Anger: AnggUHR n. A strong feeling of displeasure or hostility.
The best fighter is never angry.
~ Lao Tzu
Anger… it’s a paralyzing emotion… it’s helpless… it’s absence of control… I have no use for it whatsoever.
~ Toni Morrison
Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside.
~ Mitch Albom
Don’t hold to anger, hurt or pain. They steal your energy and keep you from love.
~ Leo Buscaglia
I vigorously disagree with these quotes/sentiments.
I’ve had to work hard to find the right kind of help to heal and move on from my past.
Part of the difficulty came from “common sense,” pop psychology, and inspirational speakers and philosophers with ideas like these. Being raised religious, it came naturally to me to believe and trust any adult who embodied the qualities i was taught were moral and wise. When i went to these people for help, i always did my level best. I did what they told me to do, read their books and studiously completed every workbook. I took their courses and parroted their words. I worked therapy like it was my only job. Like i was diabetic and it was my insulin.
It never “took.” Some things would land, and i would plant them in my garden. But most of it never took root, never flourished. A lot of it withered and died. I had been raised to believe that in any and all situations, if there was a problem of any stripe, it was me or because of me. So, i bore it all as my failure, not the therapist’s or their particular brand of therapy.*
As with so many other things, like education, like weight loss, like love… There is simply no one-size-fits-all for therapy, for how to fix your problems, for how to live your life.
Dozens and dozens of people, places, and things came into play to help me save my life. The loss or absence of any one of them may have resulted in me not making it. I find this perhaps the most true when it comes to anger. I’ve written about it before, but it bears repeating, i think. Over and over again, i see anger getting a bad rap. I don’t see any emotion as either negative or positive. They are just feelings. They’re indicators, they’re place markers, they’re flags, they’re storytellers. It is the actions that follow an emotion that can be good or bad. And by that metric, in my life what has flowed from me as a result of anger has been lifesaving, empowering, and actually quite wonderful.
If my abusers had permitted, had tolerated any anger from me, i might have eventually told them NO, STOP, and risen up against them. That was too great a risk for them to take. That they might not only lose their living shit receptacle, but also perhaps be caught by some authority in their twisted deeds? For others to find out how sick and selfish and psychopathic they were? Absolutely not. And why worry? Because in me they’d found the perfect victim. I was obedient, compliant, and never spoke a word about the abuse to anyone.
The first time i can remember feeling angry i was around 9, i think. It only makes sense that i’d have felt it before, but it was either mild, or i hid it away because it was against the rules. I knew i had no rights. I knew only those in power positions were permitted anger. I believed it was right for them to be angry, about whatever they were angry about. My job was to fit their narrative into my experience. They were always right and i was always wrong. I was certainly the cause of their anger often enough.
I began getting angry fairly regularly after that, but i expressed it through sarcasm and disdain. Students and teachers alike found me intimidating (i found out later), a combination of my size (where the students were concerned) and my next-level mouthiness. By the time i was in high school, no one physically threatened me anymore. They still said awful things that stick with me to this day –and that includes teachers– but no one tried to hit me. (Unless you count that 1 jerkwad of a teacher who’d throw things at me in class, including a dictionary straight at my head.)
So, my sarcasm could be caustic, and i was sometimes flat out obnoxious, but i wasn’t violent.
Once i got away from my mother and had a child of my own, my anger became a problem. No one had taught me how to handle the normal frustrations that come along with raising a child. What my mother had modeled was abusive, and at that point, thankfully, i knew that. I took parenting classes, which helped a lot, but i was desperately in need of good therapy. Having a kid had me constantly triggered. I couldn’t connect with him physically, and i was hot and cold, emotionally. He was one of the best behaved children i’ve ever known, so i wasn’t tested often, but when i was, my patience ran out quickly, and i spanked him on a number of occasions. Too hard. I was angry. I was a triggered, dissociative mess and i needed help.
