No Knot of No Note

I learned years ago, that if i wanted to avoid depression (or deeper depression), to absolutely not, under any circumstances, read old journals.
What happened –every dang time– was i’d be confronted with the same problems, the same situations repeating, the same emotions shared in the same words, the same pain bleeding all over the page, and the same whywhyWHYs… No answers, no resolution, no apparent movement forward. No progress, and so, no relief. It would fill me with a panicky sort of hopelessness – like a bird beating its wings against its cage. I was trapped and unable to break free. It solidified my belief that i was a failure, and invariably cranked the volume way up on all those ohsowelcome (/s) voices that sit in judgment inside my skull.

Some parts of my system are only conscious when they’re in the face (meaning, the one currently presenting, and in control of my body). I can feel them inside if i focus, but i don’t hear any commentary or thoughts that i’d identify as coming from them. Other parts, although many are capable of facetime, never do so. They seem to need/prefer to keep to the safety of my space-soup of thoughts. And some are so poorly developed that they lack any awareness or will to do anything other than the tiny, specific thing that they do, e.g. the one that just screams. When i first began actively dealing with the people that live in my brain, there were only a few parts that could be both in the face, and maintain their own sort of consciousness when they weren’t.

As i’ve grown in knowledge and competency (as the one in charge {hopefully}), that is changing. I see and experience, that as i heal, my Bits N’ Pieces are also; we are all morphing into something else. There are new voices (they aren’t new themselves, they merely didn’t participate in the chatter before), some voices have different tones, and the odd collection of folks and freaks feels different. And now, there are some voices i used to hear that i don’t hear at all anymore. It was the terror i felt at that which brought me back to therapy, after a hiatus of some years.
I didn’t know it was a hiatus, but my therapist sure did. Well, she hoped so, i suppose, but one of the things that makes her the best, is that she’s never tried to tell me how my life should look. I thought i was done – as fixed as i was gonna get. These last 2yrs have taught me that there’s so much more i want and am capable of achieving.

So yeah, i had a peekaboo at my old journal.

YIKES.

I debated including a sample, because it makes me cringe hard enough to crack a rib or two, but in for a penny, as they say…
Aaaand nope.
I noped it.
I slept on it, and in the morning it was clear to me that that would be self-destructive.
Also, i’ve seen enough, too. It’s locked down and shall remain so for the foreseeable future. There’s doing a forensic examination, and then there’s returning to sniff my own leavings.
Ew. No thank you.

While it was hard to read, the results have been very positive.
Not, Phew, i made it through that and didn’t die!
For the very first time, i looked back at old writings and saw with bold clarity, that i am absolutely, unequivocally, a healthier and happier person.

I’m no longer twisted up in various enraged and hyper-alarmed knots. I still feel that way sometimes, but i’ve untied the big ones, and have found mobility, and even some flexibility of movement. I no longer eke out a meager existence as a knot of no note. (Ooh, i think i’ve found my title!) I’ve only got a couple more of those tiny, tight suckers that require long and patient picking, before a bow is within my reach.
A BOW, for Maude’s sake!
I’m THIS close to being tied up in a bow!
Have i ever felt this upbeat on a Monday morning? Hell no. And i’m not even gassed up on espresso, merely an egg sammy and a cuppa tea.

I in no way regret my old journal entries, cringe-worthy though they may be. I started it innocuously, meaning all my friends were doing it. We were doing fun questionnaires and making random, silly observations about life, the universe and, you know… everythink. This is the music i’m listening to and this is my current mood and OMG, the last season of Angel is KILLING MEEEE!!
I had friends on the blogsite that used it for other, deeper things, though. Very thinky thoughts, tough feelings, and inner struggles. Since i was in and out of The Bin, struggling with mania, and looking for someone/anyone that could help me, i quickly fell in with them.

Except i took it to a whole. nutha. level.
As tends to be my way, especially while manic. Heh.

My blog became my therapist. And when i finally (and the angels sang Hallelujah!), finally found someone i could work with, my online journal became my dumping ground. My proving ground, too. I was dealing with the reality of being multiple for the first time, and working with someone who specialised in my unique brand of crazy. She came to my home, and to the hospital when necessary, and helped me look at my brain. She taught me to listen to what it was trying to tell me. I figured out that i needed to talk about what’d happened to me growing up. So i told my husband my story, and then Ms T would sit on my loveseat 10ft away from me (that was as close as she could get for a couple of years), and help me deal with the fallout. And i spilled a great deal of it with my small, tight circle of friends on the journalling platform i used.

It’s all so fucking frantic. I’m alternately furious and terrified – back then there was no angry and scared. Back then i was the embodiment of Histrionica. Emotions running amok. Memories, dreams, and are they memories or dreams, all vomited out onto the page/screen. Delivered with hot teenage angst, too. Like hiding-in-my-room-writing-bad-poetry angst.
I still write bad poetry. Heh.

The overarching and undergirding emotion that i see now though, is hurt. I didn’t write much about it, because the big 1-2 punch of the others took all my time and energy.
And i wasn’t ready or prepared to feel that much pain.
I’m glad and grateful that i didn’t, because i know, as much as one can know anything that didn’t happen, that it would likely have ended me. I’ve been preparing myself for it, sort of unbeknownst to myself, for nearly 15yrs now, and i’m barely keeping my head above water.

The pain has been like being gutted with a knife made of ice. My insides splash out of me, hot and bitterly pungent, my pain bursting from its integuments. I gather it all into my arms, and carefully place it all back in, stitching myself back together with knowledge and love… Only to gasp as the knife slices again. I’ve barely time to breathe between, and this has been my life for a year or more (it’s hard to track when i’m in the thick of it).

As i’m writing this, i’ve suddenly seen that i’ve returned a bit to that fear-stricken girl. I am being quite dramatic. Interesting. Not surprising and certainly understandable, but interesting. I’m getting both mercy and grace for me then – and now. This has been intense work, and its job is to connect me to all the parts of myself that have broken or split off over the years, while trying to survive the unsurvivable. I guess it’s working.
Yay?
I see my then-self as a daughter, of some stripe. She tried very hard. She did the work and pushed through with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. There was vitriol, but it was her due. She never got to be a child, or teenager – not really.
So what if my teenage years were in my late 30s to mid-40s?

If you ask me about the child part, i’ll tell you the truth of it:
In some ways, i’ve only now begun to NOT be a child.
I read those old posts, and armed with new knowledge about a human’s need for connection, and what happens to a child when that need isn’t met; i see a starving child in those words i typed over a decade ago.
I read those old posts, and buoyed by new experiences as a connected human, and how it feels to no longer be alone; i reach out to my then-self and gather her close to me.

I think she is mostly part of me now, and i’ll hold her tight until i’m done breathing.
And i’m not just Histrionica anymore.
I am HistrionicaButterfly.

Be as well and stay as safe as you can.
Love and Peace,
~H~

Making My House A Home

When you can’t take it anymore
Why not forget the past
And off you run
Baby, run
No more tears, no more mistakes
Why don’t you just check out your bags and run?
Baby, run
~ Run Baby Run, Amanda Lear

I’m hard-wired to run.

My mother would move us every year or 2, without fail – sooner if folks started becoming suspicious, or the authorities came poking around home or school. The abusers that surrounded me also programmed me to return home at the first sign of danger. /irony
Paedophiles love a multiple, but that’s a different story, and one too dark for me to tell today. Once i left home, i never stayed in one place for very long, maybe, 3-6mos, tops. I never thought anything of it, it was just the way i lived. I’d get antsy and the urge to go somewhere else was never far from me. Memory fades some with age of course, but even now i can think of 32 places i’ve lived in my 53yrs.

I had some decent therapy under my belt when i had my first child, and so i had the insight to promise myself that i’d stay in one place for 1yr minimum for his sake. And one year was the best i could manage. That is, until i moved in with the man who’d become my husband. We lived in our city’s ‘Hood in the same house for 10yrs, and we’ve been out here on our beloved Little Crooked House on the Prairie for 12, now.
But still… I deal with the urge to run on a regular basis.
The therapy i’m in, coupled with our current pandemic, has kicked it up to daily, and sometimes many times a day.

My childhood taught me that some shit is always gonna come down the pike where you gotta skedaddle. You smell trouble brewing, you GTFO ASAP. We always left things behind, too. When we moved we generally had to move fast, say, to evade creditors or avoid Social Services. Other times it was due to local gossip – whispers about the huge woman with the husband that looked like a teenager (he was), or the children that didn’t seem to be properly cared for (we weren’t). There were also occasions when my mother would tank a friendship so badly, that she’d move us out of anger, shame, owed money or apologies… She was the queen of the geographical cure.

