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.

50.

I don’t know how many people actually feel 50yrs old when they get there, but i’m gonna guess a lot do not. Count me amongst their lot. I only barely feel grown up, and even that, not completely. The nature of the way my brain works makes my experience of any age a nebulous thing. I can feel many ages, occasionally at the same time.

Today i should feel awesome, i guess. I don’t.
I’m looking at my life, and i’m in mourning.
I’ve been looking at the positive and ignoring the negative, because really, what’s done is done and now let’s get on with it… Y’know?

Later on today i’m going to be surrounded by the people in the world that matter to me more than anyone. More than myself. That will be good and i’ll be happy.
But right now i feel sad and heavy.
It’s the wreckage.
There’s so much loss in my wake.
It’s the people.
I’ve had to find ways to let them go. To make it okay so that i could move on. So i could get better. I’ve had to examine why i had certain people in my life and let go of the ones that were dragging me down. I’ve taken an unflinching look at the ones who’ve left me, and asked the hard questions about why.

The truth is i didn’t want to let go of any of them, and even more so, i didn’t want any of them to let go of me.
My mother and father had me for purely selfish purposes. They didn’t really want me.
I’ve felt unwanted or rejected or tolerated or graciously accepted for my entire life. Fear of rejection is my core issue.
When my mother’s reasons for having me didn’t work out, she kept me around because she had no one else. It wasn’t because i was her daughter, or because i was an awesome person, it was because i was there and utterly dependent on her and therefore her best option. I think my father probably let me go because he had a number of better options. Options that didn’t involve a lifetime of forced association with my mother.

I was the ugly stepchild after that. Mom added to her number, but i was never one of them. A great many of them made sure that i knew that. They were being charitable in accordance with their beliefs, the idea being that i clearly required charity. I have one family member in my life, but she’s good to everyone.
The kids that were nice to me at school were nice to me because their parents had taught them to be nice to the kids that needed other kids to be nice to them. None of them are my friends now, because they don’t have to be. I have one friend from my school years, and she was my teacher.
Then there are the friends that i made along the way. I’ve lost them all save one that i purposely left behind, and i question that decision almost daily now. I no longer have any of my friends from the past, save one, maybe two. I’m afraid to get too close to them, because i’m afraid that i’ll scare them away again.
Finally, there are the friends i’ve made in the last 10yrs. Since i’ve been here in my Little Crooked House. I’ve pulled away from all of them and no one really noticed. Or minded.

The only friendships i’ve been able to maintain over the last 10+yrs are online. They’re good people. They’ve been kind and supportive. But it’s ONLINE. It’s not intimate. It’s not real life interaction. I think a great number of them would stick with me IRL, but it’s not currently an option, and if it was, i fear it would be because they are who they are, and nothing to do with me being the kind of person that inspires long term friendship.

So…
I guess what i’m saying is i’m sad and alone and feeling sorry for myself and not a little scared.
Based on results, i must continue to consider that i am the common denominator in all of my lost relationships.
More than that though, i need to acknowledge and deal with the fact that every single loss has hurt me a great deal. There has been no friendship that has ended that hasn’t hurt me, that i don’t occasionally obsess over, that i have not grieved, and will continue to grieve.

I wasn’t supposed to make it to 50, but i did. That’s good.
I wasn’t supposed to be the person that i am, and i think that is also good.

But here i sit, in my Little Crooked House, and all i have are my husband and my children and my children’s families and my dogs. And while these are super-wonderful-off-the-charts-excellently-beautiful… It is ALL that i have. And as much as it hurts, i must consider that i’m the reason why. I mean, of course i’m the reason why, but i’m referring to the deep down scary level where the question is,
“Am i a shitty person and a shitty friend?”

I have tried to live with the answer being THEY were shitty, i had shitty taste in people, it’s normal for people to come and go in your life, blahblahblah…

I am very committed to the path that i’m on, and i want to know the truth about everything -especially myself- and so if that means i’ve been a shitty human then that’s what it means. If i am, i can change that. I will change that. I hope i have been, already.

Huzzah. 50.

Like Swimming

HELLO, GOOD AFTERNOON, AND WELCOME TO THE MONTH BEFORE MY BIRTHDAY!

If you read that like Terry Gilliam stepping out of a Zulu suit in The Meaning of Life, then you’re reading it how it was written.