To be continued…
*To be fair, i only had a few awful therapists, who shouldn’t have been practising. Most of the time they were decent, and they tried to help me. They just didn’t have the right tools for the job. I’m sure they helped other people.
IMAGE: Julien Pouplard
Never Have I Ever
Squelched ocean sand between my toes
or picked my own mussels
Gone houseboating down the Shuswap
and sunbathed on the beach
Crowd-surfed at a concert while
others hoot and holler in celebration
Run through mud and rope-climbed walls
with fellow plucky survivors
Bungee-jumped or whipped down a zip line
or jumped out of a perfectly good airplane
Visited the lands of my forefathers
nor broken bread with those who yet live
Felt completely at ease in a group
even if they’re all people i love
Stood in a line up without worrying
because i know someone must be staring at me
Gotten dressed up for some event
and been completely satisfied with my appearance
Had an argument where i wasn’t terrified
or a discussion where i didn’t feel attacked
Not worried that a man might want sex from me
or a woman was going to hurt me
Felt truly safe around other people
or utterly let down my guard
This is not poetry.
This is a bucket list.
IMAGE: Courtney Moore
The Sharpest Sword
CONTENT WARNING: Some may find this piece highly disturbing, as it contains descriptions of how i have been abusive to my spouse.
Today, i’m angry. It’s been amping up over a few days, but i wasn’t completely aware of it until the other night. Here’s my story about how i figured it out. It’s brutally honest, and i don’t come off very well in it, but what use is this blog to me or you if i don’t tell the truth?
After my last session with my therapist i’ve felt different, but i wasn’t sure in what way. It’s been like feeling more capable and more vulnerable than ever at the same time. I’ve been drinking too much, using drugs, and not eating. I’ve been weepy and over-emotional. Over-emotional may be a bit vague, so an example would be when my son told me he liked supper and i got choked up, hugged him, and told him he’s a spectacular human being. Or when i was finally able to stand other people enough to go get my nails done (i was weeks overdue for a fill) and i talked animatedly, loudly enough for the entire salon to hear, for around 2hrs straight.
I know it’s not mania, because some other significant red flags are missing. I’m just… Different, somehow. A lot of “extra” type behaviour, but it’s not constant like when i’m manic, it just pops up in weird places.
I’m taking off my armour, and it’s made me a trifle pugnacious.
When i experienced my first full blown mania, i think it’s what opened the door for the people who live in my brain to come out more often, and more obviously. There were many who wanted to have a turn in the face – to be in control and have a look around as themselves and make themselves known. It was chaotic and frustrating and painful for everyone around me, but no one more so than my husband.
I’ve been hypervigilant my entire life. When i became manic and my switching became fast and frequent, i don’t know a word for more than hypervigilant, but i became that. I saw everyone as a threat, and i experienced every interaction with other human beings like i was walking a tightrope with a sea of e621s underneath me. Every touch from every person felt either sexual or painful, and sometimes, both. It didn’t matter how much i loved or trusted the person, it was torturous and it was constant.
My husband is my person. I have never liked, loved or trusted anyone as much as i do him. While i do not believe in souls, and therefore soulmates, i know deep down in my bones, in whatever it is that makes me who i am, that if i lose him, for whatever reason, there will never be another committed, monogamous relationship for me. I may have casuals, i may have semi-serious, but no one will be living with me, no one will have the level of intimacy with me that i have with him, and i will not be monogamous.
I share that to try to explain -not excuse- why he bore the brunt of my rage and terror. When i’m upset, angry, or scared, my impulse, my overwhelming drive, is to get away. Getawaygetawaygetaway. Anyone even remotely close to me can confirm that, as they’ve very likely experienced me being there with them 1 minute, and disappeared the next. My husband is the opposite. He wants to work it out. He wants to talk and touch.
