My Love Affair W/Anger, Part II


WARNING: Brief reference to rape.

Poetry = Anger X Imagination
~ Sherman Alexie, One Stick Song


I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.

I was angry with my foe;
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
~ William Blake, Songs of Experience


Anger, Tessa thought, was satisfying in its own way, when you gave in to it. There was something gratifying about shouting in a blind rage until your words ran out.
~ Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel


**********

The flavour-of-the-month where therapy was concerned at that time, was the self-help monolith known as 12-step program. I tried any and all that might apply.

(NOTE: It’s going to be clear that i have some negative opinions regarding this organisation and their methods. It is my own opinion based on personal experience. My thoughts about their politics and the data that’s been gathered over the years regarding its efficacy have no place here. If you have been helped by them, i’m only glad. If they’re an integral part of your life and being successful, i say keep that shit up. If you are currently seeking help from them, i sincerely wish you well.)

I started with looking for help with my issues with food. I branched out to others, looking for some kind of group vibe that suited me. What i found there was religion. Over and over again i felt forced into a mold that didn’t fit. I’d pour myself in, only to feel contained and suffocated. The freedom proclaimed by others eluded me, despite my best efforts. I took every suggestion and worked every step, thoroughly and repeatedly. It did help me clean some of the clutter out of my brain, enough so that after some years, i could see that there were parts of my brain that were closed doors to me. I felt incomplete. I knew i wasn’t done. The completion of the steps did not bring me the things it seemed to bring others. I was unsatisfied and frustrated and disillusioned.

The longer my mother’s death afforded me no contact with her, the safer it became for my true self to poke its head out from the darkest recesses of my brain and have a look around.
Religion, to put it as mildly as possible, does not suit me.

I worked 12-step programs, i went to group therapy (so many groups), and pursued individual counselling with a half dozen different people over a half dozen years. It all helped some, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t going anywhere near my dissociative nature, or the reasons for it. Any time any of the therapy or therapists came close to it, i became disgusted and moved on to the next thing.

My deep-seated and untapped anger had resulted in abuse towards my child, and wrought a cold distance between me and other people. I wish i hadn’t hurt my son, but at least i knew i was hurting him. I knew i needed to be a better parent, and i sought help. I took parenting classes from any place that offered them, and i associated with women that seemed to me to be good moms. I hung out with them and aped their actions. It helped some, but not enough. I loved him so much it hurt my heart, but there was something missing in the way i connected with him.

I’d received feedback from many people that i was a closed system. They said i was only knowable to a point, and then the door was shut and they couldn’t get it open. That wasn’t at all what i wanted, but i couldn’t seem to open the door, either. I wanted friends; i craved connection with others. I felt hidden and would try to open up, but that was always followed by abject terror and horror at what i’d done. I’d often become repulsed by the person i’d shared with, and recoil from the friendship, avoiding further association. I knew i wrecked relationships and hurt people.
Again, i sought help.

In both cases the assistance and guidance i was able to find only helped so much.
I was unconsciously resistant to anything that came too close to my multiplicity, and the reason that i was a multiple. The mere suggestion from any mental health care professional that i might be highly dissociative was met with instant, actual physical revulsion, and if they dared utter the words “multiple personality disorder,” i bolted and never returned.

Slowly though, all the therapy helped, even just a visit or 3, even a counsellor that was ill-equipped to handle my mountain of issues and torrential past (frankly, that was most of them). The one thing it consistently did, THEY ALL consistently did, was help me redirect my anger towards its true source: my childhood, my upbringing, and specifically, my mother. My resistance to the idea that my mother was an abuser was powerful, but years and distance had loosened her grip on me.

The night my stepfather tried to suffocate me because i wasn’t easy to rape i cried out for her help. She left me to tend to him that night, and dropped me at a shelter 2 days later. She used my siblings as bait to get me to drop the charges against him. At her deathbed she accepted my sobbed out apologies for being a bad daughter, but never offered her own for being a terrible mother.
Her death freed me, although i didn’t know it until much later.
Some internal barriers fell, and the truth began seeping in.
When i was ready, vulnerable and filled with a need to know and understand, those moments came back to me. I caught a glimpse of the beast under her moribund facade, and rage was born in me.

A couple of years after her death, a perfect storm of events sent me spiralling:

– I accepted the DID diagnosis;
– I lost a LOT of weight;
– I had a long and intense mania.

When the mania finally released its grip, i was in terrible shape, both mentally and physically. All the anger that had been simmering inside me came bubbling up, throwing everything into chaos. I didn’t know what to do with all of it. There was so much it overwhelmed and consumed me. It pulled me into its arms and danced with all my parts. They all rose up and partnered with it, spinning across the floor of my mind, whirling and dipping to a tremulous treble and a pounding bass. The rage thrummed through my blood and suffused my flesh. I was hot and red with it. I was in its thrall.

