Hush Little Baby

Baby mine, don’t you cry
Baby mine, dry your eyes
Rest your head close to my heart
Never to part, baby of mine

~ Baby of Mine, Dumbo(1941)

 

I mentioned a while back that i’m not good at self-soothing. It’s not a mystery why. A baby needs physical touch and affection in order to connect with the world outside of itself. Touch is also part of what teaches them they are individuals, once they begin to see themselves as separate from their primary caregiver.

What do we do with babies when they cry? We soothe them of course, primarily with touch. What might happen then, when a baby is assaulted? I’ll tell you what happened in my case — disconnection. My brain was unable to process what was happening, so it severed the connections between thought, emotion, and sensation. I had some traumatic experiences that made no sense without coming to terrible and devastating conclusions that i lacked any sophistication to reach. I was constantly in danger from the person i depended on to meet my most basic needs: water, food, shelter. I disconnected so often and for so long, that some of my thoughts, my emotions, and my feelings, began developing their own rudimentary personalities.

I made parts that were frozen and felt no pain. I made parts that ate the anger and kept it hidden. And i made parts that aligned themselves with my abusers; those that believed what was happening was normal, some that knew i was a bad girl and deserved punishment, and others that believed my mother was wonderful, and everything she did, by association. Then, when i got older, i began making parts to function in the world around me: parts that performed more normally for grandparents, playmates, teachers, caregivers, and always, parts for my ever-widening circle of abuse.

What happened when i had an unmet need, was my brain would provide a part that could cope. For instance, if i wasn’t being fed, i had a part my mother had taught to panhandle and shoplift for her, so i might use that part if i was alone in the house or could otherwise get away. When i was being abused there were any number of parts, depending on what type of abuse, and who was doling it out. Outside of the home and other abusers, i still felt a great deal of fear and anxiety. I was trying to fit in but i felt separate; i wanted love, acceptance, help… But it only ever came in rare, and small amounts.

Over time, my brain behaved like a well-oiled machine, and the end result was my feelings were never attended to in the way a child needs most — by soothing and care.

This has everything to do with my toilet-epiphany to which i referred in my last post.
I’ll expound on that in the next couple of days, but i’m ending this one here.
I’m trying to keep my posts a bit shorter for the time being, so that i might have the energy to write through what’s currently happening, to take the time and care i require to heal from recent days, and prepare for those to come.

Thank you for being here, it helps.
Take care the best you can, and i will, too.

Love and Peace to All,
~H~

Out With the Bad, In With the Good

CW: This contains casual references to toileting.

I couldn’t make it in to see my therapist yesterday, i was unable to leave my house. I’m fortunate that she’s willing to do phone sessions. I was around 12 hours into detoxing off the booze, and was basically a mess in every way possible.
I’ll spare you the gorier details of a therapy session done from the toilet, suffice it say that she’s one of the most patient and gentle people i’ve known, and she helped me have a breakthrough.

It was figurative, not literal. The easy misinterpretation of that statement did make me heh-heh-heh like a 10yr old. You’re free to make your multiple jokes here. I know my dark and twisty sense of humour has been liberally applied in this area.
Laughing at the awful helped me survive. It’s not for everyone, and that’s absolutely fine, but shaking, sweating, puking, and yes, shitting, while having an epiphany made me gigglesnort.

I’m most of the way through the detox, but i still feel like a bag of smashed assholes. I have just enough energy left before my head explodes to tell you that i figured something out that my therapist has been trying to communicate to me for some time.
Okay, maybe the whole time.
I will visit it at some length, hopefully in the next couple of days.

I don’t think i could get it done without sobriety, and i now have that going for me.*

Y’all hang in there the best you can, and i will, too.

*I’m not referring to a 12-step sobriety.

Drabs & Drips

Hi. I am somewhere between a little and a lot drunk most of the time right now. Bear with me if you can or would like to. I have therapy tomorrow, and hopefully i won’t wind up committed. I might though.

