Bleeding the Valve

Living a dissociated life, one where my thoughts and actions/reactions were dictated by and crafted for my long dead mother, not only made for some bluntly applied and obtusely processed understanding of myself as a person, but also not a small amount of naiveté regarding anyone i cared about. What i mean is, multiplicity aside, i was so focused on who i’d been raised to be that i didn’t, couldn’t in fact, see who i actually was. The messages i’d received from my mother and other various abusers had full control of my perceptions, rendering me intellectually and emotionally blind to how i presented to the world around me.

I remember confessing to one of my teachers in grade 11, that he was my favourite. His reply caught me completely off guard. He said, “Really, H? Honestly, i can’t tell with you. Half the time i think you hate my guts.” I was gobsmacked. I adored him – how could he not know? How could he possibly think i hated him?

I obsessed over this exchange for weeks. I look back at this time and see that i was capable of deep introspection, i just didn’t need to because i’d been raised to parrot my abuser’s beliefs and opinions about life, the universe, and everything. That included my personality, my character, and my nature. I wasn’t supposed to know or examine myself. I wasn’t allowed to ask any philosophical questions. I was created to serve, and that meant toeing the party line. In this particular case, i couldn’t not ponder it and try to figure out what had happened and what he meant. My mother’s brainwashing worked for other people in other situations. She’d programmed me to fall apart, take the blame, and bend over backwards to fix whatever the problem was, when something came up with her. This unconscious practise bled into all relationships with anyone i cared about.

What i came up with was an awareness of how sarcastic i was in my daily interactions with everyone, and how other people might not always “get it,” and even if they did, they might not like/appreciate it. I saw that my sarcasm frequently drifted into the domain of “caustic.” I was deeply ashamed and immediately endeavoured to control my mouth better. My mother had informed me many times that i was obnoxious, and this interchange with my beloved teacher confirmed her pronouncements – especially when it came to what kind of person i was. She knew me better than i knew myself. I couldn’t hide anything from her.

You may now cough-mutter the word bullshit into your cupped hand.
Or heck, just say it flat out.
Truth is she told me whatever would keep me quiescent and malleable.
Thoroughly believing that i was an awful person that only she could love accomplished her ends nicely.

Today i’m still having to spend extra time and effort to figure out where the truth lies with regards to who i am as a person, and how i’m presenting to the world around me. I’ve had to work my hardest to understand and employ the difference between humility and humiliation. Seeing many times in my past when i was various levels of asshole with other people, many of whom i loved dearly, has been most humbling. I’ve had to yank myself out of the muddy moon-pie of moping and brooding over how terrible i was, over and over and over again. There was a payoff for me in marinating in my crappy behaviours, and it all led back to my mother.

She’d rant and rail at me over what a bad child i was, and sometimes i’d deny it, but i’d always come around to her opinions and admit to whatever she’d accused me of. Whether or not i’d done the thing or was what she accused me of being never mattered at the end. I would eventually break down and tell her whatever she wanted to hear. If she didn’t take me to her bosom and grant me her forgiveness, she’d at least dangle the possibility of it and stop yelling and lecturing me. There was a rush, a release, in her forgiveness. It was an old, bare bone tossed to a starving dog. Even if she just quit talking and sent me away, it felt like the relief that flooded me when the hitting stopped. I could stop cowering and take a breath.

NOTE: Man, this level of mania is making it mighty difficult to organise my thoughts into something cogent. I took a couple of hours for self care and light housekeeping. My thinking is less jumbled and i don’t feel quite so scattered.

I bring up the past to show where i’ve come from and to demonstrate how things work in my brain as a result. This is how i processed information i received from others; in short: if anything goes wrong, it must be my fault. I’ll add that there were times social cues sailed way over my head and i simply didn’t know that things had gone wrong. At other times i was certain i’d screwed up in some way, only to find out later that i had not. Being a multiple who was dissociated at the best of times did not make me great at reading people, with a part of my system always at the ready to properly handle any and all situations. Nope. Sometimes it helped, sometimes it hindered. Sometimes it all exploded in my face and i wasn’t even aware anything had happened that required my attention.
I’ve come to think i’m as much of a mixed bag as most of us.

Today i am living in bipolar mania. The therapy i’ve been through, with it’s attendant homework, deep thought, and intensive study, has allowed me to know myself, and through that, to view my presentation to others more accurately. Mania today means i’m extremely irritable and highly emotional. It means i’m emotive, and most of the people and situations around me cause me an intense and disproportionate amount of emotional response. Today i am coping by blogging, remaining sober, maintaining contact with healthy people, and heavily curtailing my intake of news and social media.
I’m also purging some restless, angsty thoughts and feelings via some rants about politics and current events. Everything has the potential to rile me up, so i’m dumping the things that i can, as quickly as i can, so that i save my energy for the important stuff. My circle of friends know about my particular set of challenges, and have a long and storied experience of my “cycle,” as it were. They’ll stick around for my histrionics and bluster if they can, or come back later once the storm clouds have cleared up a bit.

Today has been a rough day, quite honestly. I have some issues with some people i care for very much. I’m making some adjustments to how i live, and with whom i associate and to what level, in order to prepare for what may be coming. I know i can’t make any big decisions at the moment, because mania, but i can tweak things a bit to ease emotional intensity and lighten the mental burdens i’ve been carrying. I hope these changes will help bring about more of what i want in life. I guess we’ll see.
Well, I’LL see, and then i’ll blab (blog) about it. Maybe. Okay, probably. Hopefully?

Try to have as good a week as you can.
I’ve not much hope for myself to that end, but i’ll invest my efforts, regardless.

Love and Peace,
~H~

IMAGE: Robert Anasch



Ninja Brain

I know I’ve got a tendency
To exaggerate what I’m seein’
And I know that it’s unfair of me
To make a memory out of a feelin’
It’s ’cause I notice every single thing
That’s ever happening in the moment
And I don’t know why it’s consumin’ me
~ I Hate Everybody, Halsey


I am bipolar. I was diagnosed less than 20yrs ago. I have the kind of bipolar characterised by intense manias. My first diagnosed mania lasted more than 2yrs. After that, i plunged into a depression that was as deep as my mania had been high, and it lasted about as long. What followed were years of long, slow, intense cycling between the 2. I could always count on my depression to be inversely proportional to my mania.

I now think that has changed. As i’ve learned to deal with my incredibly interesting brain (if you’re reading a sarcastic tone here, you get an internet cookie), my cycling has shortened and the intensity of each aspect has lessened. Thank goodness. For the first number of years i was in and out of hospital. It was, ah, kind of a big deal. It was part of what broke me down to the point where i was finally willing to deal with my DID diagnosis. As soon as i found a therapist i could work with in that area (hahaha, i used the word “soon”), my issues with being bipolar swiftly took a backseat. The mental health professionals in my area (and let’s be clear, when i started dealing with my multiplicity, i lived in a very metropolitan area of over 1 million), treated DID like a fart in church. Out of all the quirks and eccentricities and generally not typical neurological processing going on in my brain, the dissociation aspects have proved the most disruptive and problematic.

My therapist deals with causes though, rather than symptoms, so it didn’t matter that my Bits N’ Pieces were consistently taking centre stage, because it all stemmed from a couple of root causes. As with anyone, it’s nature, it’s nurture – where and to what extent is unique and individual. Both my manic and depressive behaviours were easily identifiable to me, and i had accumulated a good amount of education from various sources from which i was able to assemble a handy toolkit for that particular flavour of my crazy.* There are some parts of my system that seem to be able to be affected by mania/depression, others that don’t. It didn’t matter because it all wound up being processed by me with my therapist.

