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.

Message In A Bottle

The only thing i can speak with any authority on, is what it’s like to be me.
I don’t know how to save you, although i assure you that i wish i could.
Far more profound words have been spoken by far greater minds with far larger hearts, and yet it still hasn’t been enough to save some of us.

What i have for you, is knowing who i am, and where i came from and why i am this way and how i work and how i’m a better person than i should have been.
I don’t know why i’ve survived things that have felled other humans.
I have no religion, no god.
I’m barely educated.
I’m not special, or rather, no more special than anyone else.
All i know is that i’ve done it. I’m here. I survived horrific abuse.
Okay, maybe barely, by some standards.
There are more than a few ways in which i’m not terribly functional and not very grown up.
I haven’t accomplished much beyond surviving.

But the surviving part is not a small thing.

I found some friends online, who helped me set up a blog where i spilled some of my story, and i found the right therapist (after HOLY SHIT years!) and somehow it all helped me find my voice. Not just my writer’s voice, but my take-your-fucking-hands-off-me, and my get-the-fuck-outta-my-life voice. I write on this blog like i talk in real life, except i say things that i don’t chat about with just anybody. Heh.

My voice, here, on this blog, is all i have to give. And i feel very strongly that i must give it. Even if no one ever reads a word. (Oh wow, that’s dumb and kind of needy, because clearly some people are reading my words, but cut me some slack cuz i’m going through some shit right now, okay?)
My voice is for me (so there, heh), first and foremost. It clears my mind and helps me sort things out and helps me access feelings that i was never allowed to feel. Say things that, until i was free of my abusers, it never even occurred to me to say.

But if anyone ever does stumble across this place, someone hurting, someone drowning in despair, someone feeling utterly beaten, someone who feels like they have nothing left.
I do this too, for them.
If that is you, i’m doing this for you.

Not so that you can do what i did. As far as i’ve been able to suss, there is no formula. No religion, no god, no guru, no teacher, no parent, no spouse – no one has the answer for everyone. In fact, i have one bald assertion: and that is that no one has the formula but you.
I did it a bit this way, and a bit that way, and when something didn’t work, well, sometimes it was an outrageous failure that i paid for dearly, and sometimes i just shrugged and tried something else.

My point is (if there is one, here, late at night, with me unable to sleep because of pain and worry), that i’m fucking here. And if you don’t believe anything else i write, believe me when i tell you that that should not be. I’m not who i was created to be.
I am my own beautiful, broken, fucked up, ridiculous creation, and i am alive and I DID THAT.

I want people like me, who stumble across this histrionic mess, to find hope. Hope that maybe they can save their own lives and create themselves in an image that pleases them.

Maybe that’s you.
If it is, just know i want you to make it.
The fact that i’ve made it this far is all i have to offer you.
Maybe i can play a teeny tiny little part in helping you save yourself.
I would love that.

Try to hang in there.
I am. I will.

Love and Peace,
~H~

I’m Not A Bitch, Pt. IV

Warning: Contains some indirect references to integration, and refers to child rape and trafficking. This is a positive piece, but make sure you have good support in place.

**********

So, as i was saying… I’m not a bitch.

But i’ve been told i was one, and called one, ever since i can remember. My mother often exclaimed, “Oh, you little bitch!” when i failed to live up to her expectations, which were unrealistic, unreasonable, and very often unattainable, for my entire childhood. To give you an idea of how high they were, i could cook an entire roast beef dinner when i was 4yrs old.

One time when i was 6, i came home from school and realised i’d forgotten to thaw the liver i was supposed to be preparing for supper, and so i put it in the oven. I didn’t know the plastic container it was in would melt as well, so when the intense chemical smell hit me, i yanked open the oven door and tried to pull out the container, which was stuck to the rack, but managed to drip onto my wrist – a scar that’s visible today.
Her response when she got home from work was, “You stupid bitch!” plus the obligatory beating.

When i would ask for money to participate in a school activity, i was often called a selfish bitch. I only thought of myself, she’s needed new work clothes for years, all i care about is going to the stupid zoo/museum/farm/play, do i think money grows on trees?

And on the rare day when i completely lost my mind and dared to question or correct her, she’d slap or backhand me and call me some form of smartass/smart aleck/smart-mouth, attached to the ubiquitous “bitch”.