It was forbidden love, and we’d all fallen hard. It was exhilarating and intoxicating. It was a whirlwind romance and i was filled with power and a dire beauty. I was wearing the red shoes, and i danced and i danced and i danced.


More to come yet…

My Love Affair With Anger


Anger: AnggUHR n. A strong feeling of displeasure or hostility.

The best fighter is never angry.
~ Lao Tzu


Anger… it’s a paralyzing emotion… it’s helpless… it’s absence of control… I have no use for it whatsoever.
~ Toni Morrison


Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside.
~ Mitch Albom


Don’t hold to anger, hurt or pain. They steal your energy and keep you from love.
~ Leo Buscaglia


**********

I vigorously disagree with these quotes/sentiments.

I’ve had to work hard to find the right kind of help to heal and move on from my past.
Part of the difficulty came from “common sense,” pop psychology, and inspirational speakers and philosophers with ideas like these. Being raised religious, it came naturally to me to believe and trust any adult who embodied the qualities i was taught were moral and wise. When i went to these people for help, i always did my level best. I did what they told me to do, read their books and studiously completed every workbook. I took their courses and parroted their words. I worked therapy like it was my only job. Like i was diabetic and it was my insulin.

It never “took.” Some things would land, and i would plant them in my garden. But most of it never took root, never flourished. A lot of it withered and died. I had been raised to believe that in any and all situations, if there was a problem of any stripe, it was me or because of me. So, i bore it all as my failure, not the therapist’s or their particular brand of therapy.*
As with so many other things, like education, like weight loss, like love… There is simply no one-size-fits-all for therapy, for how to fix your problems, for how to live your life.

Dozens and dozens of people, places, and things came into play to help me save my life. The loss or absence of any one of them may have resulted in me not making it. I find this perhaps the most true when it comes to anger. I’ve written about it before, but it bears repeating, i think. Over and over again, i see anger getting a bad rap. I don’t see any emotion as either negative or positive. They are just feelings. They’re indicators, they’re place markers, they’re flags, they’re storytellers. It is the actions that follow an emotion that can be good or bad. And by that metric, in my life what has flowed from me as a result of anger has been lifesaving, empowering, and actually quite wonderful.

If my abusers had permitted, had tolerated any anger from me, i might have eventually told them NO, STOP, and risen up against them. That was too great a risk for them to take. That they might not only lose their living shit receptacle, but also perhaps be caught by some authority in their twisted deeds? For others to find out how sick and selfish and psychopathic they were? Absolutely not. And why worry? Because in me they’d found the perfect victim. I was obedient, compliant, and never spoke a word about the abuse to anyone.

The first time i can remember feeling angry i was around 9, i think. It only makes sense that i’d have felt it before, but it was either mild, or i hid it away because it was against the rules. I knew i had no rights. I knew only those in power positions were permitted anger. I believed it was right for them to be angry, about whatever they were angry about. My job was to fit their narrative into my experience. They were always right and i was always wrong. I was certainly the cause of their anger often enough.

I began getting angry fairly regularly after that, but i expressed it through sarcasm and disdain. Students and teachers alike found me intimidating (i found out later), a combination of my size (where the students were concerned) and my next-level mouthiness. By the time i was in high school, no one physically threatened me anymore. They still said awful things that stick with me to this day –and that includes teachers– but no one tried to hit me. (Unless you count that 1 jerkwad of a teacher who’d throw things at me in class, including a dictionary straight at my head.)
So, my sarcasm could be caustic, and i was sometimes flat out obnoxious, but i wasn’t violent.

Once i got away from my mother and had a child of my own, my anger became a problem. No one had taught me how to handle the normal frustrations that come along with raising a child. What my mother had modeled was abusive, and at that point, thankfully, i knew that. I took parenting classes, which helped a lot, but i was desperately in need of good therapy. Having a kid had me constantly triggered. I couldn’t connect with him physically, and i was hot and cold, emotionally. He was one of the best behaved children i’ve ever known, so i wasn’t tested often, but when i was, my patience ran out quickly, and i spanked him on a number of occasions. Too hard. I was angry. I was a triggered, dissociative mess and i needed help.

To be continued…


*To be fair, i only had a few awful therapists, who shouldn’t have been practising. Most of the time they were decent, and they tried to help me. They just didn’t have the right tools for the job. I’m sure they helped other people.



