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.

The Very Bearable Lightness of Being

There is no perfection only life
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of BeingWell then. I’m here today, and although i’m so self-focused that i can tell you how that is in a literal way –i mean, that’s kinda what my blog IS, isn’t it– i still find it a sign and a wonder. A sign and a wonder.

Yes, i’m very aware from whence those words come. I’m doing my own thing with ’em.

**********

I was cursed from birth by my own lifegiver, but here i am, and i am not who i was supposed to be.

Her blood in my veins was a poison, her breath in me was a pall.

I cut myself open, deep, sucked out the venom, and spat it on her grave.
I dragged my slow body outside to breathe fresh air and purge her pollution.

And i stand, not who she tried to make me.

A sign and a wonder to my descendants and all who know me and want to know.
Born a slave. Made to serve.

And yet i stand, free.

I chewed through my own bonds and escaped into the desert.
I drank the heat of the sun, my mouth full of sand.

Stumbling, often crawling through the shifting lands, sometimes blinded by the stinging grit. My skin baked, then burned and blistered, then sloughed.

And i stand, no concubine nor consort.

A sign and a wonder. A new being, birthed from my own death, a servant only to myself and my sweet abortion.

Glowing flesh, blood of gold, gossamer wings, crown of light.
My own Saviour.
Sandals by Adidas.

Chubby little fists held tight by hands but a little bigger, and on.
Spanning our hand-in-hand across our intended desolation, until

HERE I STAND

Promised Land.

I release my descendants from their destiny of servitude.
By my emancipation, so too are you freed.

Look upon me, for i am a sign and a wonder.

Not a warning, but a jubilant proclamation that all might stand and be free.

Walk with me a while, if you would, for my wings aren’t quite dry.

 

A single metaphor can give birth to love.
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Cloak of Invisibility

I went over the heads of the things a man reckons desirable. No doubt invisibility made it possible to get them, but it made it impossible to enjoy them when they are got.
~The Invisible Man, H.G.Wells

I’ve dealt with food, weight, and body image issues my entire life. It’s quite common for someone with my history. After marrying i put on enough weight to be just a shade under super morbidly obese. Weight loss surgery helped me attain the healthiest, lowest weight of my adult life, but likely triggered my first full-blown bipolar mania.

Being slim for the first time in my adult life triggered an avalanche of issues. Since early pubescence i’d heard comments like:

You’d be so gorgeous if…
You have such a pretty face…
I’d date you, except…

As i progressed into full sexual maturity, my ambivalence regarding my size bought a nice chunk of real estate in my brain, built a house, and called it home. Consciously, i hated being fat. I felt awkward and lumpy and bumpy. The other girls were graceful, with firm, smooth skin. They all got boobs and their periods long before i did, which was embarrassing when we’d be in the change room before and after gym class, and they all wore bras and borrowed tampons from each other. And just to make it all extra fun, i’m extremely tall. So, i took up a lot more space than my female peers, or any girl in the entire school, in any school i attended. There were a couple who carried more weight, but they weren’t also size Amazon.

Unconsciously though, fat worked for me. After all the abuse, it kept people away. It was flawed reasoning, as it targeted the wrong audience, but at that point i needed a wall. A wall of unwashed flesh didn’t stop sexual predators, but it did something for me that i’ve only recently begun to realise.
It made me invisible.

I didn’t get asked out on a date until i was 18. And that was by a very large and socially awkward, but very nice 27yr old. I’m not sure he’d ever had a date before, either. It was a fancy New Year’s Eve party with other older adults, no one who would be in my peer group was there (probably a blessing). He bought me a wrist corsage i think, and was shy and quiet. I might have given him a kiss at the door… Thank you?

I say i wasn’t asked out on a date, but boys certainly approached me now and then. When no one else was around. They’d throw a little attention my way and then expect a little something in return. Oh, how shocked and angry they were when i either shot them down, or just got away from them as quickly as i could. Fat girls should be grateful and shower them with fucks, i guess. Not this fat girl, though. One of the benefits of being a multiple is the fearless, mouthy teenager i had inside me – and the terrified younger ones who knew a little something about slipping the sweaty, expectant gropes of sexual opportunists.