In one month i’ll be fifty.
I’LL BE 50 YEARS OLD! (That one was Sally O’ Malley.)
Pardon me folks, but holy shit.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not ageist. It’s not that i’ll be old, or too old, or washed up, or a failure. None of that applies.
Number one is that i never thought i’d make it. My whole life i have assumed i would die young. At this point 50 doesn’t seem that old anymore, but when i was 4yrs old, staring at myself in the mirror with a bottle of poison in my hand and contemplating suicide for the first of countless times, 50 was inconceivable.

There are other factors of course. The regular ones that most of us go through. I have regrets, and i wish i had accomplished more. Both of these things, oh, so very much. I try not to trouble myself with these thoughts overly, because what i have gathered from most of those who’ve been here before me is, honey, it’s de rigeur. As Socrates is said to have uttered, if “the unexamined life is not worth living,” then my life is chock full of value. Heh.

I’ve been feeling like i’m being slowly pulled down under. Like i’ve been fighting the current for too long, and i’m close to exhaustion. It’s largely due to the personal issue to which i’ve alluded a number of times, but some of it is because of something else i’ve devoted much of this blogging process to, and that is my certainty that i am at a pivotal place in my personal growth. I’ve done a tremendous amount of work over the years, but it has all been tearing down the old and laying the foundation for the new. Now it’s time to build. The junk’s been cleared out and the old structure razed. The basement’s poured and the framework is done. The rest is all sweat equity, and this house ain’t gonna build itself.

I’ve shared how i started with teeny tiny little baby steps. I’d take a wee and wobbly stumble forward, and immediately rest, congratulate myself, and do it again. The rest in between stumbles was not insubstantial, either. I mean, i rested. Starting with weeks. It was a long time before it was even days. It’s only been this last year that it’s become hours. Today, one month before i turn fiftyholyshityearsold, i don’t even need any time at all between some of those steps. I regularly do some of them one-right-after-the-damn-other.

Lookit me. I’m swimming. I’m stepping. I’m building.

This morning i felt the same terrible drag on my thoughts, my feelings, and my body that i’ve felt for a couple of weeks now. I thought, I’m fighting another depression. Well hell, that sucks a dirty penny, but hey, i’m just gonna keep fighting. I’ll just keep schleppin’ along, doin’ what i been doin’, and it’ll be all right.

It hasn’t been all right though, and it’s been troubling my mind and disturbing my sleep and stirring up my Peanut Gallery and i haven’t been able to write a goddamned word.
So like i said, i felt it again this morning, like more than a dozen other mornings in a freaking row, and so i went back to bed at around 10 or so.
I had the troubled dreams i’ve been having for the same amount of time, and i woke at 12 feeling worse. Worse.
Naps usually make me feel better. They are one of the things i can do between stumble-steps if i need to rest. I rarely nap anymore, though. Usually my rest/reward involves playing on the computer or watching something on telly. Naps are specially reserved for those times when i really need it.
But it didn’t bloody work.
I dragged my more-depressed ass out of bed and forced myself to shower like i haven’t had to force myself to shower in a long time. Which made me feel worse. And anxious.
Great, now i’m anxious too. Wonderful.
I shouldn’t have had leftover cheesy noodles for breakfast. Too many calories and heavy carbs. Ohai Inner Critic. I was definitely needing some self-hatred to add to this toxic brain-milieu, so thanks, ever so.

I’m still in the shower at this point, but already the doing of something positive, that is hard to do, starts having an effect. Rather than just thinking, i become aware of the fact that i am thinking, and i am, quite suddenly, keenly conscious of precisely what i am thinking. I practise a bit of mindfullness: i bring my awareness to the water spraying my skin, my hand with loofah, exfoliating, the scent of my bodywash, my fingers massaging my scalp, brushing the conditioner through. I watch everything wash down the drain and imagine that it is not just dirt and skin cells and soap, but also the psychic weight of all the negativity i’m carrying is sluicing away from me as well.

I’m standing in front of the mirror and i look at myself and what i’m doing. I’m towelling off, i’m moisturising my skin, i’m doing my morning toilette and i treat my skin to a deep-pore extraction and my hair to some keratin creme. I’ve been practising looking at my body -really looking- while i do this, and so i find myself doing so out of habit.
But today… Today that work bears fruit. My body bears the scars of a childhood full of beatings and sexual abuse, and the resultant war of self-hatred that i waged against it for the majority of my life. Years of morbid obesity have not been kind, and now that i’ve lost most of the weight, my skin looks as empty and hollow as i might look on the inside if it were possible to see after all the psychological fat i’ve shed.

But i look, and today i see. And today i don’t hate it. Today as i was standing there and really seeing my body i thought i looked okay. I accepted what i was looking at in a reasonable and rational way, and i was kind to myself. It was not a you’re-a-beautiful-fucking-goddess moment. That’s not who i am, nor who i want to be. I saw myself as nakedly as i’ve ever seen myself and it was more than okay. It was fine. 
And it was then that my brain asploded with a lovely epiphany.
I don’t seek them and i don’t need them, but they sure are nice to have, sometimes.

I know what’s going on and i know what i need to do. It’s a lot and i’m scared AF, but i’ll even tell you.
I need to do MORE than i’ve been doing. It’s okay that i haven’t been doing enough because i didn’t know that i wasn’t. I’ve been progressing along the road to mature functionality admirably well, all things considered.
But now my brain is telling me to do more, and i didn’t understand, and so my feelings tried to help by telling me something was wrong. This is how it’s supposed to work.
I have been working the way healthy people generally work.

I need to start acting just a bit more like regular folks though.
So i won’t be going back to bed after i’m already up for at least the next month.
Weekdays i’ll be getting up at 5:30 like usual, and i’ll be going to bed at 10:30, which i try for, but it’s a bit spotty (maybe because i can go back to bed?)
And i’ll be blogging too – Monday to firetrucking Friday. (I know i cussed a fair bit for this post, so i’m trying not to overdo. Heh.)

I don’t know how terribly concise this post was, but welcome to how my brain works. This is who i am and this is all i have to offer. If you’re still here i thank you, and maybe i’ll see you tomorrow.

Be as well and as happy today as you are able. I’ll do the same.

It’s a lot like swimming first time over your head
It gets easier when you move your arms and legs
And for air you lift your head, why don’t we try right now
Yes right now
Yes right now
Well
~Like Swimming, Morphine

Love and Peace,

~H~

Traction

So, it’s clear to me that i’m gonna need to force this one out. Meh, it’s okay. Sometimes i’ve gotta drag out the first bits before it begins to flow. Sometimes the whole thing is pure straining effort, but not as often anymore.
(Did that sound like i’m constipated to you? Because i just read it and snarfled.)

The words aren’t so much stuck as i am maybe holding them back. I’m afraid to tell you this next bit. Not because it’s painful, or embarrassing, or ugly, or anything else like that. It’s because it’s good, and i’m afraid of good.

I’m afraid it’s a fluke.
I’m afraid i don’t deserve it.
I’m afraid someone will come and take it away from me.
I’m afraid it’s not real.
I’m afraid it won’t last, that something terrible will surely follow.

I’m certain i’m not the only one who struggles with good news. I was the receptacle for all my parents’ negativity. I was raised believing i was a bad seed, that i provoked the hatred and the rage and the disgust that spewed out at me. As a result i felt less than everyone around me. The teachers, preachers, caregivers, and of course, my fellow students, mostly confirmed for me that i was low and wretched, unworthy of the good things in life.

And yes, i was one of those people who would sabotage the good things. That is, if my mother didn’t do it first, so full of envy and jealousy, she was. I was approached a number of times to do commercials when i was a little girl – NO. Twice, my teachers suggested skipping me a grade – NO. Good families offered to take me in and raise me as their own – NO. By the time i left home i felt destined for a hardscrabble life. Looking back now, i see a dozen missed opportunities for really good things. At the time they were offered i didn’t even see them.

Things began to change once i started dealing with my problems, and the childhood abuse from which it all seemed to stem. I could see how badly i’d been hurt, how much wrong had been done me – having children of my own made it glaringly obvious how awful my mother had been. Although i wrestled with corporal punishment due to my continued affiliation with my religion, and when Bipolar Disorder got its teeth into me i was shamefully neglectful, but the sexual abuse, the terrible beatings, the constant manipulation of my thoughts and feelings – that was anathema to me.

Slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, i began to allow myself to want good things, and to think that maybe i even deserved them. Even typing that causes a reaction though. Still. It’s hard, but it is easier than it was, and i expect it to get better and better, as i continue to do the work that’s in front of me. I’m learning more about who i am and what i think, healing this skin suit i was born with and finally growing into it so it fits. It’s what i came into this life wearing, and it’s served me well. It’s held together despite some serious wear and tear. I’ve spent years now, stitching it up, patching the holes, mending burst seams and tacking up all the fallen hems. I’ve scrounged fabric from wherever i could get it, at first taking the stuff in the bargain bins, but working my way towards the fine and fancy bolts of cloth that are always displayed in the window. And why shouldn’t i have them? I can afford it now.

