Reciprocity

Okay, keep in mind that i’m at a place in my therapy where every breath i take and every experience i have and every feeling i feel is new and weird.
I’m very weepy and feeling sorry for myself. So yeah, i think all the pertinent preamble is out of the way:

Today i realised that i am alone, and i don’t want to be, but i haven’t found where i belong in the real world.
I’ve done so much work to strip away all the fear and the artifice. To know who i am and figure out what i want.

I knew i was a mess of protections and pretenses, and the way i found to get around all of them was to become a hermit out here on our farm. That was when i discovered i was kind of introverted, something that shocked the hell outta me.
Between honouring that and having the newfound sense to stay away from people i was only friends with due my former high risk lifestyle, i only had a few friends.

Another thing i found out about myself is that, most of the time, i prefer to listen rather than talk. Maybe it was because after all the years i’d spent being extroverted, i needed some rest. Regardless of the reason though, i became the listening friend. I also found i was content to sit on the sidelines and watch things. I had no desire to be the centre of attention – the rowdier things got, the further i retreated.

After being this way for some years, it started to sort of seep into my consciousness that there was some disparity in the give and take in some of my friendships, particularly in the emotional area. I put it down to me vacillating between oversharing and not saying anything, but eventually i realised it was more than that.

With respect to “real life” friendships (and by that i mean not my friends online) it became clear that most of them didn’t know me, and maybe didn’t care to. Our friendship was about them and their life and their experiences. Whenever i tried to steer the conversation to what was going on in my life and how i was feeling about stuff, it was painfully obvious that they were scarcely listening. They were waiting for a moment when they could break in and get back to talking about themselves.
So i did more housecleaning, and i had just a couple of friends left, only 1 of whom i would say i was close to, but 2 or 3 i thought i could build more intimacy with if i tried. Once i felt ready.

Cue COVID.

I’ve been very careful to follow protocols, although i must be honest and tell you that there were 3 or 4 times when my mental issues got the better of me and i interacted with my 1 close friend without observing recommended masking, washing, distancing hygiene. She was fine with it, as she does not strictly follow them anyway. She probably kept me from going straight off the rails, and i’ll always be grateful. As i should be. Fortunately, we’re both virus-free, as are our housemates.

This pandemic afforded me the opportunity to focus pretty much exclusively on myself and my health. I’ve made good strides forward and met a number of significant goals. I’m living a much more present and mindful life. I’ve been standing up for myself and asking for what i want, in instances and with people that i would not have before. This level of isolation for this length of time has allowed me to embrace who i am as a person, but now i’d like to take myself out for a trial run.

It’s become abundantly clear that my local area isn’t where i’m likely to find what i’m looking for. It’s beautiful to look at, and the familiarity of my surroundings has given me a sense of safety and comfort. But that sense of being protected from harm is surface, at best. Seeing the same flora and fauna and geographical features as i’ve always seen does not mean i’m safe and okay. I’ve healed and matured enough that i know my hyper-focused need for those things had its roots in trauma. I can now take proper care of myself, including risk assessment and setting myself up for successful outcomes in my daily activities and interactions.

And while i’m not arrogant enough to think that there is no one here for me, i have been pushed to the breaking point with regards to what’s going on around me. I’m disillusioned and despondent and enraged and verging on misanthropy. Experience with and knowledge of myself as a person tells me that that will soften over time. However right now i am in it, and i honestly have no desire to be over it just yet.
I’m sickened and disgusted by almost everyone’s behaviour.
This includes people that i love and am committed to and will continue to be in relationship with after this is over.

Please understand that while i look like an adult, in significant ways i am new to being one. I’ve been there intellectually for some time, but emotionally i have felt and processed things as a child. A child doing her level best to be a good adult, but a child nonetheless. I am a mass of contradictions and stages of development, because i have lived my life as pieces of a person.

I am the shards of glass in a broken mirror; the ones that are still stuck together in your bedroom, from when you were checking yourself before you went out to a fancy dinner, and OH SHIT IS THAT A ZIT?! and you leaned in closer to see, and twisted on your high heels that you suck at walking in but wear because they’re so pretty, and you fell into your own reflection and smacked the mirror with your big damn cement forehead that’s more like a fivehead and… Great. Is it 7yrs bad luck if the mirror is cracked but doesn’t scatter on the floor? and Nevermind the zit now, because i cut my head on the mirror and i’m bleeding…
(This great mental picture/metaphor brought to you by life as a klutz.)

As i practise these new life skills and try to be a contributing member of society, i’m finding real life experience with how doing so requires interaction and relationships with people in my actual physical vicinity. I have a wonderful group of cherished friends that have been and will continue to be a beautiful, wonderful source of connection and support.
But… They are internet peoples and they are all thousands of kilometres away.
And i am alone and very lonely.

I don’t have a circle or tribe or peer group to return to once the world opens back up.
I need to build one. Find one. Knock on some doors and ask for entry. Wave on the sidelines and hope for a welcome sign in return.

I need to talk to someone for a very long time without being interrupted. And then i need them to talk back and have responses to what i said that keep the spotlight on me and what i’ve said and what i’m going through. I am becoming desperate for someone to know me –to really deeply and truly KNOW ME— and i will tell you the truth here and say that i don’t think i have anyone in my life that does. I’ve split myself open because i had to in order to survive and be who i want to be, but i don’t have anyone who will look at my guts spilled out on the table, turn and look me in the eye, really LOOK at me, and say something salient and savvy that convinces me to my core that they’ve listened and heard me, and then offer to help me stuff all my viscera back in their proper place.

When i was a child my mother called me “Chatty Cathy.” Chatty Cathy was a doll that talked when you pulled a string, but the name became a part of her generation’s lexicon, meaning a girl who talked too much. I did talk a lot. I have always had a large and animated personality. One of the things that helped me get healthy was getting very quiet though. Cutting down on the outside talk helped me to hear my inside talk. Listening to other people talk about themselves helped me learn to control the constant chatter that goes on in my brain. I’m not sure i can explain this so it makes sense but, being raised to be used by others made me so sick and twisted inside that i was actually hopelessly self-focused. I was unable to think about anything but my own survival, even though my conscious understanding of myself and any of my inner workings had been hobbled by childhood brainwashing and abuse.

Through the healing process i found myself bristling at any hint of me being very talkative. These last few years i can tell you that it simply isn’t true anymore. I pour my heart out here on my blog. I show who i am on social media and with my treasured group of internet friends, but i don’t have that kind of intimacy with anyone with whom i currently share physical location.
I don’t talk too much, in fact, i’ve become rather quiet.
I am somewhat quiet, it turns out.
But i am still, in my DNA, 10lbs of personality stuffed into a 5lb sack.

My problem is, i need some people to be around while i am living a more genuine life and letting my true self show. Not partner, not kids, but bosom buddies and lifelong pals. I see this in movies and on television. I’m fascinated by true crime stories, and when a woman disappears or is tragically taken, i’m riveted to her girlfriends talking about how awesome she was, and their fond tales of all of their adventures together. It especially makes my heart clench up when they relate how they were there for each other; one of them would be having a tough time and the rest of them would rush in and share space with them.
How they knew something was wrong because they talked every day and suddenly didn’t hear from her.

