Secret Plans

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

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

I was 4yrs old.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



IMAGE: Kevin Bosc

The Tortoise* in Cute Jeans Eating Cake

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

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The other day i met a personal goal that’s been 15yrs coming. In the early aughts i had weight loss surgery and went from 465lbs (losing 100lbs on my own to qualify for surgery) to 155lbs. Unfortunately, i quickly spiralled into years of bipolar mania. Between practising addictive behaviours and trying to find medications that worked, i managed to regain over 100lbs.

I’ve been struggling ever since to take it off again, consistently yoyoing the same 20-40lbs. In 2015 i was back up around 250-60lbs and in another mania, when i broke my leg in 3 places. Once the surgery was over and the smoke had cleared, i was ready to pay more attention to my weight and get down to the size i wanted. I made a decision to adopt a better eating and more active lifestyle.

If you could look back at my pictures over the last 5 years, it might not appear as if much has changed. To be fair, being Amazon-sized means i can carry a lot of weight without anyone knowing how much. Plus, being pear-shaped means i don’t show the extra weight if you only see me from the waist up. I wasn’t much into showing any pics of my legs for a long time.

Weight, food, eating, exercising, body image, and all its itinerant baggage, are incredibly complicated and personal issues. I’ve been asked a number of times how i’m doing what i’m doing, and i’m going to tell you. I’m going to tell you NOT because you should do it the way i have, but to see that it’s possible to do in a healthy and sustainable way. You’ll have your own ways of eating and moving that work effectively. What follows is very general stuff; there’s no step-by-step here. There is simply no one-size-fits-all weight loss plan.

First thing i did is stop “dieting,” per se. I know how to pick up a diet and use it to quickly drop weight, but that doesn’t work for me long term. One, losing weight fast can trigger a mania, and 2, once i stop using the diet i’ve regained the weight. That might well throw me into a depression (3). Once i decided i wanted to change the way i lived, i wasn’t in so much of a rush. I’ve been struggling with food and weight most of my life, so i’ve amassed a fair bit of information over the years. I also know a great deal when it comes to who i am and how i function. And i have years of experience handling mental illness and knowing how neuroatypicality affects my life and informs my lifestyle. From all that i was able to start making significant changes, striving for better health and more happiness.

It’s proven relatively simple, but it’s taken a long-ass time. I make one small change to how i eat, and then i do it until it’s a part of my life that i don’t even think about anymore. For instance, i’ve stopped eating after 8pm. I grew up eating in front of the television, and i learned early on in my dieting history that i could consume thousands of calories without even realising it. I wasn’t paying attention to eating – i was watching my shows. I’d sit down with a full bag or bowl of something, and at some point i’d hit bottom and be surprised. I wouldn’t remember the experience of eating all that food and i’d feel cheated out of the enjoyment. All too often it caused me to head back into the kitchen for more.

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

I also unabashedly use every single mental dieting trick that works for me. I use small dishes so it looks like i have more to eat. And if i’m not hungry enough to eat a boring old apple, i’m not that hungry and can wait. I also won’t eat when i’m hangry – you know, so hungry you’re mad about it? I’ll either wait 20mins, or have that boring old apple and wait 20mins. Some of what i do is because of the surgery. For instance, i don’t fill myself up with water so i eat less. My stoma is small, so that’s not helpful. I only take a couple of sips of liquid while eating if necessary.

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

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First though, a brief aside:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Slow and steady wins the race, amirite?!

Detox

Warning: Discussion of body reaction to heavy drinking, including detoxification. Includes body function talk, e.g. toileting, vomiting, and menstruation.

NOTE: This is merely a description of what i go through getting off the sauce. Do NOT do this. It isn’t a step-by-step method. Detoxification from alcohol/drugs should be done under a doctor’s or other accredited professional’s care, at a hospital or other detox facility. I’ve gone to the ER for IV fluids and other care on numerous occasions, and wouldn’t hesitate to go again.

In the past, over time, i’ve learned to share about when i fall. It started out as vague references couched in romantic metaphors, and has progressed to full disclosure about what falling can mean in my life. Among other things, it can mean i lose control to a full switch for a significant period of time. It can mean i engage in any number of destructive behaviours. These have involved things like hitchhiking into the city (i live on a farm more than 30mins away), partying and its ubiquitous drug and alcohol use, which can and has resulted in stays in the “psych ward”, and the involvement of law enforcement. As i’ve improved, the higher risk stuff has disappeared, but taking off, and drug and alcohol* use, can still occur.

Lately, therapy + world events = my anxiety being at a near fever pitch, which means i can experience a hard switch that i cannot control. Well, that’s somewhat redundant, because i can’t control a switch at all. Therapy has me so vulnerable, that i can lose the face before the end of a session. Even long after, i remain raw and easily triggered. My Bits N’ Pieces are either terrified and totally flipping out, or i’ve done enough work that they’re beginning to feel safe in my environment and are asserting themselves a bit more. Understand that i’m not saying it’s one or the other – i’m saying it’s both, it just depends on which part we’re dealing with. They’re not a fun time right now. Everyone is stirred up and i’m losing my grip.

I’m fine for a week or 2, and then BAM, the next thing i know i have a raging hangover and must figure out what the damage is. They crawl into a bottle for a number of reasons: it was used in abuse scenarios, it made social interaction easier in my late teens, and it made consensual sexual encounters as a young adult tolerable. During all those times drinking was not a problem. It became a problem when i first became fully manic in my late 30s. It seemed like that’s when the levee broke, and everything and everyone came flooding out. I’d begun drinking heavily when the mania first started, while i worked a job that had me mostly in various bars. It progressed to the point where i lost my job, lost my oldest son to emancipation, was forcibly committed on more than one occasion, in a detox facility twice, in long term rehab once, and spent a few weeks in an actual mental hospital. At that time, i was completely at the mercy of my system and the mania. They conspired to break me, utterly.

Years and lots of stories that i’ve already told later (like this one, but it’d be hard to read everything, and this is relevant), i’m doing far better than probably most people thought i would. But after a few years of being out of therapy and thinking i was fine, i found out there was more work to do, and that it was the hardest work. It’s exacerbated drinking behaviours, as i once again struggle to manage and control the people who live in my brain. These people who’d all been born by the time i was 10, most of whom masquerade as being older than that.

I’ve been finally, and fully honest about that here, but i haven’t said much about the part where i crawl out of the hole i’d fallen into. I haven’t because it’s ugly, and very, very embarrassing. However, one should know all of it that i can tell. You should have the clearest picture of how dark and far down i’ve been, and how hard i still struggle today. In the truth lies hope, and i know well and surely that it is hope that i offer here. It’s all i have to give the world, and after so many years of contributing little, my love of humanity compels me to do what i can, until i can do more, and then do that, too. I assure you that i aim to.

So we are on to the ugly bits now. This may be full of TMI for some, so a second warning here.

The first thing to know is, while my system is out and very active during a bender, i am not. It’s like blackout drinking, except i wasn’t even there to get to the blackout stage in the first place. The second thing to know/understand, is that they can drink a LOT. My husband and son have both related to me how this can look. They’re dealing with 1 particular part who is clearly drunk; stumbling, slurred speech, etc., and then i’ll switch to another part and will immediately present as sober; the prior symptoms being gone, and i’m speaking and moving without difficulty. They can hand off to each other like this for days, but when my body has had enough and begins to become the primary, unavoidable concern, here is the third thing to know: the little buggers always ditch the party, and leave me holding the bag.