I learned not to get attached to things, e.g. clothing, stuffies, pictures, various knickknacks and tchotchkes (isn’t that a wonderful word?), bedding, dishes. Even books could be left behind. (Yes, i’m as aghast as you.) Even some lovely things of my grandparents’ that she inherited upon their deaths. That carried into my adulthood. Although i didn’t leave things behind when i moved out –i left places empty and clean– i manifested my mother’s example in a particular way.*

I didn’t decorate my space.
I didn’t put up pictures or paint or have a decorating style. Bric-à-brac was minimal. And i lived frugally, so i’d take whatever furniture, dishes, bedding, and suchlike that i could get. I’m one of those people that has trouble resisting something if it’s free. Number one, i keep my money for something else. The #2 (hahaha – yes i still laugh at poop jokes) that was quietly hovering in the background, was that if i needed to run, i wouldn’t feel as guilty for leaving things behind because i hadn’t spent money on them.

When we lived in the city and were expecting our third child, i tried to decorate. I watched HGTV all day, every day, and became obsessed with painting techniques and decorating. I started, but i couldn’t finish. I seriously couldn’t. I painted the room, did a cool texture thingy with plastic bags and primer, and started putting up a teddybear border close to the ceiling. I thought i stopped because i was pregnant and tired, which i was, but also negative crap like i was fat and useless and talentless. (Honestly, those teddybears were rather awful. Heh.)
I believe now that it’s tied directly to my reticence to set down roots.
Lest they be torn mercilessly from the ground, you know?
No, says my mind.
No, you never know.
What’s HOME, Precioussss?
I didn’t know, and i distrusted the concept, though i saw it modeled well many times outside of my childhood hellhouse.

My husband and i moved  me and our 2 younger boys out of our blue-grey house with the red metal roof, on a relatively quiet street, smack in the middle of the ‘Hood. I was at the peak of my first big mania, working in the entertainment industry. I was partying 5 days a week, engaging in high risk behaviours, and day-drinking while neglecting my children. It would take some time to sell the house and deal with our furious 15yr old who refused to move with us who was trying to figure out how to emancipate himself (and understandably, rightly so). He stayed in the city and we went to live with Mum on the farm. (His mom, but she took me on as her own. She was the sweetest person i’ve ever known.)

It was the right thing to do. I calmed down measurably. I kept my drinking to the weekends when hubs would come and visit. I spent quiet days eating toast and drinking tea with Mum, sleeping, and… And what, i don’t actually don’t know. I was a cavalcade of people taking their place in my face and having their way with my thoughts and body. She accepted it all with gentleness and grace. She mothered my Bits N’ Pieces, and never spoke of it. When i brought it up to her years later, she told me she hardly noticed and every part of me was nice to her and she liked them all.
(Pardon me, friends, while i have a wee cry that she’s gone now, and i miss her so much in this moment.)

That’s a little better. Sister Jeannine was correct when she told me, over-and-goddamn-over, that tears are cleansing and healing. I would roll my eyes at her and she would laugh at me were she still with us.
Ah me, loss is such a bitch.
Sec. Gotta blow my nose.

Anyhoo, the man-thingy made it out to us 6mos later and we moved into the Little Crooked House across the road from Mum. The day my mania hit its apex i had been drinking (i’d returned to it once out of my mother-in-law’s house). I’ve written about what happened at length, and am happy to leave it done. I bring it up to say on that day i tore up our house. I broke things and threw things and did a significant amount of damage.

I’ve been crawling my way out of chaos and dysfunction since then.
Mr. Man works 12-14hrs a day, 6 days a week to support our family.
I turned my attention to raising my children while figuring out my brain and my past, as best i could.

Our house sat damaged; clean but unadorned. We took some of the money we made on the sale of the house and bought new furniture for the first time. I thought i was a post-modernist, minimalist. Ha. Turns out my taste runs to the somewhat masculine, my-living-room-looks-like-a-study, style. Huh. Okie doke. I found myself eyeing a large picture at the local hardware store. It was damaged, and i looked at it every time we went. For months it sat there, not selling, and finally offered the manager a price below what they were asking and he said Sold! We took it home and placed it above our fireplace.
It was my first picture.

Over my years of therapy with my best and current Ms T, i’ve picked up a wall clock and a few tchotchkes. Friends have kindly given me some of that LiveLoveLaugh kinda stuff that i see in other people’s homes. My boys made things at school that i proudly displayed on tables and shelves, and clinging to my refrigerator with magnets. I was almost like a normal, regular mommy. I’ve picked up a lot of mirrors over the years, and Mr. Man has hung a few here and there. (HGTV taught me it makes small spaces look bigger. They were right.)

About a year ago i was shopping at Ikea with my bestie. I’d been back in therapy for a while and was feeling better but worse, as one tends to do when one is doing the therapy thing, i think. Then i saw it. A large, unframed print of a Klimt painting. I love Klimt. No, i adore Klimt. It was one of my favourites, it was on sale. I thought about buying it, walked away, then made myself go back and grab it. I bought it quickly, with as little thought as possible, because i knew that’s what it would take for me to get it home. I also had my husband hang it that evening for the same reason. Progress, w00t!

Still and all, the damage i’d done all those years ago, stayed. The divots and scrapes and holes hung like stark pictures of my pain and failure; coloured in violence and shame. He works so hard i hadn’t the heart to ask him to help me fix it. Plus, i felt i deserved to be reminded of how horrible i can be, how sick and out of control. Bad H. A finger pointed and waggling, poking me hard in the chest. My reaping.

Cue pandemic.
He’s still working enough (so grateful), but his hours are cut and he’s getting some weekends off. Entire weekends, holy crap. He turns to me and asks if i’d like to fix up the bathroom. My eyes well up and i’m nodding as he’s talking about plaster and drywall and paint. He brings home an epic whack of swatches (he works in construction) and i get to choose! He fixes the massive chunk he cut out of the wall when we had a leak, and when i come back to see how things are progressing, i see he’s been patching and sanding outside the bathroom. He’s erasing the damage of my past actions.

Well, i’m a bit of a crybaby today.
Cleeeeansing, heeeealing, H.
Oh look, tears can act as lube for my eyerolling. There’s no click as i look at the back of my brain. Heh.

Work like this has taken me a long, loooong time, but i’m here, i’m doing it, and i’m HOME. We have plans for more paint, and yes, more pictures on the walls. If this madness continues, there may even be curtains, folks!

I’m on my way
Just set me free
Home sweet home…
~ Motley Crue, Home Sweet Home

Y’all hang in there now, y’hear?
Love and Peace,
~H~

*My mother also left things behind because she was slovenly and lazy, and hadn’t a shred of gratitude for anything she had, ever.

IMAGE: The Kiss, Gustav Klimt (1907/08)

 

They Exist

Down on your knees
Begging us please
Praying that we don’t exist
~ We Exist, Arcade Fire

I’m not going to use proper paragraph structure here (i mean, as proper as i ever get, because i’m no English major), because i want to highlight the process.

Therapy sesh by phone today, of course. After checking each other’s health and ability to handle self-isolation (verdict: i’m a legit hermit, she’s currently the guru on the mountaintop), i opened with a request. I asked her to help me work through the possibility of putting this therapy on hold while my anxiety level is at Defcon4.

She answers that she is here for me, and to help me figure out how to have the life i want. She reiterates that she has no agenda, no opinion on what my life should look like. She’s told me this dozens of times before, but i need to hear it often, and it calms me like it always has.

I tell her i don’t think i have enough to handle both things; i was stretched too thin already. She asks me what is it about the therapy i’m doing at home that’s causing me to think about stopping for a while.
At first i say it’s because it’s too much to do both and i can’t stop a pandemic, so the therapy has got to go.
I go on to add that my level of function is very low, and my anxiety so high that i’m close to panic all the time.

She asks me how i’ve been caring for my body’s needs.
“When you ask your body what would help it feel safe, what’s the first thing that pops into your head?”

This always takes a minute. When consulting my system or my body, i always have to wade through the chatter, and consciously connect my brain to my physical body. My natural state is one of detachment from the body, which is not natural at all. I do a quick settling in: awareness of breathing, of where my body is touching other things, e.g. feet on floor, butt in chair, etc.

She gives me time for this, because she knows, and after about 3 I don’t knows, i get to,
“Well, i’ve been hiding in my room most mornings.”