So i missed out on all those coming-into-sexual-maturity rites of passage. No one sent me notes asking if i liked them. No one asked me if i wanted to “go around”, the vernacular from my local peer group for dating exclusively. I was never invited to drive around town after school. Before i hit adulthood i was asked to dance exactly 3 times. The first time was at a Christian summer camp. I carry most of my extra weight below the waist, so i can appear to be slim if you see me sitting at a table, which i was, plus it was dim, dance-friendly lighting.
He shook his head and walked away from me when i stood up to join him on the floor.

It’s not all bad though, the other 2 experiences were nice. In grade 7 a boy i was friends with approached me. He was a class clown, and he walked over to me as i sat alone on a bench, and banged the wall above my head for me to join him.
You know, like Fonzie in Happy Days. I laughed. I know he did it for me, and i’ve never forgotten it.

In grade 9 i went on an exchange trip, from my tiny town of 1500, to one of the largest cities in my country. The boys there were a bit more, metropolitan, shall we say? Hundreds of students lent itself to a better chance of finding someone who didn’t mind dancing with a fat girl. And he didn’t mind at all. In fact, the dance he asked me for was a slow one, Night To Remember, by Prism. Height wise, he came up to my shoulders. I’m laughing right now, but it’s a good laugh – what a sight we must have been. He was a lovely boy.

My first relationship was at 21, with a girl i met at a Catholic halfway house. She was a raging alcoholic who constantly cheated on me, and once came to my place of work in a jealous rage and did over $5K worth of damage to the store. It was toxic AF. After that i decided i was done with women (i most certainly wasn’t). I met a young man through my best friend, and decided it was time to lose my virginity*. It wasn’t great, but we did it a lot. After our weekend romp he was quick to tell me he’d just gotten out of a bad relationship, and wasn’t looking for anything serious.
The look on his face when the fat girl told him she was fine with that…

See, 1 shit relationship was enough for me to learn that i didn’t want another.
After that, i chose people i would have sex with, and maybe play at us being a couple, but they were always people that –if they left me– i wouldn’t grieve their absence.
I’d gotten the message that fat girls were to be used for sex, and should be grateful that they were used for anything. But subconsciously, thanks to the people that live in my brain, i’d decided to flip the script.

Of course, all these years included me trying everything NOT to be fat. Every diet, self-help book, course, diet-guru, all of that. None of it ever worked well, or for very long. I didn’t yo-yo, i stayed fairly steady. That was, until i had my second child and still didn’t have a partner of any sort. (To be clear, i never wanted anything from either one of the men who fathered my children.)
Something changed in me, then. I’d done a fair bit of therapy and was getting to know myself at that point. I’d tried a lot of things, joined all the programs, and i’d actually picked up a thing or 2. Plus, i had a few supportive girlfriends (platonic), so i wasn’t so alone.

I went back on a diet i was very familiar with, and for the first time –KEY– i joined a gym. Things started clicking for me. I discovered a kind of exercise i like. I like machines. I liked the cycles, and i loved all the weight machines. I even got into the stairmaster, fer crissakes. The weight fairly fell off, and i entered the dating world for the first time. Wow, what a shitshow. I discovered the he-said-he-had-a-great-time-and-he’d-call-but-he’s-not-calling guy, and the i-bought-you-dinner-so-where’s-my-handjob guy, and all the catfishing motherfuckers who lived on telephone dating services. No internet then. Yes, i’m that old, shaddup.
And then i stumbled across the deep, mellifluous tones of the man i asked to marry me. Not right away, okay? Much later.

I was in love for the first time, and was loved in return. We were committed and building a life together. That was a vulnerability i’d not experienced since leaving home. I think in retrospect, the scariest thing about it was that, unlike my parents, he wasn’t even remotely abusive. He loved me and he didn’t hurt me, but i started pushing back anyway. The most important people involved in my rearing had purposely caused me incredible harm, so why wouldn’t he?
I started packing on the weight; rebuilding my wall. Pushing him away before he could hurt me – because iknewiknewiknew he would. It was only a matter of time.

All of that was done unconsciously, understand me, but also understand that i’ve never stopped trying to figure my shit out and be happier and more helpful to loved ones specifically, and humans in general. I knew the weight gain signified a problem, but as i continued working on myself i also gained insight. Unfortunately, by the time i’d wrapped my mind around the issue, i was 300+lbs overweight. And i had a new baby that needed me at my best. I needed some serious help to get my feet back underneath me and set back on my path.

