Tea With A Friend

Some days i feel warm and expansive and guileless
I see the light underneath the closed door
But there are days when everyone’s ugly and everything smells bad
And the door leaks a shadow that runs out like blood

Most days it’s both, as it is today while i bash away at my keyboard
The sun on the snow in the window behind, bathes me in white light
Sylphlike shadow on the cold, black television screen
I glow in the nothingness, angel of endlessness

Grief is due for a visit, in fact long overdue
She’s been busy with other obligations and i have been, too
Lately i’ve felt her absence distinctly, the chair where she sits keenly empty
My list of topics for conversation grows longer and the words gather weight

Anger and Pain have been at me for months now
They want to pop in for a chat, and they promise “Just 1 drink”
I might as well get it over with, as they won’t stop knocking
“Hello hello, it’s been ages, can we come over?”

I won’t shirk my family obligations as i have so few now
It won’t cost me much to have them over for dinner and i love to cook
They’ll rant and they’ll rave and pound their cutlery on the table
But it doesn’t bother me, i know they just need to be heard

And once they’re both gone, staggering down my front steps
Because of course they both had a few more than 1 drink
I’ll clean up the table and put on soft music while i set the kettle to boil
I know she’ll be by soon so i put on my jammies and grab the tissue

Some days it’s all rainbows and ice cream and hope
Some days it sharp claps of thunder while lightning sets fire to my house
Then there are times when the pit of my stomach opens wide and swallows me
I sit across from her in my rocking chair made from old bones and i weep

She listens and sips while she knits me a sweater
Her needles click rhythmically in time with my sobs, her eyes soft and wet
My heart thrums and pumps out its low dirge, dark and heavy
She hugs me goodbye, kisses my cheek, and promises me she’ll come back soon

I miss her already

Deprogramming, Pt. II

I have only the vaguest recollection of my meeting with the man who tried to exorcise my “demonic possession”. I remember crawling the walls of my brain, completely freaked out by him. He and my counsellor did some initial praying, and then he read some passages from the bible. He began asking me who was in charge. He came at me like my head had been taken over by an army of demons, and he was looking to map out who were platoon leaders, and who was in charge of the platoon.
Seriously.

I remember sliding out of the face and someone else talking out of my mouth. It’s like a dream except i’m awake. I’m somewhat lucid, but entirely ineffectual. I slide further away from the front, and as i do, the voices and faces in front of me fade to blurs and murmurs. Someone in my system has taken over, maybe telling him what he wants to hear? Maybe stoic and resistant? I don’t know.
I just know i didn’t see him again.
I’ll just go ahead and use the word “blessing” here:
It was a blessing that i didn’t see him again.

Another bible-based treatment that i took at my counsellor’s behest was a course designed to break me free of demonic influence by reading about and being quizzed on how dangerous it was for me to have masturbated and fantasised while doing so, and how calamitous for me to have had sex outside of marriage, and how just plain awful it was for me to be queer. All chapters in the workbook were followed by extensive prayer, both one-on-one with her, and in the group of other church folk taking the course.
Lots and lots of hands-on prayer, replete with speaking in tongues and herky-jerky movements, laughing, and rivers of tears.
All the touching made me jump out the top of my head and go watch from an empty corner of the room.

These “treatments” did nothing but stir up my Peanut Gallery. The noise, the chatter intensified, activating parts that had been deeply harmed by churches my mother had attended when i was small. (I know this now, back then i was just sure i was going insane.) I was packing on the weight, eating for comfort, for emotional coma, for protection from all the laying on of hands. I drowned myself in food as i was drowning in guilt and shame. I began twitching and jerking during worship on Sundays. I thought i was finally being filled with the spirit, as so many around me in my church seemed to be. (Hindsight tells me, it was ticcing behaviours due to my system being triggered.) Instead of making me feel like the expressions i saw on the faces of those around me (bliss?), i was terrified and disgusted. I began skipping church, and the weekly group meetings we’d have in other member’s homes. I was uncharacteristically silent and withdrawn when i did attend. On a couple of occasions i was able to share that i was struggling, that i felt seriously shaken, mentally and emotionally, and i was deeply afraid.

This was met with perfunctory prayer, and hand-patting assurances that this was part of the journey, that my god had me and my situation well in hand. All would be revealed as i pushed on in faith. Plus, the conversion/aversion course i’d taken had assured me i’d been set free from demonic bonds, so my god could really start working in my life!
(What, he couldn’t/wouldn’t handle demons?)

I see now that i was devolving, as was my church. There’s no need to go into detail, suffice to say my church was part of a movement that had begun having some major leadership issues and was facing a crisis of money and membership. My counsellor was stripped of her position in the church in a public shaming session that destroyed my trust in those in authority there, and my attendance dropped drastically. I continued seeing her though, on and off, for a few years afterward, i think? My memory is spotty here, as i was starting down the road to apostasy, which caused a tumult inside. My sense of blasphemy had been informed by my mother, the denomination i’d been a part of had sharpened it to a razor’s edge.

My home and my partner provided the safety and support i needed to consider forbidden thoughts. My church was sick and dying, and my belief in a god along with it. I avoided the anxiety and stress by not going there anymore. I slipped into a dissociative state where faith and religion were concerned, instead turning my attention to the hundreds of pounds i’d gained while trying to rid myself of the psychic weight i carried. Gastric bypass followed, along with dramatic weight loss, and as some of you already know, serious mental illness.

