Feed Me Tacos and Tell Me I’m Pretty

Busy. Buuuusy, busy busy busy BUSY.
This is new for me, and potentially dangerous territory. I have to be careful. Always mindful. So far i’m mostly okay, but i must be willing to cut back or stop entirely if my current mania, which feels like it’s winding down, ramps back up.
This is it though. Busy with writing, working, relationships, busy with life. I’m not overwhelmed, i’m just capable of doing more. I’m not frozen, immobilised by my past traumas anymore. This is more of the life i wanted – and i’ve worked hard to get here.

This is a catch up post: random fill-ins, observations, things i’ve learned, maybe a thing or 2 that are bugging me… We’ll see. I’ll just get to it and see what i come up with, eh?
Off we go.

**********

First, my teeth. They needed cleaning, and i have 1 tooth that’s become rather sensitive. It doesn’t hurt all the time but, it hurts. I’ve had all my wisdom teeth removed, and lost a couple of other ones too, so i’m not keen to lose any more. Since spring 2020, i’ve avoided any in-person health care as much as possible, and that, along with dentophobia (also known as odontophobia) has kept me out of the chair for around 2yrs. I should say i was once deemed phobic, but therapy brought me down a few notches to what i’d say is more of an intense anxiety now.

I call to make an appointment with the office that helped me with exposure therapy, and patiently handled all my tics and quirks until i could get my dental needs addressed relatively easily. I tell them i’m fully vaccinated and ask to see a hygienist who is, also.
Dead silence.
I’m eventually informed that they won’t be disclosing their status.

After some time and information, i come to understand why, even though i don’t exactly agree. I’m getting twisted up, full of tight knots, and having trouble breathing. I’m weepy and irritated, but i begin problem-solving. What am i going to do, if my teeth need attention, but every office has this stance?

I go to my friends on social media and ask for input. For one, posting about what i’m dealing with calms me, and getting it out of my brain unclutters my thoughts and narrows my focus. After soaking up their support and gathering suggestions, i disconnect from everything and spend quiet time with my husband and pets. A quiet night with loving connections and fun distractions is what i need, and while i don’t sleep much, i sleep a little.

In the morning i feel ready to try and figure out something that will work for me. Unexpectedly, someone reaches out privately, and i’m able to find a place to go.

At the appointment, i try not to say anything about my anxiety and my trauma history. I did that with the last dentist, and it worked well, but i wanted to see if i could go in to the new office and not need to announce all my problems in order to feel safe.
I couldn’t.

I was clearly in distress, so i disclosed as little as possible to the hygienist, who was understanding and kind. I don’t feel like i failed. I’ll tell whomever i need/want to about my mental illness, it was just a wee test. I’m not ready for that yet i guess, and i might not ever be, which is okay.

She said my teeth and gums were in excellent condition, especially for someone who hadn’t had her teeth cleaned in so long. Then the dentist came in to discuss my x-rays, and here’s the suck: See, i have Bruxism, which is excessive teeth grinding or jaw clenching. I grind my teeth when i’m sleeping, and i clench my jaw during the day. I can’t wear night guards because i destroy them. I’d been on Botox injections in my masseter (jaw) muscles for a couple of years, and it had helped tremendously. However, pandemic anxiety has kept me from getting them.

The dentist told me i’m cracking my back molars and need 2 crowns, or i’m going to lose them. Further, she said my tooth sensitivity is likely due to the Bruxism as well. She’s recommending to go back on Botox, and further, to get dry needling. I also have bony growths under my tongue due to the nighttime clenching, and it might be partially to blame for my hearing loss.
It’s a lot.

I have a quote for how much it’ll cost, and a general idea of how much insurance will cover. I’m taking things a step at a time and not freaking out, but it’s clear this can’t wait any longer than it has to.

So i have anxiety about dental work and SARS-CoV-2.
I asked for what i wanted, set boundaries, managed my emotions, and went to my support system to get me through. I lost a good dental office, but it’s okay. They did what they felt they had to do and so did i. I have a new office that seems pretty decent so far. I definitely appreciate the hygienist.

This brings me to another bit i want to post about.

**********

I like compliments.
Actually, i love compliments.
And i don’t just love them, i thrive on them. They boost my self-esteem, creativity, productivity, and imbue me with a level of calm and confidence that i don’t have without them.

Growing up i got the message that i should be humble. Especially because i was only worth what i could do for my abusers, and they wanted to keep me down so it was easier to control me. But i received the same message from those who were good to me, and my religious community, too. I saw other good and “godly” people blush at compliments, and say things like, “Oh, you’re too kind,” and “It was nothing, really,” and “I just helped,” and “It was all so-and-so’s doing.”