I’m scared and ashamed to type it out on the screen, but i think i want that for myself.
I want friendship with equality and equity.
And quality, too.
I’m not expecting it to show up on my doorstep. I don’t hold with the idea that i can manifest it – that “if you build it, they will come,” mentality. I’m also not blaming anyone, including myself, for not having this in my life.
I have proven a rather lousy friend in the past. I was unavailable and unreliable, in various ways and most of the time. I knew nothing about boundaries, either to keep or to respect. I’m sure i’ve come across as fake to some, and they were on the right track, although it was unconscious and unintentional.

I’m tired of being alone and feeling this lonely. I’m champing at the bit, ready to put myself out there and get more of what i want out of life. I’m honouring myself and respecting the process, and in doing so have found that i can be quiet and introspective and introverted. In sitting with that and soaking up all the healing it’s brought me, i now feel able to embrace the vivacious and outgoing part of me. I’m not ashamed to be this big and intense personality that is not for everyone.
It’s weird and topsy-turvy.
But that’s me.

I feel better getting this out of me and sharing it.
Thanks for being here and reading.
Love and Peace,
~H~

IMAGE: Luís Eusébio

But I

I would prefer to be mad about it
but i’m trying to be a grownup
I call myself a late bloomer
but i’m old for crissake’s
I built this space around me
but it was given to me for nothing
I wish she was still here
but i cannot thank her now
I only have people in here that i want
but they don’t return the favour
I wonder about wandering
but i’d get no understanding
I know that i’d be on my own
but i’ve always been alone
I thought i had someone
but the desert between us says no
I think these plans are wise to make
but i sure don’t want to make them
I might find a grand adventure
but i think i probably won’t
I will have my self-respect
but not much else besides
I can’t say i didn’t try
but everyone else probably will
I suppose it won’t matter
but oh boy i know it does
I’d like to be in a rage about it all
but i’m just sitting here crying
I feel relief in the decision
but it hurts all the same
I don’t want to do this
but i might die if i don’t
I am already saying goodbye

~ Mine, May 10, 2021

IMAGE: Atlas Green

Farthest Away

It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo.
The ones that really mattered.
Full of darkness and danger they were,
and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end.
Because how could the end be happy.
How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened.
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.
Even darkness must pass.

~ The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

Yesterday felt like hitting a wall.

I feel like Samwise Gamgee when he says, “If I take one more step, I’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.”

Everything i’m doing feels like the first time i’ve ever done it. It’s a strange business i’m up to, here. My system is all still with me, still functional. I hear them and feel them in my brain, although their voices are quieter and there is a restlessness that’s missing. Normally, they flutter about like nervous birds, like anxious, insipid Victorian women in an Austen story. They’ve always got the vapours; mad as hops, they are. They’re scared and broken children trying to avoid rejection and pain. The floor is lava.

Wow, writing about that took me away for a solid 20 minutes. Interesting. My mind slid from the screen and the keyboard, and turned inward. I went up and sat with them for a spell. We were all quiet. My thoughts were soft and mild. I don’t know if this will make any kind of sense to any reader, but i’m bound to try and the descriptions sit well with me. It was like a silent palaver over what i’m about to write. I believe i have the stamp of approval. Heh.

I don’t pay much attention to other people who are multiples. My childhood programming is maybe too strong, yet. I have a visceral disgust reaction and i immediately distrust them. It was clever of my primary abusers to instill that in me, as it kept me isolated and away from information that might have helped me get away from them.

I share that to preface that i don’t actually know much about how other people with a DID diagnosis experience their multiplicity. If it’s like what is portrayed in movies and television, then we won’t have much to commiserate over. I suspect that it’s not, though. I’ve read a number of articles written by people like me objecting to the existing tropes one finds in media.
I’m no serial killer. I do have a violent part in my system, but they just break things – not people.

Despite blogging a lot about being a multiple, i’m very private about some of the details. It’s like, i’ll have you over for lunch, but we won’t be eating in the bathroom, you know? Some things aren’t for sharing. I’ve also kept some things to myself because my system is fear-based. My precious Bits N’ Pieces don’t trust anyone but me, and that took years of hard work and patience. I didn’t write about some stuff because it would have been seen as a betrayal. I needed to prove myself worthy to be the caregiver for this passel of messed up mutants.

Again, that’s a preamble, to this: From what i’ve gathered about other multiples, i am somewhat different. While i do experience hard switches (that’s where i’m not aware of what’s happening or what has happened, once i’m back in control), i’ve never not been aware of the people that live in my brain… I’d assumed that that was how everyone’s brain worked.

The constant chatter and commentary, the different voices, each voice having its own “feel” and some sort of mental picture attached to it… I’ve referred to them as my Peanut Gallery since i was a very small child.
Only i didn’t understand that they were split off parts of me.
I didn’t know that they held information that i did not have.
They knew things i didn’t.

Once i (finally!) began considering the possibility that i had Multiple Personality Disorder (what DID was called at the time), i learned that my brain functioned in some different ways from most. I was shocked to learn that people experience moments when their brain is silent. And my Peanut Gallery is a lot more fleshed out and separate than the voices most people hear in their heads. Plus, mine aren’t the voices of people i know or have known. I asked tonnes of questions about others’ thoughts and inner commentary, and the more they talked the more clear it was that i was different.

Between speaking with non-multiples, and my limited experience with others like me, it would seem i’m unique in some ways. I’d have to wade into association with other multiples to test it though, and i’m definitely not interested in that – at least for the time being. (Yes, my reaction to other multiples really is that strong. It’s something i still don’t have much control over.)

From what i’ve gathered the lines are more thickly drawn, the boundaries more tangible. For them there’s more switching (loss of time) and less sliding (what i call being somewhat aware, but not in control). Most multiples seem not to share thought-space with their alters, whereas mine are accessible to me almost all the time. I can put out feelers, mentally speaking, and find them up there, hanging out in a part of my brain-aether. I can have conversations with most of them, although i had to work at that with quite a few. Some i can only feel at certain times, some i’ve never heard, i only feel. Some won’t speak to me, and some won’t speak to anyone, and some don’t speak at all. Yet there is a coexistence between us, and a sharing of thought-space and the passage of time that i haven’t heard shared from others with DID. It could be a common trait, i don’t know.

I’m not integrated, not by the current definition used in the field.*

At first i railed against integration. It was anathema to me. I saw it as murder.
Now, i just don’t think it’s the right word, as the meaning doesn’t entirely fit.
All of this is nebulous and esoteric though, and that’s okay with me.
It has to be, because so little is known. Studies are hard to set up and not many meet the standards set by their fellow research psychologists and psychiatrists. And some of those don’t stand up to rigorous examination.
I don’t know if much of what i think or what i’ve done or how i’ve coped could stand up to proper scientific scrutiny, so i move forward based on results. It’s the best i’ve got.

All of this to get back to my original point. (Sorry, i’m scattered today.)

