Heading for Higher Ground

Enforcing boundaries with people when you’ve never done so before, is hard.
Or, to be accurate, regularly enforcing firm boundaries with people who’ve been privy to the depths of your mental illness, is hard. People you love who love you back, who’ve been on the receiving end of your mercurial moods and waffling nature, who might well see you as a lovable flake — is tough as fuck.

It is the hardest thing i’ve ever had to do, telling people i care about things like:

– i don’t like that;
– i’m not doing that;
– stop;
– no;
– No;
– NO!

I’m ready to end relationships where the other party can’t accept that. And i’m putting distance between myself and relationships where there’s an imbalance of effort and investment.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this “selfless giving” thing. I was taught by my elders and the religion i was raised in, that selflessness was the ideal. That might be true, but the examples of such that were modelled for me are not ones i’m keen on anymore.

I’ve learned that i like to be thanked and appreciated for my efforts.

My upbringing tells me that that is selfish and not in the true spirit of giving, but i reject that. I reject it because it has been my overwhelming experience that the people who don’t thank me or make sure i know they appreciate my time and effort and generosity, are either people who aren’t doing the same for me, or those who will take and take until i have nothing left.

Sometimes, in some situations, and for some people, i am still willing to do that.

But sometimes i’m not now, and it’s hard not to.

Because i was also taught:

– i should give whenever i’m asked;
– i should give to my personal detriment;
– i should give even if it will leave me with nothing;
– suffering is admirable;
– suffering makes me a better person;
– to love is to suffer…

I think there is a difference between service and servitude.
I’m being more selective and discerning in where, when, and to whom i give.

And holy shit do people not like that i’m doing this.

In closing, hey, i know i’m extra-feisty lately.
But i think it’s better directed. Before, i’d be snarking about everything, all the time. I got sucked into partisanship. I was on the porch with the big dogs, barking my ass off.

To no productive end.

I don’t regret it, though. Not at all. Because i wasn’t allowed to be angry growing up, and i had so much to be angry about, that when the roof got blown off, HONEY! It was flying to the next continent, never mind the county.

Now though, when i’m angry and discontented with people and situations i’m personally involved in and affected by, i channel it into action.

I state my discontentment.
I set boundaries.
I use time and distance.
And i fucking say, NO and STOP.

This spring has been so shit. Everything has sucked. It’s been one loss after another, along with relationship dramas and physical calamities. It has brought me to a watershed moment. Such is usually recognised in hindsight, but self-awareness and mindfulness are what keeps me alive, so i can see that the water’s coming up the bank…

I will not be swept away.

We got to head for higher ground
We can’t come back till the water comes down
Five feet high and rising
Well its five feet high and rising

~ Johnny Cash, Five Feet High and Rising


IMAGE: Ainur Khakimov

Accepting the Unacceptable

Upon reflecting over the last week, where i was not at all present, there seems to have been a bit of an uprising. Perhaps i should have seen it coming, but i did not. Maybe i could have, had there not been so bloody much going on leading up to it, but there was, and i could not. This being a grownup and living life on life’s terms can be quite the sticky wicket, eh?

I knew i was struggling, and i knew why. I’d had a couple of blips already where i’d lost the face to various and sundry that dwell here in my brain with me. I am committed to the process of handling my mental disorders and now, my apparent neurodivergence. I was picking myself up, dusting myself off (thankfully, not starting all over again, as Cole’s lyrics go), and getting back to it. I was unprepared for the tidal wave that came rushing in. It washed me up on the shore of my mind, exhausted, barely breathing, with my guts full of seawater. It kept washing me further and further up the beach, away from the salty soup of thoughts and activity that comprises who i am as a person.

My personality, or in my case, personalities, as it were.

I handled an issue in a primary relationship that was a long time coming, and i think that’s what broke me. It left me vulnerable, so much so that there was a rush of alters who came for the face. Some, to help, others to play, a couple hoping to take over. I was bashed about quite violently before being left there, on the edge of the shore.

I haven’t yet found the words to properly describe what it’s like, when i’m fighting for control and losing – when i am at war with my lesser selves who are me but not exactly me. These metaphors and analogies fall short in all (our) my estimations, but it must suffice.

There is wreckage, more than usual. I was interacting with some friends; i don’t know if they knew it wasn’t me, but there is a bit of a mess to clean up there. With one of those there are hurt feelings for which i hope i can make amends. In the other, the interaction put a loved one in some jeopardy. I’m in isolation until we’re sure it’s safe for me to be near him. He knows what comes when one lives with a multiple, and is unfazed. I’m mortified, but not devastated.

I’ve lived with a multiple for my entire life, you see. Heh.

I’m not sorry i held such high hopes that i’d get through this spring without my system’s usual shenanigans. If not for life life-ing me so freaking hard these last few weeks, i believe i could have done it. But life is a bit of a bastard, innit? At least i was able to wrest control back before my family had me committed, which was on the table.

In the past, when i’ve lost total control for similar lengths of time, i’ve been overwhelmed by feelings of shame, guilt, devastation, fury. The lack of control consumed and terrified me. It left me feeling hopeless that my life would ever be any other way. It left me open to further time losses. But slowly, and yes, sometimes it’s so slowly i’m gnashing my teeth and pulling out my hair, my life is changing. And for the better.

This time, i can accept what happened. I can see that this is my lot in life, and that’s not fatalistic. It is, as the current saying goes, what it is. I acknowledge this truth, and in so doing, free up an impressive amount of energy.

To pick myself up, dust myself off…

And get back to it.


Y’all Hang In There, Y’Hear?
~H~

Dear Diary: I Gotta Be Me

I’m starting to write this thinking it’ll be more diarising, but it might just swerve into the regular post lane. Off we go and let’s see what happens, eh?*

I couldn’t hold all the emotions around the decisions i’d made regarding these 3 relationships. To lay them down and stop trying. To let people be who they are, do what they’re going to do, and keep on truckin’. I’m stuck in this house in near total lockdown, because someone in our family is at significant risk for hospitalisation and death if they contract the virus. I can’t get away from triggers. (THEY are my triggers.) I can go for walks, but i can only walk so far for so long, and it gets mighty cold where i live.