Over time i eventually (mostly) stopped even seeing the way my brain works in terms of the diagnoses i’ve been given. Now i just check in consciously every day (more if necessary), figure out where i’m at, and adjust my lifestyle accordingly. I do basic brain housekeeping, fix simple problems on my own, and call in a professional when the job is too big or complicated for me to handle by myself. I’ve settled in to a remarkably functional, daily routine. When the virus hit, i kept my therapy up by phone, but a couple of months ago i felt well enough to take a break. Peopling is the biggest trigger for me, so being isolated has drastically cut down on my emotional upheaval and any resultant dysfunction.

But.

It’s been creeping up in the background, so subtly i completely missed its approach. I saw it for what it was on my recent wedding anniversary. I got too stimulated and became agitated. I switched soon afterward and lost a couple of days. I don’t always need or want a blow-by-blow account of what happens when i’m dissociated, but this time i did. The more i heard the more obvious it became that i’m currently manic. I couldn’t see it when i was in the face, but when switching gave me a bit of distance, it became abundantly clear. I’m extremely easily annoyed and deeply paranoid. I want to use drugs and alcohol to excess. I go from 0-60 emotionally, in mere seconds. I can go from calm to complete overwhelm in the space of a single breath. My thoughts are racing so fast it’s been hard to identify what i’m thinking about anything. And i’ve been chasing sleep for a couple of weeks.
The thing that might have thrown me off the scent of anything being wrong is that my last bipolar episode was also a mania. I skipped the depression part. In fact, i think i’ve been skipping the depression side of my bipolar for some time, now.

I don’t know what this means for my diagnosis. It doesn’t currently matter because the symptoms are manageable and i’ll keep dealing with the cause, as well. I’m wondering if maybe it wouldn’t be helpful to do a daily blog for a bit. It could help with staying conscious and grounded. It could point out if/when i need to call in a professional. It could provide some extra focus and reaffirm my commitment to this work. Sometimes my brain is a ninja.

I have no idea how useful it would be for anyone else. My physical health is in the dumper, and now with mania too, i’m having trouble with cogent thinking and communication. It might be a shitshow. Let’s find out, shall we? Heh.

Love and Peace,
~H~
* I use words that some see as a pejorative to describe myself, because i find it freeing and healing to do so, YMMV.

IMAGE: Matthew Brodeur

Momentum

I didn’t blog the next day after my last post, but i am today, and i feel okay about that. Momentum is good for me, but must be strictly managed. Too fast and mania kicks in, but a little certainly helps me feel better about myself and get more done. It’s a healthy cycle: i do some stuff, i feel better about myself, which lightens my mood, which frees up some energy, so i do some more stuff. And as a gain momentum, i take fewer breaks and accomplish more things between them. I’m careful though, ever watchful for warning signs that mania is seeping in.

I’ll catch it first in my feelings. It’s an urgency, coupled with dissatisfaction.
Then thoughts. It’s not enough. I need to do more. I should be doing more.
Soon, i’ll begin comparing myself to others, and finding myself always coming up short.
I’m not doing enough. I am not enough.

It’s then my thinking can become twisted by the mania, as i compare myself TO myself. All the times that i’ve done all the things and had all the successes and looked and felt and was FABULOUS… All those times that i was manic AF.

I must be vigilant against its approach, its encroachment. Manias are a cyclone that can quickly become a storm and then a hurricane, leaving destruction in its wake. Sometimes the damage can’t be undone. Some of my surroundings, my relationships, and even aspects of my health, are unsalvageable. In my past i have destroyed some lovely and precious things.

I don’t see that on my horizon right now, and that’s good.
I’m more than capable of the proverbial dime-turn, however, and so for that, and so many other reasons, i practise mindfulness and keep watch over my brain, and all my Bits N’ Pieces.

My last post brought me more into the here and now, and afforded me a not insignificant amount of peace. I’m struggling, but i’m okay. I’m in the face, in control. Managing. Mindful. I’m present in my (albeit limited) relationships. I’m functioning at a satisfactory level. I’m silver lining everything, and it’s not forced. The shit is just that – shit.
But the light is there too, and i’m not pretending i can see it.
I’m not stiff-upper-lipping, because screw that nonsense.
Being present and mindful for me means acknowledging the bad and the good. There is balance required in the seeing and the sharing of it, which requires me to pay attention, but that’s absolutely fine because that’s been integral to any long term successes i’ve had in my life.

Dissociation allowed me to survive.
Conscious involvement –in myself, my loved ones, and the world around me– allows me to thrive.

I’m not currently in danger of a mania, or depression, or switching.
I’m here, i’m in it, and i’m not going anywhere.
(Seriously, i’m not. I’m stuck in my goddamn house like the rest of us. Heh.)

Hang in there, everyone.
Love and Peace,
~H~

IMAGE: Valerie Blanchett

It Works When I Work It

I don’t know if i turned on a dime or if it was advancing on me and i just missed it.
Regardless, i’m not in a good place. I’m managing far better than i would have even a few months ago, but it still sucketh mightily.

I’m picking up on sick thoughts floating around up in my noggin, the kind that are based in my upbringing and old ways of dealing with such. I’m overthinking interactions with others, obsessing over each interchange, and worrying that i’ve said something wrong or stupid. My anxiety is coming at me from a number of places, and by that i mean manifesting physically. One is the yawning pit of worry that opens up behind my breastbone, another is the roiling ball of acid in my stomach, and the third is the band i feel squeezing my ribs, oh yeah – and that damned elephant is sitting on my chest again, demanding my attention.

In a matter of days i’ve been reduced to barely hanging on. Everything is too much. I can’t deal with everything that’s on my plate. I tried bitching about it on my social media, but it didn’t give me much relief. I’ve got to dial things back again. I’m going back to a bare minimum of functionality and seeing what i can reasonably accomplish while dealing with causes and symptoms of my current mental/emotional/physical state.

One source of anxiety that i can eliminate immediately is news/current events. Our province has been hit with a wave of new coronavirus cases, so i began watching the news again, which in turn led me back into some current events and then politics… And that’s getting noped. No more. I keep having to do this, but i’m going to try not to feel bad about it. I care about my family and friends and fellow humans, and i’ve always been a keen and regular consumer of local/national/world news. It’s not bad or dumb to care about these things – i can go back to it when my health is better. Once again i’ll be relying on my husband to tell me only what’s most important.

I need to talk to someone, but i’m not sure who. Normally i go to my husband and my therapist, but neither are currently an option. Hubby is dealing with some issues at work that have him all knotted up with anxiety too, and i don’t want to add to his burdens. Our income is going down, the government slowdown has thrown a wrench in our access to some assets, and we don’t know how screwed our economy is going to be when the smoke clears on this pandemic. My therapy had finally begun to ease in intensity, so i made the decision to put it on hold for a bit, hoping the money we save might provide a bit more cushion. There’s only a couple of people that i could talk to like i need to talk, and they’re dealing with their own piles of crap like the rest of us, so…

I’m blogging. It’s what i’ve got to work with, and it’ll just have to do for now.

