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.

Cycles, Seasons, and the Fine Art of Gardening

I live with Bipolar Disorder. It’s a cycle of mania and depression. For medical purposes i’m classified as Bipolar I, for the reason that my manias are severe and long-lasting.  This means that sometimes my manias and depressions can be so intense as to require immediate hospitalisation, and sometimes i can cycle between less intense versions incredibly quickly (days), or interminably slowly (years). It is, for me, a cycle though; one invariably follows the other. On and on, round and round. Circular. Perhaps relatively infinite.

It is both poetic and not. When i’m not currently depressed or manic, i can look at what’s past and describe it with clever metaphors and colourful analogies, which is fine – even good. It’s an indication that i’m ready to clean up any messes, take inventory, and restock my shelves in preparation for the next (potential) disaster. When i’m currently experiencing a depression or a mania however, if i’m seeing my situation within a poetic framework, it’s not usually good – it’s often dangerous. Getting all romantic about either feeling 10ft tall and bulletproof or suicidal while i’m in it, can be a red flag that i’m dissociating, and am or will soon be unable to control what happens next.

This last mania was prosaically endured. That is a bonafide victory. I was in it hip-deep before i figured it out, yet still markedly better than last time i was hit this hard, when i had to almost slip beneath the water before i realised how far i was from shore.
I figured out i was manic.
I did the things i’ve learned to do that can help:

  • minimise social interactions;
  • practise mindfulness throughout the day;
  • avoid people, places, and things that provoke intense feelings;
  • be gentle and forgiving when i’m not doing things correctly, (or at least as well as i do them when i’m not manic);
  • process thoughts and feelings with a safe person, often.

It turned out pretty well, i think. No hospitalisation, no police involvement, no massive drama. I didn’t have any terrible fights with anyone — not even my husband, who is usually the target. I don’t have access to credit or cash when i’m manic, and my husband even keeps my ID with him for safekeeping (because i lose stuff when i’m on a tear — sometimes very important and/or expensive stuff), and to discourage me from going anywhere. I didn’t go on a bender, either. I drank a little, but not falling down drunk, picking fights, or crying jags. No drugging. This is all good.

There were things that could have gone better, of course. It was still gruelling. It was sometimes ugly and painful, and it was consistently scary to varying degrees. I lost my ability to write coherently – and i couldn’t find a fuck to give about it. My carefully crafted daily routines fell away, one by one. The paranoia and hallucinations (both visual and auditory) that often come with an intense mania, meant that my daily walks had to be put on hold. I can see people in my peripheral vision that i’m certain are coming to get me, and that can easily trigger my multiplicity; a complication to be avoided if at all possible. My brain got very busy, and it also got very scattered. Often, when my husband would text me he was heading home for supper, i hadn’t yet gotten dressed or washed my face. I started watching crap telly again, too. At those times i gravitate towards reality shows that highlight other people’s misery. I think that subconsciously i’m telling myself i’m not too far gone because i’m not bedridden by my weight, or hiding in a house filled with garbage. I don’t need an intervention, and you are NOT the father, so… It could be worse, eh?

When it was over i cruised for a while. I was exhausted, and it was the right thing to do. I also wanted to take some time to examine where i was at emotionally, to see if i could anticipate the timing of the depression that would surely come, and maybe even gauge its severity. I don’t know how realistic that was, but i did need the rest. I think that i may have quietly crossed the line into the next phase already, but i’m not sure, because it doesn’t feel as intense as the mania did. My downs are usually inversely proportional to my ups, and if i’m presently in a clinical depression, it’s a very mild one.
I’m tired and my desire to sleep more has returned (although i never have much luck getting more).
I feel a bit inept, and everything looks a bit greyer and somewhat ominous.
And i am definitely, definitely irritable. Ornery, even. I find those closest to me to be rather exasperating right now, which feels the most intense of all my symptoms.

Once again though, i’ve worked hard to find and develop ways of coping with this disorder:

  • try to say Yes to one social engagement per week;
  • practise mindfulness throughout the day (it’s always with this one);
  • avoid sad stories/movies/tv shows, etc., i.e. no wallowing allowed;
  • be gentle and forgiving when i’m low energy;
  • acknowledge every accomplishment and small adherence to routine;
  • process thoughts and feelings with a safe person, often.