I know immediately something’s been going on upon waking. Sometimes waking is the regular kind, sometimes it’s being slammed back into the face by a part that doesn’t want to handle what’s going on for me, physically. I’ll have a raging headache and my guts will feel like they’ve been the ball in a game of rugby. I’ve the physical certainty that “we’re done here”, coupled with the mental experience of my system hiding in my brain. I hear whispers and soft crying – they know we can’t go any further. There’ve also been occasions where i’m thrust back in the primary position because they’ve gotten me into some trouble they’re either afraid to deal with, or think i’m the only one who can, say, an argument, destruction of property**, or damage to the body**.

I know what’s coming, and brace myself – although there’s nothing to be done but survive the process.
Despite the already terrible state of withdrawal beginning, i usually still feel that buzzy-numbness of being drunk. I know i can’t take anything for my symptoms yet, lest i fall asleep/pass out while my breathing and heart rate drop too low. It’s not that acetominophen raises one’s heart rate, it’s that i can become comfortable enough to fall asleep. (See: My Fear of Dying, coming soon!) If i’m not in bed, i go there.

There, my headache will increase, and then will come the worst –and it won’t leave me for days– nausea. I learned from a doctor years ago, that i likely carry a genetic trait for severe nausea. I’m inclined to believe him. Like one of my sons once remarked, “For someone who hates puking as much as you do, you sure do it a lot.”
In this case i won’t be puking though, and the truth is i almost never do, technically speaking. I retch. Almost nothing will ever come out of me, due to a history of childhood abuse and bingeing/purging. In other words, vomiting during abuse resulted in more abuse, and one of the ways the abuse manifested in later years was to eat until i was physically sick to my stomach.

So the retching has begun, which takes my kicked and punched entrails, and wrings them like a wet dishrag, repeatedly. At some point my heart rate will begin to rise, and so i take some acetominophen and diphenhydramine. The latter never works to suppress the nausea, but it can aid in getting me some sleep. I try because that will soon become impossible. I sleep as much as i can before my body begins removing the poison i’ve put into it. When that happens, i’ll be pissing razor blades and shit for around 12hrs. All while retching my guts into a nearly paralysed state. So i sip as much water as i can – once my guts shut down, there will be no food or water for anywhere from 12hrs, to a full day (for water, food can go longer).

Now i’m sweating: i soak my clothes and the sheets and anyone close to me, i.e. my husband and my dog. I’m alternately hot and then cold. There is no comfortable position; i shift from laying positions, to semi-sitting ones. My back aches and my head feels like it’s being crushed, the base of my skull as if it’s being ground to powder. I feel like i’m going through a rough period, literally. Back when i did menstruate, one could start. I feel as if i’m being filled with cement that’s slowly hardening, except when i must use the washroom, which is frequently. Then, my legs have trouble supporting me and getting me there. Urination has ended but the other isn’t done with me yet. I’m becoming severely dehydrated, with scratchy eyeballs, an itchy, sticky throat, and numb hands and feet. I get random stabbing pains that feel electric.

I want to sleep, but now anxiety manifests in the form of fear of death. I’m gripped by it. I know it’s a part of the process, and that i’m still here so far, but i also know that i’ve repeatedly taxed my body way past what is reasonable or healthy. Now there is no laying, only sitting up as straight as i can. I try to distract myself with mindless games and videos online. Every muscle cries out, my organs feel like stones. My brain feels as if it may explode; the band across my forehead so tight my skull may crack. If it’s daytime, i see movement out of the corners of my eyes. If it’s nighttime, i see figures in the blackness of the room, and behind my eyelids. There are whispery, skittish breaths across my flesh.
These are not full-on DTs, but i would guess they’re similar, if not a precursor.

No food, no water, no sleep, only anxiety and pain. Time passes with excruciating slowness and i sit with it, knowing i deserve it all (i know i do and i don’t, this is just my mindset at the time). My thoughts are drawn inexorably towards all my failures and shortcomings. I’m coated in a foul slick of hopelessness. I feel heavy with despair and shame. At some point my legs start working better, and my body scrapes me out and gets rid of everything. I now notice how very badly i need a shower, but i still can’t stand for long enough to get it done. No, not even 5mins with a bar of soap.
I take acetominophen where i dare, but now it hurts my insides, so only 1 at a time. Two caplets burns (stomach acid) like heck, so i stagger them. Diphenhydramine is not an option. I’m afraid if i go to sleep, i won’t wake up.

After 24hrs, things are usually improving a little, and i begin to drink a bit of water.

The final stages:
– everything tastes like crap, even water;
– thickly chapped lips;
– canker sores on my tongue.

The headache lasts for at least a week.
The nausea comes and goes.
I want to eat compulsively.
At least 1 or 2 days of insomnia.
Three days to 1 week to get back to normal energy/functioning levels.

I’ve only been struggling with this since i started back at therapy 2yrs ago. It’s frightening, dangerous behaviour and i know it. I’ve been working hard for my betterment #1, but also because i know that at my age, my body can’t tolerate much of this, or for long. I’ve stopped every self-destructive habit i’ve ever had, and this one will be no different. I’m no longer abusive, nor do i put others in harm’s way. There’s a process by which my brain figures stuff out. For a long time there had to be general consensus to lay something down or stop it. Now it comes down to me – if i say it’s done, it’s bloody done.
The realisation that the impetus is on me has been a sobering one, in this case especially.
<go ahead and snort – i did>

Yes, i realise there are people, places, and programs out there designed to help this specific problem. I have worked them and sought the receipt of their promises as hard as i sought those offered by religion. If i am, as some claim, “terminally unique”, it will not be from lack of trying or a desire to let go. I am a woman with a particular set of skills that make it difficult to function with the rest of the world on its terms, but i am doing my damnedest.

While there has been a disconcerting return to some undesireable actions while i flop around trying to find my legs out of this psychic primordial ooze, it hasn’t all been about a loss of control. I think some of it comes from trusting myself and freeing myself from the shame that’s followed me for my whole life, like Pigpen’s cloud in the Peanuts comic strip. When i learn something in therapy (like when i learned shame is my body asking for human connection), there comes a time when the rubber meets the road. This may be one of those times, i’m not sure. I am sure i’ll do my best, and if i fall down another hole, no matter what is entailed, i’ll crawl out again.

I watch myself from the inside and from the outside. I provide constant inner commentary on my own life. I see the thing that i was and am, and am becoming. And i have much to say about it all. Maybe it’s worth sharing, but perhaps not. Then i think of that stupid, wonderful starfish, and i know that >>i<< am the starfish. And i am the one who tosses the starfish. I am also the beach and the ocean, and the one who asks why any of it matters.
So i write about drinking to excess and retching and piss and shit and blood and tears.
I write it all out to live.
I write it all out because it seems to be helping.
I write it all out because i must.
And i have a lot ot say about that, too.

So, while i am indeed sorry for the TMI, it was starting to feel like i was hiding/avoiding, so i blogged it. Life as me and all that.

I’m an innocent victim of a blinded alley
And I’m tired of all these soldiers here
No one speaks English, and every thing’s broken
And my Stacy’s are soaking wet
~Tom Waits, Tom Traubert’s Blues

Have as good a weekend as you’re able, and so will i.
Love and Peace,
~H~
P.S. The 2 dreams i was going to write about won’t be happening… I waited too long and now they’re gone but for wee snippets. Ah well, lesson learned.