The  constant tug-of-war going on had to stop. Between my church and my changing lifestyle, and the parts of my system that were deeply religious and those that were not, something had to give.
Church fell by the wayside, as bipolar mania crashed my beaches and swept me away.
The lock busted off the door that’d kept both me and my system relatively controlled. We poured out into the real world, flooding my home with madness and filling my family with frustration and fear.

Religion was lost at sea, god had washed up on the sand and needed someone to push the saltwater out of his lungs and breathe air into them. He took his last choking gasps while i partied at a cabana further up the strand. He died along with my faith.

That was my outside god and my outside church, though. I still practised another religion. The god that i’d blasphemously put before my man-made one. I still worshipped and obeyed a woman-made god. My mother-made god.
She had always been my highest authority.
Her words carried the most weight.
Bits of her personality had embedded themselves in other parts of my system. Her thoughts, beliefs, and opinions echoed down the halls of my brain. Her screaming invective flung spittle at my psychic skin, infecting me with her like a virus. Her rage that flew out of her like a hot wind blew over me and through me. It burned my skin while the fever cooked my guts.

I was filled with her sickness. I’ve spent 20+yrs battling her influence in my life. I cut her out, like a cancer. First, i removed the obvious tumours, but then i needed the chemo and radiation, too. And i use this analogy because my body reacted to the treatments like they were poison. For a long time i felt like i was sick and dying. Her programming had gone to my very marrow. These last dozen years or so have been spent studying my brain. Studying it and mapping it out like a geneticist with a genome. Working with my therapist to develop my own CRISPR. And now this last year and a half, i’ve been editing her out, and splicing in help and health.

I still doubt my diagnosis on the regular.
It’s the programming.

I’m a bad girl.
I’m a liar.
I’m a thief.
I’m lazy and full of excuses.
I’m the reason bad things happen.
I’m the reason you’re mad or sad or tired or broke or lonely or in trouble.
I’m a fraud, an imposter.
Deep down inside, i’m disgusting and filthy and wrong and evil, and if you really knew me, you’d hate me and leave me.

Though i don’t recall her saying so specifically, her personality is so present in my brain that i know how she’d respond to my DID diagnosis.
She’d bark out harsh laughter and snidely call Bullshit. She’d roll her eyes and talk about how hard my life was, her voice dripping with sarcasm. She’d launch into a heart-wrenching speech about how if anyone should be split apart into pieces it should be her. She’d (rerere)retell tear-jerking stories of her own awful childhood, her emotions rising, until she’d wound herself up so tightly she’d burst open with a caustic rant about how grateful i should be that i had her as a mother, and how she’d brought me home a great father, and given me great siblings – friends and protectors and supporters forever.

I could be her speechwriter and she wouldn’t change a single word.
Well, she would, just so i wouldn’t think i was all that. I’m already conceited enough. She’d sigh and say, I suppose this’ll have to do.

I’ve taken her with me everywhere i’ve gone. She’s had something to say about everything i’ve done and everyone i’ve known. Some think that knowing your shadow makes you a better person. A lot of therapy has been learning who i am and looking at all of it, so that i might address what’s not working and what’s harming me and make changes.
I know my shadow very well, because it’s my mother.

When a mental health professional would broach the subject of my dissociativeness, i would never go back.
A door inside me immediately slammed shut because i knew what she would think about it and i knew what she’d say. I knew what she would want me to do – expect me to do. I knew she’d punish me if i didn’t do it. She may be dead 30yrs, but she still survives in my brain. A ghost, a poltergeist tipping over lamps and smashing glasses and turning lights on and off in my head. She messes with my Bits N’ Pieces; terrifying some, shaming others, sometimes pretending to be a friend. Manipulating all of us. All of ME.

When i realised that some of what i thought were dreams were actually memories, i could hear her angry shrieks. When i started living my life as if it might be true that i’m a multiple, i could hear her derisive voice, nagging me, shaming me, cawing with laughter at how pathetic i was. When i found a therapist i could work with, i could feel her tight-lipped silence and her hot stare; i could hear her passive-aggression:

Fine, blame me.
Take the easy way out.
Lazy.
Liar.

Now that i’m working on connecting my brain and my body back together, i hear her more loudly than i have in some years. My therapist asks me to pay attention to what my body is trying to tell me, rather than what my brain is saying. We’re talking, and like the last couple of sessions prior, i find myself snarking at her and feeling frustrated, bitchy… angry. I don’t know why. She picks up on it, and draws my attention to my feet. The one pressed to the floor is going up and down on its toes, and the one crossed over my knee is swishing back and forth like a cat’s tail warns you a bite is coming. She suggests making the movements bigger, putting more energy into it, and then asks me how i feel about her suggestion. After some time and some deft handling on her part, i snarl at her that it feels stupid.
I sound like a teenager. I feel like a teenager. I AM a teenager.

I’ve slid out of the face and i know the rolled eyes and twisted mouth of the girl who’s currently hissing at her. I’m desperately embarrassed to be speaking to her in this way. She’s done nothing but help me. Frankly, i wouldn’t be this far along and doing this well without her. I’d still be looking for her or someone like her i think, because my kids anchor me to this earth, but i might well be locked up somewhere. I might be divorced. My sons might have cut me out of their lives. I might not have the joy of a daughter and grandchildren to make life indescribably beautiful.
Plus, i was taught never to talk sass to anyone in authority. It reflected poorly on my mother. It might make them ask questions, make them look a little more closely. People were only allowed to see what she wanted them to see. The more weight she gained, the more she became a shut-in, because her mask didn’t fit properly anymore and kept slipping. She’d still hear things, though. Teachers were great for earning me a few smacks or an outright beating. Family members. Her occasional, transient friendship…

I must also factor in what she taught me about psychology.
Distrust it and those who practise it.
Look down on it and those who practise it.
And finally, she didn’t tell me this, she showed me:
Give them what they want and impress them, learn everything they have to teach about it, and then go out into the world and use the fuck out of it against others to get what you want.