I learned that asking for anything, complaining about anything, and questioning anything were all bad and dangerous, but more than that –  they meant i was a bitch. Once i’d learned that lesson anyone could control my behaviour by indicating to me in some way that i was being a bitch. I let toxic people become close friends and allowed toxic family members to maintain contact with me. And i let them all have control over my life decisions and manipulate me into behaving the way they wanted.

Some told me i was the black sheep.
Some reminded me i was only half related to them.
Some pointed out i was only attached by marriage.
Some informed me i was a drama queen.
Some called me a liar.
Some said i was faking.
Some simply acted as if i didn’t exist.
Most treated me like i was the problem.

If you’ve read enough of my blog, you may well wonder how this fits with a self-professed “good girl”.
It is simply one of the gifts of being a multiple. I have many facets to my personality. Some, i’m now discovering, are intrinsically me. Some are aspects i took on in order to please and find relative safety. I have some parts of me that i created to be for me – parts that were on my side 100% of the time. These parts would occasionally come out and get me something that i wanted to have or be someone that i wished i could be, but could not.

They could tell people off. In fact, they could lay a verbal smackdown that left some folks practically punch drunk. They were capable of the silent treatment, a certain stubbornness that wouldn’t allow me to grovel or beg family for anything.  And they were able to keep the wrong kind of intimate relationships out of my life, almost entirely.
When the first person i seriously wanted to be with physically was a girl, they got her for me, in spite of all my religious upbringing, and my mother’s vicious homophobia.

It took them a while to gain power. I’m not sure when they were made/created/born, and if they were around when i was being regularly sexually abused, i’m not aware of it. However, once my mother stopped trafficking me, they grew in influence inside my brain.
They mouthed off to my mother, and stole food from her for us – and took the beating that always followed.
They told opportunistic boys No, when those creeps figured the fat girl would be only too happy to give them sex because i was getting a little attention.
When it was men, they got me the fuck outta there. And there were men.
Of course there were.

They built a wall of protection around me. Once the raping stopped, they began laying bricks. Occasionally someone would get through a hole in my defenses, and they’d brick it up right quick. They drew lines in the sand of me that no one could cross. No one. Kept my need for love and acceptance and understanding and compassion in check. Managed my levels. Made sure no one could sneak in and eat the fruit of the 1 little tree that had survived the violent plunder of my garden.

Pull out this brick, she needs some sun.
Shit, someone’s coming, put it back!
Shhh…

Then i met someone i wanted more than i’d ever wanted anyone — more than the girl all those years ago. I had relationships by pure accident. I wanted companionship, i occasionally wanted sex, but mostly i craved normalcy, and being in a relationship was what society and religion seemed to be telling me i needed to have in order to get that.
But no one ever got passed that brick wall. If the relationship fizzled or fell flat, i was fine in a day or 2, tops.
Then i found myself dating an excellent human, and i took down the bricks, crossed my own line to go over to him, and i pulled him close to me and haven’t let go for going on 24yrs. I found my person, my soft place to fall.
And i fell.

I’d been trying, before i met him. I tried my best sometimes, even. Like when a family member attempted rape, like when my mother died, like when my first son was born. But between not finding the right kind of help with the right person, and running from any hint of a DID diagnosis, i was just spinning my wheels. I couldn’t find any traction. I’d get exhausted and quit for a while, only trying again when crisis would hit.

When i fell in love with him and started building a life with him is when my work began in earnest, and although mental illness and the way my brain works has tripped me up hard here and there, i’ve never not picked myself up and gotten back at it as soon as i was able.
And as building a life with him created safe space around us, i set to rebuilding myself. As per my own specs.

I’ve put in a tremendous amount of work, i’ve suffered setbacks aplenty, and i’ve despaired at length. I’ve lost and/or eliminated a great many people. I’ve stripped myself down to the absolute barest of necessities: air, water, food, shelter, love. HIM. And at one point i was prepared to continue without him, if need be.*
Many times i’ve looked behind me and only seen wreckage, but ever so slowly, as i turned back, tightened my focus on the path directly in front of me and set my shoulder to the wheel, i found my perspective broadened. Each time i turned back i saw less of what i’ve lost and more how far i’ve come – what i’ve gained.

