Waking From the Dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, you better believe she’s awesome.

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

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

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

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

Love and Peace to You, Always,
~H~

Anger Is A Mythical Beast

It can be tough for me to figure out what’s going on, but it’s important that i do. If i feel a bit off, i make it a priority, because things can go for shit before i know it. As a multiple, i think it’s at least partly due to my propensity for compartmentalisation and dissociation. Being able to do those things can be helpful – in the right situation and to the proper degree, but first i want to become aware of when i’m doing it (or wanting to do it) and why. If left unchecked, it can and has wreaked havoc in my life.

These last months have been filled with this work. I’m doing my best to stay present in my body and be in control of the face.*

As i’ve said before (and will say again because it’s the biggest thing in my life right now), it is hard, exhausting work. I’m tired and on edge all the time. It’s draining every reserve, and i mete out my daily allotment of spoons with consideration and care.

I’m angry. Like, every shade of anger on the spectrum is lit up and vibrating inside me. I’m everything from mildly ticked, to mad as a wet hen, to fuck-it-i’m-nuking-the-world. It’s been swimming around for some time, occasionally breaking the surface for air like some emotional Ogopogo. I’ve been catching brief glimpses in my psychic peripherals, and the other day something happened where i caught a clear view of it in action.

I had an encounter with someone from my past who wasn’t kind to me, and i found myself glad they weren’t doing well. Gleeful, even.
I made a joke about it with a friend, but my guts were already churning.

**********

So, i’m sitting here in my husband’s van, waiting for my therapy appointment. My regular ride fell through, and i advertised on social media for some help but none came. Then hubby says, You’re not doing well, i have a slow day at work tomorrow, so come in with me and we’ll see what we can make happen.

It’s probably for the best. I have a hair trigger ATM. Everyone is annoying. I feel people like an intrusion. My longtime online buddies are an exception, but only barely. Everyone else, including the very dear man i married, are varying levels of irritating. I feel attacked, but no one’s attacking me.

After my episode of Schadenfreude, i was at a friend’s house. The experience was simmering inside me, and i was feeling worse and worse about it.
That’s not me, that’s not who i am.
That was so mean, and ugly, too.
I feel mean and ugly.
Am i mean and ugly?

The answer is easily No. It’s a normal human reaction i think, to be momentarily glad that someone who hurt you is having a bad time. And i was immediately offput by my own reaction. I processed it and was thinking i could let it go and move on, when a knock brought my friend some visitors. I opened the door for them and BAM!
I was in trouble.

I could see them, but from an unrealistic distance. I was sliding away, and whoever was in the face was staring at them with hot, marble eyes. I resented them immediately. I didn’t want them there. Why? They’ve done nothing to me. One of them was an innocent child. Fortunately, i still had enough presence of mind to wrest control away from the protector who was in the face, and mellow my voice and countenance. But i could feel myself slipping, and knew i had to get away.
I quickly grabbed all my shit and got out of there. I knew i was acting strangely, so i was out the door in seconds, with only the most perfunctory of goodbyes. It was the best i could do; i could feel the rage coming up. The kind of destructive anger that unleashes my tongue to flay everyone around me to ribbons.
My mother had an acid tongue and i learned well.
I can destroy with a look, and my words have wrought untold damage over the course of my life. I’ve cut down swathes of people and relationships over the years.
It was a petty, shallow sort of anger i was feeling inside, like a tantrum.
I got TF out before i could do any harm.

Since then i’ve kept mostly away from people. I need to process this with my therapist.
Why am i so freaking choked?!

**********

Hubby came back to the van for a quick snack, and we discussed getting me to my appointment. I was able to process a bit with him while he munched away on cheese strings and meat sticks
Am i angry because it’s better then being sad?
Maybe it’s because i’m afraid of the pain that yet lies before me.
It’s a vast, roiling sea. I may drown in it.
No, really. That is a possibility.
I’m fairly sure i’ll make it through, but i’ll likely go under a couple of times.

Maybe it’s preferable to just stand on the beach and shake my fists at the water.

I was sitting here, waiting for more words to type, thinking about what’s ahead of me. I was thinking of the pain, but then it occurred to me that i’m already moving through the pain. My body is manifesting the physical sensations of my childhood. The ones i blocked and otherwise dissociated from: countless rapes and endless beatings.
So that’s not it.