So, i’ve had bad experiences with psychology and mental health professionals.
Most of them have thought i was fine, or at least well on my way to handling my issues.
I thought most of them were idiots, so i didn’t open up.
They used buzzwords that triggered TF out of me and i’d shut down.
Anyone who started nosing around my dissociative aspects was immediately dismissed. I ran away from the ones who might have been able to help me.*

This means i sit there in her office, i sit with this person who has helped me save my life, this woman who has patiently and gently helped me learn about how my brain works, and sift through the wreckage inside me to find who i truly am. I sit there with her and i want to yell at her and i want to leave and i want to say 10 different things to her, but i can’t speak. I try to WILL myself to speak, but all that comes out most of the time are Yes, No, and more often than not, I don’t know.

It’s the programming.
I had to be a good girl to survive. I had to obey. I had to shut up. I had to agree with everything the adults said around me. I had to believe what they believed. I had to think as they thought. I had to have the same opinions. I had to literally sleep with the enemy in order to live. And no matter what i think on a low day, or what some of my parts believe, or what my mother would have told you – i WAS a good girl. I was the best little girl any mother could have ever had.

I look back, armed with information and real love, and this is how i do it. I confront these thoughts and feelings and i examine them with a critical eye. There is an incredibly delicate balance of allowing emotion and reining it in, because i must stay present to learn, to discern, to grasp, to absorb. I’m fighting some seriously ingrained behaviours, here. Or perhaps better put, i’m sitting in a chair, opposite a very good and cute little girl, in the office of my brain, and i’m helping her figure out that her mommy was the one that was bad, not her.
But man, she is so good and loving and loyal and true, that this news is not accepted easily. Her beliefs are dying a wretched death.

I see who i am and how my brain works, and i know that there are people who live inside my head, and they talk to me and sometimes they take care of me. And i know they aren’t real. I know they’re all me.

And i know the diagnosis is still controversial. But i also know that, regardless of who does or doesn’t believe or what label they put on it, my brain will still work this way, and i’m the one who has to deal with it. I must learn to live with it if i want to live – and i do. None of those headshrinkers can fix me/mend me/heal me – only i can do that.

And i hear my mother’s voice in my head telling me i’m full of shit and faking it, and her programming is so strong and so ingrained that i almost believe her.
I fucking want to believe her, do ya ken?
So i pull those thoughts, those voices out of my head and i share them out loud. I make them real, and then i see that they’re naked, just like that dumbfuck Emperor in the story. They’re walking around in my head like they’re all dressed for the Ball, but when i bring them outside they’ve got nothing on. Then they run from me, their influence over me gone. The spell, broken.
Slowly, i am waking from my mother’s thrall.

I tell my therapist i’m angry and i don’t know why. I’m crying and i don’t know why. I’m twitching and ticcing and i don’t know why. And she shushes me and tells me not to worry about the why of it right now. She asks me if i would be willing to just let my feet do what they want to do. Stretch up, stretch down. Flex. Bounce. She asks if she can provide her own foot for me to push against, and i ignore the eyerolling teenager inside me, and i shove my mother’s voice to the back of my brain, and i nod.

I put the bottom of my foot on the bottom of hers and she pushes against me, just a little, and i push back. After just a few seconds i’m pushing harder and she keeps her foot there, steady, letting me push her foot away a bit, and then pushing back into my foot -not much, not hard- just giving me room to push her foot away again. And then my foot is pumping against hers, and suddenly my leg starts shaking violently, and i look up at her, wide-eyed and say, What the fuck?!

She tells me it’s okay, it’s good, she says i’m discharging.
My foot that wanted to run, my leg that wanted to leave. To get me away from what was happening to me. The action that i always wanted to take when i was being harmed…
GETAWAYGETAWAYGETAWAYRUNRUNRUN
And i never could.
The memory of wanting so badly to escape and not being able to, trapped there for so long. So i let my foot and my leg do what it wants to do and it’s so weird, but it works for me. The anger is gone. The need to leave fades.
I felt what i felt while knowing what i know, and i made another connection between my brain and my body.

My therapist smiled at me, and she said, “This was very good work that you did today. This is the work and you’re doing it.”

Deprogramming.
Reconnecting.
Living.

Love and Peace to All,
And to All a Hearty “Hang in there!”
~H~

*Heavy emphasis on the word “might”. They probably could have helped a bit, but i’m going to say not much. If they started talking about MPD (what it was called back then), they’d often launch right into wanting to know names and speak to parts. In my case, not the way to go about it.