I’m experiencing life with the lowest level of dissociation, ever. It’s strange. I have an emotion and my first reaction is panic, because it feels intense. Say my husband does something i find irritating. The irritation floods my upper body: my face squinches up, and my arms and fingers feel warm and tingly; i’m literally wringing my hands. My chest feels a weight settle on it, and my heart feels as if an anxious hand is squeezing it like a stress ball. My inclination is to make some snappish comment at my husband – when i feel panicky i react like a stray dog that’s been cornered, i.e. i bark and i might bite.

If i’m present enough to realise what’s happening, i consciously note it, and then remind myself of what i’m currently going through. This is a process, and i can move through this feeling without being prickly. Can i let it go? Do i want to, or would i feel better if i addressed it? Then i tap into appropriate coping and communication skills accordingly. Sometimes i react before i’m fully present and in a mindful state. Then i apologise, process what happened, and make amends if necessary.

Maybe i’m watching a true crime documentary and someone has lost a loved one. Man, i thought i cared before… These days it’s not uncommon for me to actually shed tears. Empathy courses through me and again, i feel panicky. It’s during times like this that depression and pessimism can slide in and colour everything i see and inform every thought i have. When this happens i talk to myself gently, as one would to a child, because that’s exactly what i’m dealing with – the kids that live in my brain are relating to the violence and loss and pain in the (true) story, and it’s my job to hold their hand and talk them through it. And when they’ve (i’ve) calmed some, i tell them (me) that it’s not for us to take all that on. That’s someone else’s life and story and it’s for them and their support system and their familial/cultural/societal/political circles and structures to handle the tragedy and its aftermath. I’m bearing witness but it is not my job to fix it. I cannot mete out justice, and it’s neither possible nor appropriate for me to absorb their pain.

Just a couple of examples, but hopefully i’ve given some idea of what my days are like.
It all feels like a lot, yet i’m not overwhelmed. I feel settled inside, somehow. I understand that this is a part of the process. This is a part of my path that i must walk through to get where i want to go – and it makes perfect sense to me and i’m okay with it. I’m handling life in real time, somewhat clumsily, but that will change as i become more accustomed to this new level of consciousness and functionality.

Samwise took that step; away from familiarity, away from family, away from everything he’d ever known. He stepped away from the cozening touch of the everyday, and became part of a grand adventure that, if not for him, could have brought about the end of everything good and right in the world.

A new day will come, and when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. I know now folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something. That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.
~ The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien


I don’t know what the heck this post is, or if it’ll help anyone, but it seemed determined to come out of me… And so there you have it.
It’s weird.
Life is weird, and so am i.
Cool beans.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*Integration is a tricky subject for me. I’m working on a post about it, but it’s not ready. For now, this is all i have to share.

IMAGE: Stefano Marinelli

I Once Was Lost

Nothing’s ever lost forever
It’s just hiding in the recess of your mind
And when you need it
It will come to you at night
~ *Amanda Palmer, Lost


Palmer speaks the truth, but she neglects to mention that it usually hits when what i need more than anything, is sleep. Heh. Which is okay at this point, because i’ve wrestled with insomnia for most of my life. Many of the things that have come to me while laying there trying not to give myself a rage-induced aneurysm have proved worth the loss of sleep – and then some.

Last night i felt it as strongly as i’ve ever felt it; this feeling of being on the edge of a brand new life. Like adding Kool-Aid to water, little granules of colour pop open and roll through the liquid like a cartoon wave. I’m on a precipice. I’m standing here, eyes fixed on the rising sun, and i intend to step off soon. I’m only barely afraid.

I’m not at the end; i am preparing to begin. I’ve been working my way towards this moment for the last 20yrs. I’ve been working on all of myself all this time. The mental, the emotional, the physical. I’ve tried this, and when it didn’t work well enough, for long enough or at all, i dropped it and tried that. I sift through the wreckage of my childhood and my many failures as an adult, gleaning what i may. I gather information and i pocket tools for future use.

I’ve invested time and effort, finding stores of strength and patience i was surprised i had in me. I’ve been dogged and steadfast. I’ve displayed courage at every turn. When i’ve fallen, i’ve turned my inner gaze to my husband and my children and picked myself up through sheer force of will. I’ve cut everything and everyone from my life that was an impediment to me being who i want to be, no matter how difficult or painful.

I no longer carry baggage that isn’t mine. If i stink, it’ll be my shit you smell, and i’ll look you in the eye and cop to it. I’ve done a forensic examination of my life, and i know where i overspent and threw good money after bad. I make sound investments now; in myself, in my husband and our marriage, in my children and their future. I might throw a little at a new investment on occasion, but if i don’t see dividends quick enough, i’ll cash out early and take the loss.

I keep grand pronouncements to a minimum. There was a time early on in my path to healing, where soapboxing was very important, but not so much now. I tell the people who need to know, and those who’ve demonstrated that they want to know and are worthy of knowing. Beyond that, i don’t often bother. There is a genuine humility that’s come from all this work. I respect how hard it is because i have direct, personal experience with it being so. It is the opposite of easy to meet one’s demons where they dwell; inside, in the dark. The most private of places, where it is only me and their shadows. It’s not for everyone. Not everyone wants to, and not everyone can.

I had to, because that is who i am and how i work.
I had to, in order to have the life that i want for myself.

This pandemic will hopefully be mostly over by the end of this year.
I intend to step off the edge and plummet into the unknown around the same time.
My parachute should hold.

No one’s ever lost forever
When they die they go away
But they will visit you occasionally
Do not be afraid
No one’s ever lost forever
They are caught inside your heart
If you garden them and water them
They make you what you are
*

I was lost but now i’m not.
They are dead or gone but they’re all still here.
With me, in my garden.
I planted them up to their necks in my fertile soil.
I breathed into them and they live.
I’m watching them blossom into beauty.
My love is the sun and my toil is rain.
I am the gate and the bench and the sky.
It’s all me and it’s all for me.
All praise is mine.
I bow, i genuflect, i sing mass to my own resurrection.
I worship the verdant lushness of my non-existent soul.



IMAGE: Nicolas Tissot

Where I’m At

There’s a destination a little up the road
From the habitations and the towns we know
A place we saw the lights turn low
The jig-saw jazz and the get-fresh flow
~ Beck, Where It’s A
t


Yesterday my therapist suggested that i write about where i’m at, as she thinks it’s very significant and something i should mark so that i can return to it whenever i want or need to.

I haven’t spoken to anyone but her about it, but i’m much less dissociative than i was. Even 6mos ago i would slide daily, and i struggled not to be at least somewhat dissociated most of the time. I’ve felt different –weird– for some months now, and i think that’s the cause. It’s all so new, so delicate, so deeply personal, that i’m not certain i want to write about it. I trust her though, so i will.

Late last year i decided a couple of people in my life had to change their behaviour towards me, or i would need to take steps to distance myself from them. These are relationships i treasure. I love these people very much, and that won’t change. Their treatment of me had been unacceptable in some ways for a long time, but i had tolerated it due to guilt and shame over being mentally ill. Many of my behaviours were unacceptable too, and i’d put these loved ones through much stress and not a little suffering. So i thought i deserved it. I also thought that it helped balance things out in our relationship, a little.

