Ninja Brain

I know I’ve got a tendency
To exaggerate what I’m seein’
And I know that it’s unfair of me
To make a memory out of a feelin’
It’s ’cause I notice every single thing
That’s ever happening in the moment
And I don’t know why it’s consumin’ me
~ I Hate Everybody, Halsey


I am bipolar. I was diagnosed less than 20yrs ago. I have the kind of bipolar characterised by intense manias. My first diagnosed mania lasted more than 2yrs. After that, i plunged into a depression that was as deep as my mania had been high, and it lasted about as long. What followed were years of long, slow, intense cycling between the 2. I could always count on my depression to be inversely proportional to my mania.

I now think that has changed. As i’ve learned to deal with my incredibly interesting brain (if you’re reading a sarcastic tone here, you get an internet cookie), my cycling has shortened and the intensity of each aspect has lessened. Thank goodness. For the first number of years i was in and out of hospital. It was, ah, kind of a big deal. It was part of what broke me down to the point where i was finally willing to deal with my DID diagnosis. As soon as i found a therapist i could work with in that area (hahaha, i used the word “soon”), my issues with being bipolar swiftly took a backseat. The mental health professionals in my area (and let’s be clear, when i started dealing with my multiplicity, i lived in a very metropolitan area of over 1 million), treated DID like a fart in church. Out of all the quirks and eccentricities and generally not typical neurological processing going on in my brain, the dissociation aspects have proved the most disruptive and problematic.

My therapist deals with causes though, rather than symptoms, so it didn’t matter that my Bits N’ Pieces were consistently taking centre stage, because it all stemmed from a couple of root causes. As with anyone, it’s nature, it’s nurture – where and to what extent is unique and individual. Both my manic and depressive behaviours were easily identifiable to me, and i had accumulated a good amount of education from various sources from which i was able to assemble a handy toolkit for that particular flavour of my crazy.* There are some parts of my system that seem to be able to be affected by mania/depression, others that don’t. It didn’t matter because it all wound up being processed by me with my therapist.

Over time i eventually (mostly) stopped even seeing the way my brain works in terms of the diagnoses i’ve been given. Now i just check in consciously every day (more if necessary), figure out where i’m at, and adjust my lifestyle accordingly. I do basic brain housekeeping, fix simple problems on my own, and call in a professional when the job is too big or complicated for me to handle by myself. I’ve settled in to a remarkably functional, daily routine. When the virus hit, i kept my therapy up by phone, but a couple of months ago i felt well enough to take a break. Peopling is the biggest trigger for me, so being isolated has drastically cut down on my emotional upheaval and any resultant dysfunction.

But.

It’s been creeping up in the background, so subtly i completely missed its approach. I saw it for what it was on my recent wedding anniversary. I got too stimulated and became agitated. I switched soon afterward and lost a couple of days. I don’t always need or want a blow-by-blow account of what happens when i’m dissociated, but this time i did. The more i heard the more obvious it became that i’m currently manic. I couldn’t see it when i was in the face, but when switching gave me a bit of distance, it became abundantly clear. I’m extremely easily annoyed and deeply paranoid. I want to use drugs and alcohol to excess. I go from 0-60 emotionally, in mere seconds. I can go from calm to complete overwhelm in the space of a single breath. My thoughts are racing so fast it’s been hard to identify what i’m thinking about anything. And i’ve been chasing sleep for a couple of weeks.
The thing that might have thrown me off the scent of anything being wrong is that my last bipolar episode was also a mania. I skipped the depression part. In fact, i think i’ve been skipping the depression side of my bipolar for some time, now.

I don’t know what this means for my diagnosis. It doesn’t currently matter because the symptoms are manageable and i’ll keep dealing with the cause, as well. I’m wondering if maybe it wouldn’t be helpful to do a daily blog for a bit. It could help with staying conscious and grounded. It could point out if/when i need to call in a professional. It could provide some extra focus and reaffirm my commitment to this work. Sometimes my brain is a ninja.

I have no idea how useful it would be for anyone else. My physical health is in the dumper, and now with mania too, i’m having trouble with cogent thinking and communication. It might be a shitshow. Let’s find out, shall we? Heh.

Love and Peace,
~H~
* I use words that some see as a pejorative to describe myself, because i find it freeing and healing to do so, YMMV.

IMAGE: Matthew Brodeur

My Legitimate Excuses

My mother gave no quarter. If it ever appeared like she had, she was merely playing the long game with you; a marker to be collected at some later date. She never forgot a perceived debt. For herself however, there was no end to the reasons that she wouldn’t/shouldn’t/couldn’t do the thing. Some of her favourites were:

– her awful childhood;
– she was poor;
– they did a bad thing, so she didn’t have to.

I don’t know the truth about her childhood. Most everyone involved is dead. She told so many stories. Although i’ve been able to disprove some, i can believe it was at least somewhat rough. Her family was the only non-practitioner of the favoured religion in a small community – in all the surrounding communities. Her father refused a business opportunity with his neighbours, temporarily putting the venture in jeopardy. Her mother wasn’t interested in church teas or local gossip or community activities. She was adopted, and it was during a time when such children were viewed with a jaundiced eye. Her parents were distant and not affectionate. She was of above average size for a girl, both thick and tall. Add to all that, her little brother was everyone’s favourite due to being the local baseball star.

While i don’t remember much until i was around 3, i can guess based on the memories that i do have that she probably used me as an excuse from the jump. I wouldn’t put it past her to have had me in part for that reason. In fact, i think she popped out 4 babies in quick succession with my stepfather so that she could avoid work, and anchor him to her. She may have tried to use me to keep my biological father, but it didn’t work. I was the reason she couldn’t get ahead, why she wasn’t living up to my grandparents’ expectations, why she couldn’t keep a man. I know she loved it when i was diagnosed with a moderate/severe form of childhood epilepsy, because i heard her expound at length to anyone who’d listen about my seizures and doctors appointments and how much time and worry and how was she supposed to pay for all the travel and special diet and medication? And when she began piling on the pounds and withdrawing from society, we were all constantly reminded of how tough she’d had it and how much tougher we were making it for her to be… Anything. Happy, healthy, financially stable, accomplished, attend some event she was invited to, be on time for an appointment. Everything. Excuses.

My takeaway was twofold. Because i was the “reason” my mother couldn’t achieve success, i learned that i needed an excuse for my very existence. I also learned something more insidious – that there were no excuses for me. There was a subconscious level at which i understood that my mother’s proffered exemptions were, as my generation might put it, lame. I couldn’t acknowledge, contemplate, or in any way live out that awareness, because it would put me in actual physical danger. But as it was for me with many things, i was able to tuck it away in a hidden compartment of my mind, that i’ve since been able to access and use. The insidious part of it was that, while i wasn’t aware of it, it seeped into my self-perception. The result was that for decades, i knew that there was no excuse for how fucked up i was, due to those unconscious, internalised messages. Well, that and growing up observing my mother’s liberal use of disingenuous ones.