I learned that the proper thing to do was to deflect, to give credit to someone else, to look flustered and embarrassed and squirm uncomfortably while clearly forcing oneself to say, “Thank you.”

So i did that – i internalised what was modeled for me.

Therapy showed me that i’m a people-pleaser. I fawn, i toady, and i try to read everyone, to anticipate their moods and needs. To riff on a terrible B movie that i love, i was there to eat humble pie and kiss ass.*
I did it all to be accepted, get approval, and avoid rejection. Thanks to my mother’s manipulative influences, what i did could verge on cozening, although it wasn’t consciously done. What i did understand was that compliments worked, that most people liked them, but that i wasn’t supposed to, because it made me conceited and “full of myself.”
Hello cognitive dissonance.

Once again, continued therapy helped me figure it out. The culture i was raised in, along with abusive parental conditioning, had stifled many aspects of my personality. I’d buried them in self-preservation, and any time they made an appearance i felt deep shame, often added to by those around me:

Who do you think you are?
Do you think you’re special or something?
You think you’re better than everyone else!


I did not. In fact, i’d internalised the message that i was bad and disgusting and worthless.
But thankfully, tucked away deep inside, i had a beautiful, marvelous, amazing and indomitable spirit.
I was a survivor. I wanted to live.

Therapy helped me set myself free.

Over the last year and a half or so, i’ve been well enough to help my husband at work. I don’t do it all the time, but when he needs an extra hand, i can go and lighten his work load a bit. He works in construction, so it’s physical labour. I have a couple of chronic pain issues, so the cost to me is not small, although i’m glad to pay it. If i go and assist him, he doesn’t have to train and pay someone else. But there’ve been times over the last few months where i’ve snapped at him, and it’s not for any obvious reason – i’m just churlish, and it’s not okay.

I apologised every time, but my snarkiness continued, and i needed to figure out why. I’m not generally an asshole, but i was definitely acting like one. Through paying close attention to my thoughts and emotions, i found that it was occurring most often when i felt like i wasn’t doing a good enough job. So, i started telling him this, and he’d respond that it was fine.
But i still felt petulant. I felt like a child, and became aware that my system** was at play.

I did what i do when my Bits N’ Pieces are particularly active: i asked them what they want.
It was like i’d pulled that old nubby metal chain that hangs from a dusty lightbulb in movie attics…
The light shone, i knew what the problem was, and went to my husband and told him:

“I need you to tell me i’m doing a good job. When you take a look at what i’ve done and say nothing, i assume it’s not good enough, and you’re not saying anything because you don’t want to hurt my feelings. I would like you to say nice things about my work; i need to know i’m doing well.”

My husband is very quiet. He was raised by parents who were emotionally unresponsive, and he has difficulty accessing his own emotions as well as understanding others’. It’s not natural for him to consider his or anyone else’s emotions. However, he’s been open to learning, and he makes an effort to meet me where i’m at, emotionally. I had to let go of the destructive belief, “if he really loves me, he’ll just know.” Once i was able to ask for what i wanted, we’ve both been able to work on me getting it.

In other words, he’d forget to praise me for my work.
I had to quash that silly romantic notion for the thousandth time (it’s dying a hard death – think Paul Ruebens in the movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), then go to him and ask:

“Am i doing okay? Do you think my work is good?”

He’d respond with a “Yes! I’m sorry, i forgot. Yes, you’re doing a great job, thank you! I appreciate your help. You’re helping me a lot.”

And just like that, something relaxes inside me. My system gets quieter and i feel strangely warm and glowy.
My mood improves and i have more energy. Time stops dragging and i feel more able to do the job. I have more confidence that i can do it correctly. I feel valuable and important.

Compliments, man. I like compliments.
My BFF says, “Feed me tacos and tell me i’m pretty.”
‘Bout sums it up.

Let’s give my adventures in dentistry a call back now, shall we?

When i was sitting in that chair, a new-to-me chair in a new-to-me office, with a hygienist i don’t know and my pockets filled with anxiety and my body tense with stress – she said nice things about my teeth. She said nice things about ME and how well i’ve taken care of my teeth. She casually praised me and immediately i could feel myself softening.

I’m doing okay.
I’m doing a great job.

It’s going to be all right, H. Breeeeathe.


**********

This post feels good and right. I don’t need or want to muddy it up with the stuff that’s bugging me lately.
I think i’m cruising on the memories of those compliments, you know? Heh.

I’m going to leave it at that, then.

Y’all take care as well as you can.
You’re still here, so you’re doing okay.
You might even be doing great, consider that one!

Now i want tacos.


Love and Peace,
~H~

*From They Live: “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And i’m all out of bubblegum.”
**If you’re a new reader, welcome! When i refer to my system, i’m referring to my DID diagnosis.

