First, a reiteration of the most important bit from yesterday’s content warning:
If you are currently in a place where you’re easily upset or triggered by content, this may be a piece you’d like to skip, either until you’re better able to process, or even altogether.
If you are a multiple, this piece contains the prelude to a discussion of integration. Take care of yourself and your system. Think about it before proceeding. Talk to your p-doc or whomever is your mental health professional go-to.
Yesterday, any way you made it was just fine
So you turned your days into night-time
Didn’t you know, you can’t make it without ever even trying?
And something’s on your mind, isn’t it?
~ Karen Dalton, Something’s On Your Mind
After years of chaos and then the drudgery of therapy (it just is, for me), i felt freer and more happy than i had ever felt. I knew my system and how it worked, and they knew me and trusted me to be in charge and care for them. I organised things in my mind in a way that made sense to any part developed enough to be able to get there. I enjoyed a couple of years where, while there were still many difficulties, i was able to manage without the 3 big ones i’d worked hardest to avoid: police involvement, hospitalisation, and serious marital discord.
I turned my attention to my physical health then, as i live with some chronic conditions, and have struggled with weight and food since i was a child. I was morbidly obese in the early aughts, and had a gastric bypass which was very successful. Unfortunately, it also heralded my first severe mania. Medications, heavy drinking, along with lousy food choices and eating hygiene meant that around 1/4 of it came back on – when one starts out as big as i was, that is not insignificant. I spent the last 10yrs taking off and promptly putting back on, about 1/3 of that amount.
Over the years i did learn a lot about eating and food, and my relationship with them. I found a way for me to lose the weight i need to, and keep it off. I don’t talk numbers or details, because that can trigger obsession in me, but what i will share is that i stopped dieting, and made one small change to how, why, and what i ate at a time. So when i shifted my focus to my physical health, it was more about adding exercise in. Again, the details aren’t necessary, just know that my approach was the same as it had been to food; one small, manageable change at a time. I’m not looking for magic, or instant results. Slow, steady steps forward are what works best for me.
What happened was the same in my physical health as i had experienced with my mental health. It took time and patience and commitment, but small changes gradually built upon each other until the results were obvious and easy to demonstrate. I passed that 1/3 loss that i couldn’t seem to conquer before, and i was heading towards my goal, closer than i’d been in many years.
I added in more socialising.
And then i added in parttime work.
And then i began volunteering.
That was when my dreams got ugly.
That was when some voices stopped talking.
That is when i crashed.
I didn’t notice the missing voices, but some parts did, and there was panic. It flooded my body, feeling like it was filling in every space, like frost spreading on glass. Except from the neck up, which was suffused with hot blood, gushing in my ears, swelling my skin. I knew i was in trouble, but i couldn’t make out what was wrong. It was too loud, it was too many, and it was too much. I stopped sleeping. If i dropped off it was due to pure exhaustion, and then i’d only get a couple of hours before nightmares would set in, and i’d be forced to wake myself up.*
It took tragically little time for me to unravel. I stopped exercising, volunteering, working, socialising. I left the house as infrequently as possible, and i drank regularly, to quiet my brain and get some sleep (NOT RECOMMENDED, BTW). I started losing my control over the face. I was exhausted and overwhelmed and terrified – terrified of things going back to how they used to be.
Like finding myself walking towards the highway, trying to return “home”.
It started happening when i first became severely manic, and i would switch, hard and often. I kept wanting to go home, and hearing it in my brain. It felt like an imperative. Go home. Some younger bits crying for home, others saying more authoritatively.
GO HOME. GO HOME NOW.
During those difficult years of getting to know how i work and who else lives in my brain, i tried to go home countless times. I would leave my Little Crooked House and hitchhike into the city. Trying to get home. Revisiting old places and looking for people from my past. I would eventually find myself back in the face, usually in an untenable situation. I would get to a phone and call my husband. Sometimes it would be hours before he found me, as i’d be sliding all over the place. He also spent dozens upon dozens upon dozens of hours following me, trying to get me in the car, trying to keep me from hitting the highway in the first place. More than once i tried to jump out in traffic in the city. More than once i tried to walk in front of semis on the highway, parts of me holding my life hostage to try to get to some place i didn’t know. I did know what that word “home” meant to me as i looked back unblinking at my childhood. Pain. Fear. Alone. Anger and ugliness everywhere.
I tell you this because i started finding myself walking towards the city again.
I had learned to manage the walking by going for walks. Heh. Compromise and negotiation was and is key to managing my brain and the splitty pieces that live inside it with me. I love walking and i always have. So if someone inside wanted to go for a walk, i took them. When i set out to improve my fitness level, walking was the first thing i started doing regularly. My doggies were ecstatic and i truly enjoyed it. But walking turned dark when those voices did. I felt it in my feet, in my calves and my knees – this itch inside, a need to stretch, to go. To go home.
I’d find myself on the road, without the dogs, walking. I could feel it in my legs and hear it in my head that i was not going towards town, i was heading towards the city. I’d feel kind of floaty, like my head was a balloon, which means i’m sliding around, but not hard switching.
I was scared and i felt so defeated that, after all this work parts of me still wanted, and could still try to take me to this unknown and potentially harmful place.
I did the only thing i knew to do – i called my therapist and started seeing her again regularly.
Maybe another day you’ll want to feel another way, you can’t stop crying
You haven’t got a thing to say, you feel you want to run away
There’s no use trying, anyway
I’ve seen the writing on the wall
Who cannot maintain will always fall
Well, you know, you can’t make it without ever even trying
So next, let me tell you a little of my history with my therapist.
*See “lucid dreaming”.