Now i think i have it – or a bit of it anyway.
It’s not the physical pain i’m terrified of. Like my therapist said, she could slap me across the face and i’d be able to handle it better than a hug.
No, it’s not that. It’s hard and it’s awful, but pain is the bully i’ve lived with my whole life – this process has just taken me deeper.

What about what comes after?
What’s underneath my ripped girl parts and swollen throat?
I know.
A different kind of pain.
Unmet needs.
Betrayal.

I’m going to feel the rejection and aloneness of my childhood. It was a bleak and terrible landscape where the sun cast no warmth and daytime was a lie.
I’m going to grieve, to mourn.

Gah, i don’t know what to do with this information. I’ve done so much work on myself that i’m getting to know who i genuinely am underneath all the coping mechanisms and fear. I’ve seen other people compartmentalise and put away potentially disabling life events and go on to live a relatively happy and successful life. I think that’s a viable way to handle things, and i know i could do it.
But that’s not who i am as a person. I want something else –not better than the one who locks it away forever– just different. More in alignment with my personality.
Me, i’m a person who’s gotta look at it. I want to know, and as much as i or anyone is able, to understand.

I was blocked from knowing by my upbringing. All i knew was what my abusers told me. It was all i believed. My obedience was so ingrained and unconscious that my intelligence may well have atrophied – my intellect very nearly starved to death. Once i began to wriggle free, there was no going back for me. Even a small taste of freedom whet my appetite for more. My mother’s bloody fingerprints are all over me, inside and out, shallow and deep. It’s not the way for everyone who survives trauma, but a thorough and intense forensic examination is my way.
Yes, i’m self-focused. Willfully so.
I submit that it has, and will continue to make me a better and more useful person.
No longer used, but useful. A human who contributes to the betterment of humankind, and the earth we inhabit.

**********

I’ve left my husband and walked to my appointment. He’ll be by to pick me up later. It was a lovely walk through a part of the city that’s interesting and pretty and well-known to me. It’s also wonderfully trigger-free. I’ve got my footing, a little. It helps. I can already feel my gaze softening and my body unclenching. I see better where i am and where i’m headed.
I’m going to check in with my pocket people, and devour a few more chapters of my current book.

Processing…

**********

Oh shit. Today was not what i expected. I have some plans for the weekend (i people sometimes now – on purpose!), but i’ll try to fit some writing in.
I wanna get it while it’s fresh.

Have as good a weekend as you can. If it’s crap or otherwise out of your control, hang in there.
Love and Peace,
~H~

*”In the face” and variations thereof, is the phrase i use to describe who is currently controlling me and my system.

1 Day in the Life of a Crazy Woman

Where i buy a turkey sandwich, but don’t eat it.

Last week i went to see my plastic surgeon. When you lose over 300lbs, you generally need some work done, and i did. I’ve had double brachioplasty, abdominoplasty, double mastopexy and breast implants. I began having tearing pain in 1 breast, and the beginnings of the same pain in the other. As my surgery was 15yrs ago, i went to see if the implants were the problem.
It was a dicey situation for me to walk into, loaded with potential triggers. I thought hard about it and tried my best to prepare. Being topless in front of someone who isn’t my husband, who’s looking at me critically and touching me… I knew it would be difficult, and i’d be dealing with a strong desire to dissociate.

It was hard, and then some. What i didn’t anticipate was that there was nothing wrong with my implants, which left waiting for a mammogram. Great. So something could be wrong with my boobs, like, my real boobs? Fantastic.
There was no way for me to not be alone after the appointment, so i’d invited myself over to my son’s house to visit my DIL and my grandchildren. I figured the bus might be another hurdle still, but doable. I got to their neighbourhood without a single hitch, and then shit happened, as shit do.

I’m on the bus, heading up the hill, and i start feeling nauseated. I know this part of the city well, and i realise i’ve failed to anticipate the real trouble. I’ve spent countless hours in this area’s local park. Waiting for abusers to pick me up and abuse me.
The dissociation happens as soon as the realisation hits, and i can’t stop it.