What i know now is that, for me, there is no excuse for her level of abuse and neglect of me. As for the rest (e.g. whether or not there’s an excuse for how dysfunctional she was, or how abusive and neglectful she was to my sibs), i either don’t concern myself with it, or don’t consider it my place to judge.

~Background, set.~

Today, after decades of therapy and internal work, i’m learning to apply the knowledge i’ve gathered, using methods i’ve developed that suit the way my brain works. I’m an overthinker, which is part my personality, and part mental illness/neuroatypicality. When thinking deeply about myself, life, the universe, and everything, this only becomes a problem if i get stuck in the mud and i’m just spinning my tires. I can easily recognise that state by rising anxiety, and the same thoughts echoing, over and over inside my head. I’ve even found a way to test if my perception is accurate. I pick up whatever book is currently on my side table and start to read. If i struggle to finish a paragraph, if fragments of the sentences are repeating, bouncing around in my thoughts and i’m unable to catch them and make any sense of the words – then i know i’m in Overthinky Land.

These days of global self-isolation have afforded me even more time than usual to think. At first i felt dread, Oh no, here we go again… I worried that i’d become so entangled in my thoughts that i’d lose myself to them. Lose control of my thoughts, my brain, my system. Lose control of the face, lose time, lose myself. I didn’t, though. Being an introvert and a veritable hermit when the pandemic hit was a boon. I didn’t have to change the way i lived, much. And my reasons for living so long in near-complete seclusion had both prepared me for our current reality, and allowed me to continue my personal inner work.

~End Scene One~

What i’m experiencing in my life over the last year would be my mother’s wet dream. The pandemic would provide an easy and legitimate excuse for any and all purposes. She had a tough childhood, she’d experienced severe poverty (not with her parents, but at her own doing), she had health issues (which were also, to some degree her own doing), and now OMGTEHPANDEMICSHALP!!!!11!1

I, however, am not my mother. I am, through serious, long term effort and commitment, a decent human of my own creation. I see where i came from and how that moulded me into the dysfunctional adult that i was, and i’ve gone to great lengths to become a functional human. A decent one too, i think. There is more work yet to do though (of course, and always shall be), and here i stand, seeing the choices arrayed around me, like open, upturned faces in the audience at my one-woman show.
They’ve watched the prologue, and sat silently through the first act. The lights are dimming on their expectant faces and i’m moving to centre stage to begin Act Two.

Will it be more of Act One? It could be. I could still weave an interesting tale. I’m entertaining and charismatic, and folks would walk away feeling they’d seen a good performance, probably even (dare i say) excellent. But i took big risks my first 2 appearances in the spotlight, just by the straight up telling of it. If i give them more of the same, well… I’ve already given them 2 sad songs (you’ve gotta know my show is a musical, right?) Why not take another chance, and why not make it a big one? I could strut out on that stage and give ’em a real showstopper. A number that’s not exactly a twist, more like an exciting plot development.

If you come to my show you get more than the price of admission. You’re going to get my best. I’m headin’ to Broadway for a long run.

Cue music!
Curtain up!

Aaaand LIGHTS!

NO EXCUSES

IMAGE: Barry Weatherall

Dream #4, Plus Analysis (Mostly)

Wow. My dreams tonight are telling enough to blog about for the first time in months. Well, actually…

Okay, there are some other dreams that’ve been cropping up on the regular, but i didn’t wanna write about ’em. I knew i needed to talk with my therapist about them, which i did yesterday, so now i can at least refer to them, even if i keep it rather vague.

I’m in some bar/restaurant/banquet hall, which is a frequent location for my dreams. I’m with a large group of people that are all friends of mine, although in retrospect i only recognised a couple of them. We’re all chatting animatedly about old times and what we’ve been up to. There’s laughter and food, drink, and entertainment all around us.
A good time is being had by all until the server comes by with a tray of drinks that i politely refuse and instead ask for water.

There’s no pin drop, no awkward silence. I’m just immediately confronted with hostility and outright anger. Everyone’s pissy that i’m not drinking alcohol. They turn their backs to me, circling as a group, with me on the outside. One of them begins talking about me and others promptly join in. Their tone is condescending, derisive, and aggressive. Their gossip is peppered with laughter, harsh and staccato.

I move away, wandering amongst others, observing but not interacting. I come across some more old friends that are working security. They bring me over to where they’re eating their bagged lunches and drinking coffee. We sit around and shoot the shit in a jocular fashion.
Some are not wearing pants and i mark it as strange, but not sexual.
I tell J (a RL friend from my past) i’m sober and he smiles and holds my hand and leads me away from all those who are hectoring and bullying me. We sit down in movie theatre seats with other guys, and engage in conversation. Some get up and leave, only to come back, leading all my old friends out of the building.
I ask, Are they getting kicked out cuz they’re drunk?
The answer comes quickly, Yes.
Sitting with my security friends, i watch as they’re led out and observe that they all look very odd and “other,” unattractive and wasted.

S (another former RL friend) is crying. She spies me and begins yelling about how this is all my fault. She’s full of judgment, anger and condemnation. I respond that i’m open to having a conversation with her, but she needs to can it with the verbal abuse. The other women are talking at me as well, but to them i merely smile and wave. Yes, smugly.

I turn to the fellas and announce I’ve gotta pee! and after a short search, i find a strange looking bathroom with 3 curved metal doors. They open like a rolltop desk, but sideways, if that makes sense. I go to sit my butt down, but everything goes wrong and i wind up pissing all over everything, including these peach satin lingerie pants that i suddenly see i’m wearing. I have a RL pair of those sitting in my yard sale pile, as they’re now too big for me. I’m exasperatedly trying to clean myself off, when i look up and notice the door is open and the guys are staring in at me.
I’m not embarrassed and we all have a good laugh.

/END DREAM.

Things that seem significant upon reflection:

– the first group i hang out with are all women, and the security group are all dudes;

– the women are dressed up for a party, but the guys are in various states of undress;

– 1 member of each group are actual former friends IRL, and both friendships ended painfully;

– there’s nothing sexual going on, yet i’m wearing lingerie;

– i’m not overweight;

– i’m not acting provocatively;

– no one’s coming on to me;

– people disappear but they reappear (that almost never happens in my dreams – once they’re gone, they’re gone);

– i stand up to bullying and am not intimidated;

– someone comes to help while i’m being bullied (i’m always on my own when i’m under attack in dreams);

– a number of things happen: being criticised and shunned, seeing people in their underwear, being alone around men, being seen toileting, being seen in a state of undress (things that would normally cause absolute mortification in a dream, yet i’m nonchalant.)

**********

I could go deep into dream analysis here, but i don’t think it’s necessary. This stuff is obvious and easy – except for the separation of women from men.

– I’m relatively close to my ideal body weight.

– I’m sober and have been for some months.

– I’m still mourning the 2 friendships i lost.

– I’m more relaxed and myself around others.

– I’m not hypersexual or sex-focused, nor do i define my worth by my sexual attractiveness.