I had weight loss surgery and lost it all. Which is when everything got even worse.

Suddenly i was receiving all the attention i’d craved as a young girl. As i took up less space i became more visible. Ain’t that a kick in the head? My bipolar disorder, which had largely lain dormant, perhaps cowed (word choice intentional, cuz funny) by the physical load i carried, woke up, took a look around, and decided the time had come to party. I got a job in the entertainment industry, one where i was the centre of attention, one where i was visible and expected to present myself as at least a very attractive, if not overtly sexual, object. Men wanted me, women wanted me, and people just wanted to be around me. It was cocaine and weed and fine wine and MDMA all rolled up into 1 heady drug, except better.

I was a socially acceptable size, which made my looks somehow beautiful. It was like i’d always been told. People were nicer to me. It wasn’t just men who wanted to get with me who were nicer, either. It was everyone. People held open doors for me, offered to carry my groceries. When i was fat, with 2 kids and struggling with 10 bags of groceries, i was on my own. Now, with 3, and 2 of ’em screaming they dang heads off, i’d get help if i only had 2 bags. People would stop on the street and tell me i was pretty. I actually got out of traffic tickets, just like in the movies. And people would give me stuff: my meals would get comped or they’d wave my cover charge or if there was swag being handed out, i’d always get some.

When you take all of that, and you mix in mania, it wasn’t long before it equalled disaster. In and out of hospital, in and out of treatment, i wound up jobless, with my marriage in tatters, children who hated me, and zombified on nearly a dozen various medications.

Oh, and 100lbs heavier.

I’m sure i would have been ignored again, except i was already hiding in my house and refusing to come out.
But it was okay, because this was when i finally found a therapist i could work with, and my life started changing for the better. That extra hundred has stuck around for the 10+yrs i’ve been working with her, though.
But that’s also okay, because it’s taught me a great deal that i needed to learn.

My next piece is going to be unbearably uplifting, so you might want to skip it.

Heh.

We are so much bigger on the inside,
You, me, everybody
~ Bigger On the Inside, Amanda Palmer

*Relatively speaking.

Promise

WARNING: This piece contains graphic, specific speech regarding child sex abuse.

Also, a brief note: These are the thoughts and musings of my mind, only. This isn’t an invitation to discussion, nor a request for answers regarding any of the “questions” asked herein. I would say they’re better characterised as “wonderings”. If any of this piece triggers a strong response, the place for a rousing discussion/debate on any of this is not here.

Thank you,
~H~

**********

I made a promise, Mr Frodo. A promise. “Don’t you leave him Samwise Gamgee.” And I don’t mean to.
~ The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

People hurt me.

They just do.

I’ve been both irresistibly attracted to and repelled by them since i can remember.
I wonder if it’s like that for most of us, all of us, or particularly those of us who are survivors of abuse, or maybe just anyone who’s neuroatypical. I don’t know. I just know i love people, but i can’t be around them too much.

Maybe it’s because, when the person who gives birth to you does what my mom did to me, it splits you in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with my diagnosis.
I need you, but you hurt me.
I can’t live without you, but you keep putting my life in jeopardy.
How do i reconcile needing people, but also being tremendously harmed by them?

I do not fucking know.

What i’m saying right now feels so deep and poetic and emotional.
Ha.
Not at all. No more than anything else.
My experience
Yours
Hers
His
Beautiful and tragic and transcendent, all. To a one.

Sometimes i feel so alone that i think my life, my suffering, must be some kind of poetry.
But it is and isn’t – no more than yours and theirs.

If i elevate my rape, mustn’t i also then elevate the time you fell and skinned your knee alone – with no one to cry out and care and comfort you? Am i worshipping at the altar of pain? Must pain be pain, regardless, lest i risk the sick admiration -the twisted crown- bestowed to whomever’s been through the most?

