My Love Affair W/Anger, Part II


WARNING: Brief reference to rape.

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


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

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


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


**********

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


More to come yet…

My Love Affair With Anger


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

The best fighter is never angry.
~ Lao Tzu


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


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


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


**********

I vigorously disagree with these quotes/sentiments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…


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



IMAGE: Julien Pouplard

Reciprocity

Okay, keep in mind that i’m at a place in my therapy where every breath i take and every experience i have and every feeling i feel is new and weird.
I’m very weepy and feeling sorry for myself. So yeah, i think all the pertinent preamble is out of the way:

Today i realised that i am alone, and i don’t want to be, but i haven’t found where i belong in the real world.
I’ve done so much work to strip away all the fear and the artifice. To know who i am and figure out what i want.

I knew i was a mess of protections and pretenses, and the way i found to get around all of them was to become a hermit out here on our farm. That was when i discovered i was kind of introverted, something that shocked the hell outta me.
Between honouring that and having the newfound sense to stay away from people i was only friends with due my former high risk lifestyle, i only had a few friends.

Another thing i found out about myself is that, most of the time, i prefer to listen rather than talk. Maybe it was because after all the years i’d spent being extroverted, i needed some rest. Regardless of the reason though, i became the listening friend. I also found i was content to sit on the sidelines and watch things. I had no desire to be the centre of attention – the rowdier things got, the further i retreated.

After being this way for some years, it started to sort of seep into my consciousness that there was some disparity in the give and take in some of my friendships, particularly in the emotional area. I put it down to me vacillating between oversharing and not saying anything, but eventually i realised it was more than that.

With respect to “real life” friendships (and by that i mean not my friends online) it became clear that most of them didn’t know me, and maybe didn’t care to. Our friendship was about them and their life and their experiences. Whenever i tried to steer the conversation to what was going on in my life and how i was feeling about stuff, it was painfully obvious that they were scarcely listening. They were waiting for a moment when they could break in and get back to talking about themselves.
So i did more housecleaning, and i had just a couple of friends left, only 1 of whom i would say i was close to, but 2 or 3 i thought i could build more intimacy with if i tried. Once i felt ready.

Cue COVID.

I’ve been very careful to follow protocols, although i must be honest and tell you that there were 3 or 4 times when my mental issues got the better of me and i interacted with my 1 close friend without observing recommended masking, washing, distancing hygiene. She was fine with it, as she does not strictly follow them anyway. She probably kept me from going straight off the rails, and i’ll always be grateful. As i should be. Fortunately, we’re both virus-free, as are our housemates.

This pandemic afforded me the opportunity to focus pretty much exclusively on myself and my health. I’ve made good strides forward and met a number of significant goals. I’m living a much more present and mindful life. I’ve been standing up for myself and asking for what i want, in instances and with people that i would not have before. This level of isolation for this length of time has allowed me to embrace who i am as a person, but now i’d like to take myself out for a trial run.

It’s become abundantly clear that my local area isn’t where i’m likely to find what i’m looking for. It’s beautiful to look at, and the familiarity of my surroundings has given me a sense of safety and comfort. But that sense of being protected from harm is surface, at best. Seeing the same flora and fauna and geographical features as i’ve always seen does not mean i’m safe and okay. I’ve healed and matured enough that i know my hyper-focused need for those things had its roots in trauma. I can now take proper care of myself, including risk assessment and setting myself up for successful outcomes in my daily activities and interactions.

And while i’m not arrogant enough to think that there is no one here for me, i have been pushed to the breaking point with regards to what’s going on around me. I’m disillusioned and despondent and enraged and verging on misanthropy. Experience with and knowledge of myself as a person tells me that that will soften over time. However right now i am in it, and i honestly have no desire to be over it just yet.
I’m sickened and disgusted by almost everyone’s behaviour.
This includes people that i love and am committed to and will continue to be in relationship with after this is over.

Please understand that while i look like an adult, in significant ways i am new to being one. I’ve been there intellectually for some time, but emotionally i have felt and processed things as a child. A child doing her level best to be a good adult, but a child nonetheless. I am a mass of contradictions and stages of development, because i have lived my life as pieces of a person.