Now to the thing that i don’t want to blog about. My health. I’m not well, but i don’t know how not-well, and i’m scared AF to find out. I live with chronic pain due to fibromyalgia, osteopenia, and various offshoots like restless legs, irritable bowels, myofascial pain and bruxism. I’m also going through menopause. I’ve had carpal tunnel since around 2001, but i lost a great deal of weight shortly after i was diagnosed, so that helped and as a result it’s been quite manageable. Until now. And it’s not just that in my hands, now. I don’t know if the fibro is worsening, or i’m developing arthritis, or something else, but my hands have become a daily misery. They’re stiff and painful and barely work for the first few hours of each day, then it eases enough to perform regular tasks, and then the pain returns full force before bed each night. The pain often flows into my forearms too, and i experience random but regular shooting pains, like electric shocks, throughout my body, and throughout the day. Nerve pain? I don’t know. I have a constant headache, but not my usual – it starts in the base of my skull, but rather than a band tightening around my temples, it shoots out almost exclusively on my right side. At times it greys my vision. I’ve pulled a muscle in my back and my ribs feel out on the left side. I’ve strained my neck on the right. Sciatica comes and goes. I experience dumping syndrome every time i eat, no matter what size my portions or what i consume. I’m never not tired. When my blood pressure isn’t too low and causing me to almost pass out every time i stand, my heart’s threatening to burst out of my chest due to anxiety. The fibro pain in my neck and shoulders hasn’t felt this intense since i was first diagnosed, i don’t think.
So yeah, i’m a mess.
I’m seeing my doctor this week.

Some things are crappy, for sure. However, i feel different. This situation seems different. I’ve been pondering what for some time now, and i think it’s me. I mean, in this blog where i am my own psychoanalyst that’s usually the answer. I’m actively working on self-awareness and healing, and i welcome change – it’s challenging and scary, but it’s good.
But still, that’s not quite it. This is different. I am different.

There’s a steadiness inside me that i’ve not had before. I’ve been babystepping for nearly 15yrs now, working towards a time when life happening no longer has the power to lay me low with the most mundane and regular of things. Fewer triggers, better function.
I should be a half step away from commitment. If all this had come a couple or 3yrs ago i think the chances are fair i’d be in care right now.
But i’m coping reasonably well, all things considered.
I could list everything currently on my plate, but i won’t, and i won’t because i know it’s not a good idea. I know it would drag me down. If you’re a regular reader you already know, and if you’re new, you probably get the gist. And you can guess if you don’t. We all have stuff. I have some physical and some mental stuff. I have the past, the right now, and wth-is-next.
Same as most of us.

I’m here, though. I’m in the face and present in most moments. I’ve switched a couple of times, but for mere hours, in total. I’m here for all of it. It’s stressful and i’m always tired and in physical pain. Yet i am not at the end of my rope. I see that, earlier in this piece i characterised myself as barely hanging on. That’s not so. I think part of the reason i feel so strange and unsettled is because i am NOT barely hanging on. I’ve got the rope grasped firmly and my feet are finding purchase rather surely.
Yes, i’m still dealing with a significant level of anxiety, but it is in keeping with current circumstances – it isn’t wildly out of scale. I’m not catastrophising. I’m not flailing. I’m staying the course and charting my path as the weather allows.

Well, i feel better. I’m in a better place than i thought.
I guess blogging works, when i work it.
I’ll try it again tomorrow.

Love and Peace,
~H~

IMAGE: Laura Nyhuis



The Lovely Little Child On The Road

Then he flew away in flames
Did the False False Fly
From the lovely little child on the road
‘Twas the devil in disguise
Was the False False Fly’
Said the lovely little child on the road
~ Jane Siberry, False False Fly

It’s been suggested on probably dozens of occasions, by dozens of people who care about me, that i cut myself a break – that i’m too hard, too critical, too immovable on the subject of my own culpability. There are areas where they’re wrong, there are places from which those comments come that speak more of their care for me than any truth to what they’re saying, but still… I know that moderation is something that i must always work on, and that it’s in balance i’ve found the most peace and possibility for more and better.

In my therapy session today, Ms T touched on it, as well. She pointed out and reinforced how far i’ve come, how much progress i’ve made. It is a hard thing to hold inside me for any length of time. As i sit in front of this screen and bring these things to mind, i can see it, i know it, i feel it. However, once i step away from the keyboard and back into my world and its day-to-days, it slips from my mind and drips between my fingers. My palms are stained in blood red judgment and my mind is filled with the voices of those that would condemn me – both those i made and those made by others. And i’m haunted by the voices of those long gone; my mother mostly, dead 30yrs now, but also those who are only dead to my life: siblings, stepfamily, peers, church associates… All those save her have faded until i can barely hear them any more, and even then only occasionally. Her voice can still do battle with some of my most potent parts, or join with others that she and her gang of super-bastards created in me. Ms T thinks it’s the last gasp of the invaders, and my own creations are stepping forward in confidence and safety – or at least making a solid, though tentative attempt.

This process has caused some parts of me to revolt a bit, sliding back into old behaviours as i sit with the terror they imbue. I’m as patient as i can be with these parts/children of mine that live in my brain and clutter it up with their own personalities and accompanying issues. Today i think it’s a good thing i split myself up into more manageable pieces, because i have a barge load of issues. My mother threw me into a roiling, angry ocean with no life preserver. If i’d not been able to parse it out, i’d have sunk like a stone. I’d have either died literally, or the part of me that remembers who i am and carries the blueprint for putting me back together would have been forever lost.

I survived, but more than that, while i might struggle with what most find to be a less-than-average level of function (myself included), i am sort of incredible in very recognisable ways.
I’m not a super-bastard, like my mother and her cronies intended.
I’m not even a shitty person. Sure, i can, have, and will do shitty things sometimes, but i’m a good, decent, kind person. I still love humanity, too. They couldn’t take any of that from me. My nurture, particularly for the first 8yrs of my life, was diametrically opposed to my nature. I won’t speak to the scientific debate of such, one, because i’m not sufficiently educated, and 2, because this blog isn’t for that. While i work every day at being a critical thinker, being a multiple lands me in some contentious psychological territory. The way my brain works is strange and not yet well mapped out. So i’ve made a conscious and willful decision to lay those concerns down and just work with what i’ve got. All i know is what my brain does and how life looks for me; how i handle life and process it all.

**********

Some time ago, i posted a piece called I Am Amazing, which i’d completely forgotten until i started trying to write this. So… I’ve already done the work. I know the truth of it – i’m just not connected to it.
Yet.

This is life as me and this is why i blog.
I’m at least average intelligence. Ah, i think so, anyway (the older i get and the more i learn, the less i’m sure of that, though). I’ve been working on the problem of my fuckedupness for my entire adult life, and over the years i’ve accumulated a not-insignificant quantity of information in the field of psychology and mental illness. It’s very lay person in nature, lacking in history and the hard science bits to be sure, but i have a fairly good grasp of the soft science of it – at least until you enter the field of neuroscience (which is fascinating, and i have learned some from Ms T). But despite everything i know about myself, how i work, and how to figure out and deal with my shit – i can and do still get it twisted.

The best solution i’ve found is getting it all out, either talking, blogging, or often, both. I just reread that piece (I Am Amazing) and it’s exactly what i’ve been trying to do for the last few days. I’d sit down at the keyboard, bash away a bit, backspace it all, curse like a sailor, slap the Notebook closed, and go do something else. But the words were already there, and posted. I can see how far i’ve come when i give it a writer’s distance. In other words, i’m dissociated from it – i lack connection to the information. I can think it, but i don’t feel it. I am only now, in my 50s and after a dozen years of (excellent) therapy, moving away from my overriding belief about myself: If anyone knew the real me, they’d see how terrible i am, and leave me, angry and disgusted with what they saw.

I’ve wanted to believe that’s not true for many years now. I’ve leaned hard on the opinions of those i trust so i don’t break under the weight and pressure of looking at my past and my inner workings. Over the last year or so i’ve actually come to believe that it’s possible that i’m not awful, that i might be decent, kind – even lovable and perhaps worthwhile (there is a soupçon of sarcasm in that, but not nearly enough). But still i am lacking connection. There’s a space between what my mind can perceive and what i can tolerate feeling inside my body:
– acceptance and approval from others;
– acceptance and approval from myself;
– belief that i am enough;
– belief that i am worthy of the good in life;
– love from others;
– love of myself.

I was treated like a thing, like property growing up, yet even though i got away, i’ve continued to live my life like i’m spoilt. Forever ruined. Full of poison; ugly and rotten inside. I’ve never gotten away from it.
I think all this work is getting me to this crux. Do i let myself free fall into this? Do i trust that my parachute is functional and will bear me down to solid ground, where i’ll walk away and live as a new being in a new land? Because man, lemme tell you, i will be different and the world will be different, too. To live my life free of these toxic beliefs about myself would change no less than everything.

I have to talk about this, not just write. This is the thing, the problem, the monkey on my back, the cross i bear. Can i mend this broken connection, can i live out what i’m learning, can i feel what i feel while knowing what i know? Can i feel all the pain and betrayal and isolation of the past while knowing it wasn’t my fault and i’m still a good/nice/decent/kind person, that i’m not bad/gross/foul/despoiled? Can i believe that it broke me but didn’t destroy me? Do i have the inner and outer supports in place that i might risk that step out of the airplane?

Fuck if i know.
I’m pretty sure i’m gonna go for it. Soon. There is only so much babystepping i can do before i’m at the edge and it all comes down to a moment. I’ve been a doomsday prepper for my own life. Time for trust. Me, my partner, my therapist, my friends. Time to test the hypothesis. Am i going to live out I Am Amazing? Can i? Am i? There is a preponderance of evidence to suggest that these good things are true and these bad things are not. If i’m to be the critical thinker i’m striving so hard to be, mustn’t i now let go of old superstitions that were brainwashed and beaten into me, and wrong, harmful concepts that i embraced in order to survive my abusers? I already know intellectually that the abuse is over and i’m safe, and everything i’ve learned since i got away from them has taught me that they were liars, users, perverted opportunists, who took my need for love and care, and forged it into a weapon to use against me. The thing of it is that, even once i was free of them, the weapon passed to my hand and i continued the woundings, bloodletting because that’s what i was taught. No one’s asking or expecting me to martyr myself anymore. Those who would are either dead or out of my life. There is no cause, no god to die for. It’s well past time to lay the weapon down.

Well, this went in a direction i wasn’t expecting. Just life as a highly dissociative human seeking homeostasis and happiness, yee haw.
Stay tuned. I’m never boring – so i’ve got that going for me.*

I’ve struggled harder than usual with this post. Discovering i’d done the work a while back was a shock. You’d think i’d be used to losing time, and of course i am, but it’s still a psychic slap in the face. Fading, sliding, and switching is not fun. It’s not cool. It’s not like the tropes you see in tv and movies (don’t even get me started… that’s a post full of hurt and rage, and i’m not about that right now). It’s jarring and frightening and disrupting. It steals memories from me and puts distance between me and those i love. It saved my life a long time ago, but now it is a roadblock to me having the life i want.
I already did the work and i didn’t remember.

**********

I slept on this before deciding whether or not to post it. Much of what i write, especially lately, doesn’t make the cut. I’ve been trying to write when i’m in a dissociative state, to maybe get a better handle on things. Understand more. Gain more control. But it’s not fit to read. It doesn’t add to what this blog is, basically because it’s meandering, rambley, often ranty, and occasionally unsettling. I’ve been bashing away at this post for an entire week, which is unlike me. Once i know what i’m writing about, things generally flow. When i struggle this hard, i’ve taken it as a sign that i’m not ready for the subject matter, or i’m off base with the whole concept. I leave them in my drafts for a while, for consideration, but i’ve always ended up trashing them.

I’m not sure if this post will make any sense to anyone but me. I can see that i’m trying to connect with myself. I’m reaching out for my own hand, searching inside myself for pathways home. In a way, i dispersed myself inside my own brain, where i dwelt in foreign lands until i could return safely. This work is to gather all my bits together and be more cohesive, more functional, more useful, more involved with the world and engaged with its other inhabitants. I don’t think it will ever be what some professionals call “integration,” but i hope to emerge from the fog that i’ve been in my entire life. I hope to embrace the things that i wrote in I Am Amazing; to bring it home to live with me like my system and my physical body.

I’ll close with a quote from the inimitable Bukowski:

Poetry says too much in too short a time; prose says too little and takes too long.

If you made it this far, thank you.
If you got anything out of it, all the better.

Try to be as good as you can to yourself this week, and i will do the same.
Love and Peace,
~H~

*My hubs and kid might disagree. Heh.

IMAGE: Timothy Eberly



Love Goggles

I think i’m having an epiphany.
Are you allowed to have those when you’re down a rabbit hole and swimming around in a bottle?

I don’t know, but my inclination is No. It’s not legitimate. You are in your cups and so you cannot trust any thought or feeling you have.

No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
~ Inigo Montoya

This has been the hardest year of my adult life. No, really. I went back to therapy, and BAM! my beloved Ms T tells me i’m looking for homeostasis, in other words, a return to what i was meant to be under ideal circumstances. The word some might use is integration, but for me it isn’t that. That word means an end to the split off parts of me that saved my life. They made a childhood full of torture, survivable. Yes, they make me (diagnosably) crazy and frustrated and put me in embarrassing situations and make messes i have to clean up. Yes, they drive me nuts (diagnosed). But they stepped in, when i was a child, and took unspeakable, excruciatingly painful, evil things so that i didn’t have to. I owe them a debt i can never fully repay. Yes, i know they are me. I don’t mean to sound arrogant or superior here, but in all my efforts to communicate my experiences, i’ve come to believe that no one can fully understand what it’s like to be a multiple unless you are one. (And thank you, for every bit that you do get, and/or at least extend yourself in the effort.)

Homeostasis means healthy, to me. My body and my mind working at peak capacity. So, my Bits N’ Pieces will still be a part of me, but no longer able to take over the face and cause difficulties. No more lost time. No more reflexive disappearing. I will still feel them and maybe even hear them in my brain, but they will just be for me. No one else will have to encounter them, or deal with them. I am not in danger anymore. I’m in a safe, good, healthy place. I want them to know and feel that, and i want to take good care of them, like my children (they are), for the rest of my life.

It’s a lot of work, and it’s constant. The choice to be present and feel my feelings, experience my physical sensations, and think my thoughts in real time, is all the time. It never ends. I’m always exhausted. I struggle with insomnia, but when i can sleep, i can sleep for 8,10,12hrs straight. I have to commit and recommit to what i’m doing every day, all day.

And then this pandemic hits.
It engages me on every level i’m working on. I’m trying to be a better, kinder, healthier human, and it challenges me at every point.
People not thinking what i think they should think.
People not doing what i think they should do.
Trying to escape from religious and tribalistic thinking confronts me at every turn.

A couple of posts ago i talked about seeing people through love-goggles. It’s been seeping into me ever since. As i do the work in front of me, i’m learning who i am as a person. Shucking off all the protective measures that are like reflex. This isn’t just about my system, it’s about every breath i’ve ever taken. I had to fight for my life from before i could walk or speak. This stuff is ingrained. It’s my skin. My armour is my skin, my breath, my heartbeat, my blood. Every minute of every day, for almost 2yrs now, i choose to let go. To trust. To believe. To aspire for better and actively work towards it. To see myself for who i am and acknowledge it to others.

And this pandemic, now. FFS.
It has neon-signed every issue i have. It has Sisyphused all my burdens. I’m in constant crisis.

I’ve found the blessing in it. I had to. I want to live, and more than that, i want as much quality of life as i can get. Yes, i dare it. I want more, and more, and better. And this is what i’ve learned from doing the work. There is more, and better, and i can have it.
But it requires great effort and intention.

So, the pandemic. Yes, it highlighted all my issues and exacerbated the stress i was already under. And i backslid into old ways of thinking and acting. I was angry –enraged, even– at everyone who wasn’t doing what i thought they should do. I lashed out, with provable justification, at everyone who wasn’t behaving correctly. And every time i did, i felt like a bag of shit. Then i’d chide myself, because i was clearly in the right, so i was doing/saying what people needed. I was being brave.
But i kept feeling awful about it. So awful.

But i’d written this piece about love-goggling, and i kept thinking about it. I kept thinking about my son who believes things that i know are dangerous and provably wrong. I kept thinking about my friends who are taking terrible risks that i would not take. I kept thinking about how, when my mental illness overtook me, how those friends were the ones that were there for me, in the flesh, to help me when i could not help myself.

I asked myself: Is my rage helping me, or anyone else?
Is the fact that i can prove my rage is justified making me feel any better?
Does my tsk-tsking and finger-shaking make me feel good?
The answers were No. No, and Only for a very short time.
And that is when my mind and heart turned to love-goggling.
How am i going to be in a good relationship with my son when he believes things that actively put his family and others in danger? Love goggles.
How am i going to live in a community that largely believes in and supports political viewpoints that i find abhorrent? Love goggles.
How am i going to engage with an online audience that seems consistently arrogant, cruel, judgmental, and tribalistic? Love goggles.

I may be a Pollyanna. I may be a Milquetoast.
Maybe.
But today i can live in my own skin and i can give a shit about everybody.
Every. single. body.
And that feels good and right to me.

Me, Myself, and the Mirror

I was more shocked than anyone when it began to seem as if i might be an introvert.

I was born to be in service to my mother. I have no way to know just how intentional my birth was. My educated guess is that my conception was accidental, but her decision to keep me was made consciously, and with purpose. It was her second pregnancy with no husband, and in the 60s, in her tiny and uber religious community, that was a huge deal. The first time she was sent to the US to have and surrender the child for adoption, which she did, and so even though she no longer lived with her parents, for whatever reason she went again. At their behest? Mm, doubtful. More like it was her best option, because she had nothing, and they were of some means and would pay for it. I think Grandpa had sold the ranch by then, and he and Grandma had moved to the big city. All their family and most of their friends still resided in little towns dotted around the south of the province, where 1 faith rules most, and even though my grandparents eschewed the Latter Day Saints for the United Church, everyone else they knew were adherents. I imagine the home for wayward young ladies accepted her without a blink, and besides, a non-believer is merely an opportunity for conversion, is it not?

I heard a number of stories around the adventures she had, and the events leading up to her leaving the States and me being born in another province, but i’ve been unable to find much supporting information. Yes, the home existed then (and still today). They wouldn’t confirm she’d stayed there, which is only as it should be, i was merely doing my due diligence to inquire. I have a birth certificate that confirms when and where i was born, and was able to speak to the hospital archivist, but they don’t keep records of any of the details of my birth beyond height and weight, and that it was uneventful. I don’t know if she knew the man i called “Daddy” before she conceived, but i suppose it doesn’t matter; somewhere along the way she decided that it served her to serve me up to him for his purposes. Before, during, and after her association with him, she was my 1 true god, anyway. I always knew it, and she knew that i did too, although she still reinforced it regularly.

I was adept at dissociation, and abuse was ubiquitous. It was nothing for her to pick me up from a “visit” and immediately place me in a social situation. I’m not entirely certain if i knew what had happened prior or not, but being as well acquainted with my system as i am now, i strongly suspect not. I might have been molested an hour or 2 before, but there i’d be, shining as brightly as my mother wished, for whatever audience she’d placed me in front of.*

I was always somewhat conscious of how important it was that i behave in a friendly and outgoing fashion; i must leave a favourable impression wherever i went. To do anything else my mother would see as reflecting poorly on her. Not only did she feed on the admiration of others (psychically and monetarily), it helped blind them to what was festering inside her, underneath the facade. To that end, i was her centerpiece of subterfuge. I was bubbly, animated, sweet, and yes, precocious. I spent most of my time with adults, a lot of whom were highly educated. My grandmother was a school teacher who had me reading fluently by 4yrs old. How could i not be?

By the time she and “Daddy” parted ways, my personality was set. At least, it seemed to be and that’s what i’d’ve said had you asked me. My belief now is that what i displayed was more psychological affect than personality. Some of it was me, but some of it was the mask that had been given me to wear. After a time, i forgot to take it off. No, it’s more accurate to say that i’d worn it so long i didn’t know it was a mask. I looked in the mirror and assumed what i saw was me.
It’s taken years to pry that sucker off, so i could get a gander at what lies underneath.

I first noticed something a few months back. A loved one commented, as they all seem to eventually, on my lack of desire for vengeance, or even justice, against those that harmed me. I’ve never wished death, torture, pain of any kind, on any abuser. I wanted to hit my mother one time, when i was prepubescent – and that’s the extent of it. My son brought it up the last time, and when he expressed his lack of understanding, i shrugged and said, That’s just me. That’s who i am.

I’ve been puzzling over that ever since.

I’ve been an automaton wearing a mask for most of my life, long after the danger had passed, and well into being a mother and a wife and someone’s best friend. I’ve been that way for so long that, as i’ve stated – i thought how i was, WAS me.
Then the safety of a loving relationship came and gently held my head up, as therapy held the mirror, and i saw myself. I saw my costuming. And i wanted to take it all off.
When i responded to my son that day, i got a looksee.
There was a heretofore absent surety in what i said to him.
See, i’m always questioning myself: what i think, how i feel, what i say, how i act… ALL OF IT, ALL THE TIME.
When i said, That’s just me; that’s who i am, there was no question. No obsession, no angst, no elipses. There was a period at the end. I knew what i knew.

I’ve been chewing on that, and i can see it in my recent postings. I know the sun is rising on me as a functioning human being. I know i’ve shucked my funeral clothes. I know i’m naked and new. I step from the shower and stand before the mirror, and the foggy coating covering it is fading. I’m trepidatious, but my ache to see myself is greater. My hunger to know myself is stronger. Blurred lines are sharpening, colours are intensifying, and i’m coming into view. I’m tremulous, but my feet are planted shoulder-width and i am set. To see. To know.

I’ve been joking for a few years about being a hermit. When i moved out of the big city in 2007, i remembered the comfort and peace that i’d felt as a farm girl. My home life was hell then, and school was a misery. The only safety i could find was in the endless chores and quiet beauty of farm life and livestock. The wind and the smell of grain and cow poop made me feel happy and calm.  So when mania threatened to break me, i retreated to my Little Crooked House on my quiet farm at the end of a No Exit road. I realised that i shifted into automatic around people, and if i really wanted to deal with my shit, i had to remove the stimuli that triggered the reflex.
I’ve done my best work here, alone.

After that i noticed that whenever i’d go into town for socialising or to run errands, it wasn’t long before i wanted to go home. And then i began marking how quickly my energy drained when i was out and about, and how i could feel my depleted stores filling back up as soon as we turned onto our road to come home.
The entire time though, i was wondering if i was hiding. I thought maybe i might be kidding myself, that i was retreating to avoid, to ignore. I worried my behaviour was unhealthy.

Over the years i’ve tried to be a part of many different groups. I kept looking for a place where i belonged. I’d ken the group dynamic, their values and aesthetics Then i’d shrug on a new coat, and walk amongst them for a while. See if i fit the group; if the jacket fit. It never did, or at least not for very long. My chameleon colours never lasted. I’d be identified for the imposter i was and be cast out, or i’d feel claustrophobic and need to GTFO ASAP.

While standing in front of that psychic mirror recently, i saw that i was wearing a spiked leather jacket. It’s a i’m-tough-stay-away-from-me thing. I thought it was an introvert costume. I looked into the mirror, who is me of course, and i saw that i don’t need it. I’m an introvert.
That’s just me. That’s who i am.
This is not so much a process of figuring out or learning who i am.
I’ve created a safe space, and now the bits of myself that i hid away so that i might survive what i could not have otherwise, are coming out to claim their place.
They know exactly what spot at the table is theirs.
I sit at the head and wait.
The banquet will be lavish.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*I refuse to mangle the flow of a sentence to avoid ending one in a preposition. If this offends your delicate grammarly sensibilities, i do apologise. Be advised that i regularly, and in a multitude of ways, play with and pervert this language, that i think is a bit of a mutt to begin with. Heh. See what i did there?

Pockets Full of Noes

As soon as i hear the words “you should… ” i’m out.

I remember an old nugget from 12-step that refers to “terminal uniqueness”, and while i understand what they’re getting at, i reject the concept. There literally cannot be another person exactly like me, as i’m not an identical twin, and human cloning isn’t a thing. And since we’re all gonna die… There you go. I’m terminally unique. So what?

I spent my upbringing plus some years after only doing what i was told, and then doing what i imagined other people would want me to do. At 21 i briefly rebelled by having a relationship with a woman for nearly 2yrs. When that ended in disaster and i immediately went out and got myself pregnant, i saw it as confirmation that my way was the wrong way, and i returned to being/doing what i thought was expected of me… Mostly.

Having a child seemed to give me an ability to stand up for things that had to do with him. I defied my family a number of times where he was concerned. I received a few phone calls whenever they discovered that i wasn’t raising him the way they thought i should. I bucked family traditions. Despite still being willingly tied to their toxic religion and having a boatload of hangups and twisted thinking due to its entanglements in my thinking and lifestyle, i did manage not to inflict some of the worst of it on my boys. They were raised with a healthy body image, and in a relatively sex positive household.

I went directly against some of my former religion’s most stridently applied dogma, as well. Once my obsessive and unhealthy relationship with my girlfriend ended, i made sure i only chose partners for whom my feelings were mild and manageable. I was looking for bed partners, for the most part, although i played at being engaged to please my family. When i stumbled across real romantic love for the first time, a friend confronted me with my hypocrisy. I was regularly attending church, and actively involved in anything they did outside of Sunday services. My friend, who was experimenting with a possible return to the faith, pointed out that i would be judged a fornicator by my own purported standards.
She was right, i was convicted, and i promptly asked my boyfriend to marry me.
(SPOILER: He said Yes, and we’re still together.)

Looking back, i can see how dissociation was at play, here. I’d been highly sexualised as a child, and some of my Bits N’ Pieces were created specifically to handle that. They remained a part of my system even after the abuse had stopped, and were definitely the impetus behind some of my sexual behaviours once i became an active adult, i.e. sexual by choice. I was a dutiful young woman, trying hard to be the model of what my religion expected of me. I studied its book, its dogma and tenets, deeply, and at length. I pondered and “meditated” (quotes because my multiplicity has made proper meditation impossible), and yes, prayed on all of it at length – both on my own and in groups led by my church.

I just… i don’t know. It wasn’t a willful or conscious decision. As soon as someone called me on it, i knew i was in the wrong and immediately took steps to set things right. Yet i’d been having sex since i was 21, and i was religious all along. My mind did what it does and glossed over whatever it didn’t want to know. I took my sex life and compartmentalised it, as i’ve been known to do on occasion. Heh.

Other things come to mind, too. Like when my stepfather would tell my son as he was ending a visit, “You take care of your mom now, y’hear?”

I would instantly respond that children don’t take care of adults, and i would reassure my son that it’s my job to take care of him. And that’s weird, because i didn’t talk back to him at that time. (I did some, to him and my mom as a teenager, and have no regrets. I wish i’d said more, but that horse galloped off years ago.)

I also wouldn’t allow anyone to coerce my children into hugs, or physical touch of any kind. Yet i had no touch boundaries of my own, with anyone – especially family. It was less than 10yrs ago that i realised i’m not a very touchy person. Even now, it’s so ingrained in me that i’ll initiate hugs when stressed/dissociated. But no one could touch my kids without their permission.*

And then there’s my extended family.
First though, i must confess. When my 2 older children were both under 5, i was close with my siblings. They’d spend lots of time with me at my house (i’m older than they are, and they have a different father). When i had my second boy, i launched into what i now know was a mild mania. I became obsessed with 12-step programs, and the friendships that i had as a result of that. I used my sibs as babysitters. Some of it was reasonable, like, when one of them was staying with me and not paying room/board. However, as i became more manic, i drifted away from “the program”, started frequenting bars, and began dating my first and only BadBoyBoyfriend (BBB).

He was trouble. My first relationship was a tumultuous one, filled with chaos, some violence, cheating, and general immaturity. I mean, we met at a halfway house, she was a violent alcoholic, and i’d been kicked out of my family because one of them tried to rape and asphyxiate me. We were fucked up kids and both of us acted that way. After that debacle, i only dated people to whom i wasn’t very attached.
Cue BBB. I was manic, and he was a handsome, charming ladies’ man. He pursued me, and i was dazzled. No guy like that had ever wanted me so brazenly. Hit me up for sex when no one else was around/available sure, but want me for a relationship? Aw, hell no. He was on parole for cocaine and beating up cops, and he was *ahem* very experienced, which was new for me. Hindsight makes it clear that i was a naive, overweight girl who’d spend money on him, and he was lonely and broke.

He took me on a number of kooky, fun adventures, and that’s when i really took advantage of my sister and brothers, using them as babysitters too often and for far too long. My heart and my bank account were flat busted when he was done with me, and i’d done irrevocable damage to my relationship with my sibs. Screwed blue and tattooed! as he’d have put it. But hey, i met my husband shortly after that, so it worked out for me in the end. (I’m now comfortably estranged from all extended family, save 1 precious cousin.)

All this buildup is to say that i had 1 more hard rule when it came to my children, a boundary that i didn’t set for myself until yeeeears later. When my sibs would be looking after my boys, they knew not to evereverEVER leave them alone with any other family members. Their secrets are sick and deep, and i knew it firsthand. It’s a long and sordid story why i was still involved with any of them, but we won’t be going there. They’re still alive, still sick AF (in my opinion), and i’m not going into personal crap that they might decide requires a response. The important part of it is that, even though i was still seeking their acceptance and approval, part of me knew they posed a potential threat to my boys, and so i protected them from situations where they might be vulnerable.

I don’t know why i’m writing about this today, or what specific point i’m trying to make, if any. My ability to compartmentalise is something that i’ve been looking at in depth recently, and i guess i just find it interesting.

All the times i said No once we got away from the man i called Daddy, and someone hit me up for sex.
All the times i sniffed out danger and got away. (I didn’t always, but i did often enough for me to feel compelled to examine it more closely.)
How i raised my boys with healthy boundaries, instinctively.
All the times i advocated for them against people i was taught to obey.
How i had no hesitation saying No for them, when i couldn’t for myself.
All the times i avoided the toxic kinds of romantic entanglements i so often saw others who’d been through childhood abuse get into.
How i had the sense to choose a good, kind, gentle, hardworking partner. I chose the absolute perfect person for me. After everything that’d been done to me; how they’d broken me, shattered me, mercilessly crushed me – how in the hell did i do that?!

I’ve come to see it as the gifts being a multiple gave me. The way my brain works enabled me to secrete parts of myself that my abusers must have been sure they’d destroyed.
My will.
My body autonomy.
My sense of self.
My ability to mother.
My desire for healthy attachments.
My freedom to choose.

Today i bristle at being told what to do. I can stubbornly stand my ground, even when it’s against people i love or those in positions i was taught to obey and not question. I say No often. I’ve drifted away from toxic people and toxic behaviours. I don’t answer the door when they knock. I’m no longer blindly obedient to anyone or anything. I make up my own mind; no one tells me what to think anymore. And woe to any and all who’d try to “should” me.

Perhaps i’m writing about this because i’m in the process of mending the severed connections between my thoughts, my feelings, and my sensations. Maybe this work is deepening and broadening my insight. I think that maybe, just maybe, i’m feeling not only compassion for myself, but some serious appreciation for how amazing i am. Hell, i might just be Queen Amazeballs of Crazy Island.

If so, i’mma need a crown.

Until next time, y’all hang in as best you can, and i promise i will, too.
Love and Peace,
~H~

I am bigger on the inside
But you have to come inside to see me…
We are so much bigger

Than another one can ever see
But

Trying is the point of life
So don’t stop trying
Promise me.
~ Amanda Palmer

*Unfortunately, while i did set some good protective barriers for my children, i did inflict a lot of religious crap on them. My church promoted homeschooling, so i did that until my oldest was 12 and my middle one was 8. I had NO business doing that. I was ill-equipped, to put it mildly. I lacked the education, the attention span, and the temperament, too. I was descending into mania, and the neglect was undeniable. They were basically not schooled at all.
This is not to say that homeschooling can’t be done well by someone else.

 

Waking From the Dream

The body cannot live without the mind.
~ Morpheus, The Matrix

I know it’s been a while, and i want to apologise, but i’m not going to.
I want to offer all my valid and compelling and sympathy-inducing reasons for not posting an entry in what i consider to be far too long, but the truth is somewhat perfunctory – although not intended to be dismissive or glib.

I couldn’t write.
I’ve had so little energy left over after dealing with this current therapy i’m in, that it would have been depleting myself unnecessarily. I’ve been working so frelling hard to stay present and hang on and feel my feelings and keep my house in some kind of order and maintain some kind of connection with the people i love that live in my house and not drink myself and starve myself into another hospital stay and take care of my Bits N’ Pieces.

Over the last few weeks i’ve been secretly and seriously concerned that i wouldn’t be able to do this work. And worse, in the back of my mind the thought was growing big enough to become belief, that i’m irretrievably busted up and irredeemable and impossibly histrionic and tiresome to all that know me. A terrible, sickening, sinking feeling that i will only ever be a burden to those who love me – and that everyone would be vastly better off if i weren’t here to suck the energy out of any space i occupy.

I’m under my own thrall.
I drank the Koolaid that i made.
I bought my own bullshit.
This work is silly and selfish and i should just get over it and move on, already.

And why would anyone except a sick and self-involved attention whore choose to feel this awful for such an extended period of time?
What about the people around me who need me, and who’ve invested time and energy and emotion to help me not be this fucked up?
MEMEMEMEME. It’s all, always about me.

All this work i’ve done over all these years and what has it got me?
I’ve whittled my circle down to a very few people, and i try their patience and commitment nearly daily. And i’m still white-knuckling and skin-of-my-teething it.
Instead of being a shining example of how therapy can make your life better, i fear what i’ve become is the poster child for Fuck it. Bury it. Don’t talk about it. Pretend it didn’t happen.
Just bloody get on with the business of living.

Except i’ve tried and i can’t. It’s as pointless to try to stop what’s happening as it was to try writing as recently as yesterday.

This is what i currently have to work with.
This is the pile of lima beans on my plate.
I eat it, or i’ll starve, and as crazy as it might sound after the preceding paragraphs filled with angst and vitriol…

I don’t want to die.
I remain unconvinced that my level of function as a regular human will ever even be considered average, but…
Whatever sort of life i can carve out for myself, i still really, REALLY want it.

No one seems comfortable leaving me unsupervised right now, and although i feel guilty about it, i think they’re right and i’m seriously grateful for the care.
A new thing i’ve learned to do over the last few months is call or text my therapist when things are particularly bad. I haven’t done that before (i don’t think – and if i have it’s been once in a blue moon). I think it was last year when i found out that her other clients contact her when they’re struggling or in trouble…
I was quite shocked. I was taught people like her are important, and i’m not, so unless she’s on the clock and i’m paying her for her time, it hadn’t occurred to me that i could have contact with her outside of the office.
I’m not supposed to bother people.
I mean, Who the fuck do you think you are, H? (If you guess that’s my mom’s voice, you get an internet cupcake.)

I’ve even -actually, truly, for realsies- asked my BFF to come over and hang out with me when i’m a wreck, i smell because it’s been days since i’ve showered, and my house isn’t doing much better.
This is a change on a very deep level, i think.
I wasn’t allowed to ask for help, because that would imply i needed help, and that would reflect poorly on my parents. I aligned myself with my abusers so well, that for most of my life it never occurred to me that i needed any. If there was a problem, it was my fault, whatever it was, and it was up to me to fix it. Over the years i’ve had friends and family help me out, but i didn’t ask, and i certainly didn’t feel worthy. I felt embarrassed and beholden.

I’ve called and texted my therapist when i’m switched and in a panic.
And she’s responded.
Like i fucking matter, or something.
“I see you, I know you, I understand you, your truest self is still intact. I am not leaving you or going away. You deserve all the patience, tolerance, and dignity… I know you don’t feel well. You can’t be okay, because you were hurt and these injuries are not your fault. It was sad and brutally scary… but this did not define you. These injuries need to be finally cared for and loved – regardless of what happened. They need love as all humans do! I will not leave you and you did nothing wrong.”

Yeah, you better believe she’s awesome.

The last time i saw her, i cried in a way i’ve never cried in my life. It’s very private and delicate for me right now, but i will say that these terrible sounds of anguish came out of me that i’ve rarely heard come out of any human, and certainly not myself. And she held me and she cried with me. She cried FOR me. She dried my tears and she held me and I LET HER.
She’s invested over 12yrs in this journey with me, and it’s the first time i’ve ever let her touch me, except in the most benign of ways. And i wasn’t afraid for 1 single second that she was going to hurt me or leave me – and i’m always afraid the people i let in will hurt me and leave me.

My body holds the memories of every beating and every rape. It holds the empty ache of unmet needs for healthy, loving touch.
Allowing myself to feel these things and stay present in the moment is, without question, the most terrifying and painful thing i’ve ever done.
I’m making progress, but it is slow and difficult, and i haven’t the words to describe to you how frightening.

I’m tired and raw and scared all. the. time.
I know i’m not the only one out there who has been through these things as a child. And i know i’m not the only one who endured them from the very people who should have loved me the most.
I know you’re there. I see you. Hang on, please. There is a piece of you, deep inside, that is still intact and it wants to fill you with its light and love. I don’t know what your path will be. I don’t know if you should or can do it the way i’m doing it, but what i am coming to believe is, that beautiful, perfect, immutable little part inside you, does know. Try to listen to that part, be kind to that part, let that part love you and tell you what it knows.

I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.
~ Morpheus, The Matrix

Love and Peace to You, Always,
~H~

On Lying, Being Fake, and General Asshattery

I read a meme a few months ago, and i’ve been turning it around in my brain since then. I knew right away that i wanted to write about it, but any time i sat down at the keyboard, nothing i bashed out seemed to capture my feelings. I can’t find where i saved it, i can’t even be sure i did save it, but that’s okay, i’ll give you the gist.

The creator of the meme requested that at their funeral, people tell the truth about them. Further, they asked that no one give banal, meaningless or patently false accounts of them as a person, because they didn’t always have a smile on their face, and sometimes they were an asshole.

It struck me, and resonated, long after i’d seen it. It also led me to some other thoughts that are along the same line… I think? I’m going to attempt to present these ponderings in a cohesive way, but as with anything i write, just because i get it, doesn’t mean you will.

I want to be real and i want to be known.

But sometimes i’m cool with being hidden and fake.
Like when i’m at the injectionist’s for some cosmetic work. I can see how most people act when they’re there. It took some courage to go and be surrounded by young, beautiful women who look like they’re IG models, and older sophisticates who appear to have a lot of dough. I don’t have much chutzpah left over after coping, to boldly be my weirdo self. I feel fine about plastering a huge smile on my face and using that voice – you know the one, right?

Some people i don’t know well enough, and some set off inside alarms.
It’s fine to behave in a somewhat generic, slightly subdued way until i know folks better, i think. If you want to come at me as 100% you, i’m cool with that, i just personally feel a bit safer in new social situations with a bit of anonymity.
There’s also the odd time where the person i’m interacting with triggers me (reminds me of an abuser), or just plants immediate red flags – like the person who stares in an overtly sexual way.

Many situations don’t require me to be my full self, and some things flow better without the full meal deal of my personality.
When i’m at the till, paying for my items, and there’s a bunch of people waiting behind me, neither the cashier nor the waiting customers are looking to forge a lifetime bond with my (incredibly charismatic) self.

I don’t think i could be described as down-to-earth, or even genuine, as an ex-friend once informed me by email (yep, still a bit tetchy about that one). I’m a multiple, after all. My face can be a mask, my body the puppet of a person who is not quite me. I’ve hidden my true self from others many times – both reflexively and with conscious intent.

I always want to know the truth, but sometimes i’ll lie, and i don’t feel bad about it.

If i don’t want to do something, and i don’t have the energy or desire to go into the reason why, i will totally fib.
If it’s a large gathering, or maybe i don’t know the person i’m doing the thing with very well, i feel no guilt begging off due to illness.
I should say though, that i’m fairly up front with my mental/emotional/social issues, and i’m selective about who i socialise with, so most of the time i can just say, Can’t people, and it’s understood and accepted without further explanation.

If my response could hurt someone’s feelings, i might lie.
That How do i look? one comes to mind. If i’m close with the person asking, i may say if they look awful. I’m more apt to pick something i like, or pick 1 piece of the outfit to change. I know for some that’s not good enough, and i’m obfuscating. Okay. <insertshrughere>
Sometimes i’ll purposely misunderstand the question. I’ve found that people are often loathe to restate, so i can avoid saying the potentially hurtful or contentious thing.

I’m glad when people ask more than one question at a time. I’ll pick the one i can be honest about without getting into something i’d rather not. That dislike to restate the question comes into play here.

I think there are a lot of situations where lying is fine.
It’s been my experience that everyone lies.
It’s also been my experience that, those who rail about hating liars are often the biggest ones, and i give them a wide berth.

There are only 2 people i won’t lie to – my doctor and myself.
The rest of you are fair game.*

I bring this up because i’m not “honest to a fault”, and i don’t want to be.

Another thing i hear said with respect to the dead is that they would give you the shirt off their back.
Well, i almost certainly won’t, unless you’re my child.
My husband won’t get the shirt off my back, and neither will my best friends.
I may die of exposure without my shirt, and i like living.
If there’s room, i’ll share the space inside my shirt with whom i will, but that’s dependent on circumstances.

There is a point at which i’m giving too much, and the point is mine to discern, and i do so carefully. I will not empty my vessel for anyone, and seeing as my children are all grown now, no, not even for them.
I don’t see the virtue in poverty.
The dead share nothing.**

Another thing you couldn’t say about me is that i’ll do anything for anybody. I won’t.
Which brings up judgment too, because i will judge. I will ask myself if doing the thing is worth my time and resources. If i don’t think it is, i don’t do the thing.
That’s not to say that i won’t still throw good money after bad, or help someone that i think may not appreciate it. I’ll pour myself into an unwinnable cause.
But i’ve taken a hard look at the situation before i decided to throw the dice anyway, because sometimes i win when i lose.

Oh, and my favourite remembrance of the dead:
“They were always happy, and always had a smile on their face.”

NO.
I’ll be damned if i’m going to smile when i’ve got nothing to smile about. Hiding and subjugating how i feel is one of the things that screwed me up this badly.
I can smile at a person on the street, or at someone who’s providing me a service. I don’t need everyone to know i’m having a low day (mostly). I don’t need to tell everyone that i’m currently riddled with anxiety (usually). But if we have any kind of rapport, i may very well tell you a bit about my sadness or stress, because it helps me, and i dare to think it could help you, too.
This is not contradictory to my prior statement that sometimes i wear a mask on purpose.
These are choices i make, dependent on the situation, with whom i’m dealing, and how many spoons are in my drawer. I’ve collected a number of tools over the years that are there to help me be functional in my day-to-day living. If i can, i generally prefer to let it all hang out, but that is not always wise, or appropriate, or timely, or safe.
Discernment. I haz it.
Sometimes it’s no one’s business.
Further, it’s normal and fine for folks to have neither the time, nor the desire to get the full HistrionicaButterfly experience. I can be a lot.

Which brings me to the best part.
Occasionally, i can be a good and proper asshole.
Let me demonstrate my honesty.

There are reasons and explanations and mitigating factors that perhaps cause and at least influence my assholery, but the unvarnished truth is:

– i hate questions, and will obfuscate, hedge, and get outright testy in my answers,
– my sarcasm can verge on caustic,
– i’ll disappear with no warning or explanation,
– i keep even the most worthy people at arm’s length,
– i regularly make mountains out of molehills,
– i’ve got a know-it-all streak,
– i’ve bitten more than a few heads off for no good reason,
– i’m so focused on myself i can miss the needs of others,
– i can be vicious,
– i sometimes manipulate others to get what i want,
– i’m an excuse-maker and dodger of responsibilities.

There are more, but they fall under annoying personality traits rather than character flaws. Like my ability to talk the leg off a chair (or clamming up when it’s most important that i talk), or spend us into the poorhouse, or my exhausting need for reassurance and approval, or my constant self-doubt.

This is me. This is who i am. Dying doesn’t remake me into a perfect human. Loving me doesn’t mean that i wasn’t sometimes hard to love. It won’t be disrespectful to tell the truth about the kind of person i was. In fact, it’d be honouring me.

I’ve failed many times. My biggest failures involve the people i love most in the world.
I’m standoffish, emotionally unavailable, unreliable, and intensely self-focused.
I can be pushy, obnoxious, thoughtless, demanding, critical, and infuriatingly contrary.
It’s only the truth.
It doesn’t negate all the wonderful, beautiful, amazing things about me. (I won’t go into those, because the length of this piece would treble. Heh.)

Of course, once i’m dead everyone’s free to sugar-coat me or not, as they will.
A person reading this might think the truth doesn’t matter so much to me, but in fact it does, very, very much. I share this nakedly in part to emphasise how important it is. I don’t think it’s contradictory or even ironic.
Do yourself and the rest of humanity a favour and don’t slap a coat of Hollywood paint on the portrait of my life.

I’m absolutely fabulous, and also an utter shithead.

If I try to seize this self of which I feel sure, if I try to define and to summarize it, it is nothing but water slipping through my fingers. I can sketch one by one all the aspects it is able to assume, all those likewise that have been attributed to it, this upbringing, this origin, this ardor or these silences, this nobility or this vileness. But aspects cannot be added up.
~ Albert Camus

*I’m being facetious, here.
Also, my blog is brutally honest, in case anyone was wondering.

**I’m referring to literal resources, here. Food, drink, shelter, money, physical effort, even time.