It was tough for me last year, when i thought i’d done all the therapy, and was so dang functional and fine, only to have my body pipe up and ask, then beg, then INSIST that there was more work to do, and it was deeper and more painful than that which came before. I panicked when i saw what i was looking at: to bring together my thoughts and my emotions, that have existed separate from each other since i was a baby.
To feel what i feel while knowing what i know. At the same time.

The last few months have been filled with terror. I lost sleep, i slid into fibro agony, my system worked up into a chaotic froth, bringing with it a constant headache, loosening my hard-won grip over who could be in the face and when – losing control, losing time, that old, internal imperative built into me to GO HOME. A place that no longer exists, and only held suffering and misery when it did. Between the hard switches and the drinking i was doing to cope, it was beginning to look like a stay in The Bin was in my very near future.

But the time and the work i’ve invested in myself and my quality of life have begun to pay off. Panic and terror are not fun to feel, but they don’t actually last for long. These are states of feeling that are intense, and they tend to burn brightly, but fizzle or at least fade relatively quickly. I know from my past that i can ride these feelings through, and they haven’t killed me. And they’ve had a chance to more times than i can count.
My therapist says that no one ever died from feeling their feelings, but they have from not feeling them. I don’t know if that’s true for everyone, but i can see it blazing bright in my own life. Feeling this stuff won’t kill me, i have that repeated experience to have at least a small amount of trust in. And if doing this chunk of work can bring me an even higher level of function and more opportunities for happiness, helpfulness, and success than i was enjoying back when everything went for shit last year (and my therapist –in whom i also have some not-insignificant trust in– assures me it will), then i’m not just in, honey i’m ALL in.

Now, finally, this is the part where i tie it all together.

Becoming a multiple is what i did to survive my childhood. My system has saved me countless times from losing my life or my mind. Dissociating from what was happening around me was the best i could do, but once the trauma had ended, it became more and more of an impediment to experiencing life on life’s terms, and inhibited me from building the life and the relationships i wanted. It all came to a head and burst when i fell in love and got married. I knew, both from intuition and from every single experience i had with him, that i could trust him, and he would support me as i fell completely apart and put myself back together again. And he did. He has. He will.

I’ve figured out how my brain works, and i’ve gotten to know everyone that lives in there, formed relationships with them that work, and helped them get along with each other. I’ve studied the people around me, the people who left me, the people i left and the ones i let go, and my relationships with them. I’m at peace with it all, and though my current circle is small, it’s tight and strong and healthy and there’s room for more if i so choose. My requirements for relationship are appropriate and well thought out, and i know what i bring to the table.

Clearing a spot for me to do this next-level therapy has not been easy. I had a home safety issue that i’d been avoiding, because i wasn’t getting the help that i’d repeatedly asked for to deal with the problem. I had to get that squared away. Then i had to simplify and streamline my day-to-day routine, because my energy was limited, and my current therapy needed to be my priority. And i also had to ask people in my circle for understanding, for patience, for help. I had to take a hard look at what others were asking of me, prioritise, and say No to people. Dearest loved ones, even. No, i can’t do that, and No, i won’t do that anymore, like ever. I put up some walls and drew some lines in the sand, and when they weren’t respected, i raised my voice and pumped my fists until i was heard. I require this, and that, and ohbtw, that must stop immediately.

I built this safe space for me to live and be and work. And if you’re not on board with that, either you go, or i will. Whatever. I’ll build another place to be safe. I’ve seen a light coming from somewhere just over this next peak, something bright and beautiful.
I think it’s me. Or maybe it’s a mirror.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with mirrors my entire life. I’ve always hated looking into them. I have to be careful not to look into my own eyes. I can glance quickly, but if it’s more than a second or 2, i dissociate. I pull back – retreat inside myself. I’m suddenly further away from the mirror. Quite a number of my Bits N’ Pieces love to look in the mirror, though. They’re curious. What do *I* look like? When i first began getting to know them and stopped fighting all the switching, some of them had a field day. Makeup, clothes, the mirror, and hundreds of selfies. As i’ve brokered a mostly peaceful coexistence with them, i’ve lost a lot of the fear and loathing i had for the mirror, but it can still be a trigger when i’m low or tired or already sliding around a bit.