She says, “Okay, good. Do that, then.”

I immediately come back with, “But i’m just lying in bed playing games and reading like a lump. Sometimes i’m here till noon.”

She tells me that’s okay. My instant and intense response tells me it’s not. I tell her how ashamed i am that i’m so low functioning and i don’t want to face my loved ones. I tell her even when i get up, i often stay in my pajamas and just watch telly and play games all day. Sometimes i can get supper on the table, sometimes i can shower, but there are days i can’t. Too many days for my liking.

She reminds me that healing from trauma is intensive and exhausting work. She says, “I know how hard this work is for you, because i know how badly you were hurt.”

“Can’t i just dissociate through this; just slide and switch until it’s over?”

“Of course you can. Is that what you want to do?”

“Well, no, but i’m tired of my life falling apart around me while i’m down the rabbit hole. AGAIN.”

I tell her i feel too heavy to move, and then quickly correct myself. I feel frozen, like i can’t move.
One of the ways i survived my childhood was the freeze response. My head separated from my body and i had no emotions (brain) and no sensations (body). It was like feigning death until the immediate threat was over.
My most common response to anything stressful these days is fleeing, but i still regularly experience what’s called tonic immobility. My body will shut down and i can’t move.

We go over what it is that i’m doing in therapy right now. I’m reconnecting my brain to my body. I’m learning to feel what i feel while knowing what i know. I’m turning my attention from my brain to my body, which carries (in some strange way i don’t exactly grasp) memories of the traumas i endured while my mother raised me. If i’m feeling sexually vulnerable or otherwise exposed, i put a pillow in my lap. When my throat aches and jaw feels broken i eat a popsicle. Sometimes i massage it with my fingers if i can handle touch.

While we’re discussing this, she brings up how difficult this work is for me to do, because i never received proper care. If i wasn’t being outright abused, any appearance of care from my abusers usually turned out to be selfishly driven and booby-trapped. Like a hug that turned into a fondle. I unraveled the lies they told me. Now i must dismantle… Dismantle what?**

I said, “I think i just wanted to stop the therapy because i’m ashamed that i’m such a mess. I think shame is my driving emotion.”

“H, shame is the body’s response to a lack of connection. It’s the body asking for connection. When we are connected to ourselves and to another, the body’s need has been heard and met and shame goes away.”

Yeah, go ahead and read it again. I asked her to repeat it a couple of times.

If i was connected to my body, and my body was hurt, i’d deal with the hurt myself, and get help from someone else if i needed it. I couldn’t as a child. There was no help. So i did what children do – disconnect and then blame themselves.
I’m a master of finding my fault in everything that goes wrong.
Heck, i’ll find fault and pick at myself when things go well.
In context this makes sense, but it’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

She asked me if i’d ever experienced connection that deep with another person, the last session when she held me as i made noises that sounded like pure agony being pulled from the centre of my personhood.

“Nope. Not ever.”

“Stay in bed until noon. Wear your jammies all day. Play games and watch funny things and tell the guys to make their own supper. Cover yourself with a blanket. Surround yourself with pillows. Cuddle your dog. Eat salad AND candy. Hide. Protect. Check in to your body and give it care and safety. Give your body back the dignity that was taken from it by listening and providing care. Then shame will just go away because its work is done.

Emotions are never wrong. They’re too primitive to be anything but what they are. Feelings have no agenda, no faults or flaws, no plans for the future, no thoughts or personal agency. They just are.”*

Wanna know how much shame governs my life?
I’m ashamed of being so filled with shame.
As of today, i’m not anymore. Oh, i still carry a boatload of shame, that’s gonna take more work yet, but now i think i understand why.
And it makes sense to me.
And i am not ashamed of that at all.

I’m going to keep plugging along. It’s good that i’ve dialed things back and i’m not doing much. This is what my body is asking for.
I’m exhausted beyond words, but i can continue.
Part of me was looking for a good excuse to stop this work, even for a couple of weeks.
Because as much as it’s good for me to do it, and the results are what i’m looking for…

It hurts like fuck and i feel like shit most of the time.
Shame is my body’s response to the unmet need for connection.
Shame will be on board for some time yet.
I’ve received the message, and i’ll listen and give care, and return my body’s dignity, until i don’t feel shame anymore.

I don’t want to dwell too much on the COVID-19 pandemic, but i have a brief story to share.

I have a dark and twisty sense of humour, and it’s an integral part of my personality. A cornerstone of my ability to survive, even. Lately though, i haven’t found any of the current jokes going around about the virus, or people’s fear, or self-isolation funny at all.

I don’t begrudge anyone their jokes, but they amped up my anxiety, and added to my sadness, pulling me into an empathetic state for which i simply lack the spoons.

Last night i joked to my husband, “I can’t lose my marbles. The last place on earth i’d want to be right now is a locked down institution.”

When i relayed this to my therapist, as evidence that i am still progressing and working through things (more for myself than her – she clearly knows), she laughed.

“I can’t go crazy cuz the last place i’d wanna be right now is the psych ward. That’s funny.”

Babystepping away over here, folks. Carrying a lot of feelings/emotions along with me, and they can all stay as long as they need.
They just are, after all. They exist. We exist.

But I’d lose my heart
If I turned away from you
Daddy don’t turn away
You know that I’m so scared
But will you watch us drown?
You know we’re going nowhere
We know we’re young
And no shit we’re confused
But will you watch us drown?
What are you so afraid to lose?

*This is my best recollection, not her exact words.

**Perhaps i’m done dismantling. Maybe only mantling remains?
Heh.

I Am The Sungod

Cry baby cry
When you’ve got to get it out
I’ll be your shoulder
You can tell me all
Don’t keep it in ya
Well that’s the reason why I’m here
~New Sensation, INXS

This is the one where i write about the good that came from being terribly abused as a child. This post will not be for everyone – perhaps not anyone but me. Regardless, i’m writing it and i’ll share it anyway.
This is me and how my brain works.

You see, what i do have is a very particular set of skills…

Let’s start with that one:

My dark sense of humour. I’ve always been able to laugh at anything. If not right away, it’ll come eventually. It started with my abusers expecting me to act like nothing was wrong, and i did so quite well. A part of that was adopting an everything’s-tickety-boo attitude around others. So laughing when i didn’t feel like laughing was de rigeur. Eventually it took root and grew into genuine laughter, a sort of fake it till you make it kind of thing, maybe? It branched off into finding humour in the terrible. I’d gravitate toward comedians who told the darkest jokes. I’m not talking about the punching down sort, i mean making light of awful things. It helps shake me out of my despair, it makes my burdens less heavy.

It tells Death it can take its toys and go the fuck home.

I remember it being particularly useful at school, when bullies made sport of me, and the weak sheep around them would stand by and watch (and often laugh). I never gave those crapheads the satisfaction of seeing me break or cry. I was either stoic, or i laughed, or i made the joke first. Self-deprecating humour can be a double-edged sword, to be sure, and sometimes i hurt myself with it, but at times beating them to the punch stole their thunder, and that felt fine.

Even if i can’t laugh at my circumstances, i instinctively go to comedy for help. Laughing is like the sun breaking through the clouds, for me. Laughter squeezes my guts and reminds me that i am alive – my blood is pumping, my organs are functioning, my lungs are filling with air.
Good stuff, Maynard.

Crisis management is another one:

If something awful is happening, you want me there.
There were abusive things happening in my home on the daily. I learned to take them and put them away so i could function in the world outside my home. Like say, if my mom brushed my hair in the morning before school, she’d usually whack me in the head a few times with it, either because i had too many knots in my hair, or i would wince when she pulled at one of them. (Every brush in our house ended up with the handle broken off.) Then the bus would be coming and the kids weren’t dressed yet. Mom’s screaming at them from her permanent spot on the couch in front of the telly, making the kids frantic and weepy. I’d put the headache and the bumps on my head in a little box and pick through the 3′ piles of dirty clothes to find the cleanest things for them to wear, dry their tears, and help them get their shoes on and out the door.

Once, when i was at a cadet survival camp, one of the other cadets nearly severed his thumb with a hatchet. There were no adults present, and he and i were in charge of a bunch of younger kids. The children were freaking, the other teenage staff were freaking, and i calmly applied emergency first aid, told another staff member to get on the radio and call for evac, and the other staff member to take the kids to the other side of the island.
The army nurse told me he might have lost his thumb without me, and i should consider a career in the military medical field.