So, as i have mentioned many (MANY!) times before, i just pick myself up, dust myself off, and resume my slow, steady movement forward. Mania means reining myself in, because going too fast can cause a stupendous crash, whereas depression means dragging myself just a few steps before i collapse, overwhelmed and tired for no particular reason.
But as i have also said before – it gets easier every time i do it, and this time was no exception. It was still easier than last time.
Even though this mania was far more intense and longer than the one that preceded it.
And despite wrestling with dissociation and losing time, sometimes days.
In spite of 2 or 3 or 4 angry walks, which have not occurred in probably a year or 2.

There just came a point where i knew the mania had waned to where i had the power to stop it. And i did. I decided i was done, i informed the Peanut Gallery that the shenanigans were over, that i’d be taking a little time off to recover, and then i was gonna get back at it. Their full cooperation was expected.
So there was a couple of weeks of no expectations, save arrested manic behaviours.
Then i started back to my routine. I went back to one thing, and that was to only eat between the hours of 8am and 8pm. Because i’ve had gastric bypass, i have a very small stomach pouch – but i can still gain weight by just grazing all day long. I did gain some back, probably somewhere around 10lbs, but that’s all right. The changes i’ve made to what, when, how, and why i eat are sound and healthy and meant to be lifelong, so a blip is okay. I have no doubt i will get back down to where i was before i started gaining a month or so ago, and then some. This is a process, all of it, the pace is necessary, and it doesn’t bother me.

I started with my 12hr window to eat, and then i just started adding bits of my routine back as i felt able. It didn’t take the months of dogged dedication that it took to make them habits. I didn’t even need to give myself a week before i added on something else. It’s all back except the exercise, the caloric restriction designed for weight loss, and the 1 home improvement chore per week. I’m back to my sleep schedule, my morning and night hygiene routine, my reading, writing, baking (which i never completely gave up anyway). The rest will come in the next week or so. I don’t know exactly when, but so far i’ve seemed to have decent judgment regarding timing, so i’m just gonna keep trusting myself to know when. For now. If i fuck it up, say, if i’ve taken too much back on too quickly -oh well- that’ll become obvious at some point, and then i’ll reassess and tweak my lifestyle where i think i need to, and then just keep on truckin’.

**********

Just a reminder: I’m not trying to fix anyone’s life but my own. I’m looking for my own answers, my own solutions. I am not, and have no desire to be anyone’s life coach or guru. I share how my brain works, and the way i’m learning to live with it because i’m 50yrs old and still pretty fucked up. I’m not highly functional, but i want so badly, as i’ve wanted all my life, to contribute something to my fellow humans. To be of some use, some help, to do something good.
I’m working with what i’ve got, and what i have is what you see here on these pages. I’ve kept plugging along no matter what, trying to figure my shit out, banging on all the doors and crying at all the windows. I did all the diets and i’ve seen all the headshrinkers, attended all the groups, whispered/screamed/wailed all the prayers, and made all the sacrifices.

And it’s working. It has all played a part in who i am and where i’m at today. Some words, some wisdom, therapy, information… All embedded inside me like seeds.
ALL the kindnesses, the mercies, the graces, the forgiveness, the handouts, ALL the love… It all watered and sunned and fed my garden until it now produces enough to feed and shelter me, to nurture my thoughts and feelings, my dreams and desires. Now >>I<< till and water and fertilise this soil. My soil. I can protect the tender shoot from the invading weed, and i pluck that sonofabitch from the ground without hesitation and free of misgivings.

I share it all in the hope that you might believe that you can do as i have done, because i believe you can. Take anything you like from here and use it to seed your own garden, but do not feel obligated to plant any of it. Feel free to just look upon it, whether it’s to drink in its beauty or to see in it only what you don’t want to grow in your own.

You are welcome, regardless.

Enjoy your weekend, if you can.
I’ll do the same.
Love and Peace,
~H~

IMAGE: Markus Spiske

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.

Pain is the Great Winnower

I’ve got a couple of big, emotional pieces coming up that i’m not looking forward to – and this is one of them. Right now, all my feelings are very close to the surface. Chronic pain has a way of stripping away everything you use to protect yourself, until there’s nothing left but the brutal, naked truth. There’s no energy for anything but coping.

It doesn’t have to be that way, but it does. I’ll tell you why.