– I’m less afraid of rejection and have a solid sense of belonging.

– I recognise abuse and am far less inclined to tolerate it.

– I have solid relationships with trustworthy people – not just anyone can be my friend anymore.

Where the clear delineation of the sexes is concerned, i have some ideas, but i’m not ready to write about that quite yet. And as i draw to the end of this post, i know i’m not prepared to get into my bad dreams, either. It’ll come, all of it.
In due time.

So, that’s it for now, i guess. My dream journal isn’t for everyone, i know. If you’re still here, thanks!

Y’all try and hang in there as best you can.
I’m doing okay, all things considered.

Love and Peace to Everyone,
~H~

IMAGE: Nathan Dumlao



Momentum

I didn’t blog the next day after my last post, but i am today, and i feel okay about that. Momentum is good for me, but must be strictly managed. Too fast and mania kicks in, but a little certainly helps me feel better about myself and get more done. It’s a healthy cycle: i do some stuff, i feel better about myself, which lightens my mood, which frees up some energy, so i do some more stuff. And as a gain momentum, i take fewer breaks and accomplish more things between them. I’m careful though, ever watchful for warning signs that mania is seeping in.

I’ll catch it first in my feelings. It’s an urgency, coupled with dissatisfaction.
Then thoughts. It’s not enough. I need to do more. I should be doing more.
Soon, i’ll begin comparing myself to others, and finding myself always coming up short.
I’m not doing enough. I am not enough.

It’s then my thinking can become twisted by the mania, as i compare myself TO myself. All the times that i’ve done all the things and had all the successes and looked and felt and was FABULOUS… All those times that i was manic AF.

I must be vigilant against its approach, its encroachment. Manias are a cyclone that can quickly become a storm and then a hurricane, leaving destruction in its wake. Sometimes the damage can’t be undone. Some of my surroundings, my relationships, and even aspects of my health, are unsalvageable. In my past i have destroyed some lovely and precious things.

I don’t see that on my horizon right now, and that’s good.
I’m more than capable of the proverbial dime-turn, however, and so for that, and so many other reasons, i practise mindfulness and keep watch over my brain, and all my Bits N’ Pieces.

My last post brought me more into the here and now, and afforded me a not insignificant amount of peace. I’m struggling, but i’m okay. I’m in the face, in control. Managing. Mindful. I’m present in my (albeit limited) relationships. I’m functioning at a satisfactory level. I’m silver lining everything, and it’s not forced. The shit is just that – shit.
But the light is there too, and i’m not pretending i can see it.
I’m not stiff-upper-lipping, because screw that nonsense.
Being present and mindful for me means acknowledging the bad and the good. There is balance required in the seeing and the sharing of it, which requires me to pay attention, but that’s absolutely fine because that’s been integral to any long term successes i’ve had in my life.

Dissociation allowed me to survive.
Conscious involvement –in myself, my loved ones, and the world around me– allows me to thrive.

I’m not currently in danger of a mania, or depression, or switching.
I’m here, i’m in it, and i’m not going anywhere.
(Seriously, i’m not. I’m stuck in my goddamn house like the rest of us. Heh.)

Hang in there, everyone.
Love and Peace,
~H~

IMAGE: Valerie Blanchett

It Works When I Work It

I don’t know if i turned on a dime or if it was advancing on me and i just missed it.
Regardless, i’m not in a good place. I’m managing far better than i would have even a few months ago, but it still sucketh mightily.

I’m picking up on sick thoughts floating around up in my noggin, the kind that are based in my upbringing and old ways of dealing with such. I’m overthinking interactions with others, obsessing over each interchange, and worrying that i’ve said something wrong or stupid. My anxiety is coming at me from a number of places, and by that i mean manifesting physically. One is the yawning pit of worry that opens up behind my breastbone, another is the roiling ball of acid in my stomach, and the third is the band i feel squeezing my ribs, oh yeah – and that damned elephant is sitting on my chest again, demanding my attention.

In a matter of days i’ve been reduced to barely hanging on. Everything is too much. I can’t deal with everything that’s on my plate. I tried bitching about it on my social media, but it didn’t give me much relief. I’ve got to dial things back again. I’m going back to a bare minimum of functionality and seeing what i can reasonably accomplish while dealing with causes and symptoms of my current mental/emotional/physical state.

One source of anxiety that i can eliminate immediately is news/current events. Our province has been hit with a wave of new coronavirus cases, so i began watching the news again, which in turn led me back into some current events and then politics… And that’s getting noped. No more. I keep having to do this, but i’m going to try not to feel bad about it. I care about my family and friends and fellow humans, and i’ve always been a keen and regular consumer of local/national/world news. It’s not bad or dumb to care about these things – i can go back to it when my health is better. Once again i’ll be relying on my husband to tell me only what’s most important.

I need to talk to someone, but i’m not sure who. Normally i go to my husband and my therapist, but neither are currently an option. Hubby is dealing with some issues at work that have him all knotted up with anxiety too, and i don’t want to add to his burdens. Our income is going down, the government slowdown has thrown a wrench in our access to some assets, and we don’t know how screwed our economy is going to be when the smoke clears on this pandemic. My therapy had finally begun to ease in intensity, so i made the decision to put it on hold for a bit, hoping the money we save might provide a bit more cushion. There’s only a couple of people that i could talk to like i need to talk, and they’re dealing with their own piles of crap like the rest of us, so…

I’m blogging. It’s what i’ve got to work with, and it’ll just have to do for now.

Now to the thing that i don’t want to blog about. My health. I’m not well, but i don’t know how not-well, and i’m scared AF to find out. I live with chronic pain due to fibromyalgia, osteopenia, and various offshoots like restless legs, irritable bowels, myofascial pain and bruxism. I’m also going through menopause. I’ve had carpal tunnel since around 2001, but i lost a great deal of weight shortly after i was diagnosed, so that helped and as a result it’s been quite manageable. Until now. And it’s not just that in my hands, now. I don’t know if the fibro is worsening, or i’m developing arthritis, or something else, but my hands have become a daily misery. They’re stiff and painful and barely work for the first few hours of each day, then it eases enough to perform regular tasks, and then the pain returns full force before bed each night. The pain often flows into my forearms too, and i experience random but regular shooting pains, like electric shocks, throughout my body, and throughout the day. Nerve pain? I don’t know. I have a constant headache, but not my usual – it starts in the base of my skull, but rather than a band tightening around my temples, it shoots out almost exclusively on my right side. At times it greys my vision. I’ve pulled a muscle in my back and my ribs feel out on the left side. I’ve strained my neck on the right. Sciatica comes and goes. I experience dumping syndrome every time i eat, no matter what size my portions or what i consume. I’m never not tired. When my blood pressure isn’t too low and causing me to almost pass out every time i stand, my heart’s threatening to burst out of my chest due to anxiety. The fibro pain in my neck and shoulders hasn’t felt this intense since i was first diagnosed, i don’t think.
So yeah, i’m a mess.
I’m seeing my doctor this week.