It also came in super handy as a mom of 3 boys.
If they weren’t squirting blood out of their eyeballs, i could handle it.
And so they could, too.

I’m empathetic and observant:

I had to align myself with my abusers to survive. Knowing how to read their non-verbal cues enabled me to escape further abuse, upon occasion. I stepped fully into my mother’s shoes, feeling as she felt, thinking as she thought. Out of fear and self-preservation i learned to be a reader of people. When i paired that with being a survivor of severe trauma, i found a deep well of empathy inside myself. I can easily put myself in another person’s shoes. I think people know that when they share what they’re going through with me, that i’m listening intently, and finding a place for us to meet together, where i feel what they feel. I think it makes the load they’re carrying a little bit lighter.

Over the years i’ve also learned to use my ability to compartmentalise here, too. I can commiserate and relate and share what a person is feeling, but then i can put it away in a little box in my brain, because it’s not my life, not my feelings, not my burden. It’s not a cold distancing, it’s a healthy understanding of what is mine and what is not. I don’t try to fix anymore, either. Most times a person just wants to feel truly heard, and they know it’s their problem and they aren’t looking for anyone to live their life for them. They’re looking for someone to come and sit with them in the place they’re at – that broken and hurting place inside oneself can get so lonely. I can place my own heart inside their chest for a spell, and we’ll just beat together, in rhythm, until it’s a little better, just enough so they can get up and push on.
I’m well acquainted with pain and sadness. I’m not afraid to sit in someone else’s with them so they don’t feel so alone.

At this point, regular readers may be expecting me to move on to the gift of being a multiple.
I’m not going to.
Being able to pull up a split off part of myself to cope with something i’m having trouble with has most certainly been helpful – to put it mildly. It’s saved my goddamn life on countless occasions.
Being able to dissociate from intense fear, pain, and suffering enabled me to survive the unsurvivable.
And i love all my Bits N’ Pieces; they’re dear to me and that’ll never change, but i’m working on putting us all back together. I don’t think it’ll ever be what they call “integrated”, but it will be different. It will be homeostasis. All the other gifts i got from abuse i don’t want to change, but i do want to tweak this one, just a wee bit.

In closing i’d like to stress that i’m not glad or grateful for being raped and beaten and constantly emotionally traumatised as a child. I’m not one of those people who has no regrets and wouldn’t do anything different. I have plenty of regrets and would absolutely choose to live my life over again with loving parents who wouldn’t abuse me.
It’s just that that’s not possible.

Sleep baby sleep
Now that the night is over
And the sun comes like a god
Into our room
All perfect light and promises

The gifts that i have from abuse are gifts i gave myself.
That little girl that i was, was incredible. Amazing. So strong and sweet and beautiful and smart and kind and funny. WOW.
I’m awestruck at her resourcefulness and resilience.
And she is me.
I am all those things.
This work i do is to bring us closer together, because i love her more than i love anyone. She made me who i am, she made it possible for me to have the chance to become who i am, and i want more than anything for us to be reunited.
Salvaging the unsalvageable.
Creating beauty out of pain.
Becoming love in spite of being born into hate.

I told you
That we could fly
‘Cause we all have wings
But some of us don’t know why
~Never Tear Us Apart, INXS

Deprogramming, Pt. I

I was raised religious. I’m gonna say some stuff about that, and you may not agree. That’s fine. The majority of the world holds some sort of belief in the supernatural. I once did, and now i do not. It’s no big. As long as i’m not being preached at or proselytised, i have no problems listening to those around me talk about such things. But this is my blog, written by me, full of my thoughts, experiences, and opinions. I’ve chosen a path and am mapping my own route to get where i want to go.

I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I’m just talkin’ ’bout Life As Me.
I’ve been wrong thousands of times, and will be thousands more yet (at least, i’m hoping for the opportunity to be). If you think there’s a god/gods out there, i think you’re wrong. So? You think i’m wrong, too. Doesn’t bother me in the least. I might be wrong, and i could be convinced by enough good evidence.*

Now that’s out of the way, lemme get to it.
Like many people, like many female people, like many female people born into a religious family, like many female people born into an abusive, religious family, i wasn’t allowed to say No. My permission was never required – not if it affected me directly or indirectly, and not even if it involved the use of my own body. Growing up, it didn’t occur to me that i could say No, and i rarely said it. It occasionally popped out when i was in extreme distress. If i said it outside the house and family interactions, it was usually respected, if for no other reason than, if i was saying No, i was likely completely unhinged at that point. When i lost control it got weird for those around me: wild eyes, panicked voice, heaving chest, all my ticcing behaviours on display… Most would back off. On the exceedingly unusual occasion that i used it in my house and/or with my parents, i was beaten.

I had no rights, no autonomy. Along with not being allowed to use the word No, i was never permitted to question anything. I was raised to obey without a word. I couldn’t pull a face either, that’d earn me a slap or 2, for sure. This contributed to my being an insular person; i was hidden deep inside, any natural individuality was subverted, and i compartmentalised in order to survive. My traumas were so intense and ongoing, my compartmentalisation became so widespread, rigid, and rigorous, that i split apart inside my brain. I’ve been diagnosed with what is currently referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder.

As i’ve said before, i fought the diagnosis for years. I never went back to mental health professionals that even brought it up peripherally. Being around others who identified themselves as multiples made my skin crawl. I believed it was a real thing, but i thought most people were faking it.** I believed what i was raised to believe; what my parents and others in authority over me told me to believe. I was taught what to think, never how, (and in that, i think i have more company than just fellow abuse survivors).

I was punished for asking questions. I might get yelled at, shamed, or even beaten if i dared use the word “why”. To this day, if you want to see me get frustrated, then angry, and then shut down, just start asking me questions. I get nervous and irritated quickly. What was happening in my family had to be hidden. I was taught that nosy people were a threat. Others weren’t as smart and socially evolved as we were – they wouldn’t understand. They’d take me away and i’d have no one. I was such a handful, such a difficult child; no one would be able to tolerate me for long. It was always indirectly, subtly reinforced that i was a terribly misbehaved child, and not easy to love. I was lucky to have my amazing and long-suffering mother there to care for and love me. Without her i’d be completely alone.

She’d always let me watch old movies, because she liked them, but she banned me from watching All About Eve. I was an advanced reader, and had worked my way through her large collection of books by grade 6, but when she caught me reading Sybil, she lost her mind, took it away and hid it. I don’t remember her ever telling me it was bullshit, though. In fact, looking back with grown up eyes, i think she was obsessed with the subject. I think there may have been a time that she played around with the diagnosis for herself. She loved attention and struggled with her mental health, and i have some memories of some talks and programs that she brought me along to, where the way she was talking and the way she was treated by others there would fit her claiming some form of multiplicity.

When i finally got away from my mother, i knew i needed professional help, but it never occurred to me that i had a diagnosable, mental illness (or 2).*** I was just bad, not ill. My brain wasn’t sick, i was just a rotten person. I was a disobedient, selfish liar.
Ah yes… Liar.
You bet she drummed that one in to me as far back as i can remember.

She told me i was a compulsive liar until the day she wound up in the hospital where she died. Hey, i did lie. I lied a lot and i lied as easily as i breathed, but they were all rooted in her teaching me to do it, and modeling it for me so well. I lied to get out of trouble, e.g. denying eating something i wasn’t supposed to eat, which i ate because i was not fed properly. I lied to impress other kids, because my life sucked and i wanted them to like me and i wanted to be more like them. And the #1 reason i’d lie, was to cover for my parents. To hide the abuse that was going on in our home. The abuse that i was told wasn’t abuse but only what i deserved because i was so very, very bad.

My whole life growing up was a lie to the outside world, but that was one i didn’t know i was telling. I didn’t know i was abused until i was 21. I knew my mom hit me often, and sometimes beat the absolute crap outta me, but i knew i deserved it. I never thought that she was wrong or she shouldn’t have done it. She’d raised me to think i was a piece of shit and she was my gracious and merciful teacher and provider.

And church was invaluable in backing up everything she wanted me to believe.

She went through many periods where she didn’t attend church, but she made sure i always did. She’d arrange for other families to pick me up and drop me home, or insist i go with other children whose parents would make them invite me. She was highly intelligent, clever, an incredible manipulator, and deeply devious. She never sat me down and preached at me that i remember, but she did this thing that i didn’t recognise until i was a parent myself.