This skin suit i wear is now rather natty. I’m haute couture, y’all. I was ready to strut my stuff. Or march, as it were. And when i marched a couple of weeks ago, i felt like i belonged.
Well, maybe that’s not quite it. I still feel apart – different. I’m open to connecting with humans outside of my husband and children (and my treasured online friends), but i don’t quite have the knack of it yet. It’ll take more work and a lot of practise, i think, but that doesn’t trouble me anymore.
What i felt was that i had a right to be there. I know that that is a powerful, perhaps even crucial step in my development, and i can’t quite quantify why or how yet, but i will. I had a right to be there.

I HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE HERE.

After the march ended, my companion asked if i would go with her to the grand opening of a new refugee centre in our city. I said yes. And just like when i knew i was going to march, i knew i was going to offer to help if they would have me. And just like that i started volunteering.
The week following i was filled with this kind of simmering excitement, like i am bubbling to the surface. I’m ready to start being the person that i want to be, the person that i am, the person that i’ve always been. I acknowledged the wreckage and i cleaned up the mess, looking at every broken bit and deciding what could be fixed and what needed to be tossed. I arranged things to please myself, i brought order and functionality and let in the air and the light and made everything fresh, and i am good. to. go. Whether it’s strutting around town in my spiffy new suit (okay vintage, but revamped – like Molly Ringwald’s prom dress in Pretty in Pink), or inviting someone into my newly reno’ed home. I’m ready.

I do this blog for myself and my Peanut Gallery, #1, but a very close second is everyone out there who can relate to my experiences and struggles to be happy and functional. If i can encourage anyone to keep going, keep trying… If you struggle with your thoughts and emotions, if you think you’re worthless or hopelessly defective… I’ve been there, and i am living, breathing, functioning, reasonably happy proof that it can get better. Long term and consistently better.

Here is a list of the things i’ve done since the Women’s March on Washington:

-started volunteering,
-spent the day with my MIL at the senior’s home, with a firm commitment to do so bimonthly,
-asked my local community of friends for help with a problem (within 5mins i had offers!)
-asked a friend to come for lunch and take me and my doggie to the vet (he’s fine and so was lunch!)
-finally started work on a project i’ve had swimming around in my brain for a year or 2,
-set down some firm boundaries with someone very close,
-added more exercise to my daily than just dog-walking.

All of this is yippee-skippy, for sure, but it is also scary stuff. I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid it’s too much and i’ll self-destruct. I’m afraid of letting others down. I’m afraid of growing out of some relationships. I’m afraid of gossip and ridicule. Most of all, i’m afraid of mania. This is fertile ground for my Little Miss Maniac to wanna come out and play. But the work i’ve done has provided me with not only this foresight, but also the tools with which to handle her, should she suddenly appear.

I can and will handle it, if it happens, to the best of my abilities, and if i stumble, i will do what i have learned is perhaps my best and most admirable quality.

I will pick myself up, dust myself off, survey the damage, make recompense wherever possible, and get back to work. You just watch me.
No seriously, i mean it. Watch me. Anyone who reads anything here that i have posted – know that you matter to me. You’re a great help to me. Knowing you’re reading, relating, empathising, witnessing. You’re tremendous, and i thank you.

Always,
~H~

I Need People, Ain’t I Lucky

On the evening of November 8th, i pulled the plug on the news. My anxiety flew right off the charts and i knew i had to take a break. I’m a Canadian, so my country has very close ties with the US, and personally speaking, some of my favourite people in the world live there. But since it isn’t my country it wasn’t my decision to make, i can’t change what happened, and it would be grandiose of me to think i could. It is an unhealthy and unhelpful way of thinking that i’m taking great pains to keep out of my precious head.

So i shut ‘er down.
I’m an adept skimmer, so social media wouldn’t pose a problem (i did take a short break, even from FB), and other than that, i just stopped watching the news. No big. Sometimes avoidance can be very wise, and it most certainly was in this particular case. To refer to a well known prayer, i accepted the things i couldn’t change and got about the business of the things i could.