Yes… I think it’s a mirror. I think i might meet the person i’m creating inside that mirror, and i’ll bet when i turn around i’ll see who i once was – all of them. I think the work i’m doing right now is a pretty huge fucking deal.

Something has happened over the last month and some, and i think it’s empowerment.

I’m moving into all the spaces inside my brain and my body – i’m filling myself up with ME. Sharing space with my system and moving into the cold and barren places, letting in the light. I am the light.

I’m not afraid.
I’m not afraid to piss anyone off.
I’m not afraid that someone i love won’t like who i’m becoming.
I’m not afraid that people won’t “get it”.
I’m not afraid to lose someone i love to this process.
I’m not afraid to be alone.

I’m not a bitch for focusing on myself.
I’m not a bitch for needing or even just wanting things, and i’m not being a bitch by asking for them, or going out and getting them myself.
I’m not a bitch for creating a safe space, and defending it against all who threaten it.
I’m not a bitch for demanding to be heard and respected in my own home.
I’m not a bitch for saying NO.
I’m not a bitch for calling out abusive behaviour.
I’m not a bitch for refusing to take anyone’s shit.
I’m not a bitch for not taking on other people’s burdens.
I’m not a bitch because i’m tall, and strong, and smart, and pretty, and funny, and wise… I’m not a bitch because i take up more room than someone wants me to, and i’m not a bitch if i intimidate the absolute fuck out of anyone.

This is my road.
Move or i’ll move you.

~H~
*Hey, every relationship goes through rough patches, if they stay together long enough. It shone a light on both our flaws and made us painfully aware of our personal baggage that we’d brought with us. But that’s a story for another time.

 

Still Not A Bitch

PART III

Lately i’ve been thinking on the reactions to this person that i’m becoming. I’ll tell you flat out and straight up that i’m incredibly self-focused. It’s not that i don’t care about others – i’m chock full of sympathy and fairly bleeding empathy. I believe that turning an intense and unflinching eye inward is how i not only saved my life, but made myself into a decent and functional human. My mother intended for me to be someone quite different than who i am today. To put it mildly, she wanted me as slave labour, as a receptacle for her rage, to worship her as a deity (you think i’m kidding… ) and as an ever-flowing fountain of unconditional love for her and her alone.

The best gift i got from her other than my life, was her early death. It might have been my only chance to escape her conscious and deliberate indoctrination of me. I’m not sure i would have had the insight, the will, or the strength to free myself from her iron grip. When she died, while i was immediately emancipated from serving her, i was still left with a personality and behaviours that had been designed to ally myself with selfish manipulators who mostly took and rarely gave. I was a slave without a master.

My system didn’t just save me from the horrors of my childhood, they kept me from bad relationships, and some potentially awful friendships. I still managed to make best friends with 2 of the kind of people i’ve described above, though. Not deadly like my mother, but toxic AF. They both did me the favour of ending our friendship, which i’m grateful for today. (More commentary on that later.) Some of my more developed and powerful parts would exert their influence in other areas. For instance, i avoided roommate situations, preferring to live alone. I could perform the sex act, although it was mostly other parts in control when it was happening – or i was heavily medicated with alcohol and/or other drugs.  What i couldn’t do was commit. I never thought about marriage or children. I became pregnant due to unsafe sex practises, and was engaged for a time because i was asked and i was very religious and thought it was expected. It was my system that made the decisions to keep the baby and ditch the dude (to be clear, he wasn’t the father).

When i accepted that i was bipolar and a multiple (years after these events), my level of function plummeted. I practically abandoned my children and nearly destroyed my marriage (a different, way more suitable dude). On the plus side my crap friends ditched me and i became estranged from what was left of my family. I had no one to pretend for, anymore. All that was left was my husband, my children, and a couple of excellent professional health care providers – one medical, and one therapeutic.

Everything inside me fell apart. Some fully sentient creatures (by the broadest definition), some feelings and memories that had developed their own personalities, and then all the other things that make up a person, like: my good qualities, my flaws, my skills, how i coped (besides being crazy), my hopes for the future (mostly for my loved ones, and for my relationships with them – i never really had much in the way of life goals or aspirations – too busy just surviving, i think).
Everything that made me who i was became detached and scattered about. I’ve spent the last dozen years or so trying to put myself back together. I’ve spent it trying to become the captain of this ship of fools. Learning to read the stars. Making repairs. Trying to fix the goddamned rudder.