Slamdancing

The loose-stringed bass, surfing guitar, and wind-up monkey drums remind me who i am

Large and enraged
Huge
bashing my lips together like cymbals
Words racing out of my mouth and crashing into everyone

Drunk on pain
Shivering
hands curled into fists save 1 pointing finger
Take a good long look at what you’ve done to me

Violent head-bobs
Dancing
my feet kicking and stomping to the beat
I’m mad as hell and i’m not gonna take it anymore

Sudden hard shove
Brutal
careening across the floor and smack into the wall
Come on back because i’ve still got more in me

You aren’t them
Friend
but you’ll do as a stand-in and so will i
We’ll trade hits until they ask us to sit back down or leave

We bail and play chicken with friends and shopping carts in the parking lot of a Safeway

Ha
There isn’t one
Get it?

Deprogramming, Pt. I

I was raised religious. I’m gonna say some stuff about that, and you may not agree. That’s fine. The majority of the world holds some sort of belief in the supernatural. I once did, and now i do not. It’s no big. As long as i’m not being preached at or proselytised, i have no problems listening to those around me talk about such things. But this is my blog, written by me, full of my thoughts, experiences, and opinions. I’ve chosen a path and am mapping my own route to get where i want to go.

I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I’m just talkin’ ’bout Life As Me.
I’ve been wrong thousands of times, and will be thousands more yet (at least, i’m hoping for the opportunity to be). If you think there’s a god/gods out there, i think you’re wrong. So? You think i’m wrong, too. Doesn’t bother me in the least. I might be wrong, and i could be convinced by enough good evidence.*

Now that’s out of the way, lemme get to it.
Like many people, like many female people, like many female people born into a religious family, like many female people born into an abusive, religious family, i wasn’t allowed to say No. My permission was never required – not if it affected me directly or indirectly, and not even if it involved the use of my own body. Growing up, it didn’t occur to me that i could say No, and i rarely said it. It occasionally popped out when i was in extreme distress. If i said it outside the house and family interactions, it was usually respected, if for no other reason than, if i was saying No, i was likely completely unhinged at that point. When i lost control it got weird for those around me: wild eyes, panicked voice, heaving chest, all my ticcing behaviours on display… Most would back off. On the exceedingly unusual occasion that i used it in my house and/or with my parents, i was beaten.

I had no rights, no autonomy. Along with not being allowed to use the word No, i was never permitted to question anything. I was raised to obey without a word. I couldn’t pull a face either, that’d earn me a slap or 2, for sure. This contributed to my being an insular person; i was hidden deep inside, any natural individuality was subverted, and i compartmentalised in order to survive. My traumas were so intense and ongoing, my compartmentalisation became so widespread, rigid, and rigorous, that i split apart inside my brain. I’ve been diagnosed with what is currently referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder.

As i’ve said before, i fought the diagnosis for years. I never went back to mental health professionals that even brought it up peripherally. Being around others who identified themselves as multiples made my skin crawl. I believed it was a real thing, but i thought most people were faking it.** I believed what i was raised to believe; what my parents and others in authority over me told me to believe. I was taught what to think, never how, (and in that, i think i have more company than just fellow abuse survivors).

I was punished for asking questions. I might get yelled at, shamed, or even beaten if i dared use the word “why”. To this day, if you want to see me get frustrated, then angry, and then shut down, just start asking me questions. I get nervous and irritated quickly. What was happening in my family had to be hidden. I was taught that nosy people were a threat. Others weren’t as smart and socially evolved as we were – they wouldn’t understand. They’d take me away and i’d have no one. I was such a handful, such a difficult child; no one would be able to tolerate me for long. It was always indirectly, subtly reinforced that i was a terribly misbehaved child, and not easy to love. I was lucky to have my amazing and long-suffering mother there to care for and love me. Without her i’d be completely alone.

She’d always let me watch old movies, because she liked them, but she banned me from watching All About Eve. I was an advanced reader, and had worked my way through her large collection of books by grade 6, but when she caught me reading Sybil, she lost her mind, took it away and hid it. I don’t remember her ever telling me it was bullshit, though. In fact, looking back with grown up eyes, i think she was obsessed with the subject. I think there may have been a time that she played around with the diagnosis for herself. She loved attention and struggled with her mental health, and i have some memories of some talks and programs that she brought me along to, where the way she was talking and the way she was treated by others there would fit her claiming some form of multiplicity.

When i finally got away from my mother, i knew i needed professional help, but it never occurred to me that i had a diagnosable, mental illness (or 2).*** I was just bad, not ill. My brain wasn’t sick, i was just a rotten person. I was a disobedient, selfish liar.
Ah yes… Liar.
You bet she drummed that one in to me as far back as i can remember.

She told me i was a compulsive liar until the day she wound up in the hospital where she died. Hey, i did lie. I lied a lot and i lied as easily as i breathed, but they were all rooted in her teaching me to do it, and modeling it for me so well. I lied to get out of trouble, e.g. denying eating something i wasn’t supposed to eat, which i ate because i was not fed properly. I lied to impress other kids, because my life sucked and i wanted them to like me and i wanted to be more like them. And the #1 reason i’d lie, was to cover for my parents. To hide the abuse that was going on in our home. The abuse that i was told wasn’t abuse but only what i deserved because i was so very, very bad.

My whole life growing up was a lie to the outside world, but that was one i didn’t know i was telling. I didn’t know i was abused until i was 21. I knew my mom hit me often, and sometimes beat the absolute crap outta me, but i knew i deserved it. I never thought that she was wrong or she shouldn’t have done it. She’d raised me to think i was a piece of shit and she was my gracious and merciful teacher and provider.

And church was invaluable in backing up everything she wanted me to believe.