IMAGE: Sidral Mundet

Did You Die, Though?

I think most of us want people to like us. It makes navigating life easier if those we encounter find us likeable. Friends are a good thing to have, too. They support us and add quality to our lives (if they don’t, they might not be our friends – but that’s another post). Having friends is more apt to happen when we’re likeable. That’s where we can encounter trouble; finding friends can be tough, sometimes. Not everyone is gonna like us, and that can add stress to the process.
This stuff is obvious to most of us, sure. I share it for understanding and empathy.
Most people want to have friends and care about being liked.
Most people experience at least a little social anxiety now and again.

I’m gonna guess i had some grasp of this from before i have memories. My mother was volatile and abusive. When she was happy i was happy (even when i wasn’t), and when she wasn’t i was miserable. My life still wasn’t free from abuse when she was happy, but the alternative was far worse. My early years involved a number of abusers, and it was my job to make them all happy. And if they weren’t happy, there’d be hell to pay.

I’ve been a people-pleaser all my life. Even though the abuse is decades over, i’ve remained terrified of anyone not liking me. I survived my childhood trauma but i never left it behind. I’ve been like a ghost, haunting their own murder scene.

Once i started making some decent headway with my therapy, i began to see in how many ways my interpersonal relationships were problematic. The other person had all the power and i had none (whether or not they knew that). I hadn’t asked myself if i was getting what i wanted out of these relationships – it hadn’t occurred to me i could. I’d not thought to ask the most basic question of all: Did i even want to be friends with this person?

My social anxiety, and anxiety in general, is on the level where, once i was getting all with the deep and nitty grittiness of therapy, it became the easiest and most conducive thing to become a hermit. The stress added by others was mucking up the gears of my progress. Turns out, underneath all of that people-pleasing, affability and charm, was a die hard introvert who’d never had their peopling batteries properly or fully recharged. It took years to fill me back up.

Along the way i’d dumped my close real life friends (those who hadn’t left already when i was in the grips of crazy), many internet ones, and all extended family members save one. I’d also removed myself from party circles, as it can trigger mental/emotional issues, and is physically unhealthy to boot.
Which bring me to last week, and the reason for this post.

These last months i’ve been functioning mentally and emotionally so well, that i’d increased my focus on my physical health. I’ve needed to shed some weight, and i wanted to be more fit and incorporate more physical activities into my life. To that end, i’ve been walking. I love walking, which makes it readily adoptable into my routine. I live with chronic pain, and walking is one of the least taxing ways to exercise. It’s also giving me more control over my system’s urge to take off walking when i feel afraid, threatened, or overwhelmed. I spend some of my time on the road talking to my Bits N’ Pieces; addressing their needs and allaying their fears. More control – i haz it.

Last week i’d walked into town and was heading to a local park to meet my husband after he got off work for a jaunt or 2 around the lake. On my way i bumped into someone i know, and we stopped to exchange pleasantries.
And that’s when it happened.
A full on, holy shit moment smacked me right upside the head.
Lemme shine some light on that for y’all.

Three of only a handful that i still consider myself friendly with in this town, belong to a group of women that hang out together and do a lot of fun stuff. From the first time i met this woman, i liked her, and wanted to be friends with her. As i got healthier, i went from wishing it were so, to trying to make it happen. A little bit. Here and there.
Last week as i was walking away from our exchange on the sidewalk, i finally realised that she is not interested. Based on results, she doesn’t want to be friends with me.

The amazing thing is, it didn’t bother me all that much. She might not have the time. She might not like me enough, or even at all. I could have given it more time and ascribed more potential reasons why, but i know the bottom line is it doesn’t matter and it’s not my business anyway.
I’d already figured out i didn’t want to be a part of the group she’s in (which is a good thing cuz i ain’t welcome), and that felt liberating. Recognising that a friendship with her isn’t going to happen didn’t feel great, but it didn’t devastate me. It stung a bit, but it also felt liberating. It opened up some real estate in my brain and liquidated some mental currency that i could better use somewhere else.

She has politely refused my offers and it didn’t kill me and i don’t hate her. In fact, i still like her and i’m not scared about it. The next day i looked over a bunch of pictures of her and her group doing the fun stuff that i thought i wanted to do with them. I don’t belong there. They knew it and i do, too. I looked at other pictures, where she’s living her life and doing her thing, and i saw that i didn’t belong there, either. She hasn’t invited me in, and after looking for a bit, i don’t want her to. Friendship requires that both parties consent, and with the knowledge that i don’t have hers, my own desire has withered to almost nothing.

This is a big victory for me. I’ve smashed yet another sick construct my abusers built into my brain, and become that much more capable of functioning well in everyday society. I was rejected and i didn’t die.