My body wants to run back down the hill. Get away, go downtown. The library is a haven, and i wonder when it closes. Evening comes early on my side of the equator, so dusk has fallen, and is rapidly becoming nighttime. The air is thick with moisture, and the streetlights illuminate the fog, creating little clouds every 30m or so. I’m wearing knee-high suede boots, because they’re fashionable, and because i’ve only just lost enough weight that my calves can fit any. Yes, i wear them every chance i get, and no, they don’t keep my feet warm at all.

I know the house is only a couple of blocks away, so i should be able to find it. I head up another hill, off the main road, and into the maze of suburbia. In less than 2 blocks i’m scattered, anxiety has started squeezing my heart in its icy hand, and the fog surrounding me seeps into my brain. I find a map on my phone, but it’s too late. I look at it without understanding. I try to zero in on the street names, but i can’t focus. The names bounce around in my head, echoing off bone, passing through each other like string theory. I’m in a cold, foamy sea of yellow roads and names that start with “C”. I’m treading water but i can’t feel my feet and my legs are fast becoming numb…

I startle and quickly look up and around me.
I don’t know where i am.
My feet are blocks of ice and i have snotsicles.
I’ve lost time and wandered.

I call my daughter-in-law for directions, thinking her voice might ground me a bit, or at least force me into a more conscious state. I forget that she doesn’t drive either, and between the 2 of us, we’re not getting me there.
I’m fading in and out. I hear her voice in my ear and then it moves away from me.
My guts churn and my head feels floaty; it starts pounding mercilessly. It feels like my brain is swelling, filling the space like a balloon ready to burst. It presses down into my throat, pulsing, throbbing. My neck and the base of my skull feel like broken glass.

By the time she suggests my son come out to find me, hope is lost. I’ve taken that stumbling hitch-step from Anxiety Hill into Panicland. I feel an icy-hot rush flood my skin at the suggestion of seeing my son. I can’t allow him to see me like this.
I cannot allow my dear daughter or precious granddaughters to see me this way.

Trying to sound calm and blasé, knowing that i’m failing, i tell her i’m going to make my way to the strip mall on the main road. I can hear my scared Little voice quietly harmonising with my desperately false one, but i’m helpless to temper it. All i know is that i must get away from them. She and my son have seen far too much of my calamity as it is, and i committed myself long ago to testing their acceptance and forgiveness of me as little as possible.
I get off the phone and make my way to the string of shops below.

I know i’m close to mild frostbite, but i wander back and forth in front of the various businesses, unable to decide which one i should risk entering. I see a gas station, and think i could buy some gum and use the restroom to gather myself, but as i draw nearer i see it’s a kiosk. Damn.
I see a burger place decorated like a diner set back behind it, but as i walk towards it i see it’s take-away only. Blargh.
Heading back the way i came i see a Korean restaurant, which is a favourite cuisine, but there is 1 person sitting at a table, and that’s not enough to hide, so ixnay on the Ulgogi-bay.
The coffee shop i’d first come across has closed during my indecision. Fucksticks.
Subway sandwiches is open, and while it is cramped AF so not ideal, there are a handful of patrons inside, which might afford me some anonymity.

As i open the door to the restaurant, i close the door on myself.

I look up at blurred images of melting yellows and blacks. My feet are being jabbed with long needles, but instead of delivering anaesthetic it hits me like amyl nitrate – popping me into consciousness with a gasp of pain, immediately followed by panic.
I feel small and naked and my breath is getting away. There’s food and drink in front of me, and my phone is in my hand. Only a couple of my Bits N’ Pieces can use a cell phone, and they’re strictly helping parts, so when i check i see i’ve contacted Kurt.
That should help, but it doesn’t.
I’m too far along and it has me. Full anxiety attack. My chest feels expanded and tight, metallic. My heart is a bomb inside, and it’s going to blow. I need to manage this, but i can’t. I need help, but i can’t think.
I’m scurrying around inside my brain, bumping into thoughts and parts. My emotions jangling, like cymbals crashing, filling my ears, my eyes too wide, one set of fingernails biting into my palm, the other white-knuckling my phone.
My phone.
MY PHONE.