I’m embarrassed and ashamed to tell you that all those years ago, when things first blew up, that this conflict in how we resolve conflicts, resulted in me attacking him on a number of occasions. If we fought, which happened often back then because i was so sick, he would come too close, or worse, touch me, and one of my angries or protectors would come out and push, hit, scratch, pull hair. There were times when i switched while in the car and i would try to jump out the door while he was driving. He would grab me to stop me, and i would claw or bite at his hand.
One day, while i was trying to walk down the road to go hitchhike into the city (getawaygetawaygetaway – GO HOME), he held me down to stop me and we rolled into the ditch. I headbutted him. He got right into my face and through a twisted mouth and clenched teeth he yelled at me to stop, and he restrained me so hard he actually hurt me, for the first time.
That was when i knew i had to get control, or i was going to ruin the most lovely and patient person i’ve ever known.
I vowed that day that i’d never get physical again, and i have not. It’s been over 12yrs now.
A couple of points before i continue:
– He would have been well within his rights to call the police,
– He would have been fully justified in leaving me the very first time it happened,
– There is no justification for me here, this is my story and that’s all.
A few nights ago, i was deep in trauma, feeling such sadness (ANGER!) over what had been done to me. I was feeling it physically in my body. I was drinking and drugging and i became churlish. My husband and i started arguing, and i began putting on my clothes to leave the house. He put his hands on me to stop me.
No, i didn’t get physical, but i have 1 weapon left that does far more damage.
It’s razor-sharp and dripping with acid. I can flay a person to ribbons with a sentence.
No one has experienced that more or worse, than he has. I felt myself receding and someone else come into the face. I wasn’t fully switched, just highly dissociated and unable to affect what was happening; i could only watch, and hear the hateful invective spilling out of me. She didn’t stop until she felt she had bested him.
I didn’t stop until i felt like i had bested him.
He looked so tired and sad. He looked beaten, although i’d not laid a finger on him.
The next morning, looking at his exhausted face, i vowed that i will never speak to him that way again.
It’s a vow i know i’ll keep, just as long and as well as i’ve kept the last one.
I have far more control over my system than i did all those years ago. I didn’t even have to work with them to make the decision that it was done. I say so, and that’s all that’s required.
All i had to do was look at him, and i was convicted of my wrongness in every cell of my being. Verbal abuse can be just as terrible as physical. Many say it’s worse. He’s told me he forgives me and i know it’s so. I’m so grateful, because regardless of the reason, there is no justification.
I’m operating on myself, cutting out the tumourous chunks of my mother that fester inside me. This was a big one, and although i still feel terrible (rightly so), i feel stronger and better. Better as in a higher quality human than i was a few nights ago.
My anger over my childhood is justified and correct.
How i dealt with it the other night was inexcusable.
I will never, ever, throw away the grace my husband has extended to me.
I have laid my last weapon down.
I don’t need them anymore.
I never did with him.
I have no idea how this post will be received, but to not tell this part of my story would be a lie by omission, and as much as in this particular case i dearly want to, i cannot and i won’t. I will continue to look at it all, and that doesn’t just mean what was done to me, it means to take a hard, long look at me, and what i’ve done.
I have many amends to make, and i intend to make any and all, wherever i may.
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,
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
Today i’m low
Oh, i’m so low
I can pretend i’m not, but can i not pretend?
Dear Ms. Therapist, i am trying
I thought i had it rough, but now i know i didn’t – not really
My brain can do this amazing thing where it takes me out of the shit and fills my face with someone else
I float up here and watch some actressrobotclone do me for the masses
If it’s too much to watch, the door in my belly bids me come
It locks onto me like a tractor beam and pulls me in and slams behind me
I am nothingness
Was it all that bad if i wasn’t even there for it?
I inch my way slowly past the beckoning door, pressed flat against the far wall
I take the stairs down into my guts
It reeks down here. Like the smell of their fear that i could never scrub off me
Afraid of a little girl
The air tastes like salt and metal, like his hands when he pressed them over my nose and mouth
Shh, be quiet, shut up, stop fighting me!