And a week later, the lesson is helping me plan for my future.
I was vague again, i know.
Elucidation is coming… Eventually.
Heh.

Love and Peace To All,
~H~



IMAGE: trail

Gardening



I have done a great deal of personal work in my life. I’ve had to if i wanted to survive in the real world on its terms. After escaping my abusers (both major and minor), and creating some space for myself to be able to breathe without having to fight for it, i had the unbridled temerity to want more than survival. I wanted to THRIVE.

I started out immersing myself in therapy. Individual, groups, programs, courses… I did it all, reader. I read the books and went to the lectures. I screamed and beat the ground with a bataka and cried in front of other people (that i didn’t know and often didn’t like much) and told them personal things. I spent many hours telling my life story to many MH pros. I invested what little money i had on them, and workbooks and pretty little journals and coloured pens that smelled like apples and grapes and chewing gum.

I have never not wanted to LIVE, even when i sought death.

It took years, but with a Bipolar diagnosis under my belt, i figured out that doing ALL TEH THINGS wasn’t going to work for me. I became a babystepper as a matter of necessity, and then i stuck with it because it suits my personality and produced the best, most long lasting results. And it fits my lifestyle, too. I like a slower pace. I enjoy excitement… for about an hour, and then i fall into overwhelm.

So i have been slowly, carefully, intentionally remaking myself in my own image while renovating and landscaping my surroundings. A long time ago i accepted that that was my life, and that any kind of big milestone was some ways off. I learned to focus on the work and let the results come when they may. I’ve been at this for years. There have been many breaks though, due to life requiring more of my attention. Loved ones need more of my time, or my mental health crashes or explodes, or the world wrests my faculties from what’s directly in front of me to something important that may have nothing much to do with me, but it needs me to care about it.

This last 18mos, the world didn’t take me away from my work – instead it shut down. It did so so completely that i was afforded an opportunity to work almost exclusively on myself, with very few “distractions.”*

I used the time, and despite continuing to work at my snail’s pace, i was able to accomplish a great deal. It’s not like i was going gangbusters or anything, but i was going steadily, and i had known i was close to something big even before the pandemic hit. I had known i was close to a “milestone” for some time. And recently, i hit it.

I feel different. I feel more grown, more capable, more present. The days seem longer and more tiring to get through. It all came over me slowly, like when you get at gardening first thing in the morning. You’re getting so much done and aren’t even aware of your body… until 11 o’clock rolls around and you look down and you’ve soaked through your shirt.
Oh hey, i’m cooking out here, i should get out of the sun and eat some lunch.

I have also become aware that things are piling up and i’m running out of spoons. It wasn’t a sudden thing, like in the past when i would be mostly dissociated and the problem would have to clobber me over the head before i paid it any mind. I have felt the weight of everything pulling me down and down, and my body asking me for rest.
But, you know, i’m still relatively new at this grownup stuff, so i stumbled.

We went into town 2 weekends ago, and for the first time in months and months, i went into a couple of stores to pick up some things we needed. I felt myself pulled down this aisle and that, browsing happily. I’ve missed it and was quickly engrossed. Unfortunately, i got separated from my husband. First i stayed put and waited for him to find me, but he didn’t. I began walking around the store very slowly, up and down each aisle, stopping at the end and casting my eye as far as i could see in each direction. I tried so hard not to panic. I thought of leaving the store and waiting outside, but my arms were laden with things i wanted, and i was suddenly aware of how it might look to all the other patrons if i put everything down and exited. My anxiety rose. I began sweating, and i could feel my eyes, big as saucers. My panic would be obvious, i thought. Everyone looked at me as i passed them and it was getting hard to breathe…

Next thing i know i’m looking at a handsome young man and he’s speaking to me but i can’t hear him. I look around me and my heart sinks.
I’m in an ambulance and he is a paramedic.
My head is full of voices chattering at me, and i can’t shut them up, and i see his lips moving but i’m fading again…

Then i’m back at home, sitting in my chair and my husband is beside me.
I know i took off. I know i was close to home when the ambulance and police found me.
I know my twin took over at some point and was able to change their minds about dragging me to the hospital and convinced them to let me go home.
I told my husband i didn’t want to talk about it yet.

I needed to process it on my terms and in my time. Fortunately, he is not a pushy guy.
My initial inclination was to crap all over myself for losing control and feel like a terrible person and a loser and worry about what i did and who saw and start kicking myself for upsetting my loved ones… But i stopped it immediately and shifted quite easily into a calm and somewhat unemotional review of the day.