I have a group of friends that i met nearly 20yrs ago on a fansite/message board, and we’ve remained close long after the page’s demise. They’ve stuck with me through all my crazy, supported and encouraged me, held my hand when i was lost and held me up when i was so low i had to look up to see dirt.
We have our own texting group on the phone.
I reach out as sobs are bubbling up and ask if anyone’s there.

They are.
They hop on in response to my need, and proceed to talk me off the ledge.
Helpmehelpmehelpmeplease. I’m trying not to cry but i’m crying. I’m crying alone at a table in a Subway restaurant.
Look down, they say, Look down and no one will see.
It’sokayyou’reokayeverything’sgoingtobeokay. Okay?
Okay.
Can you see 5 things? I say Yes, and whisper them out.
Name 4 sensations, 3 sounds, 2 smells…
I keep my eyes down, and smash the iwonderiftheycanhearmewho’slookingatme that comes and almost derails me.
Do you know any breathing techniques?
Yes! I can 4-7-8.
My no-yoga ass 4-7-8s its little heart out.
Quietly.
In a little curvy Subway chair that cups my rump and thighs and attaches to the table and another chair in 1 big piece.
They continue to text me and say good and kind and right things until the door tinkles open and gives me my husband. His warm and gently smiling face washes over me like a beam of sun and his strong hand knits through my shaking one as he guides me through the watercolour people and into his work van. It’s warm and purring inside, dark and quiet and safe. Safe metal box. Safe space.

I breathe into my collapse. My grateful release of sobs. Panic stops its painful squeezing and my body discharges into the night.

My mother would pick me up from the babysitter’s after work. When she turned left off Northmount before 14th Street, i knew. Sometimes, a man would already be there, waiting. On many occasions though, she would just drop me off in the parking lot of the park, where i would wait.
Wait for a man who was coming to hurt me.
Winter and weekends were the worst.
Weekdays they were usually prompt, but weekends seemed at times to take hours, and our winters are very cold.
My babysitter was the next suburb over, and my grandparents, the one on the other side. A few times i panicked and tried to find them, wandering the streets up and down, looking for help and safety, but never finding it.
Those times my mother would find me, get me into the car, and hit me all the way home. I’d run straight to my room, hoping she was too tired for anything else besides denying me food.

As my husband drove me home i was an earthquake in my seat. My thighs quivered helplessly, my knees knocked together, my shoulders shook, my body heaved and my guts writhed, nausea snaking its way into my mouth. I sobbed and retched as my body discharged and discharged, until i went completely rigid. I arched up against the seatbelt, as if in the grips of a seizure, and then everything let go and i fell back, limp and exhausted.

The panic was gone, and with it went the fear and embarrassment, too. And i wasn’t just emotionally spent, i was calm. I felt noticeably lighter. I felt relief. I felt clearheaded.
As we drove the 50 or so minutes home, i looked back upon what’d happened and i didn’t see failure. I saw success – i felt successful. I was less amorphous in my body; my thoughts and sensations felt firm, solid, like they carried physical weight. My head and my limbs weren’t trying to rise and float away from me, i could feel where they attached to my neck and torso. I was a human being, individual, and contained in 1 whole piece.

All this trying, all this trytrytry, try more, try again, wait and try harder, try different, try her, him, this, that, them. This struggle. This work.
It’s all brought me here.
My brain is afraid and it runs and hides.
My body hurts and it curls up tight like a fist and tries to make the pain disappear.
But all this struggle, all this work, all this freaking TIME i’ve put in, to figure out where i’m broken and put myself back together has brought me here.

Today i have a kit full of tools and a phone full of support.
I still slide and switch and freak right the fuck out, but today i can figure out why. I dig around in my bag and pull out something that helps. There are dozens –yes, DOZENS– of people who will love me and help me through it. The crises that inevitably come are not beyond my ability to cope. I’m no longer left drowning in wreckage, wretched and lost in the aftermath.

This is life as me.
It’s changing and it’s good.
And that’s storytime for today.
Be well readers, friends.

Love and Peace to You All,
~H~

The Path to Welcome

You can build a mansion but you just can’t live in
You’re the fastest runner but you’re not allowed to win
Some break the rules
And live to count the cost
The insecurity is the thing that won’t get lost
~ No One Is To Blame, Howard Jones

I want/need to talk about family, but i have to do it cautiously. As i’ve stated before, identifying certain people who are still living might seem like an invitation to share their thoughts and feelings. They might feel justified or even obligated to share their opinions about me, with me. I’m not interested and they are not welcome here, and so i tread with care.