*I know alcohol is a drug, but find the distinction an important one.
** With the exception of a few weeks ago, these haven’t happened in many years.

IMAGE: Melodie Wasser

On the Corner of Responsibility and Consequence

Strong CW: Contains discussion of the abuse and neglect of my children, by me. References spankings and not being at home.

**********
Been hiding my scars in broad daylight bars
Behind laugh tracks on TV
If you can’t see the forest for the trees
Just burn it all down, and bring the ashes to me

You hear your mother screaming
You hear your daddy shout
You try to figure it out
You never figure it out
Your mother’s screaming
That you don’t deserve love
If you don’t deserve love
And if I don’t deserve love
Could we deserve?
Come down off your cross
And tell me!
~ Arcade Fire, We Don’t Deserve Love

I don’t wanna write this. My brain keeps reaching out and grabbing the words, stuffing them into little boxes and padlocking them closed. The people who live here with me are whining and weeping, clutching at me with greedy fingers – Don’t leave. The place i’m going is one where they can accompany me (they’re with me always and everywhere), but they won’t. This is a back alley neighbourhood, with only the occasional dusty patch of light. The shadows are full-throated and hungry. My precious Bits N’ Pieces will hover at the entrance and pule for my return.

It’s not like i want to visit this place, it’s that i must. I come here as infrequently as i can. Here i feel wretched and monstrous. Here i can sense my mother around every corner, i can fairly smell her stench in the air. There are rooms here where we live together, and pipe organs play funereal dirges. Everything is coated with oil and dust, like a poorly kept diner’s flat top hood.
I’m waxing poetic because i truly do not want to be in this place.
Oh, my heart.
Oh, my heart.

I’ve written of my children a number of times, careful to respect their privacy and mention them only as it pertains to my journey through mental illness and neuroatypicality (may not be a word – zero fux). Today i’m going to skate along the razor’s edge, and if i slice some off here and there, it’s as it must be.
Because if i don’t, my guilt will pulverise me and the cold depths of my sorrow will suck me down and hold me until i am nothing.

This is one of the things that i write about that seems to make people the most uncomfortable – my many and terrible failures as a parent. It scores right up there with the times i mention that i will never be completely healed or well. I’ve learned to dance around these issues, because i can feel the need of others to believe that it isn’t true. People hold on to these beliefs with respect to me, mostly because they love me, and i appreciate it. I can feel the warm and supportive place it’s coming from, and i decided to accept it and not press the issue. I also tread lightly and rarely because i’m trying to build and foster hope here on this blog, and i know many, if not most, find my stance on these issues counterintuitive.
I’m sorry if you find these beliefs of mine stressful.
Gently i will say that this is life as me, and this is how my brain works.
Your mileage will vary, and this blog has never been to tell you how to save your own life, only to give you some hope that you might be able to, because i am. I’m saving my own life, and these are my thoughts, opinions, and beliefs – this is my path, my road, my mountain, my ocean, my internal universe.

My children are all grown now, and i’m living in the days of the damage i’ve wrought, the price they’ve had to pay, and the consequences to them, to me, and to us.

I remember most of my first son’s early years. When he was somewhere between 6-9mos was the first time i heard 1 of my parts speak loudly, in a voice that was not mine, and seemed to come from outside me. I was changing his diaper when a voice in the kitchen told me something very specific about an abuse committed by my mother. And then there was the time when he was 5 and i slid to the back of my brain and watched as i hurt him. It was awful, and i watched helplessly, unable to stop it, and completely lacking understanding of what was happening. These 2 events might have been what finally opened me up to the possibility of being a multiple.

I remember some of my middle son’s early years. The first 4 were clear: i had a couple of solid friendships where we spent a lot of time together, and the religions (yes, 2) i was practising at the time were working somewhat. The problem with one was that it required a great deal of my time, and i left both boys with sitters too often, and for too long. And although i wasn’t abusive by some standards, the other required physical punishment, i.e. spankings, which i employed with some regularity. I deeply regret both things.

Then i fell in love, got married, and gave birth to my youngest son. To sum up, because i’ve written about this a LOT: falling in love scared the crap outta me, i dissociated, put on a tremendous amount of weight, had weight loss surgery, experienced my first obvious mania and was diagnosed bipolar.
It is one of the saddest truths of my life that i can’t recall much at all of his early years. Although i had abandoned religion entirely and stopped spanking my children, my neglect increased. Both older ones were struggling at school, and i was no support. I let the television babysit my one that was still at home, and eventually i was on some combination of pills and booze every day. As soon as their father came home from work i would leave until all hours.

I was receiving treatment for both multiplicity and bipolar disorder, but it wasn’t helping much. I was in and out of the Bin (of the Looney variety), in and out of detox, treatment facilities, and a handful of p-doc’s offices. My husband and i decided we needed to get out of the big city. My MIL took me in, and her gentle, quiet love helped calm me down for a time.
But the damage had been done.
My oldest son had become increasingly angry and refused to move with us. He emancipated himself and lived with relatives, eventually moving in with his girlfriend and having a child.
My middle boy continued to have big problems at school, and was paraded in front of many school counsellors and p-docs who threw a number of diagnoses at us. He got the worst of me. My oldest got some good stuff on the front end, and my youngest on the back. I was incredibly sick for the majority of my second son’s upbringing.
My youngest did well in school and was zero problem at home, but over a period of time he began manifesting his own serious issues, that have stalled his development into a fully functioning adult.

I have 1 son that wants nothing to do with me, 1 that purposely hurts me, and 1 that cannot currently function in the world on life’s terms. One has serious addiction issues, and 2 have mental illness diagnoses. All 3 are closed doors when it comes to getting to know them. They all have thick walls around them, they all wrestle with rage. They trust few, seldom, and not very much. They’re highly critical of others and hardest of all on themselves. One functions in the world by shutting everything down, one by wearing a mask, and one simply doesn’t.

And this is my responsibility. This is my doing.
Yes, i was abused. Yes, i’m seriously mentally ill.
But whether or not it’s my fault (it is), and whether or not i meant to (i didn’t), doesn’t change the way my parenting affected them.
I’ve communicated to them in every way i can think of, how sorry i am.
I’ve made it abundantly clear that i’m available for anything that they might want to say to me. I’ll show up and pay for every appointment. I will never offer an excuse.
I live every day working on myself, not just for my own benefit, but for theirs.
As none of them have taken me up on my offer of therapy, it is the only amends i can give them.
Trying to force them to tell me off and get angry at me would be for me, not for them. I have to respect how they choose to live their lives and handle their childhood.
I want to fix it, so badly, but i cannot without an invitation, and even then…

One son who has a successful life and happy family without me.
One son whose life is going straight off the rails.
One son who is okay as long as he doesn’t have to interact with the rest of the world.

I’m not good at balance, but i damn sure work at it all the time. I do not know where balance is, here. How much to carry and what to lay down. I know some of it is mine, but not all. I know there comes a time when, regardless of who did what, the responsibility for what comes next lies with the individual. I know what it’s like to be dealt a shitty hand, and i’m beyond convinced, convicted, and contrite that i was their dealer.
I don’t know where the line is, between doing the best i could, and my best not being nearly enough.

I mourn my broken relationships with them, and i mourn the lack of opportunity to make it better in some way. I see my mother’s hand in this, and my daddy’s, and my stepfather’s, but if i only cut them so much slack for their actions, i must also hold myself accountable.
This is treacherous territory.
I will continue to do the work in front of me; to live and learn and try always to be a better human. For me, of course. For my husband, absolutely. For the betterment of the human community, ideally.
For my children, because it is the least of what they’re due from me.