IMAGE: Julien Pouplard

My Path Is Many Steps


It didn’t come easy, but it wasn’t exactly hard, either.
I’m talking about yesterday. I’m still having to force myself to do things, but it’s not coming at great cost. I’m just blasé about stuff. This could be a temporary thing, or it could be that i’m experiencing a more normal emotional state of being. It might be something else entirely, OR i could be overthinking… Wait, not that last one. I never overthink, so it can’t be that one.
Heh.

I planted flowers in my garden, walked the dogs, made supper, and oh yes! i wrote a blog post. My house is clean and i am, too. My relationships are in fairly good order. I’m feeding my brain and caring for my system. I ate healthily, took in enough liquid, and watched some things that made me laugh. I went to bed at a reasonable time and fell asleep easily. I know i’m dreaming a lot, but there’s no morning residue. What little i can recall seems like normal processing.

A very cool, very nice thing happened, and that was finally getting some more obvious payoff from my calorie restriction and exercise. I went through a plateauing period that lasted weeks, and it suuuuuuuucked! I know it happens because i have so much experience with it (grumble grumble.) I hung on and kept doin’ my thang, and yesterday it happened! I’ve been walking and gardening and spring cleaning the property and walking some more, and still minding what and how much i eat… But i don’t look any different and all my clothes seem to fit the same way. I don’t know why it works this way for me, it always has. Maybe it works like this for other people, too? I don’t see any changes and i intermittently feel gross and freak out that i’m gaining and i have anxious thoughts that say i need to restrict more and do more because it’s NOT ENOUGH

But i’ve been through this before and i know myself and how i work. So i just dig in and keep putting one foot in front of the other, holding on to these few, small, manageable things i do that always, eventually, bring about changes that i can see and mark. And yesterday i saw it and marked it. I put on my yoga pants and they fit weird. While i was walking the dogs they felt weird, too. When i got home i noticed they didn’t look right, and in fact needed to be pulled up. That didn’t compute, because i like my active wear tight, y’all. I like all my business to be held in nice and snug, and i don’t want to be distracted by the need to readjust once i’ve got everything looking and feeling how i want. When i pulled my pants back up, i noticed i could hike them up to my chest, and when they settled, my waist did not fill out the waistline.

I got a pair of jeans that are too tight out of my drawer and tried them on (i don’t weigh myself, i gauge weight loss by what clothes fit.) They slid on easily and there was no muffin top. I went and sat in my recliner and there was enough space along the side of the seat for my dog to lay beside me. Then i took a hard look in the mirror, and it was like the scales fell from my eyes. My face has become more angular, and my collarbones are jutting out.
I’m definitely over the hump.
YAY!

My reaction was weird too, though. In the past, weight loss has triggered euphoria and even mania in me. But this time, while i was gratified, i took in the knowledge rather calmly and continued about my day. Is this more grownupness?
I think maybe it is.

I’m in this for the long haul. I have goals i intend make. And none of them are so i can go back eating and drinking unhealthily, and with impunity. This is about lifestyle change. This is about my health and longevity. This is about living amends to my husband and especially my children. And this is about my happiness and having more of it.

Today i had a wee 5k+ adventure with my Kiddo, and by end of day i’ll have 10k in. I had a sugary drink and Chinese food for lunch as a treat. We had a great time. I feel good about finally seeing some results, but this is just one more step along a path of many. May it sustain me through the tough times that will certainly come again.



Y’all Hang in There, Y’Hear?
~H~



IMAGE: Pascal Swier

Staying the Course


I’m trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
~ Indigo Girls, Closer To Fine


Still feeling like Pig Pen from Peanuts. Depression is following me around like my own personal raincloud, and i’m kicking up moody dust wherever i go. My affect feels flat. Everything is either meh, or ugh. I don’t hate it, but i don’t love it. I’m working on a piece about anger, and it’s occurred to me a number of times while writing it that my creative juices aren’t flowing well. It’s getting done, but slowly.
And it’s struck me that nothing is riling me up, lately.
And i am easily riled.

I’m asking myself if this is a good sign or not, and i don’t know. It could be because as i mature and become more functional, i’m better at coping with the world and all that happens in it, and people and all the shit they get up to. WE get up to. (You know, cuz i can still get up to some shit. Heh.)
Or…
Is it because depression is settling in and dulling my senses and reactions. As i’m writing this i immediately thought No, because where is the characteristic frustration, irritation, and explosive anger? When i’m depressed i’m not so much sarcastic as caustic, and i’ll spit that acid at any and all comers. I’m churlish and cranky. I’m morose and i mope and think sad and dark thoughts.

I honestly don’t know. I don’t even have an intuition which one it is. In my life it’s usually both, but to what degree? Welp, since i don’t have enough evidence to draw my favour one way or the other, i shall just press on, as mindfully as i can. I’m still functional and accomplishing small goals. My routine is still in place and i’m pleased with its flow. I’m still on track with some longer term goals regarding weight loss, fitness, and relationships. I’m on track with planning for how i’d like my life to change once my area opens back up and i’m fully vaccinated.