This is who i am, and this is how my brain works. It’s neither good nor bad anymore – it simply IS. I understand why i switched. It makes sense why i switched. It happened, but i’m fine, and everyone else is fine, and this is my life. This is okay and i am OKAY. It is okay to be who i am and it is fine that i switched. It really, truly is fine. It’s me and how i work and sometimes it happens and if there’s any fallout afterwards, i’ll clean it up.

I’m not freaked out or drowning in shame. In fact, it was barely a blip on my radar. I’m here and i’m grown and i’m capable.
This is new. I’m heartened by how i handled things after it happened. It didn’t trip me up. I am not spiralling.

This last weekend i went into town and ran a couple of errands that involved going into a store. I was careful to know where my husband was and what he was doing at all times. Not obsessively or even nervously. Just knowing how i work and where i’m at and what could go wrong and taking proper, preemptive steps to avoid a repeat. New issues, new problems will definitely present themselves, and i will handle those as best i can. And hey, if one of them trips me up, i’ll just pick myself up and do whatever i need to to set things right.
I’m not all jangly and anticipating the worst.
I’m not waiting for the other shoe to drop, kind of because i know it will.
And that’s okay.
It just is.
And i don’t feel defeated – i feel powerful.

… if you love your garden, you don’t mind working in it, and waiting. Then in the proper season you will surely see it flourish.
~ Jerzy Kosiński, Being There


I hope you’re all doing as best you can.
Love and Peace,
~H~

* This is me silverlining the pandemic. I wish with my whole heart that it had not happened.



IMAGE: Annie Spratt

New Shoes

I base most of my fashion sense on what doesn’t itch.
~ Gilda Radner


I think this new life i have fashioned is starting to chafe, a little. This new way of living that involves higher functioning has brought a calm and peace to which i am not accustomed. I’m most familiar with drama and chaos, it’s happened regularly, and frequently, since i first drew breath. I’ve spent many years now, whittling it away, carving something sturdy and serviceable. Stripping away soft, rotted bark and patiently (okay, not always that patiently) working to reveal its true shape hidden in the fragrant and vital hardwood beneath.

This work has become a daily part of my life. I pick it up when i will, and carve a little as it pleases me. However, as its form becomes more clear, i’ve felt excitement stirring in my nethers. Not sexual in nature, rather of something soon to be born. I am coming forth.

Yes, Hi, it’s me and my flowery way of communicating; that’s part of it. Part of me, part of who i am as a one of a kind piece of art. I am a sculpture that fashions itself. Behold!

I’m being silly, but honestly i’m hoping to lift myself out of this mood by so doing. I’m low. I’m tired and somewhat afraid. I know these feelings, but underneath them, another has been simmering slowly – it’s an uncomfortability. I’m blaming lack of familiarity, along with a smattering of boredom.

In past times such feelings could quickly land me in overwhelm. My response to such would be to either shut down, or nope right outta there. In short, to dissociate in some form or fashion, out of proportion to what was currently happening and how i felt about it. These days i’m practising mindfulness and staying present, i.e. conscious and in control. I’m working on sliding* and switching* as seldom as possible.

Also, i’ve been working hard to cut down on chaos by managing my system, calming my thoughts, eliminating problematic friendships and associations, and pursuing age appropriate levels of maturity. It’s working well, but it feels weird, like there’s something missing in my life. I’m guessing this is caused by a couple of things. The easiest to identify is the one where this is simply not what i’m used to. It’s like if i wore sweat pants all my life and suddenly started wearing jeans. It’ll likely take some time before i feel comfortable in them.

Sometimes, when people survive an experience that might have killed them, say a car accident, they find themselves seeking more dangerous situations. It’s been studied at length and thought to be some survivor’s guilt, along with a desire to recreate that intensity of emotion. To feel that alive again. When one isn’t constantly in fight or flight mode –when the threat is finally eliminated– it can almost feel like something’s wrong. My life hasn’t been legitimately threatened for some years now, and i find it at times unsettling. Part of me is still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Being safe, being an adult about things, only having the people i want to have in my life – none of it feels natural.

Plus, when i lived with all of that ruckus (both around and inside me) before, i could practically sleepwalk my way through it. Everything requires my attention now. When i’m awake, i’m on. It’s all new and i’m exhausted. I’ve been concerned that my system might manufacture some drama just to feel “normal.” They didn’t get the chance.

Last weekend i blew a gasket.

The pavement slabs burn loose beneath my feet,
A chafing savage, down the decent street
~ Claude McKay


Until Next Time,
Peace and Love,
~H~

*Definitions can be found in my FAQs.



IMAGE: Flickr

Big Love


If you love something
set it free
If it comes back
it is yours
If it doesn’t

it never was
~ Proverb

About manipulation…

It is very hard not to do it sometimes.
There is a situation in my life that i could fix with just a little push, here and there.
Just a properly worded statement or 2.
A well acted play, presented in a few short acts.
I could just “fix” the problem and no one would be the wiser.
Except me.
Except me.