1 rape
2 rapes
2 dozen
3 hundred

Baby
Toddler
Precocious child
Does the rape when i was 21 mean less because i was an adult
Does it matter that i’d still never had sex by choice at that point
Does it matter that it was someone who said they loved me
Would it matter more if we were related
Would it have been better if he’d used a knife
More legitimate
More understandable that i’m a total fuckup

Why would it fuck me up that i started sucking dicks before i even had teeth
I was a baby and i don’t remember, so what’s my problem
Or do i get big sympathy points for baby rape
How much of a waste of skin do i get to be that my mom was the one who sexually prepared me to be raped by the various people she gave me to

Cringe
Feel uncomfortable
Stop reading – i totally get it
That’s some ugly, revolting shit to read
To live it, there will never be words

I know i sound angry, and ohyoubestbelieve i am
But that is not my current overarching feeling
When i’m able to speak, to put words to what is my day-to-day existence right now
I say i’m scared
I’m scared all the time

I’ve stopped leaving my house again
I go to my room when someone comes to the door
The phone is an abomination, an affront to nature
I force myself to keep 1 curtain open
Some light

**********

I don’t know what to tell you if you’ve gotten this far. I’m sorry for the words, but they’re mine and this seems to be what i have to do to have the life i want.
Feel what i feel while knowing what i know. Put my pieces back together. Become whole.
TO BE WHOLE.
Oh my, can you even imagine?
I cannot quite, yet. But i aim to.
I am the lidless eye, pouring all my focus into the having of it.

I had to have a phone sesh with my therapist this last week. It’s better than nothing, until i’m able to leave the house. It was way more of a fruitful hour than i’d have thought possible on the phone, definitely the most impactful of my experience. One of the many things i love about my therapist is that she knows what i need to hear. She is not a tough love therapist, or a preachy therapist, or a psychotherapist (i’ve walked out of a few of those offices, heh). She’s not a do this/do that therapist. She’s not a “time’s up, see you next week” therapist.

She’s a mother.
She comforts, she soothes, she loves, she holds space.
She wept for me when i couldn’t shed a single tear for myself.
She’s shelter.
She asks me what i want, what i need, and helps me figure it out because i don’t have a fucking clue.
Soft fury pours out of her eyes as she gently, always gently, speaks her bleeding heart for all of us that have suffered as i’ve suffered, watering the desert inside me.
She cheers me on, she cheers me up.
She thinks i’m a superhero. She said so.
Can you fucking believe that?

So, we’re talking on the phone, which means she’s quietly, calmly asking me questions, and then we wait 1 minute, 2, while i try to make my mouth move. It’s a difficult and frustrating process (at least for me, i can’t speak for her), because there’s pressure inside me not to speak. I was raised/indoctrinated/brainwashed/threatened/beaten to never speak of these things. There are many parts of me who were made to keep the secrets. Not only that, but after all the work i’ve already done, there’re lots of parts of me that’ve been freed to speak, too. My therapist asks me a question and i’m immediately flooded with intense force to keep quiet. Also with words from those who have something to say. The push-pull fills me with distress. Sometimes i choke the words out, sometimes i whisper, sometimes i snark, sometimes i sob them out, and many more times than i’d wish – i say nothing.

I share with her how i’m not sleeping; how i’m afraid i’ll die. How we’re ALL afraid i’ll die. I tell her i can’t leave the house again. I tell her i’m scared all the time.

She says, You’re not scared, H.
You could probably hear the click of my rolling eyeballs over the phone as i spat, Oh really?
She says No. You’re not scared, you’re absolutely terrified. Your little Bits N’ Pieces carry the memories of what happened, but your body carries the memories of how it felt.
She says, You’re feeling terror; you feel in fear for your life because that’s how it felt when you were being hurt.
And the nights are worse because that’s when they came, to which i reply, Mostly.*

After that, we do some work on how to take care of the babies that live in my brain that aren’t real. I cringe at the merest entertainment of the thought that i might share some of how that looks.
I’ll think about it.

**********

I’m sorry for this post in a way, because it is harsh and sad and terrible, but this is how my brain works and this is my life right now and i made a promise to do my best to share. I am getting to the meat of the matter, and it smells of rot and filth and death.

I’m also not at all sorry for this post. One, because i’m a multiple, so i feel/think all the things at the same time (please feel free to join me in a hearty snort here), but also because it’s brought me closer to my goal, it’s made me more present in my mind and body, and it’s brought me precious hope that i can continue.