She went through many periods where she didn’t attend church, but she made sure i always did. She’d arrange for other families to pick me up and drop me home, or insist i go with other children whose parents would make them invite me. She was highly intelligent, clever, an incredible manipulator, and deeply devious. She never sat me down and preached at me that i remember, but she did this thing that i didn’t recognise until i was a parent myself.

When i was still small, she hung out with younger, childless folks who were going for their degrees, and sometimes the older, established professors whose children were grown (she worked at universities and colleges as a secretary). If she wasn’t farming me out to someone (let’s just call it that for this piece), she’d bring me along. I was a perfectly behaved child out in public – i knew what would happen if i wasn’t. So i’d sit quietly and unobtrusively at parties and various get-togethers and even courses she was taking, and the people there would eventually start talking like i wasn’t there. They’d forgotten. I heard things no child that age should hear, and learned things no child should know. I was mentally sophisticated, and i suppose precocious (UGH), so i grasped the subjects being discussed relatively easily.
The thing she’d do to secure her control of me is she’d say things to other adults at these events, knowing full well that i was listening. That i was, in fact, all ears. She’d talk religiously and philosophically with these people, but she’d drop bits that i now think were meant for me.

This bit is difficult to convey. I’ve been thinking about how to make it understandable for the last couple of days. Say for instance, her friends were discussing Dr. Spock and his views on spanking children. She’d say something like, “Well, Dr. Spock must have some very well-behaved children. We aren’t all so lucky.”

That would be a message for me.
I hope that illustrates my point well enough.

When things were particularly rough at home, money was tighter than usual, or maybe she’d been beating me more frequently, she’d talk more about her own childhood. She’d tell me horror stories of being locked in the root cellar, or bathed in scalding hot water. And she’d share all her rape stories in lurid detail,**** starting when i was very young, say 5 or 6, maybe earlier, i don’t know.

The message there was she was the one who was abused, not me.

She never let up on the programming. Manipulation was her life’s work. She played me like Perlman played violin until the day she slipped into a coma.

All this to say that it has been a gargantuan effort on my part to get help for myself. I thought that i was the problem and i didn’t need any help for the first 20+yrs of my life. Once i knew i was a victim, and had experienced my lack of proper adult functionality in the real world, it didn’t get much easier. My mother had availed herself of every psychological tool, every method, every book, every well-respected researcher and public speaker, every self-help group… I’d been saturated in psychology most of my childhood. She used it to hone her skills, and i think it put a lot of people in her path that were easy for her to get something from. Money, attention, whatever.

The result for me was that i didn’t trust any of them. Frankly, i found most of them stupid (i’d been raised to look down my intellectual nose at anyone outside of my parents) and, big surprise here, easy to manipulate. I knew what they wanted to hear, and despite my inner derision, i wanted to be the best damn screwup they’d ever had sit in their office. I was programmed to want people to like me and to seek their approval. So i’d figure out what they wanted and give it to them, and they’d quickly determine that i was well on my way to mastering whatever issues i’d dumped on their desk. I used all the right buzzwords, and mixed it in with an appropriate demonstration of how smart i was, and i’d manipulate myself right out of any genuine help they might have offered me.

I’d talk myself out of their help, and go back out into the world, and things would still get chaotic and painful. I was still struggling. I still couldn’t manage to live life on life’s terms. And then i popped out a couple of kids and fell in love (yes, in that order), and i began searching for someone to help me in earnest. I’d returned to religion with the birth of my first child, and i found a counsellor to work with through my church, after the birth of my second. She had her master’s in social work and she was one of the kindest people i’d ever met. I had completely submitted to church authority, and i worked hard with her, always doing what she asked me and any homework she gave me. One day she sat me down and said she had been thinking she had a diagnosis for my particular issues, and had consulted with the psychologist who attended our church, who agreed.

She said it was her professional opinion that i had Multiple Personality Disorder. She reiterated that her colleague concurred. I’ve tried to remember what happened after that, but i can’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if i left, but i don’t think i did. With my mother gone, there was no greater authority in my life than their authority.
And i was raised to be obedient, above all things.

Great, so i had a diagnosis. The problem was, the treatment was bible-based. She took me to an old guy (BAD IDEA) who specialised in helping members map out their systems, so they could start praying over them and casting them out by name.

Because they were demons.
Of course.
I was demon-possessed.

**********

*Not here though. My blog isn’t for that.

**I’m not sure about that now. The important thing is that, even if they are, it’s none of my business.

***Okay, 3 or 4. Maybe 5, but that one’s relatively dormant, so i don’t count it. I’m kidding here, one might diagnose me with more than 2, but the 2 i deal with most can (kind of?) umbrella the rest, thereby cutting down on my stress and anxiety… So 2 shots of the hard stuff with a smartass chaser.

****I don’t know if her stories were true, as she lied practically every time she opened her mouth. To me, it doesn’t matter.

Stop

I don’t care if you label me, judge me and stare at me
Well, really i do but i’m working on that

I have men that enable me, gird me, encircle me
Hands under my arms so your whispers fall flat

I have women who speak to me words of encouragement
Their voice draws me to them away from the sirens

The girls in my life they look up at me, woman-sent
My beautiful daughter who heals my environs

I look at them all and i know that i’m okay
So your vicious slander doesn’t actually matter

My armour is simply i’m never alone

But what of the friendless that live all around you
That suffer in silence and never speak out

The hot acid sewage you carelessly spew
Seeps into their pores and it causes them doubt

They can’t hear a thing but your words of dismissal
Or look at the sun and be warmed by its rays

For you’ve built around them a wall of denial
That no one could love them for all of their days

Their invisibility angers and frightens me
Makes me want to shake you until the world breaks

No person should ever be left all alone

Dancing Elephants

Even 10 years ago i would have told you that anxiety wasn’t that much of an issue for me.