Ah, why did i grow so much?
Why am i sitting here, working on letting go with love?
Why did i build a love so big that i could do this?
A love bigger than myself.
I could have what i want.
It’s right there in my hand and it wants to be there.
Manipulation takes away the individual’s autonomy.


So this is the true test. This is it right here.
Believe people when they show you who they are.
I do. I do believe.
And it’s so not okay, but it has to be.
I have to love me, too. More than i ever have.
Manipulation is a zero sum mind game.

I love them so.
I hate that i love enough to let go, but it can’t be undone.
The world has suddenly gotten bigger, and i am afraid.
I am also sort of excited.
I will either get what i want or i won’t.
The world will keep spinning me dizzy.
But my personal machinations are winding down.

Today is a perfect day outside.
I’ve decided to match it inside.
Beauty for beauty, shine for shine.
I will give my truest self, which will never be for naught.
No matter what comes – and the rain always comes.
I will stand outside and let it wash me clean.
There is no fate, only choice.

This is a vague one, and i do apologise, but it is what it has to be.

Bulwarks, Battlements… & Ducks

Strange title, eh? I was trying to figure out how to share about a particular set of personal flaws i’m trying to master, and i thought it might serve me well. Maya Angelou once spoke about not allowing oneself to be “pecked to death by ducks.” I understood that only years later, when i was extricating myself from friends and family who took little pieces out of me every chance they got. The backhanded compliment and the voice of disdain and the subtle eyeroll… It was difficult and scary to move away from these relationships until i clued in to how much better i was feeling. These people “meant to have my life,” a piece at a time, and i was bleeding to death slowly, from a thousand little bites.

Getting space from them –which is all i’d intended to do when i began– allowed me to start healing from these attacks. After a while, i had an experience of peace, so much so that even i, in my generally dissociated state, was able to easily mark the anxiety that welled up inside me at the mere prospect of any contact with them. I’ve been happily estranged from all of the pecking ducks in my life for nearly 10yrs now.
It’s only been in the last year or so that it’s come to my attention that i can also be a duck sometimes. And i’m guilty of pecking at those with whom i share living space, particularly my husband and my sons.

There are reasons i do this, of course. Everyone has reasons – genuine, legitimate reasons. The people i left behind that did it to me probably have some fine ones. However, that does not excuse crappy behaviour. The behaviour i’m currently focused on eliminating is entrenched, and broad in scope. It’s manipulation. It’s an ugly trait of mine – a ubiquitous stinkweed in my garden, and i’m pulling it out at the roots, wherever i find it.

It was taught to me, and modeled for me. My mother was a master manipulator. By the time she had me, i think honesty and forthrightness were already well behind her. And once she made the decision to use me as a commodity, i doubt she drew an honest breath. Whatever her own reasons, she snuck up to whatever and whomever she wanted. If she ever came at anything head-on, it was calculated, and generally secondary to what she really wanted. I am convinced that people were sport for her. We were all mice in her maze, and she took pleasure in seeing what she could make us do. We were either utterly clueless, or wrong about her true intentions.

When i was barely out of toddlerhood, she taught me panhandling and shoplifting. I would stand outside the local bar, while she was inside, targeting some drunken mark. It wasn’t as big a deal for a child to be out on their own back in those days, and if anyone ever expressed concern, i knew what to say and how to act to allay their fears. I was always tall for my age, and i presented as older than i actually was. I was the perfect blend of innocent and precocious. I was always clean and well groomed in those days. I looked nice – but not too nice. After speaking with me for a couple of minutes, many people were charmed into believing i wasn’t being abused or neglected, but my mother and i could sure use a couple of bucks, which they thoughtfully tucked into my pocket or purse.

She taught me cold reading, too. She was a skilled fortune-teller. I’m not here to speak on whether or not any of it is for real, i’m only saying that her “gifts” were pure con. I knew what to say to whom, based on how they dressed, how they spoke to me, what they drove, whom they were with, what purchases they might be carrying… As i got older, she taught me palm reading, reflexology, reading auras, etc. She also taught me how to shoplift food and necessities from grocery departments. Knowing what i know now –that she worked good jobs that paid a living wage– i don’t know why we were so poor. I think it was mostly selfishness with a little bit of lousy money management, but whatever it was, i grew up extremely poor. What little we did have was tightly controlled by her, and could be given or withheld based on her whims.

What methods of control and manipulation she didn’t teach me outright, i picked up by how she treated others. She could get what she wanted from me or my stepfather or siblings with a variety of recognisable methods:

– a withering look;
– an eyeroll;
– a dangerous glare;
– a deep sigh;
– the silent treatment;
– a sarcastic comment;
– a pointed question, e.g. Do you think you should be eating/wearing/saying/doing that?