Some things are crappy, for sure. However, i feel different. This situation seems different. I’ve been pondering what for some time now, and i think it’s me. I mean, in this blog where i am my own psychoanalyst that’s usually the answer. I’m actively working on self-awareness and healing, and i welcome change – it’s challenging and scary, but it’s good.
But still, that’s not quite it. This is different. I am different.

There’s a steadiness inside me that i’ve not had before. I’ve been babystepping for nearly 15yrs now, working towards a time when life happening no longer has the power to lay me low with the most mundane and regular of things. Fewer triggers, better function.
I should be a half step away from commitment. If all this had come a couple or 3yrs ago i think the chances are fair i’d be in care right now.
But i’m coping reasonably well, all things considered.
I could list everything currently on my plate, but i won’t, and i won’t because i know it’s not a good idea. I know it would drag me down. If you’re a regular reader you already know, and if you’re new, you probably get the gist. And you can guess if you don’t. We all have stuff. I have some physical and some mental stuff. I have the past, the right now, and wth-is-next.
Same as most of us.

I’m here, though. I’m in the face and present in most moments. I’ve switched a couple of times, but for mere hours, in total. I’m here for all of it. It’s stressful and i’m always tired and in physical pain. Yet i am not at the end of my rope. I see that, earlier in this piece i characterised myself as barely hanging on. That’s not so. I think part of the reason i feel so strange and unsettled is because i am NOT barely hanging on. I’ve got the rope grasped firmly and my feet are finding purchase rather surely.
Yes, i’m still dealing with a significant level of anxiety, but it is in keeping with current circumstances – it isn’t wildly out of scale. I’m not catastrophising. I’m not flailing. I’m staying the course and charting my path as the weather allows.

Well, i feel better. I’m in a better place than i thought.
I guess blogging works, when i work it.
I’ll try it again tomorrow.

Love and Peace,
~H~

IMAGE: Laura Nyhuis



Perspective

Last weekend, hubs and i were doing our once a week stocking up on essentials. When i saw him, my heart sank. Anxiety jumped on my chest and began twisted my guts with both hands. No mask. Little girl with him – no mask. He’s skimming closely behind other shoppers, laughing and speaking loudly. Rage knocks on my door and asks if i want to come out to play.

I can’t, i tell it, we’re social distancing, remember?
Ha.

As someone living with serious mental illness, i have an established, daily routine of checking in with my thoughts and emotions, in order to manage the way my brain works and maintain a decent level of functionality. The COVID pandemic, and its intense politicisation, has amped up my anxiety so high that, for a while there i was practically paralysed. Unable to take a step or even a breath due to the 800lb gorilla in the room. BUT, i’ve been working at the problem for months, addressing my thoughts and making small adjustments in the hopes of managing a little better, functioning at a higher level, and finding a way to help those around me.

This post is not going to be preachy. I don’t tell people how to think, or behave, or live. This blog is for sharing how i figure stuff out and create more of the life i want. I share for my own benefit, and out of care and concern for my fellow humans. I share so readers know that it can be done; this is not a guide to how.

The first thing i do is shift my perspective a little. Whether or not it’s true, i tell myself that he’s probably a decent enough guy, and he’s doing what he thinks is right. I remind myself that we’re all dealing with more stress than usual, and that it can be tough to figure out who’s correct and/or telling the truth – especially if you’re like me, and weren’t taught critical thinking skills. He’s got his adorable little daughter with him, nattering excitedly and flitting around his legs like a bird. A parking lot seagull with a french fry. I smile at the imagery, and my chest expands and my guts loosen. I head in to pick up groceries, almost breathing naturally.

But like i said – i don’t know him, and he might not be a decent person. He might, in fact, be an ass, but in this case it doesn’t matter. He’s leaving, so i don’t have to interact with him. I don’t have anyone along with me that might require a different response, like kids that know the girl from school, or someone with whom he’s friends. The way i choose to see him and his behaviour is for me, and is a reflection of who i am and want to be as a person. I want to be kind and good and helpful. That, and also to like myself and feel comfortable in my skin. I don’t like myself as much when i’m snide and sarcastic* and snarky. And even if i knew him personally to be a jerk, i would still be letting go of his actions, just in a different way. In any of the scenarios i can quickly play through in my mind, engaging him seems a losing battle, one that costs spoons i can’t spare. He might be a good person, and unless/until i know otherwise, the possibility is enough.

I’m a terrible arguer for one thing. I was raised with a mother who brooked no questions or even discussions around any issue she considered settled. She knew everything and was right about it all. She was my model for how to respond to others, and so i was a cantankerous contrarian outside the home. I argued hard and unfairly. I played a dirty game, full of straw men and ad hominems and gish gallops (yes, i’ve been learning about logical fallacies, and how i’ve been guilty of all of them). I didn’t know any different, but still, i was a shrill and strident know-it-all whenever i felt my beliefs were being questioned or threatened.

I’m not equipped or experienced in the art of fruitful discussions, especially those had amongst folks of differing beliefs who hold strong opinions. The older i get, the healthier and smarter, and i’m being convinced that changing people’s minds isn’t in my wheelhouse. I’m truly enjoying being quieter and keeping to myself. I like extending grace to others to be who they are. I like that people feel welcome and safe around me now, that they can relax and not fear judgment. I’m learning when and where to ask questions, and i’m seeing that the best and most helpful thing i can do for others right now is to be quietly and firmly myself. There are so many voices out there –more cacophony than choir– and it can be nigh impossible to separate out just one to give one’s attention.

In an age where studies indicate a fair number of people reflexively “double down” on what they think is true, and see outside viewpoints as a threat and those who hold them as worthy of derision, i see a niche for me with those who seek internal balance while building external bridges. I think that, in these small, quiet spaces, i might be able to help some. Maybe. Hopefully.

These days i prefer to listen quietly, or better yet, to read these chats/discussions/debates/arguments from the safety and solitude of my Little Crooked House. That way i’m relieved of my social anxieties and personality quirks and mental illness oddities, and i can just absorb it all and then mull it over at my leisure. (Which is immediately and obsessively, but hey, progress not perfection, eh? Heh.)

So yeah, that’s my post for today. It’s not much, but it’s something. A glimpse into how i handle something that we all deal with, and that’s perspective. How do i see the world, and is that how i want to see the world, and further, is that how the world IS? Are there ways that i can reasonably and safely shift my focus, my thoughts, my attitudes, that might lessen my mental/emotional load? I believe there are, and some of the things i’ve done seem to be working/helping. Here’s 1 small example with my typical meandering and wacky explanation. I’m trying to be entertaining and insightful while being true to who i know myself to be.

If i’m to get any blogging done, i’m going to have to relax into what i’m able to produce given my present set of circumstances, namely, that i’m in the worst fibro flareup i can remember in recent years. The pain is intense and constant and diffuse, which causes mental fog, the result of which is i’m having great difficulty remembering words, constructing sentences, and generally making any goddamn sense at all.

