crisis, run by the religious. Understand that, while i’m most grateful for all those religious women did for me, and they did a LOT (fed me, clothed me, taught me how to cook and keep a house, and address my past), they did it according to their religious beliefs, which included bible-based therapy. Also know that i cannot and would not speak for my friends with regards to the guidance and advice we received from them. I’m referring to myself specifically and only when i say it was just mildly helpful, and in some cases, although i have no doubt they loved me and wanted so much to help me, was actually quite harmful.

I’m Not A Bitch, Pt. I

I’m not a bitch.
I’m changing though, and that can be hard for people who’ve known you a long time, i think. It can be difficult for my partner, my children, my close friends.
I developed a truckload of traits to survive my childhood and cope with the trauma and dysfunction it’s caused in my life.
Even after it had stopped, my brain and my body kept living as if trauma was still occurring, or was just around the next corner.
I discarded some parts of my personality for the same reason.

I’ve gotten to know my system fairly well, and yes, they’re all me, but some of these quirks and qualities are no longer necessary. Well, not currently required.

I don’t see this as integration.
This is a first class vacation for some stressed little Bits.
This is the Rolex/beach house retirement for some exhausted parental types.
This war is long over, and it’s time to clean the weaponry and put it in its pristine arsenal, where i’m the only person who has access.
No one’s leaving and nothing is being tossed.

I know who i was and i know who i am. Now i’m on to the part where i figure out/decide who i want to be. I’m poring over it all, scrutinising everyone, and we’re building me together, fresh and new, from the toes up.
No one left behind. Everyone has a say. Everyone gets to feel.
And to that end, some things have been happening in my personal life that’ve triggered some voices with some things to say, some feelings and thoughts to express.

I hesitated with this piece. I didn’t sleep well last night due to some in-home upheaval, so when this stuff started pouring out on the page, i pulled back. Body vibrating. Hands shaking. Guts churning.
Do i let anger out? Resentment? Bitterness? Indignation? FURY?
What if i scare someone?
What if i come off as a bitch?

My therapist has spent these last months gently convincing me that these feelings need to be felt if i want to move on to some reward-rich, next level healing.
And why wouldn’t i want that?
My childhood didn’t kill me, and all i did to live with it, handle it, bury it, dig it back up, look at it, hear it, feel it, cope with it, heal it, hasn’t ended me either.
So bring it on. Lay it on me. Let’s do this.

**********

Today i’m not terrified.
Today i’m pissed off. I’ve been scared and felt vulnerable these last few months but made it through with no serious wreckage to clean up around me, and i can handle this anger just as well. I neither need nor want to pull my world down around me. I have no wish to torpedo any relationships – i’ve already eliminated all the toxic ones. I have one seriously problematic relationship right now, one that has perhaps triggered this anger (i’m not sure though, because this emotion was going to come up and require processing, regardless of my interactions with anyone in my current circle), but it isn’t toxic.
I think it’s probably normal AF to have ups and downs with loved ones – to have to work through difficulties and navigate some rough patches.

And while i am experiencing some dissociation, that’s just who i am, and i’m aware of it and i think i’m handling it fairly well. I’m not leaving the face and hiding from the conflict. I’m here, i’m in it, i’m the one feeling it and deciding what to do about what’s happening.

This is an emotional purge – a spring cleaning of some brain-clutter.
I’m fine, and the person i’m in conflict with is safe.
I don’t break people, and i don’t even break stuff anymore.

**********

I was taught to do as i was told and never complain.
I was taught that other people’s feelings were more important than mine.
I was taught that grownups, those having jobs with authority over fellow citizens, and males were my superiors.
I was taught that i was property.
I was taught that i was responsible for the “negative” feelings of others.

I learned that if those to whom i belonged or was beholden were in a good mood i was less likely to experience physical pain.
I learned that if these same people liked me i usually received better treatment overall.
I learned that if i could hide, or at least be quiet and blend in, i could sometimes avoid being targeted for abuse.
I learned that if i “absorbed” those emotions of them with power and authority over me, that the abuse might stop for a time, and i’d occasionally be rewarded.

I learned all these things long before i set foot in a school.
Fortunately?
Because school, which should have been a break from the Hell i lived at home, quickly became just another torture chamber.

I had a couple of excellent teachers, and i had a couple of absolute crap ones. Mostly though, they were mediocre and clueless. Maybe some were willfully ignorant, but i’m hesitant to apply the label because my mom could put on a good show when properly motivated. I was bright, i had a sunny disposition and an animated personality. So, even if i was clearly poor and my hygiene needed work and i never achieved the grades every teacher probably knew i was capable of, and my mother was hard to reach and the fattest person anyone had ever seen in real life – that wasn’t necessarily a red flag…

Right?