Why do i have to come down here with these old ghosts?
I cleverly escaped their filthy clutches – why should i return?
They paw at me, and they stink
I don’t need anything down here
I look up and see my heart, beating blackly, shivering with pain
Reaching up, i place my hand firmly on it, the muscle quivers like a horse’s flank after a race
I pet my poor heart until it slows
It stops twitching and warms beneath my fingers
Stop running Dear One, i whisper
The race is done
We won a long time ago
I’m going back up the stairs now
Still tired and low, and this didn’t change me
There’s a light at the top that bids me come
Going carefully up over slime covered stone
I look down and say I’ll be back and that’s funny
The bilge water needs to be pumped out
My shoes are soaked and my feet, ice
I’ll bring salt when next i come, to dry up the fine, slick crust
I wave from the last step, and hope it doesn’t take me as long to clean the basement as it did the attic
Deprogramming, Pt. I
I was raised religious. I’m gonna say some stuff about that, and you may not agree. That’s fine. The majority of the world holds some sort of belief in the supernatural. I once did, and now i do not. It’s no big. As long as i’m not being preached at or proselytised, i have no problems listening to those around me talk about such things. But this is my blog, written by me, full of my thoughts, experiences, and opinions. I’ve chosen a path and am mapping my own route to get where i want to go.
I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I’m just talkin’ ’bout Life As Me.
I’ve been wrong thousands of times, and will be thousands more yet (at least, i’m hoping for the opportunity to be). If you think there’s a god/gods out there, i think you’re wrong. So? You think i’m wrong, too. Doesn’t bother me in the least. I might be wrong, and i could be convinced by enough good evidence.*
Now that’s out of the way, lemme get to it.
Like many people, like many female people, like many female people born into a religious family, like many female people born into an abusive, religious family, i wasn’t allowed to say No. My permission was never required – not if it affected me directly or indirectly, and not even if it involved the use of my own body. Growing up, it didn’t occur to me that i could say No, and i rarely said it. It occasionally popped out when i was in extreme distress. If i said it outside the house and family interactions, it was usually respected, if for no other reason than, if i was saying No, i was likely completely unhinged at that point. When i lost control it got weird for those around me: wild eyes, panicked voice, heaving chest, all my ticcing behaviours on display… Most would back off. On the exceedingly unusual occasion that i used it in my house and/or with my parents, i was beaten.
I had no rights, no autonomy. Along with not being allowed to use the word No, i was never permitted to question anything. I was raised to obey without a word. I couldn’t pull a face either, that’d earn me a slap or 2, for sure. This contributed to my being an insular person; i was hidden deep inside, any natural individuality was subverted, and i compartmentalised in order to survive. My traumas were so intense and ongoing, my compartmentalisation became so widespread, rigid, and rigorous, that i split apart inside my brain. I’ve been diagnosed with what is currently referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder.
As i’ve said before, i fought the diagnosis for years. I never went back to mental health professionals that even brought it up peripherally. Being around others who identified themselves as multiples made my skin crawl. I believed it was a real thing, but i thought most people were faking it.** I believed what i was raised to believe; what my parents and others in authority over me told me to believe. I was taught what to think, never how, (and in that, i think i have more company than just fellow abuse survivors).
I was punished for asking questions. I might get yelled at, shamed, or even beaten if i dared use the word “why”. To this day, if you want to see me get frustrated, then angry, and then shut down, just start asking me questions. I get nervous and irritated quickly. What was happening in my family had to be hidden. I was taught that nosy people were a threat. Others weren’t as smart and socially evolved as we were – they wouldn’t understand. They’d take me away and i’d have no one. I was such a handful, such a difficult child; no one would be able to tolerate me for long. It was always indirectly, subtly reinforced that i was a terribly misbehaved child, and not easy to love. I was lucky to have my amazing and long-suffering mother there to care for and love me. Without her i’d be completely alone.
She’d always let me watch old movies, because she liked them, but she banned me from watching All About Eve. I was an advanced reader, and had worked my way through her large collection of books by grade 6, but when she caught me reading Sybil, she lost her mind, took it away and hid it. I don’t remember her ever telling me it was bullshit, though. In fact, looking back with grown up eyes, i think she was obsessed with the subject. I think there may have been a time that she played around with the diagnosis for herself. She loved attention and struggled with her mental health, and i have some memories of some talks and programs that she brought me along to, where the way she was talking and the way she was treated by others there would fit her claiming some form of multiplicity.
When i finally got away from my mother, i knew i needed professional help, but it never occurred to me that i had a diagnosable, mental illness (or 2).*** I was just bad, not ill. My brain wasn’t sick, i was just a rotten person. I was a disobedient, selfish liar.
Ah yes… Liar.
You bet she drummed that one in to me as far back as i can remember.
She told me i was a compulsive liar until the day she wound up in the hospital where she died. Hey, i did lie. I lied a lot and i lied as easily as i breathed, but they were all rooted in her teaching me to do it, and modeling it for me so well. I lied to get out of trouble, e.g. denying eating something i wasn’t supposed to eat, which i ate because i was not fed properly. I lied to impress other kids, because my life sucked and i wanted them to like me and i wanted to be more like them. And the #1 reason i’d lie, was to cover for my parents. To hide the abuse that was going on in our home. The abuse that i was told wasn’t abuse but only what i deserved because i was so very, very bad.
My whole life growing up was a lie to the outside world, but that was one i didn’t know i was telling. I didn’t know i was abused until i was 21. I knew my mom hit me often, and sometimes beat the absolute crap outta me, but i knew i deserved it. I never thought that she was wrong or she shouldn’t have done it. She’d raised me to think i was a piece of shit and she was my gracious and merciful teacher and provider.
And church was invaluable in backing up everything she wanted me to believe.
She went through many periods where she didn’t attend church, but she made sure i always did. She’d arrange for other families to pick me up and drop me home, or insist i go with other children whose parents would make them invite me. She was highly intelligent, clever, an incredible manipulator, and deeply devious. She never sat me down and preached at me that i remember, but she did this thing that i didn’t recognise until i was a parent myself.
When i was still small, she hung out with younger, childless folks who were going for their degrees, and sometimes the older, established professors whose children were grown (she worked at universities and colleges as a secretary). If she wasn’t farming me out to someone (let’s just call it that for this piece), she’d bring me along. I was a perfectly behaved child out in public – i knew what would happen if i wasn’t. So i’d sit quietly and unobtrusively at parties and various get-togethers and even courses she was taking, and the people there would eventually start talking like i wasn’t there. They’d forgotten. I heard things no child that age should hear, and learned things no child should know. I was mentally sophisticated, and i suppose precocious (UGH), so i grasped the subjects being discussed relatively easily.
The thing she’d do to secure her control of me is she’d say things to other adults at these events, knowing full well that i was listening. That i was, in fact, all ears. She’d talk religiously and philosophically with these people, but she’d drop bits that i now think were meant for me.
This bit is difficult to convey. I’ve been thinking about how to make it understandable for the last couple of days. Say for instance, her friends were discussing Dr. Spock and his views on spanking children. She’d say something like, “Well, Dr. Spock must have some very well-behaved children. We aren’t all so lucky.”
That would be a message for me.
I hope that illustrates my point well enough.
When things were particularly rough at home, money was tighter than usual, or maybe she’d been beating me more frequently, she’d talk more about her own childhood. She’d tell me horror stories of being locked in the root cellar, or bathed in scalding hot water. And she’d share all her rape stories in lurid detail,**** starting when i was very young, say 5 or 6, maybe earlier, i don’t know.
The message there was she was the one who was abused, not me.
She never let up on the programming. Manipulation was her life’s work. She played me like Perlman played violin until the day she slipped into a coma.
All this to say that it has been a gargantuan effort on my part to get help for myself. I thought that i was the problem and i didn’t need any help for the first 20+yrs of my life. Once i knew i was a victim, and had experienced my lack of proper adult functionality in the real world, it didn’t get much easier. My mother had availed herself of every psychological tool, every method, every book, every well-respected researcher and public speaker, every self-help group… I’d been saturated in psychology most of my childhood. She used it to hone her skills, and i think it put a lot of people in her path that were easy for her to get something from. Money, attention, whatever.
The result for me was that i didn’t trust any of them. Frankly, i found most of them stupid (i’d been raised to look down my intellectual nose at anyone outside of my parents) and, big surprise here, easy to manipulate. I knew what they wanted to hear, and despite my inner derision, i wanted to be the best damn screwup they’d ever had sit in their office. I was programmed to want people to like me and to seek their approval. So i’d figure out what they wanted and give it to them, and they’d quickly determine that i was well on my way to mastering whatever issues i’d dumped on their desk. I used all the right buzzwords, and mixed it in with an appropriate demonstration of how smart i was, and i’d manipulate myself right out of any genuine help they might have offered me.
I’d talk myself out of their help, and go back out into the world, and things would still get chaotic and painful. I was still struggling. I still couldn’t manage to live life on life’s terms. And then i popped out a couple of kids and fell in love (yes, in that order), and i began searching for someone to help me in earnest. I’d returned to religion with the birth of my first child, and i found a counsellor to work with through my church, after the birth of my second. She had her master’s in social work and she was one of the kindest people i’d ever met. I had completely submitted to church authority, and i worked hard with her, always doing what she asked me and any homework she gave me. One day she sat me down and said she had been thinking she had a diagnosis for my particular issues, and had consulted with the psychologist who attended our church, who agreed.
She said it was her professional opinion that i had Multiple Personality Disorder. She reiterated that her colleague concurred. I’ve tried to remember what happened after that, but i can’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if i left, but i don’t think i did. With my mother gone, there was no greater authority in my life than their authority.
And i was raised to be obedient, above all things.
Great, so i had a diagnosis. The problem was, the treatment was bible-based. She took me to an old guy (BAD IDEA) who specialised in helping members map out their systems, so they could start praying over them and casting them out by name.
Because they were demons.
I was demon-possessed.
*Not here though. My blog isn’t for that.
**I’m not sure about that now. The important thing is that, even if they are, it’s none of my business.
***Okay, 3 or 4. Maybe 5, but that one’s relatively dormant, so i don’t count it. I’m kidding here, one might diagnose me with more than 2, but the 2 i deal with most can (kind of?) umbrella the rest, thereby cutting down on my stress and anxiety… So 2 shots of the hard stuff with a smartass chaser.
****I don’t know if her stories were true, as she lied practically every time she opened her mouth. To me, it doesn’t matter.
Water of Life
CW: Contains indirect references to childhood sexual abuse. This one is heavy for me – emotional. It may be for you, too. Take good care.
Heavy hearts, like heavy clouds in the sky, are best relieved by the letting of a little water.
~ Christopher Morley
So i made it to my therapist’s office today. And i started crying as soon as i saw her.
In the parking lot.
Tears are difficult for me. There is, as with just about every fucking thing in my life, a push and a pull with tears. As an infant, i know that i would have cried. I know from gathering as much information as i could from people who would talk to me about her honestly, that she wasn’t a terribly attentive mother. Unless family or someone she wanted something from was around, and then she was perfect and doting. But her mask would slip occasionally with those she called friend. She’d leave me cry in my crib for too long, saying i needed to cry it out or i’d be spoiled. Claimed i was colicky and would drown me in gripe water (which contained alcohol back in the day), and push baby Aspirin. Based on behaviours i do remember from a young age, i imagine the ignoring of my needs went for longer when no one was around to see.
