To Do or Not to Do

I’m still in a mania. I had hoped my cycles were shortening, but it’s still here. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to be shorter, but i am anxious and impatient. This is the process, and i am in it, and i am trying to push through.

I know i can’t push too hard, because i’ll stumble – which has been the case for the last couple of weeks. I pushed myself too hard to be a real live actual legitimate writer. It’s okay though, because i suspected i might (push too hard, that is). I’ve done my best to write my way through this; it is my favourite tool in my coping kit, and one of the most effective.

I ventured out on a different writing platform to do a slightly different kind of writing. I’m wanting to produce some writing that’s a bit more -i don’t know- professional(?), for lack of a better term. Let’s say, less intimate. A shift in voice, might be closer to what i’m driving at.
How about, not-a-journal style?

On this platform, there’s a lot of articles to read about how to be successful using it. I fell into that old, familiar trap of following other people’s rules and instructions. It’s easy to forget that other people don’t necessarily think like i think, or work how i work. Chances are they don’t. AA calls it “terminal uniqueness,” which i find arrogant, but yes, i am an individual who is not quite like anyone else on the planet, who will one day die, like everyone else on the planet.

Yeesh, when i’m manic even my sentences run. Heh.

I’m a bipolar multiple, with both picking and ticcing behaviours, and chronic health issues, like fibromyalgia, irritable bowel, restless legs, osteopenia, and bruxism. I’ve recently been gently placed on the autism spectrum. (I’m still processing that one.)

What i mean is, i have a lot going on in the old bod of mine, and i’ve found it ill-advised not to take that into account whenever i’m presented with a step-by-step. After a lifetime of trying to fit myself into spaces and accomplish the generally recognised, societal perceptions of what constitutes success, i’ve discovered i ignore my individuality to my detriment. I force myself at my peril. I’m not sure if it’s an actual failing on my part that might one day be remedied, or if it’s merely the cost of living in my skin. Regardless, i think it’s something we all do, that is, filter through our nature/nurture: our experience, our worldview, and our level of understanding.

I hope that bit can be followed, because my brain is very busy. It’s going 200 clicks per hour, and i can’t seem to rearrange the words in that paragraph any better. It makes sense to me. At the very least, it can shine light on what it’s like in a mania.

And speaking of, the insomnia (a major symptom of manias) lately has an interesting flip side. While i can’t sleep for a few days, i’ve been hit with this strange exhaustion, where i fall asleep HARD, for around 4hrs at a time. I never sleep heavy unless i’m very drugged up. This last week i’ve slept like the dead a few times, and, upon waking i totter around the house as if drunk for hours after. It’s like my body is still half asleep. Weird as hell.

So, back to this writing on a new platform thing.

I tried to do it “right,” and that was the wrong thing for me. But i was able to figure it out almost immediately, and while manic, which is excellent. It’s what i’ve worked so hard to be able to do. To step a bit outside myself and see what’s going on with a critical eye, while being swept along by internal powers that are, so far, beyond my control. I wonder if i’d be this successful at navigating bipolar if i weren’t highly dissociative?

(I snicker-snorted here, feel free to join me.)

The problem now presenting itself is, do i push through?
My brain is working too fast and too hard right now. I am emotionally intense. I feel close a breakdown, which isn’t as scary as it sounds – i think it’s de rigeur for mania. I’m confident i can manage it, but… Do i try to be a little more functional? Can i reasonably expect more of myself than i was able to the last time i was manic?
Do i continue working to accomplish more of my goals, or do i slow back down to a crawl and just baby-step until it’s over?

I’m thinking i will blog daily for the next while, and see what happens.
I think the next step i was planning to take on the other platform might be part of what has me so wired.

More tomorrow.

Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

Who TF Do I Think I Am?

I never write the title first. Not only did i just do that, but the title is ridiculous. It’s patently ridiculous. I mean, how could i, a person who has clearly saved her own life and achieved some smidgen of normalcy by dedicating herself to the pursuit of self-knowledge as the means to accomplish these things,
<insert gasp for breath here>
not know who i am?

The title is based on a familiar idiom that conveys contempt towards someone displaying pride. I mostly mean that, and i’m obviously aiming my contempt squarely at myself, but also… Who TF am i?

So, yeah, the good times are still rolling over here at Santa Mania, population: ME. Me in all my iterations, both figurative and even more figurative.
<insert deep and angsty sigh here>

I knew taking on the mantle, officially, of “writer,” would have fallout. Further, i knew i was taking it on while manic, making it delicate at the least, and perhaps dangerous, too. It’s definitely proven a minefield. There have been some close calls. I’ve tripped a couple of wires, but so far, i’ve managed to get out, unscathed.

I’m really, really struggling, though.
There are so many writers out there, so many GREAT freaking writers…
Who TF do i think i am entering this field? It’s huge and so many don’t even get published anymore. Some are self-published but never find even a small house to take on their work. Some find a house, some even find a major house, but STILL languish in obscurity. The chances of my writing finding a wide and loyal audience is almost zero.

This is where all the bells chime in, and this is where i’m gonna sound petulant and pissy.
Write because you want to write.
Write because you love to write.
Write because you have to write.
Write for yourself.

Listen Belle, darlin’, i’ve been living this provincial life and it has been a fine one. But then you sang so prettily and flounced about town on such impossibly tiny feet… And i went and hoped about things. You trilled and batted your eyes and the birdies flew around you and it sounded like beauty and truth and joy and HOPE, damn you. DAMN YOU, sweet girl.
And double dumbass on you, too.

Writing is going quite well, actually. As far as production goes, anyway. I can easily sit at my laptop and bash away for a few hours most days. Even when mental illness required i stop everything and step back, the last few days back in the game, have found me merely punching up and editing 3 or 4 2500-3500 word pieces that have already been submitted for publication. It’s not the writing that’s the problem, it’s the requirements of being a writer in my current venue of choice that’s proving a problem. And quite honestly, it’s not the place i’ve chosen to hone my craft and pursue it as a career that’s the real problem (although i find a lot about it to be problematic). Of course it’s me. The problem is me and the way my brain works, and the growth that yet lies in front of me.