My tone is sarcastic and i’m testy this morning, i admit it. I’ve given a great deal of thought to if and where my teachers bear responsibility for the treatment i endured in school, and i don’t find them culpable. I told my favourite teacher in high school that i was in a bad situation at home, and he acted as if i hadn’t said a word – shocking and revolting a complete abandonment of his fucking mandate sure, but i’d already moved out and was living with friends, so what was there left for him to do? Besides, we functioned in an atmosphere where one of my fellow students favourite teachers gave precedent to the popular kids, and flirted outrageously with all of them that were female. No one seemed to be disturbed by it at all. (He was one of the crappiest teachers i ever had. He thought he was funny and charming, but even in my dissociated state, i found him a repulsive creep.)

I can’t fault them for not protecting me from bullying, either. I tried never to let any student see that they hurt me, so what was there for the teachers to see/hear? I would insult myself first, or laugh along with them, or ignore, or sometimes (i know now) someone else in my system would handle things.
With their big, obnoxious mouth. Heh.
Which only ever caused more bullying, but my life was so filled with stress, i don’t blame anyone who lives here in my brain with me for needing to vent. Those occasional blurts may well have kept me from exploding. Or imploding.
Or whatever – i’m here and i’m alive and i’ll take it, with thanks to my beloved Peanut Gallery. Wah wah wah wah.

At least i never got the shit kicked out of me like i did if i beaked off at home. It was an exceedingly rare occurrence for me to get mouthy with my mother, but it did happen.
Maybe i never pushed any of the bullies too far, or maybe being Amazon-sized was off putting. (Or maybe bullies are actually pathetic cowards. Hm.) I guess i’m saying it’s possible that teachers didn’t see how awfully some of the other kids treated me.

It’s possible.

Everything i’d been taught/learned at home worked both for and against me at school.
I managed not to be the most picked on, or least popular kid in my grade (every time but one – and that, thankfully, only lasted half of 1 school year*), but i think i might have had it easier if i’d stood up for myself, even one time.
I didn’t stand up for myself, though. It didn’t occur to me.
In fact, i thought everything those horrid kids said to me was true, and it was appropriate to pick on me, because i was fat, and i was weird, and dirty and poor and whatever other label they ascribed to me.

I’m moving on from the teachers. On to the students. I’ll be brief, but i’m going to be brutal and blunt:

The ones who picked on me were jerks.
I have 1 friend today who confesses he was a bully in school, and he is one of the kindest and best people i know. Due to him and also the kind of human i am, i’m going to say that it’s possible that some of those kids grew up to not be jerks.
But i don’t think it’s likely.
(One of the meanest girls i’ve ever known immediately resorted to calling me names when i stood up to her as a grown woman.)
I hope they did change though, of course, because my heart breaks for the selfish, cruel, and clueless generations they might inflict on other hurting and lonely children. I know how hard it is to survive that, and i know not everyone does.

From school i could move on to shitty former friends and estranged family, but i’m not going to. One, i’ve processed former friendships well and moved on, and two, i don’t discuss family, because that might look like an invitation to them to come back and have an opinion about me and my life.
And they aren’t getting one.
Besides, they weren’t where these parts were focused. I’m listening, but more importantly, i’m feeling these thoughts and these memories. The fear, the hopelessness, and the terrible aloneness and otherness and wrongness that these crappy human beings visited upon me, Monday to Friday, for a solid 10 1/2 motherfucking years.

I’m dealing with a current relationship that reminds me of needing to be liked by a loved one in order to avoid being hurt, and whose treatment of me brings back all that pain from school.
I’m not cool.
I say dumb stuff.
I talk too much.
I’m weird.
I’m wrong.
I’m awkward.
I’m too big – i take up too much space.
Nothing i do is good enough.
I’m defective.
I’m not welcome. GO AWAY

*Fuck that school, fuck those lousy teachers, and above all, fuck those incredibly cruel and arrogant piece-of-shit students that are probably every bit as stupid and petty and shallow as they were when i attended their crappy school in their crappy town.
You’re the most popular kids in a school of less than 300?
Wow. What an accomplishment.
Generations of your family have grown up and raised their families there?
So amaze. You managed to live out status quo.
Very greatness. Such awards.

Thanks for adding to the burdens of an already battered and broken child. I’ll bet your kids would be proud of you. Heck, i’ll bet they’re just like you, you big, important fish in a tiny little pond.
Go you. Cue the marching band.

**********

I have more to say about my current situation, and what i’m learning about myself and who i want to be, and i want to share some super positive and exciting things that are coming about as a result of this absolute shit situation, but that’s enough for today.

The parts inside me that have held these feelings deserve for this piece to stand on its own. Writing it made me angry for them, which helped me be properly angry for myself.
Which helped them tap into their anger – their entirely, wholly justified anger at terrible treatment from terrible people.
I’m going to think about it today, and i’m going to listen to and feel what’s going on inside of my body (below the neck) as a result of thinking about this stuff.

Cleaning out my closets and junk drawers. Bringing all my muppet-monsters out to play.
My toys, my room, my house.

My weekend is here, and i’m going to do my best to rest and enjoy.
Thank you for being here and witnessing my process – you’re helping me create myself and my life.
Love and Peace,
~H~