It doesn’t work that way. That’s sick thinking from a sick brain. Personal flaws and failings don’t negate the need for boundaries and respect in relationships. I live with serious, multiple diagnoses mental illness, and it’s a LOT, and it’s COMPLICATED.
But does that mean i don’t deserve happiness and fulfillment?
Does that mean i am unworthy of respect and care?
I knew the answer was NO for everyone else, but i’ve struggled to believe that for myself.

Every once in a while i’d get backed into a corner and come out (figuratively) swinging.
And sometimes i’d run out of energy and restraint and tear the world down around me because i was hurt.
Mostly though, i kept my head down and my mouth shut. It ate away at these relationships, eroding trust and safety and intimacy, until i found myself not wanting to be around them anymore. These precious loved ones. The desire to get away from them was like acid in my guts.

As i continue my work in therapy, confronting my past and pursuing healing, my thinking has become clearer. I’m learning to listen to my brain and my body and give myself what i need. In providing my own care i’m building trust. My brain and my body (as well as my system) are learning that i am capable of taking care of all of my parts now: mental, emotional, physical. I’m growing up and becoming a competent, dare i say adept, caregiver – of myself.

This competency and its resultant increase in trust has meant less upheaval and tumult in my life. I’m less predictably unpredictable, if you will. That being said, February and March saw the return of some old, unacceptable behaviours. It scared me, and i thought i was backsliding. What if i started switching all the time again? What if i started losing my temper and breaking shit? What if i took off for a few days? And what if my loss of control cost me or my family their physical health?*

It signalled to me that i was freaking out on some level. But why?
After therapy on Wednesday i think i know.

Each step along the path brings me closer to a more functional, more normal way of life and living. I struggle with change, with the unknown, even if it’s good. And once i got away from my mother, and the constant threat she presented, i set things up in ways that seemed safe to me. I avoided the unknown and change as much as possible.

I’ve been highly dissociative for as long as i can remember, and almost certainly before that.
Living a conscious, mindful life is still foreign to me, and most days i’m moving a little closer to embracing it fully (as fully as i can). This is new territory, every day. I’m walking away from what i know, with intent and purpose. Some days feel like every step is a trigger.

It can feel like i’m Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
In the first minutes of the film, he’s grabbed the statue as carefully as he can, but the booby-trap is sprung anyway, so he sprints across the stones, dodging poisoned arrows on both sides.
Kinda like that, except it’s my own brain spitting the poisoned arrows at me.

In some ways, i’m working against myself. I have parts of me that are aligned with my abusers, and they are there to absorb abusive behaviour. To tolerate intolerable things. I’m programmed to take other people’s crap, and then blame myself for it. I was made to be a receptacle for other people’s garbage. When i stand up for myself, when i say Stop or No, when i ask for something i feel ashamed to want, it causes those parts of me to come up against me. They try to shut me up and shut me down. Some say things i heard from my mother like, Who do you think you are? and How dare you? And they’re very good at bringing up lots of reasons why i have no right to ask for anything, and why i should consider myself lucky that anyone abides me at all.

They were created in a terrible moment, and that’s where they live and that’s all they know.
What i’m attempting to do now, is convince them to come along with me as i grow up and away from those moments. I’m moving into real time, and i no longer need to relive or otherwise revisit those terrible points of my life. I only look back now to see them (the parts in my system, not my bad memories), to call them to me, to gather them close and hold them for always.

This last year i’ve come to realise just how much of my life i’ve spent in some level of dissociation. It’s been incredibly painful to learn that it’s been the vast majority of my life. I’ve been heartbroken over all that i’ve lost; all that was taken from me. But i was done with crying and ready to move forward. To walk into the unknown and make a life for myself. To allow myself to dream of a future and make plans for it like it was a real possibility. Because it is.

These last few weeks i’ve barely dissociated at all. My brain has been relatively quiet – as close to quiet as it’s ever been. I’m not fighting to maintain control. I’m not at the whim of my Bits N’ Pieces. They aren’t gone, disappeared or “integrated” (whatever that means). I can still feel them, i can still hear them. They’re softer, somehow. They’re not inflicting themselves on me or imposing their will. This is all extremely strange for me.

In the past i haven’t had appropriate responses to things. I over-feel, i barely feel, or i don’t feel at all. I think that’s changing. I’m staying present most of the time, and i’m feeling a lot of emotions in the moment. It’s new, it’s different, it’s weird. It feels like a lot to me, because i’m usually dissociated to some degree. But lately, it’s been barely at all. I’m making the choice to stick around and handle my own business, multiple times a day. It’s taking effort and energy and i’m very tired at the end of the day. But i think it’s a good sort of tired; i don’t feel like a wrung-out dishrag. It feels more like i’ve put in a good day’s work.

I’m recommitting to being mindful and taking care of myself, including my system, every morning now. I touch all my precious little brain-people with my thoughts, and tell them i’m in charge, and i’m going to have the best day i can. I think about a couple of things i’d most like to accomplish, and i give myself a quick mental pep talk:

Life has no intention. Life just lives.
People are going to do what they’re going to do.
The only thing i have any hope of controlling is myself.
It is my mission to be the best human i can be, while living life on life’s terms.

This is a new frontier. I’m exploring, looking for new experiences and seeking knowledge. I intend to traverse it as boldly as i can.


Y’all Hang In There, Y’Hear?
~H~
*I’m referring to the pandemic, here.

IMAGE: Greg Rakozy

Pockets

I was watching a program on telly
when i heard a noise outside
I immediately looked to the corner of the room
while i hit the mute button
My ears open
my eyes wide
I got up and walked to the door
First i turned off the porch light
then i looked out the glass at the top of the door
Seeing nothing, i flipped the light back on
I checked the front closet
and once again flicked my eyes to the corner of the room
My soldiers stand ready should i need them

I was walking the dogs down our old gravel road
as i do most days
When i saw a vehicle turn down our way
There’s only one other family that lives down here
and that’s not their car
I do a quick itinerary:
Wrist, check
Pocket, check
Fanny pack, check
I can let the one off her leash
Her growl can turn blood to water
I go over my scripts
I relax my grip as i see it’s the beekeepers

I was downstairs doing laundry
folding warm clothes to make room for more wet ones
Woolgathering
while soft voices murmur in the background
My son yells at his game from upstairs
and i ask myself what i would do
if that was someone else’s voice
I look to the pile of 2X4s in the corner
as i pat my back pocket
I would get up the stairs as quickly as i could
I could get cornered down here
but there are potential weapons in each room
and i’ve practised with all of them

I was eating lunch by myself
at a restaurant i like in town
I can see the kitchen and it’s always sparkling clean
which cuts down on my anxieties
There’s a man eating alone at another table
who catches my eye with a smile and a nod
I was just idly looking around while eating
I immediately go over my scripts
What i will say if he makes small talk
What i will say if he compliments me
What i will say if he asks me out
I check for weapons should he follow me when i leave

I was lying in bed, waiting for sleep to come
with my husband snoring beside me
He sleeps like the dead
So for the thousandth time
i run through what i’d do
if we were confronted in our bed
by violent intruders
I remind myself where the weapons are
I go over how i’d wake, help, save my man
I pat my phone
911 is programmed in and it’s a 1-push button
Whether they stand there and threaten or come straight for me
i know what to do