I promise i will write super interesting and insightful and inspiring things after i get out.
If i get out, hahaha.

I also think i’m a bit stinky again.
Was anyone else aware that showers are supposed to be had so often?
In completely unrelated news i was brushing my teeth so hard my mouth was sore, and now i finally brushed my teeth because they felt coated in hair i retched so hard while trying to get it done that my tummy hurts.

No pain, no gain.

Drips and Drabs

I’m not doing very well.
I know i committed to writing through the bad, but i’m not sure that’s a good idea at this point. I can devolve so quickly, like i think i am, now. I don’t think this helps anyone, except maybe me.
If you continue reading, be very clear that I live with serious, multiple diagnosis mental illness, and i’m not doing well right now. You may be triggered by the tone of my writing here. That can be good/helpful if you have a solid support system, but it can be problematic/downright dangerous if you don’t. You’re probably already juggling enough. Get some help before you go any further with this post. It’ll still be here when you’re better prepared.

I have a great support system. So while i’m in an awful emotional place right now, it’s safe for me to feel and think the way I am right now, because I have trustworthy people and protected spaces around me, at this very moment. They cover me, and offer acceptance and understanding.

This is all i can write for now. Just know that things could, and probably will, get rough. The last time i was this vulnerable, i shut down my blog and pretended like it never happened, that i hadn’t shown my soft underbelly to anyone who cared to pay attention.

I’ve been on a bender, and i’ve upset my son, and i’m stressing out my husband. I haven’t been able to cook for a week, and i’m fairly sure i smell bad. Today i made hamburger soup in my Instant Pot, and i’m going to ask my husband to help me shower off my booze and sweat stench, because the bathtub is the scariest place in my house. So today is a success. Maybe i can achieve just a little bit more tomorrow. I have a dear friend who is going to babysit me at her house with cheesy movies. Maybe i can even make supper again. Gotta love my pressure cooker.

I’m not going to be sharing details of what happened to me. It’s awful and private, and it’s not what i made this place for. I made it to share with you that you can overcome terrible things. To share how quirky and weird my brain is, and to share how hard it’s been for me to figure out how to be alive and functional while being a victim of long term, traumatic abuse that split my brain apart into fragments – but i did it, and i’m going to keep doing it. And if i can, maybe you can too.

I will try my hardest to write some more tomorrow. It ain’t gonna be anything spectacular, in fact it’s gonna be maudlin and histrionic and very, very young, because that’s how i feel right now. Very young and very small.
And a bit smelly.

Mind Your Pace

Let us explore it together. Each man hides a secret pain. It must be exposed and reckoned with. It must be dragged from the darkness and forced* into the light. Share your pain. Share your pain with me, and gain strength from the sharing.
~ Sybok, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

I figured out that i needed to be back in therapy.
Great. Go me.
There’s not as much sarcasm there as you might imagine. I’ve become conscious/present/mindful enough that i knew something was up before things got seriously problematic.

So I return to my therapist and I find out that i’m an onion, just like everybody else on the planet; I have layers. Whoopee. (Now that was sarcastic.) This is the next level, deeper healing, my body and my brain trying to get back to where it’s supposed to be. I’m cold, so i shiver, i’m hot so i sweat, i’m hungry i eat, i’m tired i sleep, i’m upset, so i soothe.
Except that last one i’m not so good at.

Anytime i’m upset, my system is ready to do its thing. Now, i’ve spent the last few years practising being the head of my inner household, and that’s involved taking the lead as well and as often as i can when i experience anger or fear. It wasn’t easy. Dissociating is something i’ve done since before i could speak, and it’s nearly as reflexive as breathing. I had to learn what triggered it (no problem there – EVERYTHING!) and identify symptoms that sliding was occurring or a switch likely to happen.
Mindfulness. Mindfulness has been absolutely necessary in this process.