Put your money on me
If you think I’m losing you, you must be crazy
All your money on me
I’m never gonna let you go, even when it’s easy
Put your money on me
Or tuck me into bed, and wake me when I’m dead
I know that you gotta be free
But I’m never gonna let it go

All my presents are broken before they’re open
And the promises, the second they’re spoken
I know I’ve been different
My skin keeps shedding
~ Arcade Fire, Put Your Money On Me

Here’s to a better tomorrow, with hope that i’ll feel a bit less heavy inside.
Love and Peace to All,
~H~

 

What Is and Is Not Mine

NOTE: This is a low piece. It contains some reference to suicidal ideations. I’m not in a good place and this is darkly reflective of that. Consider that before proceeding. If you don’t have tools and support for how to handle tough feelings, i would recommend skipping this one.

**********

Hold me down, I’m so tired now
Aim your arrow at the sky
Take me down, I’m too tired now
Leave me where I lie
~ Florence and the Machine, Sky Full of Song

I am not okay. The stress of my therapy is high, the stress of my marriage is medium, the stress of the virus is intense, the stress of politics is insane, and the stress of my children is over 9000.

I’m so turned around i’m not sure if i’m dealing with a depression or a mania. I think i’m coming out of a depression, and a mania is peeking at me from around the corner, but i’m hesitant to rely on my insight into anything recently. As i look back over my last couple of months of entries, there are moments of clarity that may produce self-esteem, while others threaten to drown me in despair.

And yes, i’m dealing with some feelings that border on suicidal. There’s no plan, but there has been some ideation. In the past, both the ideations and the attempts, were more about wanting the feelings i was having to stop, but not being able to do it myself. They were about my actions screaming that i needed serious help, when i didn’t have the words to ask, couldn’t say them, or had no one/didn’t know who to say them to.
Now i have a therapist (the lovely Ms T), and good support by way of my husband, my closest girlfriend, and an online community of people that i trust and with whom i have a long history of being genuine and honest.

The feelings are stemming from the therapy, i think. There’s a lot of looking back involved – that’s just the way it is.
But also, the state of the world is not exactly helping.

I know i regularly write about feeling as if i’m about to break into a million pieces. It too, is the nature of therapy, i think. It results from the looking back. And maybe from the looking forward… God yes – the trying to envision a future where i am not this broken and bleeding thing. This creature that skirts the light, blinking blindly up from the edge where i’m trying so hard not to seep back into the shadows.
But the darkness pulls at me, picking at my clothes like hungry birds.
And the blackness sucks at my feet, winds up my legs, making me slow, like running from the Evermore in an endless nightmare. So heavy – my body will not obey me.
I’m truly becoming afraid that i have nothing left.

It’s not as easy as grieving the terrible traumas endured by the wee and lovely lass that i once was… I wish – i would feel close to glory were that the case.
No, it is the wreckage that i’ve wrought that brings me to this lonely and desolate place.
Laying down the burdens of my progenitors that were never mine to carry has taken most of my life. I was ready to launch into the future – blazing past the atmosphere into the vast Beyond. Neon rainbow unicorn fire-goddess me.
But stop. Here now, what is that impeding my acceleration into the starry soup of fabulous possibilities?
These things at my feet wrapped in butcher’s paper, tied in twine and looking like tonight’s supper?
These are not pieces of me.
These are the bits and chunks that i’ve hacked off of others. Ready for me to drag them back to my hidey-hole. To slowly spit and then to consume its rancid, blackened meat.

If you’ve read enough of my posts, you surely recognise that i get all metaphorical when i’m dealing with the most unpalatable parts of my existence.
The damage i’ve done to others is the thing i must now choke down.
Finally being light enough to take off my death dress and dance into the New Days, naked and scrubbed pink and shiny… I can’t.
Now, that was a tricksy thing you did there, Life/Universe/Me.
Launch cancelled.

Metaphors over. What’s happening is i can now see beyond my own pain and suffering, and that means seeing that which i’ve caused others. And as seems to be the horrid and inexorable way of things – it is to those whom i hold dearest i’ve dealt the most.
I hope i can carry these burdens into the New Days, but i don’t know. It’s ugly and bitter and it’s me and what i’ve done. Just as i was born into a life i didn’t ask for, so were my children. Just as my mother did damage to everyone around her, i find the same can be said of me.
And it hurts to breathe right now.

Oh look at me
At all I’ve done
I’ve lost so many things that I so dearly love
I lost my soul
I lost my pride
Oh I lost any hope of having a sweet life
So I cry,
Cry, cry
~ Jann Arden, Hangin’ By a Thread

The Sharpest Sword

CONTENT WARNING: Some may find this piece highly disturbing, as it contains descriptions of how i have been abusive to my spouse.

Today, i’m angry. It’s been amping up over a few days, but i wasn’t completely aware of it until the other night. Here’s my story about how i figured it out. It’s brutally honest, and i don’t come off very well in it, but what use is this blog to me or you if i don’t tell the truth?

After my last session with my therapist i’ve felt different, but i wasn’t sure in what way. It’s been like feeling more capable and more vulnerable than ever at the same time. I’ve been drinking too much, using drugs, and not eating. I’ve been weepy and over-emotional. Over-emotional may be a bit vague, so an example would be when my son told me he liked supper and i got choked up, hugged him, and told him he’s a spectacular human being. Or when i was finally able to stand other people enough to go get my nails done (i was weeks overdue for a fill) and i talked animatedly, loudly enough for the entire salon to hear, for around 2hrs straight.
I know it’s not mania, because some other significant red flags are missing. I’m just… Different, somehow. A lot of “extra” type behaviour, but it’s not constant like when i’m manic, it just pops up in weird places.

I’m taking off my armour, and it’s made me a trifle pugnacious.

When i experienced my first full blown mania, i think it’s what opened the door for the people who live in my brain to come out more often, and more obviously. There were many who wanted to have a turn in the face – to be in control and have a look around as themselves and make themselves known. It was chaotic and frustrating and painful for everyone around me, but no one more so than my husband.

I’ve been hypervigilant my entire life. When i became manic and my switching became fast and frequent, i don’t know a word for more than hypervigilant, but i became that. I saw everyone as a threat, and i experienced every interaction with other human beings like i was walking a tightrope with a sea of e621s underneath me. Every touch from every person felt either sexual or painful, and sometimes, both. It didn’t matter how much i loved or trusted the person, it was torturous and it was constant.

My husband is my person. I have never liked, loved or trusted anyone as much as i do him. While i do not believe in souls, and therefore soulmates, i know deep down in my bones, in whatever it is that makes me who i am, that if i lose him, for whatever reason, there will never be another committed, monogamous relationship for me. I may have casuals, i may have semi-serious, but no one will be living with me, no one will have the level of intimacy with me that i have with him, and i will not be monogamous.

I share that to try to explain -not excuse- why he bore the brunt of my rage and terror. When i’m upset, angry, or scared, my impulse, my overwhelming drive, is to get away. Getawaygetawaygetaway. Anyone even remotely close to me can confirm that, as they’ve very likely experienced me being there with them 1 minute, and disappeared the next. My husband is the opposite. He wants to work it out. He wants to talk and touch.
I’m embarrassed and ashamed to tell you that all those years ago, when things first blew up, that this conflict in how we resolve conflicts, resulted in me attacking him on a number of occasions. If we fought, which happened often back then because i was so sick, he would come too close, or worse, touch me, and one of my angries or protectors would come out and push, hit, scratch, pull hair. There were times when i switched while in the car and i would try to jump out the door while he was driving. He would grab me to stop me, and i would claw or bite at his hand.