I was walking home from seeing a movie
I went by myself because i can do that now
No one else was interested or had the time
I like it because no one talks
and i’m not tempted by real buttered popcorn
being devoured by greasy handfuls beside me
It’s dark and there are many more men than women
I love Godzilla
What can i say?
I have quite the hike home
I could save time and energy walking as the crow flies
but that would be foolishness
I pat my pockets and stick to well lit streets

I was weeding the front flower garden
when a strange car pulls into our driveway
We’re at the end of a No Exit road
and i’m not expecting anyone
The things i carry when i head out into the world
are inside in a basket by the door
but there’s not time to get them
I go to our big dog on her chain
She’s already straining to get at him
I can let her off the leash
which will free me to go for my weapons
I check that my face is implacable
I do not smile when i’m alone with a strange man

I was showering before bed
after watching a documentary on a woman with a stalker
He tormented her for years
before he finally killed her in her home
I think about what i’d do if someone came for me
right here in the bathroom
Wet and naked in the tub
I know what to do with what’s at hand
Hot water, soap, detachable curtain rod
Sitting on the toilet
I have help in my pants puddled at my feet
in the back pocket
There’s help secreted in the basket to my right

I have a thousand little plans
for a thousand situations
I have been leered at
approached
chatted up, asked out, complimented
followed, chased, pawed at, catcalled
And menaced, threatened and name-called
when i deny them
or i just don’t respond to their liking
and their little feelings get hurt
I expect the unexpected
because it’s not so unexpected in my experience
They’ll come for me as they’ve always done

I was dreaming one of my favourite dreams
I’m in a huge fancy mall and i’m buying everything
Beautiful clothes and so much jewelry
and i’m eating steak and cake
I can feel him as soon as he arrives
He’s on the periphery watching me
His eyes are glittering and hot on me
It burns and i feel filthy
But i know i’m dreaming and i’m filled with joy
Step into the ring, fucker
I swallow my triple layer chocolate and ganache confection
I call him to me, laughing while i hover in the air
Gathering fireballs in my hands

I have told you i have plans
but not precisely what they are
I have told you i have weapons
but not all the whats and wheres
I’ve mentioned my scripts
but not regaled you with their cutting eloquence
I cannot, for the world is what it is
and it is full of people who will do what they will do
I will do whatever i must
which includes my constant mental rehearsals
My feints within feints
I will bend like a reed in the wind
and i will get you before you get me

~ Mine, April 27, 2021



IMAGE: DESIGNECOLOGIST





Secret Plans

WARNING: This post is a bit dark, and references suicide, childhood sexual abuse, and rape. Consider before reading and take good care.

**********

It was one of the earliest, most formative moments of my life. The sexual abuse was happening a few times a week, at least. I was never not in pain, physically or emotionally. The energy it took to distance myself from the horror i was living, was bleeding me dry. I was fighting for survival, but felt near death. I looked at myself in the mirror, and i could see a black skull and crossbones just underneath my skin, like a shadow. It looked just like the warning on the glass bottle of reddish, pinky-orange liquid (i now think it was probably mercurochrome) i held in my hand that was marked POISON. I looked into my eyes and immediately felt older, calm and strong. A voice inside me said, If it gets too bad i can drink this. Instantly, relief washed through me and i was able to go on with my day.

I was 4yrs old.

That was my first secret plan. I knew what to do if i didn’t know what to do anymore. I could make it stop if i couldn’t take any more. I’d set a boundary and it gave me an inner peace, plus strength to carry on. It was my Mjölnir, and i could call it to me whenever i wanted, which gave me power. The downside was, that i intended to use it on myself – to destroy ME, rather than those whose actions had caused its creation and might precipitate its use. It was my only getaway plan for a very long time.

From 4 to 40, suicide was my Hail Mary.
Around then i was swept up in a mania; a big, bad, long one.

I looked up and saw a door opening into darkness. I looked down and i was sitting on an old, dirty mattress with no sheet. The walls were marked with dings and stains. The light bulb in the ceiling had no fixture.

My head was spinning and my stomach felt like it was undulating. I knew i was under the influence of something, likely booze, and maybe street drugs, as well. I got up and went to the doorway, only then realising it was an archway at the bottom of a set of stairs, not a door. I was in the basement of a house, and i could see light coming from a closed door on the other side of the room. I could hear low voices, and they were definitely male. I looked around me, but i saw no purse, no jacket, nor shoes. Terror was zinging its way through my body so hard my legs almost collapsed underneath me. I made my way up the stairs and out the back door as fast as i could, wobbling about on limbs that felt like water. Leaden, like a nightmare. Out into a freezing cold autumn morning, still dark. Suburban sidewalks quickly led to a highway through the city that i knew very well. An old phone booth connected me with help and home.

That was the first time that i’d felt the desire to LIVE! since i was very small. It was an absolute imperative, ringing through my entire body like a WWII bomb siren. It shook me out of my dissociative fugue and got me thinking. It was still many months before i was able to wriggle out of mania’s grasp. And unfortunately, i still found myself in a couple of similar situations. But my subconscious, along with my ever so helpful Peanut Gallery (yes sarcasm, but they mostly try to help), were busy working the problem behind the scenes. When i was ready, the lesson to learn was right in front of me.
Sacrificing myself to save myself was no longer an option.

You’d think that this is where the story turns brighter and more hopeful. And of course, walking away from the possibility of ending things was a great moment, and a definite turning point. Another formative point in my life. This was where i finally realised that i was not my enemy, save in the most esoteric sense. This was where, at last, i saw my true enemy. And i started making new plans. A thousand little plans for a thousand different occasions.

I’d always been fascinated by true crime stories, and getting into therapy and confronting my own true crime story kicked it into near-obsession. And once the internet opened up i had an endless supply to feed my interest. In some ways it comforted me to know i wasn’t the only one who’d been through such things. It helped to know that others found these stories terrible and disturbing, and that most people couldn’t even imagine these things, and could never understand those involved in such awful acts. It helped counteract all the programming i’d received, that i was a liar, i’d imagined it, it wasn’t that bad, i’d asked for it, etc. I saw this reflected in the face of survivors, and repeated for the cameras, over and over.

So many like me had stood alone, facing abuse at nearly every turn, and they’d faced these same admonishments, and been threatened with the same punishments. All these programs and documentaries i watched helped me walk away from the people-pleasing robot/slave i’d been raised to be. They also wound up giving me practise work for my plans. Plans that i’d only begun noticing i’d been making for some time. My system and subconscious at work again. Still. Always.

It started out with me talking at the tv. I’d shout out, No, don’t leave alone! or Watch out for that guy! or This situation is a red flag! Stuff like that. I’d ask myself what i might have done differently. Please understand that this is not a condemnation of any victim or survivor of any sexual or physical assault. In my books, if you survive you win. For those that didn’t, there may have been nothing they could have done. We’ll never know, and it isn’t for me to say. This isn’t about rape as a political or social issue. This is about how my brain works, as someone whose life was in danger from sexual and physical assaults for a lot of my childhood. Even when the frequency and severity lessened, it never completely ended until i got away at 21. I was never not on guard in some form or fashion. I was hypervigilant, but i sucked at protecting myself because i was so well groomed to be attractive and useful to predators. The indoctrination was often hard to identify and root out.