Bear with me.
Peace and Love,
~H~

* You’ll pry my sarcasm from my cold, dead hands. I used to be flat out caustic with my use of it, however, i’ve matured and developed discernment regarding when to use it and with whom.

IMAGE: Egor Myznik

Jiggling It Loose

I’m stuck. I’m in a weird place and i don’t quite know what’s going on or how i’m feeling. I’m having trouble defining it at all, let alone identifying, then describing and sharing it with my readers.
And i’m usually so eloquent and erudite. *snerk*

Well first – i’m low. My mood is blah, somewhat dark, and slightly negative. It’s not dangerously low, like, i need serious support/intervention. I don’t have much energy, but i get enough done. My house is clean and so am i. I’m struggling with overeating a bit, but i’m handling it well enough that i’m still losing weight. I get out for some solid exercise 6 days a week. My skin care regimen is back up where i like it best, and i put on a bit of makeup every day. I’m enjoying cooking again, and have resumed baking. I’m reaching out to friends and connecting emotionally. I’m sober. My marriage is good. My brain chatter is quieter and more easily managed than it has been in months and months, maybe even years. Maybe?

Still and all – lots of things suck. I’m in a major flareup (fibromyalgia). My RLS (restless leg syndrome) has been intense, and sometimes wakes me 2 or 3X a night. It’s coming on during the day too, and creeping up into my arms, shoulders, and mid back. My Botox injections wore off months ago, so now my face aches and my jaw throbs most of the day due to chronic, severe bruxism. I can barely move my hands and feet in the morning, they’re so stiff (fibro? old age?). I’ve had a persistent headache for months (yes fibro, yes stress). I’m experiencing dumping syndrome (a result of gastric bypass, and not what it sounds like) every time i eat, no matter what i consume or how much (definitely stress, but my doc has been on the lookout for an ulcer for some time).

Moving on, my relationships with my children aren’t where i want them to be. My marriage is good because i’m choosing to let go of all the things that don’t work for me in light of other, more pressing circumstances. I’m disappointed in humanity as a whole. I’m overwhelmed by politics and social issues. I have a sick pet. I’m extremely concerned about our financial situation. I’m lonely. I miss shopping and eating out. I’m struggling with writing. And i just learned a few days ago that a friend that i’d lost due to my craziness and manic behaviour has passed away, and i will never get an opportunity to make amends to her and maybe earn her friendship back.

Only weeks ago i would have been swimming in my cups over all this. I’m not entirely sure why i’m not, honestly. I should be switchy AF – but i’m not even very slidey.
I’m depressed, anxious, disillusioned, fed up, frustrated, sad.
I’m not happy and the things that i want seem very far away.
I’m restless and unsatisfied.
But, despite all of this, i’m stable.
I’m not falling apart. I’m not picking fights or losing my temper or drinking or eating anything not nailed down or causing chaos/drama or catastrophising. I’m not even histrionic.

I’m in foreign territory. I don’t know what’s going on with me. This state i’m in is unfamiliar. I’m wondering if… I’m thinking that i might just be… functional. Perhaps i’m living life on life’s terms. Considering what’s currently going on in the world, i’d guess most of us are struggling in some form or fashion, so this might just be how it is for non-crazies and the higher functioning. Could it be?

This is not dissociative behaviour. I’m not putting distance between my thoughts and emotions. I’m going towards relationships and making connections rather than climbing up inside my brain and hiding in some darkened corner. Physically, i feel like shit. Emotionally, i’m wrung out and stretched thin. Intellectually, i’m foggy, muddled, vapid.
And i know and am experiencing all these things in real time.

I’m not obsessively analysing things to figure out wtf is going on. I’m not trying to package it, to keep it manageable and contained. I’m not tying it all together and sticking a pretty bow on it. I am just in it. This is the hand i’ve been dealt and i’m playing it. I may win i may lose, i don’t know. I do know that i’m sure as hell not folding.

The anxiety and frustration are big right now. I can feel rage wanting to come and take the burden from me. I can hear it knocking, i can feel its heat, i can see the red glowing under the door, but i have no urge to open it. Rage is an important component of who i am. I’m grateful for some of what its done, and i give it honour and respect where i think it’s due. Rage pulled me back from the brink of death and made me want to live. It shook me until the dam burst and washed away the rot and the scum. Rage pried my eyes open and made me truly see as it tore off the sheepskins of the wolves surrounding me. I’m not done with rage – i need it. But not now and not for this.

This is my life today, and while it is hard, it is not anything like the hell i knew as a child. The wolves are long gone. All my basic needs are met, and then some. I have the means and the ability to hunker down and weather this current storm, that is indeed raging just outside my Little Crooked House.
I’m not tearing the walls down around me out of fear. I’m not shrieking into the wind. I’m not at the mercy of any of my emotions; i see them coming, and i let them wash through me. I know why they’ve come, and it’s understandable. They’ve a right to be here. It’s normal to be feeling this way under these circumstances. Most people are probably feeling somewhat similarly. Normal. Appropriate. Me. Is this real?

I think this feels weird and different and dodges my desire to define it because it is brand spanking new. I think i’m functioning at a higher level. I think i’m meeting some of my goals, and i think this is setting the stage for more and better. We’ll see, though. I don’t know this for sure, although i do hope it is so. If it’s not, or i suffer a setback, i’ll handle it the best i can and continue on. It’s what i’ve striven for and what i have attained. A doggedness, a tenacity, from whence has unexpectedly arisen a confidence, yes, a surety. I’m finding a certainty bubbling up inside me that i can do this. I’ve survived everything life has thrown at me so far, and the fear that i cannot or won’t is falling away from me with each stubborn, willful, intentional step i take.

Things are quieter in my head. I still hear and feel my Bits N’ Pieces all day, every day, but it is not the cacophony of voices it once was. I’m not always thinking and acting from a place of imminent danger and the need to survive. I’m not as constantly troubled by the dark, private, unknown parts of humans that i believe we all possess. And i’m not scrambling around, frantically trying to figure out who i really am and what i really want. Or even who others really are and what they really want.
I’ve finally done enough work that i just know*…

I also know i’ve got scads more work ahead of me, but this is an important moment in my journey. I still can’t see what lies ahead, and i’m trepidatious yet, but i WANT to jump. It’s time and i’m ready.

I didn’t know what i was going to write about today, just that the time had come to stop trying and post something. Anything.
I didn’t expect this, but i’ll take it.
Damn straight.

I grew up in the shoes they told me I could fill
Shoes that were not made for running up that hill
And I need to run up that hill
I need to run up that hill, I will, I will, I will, I will, I will

~ Fiona Apple, Fetch The Bolt Cutters

*I know for me. Anyone else is as much of a mystery as they wish to be, for the most part.

Image: Karsten Winegeart

Problem Solving

I’d like to use this post to demonstrate some of my problem solving. It’s something that i can use as good evidence that i’ve learned and changed as a result of all the personal, inner work i’ve done. It shows that what i’m doing is working.