So i’m feeling trapped and lonely and fed up and sad… And i switched. I lost a day or so. My system pushed forward to take care of me when i was at a weak moment. I used and i (THEY) spilled my damn business to my husband. I wasn’t there, but i know how it goes, and i imagine they left no stone unturned. I’ve got parts that would’ve read him the riot act, and parts that would’ve been soft, sweet, and vulnerable. Oh, and then there are parts that would have been subtly manipulative and vaguely threatening. All designed to take care of us and get our needs met.

These days i use “I” and “me” more often than not. It connotes a feeling of the control i now have over my system. I have an awareness that’s more than intellectual, that all these parts are me. I’m like a box of puzzle pieces that suffered water damage. I’ve got the thing mostly put together, but some of the pieces are warped and keep popping out a little. But this weekend was a “we” and “us” situation – no doubt about it. I switched for nearly a day, and then i slid around for a couple more. On Sunday the urge to let the switching happen and the using continue was so strong that i kept myself heavily medicated in order to sleep through the worst of it. It’s not ideal but it worked.

Monday i took it fairly easy on myself, knowing there would be lots of grumping around up there in my brain. They’re children and they pout and whine for things. They like the escape that being under the influence of drugs provides, and they like how it loosens my control on their activities, i.e. they can take the face when they wish. No thanks, dear ones. The plug is in the jug.

What happened was what i knew would happen. He has asked for another chance and promised to change; to make a concerted effort. I’ve heard all this many times before. I’m still earning my way out the door, but i’ve had a wee epiphany, i think.
I love those — they’re always helpful.

I had this thought: I’m working so damn hard to know who i am and who i’m not. To be more authentically and fearlessly myself. And man, this is who i am. I want this relationship to work and there’s nothing wrong with me continuing to hope. I’ll keep hoping until i’m walking out the door… Probably longer than that. It’s not shameful and embarrassing –i mean, it IS– but it needn’t be. I grew up with constant rejection, and carry the awful weight of that everywhere, all the time. It’s the weight of believing i’m not good enough and who would want me? (Toobigtooloudtooweird.) It’s also my parents’ indoctrination that has me focused on my flaws and my shortcomings, and heaps blame on me for those, while asking me who do you think you are? when i shift my focus to theirs.

How dare you?! You should be grateful they tolerate your miserable, useless presence.

Yeah. Self-talk is a good time around here. /sarcasm

It has gotten much better. I’ve come quite a distance, but at a time like this, i’m flying in the face of everything my abusers taught me. The training is still there. It’s a reflex – like breathing. But i’m doing my best to be mindful and present, and i address all the internal commentary. It’s exhausting; it’s necessary.

I’m back in therapy. Not because i’ve gone off the deep end, but because i don’t want to, and i need a little extra help. She grounds me. She told me today that new research by neuroscientists has been able to prove DID’s etiology. The cause is childhood trauma, abuse, and neglect. It’s not like we multiples and our caregivers didn’t know that, but being able to prove it scientifically is important. The stigma within the psychiatric community is still significant. The way it’s portrayed in media is damaging. Those working on tracing its causes and attempting to understand how it works neurobiologically are helping to change things.

So she says to me there is a provable cause for DID, and something inside me just… relaxes. I’m in my mid-50s, and i’m always wrestling with the voice that asks me, Why are you not over this? Why are you still so messed up?

This information reassures me that my response to trauma was not overblown, nor my pain and suffering over-inflated. I make jokes about being Queen Emoterella of Drama Island, but what i grew up in was extreme, and it happened during the most pivotal and formative of my (or anyone’s) life. Most people who’ve been through what i’ve been through aren’t doing as well as i am.
If they’re even still here.
And that’s just the truth.
And i needed her to tell me again, and tell me why, and tell me i’m doing great, and lay some more knowledge and a couple new coping skills on me.
She never disappoints.
We ZOOM again in a month.

The overarching conclusion that i’ve come to after this weekend’s shenanigans, is not so much about losing control, or using, or even needing to connect with my therapist to remember that it’s okay to be where i’m at today. What i’m taking away from all this is more important to the work i’m doing, and it’s come at the right time.

I am done trying to be anyone other than me. Not that i won’t still struggle sometimes — i’m a multiple and this shit is entrenched. But i know who i am now, and also who i’m not. I’m through simpering around, walking on eggshells, trying to please the people around me, trying to be accepted, to be liked/loved/desired. I’m done explaining myself. I’m done apologising for things that don’t require one. I’m done trying to placate people. I’m done exposing my soft underbelly to people who’ve repeatedly hurt me. If you don’t want the kind of relationship i want, if you aren’t willing to give as much as you’re expecting, well, i guess you gotta do what you gotta do.

This may all sound very glib and even powerful, but i assure you it is not. I’m deeply upset that these relationships have come to this. Upset… But still hopeful.
What can i tell ya?
I’m a hopeful girl.

Y’all Hang in There.

*Definitely diary stuff.

IMAGE: Jackson David

Dear Diary: I’m the Star of this Drama

I’m in this limbo where i’m just done. I’ve fought hard for my relationships, mostly working on myself to save them and/or make them better, but also asking, cajoling, begging, demanding, and yes, at times manipulating, to get what i want from the other party.

And i’m not doing any of it anymore.

I’ve bettered and changed myself before anything else. I’ve made sure my side of the street is swept before pointing out what i see over on theirs. I’ve burned through enough logs to heat Hell for a day, and then i’ve gingerly, carefully, respectfully approached the other person before delicately, with much self-deprecating and toadying to preface and soften the blow, broached the subject of their mote.*
(They’ve actually got logs too, but i’m trying to be nice.)

I’m over it.

I acknowledge my mistakes, my flaws, i can show my work and give evidence for the ways in which i’m different: more positive, more functional, easier to share space with, more helpful, more available. I’m the first to admit when i’m wrong, offer a sincere apology, and offer amends.

I’m through bending over backwards and i’m out of olive branches.

I’ve asked for emotional connection and intellectual, artistic interest and involvement.
I’ve asked for kindness and respect and boundaries.
I’ve asked for understanding and trust and space.

In these 3 separate relationships, i’ve not gotten what i asked for.

I’m done contorting myself into all kinds of different shapes, hoping to be good enough for the person to give me what i’m asking for. I have decided that, since i’m not getting it and i’ve done my best to, it’s okay for me to stop. Stop asking, stop trying, stop worrying, stop hurting over it all and just… Let it go and lay it down.