One day, while i was trying to walk down the road to go hitchhike into the city (getawaygetawaygetaway – GO HOME), he held me down to stop me and we rolled into the ditch. I headbutted him. He got right into my face and through a twisted mouth and clenched teeth he yelled at me to stop, and he restrained me so hard he actually hurt me, for the first time.
That was when i knew i had to get control, or i was going to ruin the most lovely and patient person i’ve ever known.
I vowed that day that i’d never get physical again, and i have not. It’s been over 12yrs now.

A couple of points before i continue:
– He would have been well within his rights to call the police,
– He would have been fully justified in leaving me the very first time it happened,
– There is no justification for me here, this is my story and that’s all.

A few nights ago, i was deep in trauma, feeling such sadness (ANGER!) over what had been done to me. I was feeling it physically in my body. I was drinking and drugging and i became churlish. My husband and i started arguing, and i began putting on my clothes to leave the house. He put his hands on me to stop me.
No, i didn’t get physical, but i have 1 weapon left that does far more damage.
My tongue.
It’s razor-sharp and dripping with acid. I can flay a person to ribbons with a sentence.
No one has experienced that more or worse, than he has. I felt myself receding and someone else come into the face. I wasn’t fully switched, just highly dissociated and unable to affect what was happening; i could only watch, and hear the hateful invective spilling out of me. She didn’t stop until she felt she had bested him.
I didn’t stop until i felt like i had bested him.
He looked so tired and sad. He looked beaten, although i’d not laid a finger on him.

The next morning, looking at his exhausted face, i vowed that i will never speak to him that way again.
It’s a vow i know i’ll keep, just as long and as well as i’ve kept the last one.
I have far more control over my system than i did all those years ago. I didn’t even have to work with them to make the decision that it was done. I say so, and that’s all that’s required.
All i had to do was look at him, and i was convicted of my wrongness in every cell of my being. Verbal abuse can be just as terrible as physical. Many say it’s worse. He’s told me he forgives me and i know it’s so. I’m so grateful, because regardless of the reason, there is no justification.

I’m operating on myself, cutting out the tumourous chunks of my mother that fester inside me. This was a big one, and although i still feel terrible (rightly so), i feel stronger and better. Better as in a higher quality human than i was a few nights ago.

My anger over my childhood is justified and correct.
How i dealt with it the other night was inexcusable.
I will never, ever, throw away the grace my husband has extended to me.
I have laid my last weapon down.
I don’t need them anymore.
I never did with him.

I have no idea how this post will be received, but to not tell this part of my story would be a lie by omission, and as much as in this particular case i dearly want to, i cannot and i won’t. I will continue to look at it all, and that doesn’t just mean what was done to me, it means to take a hard, long look at me, and what i’ve done.
I have many amends to make, and i intend to make any and all, wherever i may.

Promise

WARNING: This piece contains graphic, specific speech regarding child sex abuse.

Also, a brief note: These are the thoughts and musings of my mind, only. This isn’t an invitation to discussion, nor a request for answers regarding any of the “questions” asked herein. I would say they’re better characterised as “wonderings”. If any of this piece triggers a strong response, the place for a rousing discussion/debate on any of this is not here.

Thank you,
~H~

**********

I made a promise, Mr Frodo. A promise. “Don’t you leave him Samwise Gamgee.” And I don’t mean to.
~ The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

People hurt me.

They just do.

I’ve been both irresistibly attracted to and repelled by them since i can remember.
I wonder if it’s like that for most of us, all of us, or particularly those of us who are survivors of abuse, or maybe just anyone who’s neuroatypical. I don’t know. I just know i love people, but i can’t be around them too much.

Maybe it’s because, when the person who gives birth to you does what my mom did to me, it splits you in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with my diagnosis.
I need you, but you hurt me.
I can’t live without you, but you keep putting my life in jeopardy.
How do i reconcile needing people, but also being tremendously harmed by them?

I do not fucking know.

What i’m saying right now feels so deep and poetic and emotional.
Ha.
Not at all. No more than anything else.
My experience
Yours
Hers
His
Beautiful and tragic and transcendent, all. To a one.

Sometimes i feel so alone that i think my life, my suffering, must be some kind of poetry.
But it is and isn’t – no more than yours and theirs.

If i elevate my rape, mustn’t i also then elevate the time you fell and skinned your knee alone – with no one to cry out and care and comfort you? Am i worshipping at the altar of pain? Must pain be pain, regardless, lest i risk the sick admiration -the twisted crown- bestowed to whomever’s been through the most?

1 rape
2 rapes
2 dozen
3 hundred

Baby
Toddler
Precocious child
Does the rape when i was 21 mean less because i was an adult
Does it matter that i’d still never had sex by choice at that point
Does it matter that it was someone who said they loved me
Would it matter more if we were related
Would it have been better if he’d used a knife
More legitimate
More understandable that i’m a total fuckup

Why would it fuck me up that i started sucking dicks before i even had teeth
I was a baby and i don’t remember, so what’s my problem
Or do i get big sympathy points for baby rape
How much of a waste of skin do i get to be that my mom was the one who sexually prepared me to be raped by the various people she gave me to

Cringe
Feel uncomfortable
Stop reading – i totally get it
That’s some ugly, revolting shit to read
To live it, there will never be words

I know i sound angry, and ohyoubestbelieve i am
But that is not my current overarching feeling
When i’m able to speak, to put words to what is my day-to-day existence right now
I say i’m scared
I’m scared all the time

I’ve stopped leaving my house again
I go to my room when someone comes to the door
The phone is an abomination, an affront to nature
I force myself to keep 1 curtain open
Some light

**********

I don’t know what to tell you if you’ve gotten this far. I’m sorry for the words, but they’re mine and this seems to be what i have to do to have the life i want.
Feel what i feel while knowing what i know. Put my pieces back together. Become whole.
TO BE WHOLE.
Oh my, can you even imagine?
I cannot quite, yet. But i aim to.
I am the lidless eye, pouring all my focus into the having of it.

I had to have a phone sesh with my therapist this last week. It’s better than nothing, until i’m able to leave the house. It was way more of a fruitful hour than i’d have thought possible on the phone, definitely the most impactful of my experience. One of the many things i love about my therapist is that she knows what i need to hear. She is not a tough love therapist, or a preachy therapist, or a psychotherapist (i’ve walked out of a few of those offices, heh). She’s not a do this/do that therapist. She’s not a “time’s up, see you next week” therapist.

She’s a mother.
She comforts, she soothes, she loves, she holds space.
She wept for me when i couldn’t shed a single tear for myself.
She’s shelter.
She asks me what i want, what i need, and helps me figure it out because i don’t have a fucking clue.
Soft fury pours out of her eyes as she gently, always gently, speaks her bleeding heart for all of us that have suffered as i’ve suffered, watering the desert inside me.
She cheers me on, she cheers me up.
She thinks i’m a superhero. She said so.
Can you fucking believe that?