Alcohol is high calorie, and they’re empty ones at that (“empty,” meaning having little or no nutritional value). When i’m on a bender, the calories i consume come primarily from that source. Outside of that, because i’m often incapable of cooking, i eat junk and fast food. My family still has to eat, so my husband will grab some takeaway after work. I used to refuse most of it, but recently, as i’ve been listening to my body and allowing myself to feel physical sensations, i’m hungry more often, and more intensely. That includes when i’m switched and/or binge-drinking. Add in my history, which includes a lifetime of serious food/eating/body image issues, and you’ve got weight gain. These last 2 go-rounds have cost me.
<insertughslashsighslashwhimperhere>

When i sobered up and detoxed this last time, i finally noticed that the pounds had been creeping back on. I’m not sure how many, because i don’t weigh myself, but experience plus the way my clothes fit gives me a decent idea. I go with general ball-parking to avoid obsession, which is always a possibility when i’m dealing with food. It was my anaesthesia of choice before weight loss surgery and mania turned my attention to alcohol.
I knew the first thing to do was ask myself, Why am i eating compulsively again?

I have a notion that it has to do with this work of reestablishing my brain-body connection. I would be given food as a reward and have it withheld as a punishment. I would be starved simply out of neglect. I would be abused by being forced to eat burned, frozen, or spoiled food. My mother modeled sick eating behaviours, and eventually ate her way up to what i’d estimate to be around 650-700lbs. I’ve written about all of this at length and in great detail before, so i’ll leave it at that. I reiterate to make this point: my system is full of hungry children, and my body hosts memories of starving.

There are things that my system particularly craves, like meat, junk food, and fast food. These were things that my mother never went without, but were regularly denied me. She’d eat them in front of me, but more often, she’d wait until i was in bed. I had a nose and i wasn’t stupid, so i knew what was happening. Probably my system’s favourite thing is a sandwich. I think it’s because i almost never had a lunch for school. She wouldn’t make me one, and there was regularly nothing to make a proper lunch with, so i went without. And i had to watch all the other children with their neat little, nutritionally sound lunches packed by their moms, or see them with enough money in their pockets to go buy something to eat. Some days, it was nothing short of torture.

Now, after a hard switch, especially if it’s more than a few hours, they eat, and they hide and hoard food, too. Once i’m back in the face, i might open a drawer or pull back my bed pillow, and find some food stashed there. They hide food because they’re afraid of starving, and they particularly want to hoard the foods that i was denied as a child. This has happened my whole life, and was a source of fear and shame. Before my MPD/DID diagnosis, i couldn’t understand what was going on; i would find the food, throw it out, and dissociate from what happened immediately. Once i had the information that i was multiple and was losing time and could filter my memories through that, it became obvious what was going on. Over the last 6+mos or so, the behaviour has reemerged and escalated, and i’ve been finding food everywhere. My family also informs me (because i want to know) that my parts will cook a big batch of meat and consume it, from steak to SPAM. My system and my body both, remember my history with food.

It can take awhile for me to mark a weight loss or gain. I see myself a certain way and it’s like my mind locks on that version. I think it’s so i don’t have to connect to what i’m seeing in the mirror, i.e. it affords me some distance and facilitates dissociation. It’s like having the same profile pic for 6mos and then i realise i don’t look like that anymore, say, i’ve changed my hair colour or gotten new glasses. These last months i’ve been working on being kinder to my body –the things i say in my brain about my body can be vicious– trying to be more appreciative of how well it has served me over my lifetime, despite all it’s been through. I chase every acid statement with a realistic one, e.g. You’re in your 50s and were morbidly obese for many years – cut yourself a break. What i’m trying to get around to is, i’m more aware of my body than ever before, and this time around it only took around 10lbs for me to notice i was gaining, instead of my usual 30, 40, 50. (I use “usual” lightly though, as i’ve never been much of a yo-yoer when it comes to weight gain. I’d go slowly and steadily up. The only time i lost weight quickly was after weight loss surgery. I got down to a healthy size only twice before that: once in junior high, and the other time when i was 27. I had a bit to lose yet both of those times, but i’d get scared and eat my way back up.)

But here i am, noticing, and more quickly. That’s because of therapy and a firm commitment to mindfulness and being more present and conscious of my surroundings and situation in the moment. And now that i have noticed and i’m in problem-solving mode, an awesome thing happens.
Without much effort or angst – i get to solving the problem.

I’ve tried most diets and programs and methods. I know how my body responds to food and i know how my brain reacts to particular foods and consuming behaviours, like overeating and secret eating and over consumption of foods i was denied and/or manipulated with as a child… I’m saying i’ve got this, and i know it. I’ve amassed a rather large hill’s worth of good information on nutrition and physiology. I won’t be sharing specifics – i’m of the (very likely) heavily biased opinion that these issues are complicated AF and full of nuance and can trigger obsession and self-hatred in many. This blog is never gonna be a how-to, it’s only here to offer hope that you might suss out and survive your own path, as i have mine.
So yeah, after all this time, energy, and effort spent on figuring out this aspect of my life – i knew exactly what to do. So i’ve just gotten at it.

I’m 2wks out from my last fall. I don’t know when, or even if there’ll be another.
The day i got back at it, and for days after, i wrestled with all the thoughts and feels that come along with weight gain, and not being where i want to be with my physical body. I can look at myself with what i call “fat eyes”. My vision is not accurate, my eyes send the information it gathers to my brain, and my brain (a brilliant wonder of an organ that is my blessing and my curse, and my sometimes unwilling but always hardworking partner in healing what can be, and duct-taping, gluing, or stapling the rest) paints it with a fresh coat of old issues from a sticky old can, the label thick with layers of dried spills. The colour echoes its subtleties, like breath on a steamed up mirror, and i hear their faded and fading admonishments.
But i’m not convicted of any crime anymore. The charges don’t stick and the mirror clears up and i see myself clearly.

I don’t buy the hopelessness anymore. The fear that i’ve carried all my life is falling away, and as it does, so my need for protection, both figurative and literal, melts off my body – as long as i keep moving forward and allowing it to happen. I will acknowledge the fear of being smaller and more societally attractive as it happens, in real time, and see it for what it is, which is NOT ABOUT ME, nor is it the place at which i handle my lifelong battle with self hatred. One foot in front of the other, on the road with my dogs, on the treadmill with a podcast in my ears, in the kitchen preparing a meal, in front of the mirror, deciding what to wear and what colours to paint on my face. See what’s in front of me, acknowledge what i’m dealing with, and make healthy choices based in the now.

I’m not that adolescent girl anymore, the one who cried herself to sleep at night, while begging god to let her wake up the next morning slim and shapely. I’m no longer completely disgusted by my body, and i don’t view it as my enemy. I don’t feel trapped and claustraphobic inside my own skin. I’ve let go of unrealistic and unhealthy expectations regarding what i can achieve with a healthy weight and fitness level.