Things are okay. They’re not great, but they don’t have to be. Life is like this for me at the moment, and that’s okay. It’s not ideal, i wish it were different, but i can work with it. I’m aware and conscious and intentional and committed. If and when more information becomes available to me i might add or subtract to my daily routine, but unless or until, i am staying the course. I am still moving forward, and while it’s slower than i’d like, it’s still positive and enriching and good.

There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less i seek my source for some definitive
Closer I am to fine


Love and Peace, Everyone,
~H~



IMAGE: Alex Siale

Fatigue

Today i spoke with my therapist. She called me last week at the same time, but i’d forgotten we had an appointment and had scheduled something else that i couldn’t easily cancel. Fortunately she cut me a break and moved it to today with no penalty. Phew. I knew last week as soon as i heard her voice that i needed to talk to her. I felt it so keenly i had a little cry about it when i hung up the phone. I wanted to talk to her about what’s going on with me. I needed to know if what i’m feeling and where i’m at is okay.

I mean, it is okay, whatever it is, but sometimes i need her stamp of approval. I just do.

So she asks me how i’m doing and i say, Well, i’m alive, so that’s something.
That sounds rather dire, so i quickly add, There’s nothing wrong exactly, but i am tired and my mood is so low. My ass is draggin’, and i have to make myself get out of bed or off the couch to accomplish anything. I went over my check list with her:
– my house is clean,
– i’m clean,
– meals are prepared,
– the dogs are walked,
– i’m writing,
– i’m meeting small goals around eating and exercise.

She asks, “What would happen if you did nothing?”

I’d drown in a sea of guilt and self-hatred.

See, i know i can do these things. I might not be capable of much more at the moment, but i can do these things. I just feel heavy and cranky and out of sorts.
I’m in fibro flareup due to my return to exercise, but i expected that, and i can get through it. I can weather that little pain-storm. I can cut back on some household chores. I can slow down on the gardening. And i can ask for help. I live with 2 grown men who can pick up some slack.

As we’re talking about these things she suddenly asks me, “Do you feel restless?”
YES, i answer, without even thinking. YES!
I want to get out there and start testing myself; this new, mindful grownup that i’ve become.
I’m looking for people i can connect with and learn from.
I want to know people that will challenge me to be better.
I want to contribute to my community.
I’ve done a lot of growing inwards – i’m ready to grow outwards, now.
I think.
You know, tentatively go for a walk in these spiffy new shoes and see where they take me.

Yes, i have pandemic fatigue. I am typical, much to my chagrin.
I can find solace and even some encouragement in that, though.
If i’m this sick of it all, it must mean i’ve been doing it right, right?
I’m excited to get back out there and experience life as a fully present human!
As someone who doesn’t care nearly so much what other people think.
As someone who has good boundaries and will enforce them.
As someone who won’t let old fears keep me from doing things.
As someone who has plenty to contribute to the world around me.

I’m growing up, finally. And some of this is growing pains. It’s probably a big part of the reason why i’m so tired. This is all new to me. I would fade in and out of various levels of dissociation all day, every day. It takes a great deal of energy for me to stay present and mindful. I’ve got to manage my physical issues, my mental ones, my relationships, the day-to-days of running a household… All while trying to learn and grow, set and meet goals, prepare for the future, and expand my sphere of associations.
It’s a lot, and i have admiration and respect for anyone who does all of this.

That’s all i can do, today. My brain is tired and it’s shutting down the write-y/thinky parts. Heh.

Gonna jump on the treadmill and listen to some tunes.
Y’all hang in there as best you can.

Love and Peace,
~H~

IMAGE: Misho Tektumanidze

Ouchies and Old Shoes

My body is rebelling against my return to walking. I have a number of health issues that i’ve dealt with for decades, the return of old ones, a relatively new one, and one or 2 that might be on the horizon. Yeah, i’m not just crazy, the old bod has been falling apart for years. Heh.
Still, i fully intend to get into as good of shape as i can.

This is going to be a rough week. I’ve been back at it for a few now, and this is the part where fibro flareup hits. I must also walk the line between accomplishing my goals but not triggering a mania. The reappearance of sciatica some months ago, as well as Plantar Fasciitis saying Hi, remember me? this last week, have made things more difficult. I can still do what i want to do, it just keeps me religious about stretching. Oh, and i had to get arch supports. I’m flatfooted, which doesn’t usually trouble me at all. The problem is, my running shoes need replacing, but i can’t go into any stores until i’m fully vaxxed. It’s too much of a risk considering my health issues, and buying online is just not an option for me with shoes. My feet are too weird, manufacturers are always changing their construction, and with me usually trying on a dozen or so pairs before i find something wearable, good exchange policies don’t matter much.