I am the shards of glass in a broken mirror; the ones that are still stuck together in your bedroom, from when you were checking yourself before you went out to a fancy dinner, and OH SHIT IS THAT A ZIT?! and you leaned in closer to see, and twisted on your high heels that you suck at walking in but wear because they’re so pretty, and you fell into your own reflection and smacked the mirror with your big damn cement forehead that’s more like a fivehead and… Great. Is it 7yrs bad luck if the mirror is cracked but doesn’t scatter on the floor? and Nevermind the zit now, because i cut my head on the mirror and i’m bleeding…
(This great mental picture/metaphor brought to you by life as a klutz.)

As i practise these new life skills and try to be a contributing member of society, i’m finding real life experience with how doing so requires interaction and relationships with people in my actual physical vicinity. I have a wonderful group of cherished friends that have been and will continue to be a beautiful, wonderful source of connection and support.
But… They are internet peoples and they are all thousands of kilometres away.
And i am alone and very lonely.

I don’t have a circle or tribe or peer group to return to once the world opens back up.
I need to build one. Find one. Knock on some doors and ask for entry. Wave on the sidelines and hope for a welcome sign in return.

I need to talk to someone for a very long time without being interrupted. And then i need them to talk back and have responses to what i said that keep the spotlight on me and what i’ve said and what i’m going through. I am becoming desperate for someone to know me –to really deeply and truly KNOW ME— and i will tell you the truth here and say that i don’t think i have anyone in my life that does. I’ve split myself open because i had to in order to survive and be who i want to be, but i don’t have anyone who will look at my guts spilled out on the table, turn and look me in the eye, really LOOK at me, and say something salient and savvy that convinces me to my core that they’ve listened and heard me, and then offer to help me stuff all my viscera back in their proper place.

When i was a child my mother called me “Chatty Cathy.” Chatty Cathy was a doll that talked when you pulled a string, but the name became a part of her generation’s lexicon, meaning a girl who talked too much. I did talk a lot. I have always had a large and animated personality. One of the things that helped me get healthy was getting very quiet though. Cutting down on the outside talk helped me to hear my inside talk. Listening to other people talk about themselves helped me learn to control the constant chatter that goes on in my brain. I’m not sure i can explain this so it makes sense but, being raised to be used by others made me so sick and twisted inside that i was actually hopelessly self-focused. I was unable to think about anything but my own survival, even though my conscious understanding of myself and any of my inner workings had been hobbled by childhood brainwashing and abuse.

Through the healing process i found myself bristling at any hint of me being very talkative. These last few years i can tell you that it simply isn’t true anymore. I pour my heart out here on my blog. I show who i am on social media and with my treasured group of internet friends, but i don’t have that kind of intimacy with anyone with whom i currently share physical location.
I don’t talk too much, in fact, i’ve become rather quiet.
I am somewhat quiet, it turns out.
But i am still, in my DNA, 10lbs of personality stuffed into a 5lb sack.

My problem is, i need some people to be around while i am living a more genuine life and letting my true self show. Not partner, not kids, but bosom buddies and lifelong pals. I see this in movies and on television. I’m fascinated by true crime stories, and when a woman disappears or is tragically taken, i’m riveted to her girlfriends talking about how awesome she was, and their fond tales of all of their adventures together. It especially makes my heart clench up when they relate how they were there for each other; one of them would be having a tough time and the rest of them would rush in and share space with them.
How they knew something was wrong because they talked every day and suddenly didn’t hear from her.

I’m scared and ashamed to type it out on the screen, but i think i want that for myself.*
I want friendship with equality and equity.
And quality, too.
I’m not expecting it to show up on my doorstep. I don’t hold with the idea that i can manifest it – that “if you build it, they will come,” mentality. I’m also not blaming anyone, including myself, for not having this in my life.
I have proven a rather lousy friend in the past. I was unavailable and unreliable, in various ways and most of the time. I knew nothing about boundaries, either to keep or to respect. I’m sure i’ve come across as fake to some, and they were on the right track, although it was unconscious and unintentional.

I’m tired of being alone and feeling this lonely. I’m champing at the bit, ready to put myself out there and get more of what i want out of life. I’m honouring myself and respecting the process, and in doing so have found that i can be quiet and introspective and introverted. In sitting with that and soaking up all the healing it’s brought me, i now feel able to embrace the vivacious and outgoing part of me. I’m not ashamed to be this big and intense personality that is not for everyone.
It’s weird and topsy-turvy.
But that’s me.

I feel better getting this out of me and sharing it.
Thanks for being here and reading.
Love and Peace,
~H~

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

IMAGE: Luís Eusébio

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