I know why i put on weight. It’s understandable and i know what to do. I’m no longer interested in diets and programs, and i give every new guru that comes along a wide berth. I’m invested in long term, sustainable change. I’ve stumbled many times, and i keep getting back up, and faster than last time too, thank me very much. This is my path, this is the process. I notice that i’ve tripped on something, i figure out what it is, and i handle it. I know myself so well at this point that i can usually avoid the complete devastation that used to come with each new bit of knowledge or insight. Ten pounds is progress, man. Ten pounds ain’t nothin’.

I’m settling back into healthy routines that i’ve slowly and carefully established over years of therapy and self-exploration, through an accumulation of experience and education. Two weeks in and, while i’m a bit impatient to see results, i can hang on without white-knuckling, because i know results are forthcoming. I’ve been 2wks in the face, with a minimum of sliding around and no switching at all. I’m babystepping my way back to a higher level of functionality. My mood is still low, but as with my weight gain, i know what it’s about and i know what to do. Stay the course. Keep on truckin’. Hang in there.

I hope you’re able to do the same.

Peace and Love,
~H~

IMAGE: Alexander Kaunas

Letting Go, AKA The Jump

healing is in the air
life is a precious ring given to us by love
to polish and shine with all we learn

~Jane Siberry, Morag

Letting go is a helluva thing, innit? It is where i currently find myself. As i said to a friend the other day, i am on a precipice. I feel my feet are on solid ground, but i’m close to the edge, and i can see the vastness of the chasm just a step or 2 away. I mentioned in my last post that i wondered if my parachute would function properly, and bear me safely to the ground below. I felt the significance of it as i typed it out, and knew i’d be writing more about it at another time. Off we go, then.

All the work i’ve done over these last years has been leading me to a moment. Okay, there’ve been many moments, times that i’ve known/felt were significant. I understand that that’s what therapy is, a series of steps that lead to moments that prepare me for and bear me on through the next steps. Some moments though, are more charged than others, more thick with fulfillment and promise. I’ve sought epiphanies and had many as a result – they’ve been vital, perhaps integral, to my continuing on with this work. It has mostly been cerebral stuff yes, that is, until i’d dug deep enough. Once i struck the well i moved into the emotional, and i felt countless times like i was drowning, like i’d never find dry land. When i did, i thought everything was done. And then i stumbled and fell. When i looked up i saw a mountain in my path, and i learned that the only way forward was up.
These last years have been physical, literally physical work. Physical AND emotional AND mental. As i climbed i saw something waiting for me at the peak.
A moment.

We know that mountains are not just a pointy bit at the top, as they appear from far away, or in a child’s drawing (because that is, after all, what they see –what we all see– from a distance). If you’re a hiker/climber you well know, and if you watch nature programming and/or have seen the coverage of the Everest questers, you’ve at least seen it. There are summits sure, but also ledges, ridges, shoulders, cols, dikes, faces, saddles, and oh yes, pinnacles. Mountains are a lot of parts, and are certainly a most apt metaphor for my journey over the last 2yrs. It’s been a climb… One helluva climb.

Can you see where this metaphor is leading? Of course you can. Yes, i’m at the top, and it’s a summit of a sort, almost extreme enough to be called a pinnacle, i suppose. The thing is, i cannot see what lies in front of me, nor below. The question is, will i jump? BASE jump life, are you crazy? Why thank you Sir/Madam, i am. In this case though, i don’t think my crazy factors in. The preparation for this has been hours and days and years of work. To meet pain and fear in the daylight, to know them intimately, to build relationship with them. I had to learn how to know them, in order to relate to them, to communicate, and most of all, to listen to what they had to share with me, to teach me. I had to provide the atmosphere for communication to happen. I spent my early years in a brain fog, but once i hit my mid-30s, it was nothing short of cacophony up there. Although i’ve never experienced quiet in this old noggin of mine, at least when i was younger it was more like a soft buzz than the shrill and the shriek of my 40s.

I marshalled my brain-voice force and soldiered on, sure.
I wish i could continue on with metaphors – they’re so much easier for me.
More romance and less suspense/thriller.
Ah, well.
Letting go scares the everloving you-know-what outta me.
Horror may fit better. (A tad histrionic, that. Heh.)

Until now, the question regarding this work, this journey towards better mental health and functionality has not been “if,” but “when.” But letting go is not a small thing.

To me, letting go means to step away from hypervigilance. To stop functioning from the constant, underlying fear/belief that everyone will hurt me. To be present and mindful when experiencing fear. To look it in the face and then hold it in my arms and soothe it with true things:
It’s over,
We’re safe,
Everything’s going to be okay, because i can handle it.
To understand, with wisdom and maturity, that some people will hurt me and i won’t die from it.

Letting go means dropping the facade (a facade is different from a social mask, which i use without compunction). To live from a place where i am fully myself in whatever capacity i know myself at that time –with appropriate protections at appropriate times– like, not telling someone private things about myself because i want to fit in and be liked.

Letting go means releasing my grip on the controls, i.e. allowing people to be who they are and think what they think – which most importantly includes what they think/feel about me. This ties in to the fear of being hurt, rejected, or betrayed. I spend an inordinate, unhealthy amount of time and attention trying to read others. I have reams of mental scripts for social interactions. I’m always trying to anticipate someone’s reaction, and i still wrestle with the desire/perceived need to orchestrate outcomes. My subtle manipulations are, in a significant way, removing, or at least interfering with, a person’s autonomy. Once i gained that insight, it instantly became not okay. It’s proven a difficult thing to lay down, and its time is overdue.

Letting go means being kinder and more forgiving to those to whom i’m closest. I’m unfailingly polite and friendly to those outside my circle, but if i’m married to you or made you, not so much. From the place of childhood trauma, the amount that i love them is a threat, and from that place i can be prickly, sometimes downright cruel. I jump to conclusions and assume ill intent, because in my mind it’s better than being caught off guard. Hurt occurs in loving relationships – the intentional sort, too. It is not abuse, however. If i was being abused i would have left or had the offending party removed. I’m not though, yet i’ve been allowing parts of my system to behave in ways that are unacceptable.

Many of them are trapped in past abuse, and some of the more developed parts stubbornly refuse to move forward with me. They’ve been on notice for awhile that things are changing, and getting set to change a lot more yet. I have the will, the ability, and the power to take drastic measures if need be. I’ve ended physical violence, verbal abuse, and destruction of property over the years, but i’m ready for more. Yes, everyone gets grouchy and snippy sometimes – what i’m referring to is not that. I’m like a rescue dog that’s been savagely beaten, who keeps growling and snarling and nipping, long after they’re being treated properly.
I am not a dog.
I have what it takes to stay the sarcastic comment and silence the passive-aggressive commentary.
I know i don’t need protection from these people.
Time to stop baring my teeth.