HAAAA-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA
*gaspsforair*
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

I think being a multiple hid it from me, because i’d just dissociate/slide/switch to cope when the feeling came up. As i learned more about myself and my system, i became more conscious of my thoughts and emotions, and more aware of my physical body and my “presence” in it. I discovered that –ZOUNDS!– anxiety is a huge issue for me. It slows down my personal progress, it limits my opportunities, it stifles my creativity, it thins my skin, it uses spoons that would be far better used elsewhere.

Fuck anxiety, man.

Over the last few years i’ve intentionally endeavoured to cut as much of this heartache-y bullshit stress out of my life as i can. I thought this morning that i might share with you a list of things i’ve done to hike this old piano off of my chest.

Let me be very clear here: This is not a step-by-step. This is my list, based on who i am and how i work. This is a personal list, specific to me. I share this list to share my process, which is a big part of what i do on this blog, and to stand as evidence that it can be done. Some of what i do or don’t do to reduce/remove anxiety might have precisely the opposite affect on you. You have your own past, your own personality, your own burdens, your own path. You do you, Boo. I am. here. for it. 100%

Things I Have Done To Reduce Anxiety

1) Stopped watching talk shows,
lifestyle programs,
nighttime news,
anything to do with celebrities:
This is a big one for a few reasons. Talk shows triggered envy, lifestyle programs triggered guilt, and nighttime news supported catastrophising. I also figured out that learning more about the celebrities/artists i like, jeopardised my enjoyment of them/their art. I’m all for killing your heroes, but sometimes not listening to them chat is enough;

2) Put down fashion, gossip, and lifestyle magazines:
See above for reasons. The lifestyle and celebrity gossip rags were easy to put down, the fashion died a little harder. It’s not just that i wished i was slim and beautiful and young and glamourous like the models, it’s also that fashion is art, to me. I’ve discovered that, like sports, i can love the thing itself, and shun the machine that surrounds it;

3) No shopping alone, not even online:
Too many choices causes me to freeze up. If there were two ice cream shops, and one was 100 flavours and one was 3, i would go to the store with three. If i went to the store with 100, i’d stand there for an hour, hemming and hawing, stress over which would be the best flavour, and either pick one and regret it, wondering if i shouldn’t have picked a different one instead –OR– i’d get completely overwhelmed and end up picking one i could have gotten in 5 minutes at the other store.

If i shop alone, a version of this happens every time. This is why i limit the amount of time i spend in a store, and don’t even enter certain stores, like Sephora, for instance, because there’s just too many choices. I wind up walking out with nothing, and so stressed i could cry. When i shop online i’ve either got my husband or a kid beside me, or i shop where they let me narrow my search (and boy oh boy, do i narrow).

4) Walk my doggos every day:
Dogs and exercise are great relievers of stress. E’erybody know dat.

5) Keep To-Do lists loose, and rarely on paper:
If i write down a list, it becomes too important and too rigid.* If it’s in my head, it’s easier for me to make amendments when and where appropriate, and not kick myself if it all doesn’t get done;

6) Share all anxiety-producing thoughts with a safe person:
Truth is, i share most of my thoughts with a safe person. The negative or stress-producing ones so that they don’t get a chance to get bigger and badder, but even the positive, happyhappy stuffs. I want to remember the good ones, and sharing the words is like planting them as seeds and giving them a chance to grow and bear good fruit;

7) See my GP every 3mos:
I have both mental and physical health issues that are important to monitor. Also, i can be obsessive, and have a tendency to imagine worst case scenarious. Oh yeah, and i’m terrified of dying. I don’t think i qualify as a hypochondriac, but i can take a pimple and WebMD it into cancer in about 3mins flat. I always bring a list to my doctor appointments, so she can address all my causes for concern, and i never lie to her or hide things from her;

8) Biweekly therapy:
‘Nuff said;

9) Stopped weighing myself:
The number on the scale has only ever caused me anxiety, even when i think it’s a good number. I keep track based on how my clothes fit, and how i look in the mirror after a shower, naked. I get weighed every 3mos at my doctor’s office. I don’t look at the number, and the nurse doesn’t tell me, she only tells my doctor;

10) Become particular about who i hang out with:
I love people, but always find it somewhat stressful, and sometimes even painful to be around them. I only have so much energy and a few spoons a day, so i’ve had to get selective. Basing it on this reasoning also relieved some anxiety, because this is about me and for my wellbeing. Sometimes the reason isn’t personal, and sometimes it IS;

11) Watch telly less – read more:
I was a latchkey kid, so the television was regularly my only companion. My whole adult life i’ve switched on the tv in the morning, and not turned it off until i go to bed at night. I didn’t always watch it, but i liked the background noise. These last few months the tv’s barely on during the day. Television was a great distraction for my system when things got busy and/or stressful up in my brain. These days i’m learning to listen to what’s going on, rather than trying to tune it all out. And the quiet is actually kinda nice;

12) One hit of caffeine in the morning only, if home all day:
I like some to get me going, but after that first mug of black tea, i switch to herbal ones. I struggle with sleep and anxiety, and too much caffeine only amplifies those issues. If i’m out and about in the city or visiting with friends, i do allow myself to indulge, though. And i feel fine about that;