I’m waking 3 or 4X every night, too. And i’m so hungry, which is odd. I take THC drops sublingually to help me sleep (it’s legal in my country and i’m a lifelong insomniac), and i’ve found that eating something helps potentiate the effects, and more quickly, too. I have to be careful, because i’m eating at a calorie deficit for weight loss. I’m telling you though, i wake up at 1 and 3am and i’m not just hungry – i’m ravenous. My stomach is growling and i’m slightly nauseated. I eat a piece of bread with peanut butter or half a banana, but then i have to adjust my calorie intake during the day…

My concern is this: My mind is a very powerful thing. I can get a headache by just thinking about having a headache. Nausea, back pain, simple ailments like those. I can also sometimes think my way out of these issues. Which is cool. I bring this up because i can get physical hunger pains when i’m not actually hungry. There could be something else going on and my brain wants to handle it with food. I could be dissociating from a relationship or situation that requires my attention. What i’m saying is, i have some concern that this intense nighttime hunger might be a red flag.

I’ll handle it by writing down a list of things that are currently annoying/bothering/irritating me. I save that tool for times like this because, while it can work well, it can also rile me up pretty good, y’know? I don’t think that it’s gonna bring up anything, but i am next level magic at disappearing shit that i don’t wanna deal with, so i need to look under some rocks to make sure. If that reveals something, i’ll handle it, but i have a feeling that ain’t it.
I think i genuinely need to bump up my calorie intake.

Today i am walking longer distances, but at a lower speed. It’s easier on my body, but i can still achieve some distance goals that will feed my self esteem and keep some momentum happening. My mood is very heavy, and it’s like pulling teeth to get anything done. I’ve had to prioritise, and since my house isn’t messy, i’m not doing any extra housework today, and i’m focusing on the things that are most important to me right now, which is exercise and writing. I might even try doing a ZOOM thingy later, which i have never done. I won’t hesitate to nope out of it if my anxiety gets too big. My online friends know me and won’t take it personally. In fact, most of us deal with anxiety and depression, so there’s lots of empathy and no judgment.

When i’m low on spoons i have to prioritise what’s most important, and get realistic on what i can achieve. If i try to do too much, i’ll fall into a pattern of being too tired in the morning to do anything, so then i nap, and then i feel guilty for not doing anything and i do too much, and then i’m too tired the next morning to do anything, so i nap…

My aim is 10,000 steps, down from my preferred 10k, but still good.
I am blogging, GREAT. But it’s an easy one; not too long or emotional.
It’s hot, so i’m staying in and out of the sun. If i get dirty and sweaty when my mood is low, it pulls me down lower.
Setting up ZOOM and gonna talk with my friends for at least 20mins. If i can do longer and it feels right to do it – i will. If i would be pushing to stay longer, then i’ll bow out and feel good about taking good care of me.
Supper will be simple and vegan. Meat and dairy can be hard for me to feel good about eating when i’m low. Something light and full of crunchy veg will make me feel virtuous.
Nighttime toilette and 10:30pm bedtime are essential. If i can’t sleep i’ll read. This sets me up for a better tomorrow.
Staying mostly off of social media, and sticking to candy floss and bubble gum in my viewing choices.

This is how i navigate a day.
Today, to be precise.
Have a nice evening, if you can.
Love and Peace,
~H~

IMAGE: Gia Oris

Wishing

I’ve been thinking about a friend i lost years ago. She was a wonderful and supportive person. The problem was, we partied too hard together, and we lacked good boundaries. We drifted away from each other as we both tried to get our lives in order. I think she pulled away first. I think she cut me out of her life, specifically. I was significantly older than her, but in some ways i was no more mature. I say “was,” because she’s gone from everyone, now. Her demons took her from her loved ones and consumed her.

We met when i was in a powerful mania. My personality was in full shine, turned up to 11. I swept many people into my arms then, and held them with one hand, dragging them alongside me like a child with a teddy bear. I introduced her to my friends and we rode the tide until we nearly drowned. Both of us moving away to escape it, keeping in close touch until we could be reunited. But there was something wrong between us then, and that was me.

I was so sick. I couldn’t see it at the time. I presented as a woman entering middle age, but on the inside i was a teenager that’d taken the keys to Dad’s Lambo and gone on a joyride. I was run amok. And she was a broken young woman, looking for meaning, for care and connection… for help. And i consumed her like i did the other revellers around us. I was no leader, no support. But now i can see, just by virtue of the years between us, that i must have appeared to be so. I hid the worst parts of my illness and dysfunction from all but my husband, so it must have looked like one could live the way i was living with impunity. It must have seemed possible that you could have a loving and supportive partner waiting for you at home, while you went out and painted the town red.