I’m trying to understand and live with a new diagnosis. I’m trying to make a career out of writing. I’m trying to make some money for some things i want. I’m trying to grow and maintain control over my system. I’m trying to reach people who might need my particular kind of help. I’m trying to take care of a chronically ill body. I’m trying to learn more about the world and the things that live in it. I’m trying to be more useful.

I think at this point, to continue working so hard on these specific relationships is a waste of time and energy. I’m going to keep working on myself. I’ll leave the door open –i have no intention of closing it– but my focus is shifting elsewhere.

This is a good and right place to get to, for me. Probably a long time coming, too.
But the shit of it is, now i am alone. And i’m grieving the losses and i’m pissed off and deeply saddened by all of it. I knew this time might come, but i’d dearly hoped it wouldn’t.

And yes, i know how dramatic all of this sounds, and maybe it isn’t so much. But it sure feels like it, and as this is a “Dear Diary” post, it gets written. It currently hurts, but honestly? Not too much. More of an ache, really. Like i said, this has been coming down the pike for a while now. I wish the other halves of these relationships would notice, but they haven’t. And i’ve said a lot and i’ve said it all, and it’s enough.

It’s enough and i am done and moving on.
I’ll still be doing personal work that’ll benefit these relationships, should they work out.
I still have a great deal of hope that they will — i just won’t be working on them specifically, unless or until something changes. And that something will be them, because i’ve changed quite enough, for now.

Feeling this lonely really sucks though. Really.

I’m hangin’ in there though, and i hope you are, too.

~H~
* Biblical reference ( Matthew 7:3)

IMAGE: Nathan Dumlao

Who TF Do I Think I Am?

I never write the title first. Not only did i just do that, but the title is ridiculous. It’s patently ridiculous. I mean, how could i, a person who has clearly saved her own life and achieved some smidgen of normalcy by dedicating herself to the pursuit of self-knowledge as the means to accomplish these things,
<insert gasp for breath here>
not know who i am?

The title is based on a familiar idiom that conveys contempt towards someone displaying pride. I mostly mean that, and i’m obviously aiming my contempt squarely at myself, but also… Who TF am i?

So, yeah, the good times are still rolling over here at Santa Mania, population: ME. Me in all my iterations, both figurative and even more figurative.
<insert deep and angsty sigh here>

I knew taking on the mantle, officially, of “writer,” would have fallout. Further, i knew i was taking it on while manic, making it delicate at the least, and perhaps dangerous, too. It’s definitely proven a minefield. There have been some close calls. I’ve tripped a couple of wires, but so far, i’ve managed to get out, unscathed.

I’m really, really struggling, though.
There are so many writers out there, so many GREAT freaking writers…
Who TF do i think i am entering this field? It’s huge and so many don’t even get published anymore. Some are self-published but never find even a small house to take on their work. Some find a house, some even find a major house, but STILL languish in obscurity. The chances of my writing finding a wide and loyal audience is almost zero.

This is where all the bells chime in, and this is where i’m gonna sound petulant and pissy.
Write because you want to write.
Write because you love to write.
Write because you have to write.
Write for yourself.

Listen Belle, darlin’, i’ve been living this provincial life and it has been a fine one. But then you sang so prettily and flounced about town on such impossibly tiny feet… And i went and hoped about things. You trilled and batted your eyes and the birdies flew around you and it sounded like beauty and truth and joy and HOPE, damn you. DAMN YOU, sweet girl.
And double dumbass on you, too.

Writing is going quite well, actually. As far as production goes, anyway. I can easily sit at my laptop and bash away for a few hours most days. Even when mental illness required i stop everything and step back, the last few days back in the game, have found me merely punching up and editing 3 or 4 2500-3500 word pieces that have already been submitted for publication. It’s not the writing that’s the problem, it’s the requirements of being a writer in my current venue of choice that’s proving a problem. And quite honestly, it’s not the place i’ve chosen to hone my craft and pursue it as a career that’s the real problem (although i find a lot about it to be problematic). Of course it’s me. The problem is me and the way my brain works, and the growth that yet lies in front of me.

More proving grounds with more growing up to do.
<insert massive ugh plus eyeroll here>

I’ve been absolutely, completely, and utterly overwhelmed by all the writers. Many are shouting about how well they’re doing on the format, or not. The ones who say they’re not, tend to blame the format. I think there’s probably others who aren’t doing well that don’t blame the format, but maybe because of that, they aren’t writing about it – they’re just writing? And then when someone basically writes an ALL CAPS piece about how poorly run or unfair the format is, there’s a brawl in the comments section over whether the author is takin’ us to church (preach!), or acting like a poopyheaded crybaby (waaaah!).

Listen, i haven’t spent 30yrs trying to overcome 12yrs of bullying only to step back into bloody junior high.
Like, no fucking way, okay?

Yet when i think back on other group situations i’ve been in, like work, church, volunteering, self-improvement groups and courses, and artistic endeavours, many of them functioned like we were still in school. Most of them, actually. Some were more like elementary. One or 2 – kindergarten.*

So… What do i do, pick up my Legos and go home? I think i’m likely to find the same sorts of dynamics at work anywhere i go.

Can you see that i’m writing myself into a corner here?
I just fucking saw it.
My brain is one tricksy Hobbitses.

I’m going to have to face the kind of bullshit that beat me down and broke me when i was in school.
I’m going to have to find a way to work with the dynamics to get what i want.
The obnoxious cliques
the overbearing hierarchies
the tribalistic othering
the frightening bullying.

The us-and-them, zero-sum game type crap.
The infuriating preaching, the cruel browbeating and the pungent stench of the chest thumper.

I can do what i did in order to deal with my past and learn to handle mental illness, i.e. i can go to ground and ignore it all. I might need to do that in order to maintain my equilibrium. But i could try

Not everyone in school was a stinkybutt hosebeast.
Seriously, lots of kids were really nice.
Mostly weak, because they stood there and watched while i was slowly pecked to death by ducks.**
But it’s okay, we were children and we were all just trying to make it out of our school years alive, and as intact as we could manage.
At least they didn’t actively participate.
I still vividly remember the names and the faces of the few who stood up for me.