I intend to crest the peak of Mount Doom, where i shall toss this evil, poisonous thing that i’ve carried all my days, and watch it burn away to nothing in the eternal fire.
And that will be the finest and greatest moment of my life.

If this brought stuff up for you, do what you know to do to take care of yourself.
With Love and Gratitude,
~H~

*Of course my nerdbrain goes straight to Newt in Aliens and i giggle a little inside, because i’m a dark and twisty nerd. Heh.

My Testimony

And now it spills forth like a fountain
Not pouring from some chubby baby angel
but from a foul-faced demon
Its stone phallus gouting filth
I cry tears of blood and semen
I burn my own ears with the acid words coming out of my mouth.
Shame and fury bubbling magma in my belly
Scorching my throat

I can still smell it
I could wash the stench off my hands, but no amount of brushing,
Scrubbing, gargling,
toothpaste, mouthwash, soap,
toothbrush, washcloth
could get the taste out of my mouth.
Breathing out the stink of
Fear and evil

I’ll fill this fountain with my bile,
Verbs that tear flesh and nouns that crush hearts
Brackish water from an ancient cistern
I’ll purge these rusty pipes and post a warning sign
It’s probably not necessary
Everyone knows the house is haunted.
Only children come here to dare each other
And they’re already dead

The Golden Chain

WARNING: References to paedophilia and childhood sexual abuse.

“Touch me not, touch me not, come back tomorrow.”
Oh my heart, oh my heart shies from the sorrow.
I’m as puzzled as a newborn child.
I’m as riddled as the tide.
Should I stand amid the breakers?
Or shall I lie with death my bride?
~ This Mortal Coil, Song to the Siren

As i’ve said many times before, as a highly dissociative person, it can take me a while to figure out wtf is going on. I knew therapy – duh. Yeah, that’s going on, and it’s about learning to feel what my body is feeling and tend to its needs. To allow my body to release the pain and torment and terror it has stored for all these years, and in so doing, to rebuild a connection between my brain and my body. It was severed before i could even speak, due to severe childhood trauma. I knew that part, so all i was going through emotionally, the downward spiral that i expected, and all its attendant intensity, i attributed to the process.

But life doesn’t stop happening just because i’m doing some serious internal self-improvement, does it? And life happened to me a few months ago – it happened hard and fast and it exploded all over me. It splattered me and my safe place with blood. No one’s dead, and no one’s dying (except for everyone – you’re welcome), but beyond that, i cannot speak about it. My blog is public, and i intend for it to remain so, which means that unsafe people have access to it. I will share about it eventually, but not for some time. I only bring it up to say that, as i’ve been spiralling, it made perfect sense that it was a contributing factor. As it most certainly TF is.

I started using a Fitbit a few months ago. I find it motivational and informative for my slow and careful journey from overweight and unfit to something healthier. One aspect i didn’t expect, and immediately found interesting, is its sleep tracking. I’ve always been a terrible sleeper. I’ve struggled with insomnia for my entire life… For years i identified myself as a nighthawk and lived my life that way, as much as i could manage it. However, as i slowly got healthier in other ways, a couple of years ago i decided to see if my quality of life would improve if i tried being a “morning person”. Since then, with the exception of Sundays, i rise at 5, and try to be in bed between 10 and 11. The change in my mood was immediate and rather drastic. My Fitbit gave me information i didn’t have though, and more detail. I’m a very light sleeper, i wake repeatedly, and i’m restless most of the night. It also reminded me that, as a person with fibromyalgia, i never get much D-level, or restorative, sleep.

Over the last few months i’ve been tinkering with ways to improve my sleep, with some success. Then everything stopped working. My sleep was tanking. I honestly didn’t give it much thought because it happens whenever i spiral. I picked up booze again, to knock me out. It works, but the price i pay is high. My hangovers are epic. As i got more tired and more strung out emotionally, i became less able to say No to the booze.

Alcohol and pills, and for the particularly young, food too, are integral in most paedophile’s toolkits. Therefore, some of the people that live in my brain crave that regularly. Some see it as an escape, some see it as a reward, and some see it as just the way things are supposed to be.
First, i stopped eating compulsively, and then i quit the pills. But then booze, which prior to my weight loss had never been much of an issue, became one, as i sped along on my first full-blown bipolar mania.

I hope i’m setting this up so that it’s understandable. I’m doing my best.