When i was still small, she hung out with younger, childless folks who were going for their degrees, and sometimes the older, established professors whose children were grown (she worked at universities and colleges as a secretary). If she wasn’t farming me out to someone (let’s just call it that for this piece), she’d bring me along. I was a perfectly behaved child out in public – i knew what would happen if i wasn’t. So i’d sit quietly and unobtrusively at parties and various get-togethers and even courses she was taking, and the people there would eventually start talking like i wasn’t there. They’d forgotten. I heard things no child that age should hear, and learned things no child should know. I was mentally sophisticated, and i suppose precocious (UGH), so i grasped the subjects being discussed relatively easily.
The thing she’d do to secure her control of me is she’d say things to other adults at these events, knowing full well that i was listening. That i was, in fact, all ears. She’d talk religiously and philosophically with these people, but she’d drop bits that i now think were meant for me.

This bit is difficult to convey. I’ve been thinking about how to make it understandable for the last couple of days. Say for instance, her friends were discussing Dr. Spock and his views on spanking children. She’d say something like, “Well, Dr. Spock must have some very well-behaved children. We aren’t all so lucky.”

That would be a message for me.
I hope that illustrates my point well enough.

When things were particularly rough at home, money was tighter than usual, or maybe she’d been beating me more frequently, she’d talk more about her own childhood. She’d tell me horror stories of being locked in the root cellar, or bathed in scalding hot water. And she’d share all her rape stories in lurid detail,**** starting when i was very young, say 5 or 6, maybe earlier, i don’t know.

The message there was she was the one who was abused, not me.

She never let up on the programming. Manipulation was her life’s work. She played me like Perlman played violin until the day she slipped into a coma.

All this to say that it has been a gargantuan effort on my part to get help for myself. I thought that i was the problem and i didn’t need any help for the first 20+yrs of my life. Once i knew i was a victim, and had experienced my lack of proper adult functionality in the real world, it didn’t get much easier. My mother had availed herself of every psychological tool, every method, every book, every well-respected researcher and public speaker, every self-help group… I’d been saturated in psychology most of my childhood. She used it to hone her skills, and i think it put a lot of people in her path that were easy for her to get something from. Money, attention, whatever.

The result for me was that i didn’t trust any of them. Frankly, i found most of them stupid (i’d been raised to look down my intellectual nose at anyone outside of my parents) and, big surprise here, easy to manipulate. I knew what they wanted to hear, and despite my inner derision, i wanted to be the best damn screwup they’d ever had sit in their office. I was programmed to want people to like me and to seek their approval. So i’d figure out what they wanted and give it to them, and they’d quickly determine that i was well on my way to mastering whatever issues i’d dumped on their desk. I used all the right buzzwords, and mixed it in with an appropriate demonstration of how smart i was, and i’d manipulate myself right out of any genuine help they might have offered me.

I’d talk myself out of their help, and go back out into the world, and things would still get chaotic and painful. I was still struggling. I still couldn’t manage to live life on life’s terms. And then i popped out a couple of kids and fell in love (yes, in that order), and i began searching for someone to help me in earnest. I’d returned to religion with the birth of my first child, and i found a counsellor to work with through my church, after the birth of my second. She had her master’s in social work and she was one of the kindest people i’d ever met. I had completely submitted to church authority, and i worked hard with her, always doing what she asked me and any homework she gave me. One day she sat me down and said she had been thinking she had a diagnosis for my particular issues, and had consulted with the psychologist who attended our church, who agreed.

She said it was her professional opinion that i had Multiple Personality Disorder. She reiterated that her colleague concurred. I’ve tried to remember what happened after that, but i can’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if i left, but i don’t think i did. With my mother gone, there was no greater authority in my life than their authority.
And i was raised to be obedient, above all things.

Great, so i had a diagnosis. The problem was, the treatment was bible-based. She took me to an old guy (BAD IDEA) who specialised in helping members map out their systems, so they could start praying over them and casting them out by name.

Because they were demons.
Of course.
I was demon-possessed.

**********

*Not here though. My blog isn’t for that.

**I’m not sure about that now. The important thing is that, even if they are, it’s none of my business.

***Okay, 3 or 4. Maybe 5, but that one’s relatively dormant, so i don’t count it. I’m kidding here, one might diagnose me with more than 2, but the 2 i deal with most can (kind of?) umbrella the rest, thereby cutting down on my stress and anxiety… So 2 shots of the hard stuff with a smartass chaser.

****I don’t know if her stories were true, as she lied practically every time she opened her mouth. To me, it doesn’t matter.

Cloak of Invisibility

I went over the heads of the things a man reckons desirable. No doubt invisibility made it possible to get them, but it made it impossible to enjoy them when they are got.
~The Invisible Man, H.G.Wells

I’ve dealt with food, weight, and body image issues my entire life. It’s quite common for someone with my history. After marrying i put on enough weight to be just a shade under super morbidly obese. Weight loss surgery helped me attain the healthiest, lowest weight of my adult life, but likely triggered my first full-blown bipolar mania.

Being slim for the first time in my adult life triggered an avalanche of issues. Since early pubescence i’d heard comments like:

You’d be so gorgeous if…
You have such a pretty face…
I’d date you, except…

As i progressed into full sexual maturity, my ambivalence regarding my size bought a nice chunk of real estate in my brain, built a house, and called it home. Consciously, i hated being fat. I felt awkward and lumpy and bumpy. The other girls were graceful, with firm, smooth skin. They all got boobs and their periods long before i did, which was embarrassing when we’d be in the change room before and after gym class, and they all wore bras and borrowed tampons from each other. And just to make it all extra fun, i’m extremely tall. So, i took up a lot more space than my female peers, or any girl in the entire school, in any school i attended. There were a couple who carried more weight, but they weren’t also size Amazon.

Unconsciously though, fat worked for me. After all the abuse, it kept people away. It was flawed reasoning, as it targeted the wrong audience, but at that point i needed a wall. A wall of unwashed flesh didn’t stop sexual predators, but it did something for me that i’ve only recently begun to realise.
It made me invisible.

I didn’t get asked out on a date until i was 18. And that was by a very large and socially awkward, but very nice 27yr old. I’m not sure he’d ever had a date before, either. It was a fancy New Year’s Eve party with other older adults, no one who would be in my peer group was there (probably a blessing). He bought me a wrist corsage i think, and was shy and quiet. I might have given him a kiss at the door… Thank you?

I say i wasn’t asked out on a date, but boys certainly approached me now and then. When no one else was around. They’d throw a little attention my way and then expect a little something in return. Oh, how shocked and angry they were when i either shot them down, or just got away from them as quickly as i could. Fat girls should be grateful and shower them with fucks, i guess. Not this fat girl, though. One of the benefits of being a multiple is the fearless, mouthy teenager i had inside me – and the terrified younger ones who knew a little something about slipping the sweaty, expectant gropes of sexual opportunists.

So i missed out on all those coming-into-sexual-maturity rites of passage. No one sent me notes asking if i liked them. No one asked me if i wanted to “go around”, the vernacular from my local peer group for dating exclusively. I was never invited to drive around town after school. Before i hit adulthood i was asked to dance exactly 3 times. The first time was at a Christian summer camp. I carry most of my extra weight below the waist, so i can appear to be slim if you see me sitting at a table, which i was, plus it was dim, dance-friendly lighting.
He shook his head and walked away from me when i stood up to join him on the floor.

It’s not all bad though, the other 2 experiences were nice. In grade 7 a boy i was friends with approached me. He was a class clown, and he walked over to me as i sat alone on a bench, and banged the wall above my head for me to join him.
You know, like Fonzie in Happy Days. I laughed. I know he did it for me, and i’ve never forgotten it.

In grade 9 i went on an exchange trip, from my tiny town of 1500, to one of the largest cities in my country. The boys there were a bit more, metropolitan, shall we say? Hundreds of students lent itself to a better chance of finding someone who didn’t mind dancing with a fat girl. And he didn’t mind at all. In fact, the dance he asked me for was a slow one, Night To Remember, by Prism. Height wise, he came up to my shoulders. I’m laughing right now, but it’s a good laugh – what a sight we must have been. He was a lovely boy.

My first relationship was at 21, with a girl i met at a Catholic halfway house. She was a raging alcoholic who constantly cheated on me, and once came to my place of work in a jealous rage and did over $5K worth of damage to the store. It was toxic AF. After that i decided i was done with women (i most certainly wasn’t). I met a young man through my best friend, and decided it was time to lose my virginity*. It wasn’t great, but we did it a lot. After our weekend romp he was quick to tell me he’d just gotten out of a bad relationship, and wasn’t looking for anything serious.
The look on his face when the fat girl told him she was fine with that…

See, 1 shit relationship was enough for me to learn that i didn’t want another.
After that, i chose people i would have sex with, and maybe play at us being a couple, but they were always people that –if they left me– i wouldn’t grieve their absence.
I’d gotten the message that fat girls were to be used for sex, and should be grateful that they were used for anything. But subconsciously, thanks to the people that live in my brain, i’d decided to flip the script.