When i returned to social media my eyes easily rolled past certain key words, articles from known political sources, and obvious imagery (the colour orange was not part of my personal rainbow for a few weeks, lemme tell ya). I enjoyed kitties and puppies and children and those 1-minute videos for how to make delicious food that i really shouldn’t eat very often. A certain image though, began appearing often enough on my feed that it penetrated my consciousness, and one day while watching the news last week (i still PVR so i can skip past any news about the new American president) i saw the image again – turns out it’s a graphic for this big dealio they’re calling the Women’s March on Washington. It was a local piece and they said there would be a march in my city.

Then this thing happened. This thing that i’ve come to know as confirmation that all the work i’ve done on myself, the mental and emotional roots are strong and set deep, and my tree is bearing good fruit.

I suddenly knew i was gonna go.
I was gonna leave my Crooked Little House and i was gonna go people.
I was gonna go WOMEN, and i have grown to loveloveloooove womening.

As i’ve learned more about who i am and what i think about things, i’ve been able to embrace my sex more warmly and tightly than i ever thought possible. My initial and primary abuser was female, and that can confuse relationships with same sex people. The fact that i’m bisexual complicated things more. My sexual identity has been hard-won, but no more so than any of the rest of who i am.

Now i know why i couldn’t quite be a tomboy or a froo-froo girly girl. I was trying to fit somewhere so that i might be safe, but they were only disguises. I didn’t know that i had never seen myself naked, and the reason nothing fit quite right is because i never took the last outfit off, i just slipped on another one over top. (I hope that metaphor makes sense – in my mind it’s pretty spiffy. Heh.)

So i’ve gone from a definition of women born of a religious upbringing, where i learned we were weak and inferior to men, to an egalitarian one that sprang naturally from my freshly naked loins. (SPIFFY!) Now i see women as just people. I dig men, like, a LOT (i’m very committed to and in love with the one i married), but i seek women for deep connection. I genuinely and profoundly feel like, “Yes, i belong here. This feels good and right,” when i am among women.

So yeah, i knew i was gonna go, and i knew exactly with whom. I contacted her right away and sure enough, she was going, and Yes of course! i could come along. She is an incredibly special person to me, and one day i’ll tell you about her, but for now, just know that i am s-m-r-t SMART, and she was the perfect person to be by my side on my first foray back into the scary world of interacting with other humans on the physical plane.

We marched together and it was invigorating.
I spoke to other women and not only was it fine, i didn’t obsess over every word and action afterwards.
I participated (clapping, shouting, laughing, booing, etc.) and i didn’t feel fake or even floaty.* I was surrounded by over 3,000 other feminists of all genders, gender identities, personalities, worldviews, creeds, politics – binary and non, intersectionality everywhere.

And i remained myself. I didn’t try to fit in with any group, i didn’t alter my speech or physicality according to where i was or with whom, and i wasn’t paranoid, self-conscious, or even afraid. My Peanut Gallery was relatively quiet, and i didn’t have to fight to stay in the face (maintain control of my system, for those of you who haven’t read the post immediately preceding this one).

When i withdrew from people over a year ago, it was for the express purpose of figuring out how to be my genuine self and maintain control of the way my brain works while in social situations.
But i wondered if i could really get there.
I feared that i might never again leave the safety and sanctity of my Little Crooked House.
I seriously considered that i just might not be able to conquer all of my coping mechanisms, so deeply ingrained and reflexive are they. Well reader, i’m telling you that i got there.

I came, i saw, i conquered.
In other words, i left my house, i hung out with real live humans, and i peopled.
I AM FREAKING VICTORIOUS.

Love, Peace, and Power to the People,

~H~

*Floaty is how i describe the feeling i get sometimes when i’m overwhelmed and about to either slide or switch.

People Who Need People

Are you ready for some positivity?
Could you use a hope injection?
I may be able to help.

If you’ve read more than a couple of my posts you probably know that i have struggled with the day-to-days of being a grown-up, and that one of my most important goals is to be more fully functioning on a more consistent basis.
Well, to that end, i have a story to tell you.

I’ll remind you real quick of some major life points to help set the stage (Have you ever noticed that cops always say “real quick”? Could you get off the highway and come over here real quick, ma’am? Could you sit down over there real quick while i have a conversation with your husband? Have you also noticed it’s never real quick at all? You haven’t had a lot of interaction with the police? Oh. Well, never mind then.):

  • the people who made me did terrible things to me,
  • i strove to be good enough to avoid pain,
  • i still got hurt,
  • i developed some rather extreme avoidance skills,
  • my sense of personal identity was all but lost,
  • without a strong sense of self my interpersonal relationships were tenuous and fleeting at best and often contentious and tumultuous.