Another thing that happens when i’m struggling mentally/emotionally, is i go to ground. It can be a wise decision. I find people exhausting at the best of times. I mean, i love humans, but y’all can be a lot, man.
I do it partly because i need more energy to cope with my current inner chaos. I do it so i can focus. I do it so as to eliminate the problem of always having to fight the programming i received as a child: to be good, to be liked, to figure out what people want/expect of me and do my best to give it to them. To fit in and be like the person/group i’m with. To please, to placate… to hide myself deep inside. To avoid pain and rejection. It’s easier to be myself than it used to be, but i may always have to deal with the need to feel safe couched in the desire to please.

And so it made sense to me that i was once again hermitting in my Little Crooked House.

So i’m continuing my therapy, i’m getting some sleep thanks to drinking, and i’ve removed the extra stress that peopling adds.
But my anxiety is through the roof. It’s so high i find it difficult to breathe. My brain is catastrophising every thought. I feel terrified all the time. Not scared. Terrified.  I stop sleeping because i’m afraid to close my eyes. I am convinced every night that if i do, i will never open them again. I get an hour or 2 every couple of nights due to pure exhaustion, but i wake up with a scream caught in my throat and my body fully gripped by panic.

I’m switching and sliding around without much control, but there are moments of clarity, where i am fully in the face. My husband tries to help, but i have no words to offer him, no thoughts to share. There is too much going on in my brain, too many conversations, so many voices crying out. I sit beside him in bed at night, mostly playing mindless games and watching shitty horror flicks on YouTube. Sometimes i grab onto him and wrap my body tight around him, thinking it may very well be the last time i ever do so.

I tried so very hard to write, but i was completely unable to do so. I couldn’t even bash out any weird, crappy not-poetry or stream-of-consciousness bullshit. I’d stare at the screen and will my fingers to type something; i could feel that elephant sitting on my chest, and then he’d do a fancy swan dive into the the roiling waters in the pit of my belly (he’s an asshole).

A few nights ago i was drunk, but in the face, my system having abandoned me to their respective corners as i got more panicked and out of control. We amp each other up when things get that bad. It’s like mass hysteria. I tried to sleep, but i woke to me trying to put my clothes on and go outside. Hubby tried to comfort me by taking me for a drive (it’s 12am and he gets up at 5).
I have trouble crying, but when i get like that, the floodgates can open. I was sobbing, the tears running in rivers down my face and soaking my shirt. Hitching sobs and a wrenching in my heart, my throat burning and feeling almost bruised by the force of my wailing.

I try to think of what my therapist tells me to do when i’m in utter crisis. I’m already feeling my body, no need to breathe and drop down into body awareness, right? What is my body asking for? What comfort, soothing, or action can i offer it?
I hear myself saying, over and over, I can’t do this.
I can’t do this, it’s too much.
I can’t breathe i can’t breathe i’m going to die.
I try to tell my husband that i am terrified of death. I’m afraid to close my eyes because i’m terrified i’ll never open them again.
The weight on my chest.
My burning throat.
A lifetime of insomnia and light sleeping.
A deep and debilitating fear of death.
I can’t breathe.
I’m dying.

I lay my hands on my chest, above my breasts, and i press down, splaying my fingers in some strange hug. I take the fingers  of 1 hand and gently, eversogently stroke my throat. I take the fingers of both hands and massage the back of my neck, which throbs, and then i take the bottom of my palms, the bony part just above the wrist, and i carefully, slowly massage my jawline, switching to my thumbs to massage my upper jaw just underneath my cheekbones.

This is when my body communicates to my brain.
Being woken in the middle of the night, sometimes knowing who, sometimes not. Baby, toddler, preschool, elementary… Jaws forced open, not being able to breathe, the weight of a grown body on my tiny one.

This is the work. My body carrying the terrible truth because my brain could not bear it. The sensations containing information that my brain would interpret and cause emotions that i could not live through. I split apart so that i could live.

I’m putting myself back together and this is the work.
One brilliant, gossamer strand between my body and my brain. Attached. Communicating. Mended. I will continue to weave until i am brilliantly, fully alive.
This is the work.

Maybe i can sleep?

Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.
~ Thomas Dekker

IMAGE: Caught In Her Eye, ElleShaped