They’re sick with secrets, tainted with criminals who’ve not been held to account. Their crimes have been covered up and excused by those around them, with not even an apology to those they’ve harmed, because their god forgives them.

It can take me a while to get there, but once i’m done, no one cuts dead weight like a dissociative. I still have deep love for some of them, but it’s not my job to reach/fix them. It’s my educated guess that they don’t think they need any anyway, and if they did, they certainly wouldn’t be coming to me. You see:
I asked for what i got.
I made a big deal out of nothing.
[The abusers] have been through a lot – what about them?
[Other victims] have gotten past it. Just let it go – get over it already!
Everyone knows i’m a liar.
I’m not even really related.

I thought i’d found acceptance there, and it did start out being an experience of family that i was desperately missing. It wasn’t long though, before the cracks started showing, and the sick bled through onto me. I was already up to my eyeballs in abuse, so i didn’t recognise it as bad, it was just the way things were. If i was looking for confirmation that my upbringing was normal (i was fully indoctrinated, so i wasn’t), the way this family worked confirmed it all.

My connection to this family is truly sick and twisted, as my mother played the long game with them when they were children. She reconnected with them years later, tapping into the power she’d wielded over them then to revictimise those of her choosing when they were almost and barely adults. She scooped one out of the nest and made babies with him.
She lost all her remaining friends when she did, and spent the rest of her years eating herself up to super-morbid obesity and cranking out children. Her mask had slipped and so she became mostly a shut-in. She sat down in front of the television around 1980, and rarely got up to do much of anything except beat us and get more food, until her death less than a decade later. The house was a pigsty, the children that came after me were skeletally thin, and she just kept getting fatter.

I tried my best to help the others, but i was ill-equipped and dealing with my own abuse. When i finally got out on my own, i didn’t give them much thought. I didn’t give anything much thought, as i didn’t know how to think. I didn’t know i was abused, and i didn’t understand that my siblings were still stuck there, living in trauma. I didn’t know that subconsciously, i was relieved to be away. I didn’t mark the lessening of stress and anxiety, i didn’t feel the softening in my guts, and i didn’t notice that i never went home or called or wrote.

Years later, when i’d awakened to the truth of how i was raised, i convicted myself of the crime of abandoning my siblings. I beat myself with guilt while drowning in shame. I tried to help but i still didn’t know how. I didn’t have enough information; i lacked the emotional connection necessary to reach them, and i think they did, too. We’d been raised with the divide-and-conquer mentality. We’d been taught to scapegoat. And they’d been filled with stories of my blacksheepness, probably from the moment i left home.

I had children and got married and began the agonising process of falling completely and utterly apart. We were all so broken and so much damage had been done. We all coped in our own ways with varying levels of success, but the scapegoating remained. My parents had always visited the harshest abuse upon the oldest child. When i left, it fell to the next. The trend continued after my mother’s death; as each one of us ran, the rage and the blame would be visited on the oldest of those who remained, until there was only one.

In my mind, things were going to be fine because my mother was dead, but they weren’t. And i tried to help, but providing food and shelter wasn’t enough. I was spiraling down, and i didn’t give much thought to them or what they needed. I often used them as babysitters and housekeepers, to my shame. I thought i was doing well because i wasn’t beating them, but i was still using them, as my mother had modeled so well for me. They were breaking down as well, filled with anger and pain and so many unmet needs.
Despite being more than a decade older, i wasn’t parent material. I could barely care for my own children, and my siblings were high needs.
As i became less and less functional, it became easier to scapegoat me – and they most certainly did.

Eventually, i gained enough insight, inner strength, and self-love to walk away. I did my best and it wasn’t enough, but it wasn’t for lack of caring or trying. I’d been a child then too, and there came a point where i had enough of being treated like just another parent who’d failed them. That point came when it was made clear to me that i was only a half-sister. Then i was told not to speak ill of my mother. My gears started cranking hard, and i brought it to my therapist.
As we picked over it all, i gleaned some shiny nuggets that i put in my pocket for later.
Like, i’d never been thanked for any of my efforts. Like, i only ever heard about the ways i’d done them wrong. Like, i wouldn’t be invited to certain family events.
One day i was taken aside and told my kids were awful people.
Shortly after that i learned that my husband and i were terrible parents.