I started out with a blueprint, but somewhere along the way i decided it wasn’t mine. I decided on a major overhaul. I decided i would be the architect and i would have precisely the ship i wanted.

I didn’t know enough about myself to know how to rebuild me, let alone how to REMAKE me, but i didn’t do this much work at this much cost for this much time not to have exactly what i want.

I started out with only the vaguest ideas, mostly based on not wanting to be in pain or stuck in chaos or hurting those i loved anymore. But somewhere along the way i discovered that there was more to life than that, and i wanted some of it. I discovered that i was a capable and talented architect. I discovered that i already had almost everything i needed to build the ship of my dreams. I discovered good and hopeful dreams inside me. And i discovered that i knew how to get, or at least could figure out how to get, anything i didn’t already have, in order to be shipshape.

Some of the changes i’ve made have upset those around me, and a lot of those people are now gone. Mostly it was their choice, and it happened before i realised what i was doing or how it was affecting them. And all the leaving hurt. Often, it hurt so much i would fall into a deep depression or act out in some way that caused chaos. But i kept doing the work, the remodeling and the cleaning up after, and now? It still stings a bit occasionally, but less and less all the time. Now i know i have choices, too.

Some of those toxic people have tried to contact me. Sick, passive-aggressive bullshit that’s so obvious to me now. And those parts of me that my mother built so carefully, those parts that think that people who love me abuse me because i’m bad and i deserve it? Those parts that think abuse IS love? I’m gathering them to me and showing them what love really is – by keeping the bad people away. By helping them form alliances and friendships with protectors in my system, including me.

Those sick and dangerous people who wove a false narrative. That told me not to tell the truth. That told me not to be angry or sad. That expected me to act like everything was okay and no one is bad (except me) and no one is hurting and everything is great because Jesus and the Cross. Those people that never, not one of them, not one, single time, said sorry to me for anything they did to me, ever.

My ship is a sailboat: small, sleek, mostly slow and just soaking up the sun, but fast as fuck when she wants to be.
Underneath, my ship is also a submarine, full of sailors who love the life, and we’re slowly building a yacht.
(This is almost more allegory than analogy, because the way they treated me is a moral issue.)

My mother made me a tugboat and she used me constantly, with no decent or regular maintenance. I was already in terrible disrepair when she died, but it didn’t stop the rest of ’em from having me haul their shit around. None of them believed there was an invisible submarine underneath. I’ll bet if they saw me, they’d still see an old tugboat, too.

Well, they won’t get more’n a glimpse, and no Ahoy! cuz i’ll trim the sails and hightail it outta there, lickety split. They can just stay on the shore, danglin’ their feet in putrid water and tellin’ each other how fine the day is.

If these parts don’t seem quite connected, stay tuned. Heh.

I’m Not A Bitch, Pt. II

Growing up with very few safe spaces contributed greatly to my hypervigilance, my distrust of others, my obsessive need to be liked and accepted, and my extreme emotional reaction to anything that looked remotely like rejection.

Once i left home i had a few roommate situations, which i eventually learned were not for me. I preferred being alone, and when my first son was less than 6mos old, i moved in to my first apartment on my own. I didn’t live with anyone else until i met the man i married, years later. Having my own place, my own space, helped change me in many positive ways. I began to relax a little, internally. I wasn’t so tense physically, i wasn’t so busy mentally, and i wasn’t as close to meltdown emotionally.

I had a place to decompress after a day of peopling. I had somewhere to escape when i felt overwhelmed. I could figure out how to be a grownup and a mother privately, without other pairs of eyes always on me, and to my mind, constantly judging me. I had a safe space where no one hurt me, no one blamed me, no one wiped their unwanted emotions off onto me or made me carry their past baggage. It allowed me to be more who i genuinely am, albeit still unconsciously.

I rarely had people over. It was me and my kid, and i loved it.

Associations with friends and family would be done in their homes, or parks, playgrounds, restaurants, malls, wherever – as long as it wasn’t my place. The only people besides my son that i regularly wanted in my space were my siblings.
I took the occasional lover, but they weren’t permitted to come around until my kid was asleep, and they had to leave before breakfast.