Today i spent 3hrs walking through a little town i lived in for 5yrs. They were some of the least terrible of my school career. As i was taking pictures –it’s been 40yrs and not much has changed– i found myself wondering, Was it really that bad?

YES. Yes it freaking was.
I was being chewed up and spit out every night at home, and at school the next day, vicious little creatures tossed salt on my wounds.
Yes it was.
BUT…

There was a girl who regularly brought me to her house for lunch.
There was a boy who asked me to dance at our junior high “prom.” One day after school, he told all the boys who were heckling me outside while i was trying to walk home, that if they didn’t stop he was going to beat the heck out of them.
I had a friend i could hang out with after school, and another whose dad took us to the next town every Saturday for the $1 matinee.
There was the principal who rescued me from having to wear a dress every day:
“Ma’am, all the girls wear pants now, and they’re teasing your daughter.”
The teachers who fought hard for me to be skipped a grade. (Mom said NO WAY.)
There was the teacher who told me privately that she would have given me the lead in the school play, but had to give someone else a chance after me taking it the last 2yrs running.
The swim coach who told me, “You can’t go fast for anything, but you never give up and you cheer the loudest for everyone. I’m putting you in distance.”

I’m strolling down memory lane here, but hey, i’m sitting here in the van while my husband puts in baseboards at a house in this little town – everything is fresh from the oven right now.

My brain is clicking away with everything i’ve seen today. My heart is awash in a sea of old emotions. I know the people that live here in my brain with me will have a lot to say over the next while. The grand thing is that they aren’t pushing to take control. It’s been easy for me to finish this piece that i started yesterday. I’m in charge and that’s amazing, considering some of the awful stuff that came up as i wandered around the cracked sidewalks and crumbling buildings.

I have so many new stories i want to tell now, and they aren’t even all bad. In fact, i’d say most of them are just childhood snapshots: a thing that happened, a moment in time, a touch of sunshine, a taste of rain…

I’ve already returned to the platform, written pieces and had them published. I’d already intended to stay and keep pushing forward. But today gave me insight that has changed how i look at it. Whereas last week i was writing with gritted teeth and a set jaw, determined to trudge my way resolutely through the muck, i anticipate returning to writing at the start of the week with a new attitude.

There will be friends there, and teachers too, and i will find them or they will find me. There will be moments where it’s like a warm summer day with a slight breeze and the smell of lilacs. There will be days where i see old faces in the rain that blasts down my window – and i will be tempted to run and hide under my bed until the storm passes.
But i don’t think i will, now.

Some people will always behave as if they’re still in high school – whether for their good or ill. Some people will not. The thing for me to see and remember is that there isn’t a monster in every closet, there wasn’t then and there isn’t now. I do not have to recreate painful moments from my past in order to confront and handle them. It’s been done. I wavered for a bit. I almost fell hard. I took a couple of steps back and took a break. I anticipated that there would be some bobbles and even blunders. I have not yet blundered, but if i do, i’ll handle that as well.

So… Who TF am i?

I’m a grown woman who knows how to figure her shit out.
I’m a kind person who wants to help others.
I’m a creative being who loves to express herself.
I’m a writer – that’s who.
<insert Mona Lisa smile here>

Y’all enjoy the rest of your weekend, if you can.

Love and Peace,
~H~

* The religious ones, in case you wondered.
** Referring to a well known quote from the inimitable Maya Angelou.

IMAGE:
Steinar Engela

Saying No & Expecting Better

I’m being myself and setting boundaries and it’s a trip, man. I’ve been doing it for a while, but my capacity for saying No and Stop that has been steadily increasing. In addition, my fear of being rejected, misunderstood, or purposely harmed has decreased. I’m at the point in my healing where i’m present, conscious, and mindful enough to feel strange and different. Like, brand spanking new, just out of the box. It’s quite the experience. I’ve been tackling some bigger problems that have been an issue for years, and most of those involve how i deal with other humans.

I’ve tolerated low-key abuse from a loved one for years, now. I’ve done so due to guilt over being crappy at relationships in general, and making awful mistakes in our relationship, specifically. They’ve seen me at my worst. I was dissociated to some degree most of the time in the beginning, and after that I was in and out of control; erratic is putting it mildly. I’ve let them down more times than i know or could count, and i’m to blame for some of the burdens they carry.

So when they called me names, i let it pass.
When they broke stuff, i reminded myself i’ve broken stuff, too.
When they invaded my personal space aggressively, i backed down.
When they invaded my personal space gently, i shut down.
When they broke promises or otherwise let me down, i overlooked it.
When they picked at me: corrected my language, questioned my beliefs, treated me as less than, called me out for behaviour they themselves were displaying…
I dissociated. I questioned my reality.
I became smaller and smaller.

Now i am stronger. I know myself better and see things more clearly. I’m present and mindful in most interactions with loved ones, so i’m not nearly as apt to accept another person’s version of events over my own. I understand there’s perspective and sides of a coin, which includes my perspective and my side. I’m beginning to know my worth and i no longer fold like a cheap suit, allowing someone power and control over me. EVEN LOVED ONES.

We’ve been dysfunctional since the beginning, but that was on me. Eventually things shifted as the nature of the relationship changed. I won’t accept abuse from anyone any longer. However, our ties are the kind that i will never sever. And because i’m older and wiser, i can take the lead (and frankly i should) on changing the way we treat each other. It’s not been an easy adjustment for either of us, but especially them. I’ve been sick and dysfunctional for most of their lifetime. This is just and right and good, but in a very real way it isn’t fair. Many of our interactions have been unfair to them.

But this is for the best – and that’s true for both of us.

I’m laying down firm boundaries:
– You cannot speak to me like that;
– You must contribute this, this, and this to our relationship;
– Destruction of property will not be tolerated;
– Aggression will be met with you being removed from my space.

It took some years to get here, because they deserved time to come around to the changes in me. Almost no one else gets that time, but they do, and trust me, they’ve earned it. The best thing i’ve done for them, and for our relationship, has been my commitment to myself. Let me be clear though – i utterly reject the belief that one must love oneself before being capable of loving anyone else. In my life it is provably not so. It was my love of them and others, that gave me the will and the strength to learn to love myself.