It is possible, of course. That is exactly what i had, and what i did. But my partner probably shouldn’t have stayed with me. I’m incredibly fortunate that he stuck with me through such terrible times that were in no small way my own making. Yes, i was clinically sick. Yes, i’d been twisted and busted up inside due to a violent childhood. But i wasn’t without some ability to make choices. I just made wrong ones. I could have done better, sometimes.
But i did not.
I chose poorly, selfishly, childishly.
I chose wrong. And there is wreckage in my wake that i must own.
Relationships, mostly.
My children suffered most of all, but i hurt others, too.
I will never know how much i hurt her.

She’d been on my mind for months and months. In the barest edges of my consciousness i was considering going to her and seeing if she would be open to an apology. I was trying to figure out the healthiest, most respectful way to approach her. I was preparing myself for the possibility that she’d tell me to fuck right off. Certainly her right. I pulled up her social media to see how she was doing. My face turned to marble as i realised she was gone.
It hit me so hard and hurt so much i closed my mind as i closed the page.

It’s been nearly a year since i learned of her death. She’s been creeping back into my conscious thoughts. I knew it was time to begin processing her passing. I’m much more present these days. More vibrant, less faded, more tangible, less nebulous.
And so i actually didn’t switch when i went back to her page and it hit me that she’d been gone less than 2mos when i’d visited her page those 9mos prior.

I’d dissociated immediately. My brain took that information and hid it away, because that’s what i do in overwhelm. I run and i hide. On the inside.

But i’m sitting with it. I let it seep into my skin and settle into my blood. She’s not here anymore. I hurt her and i’ll never be able to tell her i’m sorry. My chance to make amends is gone with her to the grave. I do not understand death. I cannot grasp how she has simply, terribly, ceased existing. I was so close to reaching out. There are lessons for me in that. Some might say, Well sure, H. Obviously. Don’t wait for tomorrow, do what you can do today.

I don’t think that’s it, though. There’s truth to the adage yes, but i wouldn’t apply it in this case. My process was a wise one, and it was mine. My timing didn’t fit with the way things happened, that’s all.

The lesson is pure affirmation. It is cementing things i’ve already begun learning.
Life does what life does. It just lives until it doesn’t anymore. It does as it will until it cannot and then it stops. I aspire to live life on life’s terms.

The other lesson is harder and sharper. It is that her life and her death were about her, not me. They were no longer any of my business. She was under no obligation to wait around until i was ready to try and right whatever could have been righted between us. She was not a thing for me to use to make me feel better about myself.
I know the truth of this in a way that makes me happy and sad at the same time.
Happy that i am growing up.
Sad that it came too late for her.
Not that i could have saved her, no. I no longer suffer under those sorts of illusions. I laid that burden down some time ago. But she deserved an apology from me, and any amends that she might have allowed or even welcomed.

I am deeply sorry for being a single moment of pain and sadness in a beautiful life that ended far too soon. I love her so, still, and that will continue. And i will always wish…



IMAGE: Marek Studzinski

Taking A Breath On Sunday

I woke this morning with the old tiredness and shame wanting to settle over me. Dissatisfaction already pricking into my flesh, and irritation, like a strand of hair i can never get off of my face. I was up 3 or 4 times during the night, which makes it hard to wake up on the right side of the bed. I wonder how much it’s gonna hurt when i swing my legs out to the side and attempt standing.

I pull up my sleep mask to check the time and he’s there, of course. But he’s already awake, and i suspect, waiting for me to rouse. He puts his hand on my breast and says, Well, hello. He kisses me good morning, and his breath could knock over a bison at 50 yards, but it magically chases away all my demon companions. I wrap my arms around him and kiss him back. He asks and i answer, and everything is better than all right.

There’s thick cut bacon left from last Sunday, and burgers from last night’s barbecue. I decadently toast the buns in the leftover grease, and it is BBQ bacon burgers for breakfast. Pickles, fresh tomato, thinly sliced Spanish onion, 2 kinds of cheese, melted, and we wash it all down with orange juice and chocolate milk. Not at the same time. The boy joins us and we make plans for the day. I leave them to go into town alone; they’re making their way towards each other, and it happens faster and better without my “help.”

My body doesn’t hurt as much as it should, and i’m fully here. In the face and functional, yet not planning to do much of anything. Some cooking, some laundry, a walk later to gather cow poop for our flower garden and new raspberry bushes. I’m listening to Bowie and JJ Cale and The Velvet Underground as i write, the dogs sleeping contentedly beside me. The wind is kicking up, the crickets chirp and the gophers whistle. I can hear someone using some big machinery on the back forty. The headache that wants to come is dulled by birdsong and the smell of freshly cut grass.