This home base allowed me to grow as a person. I made closer friendships, and began allowing others more access to where i lived. I still couldn’t figure out how to be in an intimate sexual relationship, although i tried. I ended up hurting a few young men, and eventually found myself pregnant again.
The recovery home that had helped me years before, offered me a nice, cheap apartment in a great neighbourhood that also housed other women who’d been through the program, but could still benefit from the financial and emotional support they offered. They also hooked me up with free counselling, and access to other programs to help me continue to try to deal with my childhood trauma, and to figure out how to be a decent single mom to 2 wee boys.

In this 4-plex, i made the most intimate friendships i’d ever had. We visited each other daily, and everybody was always welcome in everyone else’s apartment. It was a busy little commune, and it was the happiest i’d ever been in my life. It taught me that there were good, kind, SAFE people in the world who wouldn’t hurt me – who just wanted to be my friend and love me. We did practically everything together, and we were first on the scene when any one of us were struggling or in need.
Without them and their friendship, i’m not sure how much longer it would have taken me to be able to trust anyone enough to have a serious romantic relationship, if ever.

We all eventually moved out of our safe little “halfway house” – they got a place together, and i got a place which was soon filled with the man i’m over 20yrs married to today. They both approved of him, and i trusted their judgment even more than mine then, because the guy before was a hard lesson in why one shouldn’t date bad boys.

They’re both gone now, and i wish i’d had this insight sooner and been able to share it with them. My gratitude is boundless, and my grief, ever-deep. As we drifted away from each other (the reasons were quite serious then, but now seem so unimportant), we all fell apart, tired and winnowed huskless. Trying so hard to figure out who we were, what we had to offer, and move past the constant pain, sorrow, and dysfunction that had resulted from our childhood traumas.
I ache so to be the only one still here.
I’m swollen with the need to speak with them, to say Thank you! and to touch them, to hold them close and feel the heat of their skin, to clutch their hands in mine and to cry and laugh and talk too loud with them.

None of us knew how to be a good friend. We were all closed in on ourselves, curled tightly around our wounded cores. Trying to find love, acceptance, understanding, belonging… Somewhere. Anywhere. We all knew how our families expected us to behave, and we knew how we should act when we were out and about, around other people. However, it took a great deal from each of us to do so, and we all needed long lengths of solitude to rest and recover from each encounter with the world outside our slapdash treehouses.

We’d hibernate in our dark, chilly caves, padding ourselves with the protection of food and eating, the escape offered by reading and movies. We were the only people who could fairly easily enter each others’ sanctuaries, with the least amount of effort to engage, the most genuine kind of engagement, and the lowest level of fallout after our encounters. We tried to talk to each other about things that mattered, we sifted through old boxes of memories together, and even peaked into the occasional old attic trunk, whose lock had been bashed off by our ham-handed counsellors*.

We tried to relate to one another. We tried hard to be friends to each other. And none of us were particularly good at it, but we’d laugh at ourselves and keep trying. The stories i could tell of our adventures. Late night rescues from addictive behaviours. Hospital visits. Life skills classes and religious retreats. Police. Lousy boyfriends. Falling in love. Christmases and birthdays and cooking and cleaning each other’s homes when we got too low to do it by ourselves.
In each other’s spaces, we learned there were people who could come in and not take away from us. Someone who would add to us, and not deplete our resources. They brought warmth to my chill and pulled back the curtains on my dim, grey spaces, letting light in. The sun of their smiles. The safety of their understanding and respect when they didn’t touch me. The depth of their love when they delicately asked if they could…

It was all unconscious, then. I was so dissociated. I lacked the diagnosis, the knowledge i needed to knit it all together, a key insight that would finally be a flashlight into the dark places inside me, the places where other people hid.
Little people, big people, young, old, broken bits and fully fleshed out persons.

Perhaps it was finally having real and true friends who’d been through things i’d been through and were trying to “get over” them as i was, that helped me put that last piece of the puzzle in the right place.
I know they gave me my first taste of what it was like to not be alone.

I wasn’t the only fucked up person.
I wasn’t the only person who didn’t act “normal”.
I wasn’t the only one to feel weird, different, odd, other, strange, outside.

And i can see now that we probably unconsciously supported each other in creating a safe space around ourselves, as individuals, a place where no one could approach unless we wanted them to come closer.
And i can see now how wounded and broken we all still were; we didn’t have the right tools yet, and hadn’t all the information we’d require. So we still let in the wrong people – ones who crossed the line and then broke the circle – who penetrated our barriers and broke down our defenses.
And i can see now, them being overcome. By the past, by people, and finally, by life.

It’s breaking me, but it’s girding me, too.
I was so closed off from how deep my feelings were for them, because it was scary, dangerous, to feel so much. I see now, both absolute shit reasons and self-preservation reasons for my pulling away.
I could wax poetic about why they aren’t here now, but i’ve learned too much to do something so selfish and grandiose.
I don’t know why they aren’t here anymore and i am, still.
I do know that i wish they were, with all my heart.
I also feel a deep regret that things went the way they did, but i know i did my best, and i don’t in any way blame myself for their absence.
I believe now that they were the best friends i’ve ever had, until i met my husband.

There wasn’t much light in our lives when we found each other. I’m so grateful that they grabbed on to me and pulled me close, and then let me run away, and come close again. Over and over. Accepting me for who i was, letting whatever i could give be enough, and never being angry over what i could not.

I know now that they taught me so much that i needed to know in order to be where i am right now, today. They were there, helping me lay my foundation for friendship. They helped me know how, when i knew enough and was ready, to build strong walls around me, and what kind of door to put in, and that a good security system was necessary and smart and right… They taught me, with their lives, that it’s okay to be careful, vigilant even, to whom i give entry and to whom i do not.
I have a safe space today, and they’re part of my blueprint.

Their friendship, their personal struggles, and their lives are forged into my armour and their memory stands at my battlements, as i fight for my safe space today. And i am fighting and will always fight, against any and all comers.

I’ll fight to protect this, my safe space, my motherfucking castle. Most don’t even get across my moat, but i’ve found over the years that sometimes, even those i’d once welcomed in must be put out. I’ve pulled up the drawbridge on many, and you bet i’ve tossed some over the wall and pushed them from the turrets.

I’m the queen of my castle.

*We’d met each other through a home for women in crisis, run by the religious. Understand that, while i’m most grateful for all those religious women did for me, and they did a LOT (fed me, clothed me, taught me how to cook and keep a house, and address my past), they did it according to their religious beliefs, which included bible-based therapy. Also know that i cannot and would not speak for my friends with regards to the guidance and advice we received from them. I’m referring to myself specifically and only when i say it was just mildly helpful, and in some cases, although i have no doubt they loved me and wanted so much to help me, was actually quite harmful.

Homeostasis

ho·me·o·sta·sis
/ˌhōmēəˈstāsəs/
noun
  1. the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.

This has been a good year; my most functional to date. I stopped hermitting, made a couple of friends, and reconnected with some old ones. It’s the year that i added exercise to all my lifestyle changes regarding food and eating, and all the work finally started paying off with some significant weight loss. I took up some parttime work, and i began volunteering my time in a couple of areas that matter to me.
By the time summer rolled around, i’d hit my stride and was feeling successful, and also like it was just the beginning.

Fall brought a change in the weather, dead leaves picked up and strewn about by chill winds, sucking the warmth from the ground, bringing the kind of silence that fills your ears and echoes in the stillness.
It’s analogous to what was happening in my brain; old voices whispered into an unsettling quiet, invading the hush. I shushed but they persisted, until i was so full of sound my body couldn’t contain it and it spilled out of me like Shhhhhhhh, bleeding off the pressure like a tire with too much air.

Dreams, too many, then nightmares and sleeplessness, and then the old urge to run. To get away, to go home, and for the first time in a very long time, wondering if it might be better to just stop. I didn’t know why it had gotten quiet, but i did know that it had caused fear and panic inside me. I went looking for answers in the dark corners of myself, but i only found emptiness, a yawning blackness where something once had been. The voices following after, soughing through my head like wind through trees.

No sleep, no peace, the anxious murmurs, old bones rustling like ancient scrolls. I have trouble hearing my therapist over the susurration – she repeats everything once, twice. Again please. Sorry.
She doesn’t say “integration”, she says “homeostasis”.