So, we’re talking on the phone, which means she’s quietly, calmly asking me questions, and then we wait 1 minute, 2, while i try to make my mouth move. It’s a difficult and frustrating process (at least for me, i can’t speak for her), because there’s pressure inside me not to speak. I was raised/indoctrinated/brainwashed/threatened/beaten to never speak of these things. There are many parts of me who were made to keep the secrets. Not only that, but after all the work i’ve already done, there’re lots of parts of me that’ve been freed to speak, too. My therapist asks me a question and i’m immediately flooded with intense force to keep quiet. Also with words from those who have something to say. The push-pull fills me with distress. Sometimes i choke the words out, sometimes i whisper, sometimes i snark, sometimes i sob them out, and many more times than i’d wish – i say nothing.

I share with her how i’m not sleeping; how i’m afraid i’ll die. How we’re ALL afraid i’ll die. I tell her i can’t leave the house again. I tell her i’m scared all the time.

She says, You’re not scared, H.
You could probably hear the click of my rolling eyeballs over the phone as i spat, Oh really?
She says No. You’re not scared, you’re absolutely terrified. Your little Bits N’ Pieces carry the memories of what happened, but your body carries the memories of how it felt.
She says, You’re feeling terror; you feel in fear for your life because that’s how it felt when you were being hurt.
And the nights are worse because that’s when they came, to which i reply, Mostly.*

After that, we do some work on how to take care of the babies that live in my brain that aren’t real. I cringe at the merest entertainment of the thought that i might share some of how that looks.
I’ll think about it.

**********

I’m sorry for this post in a way, because it is harsh and sad and terrible, but this is how my brain works and this is my life right now and i made a promise to do my best to share. I am getting to the meat of the matter, and it smells of rot and filth and death.

I’m also not at all sorry for this post. One, because i’m a multiple, so i feel/think all the things at the same time (please feel free to join me in a hearty snort here), but also because it’s brought me closer to my goal, it’s made me more present in my mind and body, and it’s brought me precious hope that i can continue.

I intend to crest the peak of Mount Doom, where i shall toss this evil, poisonous thing that i’ve carried all my days, and watch it burn away to nothing in the eternal fire.
And that will be the finest and greatest moment of my life.

If this brought stuff up for you, do what you know to do to take care of yourself.
With Love and Gratitude,
~H~

*Of course my nerdbrain goes straight to Newt in Aliens and i giggle a little inside, because i’m a dark and twisty nerd. Heh.

The Golden Chain

WARNING: References to paedophilia and childhood sexual abuse.

“Touch me not, touch me not, come back tomorrow.”
Oh my heart, oh my heart shies from the sorrow.
I’m as puzzled as a newborn child.
I’m as riddled as the tide.
Should I stand amid the breakers?
Or shall I lie with death my bride?
~ This Mortal Coil, Song to the Siren

As i’ve said many times before, as a highly dissociative person, it can take me a while to figure out wtf is going on. I knew therapy – duh. Yeah, that’s going on, and it’s about learning to feel what my body is feeling and tend to its needs. To allow my body to release the pain and torment and terror it has stored for all these years, and in so doing, to rebuild a connection between my brain and my body. It was severed before i could even speak, due to severe childhood trauma. I knew that part, so all i was going through emotionally, the downward spiral that i expected, and all its attendant intensity, i attributed to the process.

But life doesn’t stop happening just because i’m doing some serious internal self-improvement, does it? And life happened to me a few months ago – it happened hard and fast and it exploded all over me. It splattered me and my safe place with blood. No one’s dead, and no one’s dying (except for everyone – you’re welcome), but beyond that, i cannot speak about it. My blog is public, and i intend for it to remain so, which means that unsafe people have access to it. I will share about it eventually, but not for some time. I only bring it up to say that, as i’ve been spiralling, it made perfect sense that it was a contributing factor. As it most certainly TF is.

I started using a Fitbit a few months ago. I find it motivational and informative for my slow and careful journey from overweight and unfit to something healthier. One aspect i didn’t expect, and immediately found interesting, is its sleep tracking. I’ve always been a terrible sleeper. I’ve struggled with insomnia for my entire life… For years i identified myself as a nighthawk and lived my life that way, as much as i could manage it. However, as i slowly got healthier in other ways, a couple of years ago i decided to see if my quality of life would improve if i tried being a “morning person”. Since then, with the exception of Sundays, i rise at 5, and try to be in bed between 10 and 11. The change in my mood was immediate and rather drastic. My Fitbit gave me information i didn’t have though, and more detail. I’m a very light sleeper, i wake repeatedly, and i’m restless most of the night. It also reminded me that, as a person with fibromyalgia, i never get much D-level, or restorative, sleep.

Over the last few months i’ve been tinkering with ways to improve my sleep, with some success. Then everything stopped working. My sleep was tanking. I honestly didn’t give it much thought because it happens whenever i spiral. I picked up booze again, to knock me out. It works, but the price i pay is high. My hangovers are epic. As i got more tired and more strung out emotionally, i became less able to say No to the booze.

Alcohol and pills, and for the particularly young, food too, are integral in most paedophile’s toolkits. Therefore, some of the people that live in my brain crave that regularly. Some see it as an escape, some see it as a reward, and some see it as just the way things are supposed to be.
First, i stopped eating compulsively, and then i quit the pills. But then booze, which prior to my weight loss had never been much of an issue, became one, as i sped along on my first full-blown bipolar mania.

I hope i’m setting this up so that it’s understandable. I’m doing my best.

Another thing that happens when i’m struggling mentally/emotionally, is i go to ground. It can be a wise decision. I find people exhausting at the best of times. I mean, i love humans, but y’all can be a lot, man.
I do it partly because i need more energy to cope with my current inner chaos. I do it so i can focus. I do it so as to eliminate the problem of always having to fight the programming i received as a child: to be good, to be liked, to figure out what people want/expect of me and do my best to give it to them. To fit in and be like the person/group i’m with. To please, to placate… to hide myself deep inside. To avoid pain and rejection. It’s easier to be myself than it used to be, but i may always have to deal with the need to feel safe couched in the desire to please.

And so it made sense to me that i was once again hermitting in my Little Crooked House.

So i’m continuing my therapy, i’m getting some sleep thanks to drinking, and i’ve removed the extra stress that peopling adds.
But my anxiety is through the roof. It’s so high i find it difficult to breathe. My brain is catastrophising every thought. I feel terrified all the time. Not scared. Terrified.  I stop sleeping because i’m afraid to close my eyes. I am convinced every night that if i do, i will never open them again. I get an hour or 2 every couple of nights due to pure exhaustion, but i wake up with a scream caught in my throat and my body fully gripped by panic.

I’m switching and sliding around without much control, but there are moments of clarity, where i am fully in the face. My husband tries to help, but i have no words to offer him, no thoughts to share. There is too much going on in my brain, too many conversations, so many voices crying out. I sit beside him in bed at night, mostly playing mindless games and watching shitty horror flicks on YouTube. Sometimes i grab onto him and wrap my body tight around him, thinking it may very well be the last time i ever do so.

I tried so very hard to write, but i was completely unable to do so. I couldn’t even bash out any weird, crappy not-poetry or stream-of-consciousness bullshit. I’d stare at the screen and will my fingers to type something; i could feel that elephant sitting on my chest, and then he’d do a fancy swan dive into the the roiling waters in the pit of my belly (he’s an asshole).

A few nights ago i was drunk, but in the face, my system having abandoned me to their respective corners as i got more panicked and out of control. We amp each other up when things get that bad. It’s like mass hysteria. I tried to sleep, but i woke to me trying to put my clothes on and go outside. Hubby tried to comfort me by taking me for a drive (it’s 12am and he gets up at 5).
I have trouble crying, but when i get like that, the floodgates can open. I was sobbing, the tears running in rivers down my face and soaking my shirt. Hitching sobs and a wrenching in my heart, my throat burning and feeling almost bruised by the force of my wailing.