So i decided to stop trying to win acceptance and approval. I stopped calling and inviting. We all did. There was never any big blow up, or serious discussion. No one threw down a gauntlet or made any grand pronouncement or even slammed a door on their way out. I was just done, and i guess they were, too. It’s sad, and it still hurts when i think about it, but the relief was immediate. The pressure release inside me was palpable. I will never not love them, but i won’t participate in my own scapegoating any longer. I won’t pretend everything’s fine and i won’t keep family secrets. I won’t be an emotional punching bag.

The line of responsibility is difficult to draw, so i don’t bother. I blame them and i don’t. They’re grownups but they were kids. It’s their business to deal with their shit or not, as they will. It’s not my job to fix them, or mend fences. It would be terribly unwise for me to expose my soft underbelly, because they will kick a dog when it’s down.
It’s prudent for me to love and want the best for them from over here.
It’s easier and safer.

I don’t know what kind of shit this may stir up, if any. They may never give me a second thought. I’ve been estranged from them for so long now that i’m completely out of touch. And i’m at peace with that.
What i know is that i must clear away the wreckage of my past, to make room for potentially better things. I must deal with the pain of my old family relationships, so that i might better show up for the family i’m building today.
I need to make space for more.
I’m clearing a path to my door, and laying out the welcome mat.

Hello, won’t you come in and sit a spell.
Tell me who you are and i’ll believe you.

No one, no one, no one ever is to blame
No one ever is to blame
No one ever is to blame

On Lying, Being Fake, and General Asshattery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Untitled

This is not my garden,
i’ve tarried here too long
I cannot keep it,
it does not rise to my touch

This is not my garden,
its fruit does not sustain me
The taste is bland and unripened,
the sun too rare

This is not my garden,
nothing here will grow
No verdance, no smell beckons me,
It’s time for me to go

This is not my garden…
It never was

Image: Gardens of the Dying Light, by QueenOfRohan

Climbing Every Mountain

How about some random stuff  that’s mostly uplifting?

PHYSICAL

1) I’m well enough mentally to be back to walking outside. The doggos are happy about it. I’m trying not to push myself to walk too much or too quickly. I take it slow, and i’m managing not to kick myself when i think i might’nt’ve  done enough.

2) Still working on improving my sleep. I’ve been experimenting with edibles for over 6mos now. I don’t like being high, and i’m an ex-smoker, so smoking/vaping is out. I find a gummie at night helps me get more deep sleep, which is great, as fibromyalgia makes D-level sleep a serious issue. I also now use an Indica tincture sublingually. During the day, i’m finding a Sativa tincture seems to be helping me manage my anxiety. And once every couple of weeks, i’ll take a higher dose 1:1 (THC/CBD) gummie on a Saturday; enough to get a body stone where i’m actually pain-free for a few hours.
I’m a serious lightweight, so it doesn’t take much or cost a lot to help me.

3) Since i don’t celebrate Christmas and i don’t people a bunch, it’s not a huge surprise, but still… I lost weight in December! I’m at a 12yr low. I only weighed this once in my adult life, after i’d had gastric bypass surgery, and it didn’t last much more than 2yrs, as i became terribly sick with bipolar mania. Medication and poor lifestyle/choices, packed over 100lbs back on.

I still have a ways to go, but i’m not worried. This weight has come off slowly, and with the exception of a couple of benders where i gained booze weight, it’s stayed off. It’s taken decades of gathering information and learning who i am and how i work to find a healthy, flexible plan where i don’t feel deprived and can go anywhere and still eat.
Food, weight, and body image no longer control me. That is one hell of an accomplishment.

MENTAL

1) I’ve learned an interesting and helpful skill. Now that i have a better idea what i like/want and don’t like/want. Now that i’m not constantly trying to avoid pain and rejection through compulsive people-pleasing. Now that i’m setting healthy boundaries for myself and the people i interact with.