My switching tics return.
I stop exercising because i keep trying to “go home”.
I pull away from people, from work, from helping.
I don’t fit in my body correctly.
I break my ankle.

Maybe it seems like my year started out good, got great, and then got fucked.
Kinda accurate.
Maybe it looks like i started out walking, broke into a run, then tripped on a stone in the road and went sprawling.
I mean, that does look like road rash.

All those years spent fighting the urge my parents programmed into me to go home. I think in resisting it i found true direction. My Fortress of Solitude. My true north.
Homeostasis. HOME.

This has been a good year.

**********

I have some resolutions. I have some little goals and some bigger ones. I intend to continue on as i have been, one foot in front of the other, pushing doggedly forward, adding one kilometre onto the next, putting distance between myself and the place i was told to go, and instead heading towards the place i want to be.

My resolutions this year are less nebulous, more distinct and definitive.
They are little things like building my wardrobe to better reflect my own personal style, and having exercise be an integral part of my personal hygiene, like showering and brushing my teeth.
They are bigger things too, like blogging and keeping in touch with family and friends. Deepening my relationships; letting worthy people in a bit more.
Returning to helping and growing its scope.
Getting my house shipshape, top to bottom. Declutter. Organise. Move Kiddo downstairs and finally turn his room into my makeup/change room, with a day bed and a light-up mirror.
Keep moving our home toward healthier eating.
Read more fiction, and maybe even write some?
Blog more than last year, maybe even through the tough bits this time?

It’s 5:37am on January 1st, and i was woken by a bad dream a couple of hours ago. I got up, got a cup of tea, recorded what i remembered of the dream, and then i brought up my blog and clicked that little rounded rectangle button that says WRITE, with a plus sign, and bashed out this wee thingy.

Not a bad start to the year.
Homeostasis right now looks like bed and hubby-shnuggles.

Love and Peace To You, and Happy New Year!
~H~

I Made This

Some of the “groups” you might say i belong to, fall into what some call “marginalised” territory: woman, queer, fat, mentally ill, neuroatypical, even atheist.
I can/should/will/do only speak for myself, and this is what i have to say:

The fewer fux i give what other people think about me, say about me, or what they call me – the more freedom and happiness i enjoy in my life.

I have actively stopped looking for other people’s understanding and approval.
If you want to understand me, and i determine it’s for a good reason, i will share how i think and feel about things with you.
But make no mistake – i am not seeking anyone’s approval for who i am ever again. You are free to think and feel however you’d like about that.
I don’t need you to find me attractive.
I don’t need you to “get” my sexuality or taste in partners.
I don’t need you to get me at all.
I don’t need your friendship.
I don’t need your stamp of approval.
I don’t need you to like me, or think i’m smart, or funny, or pretty, or cool.
I don’t need you to understand my emotional issues or the way my brain works.
I don’t owe you an explanation for why i am here in this moment, doing what i’m doing.
I don’t look to other people for validation anymore, because i learned that i’m the only one whose giving of it actually matters. Society can call me whatever it wants to.
My various and sundry peer groups can refer to me however they wish. They’re free to welcome me or put me out.
Even those i love can purposely, willfully misunderstand and misjudge me.
You work your agenda, because i know i’m working mine.
It doesn’t matter anymore, because the more i know, understand, accept, approve, love, and even LIKE myself, the more solid and sure i am in each moment.
Present.
Aware.
I’ve got my meat suit on and i can feel it.
I’m not watching life happen to me from a minimum safe distance.
I do not need the protection of the patriarchy.
I do not require the social connectivity of a matriarchy.
I don’t want a tribe, or a community, or a village, or a nation, or a group, or a club, if the cost is my individuality, my freedom to think and feel as i will.

I am building myself from the top down.
I do a lot of things backwards.
The hard way is just a way.

I am Narcissus; i saw my reflection and i fell in love.
But it didn’t kill me, it saved me.
I am Eliza Doolittle, and the professor can kiss my bloomin’ arse.
I killed Victor Frankenstein. I walked on ground, both blessed and cursed, and dug it ALL up. I called lightning down from the sky and i cried out to all the flesh and bones and dust, “TO ME!”

And now Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.