More proving grounds with more growing up to do.
<insert massive ugh plus eyeroll here>

I’ve been absolutely, completely, and utterly overwhelmed by all the writers. Many are shouting about how well they’re doing on the format, or not. The ones who say they’re not, tend to blame the format. I think there’s probably others who aren’t doing well that don’t blame the format, but maybe because of that, they aren’t writing about it – they’re just writing? And then when someone basically writes an ALL CAPS piece about how poorly run or unfair the format is, there’s a brawl in the comments section over whether the author is takin’ us to church (preach!), or acting like a poopyheaded crybaby (waaaah!).

Listen, i haven’t spent 30yrs trying to overcome 12yrs of bullying only to step back into bloody junior high.
Like, no fucking way, okay?

Yet when i think back on other group situations i’ve been in, like work, church, volunteering, self-improvement groups and courses, and artistic endeavours, many of them functioned like we were still in school. Most of them, actually. Some were more like elementary. One or 2 – kindergarten.*

So… What do i do, pick up my Legos and go home? I think i’m likely to find the same sorts of dynamics at work anywhere i go.

Can you see that i’m writing myself into a corner here?
I just fucking saw it.
My brain is one tricksy Hobbitses.

I’m going to have to face the kind of bullshit that beat me down and broke me when i was in school.
I’m going to have to find a way to work with the dynamics to get what i want.
The obnoxious cliques
the overbearing hierarchies
the tribalistic othering
the frightening bullying.

The us-and-them, zero-sum game type crap.
The infuriating preaching, the cruel browbeating and the pungent stench of the chest thumper.

I can do what i did in order to deal with my past and learn to handle mental illness, i.e. i can go to ground and ignore it all. I might need to do that in order to maintain my equilibrium. But i could try

Not everyone in school was a stinkybutt hosebeast.
Seriously, lots of kids were really nice.
Mostly weak, because they stood there and watched while i was slowly pecked to death by ducks.**
But it’s okay, we were children and we were all just trying to make it out of our school years alive, and as intact as we could manage.
At least they didn’t actively participate.
I still vividly remember the names and the faces of the few who stood up for me.

Today i spent 3hrs walking through a little town i lived in for 5yrs. They were some of the least terrible of my school career. As i was taking pictures –it’s been 40yrs and not much has changed– i found myself wondering, Was it really that bad?

YES. Yes it freaking was.
I was being chewed up and spit out every night at home, and at school the next day, vicious little creatures tossed salt on my wounds.
Yes it was.
BUT…

There was a girl who regularly brought me to her house for lunch.
There was a boy who asked me to dance at our junior high “prom.” One day after school, he told all the boys who were heckling me outside while i was trying to walk home, that if they didn’t stop he was going to beat the heck out of them.
I had a friend i could hang out with after school, and another whose dad took us to the next town every Saturday for the $1 matinee.
There was the principal who rescued me from having to wear a dress every day:
“Ma’am, all the girls wear pants now, and they’re teasing your daughter.”
The teachers who fought hard for me to be skipped a grade. (Mom said NO WAY.)
There was the teacher who told me privately that she would have given me the lead in the school play, but had to give someone else a chance after me taking it the last 2yrs running.
The swim coach who told me, “You can’t go fast for anything, but you never give up and you cheer the loudest for everyone. I’m putting you in distance.”

I’m strolling down memory lane here, but hey, i’m sitting here in the van while my husband puts in baseboards at a house in this little town – everything is fresh from the oven right now.

My brain is clicking away with everything i’ve seen today. My heart is awash in a sea of old emotions. I know the people that live here in my brain with me will have a lot to say over the next while. The grand thing is that they aren’t pushing to take control. It’s been easy for me to finish this piece that i started yesterday. I’m in charge and that’s amazing, considering some of the awful stuff that came up as i wandered around the cracked sidewalks and crumbling buildings.

I have so many new stories i want to tell now, and they aren’t even all bad. In fact, i’d say most of them are just childhood snapshots: a thing that happened, a moment in time, a touch of sunshine, a taste of rain…

I’ve already returned to the platform, written pieces and had them published. I’d already intended to stay and keep pushing forward. But today gave me insight that has changed how i look at it. Whereas last week i was writing with gritted teeth and a set jaw, determined to trudge my way resolutely through the muck, i anticipate returning to writing at the start of the week with a new attitude.

There will be friends there, and teachers too, and i will find them or they will find me. There will be moments where it’s like a warm summer day with a slight breeze and the smell of lilacs. There will be days where i see old faces in the rain that blasts down my window – and i will be tempted to run and hide under my bed until the storm passes.
But i don’t think i will, now.

Some people will always behave as if they’re still in high school – whether for their good or ill. Some people will not. The thing for me to see and remember is that there isn’t a monster in every closet, there wasn’t then and there isn’t now. I do not have to recreate painful moments from my past in order to confront and handle them. It’s been done. I wavered for a bit. I almost fell hard. I took a couple of steps back and took a break. I anticipated that there would be some bobbles and even blunders. I have not yet blundered, but if i do, i’ll handle that as well.

So… Who TF am i?

I’m a grown woman who knows how to figure her shit out.
I’m a kind person who wants to help others.
I’m a creative being who loves to express herself.
I’m a writer – that’s who.
<insert Mona Lisa smile here>

Y’all enjoy the rest of your weekend, if you can.

Love and Peace,
~H~

* The religious ones, in case you wondered.
** Referring to a well known quote from the inimitable Maya Angelou.

IMAGE:
Steinar Engela

Red Carpet Ready

Yesterday was a fine day, full of creativity, functionality, and healthy interactions with others. I’m irritated and anxious today, and it’s hard not to feel like a failure because of it. Intellectually, i know it’s normal to have good days and not-so-good ones. Still, i’m stuck in Suckville this morning and i don’t want to be here. Blogging was on my schedule, so i shall endeavour to get 2 birds stoned at once.* Perhaps blogging will be my ticket out of this mood.

I’m still finding living a more normal life can quickly become overwhelming. I can go from 0 – 60 emotionally speaking, in about 2 seconds flat. It requires my conscious attention throughout the day.