May this post bring you some of the peace that i currently, blessedly feel.

Be as well as you can, today.

~H~

IMAGE: Marta Ortigosa

Integration: A Day in the Life

One tiny Hobbit against all the evil the world could muster. A sane being would have given up, but Samwise burned with a magnificent madness, a glowing obsession to surmount every obstacle, to find Frodo, destroy the Ring, and cleanse Middle Earth of its festering malignancy. He knew he would try again. Fail, perhaps. And try once more. A thousand, thousand times if need be, but he would not give up the quest.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


I wanted to give my readers more insight into how my brain works and with what i’m currently dealing. (There you go, a sentence that didn’t end in a preposition. I think it sounds weird, and prefer to end with with… Heh.) To that end, i took my phone and a notebook, and recorded audio, video, and/or jotted down everything that happened on a recent 24hr period of time.

At 5am the alarm goes off, and it’s time to get my husband fed and off to work with a lunch. As i swing my feet out onto the floor i check in with my brain. Is it quiet or busy up there, and if it’s busy, why? If there’s nothing going on that requires my immediate attention, i ground myself mentally for the day, while connecting with my system. I remind them that i am in charge, that i love them because they are me and i love me, and i reassure them that i’m going to do my very best to take good care of us today.

My husband always asks me how i slept, which provides an opportunity for me to think over the night:
Did i sleep okay?
How many times did i get up?
Did i take more meds? (I live with chronic pain, insomnia, RLS, plus other things that can rouse me and keep me up.)
Do i remember any dreams, because if i do, it’s generally wise for me to go over them, just to make sure my brain isn’t trying to bring my attention to something important.

I make the bed, get dressed, and wait for him to head in to work before i walk our dogs. I catch the basic world news headlines and the local weather, but only if i’m in a good place. If i’m tired or struggling in any way i avoid it. The hubs will inform me of anything i’d want to know. Sometimes i sit through it all – a couple hours worth. I’ve been working on handling triggers more calmly and functionally when i can. Nothing like politics and world events to set me off. If something hits too hard and i feel myself dissociating or getting more anxious than i can bear, i get up and do something else. I keep our house, so there’s always stuff that needs doing.

We live on a farm, and walking the dogs gives me 2 choices; to listen to music, or nature. There’s no rhyme or reason to the choice, however making it helps keep me mindful. Some mornings music helps muffle the chatter, some mornings i’m dragging my ass a bit and all the birdsong puts a skip in my step. There are times when a particular emotion is weighing heavily on me, and listening to the right music can help me emote. (Think “dance it out,” if you’re familiar with Grey’s Anatomy.) When i return home, the dogs are happy, and i have either earned a 20min nap, or i can cruise into my daily chores while coasting on self-esteem. I purposely give myself choices throughout the day, as it makes me check in with what’s going on in my brain. Without the gentle mental poke to do so, i can shift into a dissociative state, easily and often. It’s like sleepwalking through my day, and i’ve done it for the majority of my life. I don’t want to do it anymore.


NOTE: An interesting aside here, is that i’m having trouble tapping into my writing voice. The programming i received as a child was so intense, and being a multiple made me so good at everything they wanted from me. They wanted me malleable and obedient and above all, to keep my mouth shut about everything. They purposefully steered me away from asking questions. (I was regularly beaten for asking anything, even something as simple and innocent as, May i have a glass of milk, please?) My mother was a student of every new pop psychology craze, and became adept at prying into my thoughts to shape them to her will. I was only allowed to think what she wanted, and my survival depended on toeing her line. It wasn’t enough to do what she wanted me to do and say what she wanted me to say. I had to think what she wanted me to think – and think nothing else, besides. I had precisely zero privacy. I couldn’t even hide from her in my mind.

Except i could, and i did. I was a multiple, and unbeknownst even to me, i hid parts of myself that she would have destroyed had she been aware of their existence.

This level of sharing and this depth of introspection, go against all of her training. The parts of me that she and my other abusers actively created, are coming up against this post. I feel scattered and slow, like i’m walking in a fog and keep running into things and getting turned around… I’m having trouble finding my way. I might not be particularly cogent. Nevertheless, i will press on.

**********

Thus begins a day that’s been years in the crafting. I work a bit, and then i don’t work a bit. Sounds simple and obvious, i realise, but sometimes i just have to get there on my own. I have to put my own super unique and slightly crazy spin on it. Okay, maybe that should be slightly unique and super crazy, but let me toot my own horn, will ya? This too is designed to keep me mindful; conscious, in the face and in control.