I couldn’t love myself as a child. I didn’t possess a child’s normal, natural selfishness. I was alive only for the consumption and pleasure of others. I remember thinking about my uncle when i was very small. I knew i was alive because of the feelings in my body when i thought of him. It was pure, joyful, beautiful, love. I know i loved others, but i was so dissociated all the time i rarely felt anything. I certainly loved my grandparents, and my long time babysitter, but i adored my uncle. If you’d asked me i would’ve said i loved my mother, of course. And the man that i called Daddy. But inside my body there were no feelings that would normally be associated with love. I felt a desperate ache; a pain, mixed with an imperative to please and placate. There was numbness, too. And a dark, sucking void of nothingness filled my bones instead of marrow.

It never occurred to me to love myself – i barely thought of myself. In some ways i was no more sentient than a sneezing sponge. No more than a houseplant that grows towards the window filled with sunlight. I was responding to external stimuli in an instinctual way.

Now i am a fully sentient being, one who is seeking homeostasis. That involves relationships with loved ones around me being healthy and respectful. There are things i want and don’t want in a relationship that are subjective, others are objective. This is a transitional period for everyone in a relationship with me. Everyone. From my husband, to my children, to my friends, to the people who provide me with services. It’s all changing.

For people who’ve been in my circle for a while, it can be startling, off-putting, frustrating, annoying, and very, very inconvenient. Most people fight change, especially when it requires them to change, as well. A shift in perspective, a rebalancing of power, different responses, attitudes, behaviours… I’ve been met with anger and pushback from some people. Others have seemed resentful, almost afraid, and those people have noticeably pulled away.

I can’t find it inside me to be sorry for a bit of it.
I have empathy for their struggle, but i’m not remotely tempted to blur any lines or change my path.
I will continue to draw lines in the sand, to put up curtains, fences, doors, too. I’ll flip the deadbolt on any door to anyone. I already have. Some doors are locked up for good, some i might open if there’s a knock.

I’m bringing a better, more genuine, and absolutely more functional version of myself to the relationship table. Anyone is free to think of me what they will, and stick with our relationship or walk away. I’ve already marked some that seem to prefer me more fucked up. I can’t know for sure what their reasons are for that, but some appear to thrive on drama, some are chronic rescuers, others surround themselves with those they can control. And some, as i wrote about a short while ago, just aren’t that into me.

This relationship is primary, and significant. I’m laying down boundaries but i’ll never walk away. This is in both our best interests. It’s dicey now, but i know it’ll get better. For them, for me, for us. This trip is worth its ticket price.

Enjoy the rest of your week, if you can.

Love and Peace,
~H~



IMAGE: Mick Haupt

Red Carpet Ready

Yesterday was a fine day, full of creativity, functionality, and healthy interactions with others. I’m irritated and anxious today, and it’s hard not to feel like a failure because of it. Intellectually, i know it’s normal to have good days and not-so-good ones. Still, i’m stuck in Suckville this morning and i don’t want to be here. Blogging was on my schedule, so i shall endeavour to get 2 birds stoned at once.* Perhaps blogging will be my ticket out of this mood.

I’m still finding living a more normal life can quickly become overwhelming. I can go from 0 – 60 emotionally speaking, in about 2 seconds flat. It requires my conscious attention throughout the day.

Oh, what’s that, you’re pissed off, H? Why?
Can you do anything about what’s pissing you off?

Okay, i’ll start with this.

Yes, i’m pissed off. Someone isn’t operating according to my timetable, and i’m irritated. Another relationship i have seems like it’s fading, and i’m feeling alone and unsure. Unsettled.
I watched the morning news with my husband, and it amped me up, too.

Wait a sec…

I have that account backwards.
– It started with the news. I woke up this morning better rested than i have in weeks.

– I was a bit slow getting breakfast, because i was focused on how to finish something i’m writing. Then i kicked myself for being late getting my husband’s food. For being 15mins late.
And he kept calling me into the living room to exclaim over dumb stuff that people say and do. Those people i don’t know, doing stuff i can’t stop them from doing, irritated me further.

– After he left, i was getting ready to help an anxious person i know get something done in town. They were not getting ready. It was early, and they still had plenty of time, but i was annoyed anyway.

– I tried to do my hair in a cute style and failed. 3X. I don’t like how my hair looks right now.

– I’ve been away from the world for so long, and i’m so different. I have friends, but it all feels strange. I do different things with my time than i used to. I’m not always occupied with trying to hold myself together. I don’t party. I clean, i garden, i exercise, i write. I act differently. I’m not kissing up to everyone so they like (don’t hurt) me. I ask for more from people and i tolerate less. I’m better able to define what i’m looking for in a friendship: what i’m willing to give and what i expect in return.
I’m still afraid to lose what i have. Afraid i won’t get more of what i want. I’m lonely and unsatisfied.

Ah, there it is.

I’ve been hermitting for over a decade. I’ve rarely ventured out to do more than shopping. I have my online community and 1 or 2 “real life” friends. I’ve been grinding away at this brain of mine, and it’s been emotionally, mentally exhausting, and incredibly intense, deeply personal work. In early 2020, i felt ready to reenter the world. I intended to do it slowly and carefully, like a day pass from my self-imposed exile.
Well, everyone knows what happened in the spring of 2020.

I am now champing at the bit to get out here and test myself, but it turns out it’s not over yet.
I’m ready for the world, but it’s not ready for me.
And i’m realising that even when it is, it’s not going to be what i’d been imagining in the back of my mind.

No red carpet.
No fanfare.
No audible gasps and breathless requests for a picture.

You might be chuckling, and i am too, but only a little.
I know it’s silly, but i live with little kids in my brain. They wanted a Lifetime Achievement Award from somebody. They wanted to wear a designer dress and have their picture taken and attend a fancy party afterwards.
And dammit, they are me and i wanted that, too.

I am feeling myself move away from certain people, places, and things that were once a part of my day-to-day life, and that’s scary. The unknown is scary. New stuff is scary.

I’m feeling like a brand new person. I think i might be the person i’ve been trying to be my whole life, and *SIGH* no one’s really noticed. The changes i’ve made have been so slow in coming, so fucking gradual, that i’ve been robbed of my big reveal. There’s been no TA-DA!

It feels like i left it all on the stage in the first act, and as the lights come up i see there’s no one in the audience. Do i step up and perform Act Two for an empty theatre?

There you have it, readers. This is how i work. I do this kind of thing in my head most days.
I feel something, i notice i’m feeling it.
If i don’t like feeling it i’ll see if there’s something i can do to change the feeling.
Or maybe i can change how i feel about the feeling.

Today i did some digging and figured out my feeling was deeper and bigger than how it was manifesting. I’m struggling with friendships, and it’s hard, but it’s much more than that.

I am ready for better, more significant connections with other people. I am excited to show my new self off. I am looking for more acknowledgement than i’m getting.
So, is there anything i can do about it?

Of course there is!

The most important thing is to ask for what i want.
I’m as prepared as i can be not to get it. I believe the biggest reward for me, will be in the asking. That’s a risk, as rejection can be a huge trigger.

I’ve started looking at it this way, though:
I know how vital and liberating my NO is for me. I believe in everyone’s right to use it.
I also know that their reasons for it will be none of my business, and they won’t owe me an explanation. I can ask, but they aren’t obliged to give me one.
This might seem harsh, but it’s as liberating as NO is, for me.
It takes burdens from me that i shouldn’t be carrying.
My upbringing taught me that everything was my responsibility, and anything that went wrong was my fault. And that’s simply not true.

There are things about the way i’m feeling that i cannot change:
I’m still mostly isolating and socially distanced when i have to interact with people outside my bubble. I don’t know when that’s going to change.
If i shift my perspective the tiniest bit, it doesn’t have to be lonely and frustrating.
My gift is that i’ve been doing this longer than most, and it was my jam, man. I’m good at it, and i can easily do it for longer. Sure, i don’t want to, but i can, and i will.
Plus, this is an opportunity to continue to make changes, changes that will make the new me even more obvious! I’ll be a bigger sensation!
And if i don’t get noticed by the people i want to notice, to the degree that i want them to, well…

I’ll probably blog about that, too.
And i’ll get over it, and move on.

**********

After i blogged about this, i was able to enjoy helping my someone do the thing they needed to do. They were ready before i was, and i enjoyed the time we spent together.
And yes, my friendships are in flux, and it’s uncomfortable for me. I don’t know who will be left standing beside me. I don’t know who’ll walk away. Maybe me, maybe them, maybe both of us. Maybe we’ve already done so. When it comes to friendships, i know i catastrophise and sometimes i don’t see things clearly. There’s time to figure it out.
And i will.

This isn’t much of a post, and it might seem kind of weird. But it’s a glimpse into my process. I share it, not so that you do what i do, but so you see that i’ve found a way to do it that works for me. I hope what you take away is that if i can do it, maybe you can, too.

Love and Peace,
~H~
*Trailer Park Boys reference.



IMAGE: Gordon Cowie

I Once Was Lost

Nothing’s ever lost forever
It’s just hiding in the recess of your mind
And when you need it
It will come to you at night
~ *Amanda Palmer, Lost


Palmer speaks the truth, but she neglects to mention that it usually hits when what i need more than anything, is sleep. Heh. Which is okay at this point, because i’ve wrestled with insomnia for most of my life. Many of the things that have come to me while laying there trying not to give myself a rage-induced aneurysm have proved worth the loss of sleep – and then some.

Last night i felt it as strongly as i’ve ever felt it; this feeling of being on the edge of a brand new life. Like adding Kool-Aid to water, little granules of colour pop open and roll through the liquid like a cartoon wave. I’m on a precipice. I’m standing here, eyes fixed on the rising sun, and i intend to step off soon. I’m only barely afraid.

I’m not at the end; i am preparing to begin. I’ve been working my way towards this moment for the last 20yrs. I’ve been working on all of myself all this time. The mental, the emotional, the physical. I’ve tried this, and when it didn’t work well enough, for long enough or at all, i dropped it and tried that. I sift through the wreckage of my childhood and my many failures as an adult, gleaning what i may. I gather information and i pocket tools for future use.

I’ve invested time and effort, finding stores of strength and patience i was surprised i had in me. I’ve been dogged and steadfast. I’ve displayed courage at every turn. When i’ve fallen, i’ve turned my inner gaze to my husband and my children and picked myself up through sheer force of will. I’ve cut everything and everyone from my life that was an impediment to me being who i want to be, no matter how difficult or painful.

I no longer carry baggage that isn’t mine. If i stink, it’ll be my shit you smell, and i’ll look you in the eye and cop to it. I’ve done a forensic examination of my life, and i know where i overspent and threw good money after bad. I make sound investments now; in myself, in my husband and our marriage, in my children and their future. I might throw a little at a new investment on occasion, but if i don’t see dividends quick enough, i’ll cash out early and take the loss.

I keep grand pronouncements to a minimum. There was a time early on in my path to healing, where soapboxing was very important, but not so much now. I tell the people who need to know, and those who’ve demonstrated that they want to know and are worthy of knowing. Beyond that, i don’t often bother. There is a genuine humility that’s come from all this work. I respect how hard it is because i have direct, personal experience with it being so. It is the opposite of easy to meet one’s demons where they dwell; inside, in the dark. The most private of places, where it is only me and their shadows. It’s not for everyone. Not everyone wants to, and not everyone can.

I had to, because that is who i am and how i work.
I had to, in order to have the life that i want for myself.

This pandemic will hopefully be mostly over by the end of this year.
I intend to step off the edge and plummet into the unknown around the same time.
My parachute should hold.

No one’s ever lost forever
When they die they go away
But they will visit you occasionally
Do not be afraid
No one’s ever lost forever
They are caught inside your heart
If you garden them and water them
They make you what you are
*

I was lost but now i’m not.
They are dead or gone but they’re all still here.
With me, in my garden.
I planted them up to their necks in my fertile soil.
I breathed into them and they live.
I’m watching them blossom into beauty.
My love is the sun and my toil is rain.
I am the gate and the bench and the sky.
It’s all me and it’s all for me.
All praise is mine.
I bow, i genuflect, i sing mass to my own resurrection.
I worship the verdant lushness of my non-existent soul.



IMAGE: Nicolas Tissot

Keyboard Bash Sesh

So, is it depression, or am i at the tail end of a mania, or neither, or something else, or nothing at all?

Damned if i know. How about i bash away at the keyboard a bit and see what happens?

**********

I used to brag that i never got embarrassed, but now i know that wasn’t true. I did. I just compartmentalised it in some way, depending on how severe. I could pretend i didn’t feel it, sometimes, like most of us. But then if it was big, or if it occurred around certain people or under certain circumstances, i could dissociate. From a little pulling back, to sliding around watching but being unable to affect anything, to a full blown switch.
Yes, i felt embarrassment. I was poor, i was too big, i was clumsy, i was unkempt, and my mother was the fattest person anyone had ever seen, everywhere we went. A lot of the time i wasn’t merely embarrassed – i was mortified.

Being a multiple meant i could get much needed distance between myself, and a feeling that could actually cause tonic immobility in me. I think my reaction was that intense because, embarrassment and shame being word-sisters, my childhood shame was inextricably linked to fear due to sexual abuse. And embarrassment by definition involves a witness, which was something i was strictly admonished against:

Don’t reflect badly on us.
Don’t call attention to us.
Don’t get caught.

**********

I tend to avoid drama in my viewing choices. However, i sport a deep weakness for medical drama television. Also British detective shows, but that’s for another time, maybe. I’ve followed the same one since it was 3 seasons old. (I’m often late to a hit series party. What can i say? I’m recalcitrant.)
I’ve seen every episode of ER, Chicago Hope, House (2X through!), MASH, Night Shift (it was awful, i know), Saving Hope (Canadian ❤ ), St. Elsewhere, Doogie Howser, M.D., and not a few of Marcus Welby and Medical Center. And don’t even get me started on General Hospital.

Today, i’ve winnowed it down to one, and i feed on Grey’s Anatomy like a hummingbird feeds on sugar water. I love every angst drenched, overacted, pretty-faced, unbelievable scenarios/constant disasters/everyone-who-loves-Meredith-will-die-unless-they-move moment of it. But i put it down when the pandemic started, because real life was as much drama as i could handle. Now that i’m somewhat acclimated to our current reality, i thought i’d turn it back on.

In the first ep back (a 2hr special, of course), one character is trying to get over a terrible breakup by asking a friend for a, um, sexy favour. The friend says okay, and when they are kissing, i can see that they’re crying. They’re trying to kiss passionately but instead they are sobbing – directly into the other person’s mouth. And i’m watching it and laughing. I’m chortling along, fully enjoying the scene when suddenly…

Suddenly i’m crying along with them. I was minding my own damn business –or rather i was dutifully avoiding my own business by watching some mindless medical soap opera– when my own traitorous emotions used the little crack in the door afforded by my open laughter, to sneak in those wretched, consarned tear blobs and hitching sobs (Tear Blobs and the Hitching Sobs is the name of my new folk band.)

So, you know, that happened…

**********

I’m moving into myself, somehow. It’s like enough of the renos have been done that the place is quite livable now. It’s decorated according to my tastes, and mine alone, and it’s welcoming and it feels like home.

As i tend to my dailies and sundry, i’m settling into the place. I’m seeping into the rugs and the walls ooze their colour into my blood. I belong here. In fact, ONLY i belong here. This is my home. No one else may enter. No one else will EVER enter.

I’m unpacking old bits of me, little tchotchkes and bric-a-brac. I put them away and kept them hidden, lest someone break them or take them from me. These are MY walls and end tables and shelving, and this house is a motherfucking BASTION, okay? It looks more and more like me every day, but more than that – it feels like me.

The land i’ve parked it on is a safe space. It’s beautiful and vast and wild and free.
I know who i am and the ground underneath rolls out before me, wherever i go.
It no longer matters if the world is ready for this.

**********

Fear is falling away from me, or at least, how i react to being afraid.
There are still situations that trigger fight/flight/freeze/feign/fawn, but some of the most consistently problematic are losing their power. The bite has lost much of its sting.

I lost a couple of friends i’d had for more than 15yrs. Turned out they didn’t know me and i didn’t know them. It was surface, at best. It barely hurt and i didn’t obsess over what had happened. I know who i am and so i could let it go. And by cracky, i did. I laid it down and walked away.

I can’t fault them for an action i myself am about to take.

Once all this current insanity is over –and it will end– i will be renovating my surroundings, too. My house is shaping up fine, but my yard is in need of some serious work. I’ll be pulling up old perennials that no longer blossom, and designing my outdoors to better suit my tastes. Things will be growing wild and lush, and don’t expect that posh neighbourhood type perfection. Any manicuring i do will be when and where i want to, and subject to my whims. I may plant things that don’t grow well in my soil. They will no longer languish for seasons upon seasons – they will be summarily yanked, and the leavings composted. Richer soil makes for more robust living things, doncha know?

Okay, enough metaphor.
What i’m saying is, i will now be picking my own friends. I used to just go along with whoever wanted to be friends with me. I was the tumbleweed of friends. I was just so damn grateful that somebody wanted to be friends with me that i never asked myself if i wanted to be friends with them. I mean, it wasn’t a problem because, in my subconscious, i intended to be friends with everyone. That was the only way to ensure i didn’t get hurt again… Right? RIGHT?!

The first time i went full hermit, i realised that most of the friends i had i’d made while manic and partying my face off. Pulling away from them wasn’t that big a deal. Frankly, no one noticed unless they bumped into me at the grocery store (Oh, it’s been ages! Come out for drinks/Let’s do coffee!) and no one cared enough to call or text (or get at me for that beverage). And the fact that it barely troubled me, the person who went into a 2yr depression the last time i lost a close friend, was a sign that it was probably for the best.

I’m not looking for an echo chamber or a tribe. However, when the world opens back up, i will be hermitting less and socialising more. I’ll be hanging out in different places, and looking for more like-minded people. And i’ll be particularly interested in those who are smarter than i am and have some quality i want for myself. Someone who has something to teach me that i’m keen to learn. And always, always, with a mind to quality over quantity.

It’ll take time, and it’ll be harder than it was in the past. The truth is, as i’m discovering who i am underneath all the crap my childhood piled on top of me, that i’m not as easy to like as i once was. That person i presented as in the past was not a lie, nor disingenuous. It was a facade, to be sure. But it was all i knew. I saw danger and the potential for pain everywhere, and in everyone. I was a wall, an obstacle course of protections. And friendship with me only went so far, as so many former friends told me. There was a door no one could open.
To be fair, i couldn’t share who i was if i didn’t know.
And the door was locked from both sides, and i hadn’t yet found the key.

I’m looking forward to forging some new friendships.
I might even be a little excited about it.

**********

That’s all i have for now. I’m fairly sure i’m done with mania. It also seems unlikely that i’ve fallen into depression. My emotions are more stable. I’m making good choices. I’m standing up for myself with a few people that i need to, and they don’t like it, and i don’t care. Okay i care, but i’m not letting it keep me from asking for what i want/need, or setting appropriate boundaries and saying NO where and when it’s necessary. I like myself so much more, but i’m prepared for others to like me less.

This next chapter is gonna be a page turner, i think.
Frankly, i can hardly wait.

Wait’ll they get a load of me.
~ The Joker (Batman, 1989)


Love and Peace,
~H~

IMAGE: Kaitlyn Baker









Perspective

Last weekend, hubs and i were doing our once a week stocking up on essentials. When i saw him, my heart sank. Anxiety jumped on my chest and began twisted my guts with both hands. No mask. Little girl with him – no mask. He’s skimming closely behind other shoppers, laughing and speaking loudly. Rage knocks on my door and asks if i want to come out to play.

I can’t, i tell it, we’re social distancing, remember?
Ha.

As someone living with serious mental illness, i have an established, daily routine of checking in with my thoughts and emotions, in order to manage the way my brain works and maintain a decent level of functionality. The COVID pandemic, and its intense politicisation, has amped up my anxiety so high that, for a while there i was practically paralysed. Unable to take a step or even a breath due to the 800lb gorilla in the room. BUT, i’ve been working at the problem for months, addressing my thoughts and making small adjustments in the hopes of managing a little better, functioning at a higher level, and finding a way to help those around me.

This post is not going to be preachy. I don’t tell people how to think, or behave, or live. This blog is for sharing how i figure stuff out and create more of the life i want. I share for my own benefit, and out of care and concern for my fellow humans. I share so readers know that it can be done; this is not a guide to how.

The first thing i do is shift my perspective a little. Whether or not it’s true, i tell myself that he’s probably a decent enough guy, and he’s doing what he thinks is right. I remind myself that we’re all dealing with more stress than usual, and that it can be tough to figure out who’s correct and/or telling the truth – especially if you’re like me, and weren’t taught critical thinking skills. He’s got his adorable little daughter with him, nattering excitedly and flitting around his legs like a bird. A parking lot seagull with a french fry. I smile at the imagery, and my chest expands and my guts loosen. I head in to pick up groceries, almost breathing naturally.

But like i said – i don’t know him, and he might not be a decent person. He might, in fact, be an ass, but in this case it doesn’t matter. He’s leaving, so i don’t have to interact with him. I don’t have anyone along with me that might require a different response, like kids that know the girl from school, or someone with whom he’s friends. The way i choose to see him and his behaviour is for me, and is a reflection of who i am and want to be as a person. I want to be kind and good and helpful. That, and also to like myself and feel comfortable in my skin. I don’t like myself as much when i’m snide and sarcastic* and snarky. And even if i knew him personally to be a jerk, i would still be letting go of his actions, just in a different way. In any of the scenarios i can quickly play through in my mind, engaging him seems a losing battle, one that costs spoons i can’t spare. He might be a good person, and unless/until i know otherwise, the possibility is enough.

I’m a terrible arguer for one thing. I was raised with a mother who brooked no questions or even discussions around any issue she considered settled. She knew everything and was right about it all. She was my model for how to respond to others, and so i was a cantankerous contrarian outside the home. I argued hard and unfairly. I played a dirty game, full of straw men and ad hominems and gish gallops (yes, i’ve been learning about logical fallacies, and how i’ve been guilty of all of them). I didn’t know any different, but still, i was a shrill and strident know-it-all whenever i felt my beliefs were being questioned or threatened.

I’m not equipped or experienced in the art of fruitful discussions, especially those had amongst folks of differing beliefs who hold strong opinions. The older i get, the healthier and smarter, and i’m being convinced that changing people’s minds isn’t in my wheelhouse. I’m truly enjoying being quieter and keeping to myself. I like extending grace to others to be who they are. I like that people feel welcome and safe around me now, that they can relax and not fear judgment. I’m learning when and where to ask questions, and i’m seeing that the best and most helpful thing i can do for others right now is to be quietly and firmly myself. There are so many voices out there –more cacophony than choir– and it can be nigh impossible to separate out just one to give one’s attention.

In an age where studies indicate a fair number of people reflexively “double down” on what they think is true, and see outside viewpoints as a threat and those who hold them as worthy of derision, i see a niche for me with those who seek internal balance while building external bridges. I think that, in these small, quiet spaces, i might be able to help some. Maybe. Hopefully.

These days i prefer to listen quietly, or better yet, to read these chats/discussions/debates/arguments from the safety and solitude of my Little Crooked House. That way i’m relieved of my social anxieties and personality quirks and mental illness oddities, and i can just absorb it all and then mull it over at my leisure. (Which is immediately and obsessively, but hey, progress not perfection, eh? Heh.)

So yeah, that’s my post for today. It’s not much, but it’s something. A glimpse into how i handle something that we all deal with, and that’s perspective. How do i see the world, and is that how i want to see the world, and further, is that how the world IS? Are there ways that i can reasonably and safely shift my focus, my thoughts, my attitudes, that might lessen my mental/emotional load? I believe there are, and some of the things i’ve done seem to be working/helping. Here’s 1 small example with my typical meandering and wacky explanation. I’m trying to be entertaining and insightful while being true to who i know myself to be.

If i’m to get any blogging done, i’m going to have to relax into what i’m able to produce given my present set of circumstances, namely, that i’m in the worst fibro flareup i can remember in recent years. The pain is intense and constant and diffuse, which causes mental fog, the result of which is i’m having great difficulty remembering words, constructing sentences, and generally making any goddamn sense at all.

Bear with me.
Peace and Love,
~H~

* You’ll pry my sarcasm from my cold, dead hands. I used to be flat out caustic with my use of it, however, i’ve matured and developed discernment regarding when to use it and with whom.

IMAGE: Egor Myznik