13) Limit socialisation:
I don’t want to cut it out entirely (although sometimes i NEED to do that), but i’m easily overwhelmed and human interaction can bleed my energy dry in a matter of hours. I’m talking about people i choose to be social with, here;

14) BLOG:
Yeah. Dumping thoughts is important for my wellbeing. I may have said this once or twice before. Heh;

15) Take stock of the day with hubby each evening:
More thought-dumping sure, but also helps to keep me on track, gives me a chance to problem-solve, and affords opportunities for encouragement, support, and human connection. Invaluable for managing my most typical anxieties;

16) Take breaks between tasks, and/or limit amount of time spent on tasks:
All that happens when i push too hard and get a whole bunch of shit done is i feel like it wasn’t enough and i need to beat my last score the next day, if that makes sense. Respite gives me a chance for checking in and self-talk, too.
e.g. I did the dishes, yay! Now i can play online Scrabble for half an hour, then maybe i’ll scrub the toilets… Ah, w00t?

17) Reduce house-clutter:
The less i have to take care of besides myself and my dog – the better;

18) Set time to obsess:
I struggle with obsessive thinking. To date, i haven’t found a way to eliminate it. In the past i would kick myself over not being able to control it. Now, i work within my capabilities. So maybe i can’t quit obsessing, but i can give myself a half hour to gnaw it like a dog on a bone. I have something to do to distract me when the time to obsess is over. It can be very hard to stop, so i’ll schedule an obsess-sesh say, right before i meet a friend for coffee;

19) Use 4-7-8 breathing method:
While i do simple yoga, i’m a nonbeliever and i just like this particular method of breathing. It calms me, it brings my focus down into my body and relieves that heavy, squinchy feeling in my chest that anxiety brings. It’s occasionally helped me get to sleep, too. Not magic, but still awesome;

20) Reduce volume:
When things are quieter on the outside of me, things are often quieter on the inside of me;

21) Walk away from toxic associations:
I’m just gonna say it. Family. I walked away from family (and not a few friends). To be fair, i think i could be pretty toxic myself, when i was around them;

22) Be conscious, be cautious when sharing opinions:
I was raised with a finely tuned sense of tribalism. I also learned that being considered 1 of the gang made me far less likely to be hurt. I’d figure out what the group dynamic and their values were, and promptly reflect them. When i broke free of that programming, i wanted to tell everyone what i thought about everything, all the time. I’ve got that t-shirt now, thanks. I don’t require anyone’s agreement or approval of my opinions because, well, they’re opinions. I share my opinions with safe and loved people. I’m supportive of those who want to stand up and shout theirs from the rooftops, and i’m also supportive of those like me, who want to go far away from the rooftops;

23) Stay home:
Socialising takes a lot out of me; too much, right now;

24) Shnuggle pets:
For those who love and have pets, explanations are unnecessary;

25) Consume comedy (shows, books, podcasts, conversations):
There’s nothing quite like laughter, to give that elephant sitting on my chest a chance to get up and do some pirouettes, maybe even grand jetés!

26) Ask, “Is this any of my business?” regularly:
Cuts down on brain clutter, and keeps me from stressing over what other people think and do. You be you and i be me;

27) Say “I’m sorry” less:
This is mostly concerning my upbringing. As the scapegoat, i was the reason shit went south. I’m always apologising, and i know it drives my loved ones bonkers. I’m learning that most of the time when i say sorry it’s unconscious, reflexive programming. I don’t have to apologise for who i am. Any apologies still remaining from my past will be dealt with as they present themselves. I’m not in constant danger of being harmed anymore, like i was when i was a child. Offering unnecessary sorries just brings up old wounds and reinforces the lies my mother told me about myself in order to control me;

28) Say “I don’t know” more:
Same original motivators as above. Not knowing things as a child left me more open to harm, so i tried to know everything. And my family was the very model of knowitallishness. I don’t have to protect myself that way anymore. Plus, it’s annoying AF, and nobody likes a smarty-pants;

29) Be more physically affectionate with husband and children:
Touch is difficult for me. While it’s been a relief to put no-touch boundaries up, i’m a human animal who does better in life with some physical connection. My husband and children are safe. I reinforce that i’m safe and they won’t hurt me, when i touch them. I experience love and healthy attachment. It calms me, grounds me, makes me feel more normal, strengthens bonds and heals old hurts;

30) Strictly limit and curate social media exposure:
Do i need to go into how anxiety-producing social media can be? If you’re reading my blog, probably not. You already know;

31) Don’t compare myself to others:
A biiiig one, and one that’s proven hard to master. Different nature, different nurture, different choices, different paths. It makes for different people, H. Duh. I do sometimes use others as a general metric, but only to keep myself honest and on track. An example would be when i thought i might be overreacting to a certain person’s behaviour. I compared my reactions to those of other people around him, and quickly figured out NOPE.

One more time for the people in the back:

This is my list. There’s more, and i’ll probably make alterations, additions and subtractions to this list over time.
My point is, anxiety is awful and takes energy i need for other stuff that feels better, or at least yields good fruit. Anxiety produces nothing for me but pain, poor choices, and more anxiety.

And what you think about this post and my list is entirely your business. Heh.

Try to enjoy your weekend, if you can. I will too.

*Wait a second, is this irony?

Talking To Myself

WARNING: Light reference to suicidal thoughts.