I was still assaulted after that, just by strangers. So i needed new plans.

As i’ve dealt with more of my past, i’ve gotten more healthy mentally and emotionally. I’m less dissociative, and more aware of my surroundings. I’m not the naif nor the social tumbleweed i once was. I’m getting good at not reflexively, desperately reading everyone’s affect for my personal protection, but i do give people and situations a perfunctory once over, at least. It’s just wise, good practise. People are gonna people, and some of us are vicious predators and oily opportunists. I prepare for that; i have painful, personal knowledge and experience with the truth of that.

Sometimes bad things happen. How i prepare my thoughts and my body for that truth potentiating in my life has grown and changed along with me. My plans are many, and though committed to memory, i go over them regularly. In every activity, in every place, with every person – i either have or am working on a secret plan to stay alive.
I don’t know if the watcher inside me will ever close their eyes.
I’m not convinced that they should.



IMAGE: Kevin Bosc

Keyboard Bash Sesh

So, is it depression, or am i at the tail end of a mania, or neither, or something else, or nothing at all?

Damned if i know. How about i bash away at the keyboard a bit and see what happens?

**********

I used to brag that i never got embarrassed, but now i know that wasn’t true. I did. I just compartmentalised it in some way, depending on how severe. I could pretend i didn’t feel it, sometimes, like most of us. But then if it was big, or if it occurred around certain people or under certain circumstances, i could dissociate. From a little pulling back, to sliding around watching but being unable to affect anything, to a full blown switch.
Yes, i felt embarrassment. I was poor, i was too big, i was clumsy, i was unkempt, and my mother was the fattest person anyone had ever seen, everywhere we went. A lot of the time i wasn’t merely embarrassed – i was mortified.

Being a multiple meant i could get much needed distance between myself, and a feeling that could actually cause tonic immobility in me. I think my reaction was that intense because, embarrassment and shame being word-sisters, my childhood shame was inextricably linked to fear due to sexual abuse. And embarrassment by definition involves a witness, which was something i was strictly admonished against:

Don’t reflect badly on us.
Don’t call attention to us.
Don’t get caught.

**********

I tend to avoid drama in my viewing choices. However, i sport a deep weakness for medical drama television. Also British detective shows, but that’s for another time, maybe. I’ve followed the same one since it was 3 seasons old. (I’m often late to a hit series party. What can i say? I’m recalcitrant.)
I’ve seen every episode of ER, Chicago Hope, House (2X through!), MASH, Night Shift (it was awful, i know), Saving Hope (Canadian ❤ ), St. Elsewhere, Doogie Howser, M.D., and not a few of Marcus Welby and Medical Center. And don’t even get me started on General Hospital.

Today, i’ve winnowed it down to one, and i feed on Grey’s Anatomy like a hummingbird feeds on sugar water. I love every angst drenched, overacted, pretty-faced, unbelievable scenarios/constant disasters/everyone-who-loves-Meredith-will-die-unless-they-move moment of it. But i put it down when the pandemic started, because real life was as much drama as i could handle. Now that i’m somewhat acclimated to our current reality, i thought i’d turn it back on.

In the first ep back (a 2hr special, of course), one character is trying to get over a terrible breakup by asking a friend for a, um, sexy favour. The friend says okay, and when they are kissing, i can see that they’re crying. They’re trying to kiss passionately but instead they are sobbing – directly into the other person’s mouth. And i’m watching it and laughing. I’m chortling along, fully enjoying the scene when suddenly…

Suddenly i’m crying along with them. I was minding my own damn business –or rather i was dutifully avoiding my own business by watching some mindless medical soap opera– when my own traitorous emotions used the little crack in the door afforded by my open laughter, to sneak in those wretched, consarned tear blobs and hitching sobs (Tear Blobs and the Hitching Sobs is the name of my new folk band.)

So, you know, that happened…

**********

I’m moving into myself, somehow. It’s like enough of the renos have been done that the place is quite livable now. It’s decorated according to my tastes, and mine alone, and it’s welcoming and it feels like home.

As i tend to my dailies and sundry, i’m settling into the place. I’m seeping into the rugs and the walls ooze their colour into my blood. I belong here. In fact, ONLY i belong here. This is my home. No one else may enter. No one else will EVER enter.

I’m unpacking old bits of me, little tchotchkes and bric-a-brac. I put them away and kept them hidden, lest someone break them or take them from me. These are MY walls and end tables and shelving, and this house is a motherfucking BASTION, okay? It looks more and more like me every day, but more than that – it feels like me.

The land i’ve parked it on is a safe space. It’s beautiful and vast and wild and free.
I know who i am and the ground underneath rolls out before me, wherever i go.
It no longer matters if the world is ready for this.

**********

Fear is falling away from me, or at least, how i react to being afraid.
There are still situations that trigger fight/flight/freeze/feign/fawn, but some of the most consistently problematic are losing their power. The bite has lost much of its sting.

I lost a couple of friends i’d had for more than 15yrs. Turned out they didn’t know me and i didn’t know them. It was surface, at best. It barely hurt and i didn’t obsess over what had happened. I know who i am and so i could let it go. And by cracky, i did. I laid it down and walked away.

I can’t fault them for an action i myself am about to take.

Once all this current insanity is over –and it will end– i will be renovating my surroundings, too. My house is shaping up fine, but my yard is in need of some serious work. I’ll be pulling up old perennials that no longer blossom, and designing my outdoors to better suit my tastes. Things will be growing wild and lush, and don’t expect that posh neighbourhood type perfection. Any manicuring i do will be when and where i want to, and subject to my whims. I may plant things that don’t grow well in my soil. They will no longer languish for seasons upon seasons – they will be summarily yanked, and the leavings composted. Richer soil makes for more robust living things, doncha know?

Okay, enough metaphor.
What i’m saying is, i will now be picking my own friends. I used to just go along with whoever wanted to be friends with me. I was the tumbleweed of friends. I was just so damn grateful that somebody wanted to be friends with me that i never asked myself if i wanted to be friends with them. I mean, it wasn’t a problem because, in my subconscious, i intended to be friends with everyone. That was the only way to ensure i didn’t get hurt again… Right? RIGHT?!

The first time i went full hermit, i realised that most of the friends i had i’d made while manic and partying my face off. Pulling away from them wasn’t that big a deal. Frankly, no one noticed unless they bumped into me at the grocery store (Oh, it’s been ages! Come out for drinks/Let’s do coffee!) and no one cared enough to call or text (or get at me for that beverage). And the fact that it barely troubled me, the person who went into a 2yr depression the last time i lost a close friend, was a sign that it was probably for the best.

I’m not looking for an echo chamber or a tribe. However, when the world opens back up, i will be hermitting less and socialising more. I’ll be hanging out in different places, and looking for more like-minded people. And i’ll be particularly interested in those who are smarter than i am and have some quality i want for myself. Someone who has something to teach me that i’m keen to learn. And always, always, with a mind to quality over quantity.