For any who aren’t familiar, Google states that mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” It’s the least pop-psychology, airy-fairy explanation i’ve found. It’s simple and practical, which often works best for me. My imagination is already over 9000, so something uncomplicated and workable can temper my inner chaos quite nicely.
Learning to turn my awareness inward, and listen to what my body is trying to tell me that it needs is going to increase the degree to which i can function in the world.
I seek fulfillment. I want deeper and more meaningful relationships, with reciprocity. I hope to bring more and better to humanity’s table.

It’s been a bit tricky to find the calm and dispassionate observer inside myself, without switching to a disconnected part of me that i made long ago to perform that function. A desensitised transmogrification i have, because i lacked the ability to stay and do it myself, save under the most benign of circumstances. I could pause and take stock if something physical was going on for me, like a cold, or something gastrointestinal, and i wasn’t too bad at it when my children needed that from me, but beyond that, i don’t think i was in the face for that stuff. Even a small amount of stress and anxiety could mean distance, for me. I might become a numb outlier, frozen in the periphery, watching only, affecting nothing.

I started mindfulness with my therapist, here in my Little Crooked House. At first, i couldn’t even close my eyes, and she had to sit on the far side of the room from me. We began with easy observations, like whether i’m warm or cold, am i hungry, do i have a headache today, how’s my fibro pain… I could feel the calm flowing in just from an easy, surface check-in. I’ve always found these psychological exercises difficult – i can become snarky and eye-rollish. I feel extremely uncomfortable because my mother was into every new therapy that came around, and she expected me to perform for whatever group she was trying to fit into at the time. She wasn’t using these tools to deal with her issues and make a better life for us, she used the people in these groups for attention, for pity, for money. She also had a deep disdain for the practitioners of these various methods. I picked up that scorn and still struggle with it, every time my counsellor brings up something new.
Besides, it never did anything for my mother except make her more dangerous, so my reflex response is usually to cringe and call bullshit.

The breakthrough came in the shower. The bathroom is the most triggery room in the house for me, and i’ve had to fight to develop decent, regular hygiene. It’s not just a reminder of abuse, but also of its aftermath. And there are always mirrors, which are a delicate business. I always dissociate to some extent when i look in one. Touching my face, touching my body, toileting, all these daily activities that occur in the bathroom are minefields for me even when i’m doing well.

One day i’d had enough of feeling scared and repulsed every time i shower. I decided to use what i was learning in therapy. I felt the warm water on my skin. I felt my feet touching the bottom of the tub. I could smell soap. I looked at the shower curtain that i’d bought at the store because the colour calmed me. I reminded myself that i’m not a child anymore, and the people who hurt me in the bathroom are either dead or no longer in my life. My husband wouldn’t allow any of them to get near me. I’m big now and able to defend myself. I like being clean and smelling nice, because it makes me feel normal and capable and strong and grown up.

It worked. I can stay in the shower for longer than 10mins now. I can take hot showers if i want to, and talk myself through it if i get freaked out. I don’t even lock the door anymore. A few years of bathroom mindfulness later and i can stand naked in front of the mirror after showering and do my skincare regimen. I still recede a little to wash my face and do my makeup – but i don’t have to leave anymore and let someone else do it. I never thought i’d be able to use the bathroom like a regular person.

Mindfulness is an effective coping skill whenever i use it, but i still need lots of practise. I’ve brought it into my eating habits with great success. I ask myself if i’m hungry and check in with my body. If i don’t feel it physically, i try not to eat. (I will occasionally allow myself to soothe with food, but it’s rare.) I also try to eat at the table, especially when i’m alone, so i’m conscious of how much i’m eating. It’s also easier to catch myself if i’m gobbling it down. Then i remember that i’m no longer a child going through extreme poverty, nor am i being punished or rewarded with food. I’m a grown woman who has a full refrigerator and a stocked pantry. My mother’s dead and can never starve me again.

Social situations are where i still struggle to use mindfulness. It’s difficult to stop myself from shifting to automatic when i’m around people, but when i do the benefits are amazing and deeply impactful. Some friends actually ask if they can touch me now, and although i’ve come far enough along that i’m mostly okay with physical contact, being asked my permission heals broken parts of me on the deepest level. It gives my system a sense of safety they’ve never had, but desperately wanted. I’ve got a long ways to go, but peopling productively and successfully will require no less than my lifetime i reckon, so i’m reconciled to the work. I love people, and the better i get at being around them, the easier it will be to show them how much.

I brought up mindfulness because i believe it’s part of the reason i lost time on Thursday. The thing about it that’s perhaps the hardest part for me, is that it requires me not to be numb (freeze). I’ve got to find that sweet spot where i’m fully present in my body, but not being swept away by my emotions or overwhelmed by physical sensations, where fight/flight can kick in. I must venture out from the graveyard where my brain hides, and be manifest among the living. To not only see but to be seen.

This will take time and effort, which i knew, but there was a piece missing. My therapist had been gently trying to show me, week after week, but i kept missing her point.
I’ve done all this work over the years, all this incredibly hard work. And it took maximum effort and total commitment. It was arduous, but i did it assiduously. Some of it was nothing short of brutal. I can do time and effort.

So i came into this a little puffed up. I have accomplished a lot, and i figured that i was so experienced at this kind of inner work, that i was gonna power through it and just get it done. My childhood was hellish and i survived. I live with a bunch of other people in my brain and i make it work. I got this.
My body seeks homeostasis, so i must establish a baseline? Okay, lemme jus’ go back to my therapist for a few sessions, she’ll tell me what i have to do, i’ll do it – boom. Done.

I’m having trouble writing some transitional sentences to get you to the point i’m trying to make. I think my difficulty is a reflection of where i’m at with this bit of information. The knowledge that i can’t push or power through this next bit of treatment. This foul chunk of reality that i must chew and swallow if i want my dessert. It chased me right out of my own damn face.
I have to be mindful while i go through the traumatic events of my childhood. I must meet my Bits N’ Pieces where they’re at, join hands with them, and feel what they feel while knowing what i know. Mindfulness can’t be done quickly. Mindfulness is methodical. I can’t just take a quick dip in this slough. I can’t just burn rubber and rip through the neighbourhood.

Pardon me, but fuck, fuckety-fuck.

Back around 10yrs ago, i barfed up my story for my husband, and a few blog buddies. I shut that blog down tight shortly thereafter and i don’t discuss it with my husband unless i absolutely have to, which up until a few months ago, wasn’t very often. And one of my favourite things about my therapist, was that she never asked me to tell my story.

Well.
<insert Maximus Profanitatum here>

Everything inside me was created to hide the truth. I was hardwired never to speak about it, to denydenydeny. I dealt with that by mastering the way my brain works.
The leader of my pack.
The Wah-wah-wah teacher of my own Peanut Gallery.
I am Queen Face of Cuckoo Island.
But the first rule of Fight Club applies. (Yeah, i don’t care for the trope, but it was an excellent movie, and i saw it before i found my anger about it.)

I’ve become close with my system. With some i’m parental, with some i’m the boss, but i’m friends with them all, and i love every one: deeply, emphatically, and unconditionally. They’ve taught me how to love myself, because of course, they are me. Yet i loved them as a separate entity first. I looked at it like, they lived in my brain, but they weren’t a part or product of my brain. (Having mutant-level imagination made these concepts easy for me to grasp, but i think you’ll get the gist.) The time came where i’d learned enough about them and had enough conscious awareness as a multiple, that these partitions in my mind melted away, and i had a psychological experience of them as part of me and my brain.

That experience has made my life richer and finer by far, but the abuse is not discussed, per se. There are little bits that are trapped in a moment, and those that are not much more than emotion, but i gently care for them, and conversation about what or why they are hasn’t seemed necessary. Until now. And i understand why this process can’t be rushed and must be mindful. They are delicate creatures, and they’ve been through more than enough already. They need me to hold their hand while they tell their story, and so i will.