Where i’m at mentally, emotionally, and physically determines how long i work and how long i don’t. This keeps me checking in with myself all day, ideally. Lately i’ve been doing so well i’m not watching the clock, i’m just going by how i feel. But if things are tough, i keep track. It’s incredibly helpful. If depression is heavy on me, or anxiety has me nearly immobile, i even use a timer. Sometimes 10mins of work followed by a 50min break is the best i can do. Sometimes after 1 or 2 go-’rounds, i determine even that is too much – and that has to be fine. It has to be because, in my experience, not finding a realistically based sense of peace about my capabilities can push me into a downward spiral. It can also amp up my anxiety, and that can nudge me towards a mania. And the common thread through it all, whether too down or too up, is dissociation.
As Johnny Cash once did so melodically, i walk the line.
Although, my line is rather pitchy.
Think Neil Young.*

Writing this post has taken me a few days, due to some personal issues here at home. As i’ve stated before, this blog is about me only, and i’m careful not to share things that might have a negative impact on others in my circle. However, there will be rare occasions where i deem it necessary and appropriate to include some information that involves someone else.

I have a close association with someone who has debilitating anxiety issues, depression, and struggles with anger and aggression. It makes our relationship rocky and contentious. Over the last couple of days, things have bubbled up again, causing significant strife and stress. It’s been difficult, and has amplified my own anxiety, as well as anger and frustration. Over the course of the last couple of years, i’ve been learning to set firm boundaries with this person. It’s been an opportunity for me to care for and protect myself, rather than the feign/fawn/freeze responses that have been typical for me in the past.

This morning, after my walk and before i write, i was catching up on some emails and a bit of reading, which is part of my daily routine. I read something that grabbed me immediately. While it was about someone and something else entirely, i could see how i could apply it to my current situation with the person in question. It took me from tired and anxious, to refreshed and hopeful. I have fashioned my life in such a way for just this reason, and so many others, besides. It has taken years worth of trial and error, but it is finally, FINALLY! paying off. My job was to hang in there and keep trying. I knew it would bear good fruit( …eventually, usually, mostly), but it is a damn fine thing to be enjoying how right i was to believe it.

And this too is because i practise mindfulness, and am working towards being present and accounted for as often as possible.

Even as i’m writing this, i am taking breaks to do other things, including “nothings,” that are integral to my peace of mind and continued successes. I make myself something to eat, i clean something, i exercise, i do something artistic, i connect with someone, i make a joke, i organise some clutter, i wash myself, i watch some telly, i go outside and weed the garden, i stand in the wind and sing like Beyoncé (okay no, but i am feelin’ myself!), then laundry and doggy shnuggles… And so on and so forth.

And i am regularly checking in with my brain. I listen to my thoughts and reach out to my people in there: Is everybody all right? Anyone got somethin’ to say?

Somebody’s always got somethin’ to say, and i listen for a bit.
Because they are me, and i deserve to be heard, and being heard starts with ME, listening to ME, MYSELF, and I.**

Before i know it, it’s time to get supper on, and the day is nearly done. While i’m cooking i go over things, and if there’s something i didn’t accomplish that i’d wanted to, i ask myself if i can fit it in yet. If i can’t, i let it go. Maybe tomorrow. I’ll decide that in the morning, when i start all over again. The day is gonna do what it does, and people are gonna be who they are. The only thing that i can truly affect is myself: my thoughts, my actions, and my attitude. And to truly be effective, requires mindfulness on my part.

As i swing my legs into bed and settle down to welcome sleep, i rededicate myself to all of this, and i check in one last time. I touch those parts of me that are still somewhat separate, with thoughts of love and comfort, assuring them (ME) that i will be there for them (ME) to the best of my ability tomorrow, and hopefully always.
Perhaps one day i won’t need to reach out at all.

At one time or another we are all called to leave the safety of our homes, the certainty of what we know, the illusions of who we are. Not everyone will heed this call, of course. And those who do will risk losing themselves completely. But if we choose to ignore the invitation, we risk never knowing who we might have become. We risk dying without knowing what it is to live.
~ Thomas Lloyd Qualls, Painted Oxen


Love and Peace,
~H~

*For the record, i love his music. He consistently goes flat at the ends of his notes, though. When David Foster had him do a bunch of takes on his solo line on the Canadian charity single, Tears Are Not Enough, he finally said, “That’s my sound, man.”
It is, and it works. But he is pitchy AF.

**Beyoncé reference, for us fans.

IMAGE: Vitor Machado

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~

*Except for the part where they are missing and presumed dead. Sounds like i’m being glib here, but i’m not. Nothing about this post is lighthearted.

IMAGE: Luís Eusébio