I know a lot of people do these kinds of things. They’re easily identifiable as manipulative by anyone who’s even half paying attention. My mother had developed these methods to a fine art, though. And as with most families, a lot of how we acted and responded to each other was unconscious and reflexive in nature. Plus, we were all afraid of her – every single one of us. She could escalate a situation, going from zero to light speed in seconds flat. And she wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone –oh, she could play scared and hurt and sad when it suited her purposes– but i’m convinced everyone was a mark to her. Underneath her sweet and jovial facade lay a deeply dangerous woman, full of white hot fury that could quickly manifest in a capable, easy violence.

I grew up thinking that sort of behaviour, that kind of treatment, was normal.
If i thought about it at all, that is. (I did not, until i was an adult.)

I can be petty even now, sure. I’m far from perfect, like most of us. But i’m specifically posting today about some of those sneaky, petty, duck-bitey ways of getting something from someone. It’s a way to get what i want without actually having to ask for it.
It’s about control, and avoiding rejection.
Repeating that last bit louder, for my friends in the back row:
It’s about control, and avoiding rejection.

I’m working at removing all of those behaviours from the above list. Those petty, passive-aggressive, nasty tendencies that were bred into me, that i thought were just the price of 2 human beings doing business with each other. One had to get over on the other. Life as a zero sum game.
(To be honest, you will pry my sarcasm from my cold, dead hands… But i will use it judiciously, okay?)

I found out a few years ago, that there are not a few people intimidated by me. I was surprised by that. After giving it some thought, i figured out where the disconnect was happening. I see myself from the inside, and i interpret things through my experiences, my opinions and beliefs, my filters. I have blindspots; things i’m unaware of, things i haven’t learned yet.
I see myself as this sweet, nice, funny gal with a salty tongue and twisty sense of humour. I’m privy to how insecure and frightened i can be, and how intimidated >>i<< am by other people and the world around me. >>I<< know that some of how i present is a facade, created out of childhood trauma, mental illness, neuroatypicality (if that’s not a word, it is now), a desperate need for connection and yet a colossal fear of rejection.

The truth is i AM sweet and nice. I am kind and empathetic and generous. The truth also is that it can be hard to get past all of my protections to have a genuine experience of me as who i am. Another truth is that it is no one’s job to get past my myriad defenses.
It is MY job to lay down my weapons, lower the drawbridge, stand at my battlements, and invite those i will to come in.
And who’d want to approach with snapping, cavernous-jawed, toothy creatures in my moat and a cannon at every embrasure? Why come in to break bread and drink a toast when the hearth is cold, the hallways damp and drafty, and there’s nothing in the pot, bubbling away and wafting a welcoming smell?

Enough imagery – now to the meat of the matter. Heh.
I’m working hard to drop all of my passive-aggressive defenses and manipulative conduct. There’s no longer any need for it. I am not in danger anymore, i am surrounded by loved ones who dearly love me. They have proven already that they will not reject me, nor betray me, and they are willing to take the time and effort to work out any issues between us or difficulties we may have navigating a relationship with one another. From this bastion of comfort, care, and commitment i can venture out or invite others in to take a load off and set a spell.
If a visitor overstays or otherwise becomes unwelcome i am free and well within my rights to bid them adieu. I needn’t fear that, or an outright rejection of my invitation and hospitality. My castle is filled and fortified and guests may come and go as either of us will it to be so.

I ask for what i want and i state what i do not, plainly and without fanfare.
I do not take to my chaise longue with a case of the vapours.
I no longer treat others as if they’re stupid for not knowing something that i do.
I’m not playing for the power position.
I don’t view asking for something as a vulnerability, nor do i see it as a loss to have to ask, or a victory to receive it without using plain language.
I’m not expecting everyone to eventually hurt me and leave me.
I act on the outside who i am on the inside, because i know for a fact that rejection won’t kill me.
I seek kindness, generosity, understanding, and willingness in others as i do in myself.

No more pecking.
I won’t allow anyone to nip little bits out of me anymore.
And i hope that anyone who reads this and knows me personally doesn’t tolerate that crap from me.
At least, not ever again.

And if I’ve built this fortress around your heart
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire

Then let me build a bridge
For I cannot fill the chasm
And let me set the battlements on fire
~ Sting, Fortress Around Your Heart


With Thought and Care,
~H~

*As she aged, gained weight, and became more of a shut-in, it slipped more and more until she wasn’t fooling anybody anymore. At the end, the only people she could exert control over was her husband, her kids, and various members of her 12-step program and her church.