Oh, what’s that, you’re pissed off, H? Why?
Can you do anything about what’s pissing you off?

Okay, i’ll start with this.

Yes, i’m pissed off. Someone isn’t operating according to my timetable, and i’m irritated. Another relationship i have seems like it’s fading, and i’m feeling alone and unsure. Unsettled.
I watched the morning news with my husband, and it amped me up, too.

Wait a sec…

I have that account backwards.
– It started with the news. I woke up this morning better rested than i have in weeks.

– I was a bit slow getting breakfast, because i was focused on how to finish something i’m writing. Then i kicked myself for being late getting my husband’s food. For being 15mins late.
And he kept calling me into the living room to exclaim over dumb stuff that people say and do. Those people i don’t know, doing stuff i can’t stop them from doing, irritated me further.

– After he left, i was getting ready to help an anxious person i know get something done in town. They were not getting ready. It was early, and they still had plenty of time, but i was annoyed anyway.

– I tried to do my hair in a cute style and failed. 3X. I don’t like how my hair looks right now.

– I’ve been away from the world for so long, and i’m so different. I have friends, but it all feels strange. I do different things with my time than i used to. I’m not always occupied with trying to hold myself together. I don’t party. I clean, i garden, i exercise, i write. I act differently. I’m not kissing up to everyone so they like (don’t hurt) me. I ask for more from people and i tolerate less. I’m better able to define what i’m looking for in a friendship: what i’m willing to give and what i expect in return.
I’m still afraid to lose what i have. Afraid i won’t get more of what i want. I’m lonely and unsatisfied.

Ah, there it is.

I’ve been hermitting for over a decade. I’ve rarely ventured out to do more than shopping. I have my online community and 1 or 2 “real life” friends. I’ve been grinding away at this brain of mine, and it’s been emotionally, mentally exhausting, and incredibly intense, deeply personal work. In early 2020, i felt ready to reenter the world. I intended to do it slowly and carefully, like a day pass from my self-imposed exile.
Well, everyone knows what happened in the spring of 2020.

I am now champing at the bit to get out here and test myself, but it turns out it’s not over yet.
I’m ready for the world, but it’s not ready for me.
And i’m realising that even when it is, it’s not going to be what i’d been imagining in the back of my mind.

No red carpet.
No fanfare.
No audible gasps and breathless requests for a picture.

You might be chuckling, and i am too, but only a little.
I know it’s silly, but i live with little kids in my brain. They wanted a Lifetime Achievement Award from somebody. They wanted to wear a designer dress and have their picture taken and attend a fancy party afterwards.
And dammit, they are me and i wanted that, too.

I am feeling myself move away from certain people, places, and things that were once a part of my day-to-day life, and that’s scary. The unknown is scary. New stuff is scary.

I’m feeling like a brand new person. I think i might be the person i’ve been trying to be my whole life, and *SIGH* no one’s really noticed. The changes i’ve made have been so slow in coming, so fucking gradual, that i’ve been robbed of my big reveal. There’s been no TA-DA!

It feels like i left it all on the stage in the first act, and as the lights come up i see there’s no one in the audience. Do i step up and perform Act Two for an empty theatre?

There you have it, readers. This is how i work. I do this kind of thing in my head most days.
I feel something, i notice i’m feeling it.
If i don’t like feeling it i’ll see if there’s something i can do to change the feeling.
Or maybe i can change how i feel about the feeling.

Today i did some digging and figured out my feeling was deeper and bigger than how it was manifesting. I’m struggling with friendships, and it’s hard, but it’s much more than that.

I am ready for better, more significant connections with other people. I am excited to show my new self off. I am looking for more acknowledgement than i’m getting.
So, is there anything i can do about it?

Of course there is!

The most important thing is to ask for what i want.
I’m as prepared as i can be not to get it. I believe the biggest reward for me, will be in the asking. That’s a risk, as rejection can be a huge trigger.

I’ve started looking at it this way, though:
I know how vital and liberating my NO is for me. I believe in everyone’s right to use it.
I also know that their reasons for it will be none of my business, and they won’t owe me an explanation. I can ask, but they aren’t obliged to give me one.
This might seem harsh, but it’s as liberating as NO is, for me.
It takes burdens from me that i shouldn’t be carrying.
My upbringing taught me that everything was my responsibility, and anything that went wrong was my fault. And that’s simply not true.

There are things about the way i’m feeling that i cannot change:
I’m still mostly isolating and socially distanced when i have to interact with people outside my bubble. I don’t know when that’s going to change.
If i shift my perspective the tiniest bit, it doesn’t have to be lonely and frustrating.
My gift is that i’ve been doing this longer than most, and it was my jam, man. I’m good at it, and i can easily do it for longer. Sure, i don’t want to, but i can, and i will.
Plus, this is an opportunity to continue to make changes, changes that will make the new me even more obvious! I’ll be a bigger sensation!
And if i don’t get noticed by the people i want to notice, to the degree that i want them to, well…

I’ll probably blog about that, too.
And i’ll get over it, and move on.

**********

After i blogged about this, i was able to enjoy helping my someone do the thing they needed to do. They were ready before i was, and i enjoyed the time we spent together.
And yes, my friendships are in flux, and it’s uncomfortable for me. I don’t know who will be left standing beside me. I don’t know who’ll walk away. Maybe me, maybe them, maybe both of us. Maybe we’ve already done so. When it comes to friendships, i know i catastrophise and sometimes i don’t see things clearly. There’s time to figure it out.
And i will.

This isn’t much of a post, and it might seem kind of weird. But it’s a glimpse into my process. I share it, not so that you do what i do, but so you see that i’ve found a way to do it that works for me. I hope what you take away is that if i can do it, maybe you can, too.

Love and Peace,
~H~
*Trailer Park Boys reference.