I try to think of what my therapist tells me to do when i’m in utter crisis. I’m already feeling my body, no need to breathe and drop down into body awareness, right? What is my body asking for? What comfort, soothing, or action can i offer it?
I hear myself saying, over and over, I can’t do this.
I can’t do this, it’s too much.
I can’t breathe i can’t breathe i’m going to die.
I try to tell my husband that i am terrified of death. I’m afraid to close my eyes because i’m terrified i’ll never open them again.
The weight on my chest.
My burning throat.
A lifetime of insomnia and light sleeping.
A deep and debilitating fear of death.
I can’t breathe.
I’m dying.

I lay my hands on my chest, above my breasts, and i press down, splaying my fingers in some strange hug. I take the fingers  of 1 hand and gently, eversogently stroke my throat. I take the fingers of both hands and massage the back of my neck, which throbs, and then i take the bottom of my palms, the bony part just above the wrist, and i carefully, slowly massage my jawline, switching to my thumbs to massage my upper jaw just underneath my cheekbones.

This is when my body communicates to my brain.
Being woken in the middle of the night, sometimes knowing who, sometimes not. Baby, toddler, preschool, elementary… Jaws forced open, not being able to breathe, the weight of a grown body on my tiny one.

This is the work. My body carrying the terrible truth because my brain could not bear it. The sensations containing information that my brain would interpret and cause emotions that i could not live through. I split apart so that i could live.

I’m putting myself back together and this is the work.
One brilliant, gossamer strand between my body and my brain. Attached. Communicating. Mended. I will continue to weave until i am brilliantly, fully alive.
This is the work.

Maybe i can sleep?

Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.
~ Thomas Dekker

IMAGE: Caught In Her Eye, ElleShaped

Water of Life

CW: Contains indirect references to childhood sexual abuse. This one is heavy for me – emotional. It may be for you, too. Take good care.

**********

Heavy hearts, like heavy clouds in the sky, are best relieved by the letting of a little water.
~ Christopher Morley

So i made it to my therapist’s office today. And i started crying as soon as i saw her.
In the parking lot.
Crying.
Fuck.*

Tears are difficult for me. There is, as with just about every fucking thing in my life, a push and a pull with tears. As an infant, i know that i would have cried. I know from gathering as much information as i could from people who would talk to me about her honestly, that she wasn’t a terribly attentive mother. Unless family or someone she wanted something from was around, and then she was perfect and doting. But her mask would slip occasionally with those she called friend. She’d leave me cry in my crib for too long, saying i needed to cry it out or i’d be spoiled. Claimed i was colicky and would drown me in gripe water (which contained alcohol back in the day), and push baby Aspirin. Based on behaviours i do remember from a young age, i imagine the ignoring of my needs went for longer when no one was around to see.

When she’d spank me or hit me, sometimes she’d stop when i cried, and sometimes she’d go harder. If i cried for something other than beatings, say, disappointment or sadness or fear, she’d berate and humiliate me. I was a big baby and needed to toughen up. She’d accuse me of crocodile tears. I remember her telling other people when they’d show concern, “Don’t believe it. She’s faking. She’s an amazing little actress.”

She groomed me for predators from infancy, so i’m going to assume there were some tears involved there. And the people she gave me to were the hardest, when it came to shedding tears. Some of them would hurt me worse if i cried. Some would complain to my mother and then she’d beat me. And some needed me to cry, which became a problem when sometime around 3 or 4, my tears dried up. She took me to the doctor about it, i think, but i don’t remember what he said.

I do remember what caused my tears to flow again. I was around 12 or 13. I’ll tell that story another time, because this subject matter is already heavy enough.

I’ll share another interesting tidbit about me and tears, though. For my whole life, since my tears stopped flowing and through their adolescent return, you couldn’t tell i’d been crying when it was over. No matter how long i’d cried –i could, and did, bawl my little eyes out sometimes– all i had to do was wipe my eyes and blow my nose, and no one knew.

Sometime during this recent bout of therapy, that’s changed. I’ve never been asked, “Have you been crying?” until a couple of months ago. My face gets blotchy, my eyes and nose get red… It’s like my body is giving up all its ghosts. I’m no longer carved from alabaster. I’m becoming a living, breathing, crying being. Filled with snot, apparently. Buckets of snot.

I’m coming to life and i’m mourning my dead. The tears water me. They wash off my grave clothes. They cleanse me of the filth that coats me that was never mine. I’m pink and warm underneath. Red and blue and purple and golden light! I pulse and sparkle as life flows into dead limbs. I’m sitting in my cemetery, surrounded by beautiful dead things, and as i water the barren sand it becomes fecund. Living things are sprouting up around me. Pretty things. Green things. Life from death. Beauty from shit.

Which is all very lovely and poetic (and still true), but in the meantime – i cry. I want to cry all the time, and i cry just about every day.
People, i am not a fucking cryer. I get choked up over art and suchlike. Verklempt. Sometimes my eyes will fill up with tears, but they generally remain unshed. I can cry for other people, too. If a friend/loved one is suffering, i cry. But that place where one sobs until there is nothing but hitching breaths and hiccoughing? That place where one connects with one’s own pain and suffering? Almost never. And until my first round of effective headshrinking with my current therapist, if it did happen it wasn’t really for me. I didn’t cry over what happened to me, what was DONE TO ME.

Now i am.
I’ll be attending to some task, speaking with someone, reading something unconnected, sitting on the goddamned toilet – and the tears will suddenly come. They spill out and pour down my cheeks, hot and salty. My heart aches and my belly clenches. I weep. I mourn. And i know this is only the beginning. I know there is an ocean of tears inside me yet. A torrent waiting to be unleashed.
I’m going to let them come.

I’ve marinated in self-pity before, and i fucking deserved to. But this isn’t that.
I’m transporting myself back to my childhood, to bear witness to the crimes committed against me. I look upon that innocent little baby, toddler, child, adolescent, teen, and yes, young woman. I watch what happened to her. I listen, and i feel.
And then i mourn. I weep for her suffering. I ache with her needs. I lament her violation, and i grieve her death. She died over and over again, scavenged bits of flesh and blood from the corpse and made a new thing. A zombie. A golem. A robot. A doll.

The water flows and there’s no bottom to this well inside me.

And i thought it was hard to cry. To release my white knuckle control and cry. To stop dissociating from the grief and cry. To feel the pain of past abuse in my body today, and cry. But it is not the hardest thing. Not by a fucking long shot.
Why does a baby cry?
Hunger, thirst, pain, fear… Unmet needs.
What do we do when a baby cries?
Figure out which one it is and meet the need.
Sometimes though, we meet all the needs and the baby still cries. What do we do then?
We soothe them. We hush, we hold, we comfort, cuddle, softly sing. Blankets, stuffies, low lighting. We whisper words of love, vows of protection. We promise that everything is going to be okay.

And now, here we are at the hardest thing.

I’ll try to post about it in the next couple of days.
Until then, try to have as good a weekend as you can.
I will, too.
Do they still make tissues with lotion?

Love and Peace,
~H~

*If cuss words aren’t your thing, you might wanna pass on this piece. I mean, i often let 1 or 2 into my writing, because i write in my RL voice. What you’re reading is how i talk. Yeah, i’m pedantic and histrionic and show-offy with my admirable vocab. I’ve also been known to swear like a trucker made a baby with a sailor, and it was born with an itch it can’t scratch and a 2′ wide yapper.
This post is feelin’ like it needs to be full of swears.