I know now why a good therapist had to let me walk away, knowing that i probably wasn’t done yet. Because it must all be my choice:

– how to live with how my brain works,
– how involved with other humans i want to be,
– how much real world function would i like to have,
– what is healing?
– what is successful?
– what is fulfilling/fulfilled?

And the most important thing of all is that it must be on my time. None of this can ever be forced* – not by her, not even by me. She said it a couple of weeks ago and it’s reverberated in my head ever since. She said that she would never, ever try to force us to do anything we didn’t want to do. She said that forcing is abuse, and we were forced, over and over, and that needs to not happen again.
This means that i have no idea how long this process will take, but it ain’t gonna be done anytime soon.

I love Star Trek, and i’ve seen all the movies (don’t even talk to me about the reboots, as they don’t count in my world). Since i accepted that i must move through this process slowly and meaningfully, i keep thinking about The Final Frontier. I see myself as Sybok, moving amongst these strange aliens and offering to share their pain.

It is through maudlin sentimentality, dark humour, and cheesy movies, that i will survive.

Stay tuned.

*It’s a great quote, and fits, except for his use of force. Sybok was a bit off, and he was wrong about god, so i think it still works for me. Heh.

Naked Brain Bits

Yesterday was a bit of a downer, huh? I’m sorry about that, but i think, at least for now, it’s important to put up some of the pieces that come from other parts of my system.

Ugh, i hate how that looks on the screen, but there it is. To refer to them in a more specific way than to say i’m a multiple, exposes me and leaves me vulnerable to attack. Up until a couple of years ago, i kept my diagnosis to myself. Everyone knew i’m bipolar, and that felt like enough. It gave people a reason that i act the way i do, but it spared me the sideshow freaky part, and the potential for disbelief. It’s a controversial diagnosis out there in the real world, and it was hard enough for me to accept it, so while i don’t blame folks for having their “Really, Sybill?” moments, i can ill afford the emotional cost to help anyone else get there.

This is where the portrayal of multiples has done so much damage.
Also, Fuck you, Shyamalan. And a hearty Fuck you to Criminal Minds and aaaall the Law&Orders. Fuck you very much.

A quick aside here though: I think it’s worth it to point out that my diagnosis has been received much more easily by your average non-professional than by those working in the vast and boggy field of mental health care. My GP is the greatest doctor that ever GP’ed, i’d not trade her for a bucket of gold. Seriously. But i learned after the second or third time i brought it up, not to talk to her about it. She looked like she’d rather mop a slaughterhouse floor. Hell, her face looked like she WAS mopping one. And my psychiatrist who handled my Bipolar Disorder interrupted me to say, not a bit brusquely, that he didn’t know a thing about that, and had no intention or desire to educate himself in that area. My therapist who treats me has encountered that attitude with many psychologists and psychiatrists.
Real doctors don’t read that chapter of the DSM-V.

For regular folks it’s mostly been a mixture of “Okay, if you say so,” with a shrug, to, “Wow, really? That’s weird and kinda cool.”* Those ones usually come back later with questions, which is always fine with me. I may choose not to answer, and i definitely don’t perform, but i welcome questions.
I am very okay with anyone giving a shit.

Not so quick an aside, i guess. Heh.

Back to being naked. The figurative kind.
You don’t need to know this, but i’m telling you anyway: I’m always clothed, unless i’m showering or sexing. The simple and pure joy of nudity is another thing that sexual abuse stole from me, and it’s one of the things i’d like to take back.

This kind of vulnerability, this level of exposure, is scary for me. I’ve set the stage for it, by sharing all the things that i have already, and i fully consent, and i’m cleverly using soft candlelight, but i’m still baring some bits that i usually keep to myself. There are very few people that i discuss being multiple with in real life. My husband and my children. 2 lovely girlfriends in the town where i live. The interwebs are a bit different. Obviously, i have my blog here, and i share that, and i have a very dear group of friends that i met on a fan site over 15yrs ago, with whom i’m much more forthcoming about being multiple, but that’s been it. And i don’t go back and make an announcement that i was switched when i wrote that or someone else did that thing there. I’ll say, I’ve been in a mood today, or hint at it and say, I’m not quite myself today, or if it’s getting out of hand, i’ll just state that i’m taking a break from social media, ttyl.