IMAGE: Gordon Cowie

Watch This Space


The last couple of weeks i’ve found myself experiencing strong emotions very quickly. For a while there, i wondered if i was manic, but i can’t tick off any other box on the list of common symptoms. Good then, i’m not in a bipolar mania. What seemed the most likely culprit then, was a low spoon count, meaning i’m dealing with many different things, with a limited amount of energy. It made good sense, and i felt better.
But not all the way better. I still felt like i was missing something, and while i was unsettled, i figured as long as i was still doing the work, the answer would eventually come.
I was, and it did.

I was frustrated at the end of each day. The day seemed unfinished, as if i hadn’t done enough. My list of activities and accomplishments looked good. It was in line with what i’d been doing lately, everything that’s important to me to do, was getting done. Personal hygiene, housework, writing, healthy eating, a bit of exercise, connecting with other humans; it was all there.

I asked myself if i wasn’t pushing too hard. Again, it’s about mania. I need to take self-improvement fairly slowly, lest i trigger one. My manias last a loooong time, and take longer still to recover from. I get a rush from being higher functioning, and i feed on it like a drug.
Was that it, was i feeding on accomplishment?
Well, the short answer is Yes, but no.

It came to me while walking and thinking about writing.
I walk most mornings, as i enjoy it, and my dogs need it, and it gets my day off to a good start.
We live on a farm, and it’s quiet and peaceful, a pastoral paradise. The perfect time to think about things i’d like to write about, and that’s exactly what i was doing the other day. I was thinking about how i’ve been sharing my new level of maturity, how i can feel that i’m “coming into my own.”
As a writer, i enjoy using idioms to convey meaning to my readers. I’ll often double check the definition to make sure i’m using it correctly. So when i got home from my walk, i looked it up.

Come in to your own: to be very useful or successful in a particular situation.
And that’s when it came to me.
I could be MORE useful.
I am capable of more than what i’m currently doing.
I’ve been feeling unsettled because i am unsatisfied.
I want more, and i believe i’m qualified for the job.
I’m due for a promotion.

The reason it occurred to me while i was thinking about writing, is that i’ve been feeling the urge to do more with my writing. I’ve known for some time that my blog needs some work. It’s not very intuitive, it’s not overly welcoming to repeat visits, and i’m not reaching enough people. It needs a makeover before i can expand my writing and reach a wider audience.

This revelation was slow and difficult coming, because i don’t think i’m much of a writer. I have found my voice, which is good. I like that when my friends read my stuff, it’s just like talking to me. That’s what i wanted, so i’ve got that going for me.
The thing is, i think i’m a good communicator, a good talker, but not a good writer. I thought this little blog with a few quiet followers was my lane, and i should stay in it; this was the most i dared hope for.

When i started blogging, i was highly dissociated most of the time. I barely finished high school and have had no further formal education. I came into it knowing that i had a decent command of the language and sometimes i could write something that was deep, impactful, and well said. While journalling, which i’ve done on and off since i was first put in counselling as a youngster, i would occasionally write something that impressed me. If it hadn’t been a journal, i might have shared it. As it was, i was mostly telling the social worker what they wanted to hear, careful never to say anything that would get me in trouble. My mother read EVERYTHING. I learned early not to tell the truth about my situation even in a diary, because she’d always find it, and i’d always get a beating when she did.

The advent of the internet brought blogs. I was fascinated to learn that people were actually sharing their diaries with others. Online. Like, in public. You put it out there and let people read it, and they let you read theirs. It was counter to everything i was raised with, and i was drawn to it like the proverbial moth.

Maybe it doesn’t make much sense, but i always wanted to tell my story. I’ve always wanted to be known. The problem was it went against everything i was taught:
What happens in our home is private. Others wouldn’t understand. Don’t talk too much, and when you do, only tell them what they want to hear. Don’t answer any question directly; obfuscate, distract, dangle red herrings, LIE.
I did all those things, but my true desires leaked out on occasion. When someone initiated a friendship with me (because i almost never did that myself – fear of rejection, doncha know) it wouldn’t be long before i said too much. Even when i wasn’t oversharing, i’m just, i dunno, clumsy in my social interactions. If you want to be friends with me, be prepared for cringe moments and awkward silences. If you can’t roll with that, we’re probably not a good fit.*

But the internet was making friendships easier and more likely. There was the safety of anonymity, so i could share as much or as little as i wanted, and there was an endless supply of new prospects if i cocked it up. At first my friendships online mirrored my real life ones. I would push too hard, too soon, and offer too much of myself too early. They’d either pull away or disappear entirely, and i’d be devastated and embarrassed. Gradually though, i learned to take things a little slower. Plus, the speed at which i ran through internet associations and groups had lessened the sting of rejection. Eventually, i stumbled across a group of people with a shared interest that accepted me as one of their own, many of whom i’m still friends with to this day, nearly 20yrs later. They became my safe place to learn how to be a good friend.

It was through this group i discovered blogging. Many of them had one, and i joined them on a popular blog site, set up my own, and started posting. Initially i kept it light and silly, mostly little questionnaires and ranting about things that irritated me. In my real life though, my mental health had gotten entirely out of control. I was in and out of hospitals, with rotating p-docs and meds to boot. My blog then shifted into purging. I was drowning in chaos, and i went there to vomit up my past. I told the story of my childhood for the first time, outside of therapy situations.

After years of searching, i found a therapist i could work with, and settled into the business of putting myself back together. When i returned to my blog, i was horrified and mortified at what i found there (i’d been highly dissociated throughout), and promptly locked it down. By that time social media had become a thing, so i found connection there instead. Most of my group had moved there too, and i hung out with them, while continuing on my path. Some of them kept blogging, and i came here when i decided i wanted to try again.

This blog is not about telling the story of my childhood. Here, i’ve focused on sharing how i’ve learned to live with what happened to me, and been able to improve my functionality, thereby enjoying better quality of life and even some happiness. I want to be known, yes, and i have a deep desire to help others. My blog is one of the ways i do that.
We return now, to the dissatisfaction i mentioned at the beginning of this post.

There is a confluence of events: me itching to do more and actually being capable of doing so. I’ve made good friends who know me, who also know a thing or 2 about blogs, and can help me. Also, i’ve managed to overcome enough fear and flaws that i’m ready to learn, and able to seek out and absorb the plethora of information and experience that’s out there. At last!