Of course, all these years included me trying everything NOT to be fat. Every diet, self-help book, course, diet-guru, all of that. None of it ever worked well, or for very long. I didn’t yo-yo, i stayed fairly steady. That was, until i had my second child and still didn’t have a partner of any sort. (To be clear, i never wanted anything from either one of the men who fathered my children.)
Something changed in me, then. I’d done a fair bit of therapy and was getting to know myself at that point. I’d tried a lot of things, joined all the programs, and i’d actually picked up a thing or 2. Plus, i had a few supportive girlfriends (platonic), so i wasn’t so alone.

I went back on a diet i was very familiar with, and for the first time –KEY– i joined a gym. Things started clicking for me. I discovered a kind of exercise i like. I like machines. I liked the cycles, and i loved all the weight machines. I even got into the stairmaster, fer crissakes. The weight fairly fell off, and i entered the dating world for the first time. Wow, what a shitshow. I discovered the he-said-he-had-a-great-time-and-he’d-call-but-he’s-not-calling guy, and the i-bought-you-dinner-so-where’s-my-handjob guy, and all the catfishing motherfuckers who lived on telephone dating services. No internet then. Yes, i’m that old, shaddup.
And then i stumbled across the deep, mellifluous tones of the man i asked to marry me. Not right away, okay? Much later.

I was in love for the first time, and was loved in return. We were committed and building a life together. That was a vulnerability i’d not experienced since leaving home. I think in retrospect, the scariest thing about it was that, unlike my parents, he wasn’t even remotely abusive. He loved me and he didn’t hurt me, but i started pushing back anyway. The most important people involved in my rearing had purposely caused me incredible harm, so why wouldn’t he?
I started packing on the weight; rebuilding my wall. Pushing him away before he could hurt me – because iknewiknewiknew he would. It was only a matter of time.

All of that was done unconsciously, understand me, but also understand that i’ve never stopped trying to figure my shit out and be happier and more helpful to loved ones specifically, and humans in general. I knew the weight gain signified a problem, but as i continued working on myself i also gained insight. Unfortunately, by the time i’d wrapped my mind around the issue, i was 300+lbs overweight. And i had a new baby that needed me at my best. I needed some serious help to get my feet back underneath me and set back on my path.

I had weight loss surgery and lost it all. Which is when everything got even worse.

Suddenly i was receiving all the attention i’d craved as a young girl. As i took up less space i became more visible. Ain’t that a kick in the head? My bipolar disorder, which had largely lain dormant, perhaps cowed (word choice intentional, cuz funny) by the physical load i carried, woke up, took a look around, and decided the time had come to party. I got a job in the entertainment industry, one where i was the centre of attention, one where i was visible and expected to present myself as at least a very attractive, if not overtly sexual, object. Men wanted me, women wanted me, and people just wanted to be around me. It was cocaine and weed and fine wine and MDMA all rolled up into 1 heady drug, except better.

I was a socially acceptable size, which made my looks somehow beautiful. It was like i’d always been told. People were nicer to me. It wasn’t just men who wanted to get with me who were nicer, either. It was everyone. People held open doors for me, offered to carry my groceries. When i was fat, with 2 kids and struggling with 10 bags of groceries, i was on my own. Now, with 3, and 2 of ’em screaming they dang heads off, i’d get help if i only had 2 bags. People would stop on the street and tell me i was pretty. I actually got out of traffic tickets, just like in the movies. And people would give me stuff: my meals would get comped or they’d wave my cover charge or if there was swag being handed out, i’d always get some.

When you take all of that, and you mix in mania, it wasn’t long before it equalled disaster. In and out of hospital, in and out of treatment, i wound up jobless, with my marriage in tatters, children who hated me, and zombified on nearly a dozen various medications.

Oh, and 100lbs heavier.

I’m sure i would have been ignored again, except i was already hiding in my house and refusing to come out.
But it was okay, because this was when i finally found a therapist i could work with, and my life started changing for the better. That extra hundred has stuck around for the 10+yrs i’ve been working with her, though.
But that’s also okay, because it’s taught me a great deal that i needed to learn.

My next piece is going to be unbearably uplifting, so you might want to skip it.

Heh.

We are so much bigger on the inside,
You, me, everybody
~ Bigger On the Inside, Amanda Palmer

*Relatively speaking.

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

Me and My Shadow

“I don’t see how you can look at/watch that. It gives me the creeps/makes me queasy.”

I’ve been obsessed with the morbid and macabre since i was very small.
Gore, i wanna see it. At first it was the cartoonish stuff like your classic slasher flick, but when the internet came, i wanted to look at it all. There was absolutely nothing i wouldn’t look at/watch. Sometimes it took me a few views to get through it, and some of it i watched out of the side of my face, but i looked. All the websites known for it (that shall remain unnamed here), i went there and combed through their archives.

And of course i’m obsessed with serial killers. And those who-done-it “murder porns” (thank you South Park).

I worried that there was something wrong with me.
There was, but it wasn’t me wanting to look at death and destruction. What was wrong was seeing the things i did growing up, and then being told i was imagining them, dreaming, lying, etc. I was all twisted up inside, not knowing for sure what was real and what wasn’t. Deep down, i wanted to understand and master my fears. I wanted to look at death, abuse, and suffering to see if it aligned with my memories of such things. I wanted to know if the things i remembered could have possibly happened, and one way to find evidence was to look, listen, read about other people’s experiences and memories, to see if there were commonalities.
What i found was confirmation. Mostly. At least, enough for me. There are things i knew as a child, and memories i held that most people never know about, let alone children.
And if i may, although i assure you i won’t be going into any detail, that was also some of the reason behind me viewing pornography.

I’m still fascinated by documentaries, books, and in-depth articles on the people who do horrible things and why they do them, but i’m no longer interested in looking at real life pictures or videos of those things. I still love horror movies, but i don’t watch the “torture porn” genre anymore. I’m more a fan of the ridiculous, cartoony stuff. Or a well-paced scary movie, or a good mindfuck. I’m also notorious in my family for my love of terrible movies: disasters, creature features, black and white scifi… Think Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

I think i’m always going to be a bit dark and twisty on the inside, but not in a sick and wounded way. Now it’s more of an interesting, quirky part of my personality. Just like being ridiculous and histrionic. It’s who i am, and as i mentioned a few posts back, i’m starting to like me quite a bit.
Did i develop these traits to survive, or was i born with them and they helped keep me alive? I don’t know, but i’m fine with being this way.

I’ve learned over the years to be a little more discerning, tactful and considerate when it comes to how much i share about my “dark side”. Some people are unsettled, upset, even downright offended by it, and i totally get it. I’m respectful of others’ emotional/mental/personal boundaries. And don’t get me wrong here, i don’t enjoy any real person’s suffering.
I’m not writing this to discuss the psychology behind it, either. I’ve read things, but i’m not educated, i’m just sharing who i am and how my brain works. This is me. I love Hallowe’en and scary stuff and i’m an old punk who went through a death rocker phase – which is what we called goths back in the olden days… Heh.

This save-my-life recipe (and it’s my belief that we each concoct our own), has a fuck-tonne of ingredients. Some of them are the big ones, like the flour in a loaf of bread, and some of them are a pinch of this and a dollop of that. Being able to be comfortable with pain and suffering and general twistiness, make friends with it all, and sometimes laugh my ass off at it, are all important elements. I personally think they were vital, and now, whether nature or nurture, they are parts of who i am and i embrace them.

It’s occurred to me though, that if i’m over the real life super-gore, that maybe, as i continue to learn and heal and grow, that one day i may not like any of it. I’d be fine with that too, because all this is a journey. I’m not the person i was 10yrs ago, or 5, or 2, and i don’t intend to be who i am now in a year. I’m evolving, as a friend pointed out to me today, and i intend to keep evolving as long as i’m breathing.

Really though, you’ll pry my love of everything spooky and warped from my cold, dead hands.
Heh-heh-heh. Get it?