This is a whole. nutha. level.
I’m saying that someone in my system bashed that out on my phone in the van yesterday. In my husband’s work van while he was in someone’s house, cleaning up from a renovation that his company did. He’d picked me up somewhere in the city because i’d switched and gotten lost, or gotten lost and switched (i’m not clear on that yet, and may never be).
Therapy is getting more difficult every time i go. My husband drops me off and quite often i have a friend that picks me up and takes me home. She’s wonderful, and i’m super-fortunate to have her in my life. Yesterday though, she had an appointment, so i’d planned to bus it to where she was at. It’s no small point of pride for me that I’ve become rather adept at using public transit. Getting lost has always been a huuuuge trigger, and for years i couldn’t handle the stress of buses or trains on my own. I’d immediately get all floaty in my brain, which is a sign that i’m sliding and i’m ripe for a switch. It’s like an aura before a migraine. I worked to conquer that trigger last year, and i’d been traipsing around the city with no problems for months, so it didn’t even occur to me that it might be a problem for me now.
Lemme tell ya, it was a bloody problem.
(I’m going to move on now, but as i’m proofreading and editing I can see that this reads unfinished. This is all i have, though. Therapy was hard, i left the office, and suddenly i’m in the van with my husband. We’re parked on our little country road, and i’m drinking an alcoholic beverage and crying. Sometimes, i’ll get a bit more information about the blank space as time passes, but i often won’t.)

I’m all in my feelings these days, and not always great at handling them. Cue my precious Bits N’ Pieces, with varying levels of happy-to-help! one level being not happy at all. I should have seen it coming with the trouble i was having using the transit app to plan my trip. It wasn’t going smoothly, and i was getting frustrated and foggy-brained even before my appointment. I’ll try not to make that mistake again. It was all there, down to the concerned look on my husband’s face as he dropped me off. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d seen trouble on the horizon.

Wow. I’m flitting about from flower to flower in this piece, eh? I think people with ADHD might relate to this part of how my brain works. When my system gets riled up there’s more and louder conversations going on, and my attention is pulled to THIS ONE! that used a trigger word, and THAT ONE! that’s yelling, and OH! someone’s crying…

So. That thing from yesterday that wasn’t poetry, but sure as hell wasn’t prose. I didn’t write that. I have no memory of it, although i am the one who put it up on my blog. Because she had something to say and she deserves to be heard.
Naked brain bits.
I haz them.

* People don’t actually say those things. I’m putting words to their expressions for illustrative purposes.

IMAGE: The Brain, by Naked Human Bodies

Red Robin

This was a tough day. I lost myself for a while.
I see i’m taking a turn with blogging. What i mean is…Thbfft. I don’t know. The things i write feel less random; i have more of a sense of purpose. Which is scary, because
what if no one picks up what i’m throwing down?

I’m not sure this belongs here, but let’s try. I’ve fucked up and freaked out before and i’m still here. My therapist said today (again, because i need it repeated) that no one ever died from feeling their feelings.

I wrote this but i didn’t.
WARNING: Contains references to childhood sexual abuse.

This throb throb throbbin’
blob goblin

Stomp stompin’
Stop your rompin’,

You’re blockin’ my talkin’ and rockin’ my noggin
Pop a sock in and i’ll drop the sobs and turn the knob

My open gob is toxic shock

My bleeding lips and broken box will feed and slip
Your twisted locks

I’m thump thump thumpin’
My blood’s still thrummin’ and you’ve got nothin’

You walk my block and pimp my tots
You robbed my plots

I balked, i stalked, i hid behind your seething thoughts
Gripped the lynchpin while you were pumpin’ filth and grinnin’

I bobbed and slipped your pinching hips
I clobbered
I punched your slobbing dick in

I cry
They lie
My head it died
I’m satisfied
They’re fried

I fly and wave goodbye