IMAGE: Robert Gramner

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

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

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

Growing Up

Growing up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, sure, but it’s integral to me having more of the life i want.

Every part of me, except the main me, is a child, in some form or fashion. They were all split off, frozen in time, or purposefully created, when i was very young. I think i’d stopped breaking myself off into pieces around 8 at the outside. My mother’s relationship with the man i called Daddy had been falling apart for a year or more by then, and took another year or so before its death throes were complete. For reasons i cannot fully ascertain or fathom, she fled their circle of friends and associates, cut off contact with everyone she knew save her parents, set up housekeeping in a small town with an underage boy, and began churning out babies.
Once we lived there i only had 2 predators to contend with (sometimes more, but not all the time), and the people who lived in my brain could handle 2 relatively easily. I’m as sure as i can be that the last new members joined my tribe sometime between 7 and 8yrs old.

It’s taken me a long time and a lot of work to get this far, maturity wise. I knew i needed to learn and grow and get more functional, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that i understood how much of a child i still was, in so many ways. My development was not only arrested by trauma, it was actively held back and hampered by a bunch of kids living in my brain. I would often jokingly say, “I’m ‘x’ years old, and i still don’t feel grown up.” There was a reason for that – i wasn’t. I only looked like an adult on the outside. On the inside i was a roiling tide of children. Even those parts of me that presented as an adult were merely a child’s conjectures and fabrications of what an adult was and how they acted. It was mighty humbling to see how immature i still was in so many ways, but it was the truth. It didn’t set me free, exactly, but it did give me tangible behaviours to work on changing.

After the initial mortification at discovering i was a big, poopyheaded babypants, i set about examining my various behaviours and holding them up in comparison to those i considered mature and good at “adulting.” I soon noticed something that gave me a burst of self-esteem. Turns out that i had surrounded myself with a variety of folks who were rather adept at various grownup-type stuffs.* I knew people who could pay their bills on time and keep to a budget. I had friends who kept a tidy home and person. I have friends with a remarkable level of mastery over their emotional responses. I know those who manage relationships respectfully and navigate life’s problems with careful, critical thought. They live life on life’s terms, and live it well.

Further, i marked that i had pulled away from relationships that fared poorly in a cost/benefit analysis. I saw that i’d eliminated abusive and/or go-with-the-flow family members, along with many i didn’t even know (which leaves one – just sayin’). And more than that, i’d toned down my involvements with local “friends” that i only had because i associated with them when i was manic. I now know that party buddies aren’t necessarily friends, and i discovered through social media and a few sober interactions that i wasn’t interested in anything more than shallow niceties:

Them: Oh hi, i haven’t seen you in forever! We should do coffee!

Me: Yeah sure, i’m free whenever, just text or DM me and let me know when!

(I learned it’s just something that some people seem to think they should say, and i’m happy to play the game, because i know it’s just empty words and they won’t follow through. I’m not mad about it, in fact it’s preferable to me. I’d rather not have to come up with a not-hurtful or not-rude reason why i don’t want to hang out with them anymore. If they wanted to hang out with me they would. I see it as them trying to be polite and not hurt my feelings, which is nice. I’m fine with a bit of light, mutual bullshittery.)

So, while it was hard on my delicate little feelings to see just how far i had to go to grow up, there was evidence that i was already working on it. Setting myself up for success, as it were. My circle of friends had become of my own choosing, and they were people who had something i wanted. They modeled a quality or behaviour that i wanted for myself. My friends today are people i want to be more like, in some way. I like being around those whose comportment i see as that of a good human. A lot of my friends today are very accomplished by the world’s standards, and to do that, one must embody some traits that i categorise as mature. As in, “behaving like an adult.”

I’m pondering all this today because i need to be as grown up as i can possibly be with respect to a particular area of my life right now. It’s extremely important, and how it plays out will definitely change my life, whether for good or ill. I must carefully consider what i want, how much i want it, and what i’m willing to do to get it. I must manage my emotions and keep a level head. I’ve invested a great deal, and it’s time to start collecting, or cash out. And if that happens, i’ll have to be the most grown up i’ve ever been.

As they say, i’m hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.
<insertincrediblydeepandunfortunatelynothistrionicsighhere>

One of the oddest things about being grown-up was looking back at something you thought you knew and finding out the truth of it was completely different from what you had always believed.
~ Patricia Briggs



Love and Peace,
~H~
* These are things i identify as being what adults do. These are basic, surface definitions and personal to me. If your house is a shambles or you’re always late, it’s not for me to say why that is – it’s for you. It may be because you need to grow up a bit, but it might be due to something else entirely. Things that i identify as problematic for my life might not bother you one whit.

IMAGE: Annie Spratt