I was going to my high school reunion. I’d been planning it for a while, and it was the night before i was to leave. I should have stayed home and gotten a solid 8hrs sleep, but i was dating this new guy, and i was falling for him like i’d never fallen for anybody. I went to his place and he made supper, and we lay in bed after, and he just held me all night. No sex -we hadn’t been intimate yet- but my body was on fire . I didn’t get a wink of sleep and i was punch drunk and stupid with lust. I went home and picked up my kids and my sister, and i set off on the drive to stay with my grandparents and attend my 10yr reunion, 833km away.
Yeah. I had no business behind the wheel for any distance, but i packed my 5yr old and my baby and my kid sister into my big ass old van and blithely navigated highway traffic. Yeah. To put all those precious people at grave risk apparently wasn’t enough for me, so i picked up a Belgian hitchhiker.
Yeah. I rolled my van 2 1/2 times. I threw that poor young man out and broke his collarbone. My oldest son still bears the scar from the deep scalp laceration. I could have killed them all: a stranger, my babies, and the sister i’d tried so hard to save.
Luckily, the only lasting damage i did was to myself. When we were finally stopped by a ditch culvert, upside down, i felt something just… i don’t know, give way in my back, and i knew it was bad.
Yeah. I’d spent my entire school career being messed up and awkward and my reunion was no different. Such not surprise. Heh.

Although my back injury healed, i was experiencing widespread, diffuse muscle pain, which my truly spectacular family doctor suspected was Fibromyalgia. She sent me to a specialist who confirmed her suspicions. I don’t know how much you know about the condition, but all you really need to know is that i was in constant pain, and it never went away. My doctor tried everything and nothing gave me any relief until i found over-the-counter codeine, which i immediately began abusing all day, every day. I could go through a 250tab bottle in 5 days, easily. That’s a lot, like a dangerous lot. It still didn’t do enough, but i kept at it for about 5 or 6 yrs, when i quit it, cold turkey.
So how then, you may ask, did i cope with the pain that didn’t magically disappear, and in fact had become even worse, as of course is the way with an opioid addiction. Well, i had something else on my horizon, and that was Bipolar Disorder getting its hooks in me and with it came a hard drinking, party lifestyle. Oh, and it didn’t take long before i was so out of control that i couldn’t hide my dissociations any longer. Rather than just happening when i was undergoing extreme emotional distress or feared for my safety, it was happening at any time, and it was happening often.

So in other words, if i wasn’t feeling no pain because i was drunk off my ass, i was feeling no pain because i was completely dissociated from my body.

It’s taken years to get here, and i’ve traded one kind of pain for another. Now, i don’t mean that to sound as fatalistic and whiny as i know it does, but hey, i’m in a lot of pain. Physical pain. And i’m not running from it for the first time since my diagnosis over 20yrs ago. I’m not medicating with pills or booze, or street drugs, and i’m not leaving my body to escape it. I’m here and i’m feeling it and HOLY FRICKETY FRACK does it hurt.  I can feel the pain in my body when i’m dreaming for pity’s sake.

But i needed to take control of my brain, and i knew the day would come when i’d have to work harder and do more in order to stay on track. I have to find a way to cope with this physical pain without abusing drugs or letting the inmates run my asylum.
Last year around this time i made a lot of hard decisions, and my reward is that i’m as fully present and conscious of myself, my surroundings, my situation, my relationships, my choices, and my desires as i have perhaps ever been before. No, not perhaps. Definitely. I’ve never been more capable of being who i want to be and doing what i want to do as i am right now.

I’m beginning to envision the kind of human i want to be now. I can also !FINALLY! look back and see all the work i’ve done and be proud. Because i’ll tell you something – i have never given up. Even when i was in the absolute shit of it all, i was always trying. I wanted to be better and do better and understand what in the hell was wrong with me. And now i know and i’m very better. Not all the way and never fixed, but WOW kinda better.

I guess the gift in the pain is i’m just too exhausted to deal with all my bullshittery anymore, let alone anyone else’s. My emotional pain carved away all the relationships and activities and interactions that were standing in the way of me just growing the hell up. I expect my physical pain will do something along the same lines. I don’t exactly know yet how i’m gonna deal with it, but i know that i will deal with it, head on, and no checking out.

There will be whimpering, though. And some whining. Perhaps some whinging.

I’ll end with some happy news: That guy that kept me up all night? Next year we’ll be married 20yrs.