It’s been a funny few years, and by funny, i mean peculiar rather than haha. I expected to get better at peopling, but instead i found it more difficult. It’s probably because i didn’t want to avoid dealing with certain people and situations by dissociating or using substances anymore. It became excruciatingly difficult to be social. I would either switch immediately, or drink/drug to cope which was more and more frequently followed by a bunch of sliding* around. I wanted friends, real friends who knew the real me, but i couldn’t keep my damn door open – it didn’t take much wind to slam it shut again, and that doorman is a tough sumbitch to get by. If your brain is the gathering place for your friends to hang out and shoot the breeze for a spell, my brain was a crowded karaoke bar where no one listened to anyone else sing, where everyone was just waiting for their turn at the mic. The rotation was filled and there was no room for any new singers.

There was a group of women that i wanted very much to be a part of; they knew how to cut loose and have a good time, but were all successful in their careers and fully functional and involved with their families. I had been hanging out with a younger crowd, twentysomethings not fully established or set upon a firm path. It was an indication of how i functioned on an emotional level, and a reflection of who in my Peanut Gallery was usually in charge, or as i call it, “in the face”. I craved the company of women with whom i had more in common.

But i consistently buckled under the pressure. They kindly invited me to a number of their get-togethers, but i would be so nervous and anxious that i’d pound back the liquid courage (way too much and way too quickly), leaving  myself vulnerable to switch at the slightest provocation. Such lovely and welcoming women every one of them, but i felt unworthy of their company and out of place amongst them. I forced a kind of blithe joviality until the effects of the alcohol calmed me down from my state of near panic.

It all came crashing down on me one night and broke my leg in three places. No really.
I knew then that i needed to withdraw from people and figure my shit out. I had one remaining social obligation that managed to be only a minor disaster, and then i shut ‘er down.
I stopped peopling.
I hermitted in my Little Crooked House.
I hunkered down and i got to work.
No more drinking and drugging to cope, because i removed the stimulus.
I needed to scrutinise my behaviour in social situations, so that i could figure out what worked and what didn’t, what i was looking for and what i was willing to give in return.
When, where, and with whom was i most and least comfortable, and why?

It was a tremendous relief. I didn’t miss peopling. I mean, i didn’t miss anyone at all. I have a group of online friends that provided me with the perfect amount of socialisation, with no touching and from the safety and sanctity of my personal bubble, which at that point stretched out around 2km in all directions. I could stay in general contact with those i’ve interacted with locally by using social media, and no one noticed my withdrawal. Instead of hurting my precious little feelings, i found it liberating to see the world a bit more realistically through my physical detachment. I saw that people had lives of their own, and i was only a teeny, tiny part of their experience that could be removed easily and without a flicker of acknowledgment, let alone any fanfare. It brought my intense anxiety into sharp focus. It was vividly clear to me that my response to social interactions was wildly off-kilter with the significance attached by those around me.

This was more than a consolation, it was a revelation.
I currently have a personal (and very private) issue that i’m dealing with in my life, and this time away from anyone outside my immediate family has freed me to concentrate my attention on it and not be distracted by obsession over social minutiae. It’s enabled me to prioritise appropriately, it’s shifted my focus to where my actions are now better in alignment with my values.

I ventured out to socialise in the flesh a couple of times, to observe my deportment in a local bar run by a safe friend. It was for a set amount of time, with my husband as chaperone, and during low traffic hours. I saw people i knew and spoke with them, but only briefly. I had conversations with my friend and a couple of others i don’t know well, where my aim was to listen more than talk. I recognised all the old familiar thoughts and feelings, but they weren’t as acute – they’d been softened by the light of fresh knowledge and the insight i’d gained. I’d go home and go over my time there, trying to learn more and continue to ease the pressure i felt being in social situations.

I was still very content to stay at home, with only my husband and my children and their families for company, but i knew it was getting on to time for me to go back out into the big, bad world and see if i did indeed have my shit figured out. Recent events in the world of politics had brought me pretty low though, and i wondered if i’d ever want to go anywhere, ever again.

Then along came the Women’s March on Washington, and suddenly i knew it was time.

… to be continued with a flourish, tomorrow

*Not fully switched, but no longer running the show. It’s like standing right behind someone, observing them live my life for me. I’m not generally able to affect whoever is currently in the face, just helplessly watch.