Saw my therapist today, and i definitely wanna write about that tomorrow.
Until next post,
Peace and Love,
~H~

Chocolate Potatoes

Warning: This is a story from my childhood. It’s been on my mind because, as i learn to listen to what my body wants to tell me about my past, i had a sudden realisation of why i’ve had occasional stabs of “phantom pain”, on the inside of my left thigh, right close to my genitals. I’m safe now. She’s long dead and her abuse ended with her. It’s just a story now, one that helps me understand and move on.

**********

“Here, go to Red Rooster and get me a bag of potatoes.”

In Red Deer, Alberta, in 1974, Red Roosters are a chain of convenience stores, like a 7-Eleven or a Mac’s Milk. She presses a couple of paper bills into my hand and sends me off.

We live in a low-cost housing complex just off Gaetz Avenue, the main road through the city that connects everyone to anywhere they might wish to go. Some of the units are red, and some are that awful 70s olive green. This is our Canadian version of an inner city ghetto though (read: run down and dirty, but not at all dangerous), so the colours are washed out and drab. Still, i’d prefer the red to our 4yr-old’s-runny-nose green.

It’s spring, but being Alberta it’s still very cold, and being Red Deer, sitting in a valley, there’s still plenty of snow. I stuff my feet into boots that were too small in November, (Good god, girl! I can’t afford to buy new things for you every month – will you just slow down already? Maybe if you didn’t eat like a pig you wouldn’t be so big!) and head out to the store, which isn’t even 5 minutes away by addlebrained 7yr old girls’ timing. Convenience stores, with their obscene markups for the privilege of such, are always close to clusters of the poor.

I pass some younger children playing in the yard of a red unit along the way. They wave excitedly and say Hi! and i respond in kind. Children my own age have already pushed me out of their circles – they know something’s not right with me. I’m poor, yes, but some of them are too. That’s not the problem. There’s a wrongness deep inside me and they can smell it, like a herd of horses will shun a sick one. It’s the stink of the urine in their case, in mine it’s probably the words that come out of my mouth.

“Your daughter is one of the smartest children i’ve ever taught, but she has no friends. She doesn’t know how to play; she just stands on the playground and watches, or tries to tell the other children what to do.”

The younger kids in my neighbourhood don’t mind. I’m bossy, but i’m nice, and i let them play in my yard and play with my toys, and sometimes i perform for them, which they love. They’ll sit on the grass in the summertime and i’ll do a puppet show from inside the house. Our front window has no screen, so opening it is like pulling back a glass curtain, leaving me a couple of feet of stage.
Mother has an old record player and a stack of 45s and 78s that i’ll throw on and do animated lip syncs for them. They’re delighted by my performances and it’s my only source of joy. Their favourite is when i do Little Red Riding Hood, by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.

After a quick exchange of hullos, i hurry off to the store. Mother brooks no dawdlers.

I walk in and the door has a bell that dutifully announces my entrance, just like in the movies. Stamping the slush off my boots on the front mat, i survey the area around the till.

It’s where all the chocolate is kept.

Rows and rows of it and Oh! so many different kinds. I see them advertised in magazines, on billboards, and between Saturday morning cartoons on the telly. They’re all right here, though. Lined up like candy soldiers, perfectly faced. I can smell them. I can smell the chocolate, and my stomach reacts enthusiastically.
It’s been a long time since i last ate anything.

When i came home from school the day before i was starving. I’d had a bowl of puffed wheat for breakfast, but we were out of sugar and there was only powdered milk. By the time i got home at around 4pm i would have eaten nearly anything. The fridge was empty, as was usually the way it stood. A monolith of hope, containing cold emptiness and the odd packet of ketchup from some fast food meal of which i’d almost certainly not partaken.

That day though, while rummaging through the cupboards i’d found half a sleeve of saltines, in the bowels of a shelf full of old herbs and dusty spice jars. I arranged them carefully on a plate and squirted a bit of the ketchup packets on each. I was then struck by pure genius and added a dollop of mustard as well, and finished them with a splash of Worcestershire sauce. I tried to make my fancy appetizers last as long as i could, but i was so hungry and they were so delicious.
There’d been nothing since.

My gut managed to cry out and cramp up at the same time, as the smell of convenience foods –CHOCOLATE!– filled my nose. I walked up to the till and hungrily perused all the choices. Were there dozens? I stared so long the man behind the counter finally asked me, “You gonna buy somethin’?”

Sweet Marie. My favourite.
He rang through the purchase and i handed him my crumpled bills. He only took 1 and he gave me back change, so i picked out another one and bought it, too. Rolos. Definitely a close second.

With 1 dollar and a few cents left, i stood over by the comics and ate the Rolos, barely finishing one before i popped the next into my mouth. They were fresh. The chocolate was soft and the caramel filling was too, and it oozed onto my tongue, but still had a bit of chew. Perfect. The cashier eyed me and warned, “You can’t touch those comics now, you’re eating candy!”

I stepped back and made sure he saw i was only looking at the titles. I had enough to buy a Hot Stuff or a Richie Rich or a Casper, or Wendy or Little Dot…

That’s when i saw the potatoes.
Bags of potatoes all stacked on top of each other.
I was supposed to buy potatoes.

“You gonna buy one of them comics, or not?”

He startled me, and the terrible realisation of what was waiting for me at home hit all at once, and i started peeing in my pants. Literally. I was mortified and i couldn’t stop it and the cashier was glowering at me and i tried to make it outside, but i only got as far as the mat in front of the door, where i stood, frozen, and emptied my bladder.

I don’t know if he knew. I don’t remember leaving the store.

I was walking home and the cold air froze the wet legs of my pants and made them stiff and chafe against my skin. I remember my friend coming to take my hand and walk me home. She said it was okay, she was brave and she’d talk to Mom and explain about how there were no potatoes and so we bought her a Sweet Marie instead. Her favourite.
I watched her lie to my Mom for me, and hold out the candy.

I watched my Mom’s face turn scary, so i quickly looked away and down and saw she was still wearing her fancy winter boots she used for work. They had pointy-toes.
I watched her kick my friend in the crotch with those pointy-toed boots.
I saw her kick my friend so hard that she stumbled back against the wall.
I didn’t see what happened to the chocolate.
I know i didn’t see any supper that night, but i could smell it – wafting up the stairs from the kitchen. Sneaking under the door to fill my nose as the chocolate had such a short time before.

Maybe tomorrow after school my friend would come again and help me look for some more crackers.

Hungry

Content/Trigger Warning: This deals with food and weight issues, and references childhood abuse and neglect with regards to food, as well as indirect referral to childhood sexual abuse as it relates to such. Take good care.

**********

It is fatal to look hungry. It makes people want to kick you.
~ George Orwell

I’ve struggled with food my entire life, and with my weight since i was around 8yrs old. I’ve tried every diet, but gradually starved and binged my way to around 230lbs in high school, where i stayed until i Grey-sheeted (Overeaters Anonymous’ suggested eating plan) myself to 180lbs when i was 27. For a 6′ tall female, that wasn’t half bad. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long because i went and fell in love for the first time in my life, got married, got triggered massively by the whole thing, and ate my way up to an all-time high of 465lbs.

In the early aughts, weight loss surgery became a thing again. There had been a craze of “stomach stapling”, but that hadn’t been easy to come by for many years. People would overeat, pop their staples, and some even died. Doctors weren’t too keen on it, and the idea that weight loss is simply a matter of the right diet and some willpower was still the overwhelming attitude of many, if not most.

Then along came Carnie Wilson, daughter of Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys, and member of the 90s pop group Wilson Phillips, and she not only got herself a new, better, safer-than-stapling weight loss surgery called a Roux-en-Y (RNY), it was filmed and released for public consumption. I saw my doctor immediately, got a referral, lost enough weight that he okayed me for surgery, and went from 367 to around 150lbs.

Cue my first major Bipolar mania. And just for fun, cue my multiplicity run amok. What followed was more chaos than i’d ever endured as an adult. It had me searching, once again, for a therapist that i could work with, someone who would help me gain control of my runaway brain that was making an absolute train wreck out of my marriage, my mothering, my life. I did some decent inner work on my own, but without help to understand how my brain worked, my system derailed me, over and over again. My doctor diagnosed the bipolar and i went to a psychiatrist, got medicated, and regained around 100lbs. I’ve struggled with it ever since.

When i started working with the therapist that changed everything, the one who helped me save my life, the one i’m working with again today, i finally had a painfully clear and complete picture of why i had such issues around food.

My mother.