Suffer the Little Children

Alternate title: Jesus, Do You Smell That?

Content warning: Some references to childhood sexual abuse.

I’m settling in to this process a bit more every day. I don’t know how long it will take for me to forge a connection between my brain and my body, but i’m committed to and invested in it, even if i’m never quite done. I’m connecting parts slowly, a bit at a time, and i’m doing well resisting the urge to tackle it all, hard and head-on. When the Peanut Gallery pipes up with some judgey shit about how i should be further along than i am, i have plenty of examples of how terribly awry things can go when i push too hard. However, during my therapy sesh yesterday i realised there is an area where i could be doing a tad more, and i’m balking.

I try every day, all day, to stay present in my body and feel what’s happening to me physically; my aim is to dissociate as little as possible. I hold on to the face through the regular day-to-day sensations, like brushing my teeth, which can be triggery AF, and i’m hanging on through some awful body memory stuff, like phantom burning in my genital area. While i’m going through these intense body sensations, my Bits N’ Pieces are having various reactions to what’s going on, just like i am. I’m learning to care for the body memory stuff with warm drinks, blankets, binding, writing, and even talking about it with my hubs, but i’m hanging back when it comes to directly engaging my system and asking them what kind of care/comfort they’d like while dealing with this stuff.

Mutiplicity can be difficult to explain, and this is one of those areas that, no matter how i put it, it still seems inadequate; the words don’t communicate my reality sufficiently. Yes, i hear voices in my head. I know they’re all me, and yet they’re a little bit not me. Maybe think of it like we tend to think of things as natural or not natural: maple syrup gets the natural label, but Aunt Jemima doesn’t. They’re both made of ingredients that come from our world (some additives are man-made, sure, but it’s not like we folded space and travelled to another universe for the elements needed to make them), yet one doesn’t seem as raw or earthy – it’s not as much a part of the innate order of things. Unnatural? Not quite natural?

So it is with my system. I know the people that live in my brain, that chatter at me all day long and even into my dreamlife, that saved me when i was little and now help shoulder the minefield that is being a human living in a developed nation after severe trauma, by carrying my burdens, secreting my pain, and sometimes taking control of my body when i’m overwhelmed… Are all iterations of me – various versions of who i needed to be or thought i had to be in order to survive.
Yet they are not me.
There were walls between us for many years, borders that none of us would cross. They would not because they exist to care for/protect me, and i couldn’t because i hadn’t the knowledge or the space safe enough to do so. To step into the light and see my system – my big brain machine humming along, gears inside gears, turning alongside gears inside gears. A terrifically complicated and intricate psychic arrangement of snippets and gobs of personality. Actors that only exist between the green room and the stage. When i finally saw my face as a lit theatre and gained access to their dressing rooms, well, you know that not every actor whose work you like is a person you’d want to hang out with after the show, right?

Some of my people are not a good time. I might even say most of them aren’t, a lot of the time. I love them in a way that is only for them – not like i love my husband, my children, my friends. Not like food, or music, or art, or animals, or sunshine, or a cool glass of water, or my husband’s kiss. Not even like the characters in my favourite books. They’re more than these things, and less, too. Yet they’re closer to me than absolutely anyone else – no one, nothing else could get so close. They’re my saviours who occasionally get me into some serious scrapes. They’re my best friends and my champions. And they’re also my children who’re always getting into something and the only reason i don’t strangle them is they’re underdeveloped toddlers who can’t help it.

They remember awful things, sometimes as clearly as if they happened yesterday, sometimes as if they are happening now, in this moment, all the time. And i know i’m currently writing about feeling the physical sensations that go along with certain memories that’ve been locked away in certain parts of my body, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t also carry some physical pain. They feel the aching jaw, the bruises, the cuts, the headache like my skull is going to turn to dust, the swelling, the bleeding, the burning – all of it. It’s my hope that this work i’m doing will help them be free from pain. Perhaps even, that they can return to me as i return myself to homeostasis. They’ve told me their stories, now it’s my body’s turn. I see this as a housecleaning. I’m shining a light on all the dark places, removing all traces of black mould. But this house is currently serving as a temporary MASH unit, filled with sick and wounded soldiers. I have medicines and tonics and pills for them, and i have cleaners and disinfectants, tools and talent for cleaning a filthy home…
But the body has triggered my system, and i haven’t asked them if they want anything from me to help them bear it all.

Back when i was first learning to listen and relate to the other people who live with me in my brain, it was a gross and disgusting ordeal. Once i acknowledged that some of my dreams were actually memories, it was like trying to live a normal life in a locked room filled with decomposing bodies. I felt like i was coated in filth – it slicked my skin and filled up my nostrils and sat in the bottom of my belly like an angry, acid python, constantly twisting and spilling over itself. I stank of evil, life stank of rot. I was surrounded by horror, sex and death roiling and foaming together like a cannibal’s cauldron. It was the closest to giving up that i’ve ever come, i almost lost myself in the viscous fluid of memory, losing form and definition and nearly dissolving into hopelessness and endless nothing.

As i write this i’ve suddenly seen that i’m parenting my Bits like i parented my real life children. From a fucking distance. Afraid to touch, to engage, to connect. I didn’t know how with my sons, but i do now. I learned because i saw how much harm it had done to me not to have it from my parents. I’ve been learning and practising since then because i believe it’s not too late to give it to them unless they tell me so. And i would keep trying even if they told me it was too late and would never be enough, because i believe it’s my responsibility as a parent, and because i experience that doing so helps and heals me, too.

Yes, parenting my children with connection, engaging with them emotionally and physically – that’s what my brain-babies need/want, as well. Of course they do. I know that, it’s just that the feelings they carry, the stories the snapshots the motherfucking scary movie franchise…
Bah. The last time i got up close and personal with it all it was years before i felt clean again. It was years of barely being in the face because i couldn’t take the slime and the stench.
But comparing them to my boys helps.
Writing helps.
Therapy helps.
Hubby helps.
Truth helps.

They’re broken off bits of me, and they need me to wash them, bind up their wounds, and soothe them, just as i’ve done for myself, the primary me. If they were real live children, covered in blood and shit and filth, smelling like sex and rot, i wouldn’t hesitate for a second to gather them to me and minister to their needs.
These children are all me; why is it so hard to give myself what i would give to any other human in my position?
I was taught that i only existed to be poured out for the consumption of others, but i know now that that was a wicked, selfish lie told me by evil people.
Knowing where i come from and who i am is good, but it’s not enough. I have wounds that need washing and stitches and bandaging, breaks that need mending, and aches that need warmth.

This piece may not make much sense, i’m not sure. This is so close to my core that i don’t think i’m able to edit/proofread this with a critical eye. If you’ve made it this far, i thank you. Writing this made me want to throw up most of the way, but here and now, at this sentence, i feel recommitted and more fiercely dedicated than ever. If someone hurt a child the way i was hurt, if someone hurt my children the way i was hurt, i would ruin the world to make things better for them.

Yes, it’s a contradictory statement. It’s hyperbolic. It paints a picture and conveys the intensity of my conviction.

So, i guess i’m heading into the trenches.
This could get…

<insertwhateverwordcametoyourmindasitprobablyapplies>

Take Care and Try a Little Tenderness,
I will, too.

~H~