Love and Peace,

~H~

I’m Naked in the Sun

Hey Friend,

If you’re feeling low, maybe try this thing i stumbled across while blogging a week or so ago…

Since i’ve begun this very intentional journey towards becoming a critical, rational, skeptical thinker, i’ve tried to be more aware of the things i just say. You know, like when someone says Hi! as you’re passing them and you say Hi! back, and then they say How are you, and you say Fine, thanks! They’re not really asking, and you’re not really telling them – not really. It’s just a thing you say.

(As an aside, i am, as a person who prefers to love humanity from a bit of a distance, in favour of these meaningless exchanges. I want to acknowledge your presence and bid you well with the least amount of interaction possible. It’s not that i don’t like you or don’t care about you, i just manage my thoughts and emotions best with a minimum of physical, in-my-actual-bubble involvement, and the more personal we get, the more quickly i need to GTF home and recharge my batteries. This is not to say that i don’t have the time or energy for a deeper exchange – i just tend to reserve those for personal friends. What i’m meaning to say is, i simply don’t have the desire or the wherewithal to engage on a deep level with everyone i say Hi! to. Hm, this still doesn’t read quite right…

If i’ve never seen you before, or have only ever said Hello to you, i’m fine with the basic niceties and some small talk. There. That seems clearer. I guess this is a bit of insight for you, lucky reader, into how my brain works. Heh.

I’m working on being more conscious regarding what i think and what i say. I question whether i have enough reason and evidence to believe the thing i just thought/said. Is it something i just say? Is it only something i’ve heard my whole life and i’m parroting? Is it something i was taught is true and never questioned? While it is a long, arduous, and exhausting endeavour, i’m completely committed, and i’m happy to say it has borne some good fruit.

This is not to proselytise or preach, that you should be trying to achieve the same things as i am. I want to be right about as much as possible and wrong about as little as i can be, and the only way to do that is to test everything i think that i know and believe to be true. I try to foster a skeptical mindset, and apply critical thinking to everything, which begins with my thoughts and naturally extends to what i say.

If you were wondering when i was going to share the thing that may lift your mood as it did mine – wonder no longer, for i have meandered my way back to that thing that i stumbled across last week. Huzzah! (The civil engineer was on holiday when my brain was mapped out, it could use some signage, i admit.)

I was blogging, and i found myself writing about the best thing that had ever happened to me. It’s a story i’ve related many times, but my new, carefully cultivated mindset caused me to pause and ask myself, “Is that event actually the best thing that has ever happened to me?”

To know if it is the best thing -and by best i mean the thing that took me off the path of destruction and pain that i’d been set upon since birth- i must test it to see if it’s true. I must subject it to critical thinking, and look for evidence, evidence being a body of facts that would indicate my belief is the only valid conclusion.

I asked myself if anything else contributed to me changing my life for the better, and it was instantly **INSTANTLY** clear that there were other people and events that had contributed either a little or a lot, to me shucking off my mourning clothes and plodding steadfastly towards the light.

Actually, there were many. There were many people and events that helped, and more than that, there are still, today, many people and events that continue to be helpful. Sometimes it’s hard to be this naked, and i think about my clothes laying somewhere on the ground back there, but the light is warm and beckons me, and i know they’d be too dark and heavy for me now. There are those along the way who would provide me shelter and refreshment too, so i never need go back.

Through testing whether or not that one particular story was indeed the best thing that ever happened to me, i discovered that it both was, and it wasn’t. I realised that there were many things that had happened with many other people, that could at least be put on the short list. And then, as i pondered, i had a little epiphany. It’s nice when they occur. I don’t go looking for them, because then i just get frustrated and depressed if i don’t have one, but geez, they sure are nice to experience sometimes.

I realised that there is a common denominator in all of those “best things that ever happened to me”, and that is, of course, me. ME is the best thing that ever happened to me. Nevermind the literality of that statement could get your brain all twisted up in knots – just take it in the easy and obvious way. The way that means that i am the best thing to ever happen to me. And i invite  the best things ever and the best people ever to happen to me. And i am the one who makes them the best things and people ever.

And that makes me feel good, and happy, and powerful, and important, and loved.

I could go on, but it’s probably better for all if i don’t. My brain is spinning all over the place right now, and my feelings are centred in my chest but feel very light and floaty, which experience tells me that, if i was understandable at all in this piece, i soon won’t be. I’m going to listen to some soothing instrumental music and play some mindless games. It will keep me from slipping into a state that can make it easier for mania to gain a foothold.