Her abuse of me started soon after i was born, and based on others’ recollections of me as a baby, feeding and food was likely an immediate issue. My earliest, clearest memories that i can confirm start when i was around 4yrs old. I remember her showing me how to prepare a roast with a package of onion soup mix, and how to turn on the oven. She also showed me how to peel the potatoes and carrots to go in with it, the dexterity of which was tough for me to learn, and she’d smack me across the head regularly for not doing it right.

I remember her locked in the bathroom, threatening to kill herself, screaming about getting fat and being alone. I remember wailing and banging on the other side of the door, begging her not to do it.
I remember staring at my face in the mirror a short time later, holding a bottle of some pinkish-orange liquid (Mercurochrome?) with a skull and crossbones on it, thinking i could kill myself too, if things got too bad. It’s the first time i remember a soft switch.

I also remember her leaving me alone, sometimes for days, and there would be nothing to eat in the house. I became quite resourceful. I’d put ketchup and mustard on saltines and pretend they were fancy appetizers. I ate food out of the garbage. I ate frozen food, spoiled food, anything i could find.
Sometimes when she came back she’d bring treats for me.
Sometimes she’d beat me for eating things i wasn’t supposed to, and feed me frozen food or garbage as further punishment.

When times were particularly lean, she’d taught me to shoplift food – to stuff my coat with meat, cheese, chocolate. She taught me to panhandle, as well. Sometimes she’d buy me a treat if i made enough money to satisfy her, but mostly not.
As her relationship with the man i think was my father (not a story for today) began to deteriorate, she ate more and more, and there often wasn’t enough money or food for both of us to eat. I was always the one to go hungry.

All my life she would buy salty and sweet snacks for herself, and only take them out after i’d gone to bed. I could hear the bags crinkling and her masticating and watching television. Sometimes she’d even cook, and i’d be laying in bed, hungry and tortured by the delicious smells wafting under my door.

She also used food as punishment and reward with regards to the sexual abuse, as did the people with whom she associated for such. When she was happy with me, her face would be lit up and she’d make us an incredible meal, or even take us out to dinner at a sit-down restaurant. I remember her regularly being complimented for my behaviour and etiquette out in public – she’d incline her head to the side slightly and nod as if it were her due. If i got too much attention, she’d beat me when we got home, and forbid me to eat for a couple of meals.

This abuse and willful neglect shaped me into my school years. I learned to sneak food from anywhere i could: school, friends, friend’s homes, any place where my mother would farm me out.

I rarely brought lunch to school, and at best i’d have a peanut butter sandwich and a carrot or an apple, all of which i’d have scrounged together myself. She never made me a lunch, even though she quit working when i was 10 and laid around the house watching tv all day after that. So when children threw their lunches into the trashcan at the front of the classroom, i’d wait until everyone was gone and root through, smuggling whatever i found into the bathroom, where i’d sit on the toilet in a stall and pack it all into me in a frenzy, barely chewing it enough to swallow without choking.
When i began babysitting outside the home, i’d make up for the $1/hr we were paid in my day by eating the couple out of house and home.
And when my mother married and started popping out other children, i began brazenly stealing food from her; my fear of starving was so great it even overcame my fear of being beaten, as i inevitably was, every single time i was caught. I think i saw my new siblings as competition for what little food was in the house.
I think that’s exactly what she intended.

One might ask, how could i be starved as regularly as i say and still be the fat kid?

The years of regularly starving and being withheld food had made their mark on me. Not just emotionally either, as i was to learn much later in life; my body would hold onto calories as fat in anticipation of the next period of starvation that would come. Once my mother was married and had morphed herself into a (somewhat) different person, my fears were set, and my behaviours ingrained.

Eat whatever i could when it was available.
Food was comfort. Food was reward. Food was a stimulant, and made me feel euphoric. Food was like an opioid too, numbing the pain and fear. And food tamped down my anger, which i was never, ever allowed to display, let alone express. Food and my system worked together so well i didn’t even know i was angry.

And once there were other people in the house living with us, her behaviour changed.
A bit.
She no longer earned money, gifts, and favours using me.
Her mask had begun to slip, she was gaining weight at an alarming rate, and she slowly became a shut-in, rarely going out and almost never socialising.
She continued to put food above everyone else around her. She used her much younger, new husband to procure food for her, which she consumed whilst her children with him were skeletally thin.

I was young and didn’t see the way things had progressed, naturally. I think my subconscious mind processed things like, the bigger i got, the less i was being molested. And i’d found that food was the closest to love i could get. I thought that if i was eating, i must be okay. So food became my metric. For everything. For love, for happiness, for safety.

Food was my currency.

I probably don’t need to tell you what that cost me.
How the fat kid is guaranteed to be bullied.
How people assume the fat kid is indulged rather than neglected/abused because clearly i was getting enough to eat.
How the fat girl gets preyed upon by sexual opportunists who think we should be grateful that anyone would want to screw us.

Any potential as an adult that i had was always at least partially marred by my fatness. The unspoken assumption that i was lazy, slovenly, even pampered. That i had no self-control. No determination, no gumption, no tenacity.

When i’d finally done enough inner work that i could look back and see all these things (all these things that i’ve shared about food and yet i assure you there is still so much more) i was set free.

I now understand why i love grocery shopping so much, and why no one else gets to unpack and put them away. I now totally get why i become antsy as soon as my fridge or my pantry doesn’t look full, when i get low on things. I know why i’m curious what foods other people have in their kitchens when i visit. I know why i have such trouble throwing out spoiled food, or food that just doesn’t taste good, or food that i’ve burned or overcooked or over-spiced…

I know why when i’m doing well and feeling good i want cake, and when i’m doing poorly and feeling bad i want cake.
And i know why i don’t want sex when i’ve overeaten and when i have great sex i’m not scared to eat when i’m hungry.
I know why i gained almost 200lbs when i fell in love and got married.
And i know why i went completely batshit when i lost all the fat and was a healthy, normal weight.

I tried a dozen different times to write about how my mother’s sexual abuse factored in to my issues with food, but i don’t think it’s necessary for this piece – neither for me, nor for anyone else. Perhaps another time, but i’ve agonised enough over this. It was hard to write and even harder to come to a decision about whether or not to post. I prefer glossing over the abuse and focusing on how it affected me and how i’ve coped.

But being fat since i was 8yrs old really, deeply hurt me. It’s held me back from so much living, so much that i might have achieved, because all i could see was my weight. It seemed like it was all anyone could see, honestly.
You could have this if only…
You could be this if only…
You could do this if only…

Relationships. Sex. Body image. Food.

I’ve spent my adult life trying to take these things back, and it’s taken everything i have, and it will continue to do so. I have to examine all of it, and it’s deeply personal and drenched in secrecy and shame.

I’m so fucking tired of it.
This is not my shame to carry – not my embarrassment to bear.
It’s ugly because SHE made it ugly. Because she was so terribly ugly.

I’ve learned over the years that eating and food and weight issues are rarely a matter of willpower coupled with the right diet. I’ve found it to be intricate and complicated. Skeins of moments and messages woven together in a tapestry of pain and fear, unmet needs, loneliness, dashed hopes, and hunger beyond the belly.

This is painful and intensely personal for me, and i’ve cried through a lot of it – but i see how i got to 465lbs and i see how i got here, sharing this piece today. I don’t weigh myself anymore, but i have enough experience with my body to be able to tell you that i’m likely less than 50lbs from where i’d ideally like to be. I took a hard look at my past, a harder look at who i am and how my brain works, and then puzzled over how those 2 things are related with respect to how i see food and eating.

I now know myself so well and have amassed enough knowledge about diet and nutrition (h/t to Registered Dietitians – where i go to get the most accurate information), that i’ve been able to tailor-make my own way to eat to lose weight and keep it off, finally, for good.
I make small, sustainable tweaks to how and what i eat.
I comfort and feed the parts inside me that hunger for much more than food.

My body physically manifested the wrongs that were done to me as a child. I wore it in pounds of fat.
My body is becoming evidence of the good and kind and right things i’ve been doing for myself.

Starving for love, starving for food. These things are so intertwined for me.
These knots inside me are being untied, these constraints inside me are being unbound.
By me.
I’m trying to help anyone reading this to find hope in however your own childhood struggles may have expressed themselves in how you do or don’t eat, and how much or how little you weigh.
This piece is disjointed and choppy AF. I did my best. I think it’s been super hard to foment into something consumable because it’s not just mental, this stuff is inextricable from the physical. It’s visceral.

I hope this was helpful.
Please take care of yourself and talk to someone if you’re stirred up inside.

I Wish You All Love and Peace,
~H~