Most of all, letting go has to do with my past. Of course it does. At first, i couldn’t have let it go if i’d tried (i wouldn’t have, but if i had, you know… ). Once i’d become well acquainted with, and more than a little attached to my system, i resisted it as hard as i did the mere thought of integration. It felt like letting go of them (my memories) was a betrayal of myself and a denial of my past. And on an insidious level, i thought it would rob me of any legitimate reason for being so messed up. I also thought that maybe it was about forgetting, and a part of me wanted to forget, but was afraid i’d never be able to, that i’d be stuck in the horror of it for the rest of my life.

Letting go of my past doesn’t mean forgetting, nor does it mean that i won’t still be dealing with it and working through it. It means stepping out of the past and living as fully as possible in the present. There are parts of me that are trapped in the past, so this would involve bringing them along with me, and i know there is only one way to do that, which in turn calls for more letting go. That is care. It wasn’t only abuse that caused me to split; the stage for it was set by lack of care. Perhaps worse than the abuse itself was unmet needs, the overarching of which was love. My physical needs were given sporadically, and taken away on a whim, but i was never loved by the one who brought me into this world and charged herself with my care. To her i was something to be consumed, more possession than person.

The thing is though, the abuse stopped when i got away from her and my stepfather at 21yrs old. My mother’s been dead for 30yrs and i’ve been comfortably estranged from my stepfamily and half siblings for maybe 10. No one is abusing me anymore. I’m surrounded by people who love me and accept me for who i am and how i work. I’m safe and in a loving situation and i receive daily care. I care for myself and i take care of myself, and i trust my partner to care for and take care of me, too. He’s stepped in countless times and done for me what i was unable to do for myself – both emotional and physical care.
It’s time to stop living as if my childhood is still happening. It’s time to let the wounds close over and stop picking the scabs – time to let it all scar over.

I’ve been preparing for this moment for years. I’ve always known that letting go would be a thing, but i didn’t know what it entailed or how to do it. As i’ve shared here, i have developed some ideas on how that would look, and it’s time for me to try it. I’ve always bristled a bit at the insistence of others that i’m a survivor of mental, emotional, physical, sexual violence and abuse. I watched others like me bristle at being called a victim, and i got it for them, but it was not for me. Every time i get super low and feel like the world’s biggest failure and total screw-up, my husband says gently to me that these things aren’t true. He says, “You are not (x), you are a victim.”

And i’ve seriously needed to hear that, over and over, because i couldn’t accept being as broken as i’ve been without someone who is safe and loving and providing me with care to tell me that it’s true and accurate and understandable and okay, to be as incredibly fucked up and non-functional as i’ve been. Being called a survivor felt like being told i should be done dealing with my past. I wasn’t. I’m not. And by letting go, i think i’d like to skip that whole “survivor” stage, and just get straight on with living. I’ll keep on doing the work, but my path will look different. I don’t know how because, as i’ve stated, i can’t see the bottom. I haven’t jumped yet but i’m fixin’ to…

Very, very soon.

we’ll see things we’ve never seen before
they say we will do this and much more
we will have the healing hands
to help the ones we love
which will be every living thing


~ J.S.

IMAGE: Cristofer Jeschke





Poem From a Woman*

sittin’ in my jammie-jams because hey
at least i got up
and that is a THING
and as i gather myself for whatever i can put into the day
sitting on the red couch that i always wanted
-who knew it’d only cost me fifty bucks?-
i look to my right to adjust the ponytail-loopy-messybun
that’s designed to keep my hair somewhat cute
with a minimum of hassle and no brushing
BONUS
and i catch sight of my ankles
and the tops of my calves
the mirror is floor length – not even my biggest one
i have them all over the house
because my house is small, broken down a bit
a dream house built for a grandmother-in-law that i never knew
decently built in the fifties but now in need of repair
sorry house but mine comes first
and the renos have been a nightmare
so for now what you get are mirrors
because back when i thought you weren’t good enough
i was binge-watching HGTV
and they all said mirrors make spaces look bigger
and i am so bigger
too bigger
and i knew i needed bigger spaces, even if it was an illusion
so my little crooked house thanks me sarcastically for the band-aid
by showing me my cankles and tree-trunk calves
-but wait now-
i’ve been tapping my pontoon feet on my old hardwood floor
listening to Amanda Palmer while jigging my body on the red couch
as i pull bits of my hair here, there
pleasing myself with the arrangement
i watched so many videos
and tried so hard
but i could never master the casual flare of the messybun girls
i gave it up long ago like it did the makeup toots
-holy christ so many hours of that!-
i discovered i was almost as unskilled at drawing on my face as i was on paper
and my Twin and i realised i’m not that girl
and she even gave up collecting makeup we never used
and i discovered that i like a defined brow
and lipstick
and a bit of blush
and that’s pretty much it
just as i like my weird loopy-ponytail thingwe
i’m staring at myself in my smartass floor-length mirror
looking at my ankles, my calves
feeling the hot acid accusations being thrown
hearing decades of admonishments
i turn into it
and i am become the mirror
and in it we are infinity
i can see me all going back
further and further and further still
and i see that i have made these ankles thick
and i see that i have carved these tree trunk calves
they are me – they are who i am
they are who i want to be
i put down the magazines as i have turned off the makeup gurus
and the hair tutorials
and the home decorating channels
and the goddamned celebrity interview programs
and the accursed diet mavens
-omg god could they fuck the most off already?-
i stand up and move into my kitchen where there are more and bigger mirrors
i face them – daring their judgment
standing on my hideous stained linoleum with walls in desperate need of paint
clownfeetthickankleshugecalvesthunderthighsfatassmonkeyarms
tootalltoobigtoomuchtooloudtooweirdtoopoortoodirtytoolosttooalone
and i turn
and i leeeean into it
the images repeat, each folding into the next
i grew this big because life worked me out
i grew this tall because my children needed shelter
i became this loud to drown out the hate
i became this weird to survive poor, dirty, lost
and alone
i always wanted a red couch and i found one for fifty bucks
i filled my house with mirrors because i wanted my house to feel BIGGER
i filled my house with mirrors because i wanted it to SEE
my house is exactly as it should be
the decorations are not tricks or masks
they are adornments
we are all of us decorated as i intend
i had thought i was just beginning to create myself in my own image
but as i look from breakfast-sausage webbed toes that are so well suited
to both gripping the earth and swimming in deep waters
to my Amazonian body
to my tattooed lips and brows
to my wacky-ass hair conglomeration
i see that i am fearfully yet wonderfully made to my own specifications
standing there in my faded pink, Paris-themed pyjamas that make me feel cute
i look just as i should just as i want just as i wish
i have been creating myself all along
and no fashion or lifestyle or home improvement magazine
television show or internet channel
could have even come close to doing this spectacular a job of it
i square my fantastic football shoulders
and walk into the kitchen
i’m hungry
I believe a grilled cheese and ice cream are in order.

~ Mine, November 2, 2020

* Decided last night i was going to post “poem from a girl”. This morning as i went to do it, this piece came flooding out of me. I almost like it, and i no longer hate the other one. There’s an obvious lesson in that of course. It’s a lesson that i am, and will continue learning.

IMAGE: Christian Mack