It’ll take time, and it’ll be harder than it was in the past. The truth is, as i’m discovering who i am underneath all the crap my childhood piled on top of me, that i’m not as easy to like as i once was. That person i presented as in the past was not a lie, nor disingenuous. It was a facade, to be sure. But it was all i knew. I saw danger and the potential for pain everywhere, and in everyone. I was a wall, an obstacle course of protections. And friendship with me only went so far, as so many former friends told me. There was a door no one could open.
To be fair, i couldn’t share who i was if i didn’t know.
And the door was locked from both sides, and i hadn’t yet found the key.

I’m looking forward to forging some new friendships.
I might even be a little excited about it.

**********

That’s all i have for now. I’m fairly sure i’m done with mania. It also seems unlikely that i’ve fallen into depression. My emotions are more stable. I’m making good choices. I’m standing up for myself with a few people that i need to, and they don’t like it, and i don’t care. Okay i care, but i’m not letting it keep me from asking for what i want/need, or setting appropriate boundaries and saying NO where and when it’s necessary. I like myself so much more, but i’m prepared for others to like me less.

This next chapter is gonna be a page turner, i think.
Frankly, i can hardly wait.

Wait’ll they get a load of me.
~ The Joker (Batman, 1989)


Love and Peace,
~H~

IMAGE: Kaitlyn Baker









Ready For The Sun

I’m not entirely sure i’m ready to move on
but moving on i shall be nonetheless
If i need to look back
to step back
even to revisit
then so be it
For some days now though
i’ve felt something settle into my blood
my bones
I can see it in my eyes
my visage
It’s in the way my hands set to a task
in my feet as they form their steps into the rug
the hardwood
the gravel road
I feel a pull in me
It’s not intellectual
as is my usual way
Nor do i feel it in my heart
that alternately achy and bursty palace of hot muscle
It’s lower by a turn
My solar plexus and my navel reach out
towards the road
Tendrils of diaphanous wishes shooting from me like silver threads
a diaspora from my own country
I will travel far from home
as far as i may
I was only born here
I don’t know what’s out there
but this was never my nation
and i am ready for new lands
This place i’ve grown up in is beautiful in its way
but the familiarity of it cannot penetrate my despair or self-pity
My knees wake me in the night
craving adventure
bucking me out of the warm softness of my bed
Yes
i’ve worked hard to carve out this space around me
and it’s pretty and safe
but the rains and winds
and welcome swelter
are too well acquainted
It’s time for me to move on
I look at the horizon and it always glows
It could be a train
sure it could
but i don’t think so
Poetry aside
my friends
i think it is the sun
And i am through with crying and feeling this sad

~ Mine, April 13, 2021

IMAGE: Helena Gunnare

The Tortoise* in Cute Jeans Eating Cake

Mild Content Warning: This post is about weight and weight loss, and food, eating and body image as it pertains to such.

**********

The other day i met a personal goal that’s been 15yrs coming. In the early aughts i had weight loss surgery and went from 465lbs (lost 100lbs prior to surgery on my own) to 155lbs. Unfortunately, i spiralled into a years long bipolar mania that managed to pack back on approximately 100+lbs (addictive behaviours + medications).

Since around 2009 i’ve struggled to take it off. I’ve consistently yo-yoed by 20-40lbs over this time. In 2015 i was back up around 250-60lbs and in another mania, when i broke my leg in 3 places. When the surgery was over and the smoke had cleared, i decided to pay more attention to my weight and get down to the size i wanted. I made a decision to adopt better eating and a more active lifestyle.
If you look back at my pictures over the last 5yrs, it might not appear as if much has changed. To be fair to me, being Amazon-sized means that i can carry a lot of weight without anyone knowing just how much i’m carrying. Plus, being pear-shaped means that i don’t show all the extra weight if you only see me from the waist up. I wasn’t much into showing any pics of my legs for a long time.

Weight, food, eating, exercising, body image, and all the rest of the itinerant baggage, are incredibly complicated and personal issues, in my opinion. I’ve been asked a number of times how i’m doing what i’m doing, and so i’m going to tell you. I’m going to tell you NOT because you should do it the way i am, but so you can see that it can be done in a (relatively) healthy and sustainable way. You’ll have different ways of eating and moving that work more effectively for you. What follows is very general stuff, there’s no step-by-step here. To my mind there is simply no one-size-fits-all weight loss plan.

First thing is i stopped “dieting,” per se. I know how to pick up a diet and use it to quickly drop weight. That doesn’t work for me, because 1, losing weight fast can trigger a mania, and 2, once i stop using the diet i regain the weight, which might well throw me into a depression (3). Once i decided i wanted to change the way i lived, i wasn’t in so much of a rush. I’d been struggling with food and weight for most of my life, and had amassed quite a bit of information over the years. I also had a great deal of knowledge regarding who i am and how i function, and loooong experience with how mental illness and neuroatypicality affects my life and informs my lifestyle. From all that i was able to start working on making changes to have a healthier –and hopefully happier– life.

I make small changes, one at a time, and do them until they’re a part of my life and i don’t even think about them anymore. For instance, i stopped eating after 8pm. I grew up eating in front of the television, and i learned early on in my dieting history that i could consume thousands of calories without even realising it, because i wasn’t paying attention to eating – i was watching telly. I’d sit down with a full bag or bowl of something, and at some point i’d hit bottom and be surprised. I wouldn’t remember the experience of eating all that food and i’d feel cheated out of the enjoyment, and all too often i’d go back into the kitchen for something more because of it.

Now, i still do eat in front of the television or computer, as it is part of our family lifestyle, but i don’t eat after supper anymore. I try to eat at 6, 12, and 6, but i give supper until 8, because my husband often works late, and has a 1hr commute. If i’m struggling and really want something after that, i’ve discovered the joy of Smart Pop popcorn, and i’ll happily scarf that down while slugging back a diet soda. I don’t drink a lot of soda, but that’s only because i have a very small, surgically altered stomach pouch. I do not ascribe to the belief that artificially sweetened sodas are bad. I’m a calories in/calories out kinda girl. Something sweet and satisfying with zero calories? Sign me up!

I also unabashedly use every single mental dieting trick that works for me. I use small dishes so it looks like i have more to eat. If i’m not hungry enough to eat a boring old apple, i’m not that hungry/i can wait. I don’t eat when i’m hAngry: i either wait 20mins, or i have that apple and wait 20mins. Some of what i do is due to my bypass surgery. For instance, i do not fill myself up with water so that i eat less. My stoma is small, so that’s not helpful. I only take a couple of sips of liquid while eating if necessary.

One of the final keys to changing how i eat came after reading a book called Losing It Right, by James Fell. He writes at length about satiety, and how the processed and prepared foods we eat today are low satiety, yet packed with as much salt, sugar, and fat as the producer can get in there. It’s all designed to get us to eat (buy) MORE. It resonated very strongly with me, and i changed some of my habits accordingly.

**********

First though, a brief aside:

If my mental health becomes a bigger issue at any time, my focus immediately shifts in that direction. As much energy as it requires to manage, it gets. So, if i need to let go of some of the stricter aspects of how i’m eating, i do it. It doesn’t fill me with fear, or guilt, or even trouble me much any more. I’ll eat what i’m able to eat, when i’m able to eat it. During times like this my weight will plateau, or i might even gain a pound or 2. I know it will be okay, because these are lifestyle changes, not quick fixes. I’ll eventually get where i want to go. Rushing to get there and pushing myself to my limits is not good for how my brain works or my mood. Trying to do all the things when i have limited inner resources only risks me levelling up into superhero mode, or drains me so quickly i fall flat on my keister. I can go back to a more regimented way of eating when i have the time and resolve.

**********

Back to the issue of high and low satiety foods.
What i realised was, as someone who loves to cook, tries new recipes 2 and 3X/wk, is subscribed to 20+ food and cooking channels on YouTube, and is addicted to Pinterest, i’ve picked up a lot of tips and suggestions on how to increase the taste and enjoyment of my food. Things like, cooking my pasta in broth instead of water, more butter on everything, and a secret pinch or 5 of sugar. I learned to do these things because, as someone who partakes of fast food and highly processed foods, i began to expect that much flavour in my cooking at home.

Zhuzhing my food was racking up my daily caloric intake – substantially. But i’d caught myself in a trap because the food i was making didn’t seem as palatable anymore without the extras. Even after i cut back on most of the unnecessary additions, i still faced times when i was eating calorie dense, low satiety foods due to needing to be more focused on my mental health. So, i found a thing to do that, when i’m ready and able, i can get “back on track” with the way i want to be eating. I go on a bland diet for a while. I still eat tasty foods, but i eat basically the same thing for a week or 2. It cleanses my palate in a way, and lowers my expectations for how the food should taste when i return to eating my regular wide variety of foods. It also makes the less zhuzhed stuff taste better, just because i’m happy not to be eating the same thing every day. I pick one or 2 proteins, usually fish, and tofu or yogourt (i make my own), cauliflower, and i make a big batch of homemade vegetable soup. I pick cauliflower because, thanks to the keto craze, i can buy it readily fresh, frozen, or already “riced” for me. My soup has lots of leafy greens and a few starchy veg. Water not broth. As much sodium as i want. It’s low carb yes, but i’m not a keto person. Carbs happen in my life; there’s fruit in my homemade yogourt, and i will eat that apple when i’m hangry.

Once i feel the resolve and the focus settle in, i slowly reintroduce other foods, still eating at a caloric deficit with weight loss in mind. I lose weight very slowly. If i’ve had to cut down or cut out my exercise routine, i start back at that too – starting slow, and carefully building back up to where i was. I’ve yo-yoed those initial 20-40lbs for many years now. Until about 2yrs ago that is, when i finally arrived at 50lbs lost. At last i’d gotten past that difficult zone, and it was the knowledge that came from the Fell book, from talking with registered dietitians, and from understanding myself well enough to know what probably would and wouldn’t work for me. Armed with that, plus my far more relaxed approach to how much time it would take to reach my ultimate weight loss goals, i find myself at a place where i only have around 30lbs left to go.

It’s taken me 2yrs to get these last 20lbs off and get to this milestone. And the goal wasn’t even a number. I’ve stated this many times, but it will always bear repeating – i cannot weigh myself (my doctor knows the numbers, for the sake of my health). It’s a massive trigger for my bipolar issues, so i use clothes as a good gauge, as well as a lot of looking at myself in the mirror. Looking in mirrors is a triggery area too, as my tendency is to dissociate when i look into my own eyes, but these last couple of years have been spent working hard on NOT dissociating, so it’s excellent practise. I haven’t pushed to lose the weight. Most of the focus has been on my mental health, but i kept making little tweaks here and there when i was able. My approach shifted from trying to win, to determined to finish. I dropped the frenetic and speedy, (falsely)confident facade of the Hare, and adopted a more Tortoise like attitude, like, I’m gonna just do me and keep on truckin’ until i get there. Lo and behold! just like in the old child’s morality tale, the low key approach has gotten me to my goal. That objective was to fit into a certain pair of pants that are very cute and looked impossibly tiny to me when i’d regained around a third of what i’d initially lost on my WLS journey.
And i look very cute in them, i must say.

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Another important aside here (this one’s not so brief):

This post is intended as a light response to questions about how i’ve accomplished long term weight loss and the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. The reason why i’ve struggled with food and weight for the entirety of my life is due to a childhood filled with abuse and neglect. It’s heavier in tone than i want for this piece. However, i would be remiss if i didn’t mention another reason that i make these changes slowly. As a person who has endured sexual abuse, my self-image as a person, a female, and a sexual being were all twisted from early on. Food was weaponised against me, used to control and groom and reward me. Sex, sexuality, food, eating, and body image all got jumbled up together. It mutated and fused into this lumpy mass that made me sick and small inside and oh so tired.

I became morbidly obese for many reasons: starvation, lack of education, poor modelling, unhealthy habits, and my unmet need for comfort and connection. I also packed on the pounds because i needed protection – i needed to put something between me and what was being done to me. And later, once the worst of it was over, i kept the wall up because i never wanted it to happen again. The fat on my body was a manifestation of everything wrong in my life and all my attempts to fix it. It was padding to absorb life’s blows. It made me bigger on the outside when inside i felt small and powerless. All the weight i lost after surgery pulled down my unconsciously built fat fence, and everything that i had been eating to keep inside, came flooding out. I felt incredibly vulnerable, and i was frightened every waking moment. When some of that weight came back on, it wasn’t all bad. One good thing that came from it was i felt safer and less vulnerable.

Knowing that, i knew why i’d freak out every time the pounds started coming off again. Being noticed, receiving attention, some of that of a sexual nature, all triggered fear, and the need for protection. It scared me to be getting smaller. It scared me to be the focus of the male gaze. I must be conscious and mindful of this happening, and i need to hold my own hand through the process. I need to acknowledge those feelings and allow myself to feel them, and tell myself –often right out loud– that it’s okay. I’m not being hurt anymore, it’s not happening, and i’m safe. I also tell myself that if something terrible were to happen, that i would handle it. I would do whatever i had to do to get through it. I am capable and i have tons of tools and heaps of coping skills, and i would survive.

So yeah, i lose a few pounds, get really freaked out about it, sit for a while with the new, smaller body size, calm down, and then lose a few more. It’s another very important reason i do all of this slowly. It’s being kind and gentle to me. I treat myself with respect for surviving the hell i did, and i honour my process. It gets to take as long as it takes, for me to lay down the fear and pain of long ago and embrace living fully present in the here and now.

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I’m proud of how far i’ve come, and i’m not in an all-fired rush to get the rest of it off. I know that’s not good for my brain, and i believe that i will eventually get where i want to go. No mad dash for the finish line for this girl. I’m just happy to be plodding along, having faith in myself and confidence in my abilities. I will continue to push myself a little or make myself slow down, where and when i see fit. It’s not the end that i’m seeing in my sites, but there is a nice ribbon stretched across the line. There’s balloons bobbing about on a perfect afternoon, and cartoon birds and mice who will cheer and sing songs in little chipmunky voices.
There will also be cake. LOTS of cake.

* Slow and steady wins the race, amirite?!