I’m feeling a little better the last couple of days. I’m becoming familiar with this cycle, so i’ve decided to take a hard look at it, not to tweak it, but to find some peace in it. See, at the end of it, i beat the everloving crap outta myself because “i did it again”. I’d like to change that part of it, at least for a start.
There may be some other changes i could make in the future, but if my success over compulsive eating and weight issues is any indication, a kind of acceptance needs to come first. It’s not giving myself over to inevitability (screw you, Mr. Smith), it’s more of an acknowledgement of who i am and where i’m at.
Without that, it seems to make shame and frustration even more of an anchor for me. A millstone. To see where i’m going, i must first look at where i am.

I’m starting with the fact that i’m here at all, which is a good thing.
Next, i’m not the person my mother intended me to be, which is a very good thing.
Also, i have a loving and supportive partner, children, and even a couple of friends, which is excellent.
And, although the list could be longer, let’s finish with the fact that i have a therapist who’s helping me know who i am and work towards being more of who and what i want to be.
Astounding.

The cycle seems to work like this:

– Drag myself up out of the pit,
– Struggle to stand,
– Take a couple of shaky steps,
– Stop and rest,
– Take a few steps more,
– Rest again,
– Start walking a little faster and farther,
– Force myself to stop for a rest,
– Walk more often and with fewer and shorter stops in between,
– Fall into a pit.

There’s some nuance missing there, but that’s nutshelling it well, i think. The bit that doesn’t quite fit into the steps is the part where i’m embarrassed and ashamed that i fell into a pit again. I feel guilty, like i’ve failed my family and myself – including my system. I’m disgusted with, and disappointed in myself.
I see the pit as failure.
I see my level of functionality (or lack thereof) at my age as pathetic.
I see myself as far behind my peers.
When i get particularly low, the feelings can stray into self-hatred and hopelessness, which has, at times lately, brought about thoughts of suicide. Not making-a-plan suicidal, but i-can’t-do-this-anymore, and my-loved-ones-would-be-better-off-without-me stuff.

So, not where i need to getteth mine asseth to thine infirmary, posthaste. Still and all, not a good place to be, and one that can lead me down darker avenues.*

Me: Here’s the thing though, H, what else could you do?

Also Me: I could push harder, take more steps, do more things.

Me: Could you though? I mean, haven’t we tried that, like, a LOT?

Also Me: Yes but, at my age i should be able to handle this stuff.

Me: Should you? Says who?

Also Me: Well, at my age… Hell, folks a helluva lot younger than me have their shit together.

Me: Yeah, some of them probably do, but i’ll bet a lot of them just look like they do.

Also Me: True, but i’m getting older, and with each passing year, my opportunity to be the person i want to be gets smaller and smaller.

Me: That’s the way it is for everyone.

Also Me: I know that, smartass, but my window’s starting to look like the upstairs scary eyes ones in the Amityville Horror.

Me: Small, and split apart. Funny.

Also Me: It’s a gift. Listen, my children are grown and i have grandchildren. I should be further along my path by now. I can’t seem to stop falling. Even if i don’t fall into a pit, i trip and get root rash on my face.

Me: I know. It hurts and sometimes it’s obvious, which can suck, but you’ve found a way to make some good out of it.

Also Me: *sigh* I wanted to leave behind a better legacy than that.

Me: Like what? Sure, you could have been somebody. You could have been a contender. But at what cost? Our system would have certainly paid the biggest price. You could have been a very successful person who would have remained incredibly broken and in pain on the inside: Famous, rich, respected –whatever you dreamed of– a success by current world standards… So? Would that person be who you really are, though?

Also Me: *deepersighpluseyeroll* No. I would have had to completely shut down parts of myself. Pretend my childhood never happened. Never acknowledge the people who live in my brain who saved my life. Inauthentic at best – a complete lie at worst.

Me: Right. So this is the price you’ve paid to be a real live girl. You had a huge mess to clean up before you could stop being wooden and start being flesh. A mess you didn’t even make.

Also Me: But it’s taken so long to get HERE, and i’m still not THERE yet.

Me: You’re never going to get there. No one does. You just get as close to it as you can with the time you have.

Bits of Me: When you take too big of steps, we can’t keep up. We’re too little. You make us scared and we cry. Also, we’re hungry. Can we have a cookie now?

I guess i’m just going to keep plugging away at this. This is how i’ve learned to do it. Maybe there was another, better way, but i can’t go back and do things differently. This is what i have to work with, this cycle. I may always have to take baby steps. I may always fall into a pit, here and there.

My legacy is that i will always claw my way up out of the pit, even if it’s just to fall into another one later on. I’ll be further along my path. A few steps is better than no steps. I will always try to learn more and live more true, so that i might be, do, and give, MORE.
It may not be much, but it’s real. I may not be much of a success by the world’s current standards, but my Bits N’ Pieces trust me, love me, and look up to me. I have a family that loves and forgives me. I want for nothing. I may wear a mask sometimes, but it’s not on purpose, and everyone who knows me, knows about the masks, and they don’t mind. And if the people who matter to me don’t mind that i fall into pits and wear various masks, why should i?

Time for cookies.

Love and Peace To You,
~H~

*I know what to do to manage these thoughts, and i do these things. I don’t hide them inside my brain, where they might grow and fester. I talk – i tell safe people. I check my daily self-care. I call my therapist. And i have gone to the ER, seen my personal GP, and even checked myself into The Bin where necessary. Whatever it takes, i do it.