Ah, life as me is always fairly interesting. And just so you can better infer my tone – i have a huge smile on my face right now.

“Victories over ingrained patterns of thought are not won in a day or a year.”
~ Isaac Asimov, The Naked Sun

Love and Peace, Friend,
~H~

Addendum: See what happens when my brain gets all excited and flits about like that? I clearly didn’t bring it back around to you. I was trying to share something that helped me, just in case it might also be helpful to YOU.
So if you want to, think about who you’re not sure you could have made it this far without. Think of things that happened that changed the way you thought or felt in such a positive way, that it altered all your experiences after it happened.
Realise that there are people over the years that have shown you mercy, compassion, support, protection, love… Whatever it is.

Remember how those people and those transformative occasions made you feel.
Become aware that it was you who gave these people and events the permission to change you. So there. You could maybe feel a bit better. I hope. If it didn’t, i want you to hang in there. If you wait long enough, something probably will. The wait sucks, but stick around, okay?

Tell Me Who You Are, And I’ll Believe You

“The real message is to accept your children,
and accept your friends,
and accept people for who they say that they are.”
~iO Tillet Wright

 The other day i found myself in a situation where i was able to see some good fruit come from a decision i made a while back.

 Some months ago, i decided to let people tell me who they are and what they think.
 What i mean is, i decided to stop trying to read people. No more guessing if they were being genuine or telling me the truth or representing themselves correctly.
 Through examining my life, and trying to be healthier and happier, one of the things i’ve learned is i can’t change anyone but myself. Over the years, i’ve been misjudged and misunderstood – i’m certain y’all have been as well. I’ve learned the hard lesson that i can’t make anyone think the way i want them to think about me. I can’t make anyone understand why i am the way i am and do the things i do.
 One day it occurred to me that the reverse is very likely also true.
 So i’ve stopped figuring people out.
 I was taught to read people, and i can usually do it fairly accurately – but so what?
My life isn’t constantly in danger anymore, so what does it benefit me to know that the smile i see on your face hides a seething hatred of me?

What good does it do either of us for me to notice the subtle, secret body language between you and someone i know damn well isn’t your spouse?

There’s a reason you’re playing your cards close to your chest, and it’s none of my business, or you would have told me.

There’s a reason you’re clearly lying and it’s none of my business, or you wouldn’t be lying to me.

And what about the times i’ve been wrong? People have been wrong about me, and i’ve been wrong about people. Not just a few times, either.

What good did it do me to know what you were really thinking or what you’re up to or who you really are behind closed doors?

Not much good at all. That smug feeling of superiority or having one over on you didn’t feel very good once i stopped caring so damn much about what YOU think of ME. In fact, it makes me feel like a shithead – and i think it SHOULD.

So i don’t do it anymore, and my life is a lot less stressful. It turns out some of the drama in my life was created by lil ole me. Heh. I’ve already got enough things to deal with, without creating any extra trouble.

I ask myself one question, though:

Could it hurt me to take them at their word and be wrong?

For instance, if a mechanic promises me he’s been working on my brakes all day and they’re perfect, but i get the distinct impression he’s lying due to his shifty eyes and the smell of whiskey – i’m going to address the potential lie because i have to drive home in that vehicle he was supposedly working on. I could get pretty hurt all right.

And hey, if you’ve got bruises again, and you tell me you ran into a door AGAIN, i may question you about that – because you’re my friend and if you’re in trouble and i don’t ask or offer help, that would hurt, too.

Other than that – i take you at face value.
You tell me what you want me to know about you.
I will believe what you tell me, unless i have an important reason not to. Still i won’t jump to conclusions without asking you.
You get to keep your private business private.
Like if i irritate the fuck out of you.
Or if you smile and make small talk to my face, and gossip about me when i’m not around.
I’m not close with very many people, so chances are you don’t owe me any personal stuff at all.
If i am close with you, i was never super nosy, but i’m even less so now. I want to know whatever you want to tell me, and that’s all.

I won’t take it personally if you keep something private and i find out later.

You tell me who you are, how you’re feeling, and what you’re thinking. I won’t be trying to second guess you. Even if i get the strong feeling that you’re lying to me, i’m gonna let it go.

I’ve been doing it for quite a while now, and it feels good and right.

Less drama, more peace. I like you better now, and hopefully it’ll be reciprocated.

If not – that’s your business, not mine.

Love and Peace,
~H~