I tell people what’s going on with me, and it works. It helps me with grounding and being present, and it gives whomever i’m engaging with a chance to understand and offer sympathy/empathy. I’m strong enough now that, if they don’t respond optimally, that’s fine. If they do, all the better. But i treat myself and my system with care and respect, which is good for me. And i think i’m a good representative for people like me. Not multiples specifically, but as someone who lives with mental illness (Bipolar Disorder). I will sometimes make mention of being neuroatypical (DID), but rarely. I’m not looking for attention or controversy, and multiplicity can shift the focus from where i’d like it to be. I want the world to see that there are people dealing with serious mental health issues all around us, every day. We are rarely dangerous, the same as non-crazies. Sometimes our brain glitches, or we’re low on or missing a certain chemical, or we process information differently.
I’m not “normal” in the strictest sense, but i am insofar as everyone of us has issues in our lives to deal with. We all have burdens to bear. And we are all unique individuals.

I’m tearing down my walls* and building bridges.

2) I’m exercising my brain. My head has been stuffed so full of commentary from my system that i haven’t had much room for growth intellectually and creatively. These days i’ve removed enough clutter to clear a nice space where i’m putting reading and writing and stimulating conversation. I feel kinda blossomy.

*Thoughtfully and carefully, while still maintaining appropriate levels of safety and privacy.

PHYSICAL/MENTAL

1) I’m practising yogic breathing, the 4-7-8 method, every night at bedtime, and sometimes to deal with anxiety. It relaxes me, keeps me in my body, lowers my heart rate, and gives me an experience of self-care. The alarm bells and strident voices inside me quiet down. I derive power and determination and pride and healing and connection from this.

2) I’m taking more time with my appearance. It’s not the old way, where i’d obsess and viciously pick at myself as i compared my looks and my body to everyone else’s. It’s more about learning how to touch my face and my body without leaving. I still recede from my face (i sort of mentally slide to the back of my brain and watch from a distance), but it’s not as far. I still feel a bit floaty while touching my body below the neck, but i can now remember showering, i give myself a conscious look when i’m drying off, and i talk to myself some while i apply lotions and creams and serums, etc.
The self-loathing and disgust are fading. Actually fading.

3) I’m trying to address body memories. It’s hard, as i’ve been ignoring myself from the neck down for over 50yrs, but it’s becoming clear to me just how important this work is. I can feel change happening inside me, deep down. I have some confidence, some pride, some love for my physical self. I feel stronger. I feel like i fit in my skin more comfortably. I matter to myself in more than just a survival way.

I’ve been so numb/dead for so long, being more present in my body can be intense at times. When i get cold, i’m instantly freezing, and when i’m hungry, i’m starving.

When my genitals burn i soothe myself with incontinence pads i’ve sprinkled water on and keep in the freezer.
When my legs or feet are itching to walk/take off, i take my dogs for a walk, or if the compulsion is particularly strong (in other words, i might literally hit the highway and hitchhike), i get on the treadmill.
When my throat burns i have a hot drink or treat myself to a popsicle.
When my hands cramp up or feel like they’re being stabbed with an ice pick i rub them with lotion, or even put winter gloves on in the house.

4) I’ve set down some boundaries around the safety of my body, difficult ones, but they feel right and important. I’m not having as much trouble maintaining them as i thought i would. No more touch that makes me feel yucky or ugly or used. I’m treating my body like it’s beautiful and precious.
Which it is.

There are some massive changes on the horizon. Hard changes. Things i wouldn’t have chosen, things i’m scared of, but for the first time i think i just might get through it and not be miserable.

I share this for the same reasons i share anything – for myself, and for you.
This keeps me focused and committed, and greases my wheels a bit.
I hope this keeps you hanging on.
The journey is for life, at least it is for me. A lot of it is plodding along, investing the time and energy, sometimes for the hope that hope will come, sometimes just because i’m stubborn AF. My experience has taught me that moments will arrive, when i can look back and see how far i’ve come and be amazed and proud. I’ve climbed many mountains, and those peaks… Well, they’re indescribable i guess, but i get to sit a spell and drink in the view.
And those moments are worth everything.
Those moments fill me with joy and purpose and renewed strength and dedication to continue.
Climbing, ever climbing.

On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche