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

Uncomfortability


WARNING: Contains a light discussion of the controversial nature of DID and repressed memories.

Yes, it’s not really a word, but i Frankenstein the English language on the regular. It’s my style, man.

uncomfortable:
adj. Experiencing physical discomfort.
adj. Ill at ease; uneasy.
adj. Causing anxiety; disquieting.


Therefore in my world, “uncomfortability” is the ability to function while living and dealing with being uncomfortable. I’ve been doing this since at least first grade. I hadn’t had all that many healthy interactions with other children when i started attending school. No kindergarten for me, and i had 1 friend -a boy 1yr younger than i– who had the same babysitter. We saw each other every weekday and were very close. One of my mother’s friends socialised me with her nephews a couple of times a year, and i loved being with them. Other than that, any interaction with other children was either stilted*, or it was based on abuse.**

My mother prided herself on my precociousness in a group. Adults would compliment her on my etiquette and exemplary behaviour. I was raised by adult television shows and sitting quietly around her intellectual friends from university, so i had a level of sophistication that most children my age did not. I also had a maternal grandmother who was a schoolteacher, and she taught me to read and write fluently by the age of 4. My mother talked to me like i was an adult, and expected me to do a lot of the cooking and most of the cleaning, so yeah, precocious fits, i suppose. I’d describe me as not knowing how to be a child, and completely unequipped to be an adult.

No wonder my exchanges with other children were stilted. As soon as i started talking to them, i knew i was doing something wrong. I could sense in their reactions that i made them uncomfortable, sometimes i even freaked them right out. I learned to stand on the outskirts and watch. Various teachers would comment, both in my report cards, and back in the very early days when she could be arsed to attend p/t interviews, that i was alternately awkward and uninvolved, or too chatty and bossy. I desperately wanted to be liked and fit in somewhere, but i never quite did. I was usually able to find 1 or 2 mid-popularity level, nice kids, who would tolerate me without complaint. That constant sense of discomfort, and my intuitive feeling that i made my peers uncomfortable, contributed to the dissociative fog i went through school in, and my ability to weather feeling uncomfortable all. the. time.

All this backstory for me to say that i’m in the thick of it today. To find that i’d actually repressed a memory has me upset and extremely uncomfortable.

Guess what? A bit more backstory. Heh.

As i’ve stated, i fought the diagnosis of MPD/DID until my late 20s. I was raised to disbelieve it, and any of my dissociative behaviours that came out in front of my mother outside of when i was being actively abused, or putting on the kind of show she expected of me in front of others (which depended on who they were), was met with derision, anger, and violent physicality. I hid it from myself to keep me safe, and it was so ingrained in me that i couldn’t be around anyone who said they had it, or continue seeing any therapist or counsellor who even suggested it. It made my skin crawl; i was so uncomfortable around the topic i had to get away from whatever source it was coming from, and dissociate from the experience immediately.

Cue 3 events:
1) A multiple woman appearing on a daytime talk show that triggered me on such a deep level i couldn’t tear my eyes away from her interview. I went straight out and bought her book, devoured it in a day, and couldn’t stop thinking about it/her;

2) A counsellor (social worker) i was seeing through my church told me it was her belief that i was a multiple. I wouldn’t leave the office in her case because i was well-trained to obey church elders. She brought in a fellow member who was a psychologist, and she gently confirmed my counsellor’s diagnosis;

3) I was in a safe and loving relationship, so much so that all my issues were bubbling to the surface and i was having difficulty stuffing them back down.

In other words, i became vulnerable to the truth. Some of my walls had come down due to being in love, others because i was terrified of being in love, which in turn depleted my energy, leaving me without enough spoons to be a wife and a mother living with chronic pain and mental health issues, AND maintain all my defenses.

I knew they were correct, but my programming goes deep. There were parts of my system designed to hide this knowledge, and denydenydenyandgetTFaway if it ever came up. I was finally willing to explore the possibility, but it was hard to get around the roadblocks put up by my system, and my childhood brainwashing.***

For a couple of years, i told myself that i wasn’t multiple, that my brain just worked similarly.
Then i left religion, lost a bunch of weight, and was diagnosed bipolar. It was in a mania that my Bits N’ Pieces began making themselves known. When i finally found the lovely and talented Ms T over 12yrs ago, i had to deal with hard nope/cringe/skin-crawl crap all over again. In some ways it was harder, because my last counsellor’s recipe for health involved a lot of laying on of hands (which icked me out and traumatised me), and casting out my demons. Yeah, you read that right. She believed in MPD/DID, was a clinical social worker, and thought i was possessed.****
So yeah, more trauma and roadblocks to get over.

I found my way out of it all when i realised that some of my dreams were actually memories. It was like a golden ticket for me. I thought most multiples were faking it because that’s what was drilled into me (it’s not my business now), and some people’s claims have been scientifically debunked. I didn’t believe their stories (again, programming), either. Outlandish, i thought; way over the top. And there was the “Satanic Panic.” Plus, there were many jumping on the “False Memory Syndrome” bandwagon. I could see that some (i stress SOME) of what the nay side were saying was true, i.e. some people were either outright lying or had been manipulated (whether intentionally or unintentionally) by their mental health care professionals.

Realising i remembered everything, i just hadn’t made the connection that it was real – saved me from all that, in my own mind. I could skip it all. Everything was flowing and falling into place and so much of my life and my struggles and issues were finally making sense.
But i didn’t dream about my “Daddy’s” son molesting me. It popped right out of me when i began tapping away on the keyboard, and i can see how some of my dreams could be interpreted as having to do with it (of course the Dream #2 that i analysed), but i didn’t remember it. I didn’t have a dream of the events that was actually a memory.

Now i feel the distance that i’d tried so hard to put between myself and controversy, is closing in on me. I have been toppled from my mountaintop and hoisted by my own petard.
It’s a good thing, in the way that superiority, some arrogance, not a small amount of fear, and a dollop of pedantry were involved in how i overcame my aversion to dealing with my multiplicity. It’s good not to be a shitty person looking down on others. I can see that i dealt with the problem like my mother might have, using incorrect and immoral principles that she’d taught me.
I’m not sorry that i got called out by myself on my own crap. I welcome that kind of lesson in my life.
It’s been a long time since i judged another multiple. Many years. Not my business. Not my circus. Not my monkeys.

Starting this blog led to me being a bit more open in my real life dealings, about being a multiple. I mention being mentally ill most, then bipolar, and occasionally now, being diagnosed DID. My family and friends know, and i can joke about it or refer to it on my social media, and it’s what my blog is mostly about. That’s growth. The controversies surrounding the diagnosis and how memories work and if they can be repressed is an active and volatile one. Many professionals work actively to prevent it from being included in the next diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders.

This has me, someone who considers herself a skeptic, who embraces rational, critical thinking, in a bit of a pickle.

I’m also feeling extra anxiety and stress because, if i have 1 repressed memory, i may very well have others.

As i’ve been stewing over this since last week, i have come up with a couple of thoughts that help me cope:
– there are skeptics that fall on both sides of these issues, and many more who reserve judgment;
– it doesn’t matter if it really happened or not, there is still more than enough provable, long term traumas that i remembered all along, to warrant my splitting off and disconnecting;
– this is just me and how my brain works, and it doesn’t matter what anyone wants to call it – it’s real and what i live with every day;
– if i keep on working, one day i might get to the place where i function so normally that i barely even think about it any more – i will have achieved homeostasis.

To sum up this rambling post, i’m going to be grateful (in a way – silver linings and all that) for all that led to my uncomfortability. I know how to feel cringey and want to avoid and nope all of it – and do what’s in front of me to be done, regardless. So that’s what i’m gonna do. Like the blog says, this is life as me.

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

* My cousins on my mother’s side were all shy and seemed frightened of me – they were raised in a religion that taught them to be afraid of outsiders, and i can only imagine what their parents thought and said of my mother’s 2-babies-out-of-wedlock-and-STILL-not-married lifestyle.

** There were times other children were being abused alongside me.

*** I don’t use this word lightly. My mother amassed a great deal of knowledge about religion and psychology. She put it all into play to make me into what she wanted me to be: an unconscious multiple who was an adoring slave in her own version of the cult of personality. At times she starved me, imprisoned me (in my room or a closet or even under my bed, where i’d cry and beg to come out from under), threatened me with child detention facilities, forced me to stand for long periods of time, holding things and reciting bible verses, paragraphs from self-help books, or her own handwritten paragraphs (usually rants about how awful i was, and how lucky i was to have her). She even occasionally used love-bombing, although it wasn’t a crowd of people, it was only her.
I was, by definition, brainwashed.

**** I feel it’s important to say i bear her no ill will. She was a lovely person who cared deeply for me. We were both hurt by a sick church which we both left. I saw her years later and she still had some beliefs along supernatural lines (which i do not), but she was warm, and kind and still working hard to help others. I’m still very fond of her.

IMAGE: Bambi Corro

I Am Amazing

And isn’t it amazing?
Oh
Life can be amazing
Oh
I feel my heartbeat racing
I fly
Soaring ever higher I can light my inner fire
And then we’ll see what happens now, what happens now
~ Pink Zebra, Amazing

I’m hitting a good stride with living day-to-day. I don’t know how long it’ll last, but i’m trying not to think about that, as i know that can be all it takes to trip me up – fear and doubt lead quickly to obsession. I have many years of experience that tell me i will occasionally fall down a hole, or get lost in the weeds. Living with multiple-diagnosis, serious mental illness, makes it fairly likely, i think. I’m almost reconciled to it, and i’ve turned my attention to getting as skilled as i can at picking myself back up, learning what i can from the fall, and getting back to the business of being as functional and helpful of a human being as i’m able.

I’ve explained why i call myself Histrionica – in short, because i’m dramatic. My emotions have been hard for me to handle. In the past i felt them intensely when i felt them at all, and tended to discharge them in a hyperbolic (histrionic) fashion. Even though i’ve learned a lot and am moving away from that, i’m keeping the name. Part of my personality that i may have been born with, or might have developed out of my mutant imagination/multiplicity, is that i’m a hell of an actor. So it still fits, just in a slightly different, and much healthier way.

Now let me share why my last name is Butterfly. Sure, it’s obvious, but my therapist wants me to celebrate what makes me awesome, so i’m writing about it. One can easily equate my life with that of a caterpillar, wingless, but with many different sets of feet, all working together to get me where i needed to go. When i finally got there, i could at last rest, the worst was behind me (fingers crossed, let’s employ some optimism here), and so i built a dream room around me and went to sleep. I did so much work there, in my dreaming room, on my soft and safe bed. Transforming myself into what i should have been. A transmutation from sleep into wakefulness, from death to life.
Now, i am emerging and preparing to fly.
I wave my wings back and forth to help them dry, and i admire their intricate and unique beauty.

I say it often, but it will always bear repeating, for me if no one else: I am not who i was born to be. I was brought into this world to serve the needs and whims of my mother, and through my utter subservience to her, i should have become a thing easily used by anyone who wished after her complete ownership of me had passed.
And while it happened on a smaller scale here and there, mostly through my friendships with (some) other women, it didn’t happen with men, which was an unexpected and good thing.

While i identify as queer, i’ve mostly dated and had relationships with men. Perhaps my first relationship, which was deeply obsessive, incredibly immature, and painfully toxic –and with a woman– left me gun-shy towards women for anything but an occasional bed partner. And now, with a much more experienced and knowledgeable eye i can look back on my involvement in the LGBTQ community and see that all manner of presentations of genders and sexual identities were open to me. It doesn’t change anything on the outside, as i’m in a committed, monogamous, hetero relationship, but it does add something more to the mosaic of colours and patterns of these glorious wings of mine.

And despite the fact that my mother was the first to sexually abuse me, she was viciously homophobic. She knew i was with a woman when she died. At the time i was still very much under her control, so i was ashamed. Now, i know it must have twisted her up and filled her with angry hate, and i’m glad.

Another way i am not who i was raised to be is that i’ve mostly managed to avoid sexual entanglements with controlling people.
I should have been easy prey for such a one. I should have hooked up with another sociopath like my mother, who would have seen me as a possession, a vessel to hold their emotional garbage, a font ever-flowing with love and acceptance, a resource to be used up and emptied out until nothing remained. A few abusers tried, but i was either oblivious, or danced blithely away from their overtures.
Amazing that i did that, but i did.

Cue my choice in partner. My husband is not controlling, nor is he controllable, and to my shame, i have tried very hard to do so. Falling in love with him brought out all my fear-based and rejection-avoidant bad behaviours. He’s borne it all with patience, forgiveness, and more generosity and kindness than i have ever known. I knew i wanted him, but more than that, i was able to see that he was a quality human being. I gravitated toward good and kind, which is quite amazing – both being able to identify those characteristics, and in wanting them from the person i was in a relationship with.

Eventually, through the tumult and upheaval of our first decade of marriage, i found a therapist to whom i could actually speak. Actually my husband found her. I’d seen dozens of mental health professionals over the years and had almost given up finding someone who could help me. In desperation he called our local women’s shelter for advice, and they just happened to have a trauma informed therapist on staff who specialised in… multiples. I still chuckle every time i think of it.

And here comes the reeeeally awesome stuff.

I got down to work right away, and i’ve never stopped since i started working with her. It did take some time to establish trust and to build rapport, but once we had that foundation, i’ve tried everything she’s suggested (eventually, heh). I’ve turned an unflinching eye inward and looked at my past. I’ve picked it apart and i’ve poked at the wounds. I’ve felt absolute terror at the prospect, and yet i stopped lying and hiding, both from the truth of my abuse and from the way my brain works now as a result of it all. I tore down the altar that my mother’d built inside me for me to worship her, and i’ve burned that bitch in effigy, over and over, until all of her lies were ash inside me, and i spat them on her grave.

I’ve lost dear friendships to this work. Some i’ve let go of, and some have walked away. Some did so without a word, others had to hurt me before they left. I’ve cut off contact with all family, because they live in a world that i cannot and will not. I was either the scapegoat or the emotional dumping ground for them – usually both. Considering that my #1 job since birth was to absorb other people’s toxicity, the absolute priority being my mother’s, and then my Daddy’s, then my stepfather’s, then my siblings, then my extended family’s, this is an amazing accomplishment. More amazing still is that i no longer regret a single loss.

When my therapy moved from the initial big crisis, that being when my dissociative behaviours were completely out of my control, and we were able to move into much deeper stuff, i had more housecleaning to do. My manias and social anxiety had put my lifestyle in an unhealthy place. I was engaging in high risk activities with people whose lives revolved around these activities. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the concepts my dear Ms T was presenting to me in our sessions, nor could i turn my brain to the work. I was too frequently altered (that’s an unintentional DID joke, and i just snorted loudly, almost waking my husband, who’s sleeping beside me as i type), by any combination of drugs, alcohol, and social interactions.
So the next amazing thing i did was i left it all behind, and cut off almost all contact with the world outside my Little Crooked House. I let go of my addictive approval-seeking and need for validation. I set about learning how to get all the things that i so badly sought, from myself, and only myself.

Even when i thought i was done with therapy (i SO was not), i continued working on me. I had learned enough to know how to keep moving forward. Small, sustainable tweaks to my lifestyle, my relationships, and my thought patterns. Baby-stepping, with patience and forgiveness when i’d fall or fail – as i did regularly.
I learned how to live a functional life as a multiple – amazing.
I began losing weight and gaining fitness – amazing.
I was discovering what i wanted in life and was heading in that direction – amazing.
I found my voice to ask for what i wanted and state what i didn’t want from others –the ability to say No– amazing.

The next thing was venturing back out into the world to figure out who i wanted in it and who i didn’t. To test where i fit and felt good and where i didn’t or no longer wanted to. I socialised and participated in regular, day-to-day life stuffs, and as i bounced myself off the people and situations i encountered, extraneous chunks of personality that i’d carved into myself were chipped away. I began to see what was and wasn’t me. Amazing.

I felt a shifting inside my system, a reshuffling of the deck. I felt the gravity of what was happening and knew i needed to return to therapy. I didn’t dawdle or procrastinate – i sat my ass back down in a chair across from Ms T and started talking. And listening, and following her suggestions. More work, deeper work, more difficult and painful and constantly tiring than it had been before, but i waded into the fray and began resolutely baby-stepping my way through it. Amazing.

I’m still in it, still slogging through this particularly muddy trench, more psychically tired than i have ever been as an adult, but i remain true to myself, unswayed, unbowed, and less broken. I am gathering my shards and fragments to me and puzzling it all back together.
Gold fills the cracks.
I am Kintsugi.
I am not who i was intended to be.
I have fought my way out of a place where few who go are able to escape.
I am HistrionicaButterfly, and i am amazing.
I know that one day soon i’ll fly.

I believe that the gold to fill our cracks is inside us.
I believe there is light in the world to help us see it.
I believe there are tools in the world to help us mine it.

Times are scary and hard right now, but i’m hanging on. I keep company with those that are lights, and i use all the tools at my disposal. In spite of the chaos and uncertainty that surrounds me, i am baby-stepping still. And that includes doggedly pushing through this bit of therapy homework that Ms T calls “celebrating self”. She looks at me with proud, wet eyes and calls me “miraculous” and “superhero”. It doesn’t make my skin crawl half as much as it used to, and i believe there’ll come a day when it won’t at all.

Do what you can, and try to cut yourself a break for what you cannot.
Love and Peace in This Current Madness,
~H~

In My Cups

I’ve been avoiding writing about this for years. Over the last year or so though, i’ve mentioned it in a somewhat ancillary fashion. I think i’ve been testing the waters. If i’m going to share how my brain works and how i pursue the life i want, while juggling my particular set of issues, however, i would be remiss if i didn’t address it. It would be a lie by omission, and i do try to avoid those, here on my blog.

My addictive nature, and how that’s manifested in my life in general, and in my journey through mental illness and being neuroatypical particularly.

<insertdeepsighhere>

This will be a rough one for me.
I was raised to keep things hidden.
It was modeled for me that one doesn’t acknowledge one’s flaws, let alone talk about them. If one did, then various religions were the answer.

What i have learned though, is that people know anyway. Despite our best efforts, if we hang around with people for either long enough, or at the right moments – they’ll figure it out. (Not the biggest reason i became a hermit, but not a small one, either.) They may not know exactly what it is, but they’ll smell it on us. Something not quite right. Something’s gone off, and it’s rotting away inside.

For addiction, i have both nature and nurture. My mother ate her way up so high there was no scale at the time to weigh her. We’ve figured out ways in our current society to do so, but we’ve had to, because so many are afflicted with the problem. When my mom was super-morbidly obese, she was the fattest person anyone had ever seen in real life, everywhere we went. She’d always held food over me as a reward, and withheld it from me as punishment, and also due to neglect.

So i learned to comfort myself with food. I used it to numb out pain. It was a drug that filled me with a false and fleeting happiness. After a long and checkered history, i’ve learned enough about myself and nutrition to have found a way to handle my food issues.
Oh, but i have addictive behaviours, plural, and my relationship with food, eating, weight, and body image are well-documented in this blog already.

Food wasn’t the only thing that was used to control me as a child.
When you want her to like you, you start out with ice cream and candy.
When you want her to relax and lie still, you use alcohol and pills.

Abusers used pills, i was on pills to control my epilepsy, and when i was diagnosed with fibromyalgia as an adult, more pills. That was when i began using the non-prescription codeine to help me cope with the constant pain. By the time i was diagnosed bipolar, i was going through a 250 count bottle of the stuff in less than a week. At one point, i was on 6 different medications at the same time to try and regulate me, and oh, did i mention that i’d started drinking?

For years drinking wasn’t a problem. Then i had weight loss surgery, lost over 300lbs, and slammed into my first full blown mania. The weight loss got me lots of sexual attention and a job in the entertainment industry. More social interactions with me as the centre of everything than i’d had to deal with since my school and church years in plays and vocal performances. I was dealing with no impulse control and sexual and social anxiety through the roof. I didn’t want to eat because i was thin and i loved the way people were treating me… I worked mostly in bars, so i drank.

Between booze and the male gaze, my mania became so severe i lost my job. Mania didn’t just amp me up, either. Between it, the weight loss, and problematic drinking, my DID became a cyclone. And then came the years of psych wards, detox facilities, recovery centres, an actual mental hospital, and LOTS of religion.

As i’ve written before, none of it worked. Eventually, as my husband desperately searched for help for me, he found the therapist i’ve been working with ever since. I long ago laid down the pill-popping, but unfortunately, the drinking behaviours remain. Not the partying all the time kind of drinking, which is good. But when i fall down the rabbit hole – i drink. And there are many parts of my system who will naturally gravitate towards alcohol, because it’s familiar. It wasn’t just that it was a part of our regular life.
It’s that it helped, you see.

It’s easier to slide and switch around with alcohol. It greases the wheels, so to speak. And when, in that first real mania, my system decided to properly introduce themselves to me AND return to full duty, so too, did they return to alcohol. I could go without drinking for long periods of time, but then i would switch, and find myself drunk when i was back in the face. Or viciously hungover.

Sometimes in therapy, we touch on something and i know i’m going to drink over it. If i (specifically speaking) didn’t get some, i knew the issue was enough for me to switch, and then they’d just go get it anyway. There were times when someone or something would trigger me HARD, and i knew what was coming. Life would do what life does, and often become too much for me, and i’d fall down the rabbit hole. Crawling out always involves detoxing from a binge. I had to figure out a way to get, and maintain, some kind of control.

My therapist doesn’t really deal with addiction or bipolar stuffs, even. She focuses on my system, and helping me learn how to listen, address my issues, and build the kind of life i want. Problematic use of drugs, alcohol, food, sex, etc. is, let’s say rampant, with multiples. She deals with cause, rather than effects. When i first started seeing her, she would come to my house, because i couldn’t leave it. I’d have a mickey of something stuffed beside me on the couch, because i’d have needed a couple of nips to even be able to let her in the door, and i knew that after she left i’d have a couple more.

The more work i’ve done in therapy the better it’s gotten. I even stopped therapy for a few years because i thought i was done. When i found out i wasn’t, old behaviours began kicking in, like, i can’t control the face as well as i was, and this body work makes everyone want a drink.
Everyone.

I knew i had to figure out a new way to handle things during this time. I’m not going back to square 1. I know i won’t either, because my problem solving skills are rather fantastic. One of the first things i did is i stopped hiding the problem. My husband and my kids already knew, so be honest. Why have this undercurrent of tenseness for my boys, where i act like it’s not happening and they act like they don’t know that it is? Why make my husband complicit in the lie? These things aren’t healthy and they erode the trust and poison the relationships that i have with them, that i’ve worked so freaking hard to build.

Removing the hiddenness immediately calmed my impulsivity. My sons both accepted the behaviour and said it was okay. They understood, and both relayed to me that they’ve seen nothing but improvements in the way i’ve lived my life since my brain fell apart.

Hm. Maybe there’s something here for me to learn.

I told my BFF, and since the beginning of our friendship (it’s a couple of years old, now), she’s been nothing but supportive. I’ve never lied to her, and as our friendship’s grown and trust has built, i’ve let her in like i have never, ever let a friend in before. I can call her up and say, “I’m either gonna have a drink or 2, or i’m hittin’ the highway,” and she will come babysit me until my husband gets home.* I don’t bother hiding from her, because i know i don’t need to.

I’m seeing a pattern here…

I’m down the rabbit hole, right now. At first, i got drunk and stayed that way for a few days. The therapy i’m doing, plus this pandemic situation the world is in, summarily tossed me down there by the seat of my pants.
Down you go H, no choice.
But my kids kept loving me and telling me it was okay.
And my husband did things that he knows will maintain my connection to him.

Ah. I know where this is going.

So this time, my Angries didn’t come out and get belligerent. My highly sexualised parts didn’t come forward and demand more and more booze, until i was blacked out and became a parade of damaged Bits N’ Pieces that are very low functioning and can be quite troublesome (to put it mildly). In fact, i was able to slow down and even sober up for my therapy the other day. I’d been fine for a few days.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
~Tao Te Ching

I was ready when i first met my therapist. She taught me a great many things and then i left, thinking i had moved on. It was not so. I simply wasn’t ready for the next lesson. I humbly returned when i realised the truth, and i’ve been learning ever since. These lessons are more painful than the previous ones, and yet, tired as i am, i see myself listening more readily and learning faster. Now it’s more like, When the student is ready, the lesson will come.

Two weeks ago i connected to my therapist in a way i’ve never connected to another human being ever. I shared grief and pain with her, not with words, but with sounds of suffering that i’ve kept buried deep, deep down inside me, at my most broken place. And i let her hold me through it – something i have never allowed before, in the dozen or more years we’ve been working together to help me.

CONNECTION. A mother’s love in her arms around me, in her voice as she soothed me, in her tears as she cried for me.

I strongly suspect that the other day on the phone with her, i learned my most important lesson yet. I told her that shame is my driving emotion. The one that controls me at every step. Every thought, every action is somewhat shame-driven. She responded that shame isn’t bad; shame is just an emotion, a feeling. She said it’s the body’s response to the human need for connection to another human.
I believe i was ready for this lesson.

Yesterday, i was chatting with my husband after supper, and it just came up out of me. I said, “I think shame is the reason i drink – the reason we all drink.** I think what i really want is to be connected to myself, to be alive so that i can truly connect to another person. To you, to our children, to my friends… ”

I was ashamed to want connection, too. The messages that i internalised as a child were that i was filthy and disgusting and not worthy.
But all the work i’ve done has been slowly taking down this deadly razor-wire that my mother and my upbringing built around me.
It’s going to take more work, but i’m going to listen to what shame is trying to tell me, and i’m going to keep disarming the landmines around me. I will be fully alive and interactive with other human beings. I will be living.

As for the booze, i don’t know. It’s just a symptom, as destructive as it can be, and i live with multiplicity, which means i cannot (at least as of yet) always control what i’m going to do. And that’s okay, today. Sometimes i drink to cope. But it’s nothing at all like it was, and i believe with my whole heart, that it’s possible that someday it won’t be a problem at all. Today i’m neither hungover, nor am i drunk. Tomorrow may be something different.

But i’ll handle it.

I have no wise pronouncements to make on addictive behaviours. I have no solutions save the one i’m working out for myself. I won’t be bashing any of the other ways to handle such issues, because i don’t find it helpful or productive. This is me, and my way only. I share for my own continued healing and growth, but also to maybe give others hope that they can find their own way, too.

Just hang on. It’s the place where i started all this, and it’s where i return as often as needed.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*For those who are new to my blog, i run when i’m stressed or triggered. We live on a farm, and i’ll hit the highway and hitchhike into the city, where i am in immediate danger due to switching. I haven’t hitchhiked in a few years now, but i’ll still angry walk for many kilometres, in any weather, and have been in fairly desperate need of rescue a few times, just due to that.

**We means me and all my parts. My system.

The Path to Welcome

You can build a mansion but you just can’t live in
You’re the fastest runner but you’re not allowed to win
Some break the rules
And live to count the cost
The insecurity is the thing that won’t get lost
~ No One Is To Blame, Howard Jones

I want/need to talk about family, but i have to do it cautiously. As i’ve stated before, identifying certain people who are still living might seem like an invitation to share their thoughts and feelings. They might feel justified or even obligated to share their opinions about me, with me. I’m not interested and they are not welcome here, and so i tread with care.

They’re sick with secrets, tainted with criminals who’ve not been held to account. Their crimes have been covered up and excused by those around them, with not even an apology to those they’ve harmed, because their god forgives them.

It can take me a while to get there, but once i’m done, no one cuts dead weight like a dissociative. I still have deep love for some of them, but it’s not my job to reach/fix them. It’s my educated guess that they don’t think they need any anyway, and if they did, they certainly wouldn’t be coming to me. You see:
I asked for what i got.
I made a big deal out of nothing.
[The abusers] have been through a lot – what about them?
[Other victims] have gotten past it. Just let it go – get over it already!
Everyone knows i’m a liar.
I’m not even really related.

I thought i’d found acceptance there, and it did start out being an experience of family that i was desperately missing. It wasn’t long though, before the cracks started showing, and the sick bled through onto me. I was already up to my eyeballs in abuse, so i didn’t recognise it as bad, it was just the way things were. If i was looking for confirmation that my upbringing was normal (i was fully indoctrinated, so i wasn’t), the way this family worked confirmed it all.

My connection to this family is truly sick and twisted, as my mother played the long game with them when they were children. She reconnected with them years later, tapping into the power she’d wielded over them then to revictimise those of her choosing when they were almost and barely adults. She scooped one out of the nest and made babies with him.
She lost all her remaining friends when she did, and spent the rest of her years eating herself up to super-morbid obesity and cranking out children. Her mask had slipped and so she became mostly a shut-in. She sat down in front of the television around 1980, and rarely got up to do much of anything except beat us and get more food, until her death less than a decade later. The house was a pigsty, the children that came after me were skeletally thin, and she just kept getting fatter.

I tried my best to help the others, but i was ill-equipped and dealing with my own abuse. When i finally got out on my own, i didn’t give them much thought. I didn’t give anything much thought, as i didn’t know how to think. I didn’t know i was abused, and i didn’t understand that my siblings were still stuck there, living in trauma. I didn’t know that subconsciously, i was relieved to be away. I didn’t mark the lessening of stress and anxiety, i didn’t feel the softening in my guts, and i didn’t notice that i never went home or called or wrote.

Years later, when i’d awakened to the truth of how i was raised, i convicted myself of the crime of abandoning my siblings. I beat myself with guilt while drowning in shame. I tried to help but i still didn’t know how. I didn’t have enough information; i lacked the emotional connection necessary to reach them, and i think they did, too. We’d been raised with the divide-and-conquer mentality. We’d been taught to scapegoat. And they’d been filled with stories of my blacksheepness, probably from the moment i left home.

I had children and got married and began the agonising process of falling completely and utterly apart. We were all so broken and so much damage had been done. We all coped in our own ways with varying levels of success, but the scapegoating remained. My parents had always visited the harshest abuse upon the oldest child. When i left, it fell to the next. The trend continued after my mother’s death; as each one of us ran, the rage and the blame would be visited on the oldest of those who remained, until there was only one.

In my mind, things were going to be fine because my mother was dead, but they weren’t. And i tried to help, but providing food and shelter wasn’t enough. I was spiraling down, and i didn’t give much thought to them or what they needed. I often used them as babysitters and housekeepers, to my shame. I thought i was doing well because i wasn’t beating them, but i was still using them, as my mother had modeled so well for me. They were breaking down as well, filled with anger and pain and so many unmet needs.
Despite being more than a decade older, i wasn’t parent material. I could barely care for my own children, and my siblings were high needs.
As i became less and less functional, it became easier to scapegoat me – and they most certainly did.

Eventually, i gained enough insight, inner strength, and self-love to walk away. I did my best and it wasn’t enough, but it wasn’t for lack of caring or trying. I’d been a child then too, and there came a point where i had enough of being treated like just another parent who’d failed them. That point came when it was made clear to me that i was only a half-sister. Then i was told not to speak ill of my mother. My gears started cranking hard, and i brought it to my therapist.
As we picked over it all, i gleaned some shiny nuggets that i put in my pocket for later.
Like, i’d never been thanked for any of my efforts. Like, i only ever heard about the ways i’d done them wrong. Like, i wouldn’t be invited to certain family events.
One day i was taken aside and told my kids were awful people.
Shortly after that i learned that my husband and i were terrible parents.

So i decided to stop trying to win acceptance and approval. I stopped calling and inviting. We all did. There was never any big blow up, or serious discussion. No one threw down a gauntlet or made any grand pronouncement or even slammed a door on their way out. I was just done, and i guess they were, too. It’s sad, and it still hurts when i think about it, but the relief was immediate. The pressure release inside me was palpable. I will never not love them, but i won’t participate in my own scapegoating any longer. I won’t pretend everything’s fine and i won’t keep family secrets. I won’t be an emotional punching bag.

The line of responsibility is difficult to draw, so i don’t bother. I blame them and i don’t. They’re grownups but they were kids. It’s their business to deal with their shit or not, as they will. It’s not my job to fix them, or mend fences. It would be terribly unwise for me to expose my soft underbelly, because they will kick a dog when it’s down.
It’s prudent for me to love and want the best for them from over here.
It’s easier and safer.

I don’t know what kind of shit this may stir up, if any. They may never give me a second thought. I’ve been estranged from them for so long now that i’m completely out of touch. And i’m at peace with that.
What i know is that i must clear away the wreckage of my past, to make room for potentially better things. I must deal with the pain of my old family relationships, so that i might better show up for the family i’m building today.
I need to make space for more.
I’m clearing a path to my door, and laying out the welcome mat.

Hello, won’t you come in and sit a spell.
Tell me who you are and i’ll believe you.

No one, no one, no one ever is to blame
No one ever is to blame
No one ever is to blame

The Gift of Estrangement

Hello.

Sleep left me hanging around 3:30 this morning*, so here i am.
I did the few dishes left in the sink from last night while i brewed some freshly ground beans in my French press – because fancy! I thought i’d treat myself to peanut butter ice cream for breakfast, but i haven’t got the taste for it. It’s sitting beside me, melted, so i guess i’m tossing it when i get up next.

I’m so fucking tired. Like, all the time. Staying present takes so much focus and commitment, it takes all my energy. Even when i do nothing, i’m tired. I wish i could go back to bed, but i know how that’ll go, and my husband doesn’t get many opportunities to sleep in, so i won’t subject him to my frustrated restlessness.

I don’t speak about family that’s living. That’s because if i did, they might get the idea that they can contribute some thoughts or opinions, some counter arguments, to my own. I’m comfortably estranged from them, and have no desire to go and mend any fences or let go any bygones.
Today though.
Today, how do i not think of family?
Perhaps i wouldn’t if i still celebrated this infernal holiday, but i don’t. My day would be busy with celebratory activities, and i’d be too busy to think. Wonder. Ponder.
But as it stands, my children are grown, i’m an atheist and the conspicuous consumption and crass commercialism all turn me off. I don’t feel the need to tear down other people’s enjoyment and celebration, but this is my blog, so it seems okay to me to put it here.

This is the third year we haven’t decorated, exchanged presents, had a huge meal, watched holiday programming or listened to festive music. I’m more convinced each year that it was a wise and self-loving decision. It’s too much for me.
My expectations, my perceived expectations of others, the money spent, all the obligations, the places i must go, the people i must see, and i must bring tasty things. The heightened danger on the road because of the office party tipsies and the revelling chronic drunks, and no one is paying attention to their driving or the road because their minds are filled up with ALL THE THINGS. So many brittle smiles and everyone looks like they’re desperately in need of a decent night’s sleep.
And if i heard Santa Baby one more time i was gonna drop my packages on the department store floor and just start screaming…

I know it’s not that way for everyone.
It was that way for me.
My blog, my experiences, and my thoughts about them.
I’m happy for anyone who enjoys this season.
I enjoy it, too.
Now.

I’ve found that one of the most effective ways to limit, or better control my stress and anxiety levels, is to eliminate the things causing them to rise. Maybe as i get healthier and more functional, i can bring some things back. I Hallowe’ened with my BFF this year, for the first time in 5 or so years, and it went okay. Perhaps one day i’ll Christmas again. I leave room to grow and to change and to become capable of handling more if i want to. For now, i have this, and it suits me well.

I didn’t so much make a decision to cut my family out of my life as i decided i wasn’t going to work at it anymore. I was tired of being told what i could and couldn’t do. I was tired of the gossip and backstabbing. Most of all i was tired of all the fakery. Going to family gatherings and pretending that there weren’t sick and dangerous people there. People who’d done serious damage to me. People who’d gravely harmed me. Pretending i was one of them because i wanted so badly to belong to someone. To be claimed by someone. And then pretending i didn’t see and feel what was really happening behind the facades. It was clear i wasn’t one of them. I was merely a religious feather in their ridiculously large caps.
(For reference, watch Carlin’s bit on the religious and their hats.)

It took years to figure it all out, like it sometimes does for me. As i increased the distance i saw more and more clearly. I pulled away because i was beginning to listen to what my system was saying, and i was trying to pay attention to emotions and respond with something other than dissociation. I felt anxious and depressed and exhausted after family associations. I felt like i wasn’t good enough. I felt unloved. I felt hurt and lonely and left out.

So the pulling away was a direct response to the symptoms. It took some time before i started a full examination of my family situation. I sought the cause of my malaise.
I was right. I wasn’t one of them – never was.

I think when i was young it was different, because there was hope i could still be molded into someone more acceptable. However, as i grew into adulthood, i became too different. I strayed too far from the fold. Maybe i was too much like my mother? I don’t know. Beyond our looks and intelligence level, i don’t see that i have much in common with her. I can be scary when i’m pissed off, like her, but i never got pissed off at them. I was only ever scared of losing them – of not being accepted. I was terrified they’d reject me, as i was taught so well to be.

I’d be invited to big celebrations, like the holidays, or the head of the family’s birthday. If i wanted to get together for lunch or shopping or a cup of tea and some connection, i had to make the call. They seemed to enjoy those kinds of things like i did, i just wasn’t on their call list. I’d hear about all the casual get-togethers they’d enjoyed with each other at big holiday celebrations. I’d see pictures and hear funny stories that i wasn’t invited to be a part of. The chatter at the supper table let me know they were always in contact with each other.

Maybe i was a trophy? A sign of how well they lived their religion. Their holiday oblation.
Look how generous and forgiving and pious we are, to have this orphan, this urchin, this weird, loud, awkward woman in our midst. See how we treat her like family when she’s clearly not one of us.

Their smiles looked like grimaces.
Their children avoided me like i had a communicable disease.
But i bashed about these gatherings like a moth on a light bulb, completely unaware. Spastic AF. Trying so hard to be liked and loved, accepted and wanted. I think the truth is i was merely tolerated. I was their charity case. I was the pat on their back that reassured them that they’re good people. (Spoiler: They’re not.)

Just dodged a bullet. I was 2 deep and into my third example of how they’re not good people. That’s an invitation. They aren’t welcome here, and i have nothing to prove. I get to feel and think whatever i want about them, even if i’m wrong. And it’s not like i talk shit about them. I don’t talk about them much at all, except to my therapist or my husband if something comes up for me, like a bad memory or a nightmare.
They’re fake and sick and toxic to me. To me.
Anyone else’s opinion is their right to have and not my business. All i know for sure is that i felt noticeably better about myself and the world when i stopped associating with them, and that’s increased over time.
When i let go and stopped begging for love and chasing them for belonging, it was one of the quickest lessons i’ve learned. The relief was immediate, and the pain of separation, not that bad.

It was last year around this time when a family member sent me a gift. It was a card with the Footprints poem thingy on it, and instead of signing with the name that i’ve called them since i was 11, they signed it with their proper, “Christian” name.
Message received. It was passive-aggressive, hypocritical, petty, and mean-spirited.
I’m genuinely grateful, because it helped me stop looking back and wishing. It showed me who i was dealing with, and confirmed that i’d done the best thing for me.

I’ve spent today with my husband, one of my children, 2 doggos, 1 kitty cat, and my BFF.
It’s been calm and low-key and relaxing. We only listened to one holiday tune, and it was totally perverted. There has been laughter and junk food. I haven’t felt for one single second like i have to be anyone other than myself. I haven’t felt like i’m not enough or i’ve done anything wrong. (Except i burnt the breakfast sausages on one side, and i told my brain that no one would care – and no one did.) We played games, and drank coffee, tea, and ginger ale with cranberry juice in it, because again – FANCY! One son spent the day crafting and making jokes, one son went to work and made double time and a half, woohoo! There were naps, and i had time and space to write. There was music and chatter and hugs.

I think today i’ve written the final chapter on my association with a group of people that aren’t my people. They don’t need to like, love, agree with, or understand me. I never needed anything from them, and now i don’t want anything, either. Here today, i see that i’ve triumphed over not just one family’s lies, but two. All their threats and emotional blackmail, all their cozening ways – none of it stuck. One side of my family died, and it felt so good, a part of me wondered if it wouldn’t feel just as good to be rid of the other side.

It did.
It does.

If you’re reading this and you have tumultuous, painful, difficult relationships with your family, i’m truly sorry for you. What i’ve written here is for me and about me. If you’ve made the decision to suck it up and remain connected to them, i don’t condemn you. I don’t think you’re weak or dumb. I support you in your process, in doing what you think best. Your journey is yours. I hope you have safe people that you can talk to about it; people that you trust who will tell you the truth and support you while you try to navigate the minefield of familial relationships.

The best thing for me was to let go and walk away.
I don’t know what the best thing is for you. If you’ve gotta slap a smile on your face and act like you’re enjoying yourself, then maybe you could do something you enjoy with someone you love after. You know, to wash the stink off you and recharge your batteries.
Hear me though, when i say that there’s no shame in trying something else when what you’re currently doing isn’t working.

All i did initially was to take some time away, because i couldn’t think straight when i was around them. So many of my actions and responses were pure reflex. I’d act instinctually. I found quiet and safety away, and once there, i felt so much better that i never wanted to go back. They don’t miss me and i don’t miss them.
Your mileage may vary.
Do what you want, do what you will.
But if i’m any indication, there aren’t as many MUSTs as we’ve been raised and trained to think there are.
I’m not lonely and i’m not dead.
In fact, i’m quite happy sometimes, and if i keep dropping deadweight like this, i think there’s at least an outside chance i might fly.

Enjoy Your Holiday If You Can,
~H~
*Yesterday, Christmas morning.