To sum up, changes are in the works. I don’t know at what pace, but it won’t be all of sudden, that’s for sure. I’m a babystepper. I tweak things and try them out to see if i like them. I’ll be smoothing some things out and polishing them up. My reading list has grown exponentially. I’m intimidated, but excited. I’m afraid to fail, but undaunted. I’m expecting tears and tantrums and still i am resolute.
I’ll still be writing and posting; i’ve almost finished a couple of pieces right now, and they’ll be up soon.

I will still be odd and clumsy and histrionic.
I’m a lot, and these days i don’t much mind.

I hope you stick around.
Love and Peace, Always,
~H~

* I have a post in the works that deals with this. Trying to figure out how to connect with other humans is a common theme around here.



IMAGE: Alex Lee

Gardening



I have done a great deal of personal work in my life. I’ve had to if i wanted to survive in the real world on its terms. After escaping my abusers (both major and minor), and creating some space for myself to be able to breathe without having to fight for it, i had the unbridled temerity to want more than survival. I wanted to THRIVE.

I started out immersing myself in therapy. Individual, groups, programs, courses… I did it all, reader. I read the books and went to the lectures. I screamed and beat the ground with a bataka and cried in front of other people (that i didn’t know and often didn’t like much) and told them personal things. I spent many hours telling my life story to many MH pros. I invested what little money i had on them, and workbooks and pretty little journals and coloured pens that smelled like apples and grapes and chewing gum.

I have never not wanted to LIVE, even when i sought death.

It took years, but with a Bipolar diagnosis under my belt, i figured out that doing ALL TEH THINGS wasn’t going to work for me. I became a babystepper as a matter of necessity, and then i stuck with it because it suits my personality and produced the best, most long lasting results. And it fits my lifestyle, too. I like a slower pace. I enjoy excitement… for about an hour, and then i fall into overwhelm.

So i have been slowly, carefully, intentionally remaking myself in my own image while renovating and landscaping my surroundings. A long time ago i accepted that that was my life, and that any kind of big milestone was some ways off. I learned to focus on the work and let the results come when they may. I’ve been at this for years. There have been many breaks though, due to life requiring more of my attention. Loved ones need more of my time, or my mental health crashes or explodes, or the world wrests my faculties from what’s directly in front of me to something important that may have nothing much to do with me, but it needs me to care about it.

This last 18mos, the world didn’t take me away from my work – instead it shut down. It did so so completely that i was afforded an opportunity to work almost exclusively on myself, with very few “distractions.”*

I used the time, and despite continuing to work at my snail’s pace, i was able to accomplish a great deal. It’s not like i was going gangbusters or anything, but i was going steadily, and i had known i was close to something big even before the pandemic hit. I had known i was close to a “milestone” for some time. And recently, i hit it.

I feel different. I feel more grown, more capable, more present. The days seem longer and more tiring to get through. It all came over me slowly, like when you get at gardening first thing in the morning. You’re getting so much done and aren’t even aware of your body… until 11 o’clock rolls around and you look down and you’ve soaked through your shirt.
Oh hey, i’m cooking out here, i should get out of the sun and eat some lunch.

I have also become aware that things are piling up and i’m running out of spoons. It wasn’t a sudden thing, like in the past when i would be mostly dissociated and the problem would have to clobber me over the head before i paid it any mind. I have felt the weight of everything pulling me down and down, and my body asking me for rest.
But, you know, i’m still relatively new at this grownup stuff, so i stumbled.

We went into town 2 weekends ago, and for the first time in months and months, i went into a couple of stores to pick up some things we needed. I felt myself pulled down this aisle and that, browsing happily. I’ve missed it and was quickly engrossed. Unfortunately, i got separated from my husband. First i stayed put and waited for him to find me, but he didn’t. I began walking around the store very slowly, up and down each aisle, stopping at the end and casting my eye as far as i could see in each direction. I tried so hard not to panic. I thought of leaving the store and waiting outside, but my arms were laden with things i wanted, and i was suddenly aware of how it might look to all the other patrons if i put everything down and exited. My anxiety rose. I began sweating, and i could feel my eyes, big as saucers. My panic would be obvious, i thought. Everyone looked at me as i passed them and it was getting hard to breathe…

Next thing i know i’m looking at a handsome young man and he’s speaking to me but i can’t hear him. I look around me and my heart sinks.
I’m in an ambulance and he is a paramedic.
My head is full of voices chattering at me, and i can’t shut them up, and i see his lips moving but i’m fading again…

Then i’m back at home, sitting in my chair and my husband is beside me.
I know i took off. I know i was close to home when the ambulance and police found me.
I know my twin took over at some point and was able to change their minds about dragging me to the hospital and convinced them to let me go home.
I told my husband i didn’t want to talk about it yet.

I needed to process it on my terms and in my time. Fortunately, he is not a pushy guy.
My initial inclination was to crap all over myself for losing control and feel like a terrible person and a loser and worry about what i did and who saw and start kicking myself for upsetting my loved ones… But i stopped it immediately and shifted quite easily into a calm and somewhat unemotional review of the day.

This is who i am, and this is how my brain works. It’s neither good nor bad anymore – it simply IS. I understand why i switched. It makes sense why i switched. It happened, but i’m fine, and everyone else is fine, and this is my life. This is okay and i am OKAY. It is okay to be who i am and it is fine that i switched. It really, truly is fine. It’s me and how i work and sometimes it happens and if there’s any fallout afterwards, i’ll clean it up.

I’m not freaked out or drowning in shame. In fact, it was barely a blip on my radar. I’m here and i’m grown and i’m capable.
This is new. I’m heartened by how i handled things after it happened. It didn’t trip me up. I am not spiralling.

This last weekend i went into town and ran a couple of errands that involved going into a store. I was careful to know where my husband was and what he was doing at all times. Not obsessively or even nervously. Just knowing how i work and where i’m at and what could go wrong and taking proper, preemptive steps to avoid a repeat. New issues, new problems will definitely present themselves, and i will handle those as best i can. And hey, if one of them trips me up, i’ll just pick myself up and do whatever i need to to set things right.
I’m not all jangly and anticipating the worst.
I’m not waiting for the other shoe to drop, kind of because i know it will.
And that’s okay.
It just is.
And i don’t feel defeated – i feel powerful.

… if you love your garden, you don’t mind working in it, and waiting. Then in the proper season you will surely see it flourish.
~ Jerzy Kosiński, Being There


I hope you’re all doing as best you can.
Love and Peace,
~H~

* This is me silverlining the pandemic. I wish with my whole heart that it had not happened.



IMAGE: Annie Spratt

New Shoes

I base most of my fashion sense on what doesn’t itch.
~ Gilda Radner


I think this new life i have fashioned is starting to chafe, a little. This new way of living that involves higher functioning has brought a calm and peace to which i am not accustomed. I’m most familiar with drama and chaos, it’s happened regularly, and frequently, since i first drew breath. I’ve spent many years now, whittling it away, carving something sturdy and serviceable. Stripping away soft, rotted bark and patiently (okay, not always that patiently) working to reveal its true shape hidden in the fragrant and vital hardwood beneath.

This work has become a daily part of my life. I pick it up when i will, and carve a little as it pleases me. However, as its form becomes more clear, i’ve felt excitement stirring in my nethers. Not sexual in nature, rather of something soon to be born. I am coming forth.

Yes, Hi, it’s me and my flowery way of communicating; that’s part of it. Part of me, part of who i am as a one of a kind piece of art. I am a sculpture that fashions itself. Behold!

I’m being silly, but honestly i’m hoping to lift myself out of this mood by so doing. I’m low. I’m tired and somewhat afraid. I know these feelings, but underneath them, another has been simmering slowly – it’s an uncomfortability. I’m blaming lack of familiarity, along with a smattering of boredom.

In past times such feelings could quickly land me in overwhelm. My response to such would be to either shut down, or nope right outta there. In short, to dissociate in some form or fashion, out of proportion to what was currently happening and how i felt about it. These days i’m practising mindfulness and staying present, i.e. conscious and in control. I’m working on sliding* and switching* as seldom as possible.

Also, i’ve been working hard to cut down on chaos by managing my system, calming my thoughts, eliminating problematic friendships and associations, and pursuing age appropriate levels of maturity. It’s working well, but it feels weird, like there’s something missing in my life. I’m guessing this is caused by a couple of things. The easiest to identify is the one where this is simply not what i’m used to. It’s like if i wore sweat pants all my life and suddenly started wearing jeans. It’ll likely take some time before i feel comfortable in them.

Sometimes, when people survive an experience that might have killed them, say a car accident, they find themselves seeking more dangerous situations. It’s been studied at length and thought to be some survivor’s guilt, along with a desire to recreate that intensity of emotion. To feel that alive again. When one isn’t constantly in fight or flight mode –when the threat is finally eliminated– it can almost feel like something’s wrong. My life hasn’t been legitimately threatened for some years now, and i find it at times unsettling. Part of me is still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Being safe, being an adult about things, only having the people i want to have in my life – none of it feels natural.

Plus, when i lived with all of that ruckus (both around and inside me) before, i could practically sleepwalk my way through it. Everything requires my attention now. When i’m awake, i’m on. It’s all new and i’m exhausted. I’ve been concerned that my system might manufacture some drama just to feel “normal.” They didn’t get the chance.

Last weekend i blew a gasket.

The pavement slabs burn loose beneath my feet,
A chafing savage, down the decent street
~ Claude McKay


Until Next Time,
Peace and Love,
~H~

*Definitions can be found in my FAQs.



IMAGE: Flickr

Big Love


If you love something
set it free
If it comes back
it is yours
If it doesn’t

it never was
~ Proverb

About manipulation…

It is very hard not to do it sometimes.
There is a situation in my life that i could fix with just a little push, here and there.
Just a properly worded statement or 2.
A well acted play, presented in a few short acts.
I could just “fix” the problem and no one would be the wiser.
Except me.
Except me.

Ah, why did i grow so much?
Why am i sitting here, working on letting go with love?
Why did i build a love so big that i could do this?
A love bigger than myself.
I could have what i want.
It’s right there in my hand and it wants to be there.
Manipulation takes away the individual’s autonomy.


So this is the true test. This is it right here.
Believe people when they show you who they are.
I do. I do believe.
And it’s so not okay, but it has to be.
I have to love me, too. More than i ever have.
Manipulation is a zero sum mind game.

I love them so.
I hate that i love enough to let go, but it can’t be undone.
The world has suddenly gotten bigger, and i am afraid.
I am also sort of excited.
I will either get what i want or i won’t.
The world will keep spinning me dizzy.
But my personal machinations are winding down.

Today is a perfect day outside.
I’ve decided to match it inside.
Beauty for beauty, shine for shine.
I will give my truest self, which will never be for naught.
No matter what comes – and the rain always comes.
I will stand outside and let it wash me clean.
There is no fate, only choice.

This is a vague one, and i do apologise, but it is what it has to be.

Bulwarks, Battlements… & Ducks

Strange title, eh? I was trying to figure out how to share about a particular set of personal flaws i’m trying to master, and i thought it might serve me well. Maya Angelou once spoke about not allowing oneself to be “pecked to death by ducks.” I understood that only years later, when i was extricating myself from friends and family who took little pieces out of me every chance they got. The backhanded compliment and the voice of disdain and the subtle eyeroll… It was difficult and scary to move away from these relationships until i clued in to how much better i was feeling. These people “meant to have my life,” a piece at a time, and i was bleeding to death slowly, from a thousand little bites.

Getting space from them –which is all i’d intended to do when i began– allowed me to start healing from these attacks. After a while, i had an experience of peace, so much so that even i, in my generally dissociated state, was able to easily mark the anxiety that welled up inside me at the mere prospect of any contact with them. I’ve been happily estranged from all of the pecking ducks in my life for nearly 10yrs now.
It’s only been in the last year or so that it’s come to my attention that i can also be a duck sometimes. And i’m guilty of pecking at those with whom i share living space, particularly my husband and my sons.

There are reasons i do this, of course. Everyone has reasons – genuine, legitimate reasons. The people i left behind that did it to me probably have some fine ones. However, that does not excuse crappy behaviour. The behaviour i’m currently focused on eliminating is entrenched, and broad in scope. It’s manipulation. It’s an ugly trait of mine – a ubiquitous stinkweed in my garden, and i’m pulling it out at the roots, wherever i find it.

It was taught to me, and modeled for me. My mother was a master manipulator. By the time she had me, i think honesty and forthrightness were already well behind her. And once she made the decision to use me as a commodity, i doubt she drew an honest breath. Whatever her own reasons, she snuck up to whatever and whomever she wanted. If she ever came at anything head-on, it was calculated, and generally secondary to what she really wanted. I am convinced that people were sport for her. We were all mice in her maze, and she took pleasure in seeing what she could make us do. We were either utterly clueless, or wrong about her true intentions.

When i was barely out of toddlerhood, she taught me panhandling and shoplifting. I would stand outside the local bar, while she was inside, targeting some drunken mark. It wasn’t as big a deal for a child to be out on their own back in those days, and if anyone ever expressed concern, i knew what to say and how to act to allay their fears. I was always tall for my age, and i presented as older than i actually was. I was the perfect blend of innocent and precocious. I was always clean and well groomed in those days. I looked nice – but not too nice. After speaking with me for a couple of minutes, many people were charmed into believing i wasn’t being abused or neglected, but my mother and i could sure use a couple of bucks, which they thoughtfully tucked into my pocket or purse.

She taught me cold reading, too. She was a skilled fortune-teller. I’m not here to speak on whether or not any of it is for real, i’m only saying that her “gifts” were pure con. I knew what to say to whom, based on how they dressed, how they spoke to me, what they drove, whom they were with, what purchases they might be carrying… As i got older, she taught me palm reading, reflexology, reading auras, etc. She also taught me how to shoplift food and necessities from grocery departments. Knowing what i know now –that she worked good jobs that paid a living wage– i don’t know why we were so poor. I think it was mostly selfishness with a little bit of lousy money management, but whatever it was, i grew up extremely poor. What little we did have was tightly controlled by her, and could be given or withheld based on her whims.

What methods of control and manipulation she didn’t teach me outright, i picked up by how she treated others. She could get what she wanted from me or my stepfather or siblings with a variety of recognisable methods:

– a withering look;
– an eyeroll;
– a dangerous glare;
– a deep sigh;
– the silent treatment;
– a sarcastic comment;
– a pointed question, e.g. Do you think you should be eating/wearing/saying/doing that?

I know a lot of people do these kinds of things. They’re easily identifiable as manipulative by anyone who’s even half paying attention. My mother had developed these methods to a fine art, though. And as with most families, a lot of how we acted and responded to each other was unconscious and reflexive in nature. Plus, we were all afraid of her – every single one of us. She could escalate a situation, going from zero to light speed in seconds flat. And she wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone –oh, she could play scared and hurt and sad when it suited her purposes– but i’m convinced everyone was a mark to her. Underneath her sweet and jovial facade lay a deeply dangerous woman, full of white hot fury that could quickly manifest in a capable, easy violence.

I grew up thinking that sort of behaviour, that kind of treatment, was normal.
If i thought about it at all, that is. (I did not, until i was an adult.)

I can be petty even now, sure. I’m far from perfect, like most of us. But i’m specifically posting today about some of those sneaky, petty, duck-bitey ways of getting something from someone. It’s a way to get what i want without actually having to ask for it.
It’s about control, and avoiding rejection.
Repeating that last bit louder, for my friends in the back row:
It’s about control, and avoiding rejection.

I’m working at removing all of those behaviours from the above list. Those petty, passive-aggressive, nasty tendencies that were bred into me, that i thought were just the price of 2 human beings doing business with each other. One had to get over on the other. Life as a zero sum game.
(To be honest, you will pry my sarcasm from my cold, dead hands… But i will use it judiciously, okay?)

I found out a few years ago, that there are not a few people intimidated by me. I was surprised by that. After giving it some thought, i figured out where the disconnect was happening. I see myself from the inside, and i interpret things through my experiences, my opinions and beliefs, my filters. I have blindspots; things i’m unaware of, things i haven’t learned yet.
I see myself as this sweet, nice, funny gal with a salty tongue and twisty sense of humour. I’m privy to how insecure and frightened i can be, and how intimidated >>i<< am by other people and the world around me. >>I<< know that some of how i present is a facade, created out of childhood trauma, mental illness, neuroatypicality (if that’s not a word, it is now), a desperate need for connection and yet a colossal fear of rejection.

The truth is i AM sweet and nice. I am kind and empathetic and generous. The truth also is that it can be hard to get past all of my protections to have a genuine experience of me as who i am. Another truth is that it is no one’s job to get past my myriad defenses.
It is MY job to lay down my weapons, lower the drawbridge, stand at my battlements, and invite those i will to come in.
And who’d want to approach with snapping, cavernous-jawed, toothy creatures in my moat and a cannon at every embrasure? Why come in to break bread and drink a toast when the hearth is cold, the hallways damp and drafty, and there’s nothing in the pot, bubbling away and wafting a welcoming smell?

Enough imagery – now to the meat of the matter. Heh.
I’m working hard to drop all of my passive-aggressive defenses and manipulative conduct. There’s no longer any need for it. I am not in danger anymore, i am surrounded by loved ones who dearly love me. They have proven already that they will not reject me, nor betray me, and they are willing to take the time and effort to work out any issues between us or difficulties we may have navigating a relationship with one another. From this bastion of comfort, care, and commitment i can venture out or invite others in to take a load off and set a spell.
If a visitor overstays or otherwise becomes unwelcome i am free and well within my rights to bid them adieu. I needn’t fear that, or an outright rejection of my invitation and hospitality. My castle is filled and fortified and guests may come and go as either of us will it to be so.

I ask for what i want and i state what i do not, plainly and without fanfare.
I do not take to my chaise longue with a case of the vapours.
I no longer treat others as if they’re stupid for not knowing something that i do.
I’m not playing for the power position.
I don’t view asking for something as a vulnerability, nor do i see it as a loss to have to ask, or a victory to receive it without using plain language.
I’m not expecting everyone to eventually hurt me and leave me.
I act on the outside who i am on the inside, because i know for a fact that rejection won’t kill me.
I seek kindness, generosity, understanding, and willingness in others as i do in myself.

No more pecking.
I won’t allow anyone to nip little bits out of me anymore.
And i hope that anyone who reads this and knows me personally doesn’t tolerate that crap from me.
At least, not ever again.

And if I’ve built this fortress around your heart
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire

Then let me build a bridge
For I cannot fill the chasm
And let me set the battlements on fire
~ Sting, Fortress Around Your Heart


With Thought and Care,
~H~

*As she aged, gained weight, and became more of a shut-in, it slipped more and more until she wasn’t fooling anybody anymore. At the end, the only people she could exert control over was her husband, her kids, and various members of her 12-step program and her church.



IMAGE: Robert Gramner

My Love Affair W/Anger, Pt. III

The sleeper must awaken.
~ Duke Leto Atreides, Dune

For a while i was angry all the time; everyone and everything set me off. I hadn’t much experience with sitting with anger and feeling it, so my system would step in and take it for me. I’d stifled my anger for so long that, while there seemed to be no going back, i was still trying to manage it using old tools. Parts of me would try to absorb it, like a little one who’d charm everyone around her, or an angsty teen who’d take it to her room and mope. There was also my most developed part, who would shut me away and take charge of the house, my husband, and my kids. She’d clean within an inch of my life and feed everyone to bursting, all while being brusque and terse and not any fun at all.

The worst was when things were sour between my husband and i. To be angry at him frightened everyone inside, as he was the source of what little security we had. One perceived wrong look or frustrated tone from him could trigger a switch that might result in smashed dishes, kicked in doors, or my face in his face, screaming and howling. The worst though, came if i felt significantly threatened or shamed, then my system would broadcast the imperative that had been built into me by my abusers: GO HOME. I’d immediately leave the house and hit the road, often hitchhiking into the city and disappearing for hours or even a day/night.

I had no control over my actions, but it wasn’t anger’s fault. Anger was doing its job. Anger had been activated inside me long ago, but it wasn’t safe for me to feel it until i was an adult and safely away from my abusers. If i’d shown anger i risked what little home and safety i had. Sure, it wasn’t much, and no, i wasn’t really safe at all… But i didn’t know that. I was raised to believe whatever best suited my mother’s whims and desires. I believed i was bad and unlovable, and i believed that i was lucky… No. Fortunate… No. I was BLESSED BEYOND MEASURE that she had deigned to bestow her mercy on me and throw me the odd crumb of love, attention, lodging, food.
I stuffed my anger down so far i wasn’t even aware i was angry.
And the couple of times i felt it in her presence i was put in my place – easily and instantly.
I knew it was an emotion to which the likes of me had no right.

And it wasn’t so much that anger made me lose control – feeling anything intensely enough caused me problems. I was so split apart that the only way for me to function was to act, to put on a show. All i knew was donning the face costume of the day and hoping for the best. I didn’t understand that i was mostly smoke and mirrors until i was well into adulthood. I gave everyone what i thought they expected/wanted, and shoved everything that was uniquely me so far down inside i forgot i was anything else.

Acknowledging that my childhood was abusive, that my primary abuser was my mother, and that the result of it all was that i was a multiple, allowed some things to swim up to the surface. Therapy and time was required for me to figure out how to handle it all. Looking at all of my past was a terrible experience, painful and ugly. It triggered all sorts of reflexive responses: to shut down, to run away, to blame myself, to drown in shame and seek forgiveness… Any or all of these might have swallowed me whole, but anger came in and saved me every time.

Anger took my hand and squeezed it tight and said, No, and Stop, and Hold on a minute here.
Anger asked me, What did you do to deserve that?
Anger answered for me and said, Nothing you could have done would have deserved that.
Anger shouted from the sidelines, What a fucking monster! She is one sick bitch!
Anger asked, Who does this shit? What the fuck was wrong with her?
Anger ranted and groused and cursed and jumped up and down and pounded its fists.
Anger turned my face back to it, again and again and again, and said to me No. Stop. Fuck that shit.
Anger pulled me close and turned my face back out and Look. Look at all this and SEE. See who she was. See what she did to you. Look at how little you were. How innocent and sweet and good. See that you did nothing, could do nothing, to deserve what she did to you.
Anger swept away all distraction and opened my eyes to the stark truth.
Anger rose up before me in righteousness and fiery resolve.
Anger peeled the scales from my eyes and turned them to ash.
Anger burned my prison to cinders.

Anger danced me into the furnace, and i was not burned.

Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and goodwill, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper, and the finder of lost children.
~ Jules Winnfield, Pulp Fiction

Anger is he who came and shepherded me. Anger found me and kept me. And then set me free.

I take a deep breath & I count to 3, in hope that it’s grounding me,
poetic my tantrums bound to be when I’ve found relief, sound asleep,
this anger will never be about to leave, you’ll see
~ Esskay, Beautiful Anger




IMAGE: Amruth Pillai

Forbidden

I love things it’s not cool to
Like my fanny pack
and cheap candy
Little foil-wrapped Easter eggs
too sweet and waxy
I dig them out during long walks
Trying to concentrate on the road
while sucking chocolate
from my fingers
It holds the tinny shreds handily
so i don’t litter

I love things i’m not allowed to
Like women and weirdness
and arrythmic dancing
I am out on the floor alone
my body supplicant to the bass
My arms reach out to the edges
and beckon them
join me
Yes everyone’s watching
They know nothing
but they might learn

I love things i’m not permitted to
Like my staccato laugh
Vivace forte
And my big legs that spirit me away
from them and pain and death
They falter not
and keep on truckin’
Girded with hard hot muscle
I pound every floor
and shake the air
with seething joy

~ Mine, June 17, 2021



IMAGE: Tim Gouw