When she’d spank me or hit me, sometimes she’d stop when i cried, and sometimes she’d go harder. If i cried for something other than beatings, say, disappointment or sadness or fear, she’d berate and humiliate me. I was a big baby and needed to toughen up. She’d accuse me of crocodile tears. I remember her telling other people when they’d show concern, “Don’t believe it. She’s faking. She’s an amazing little actress.”
She groomed me for predators from infancy, so i’m going to assume there were some tears involved there. And the people she gave me to were the hardest, when it came to shedding tears. Some of them would hurt me worse if i cried. Some would complain to my mother and then she’d beat me. And some needed me to cry, which became a problem when sometime around 3 or 4, my tears dried up. She took me to the doctor about it, i think, but i don’t remember what he said.
I do remember what caused my tears to flow again. I was around 12 or 13. I’ll tell that story another time, because this subject matter is already heavy enough.
I’ll share another interesting tidbit about me and tears, though. For my whole life, since my tears stopped flowing and through their adolescent return, you couldn’t tell i’d been crying when it was over. No matter how long i’d cried –i could, and did, bawl my little eyes out sometimes– all i had to do was wipe my eyes and blow my nose, and no one knew.
Sometime during this recent bout of therapy, that’s changed. I’ve never been asked, “Have you been crying?” until a couple of months ago. My face gets blotchy, my eyes and nose get red… It’s like my body is giving up all its ghosts. I’m no longer carved from alabaster. I’m becoming a living, breathing, crying being. Filled with snot, apparently. Buckets of snot.
I’m coming to life and i’m mourning my dead. The tears water me. They wash off my grave clothes. They cleanse me of the filth that coats me that was never mine. I’m pink and warm underneath. Red and blue and purple and golden light! I pulse and sparkle as life flows into dead limbs. I’m sitting in my cemetery, surrounded by beautiful dead things, and as i water the barren sand it becomes fecund. Living things are sprouting up around me. Pretty things. Green things. Life from death. Beauty from shit.
Which is all very lovely and poetic (and still true), but in the meantime – i cry. I want to cry all the time, and i cry just about every day.
People, i am not a fucking cryer. I get choked up over art and suchlike. Verklempt. Sometimes my eyes will fill up with tears, but they generally remain unshed. I can cry for other people, too. If a friend/loved one is suffering, i cry. But that place where one sobs until there is nothing but hitching breaths and hiccoughing? That place where one connects with one’s own pain and suffering? Almost never. And until my first round of effective headshrinking with my current therapist, if it did happen it wasn’t really for me. I didn’t cry over what happened to me, what was DONE TO ME.
Now i am.
I’ll be attending to some task, speaking with someone, reading something unconnected, sitting on the goddamned toilet – and the tears will suddenly come. They spill out and pour down my cheeks, hot and salty. My heart aches and my belly clenches. I weep. I mourn. And i know this is only the beginning. I know there is an ocean of tears inside me yet. A torrent waiting to be unleashed.
I’m going to let them come.
I’ve marinated in self-pity before, and i fucking deserved to. But this isn’t that.
I’m transporting myself back to my childhood, to bear witness to the crimes committed against me. I look upon that innocent little baby, toddler, child, adolescent, teen, and yes, young woman. I watch what happened to her. I listen, and i feel.
And then i mourn. I weep for her suffering. I ache with her needs. I lament her violation, and i grieve her death. She died over and over again, scavenged bits of flesh and blood from the corpse and made a new thing. A zombie. A golem. A robot. A doll.
The water flows and there’s no bottom to this well inside me.
And i thought it was hard to cry. To release my white knuckle control and cry. To stop dissociating from the grief and cry. To feel the pain of past abuse in my body today, and cry. But it is not the hardest thing. Not by a fucking long shot.
Why does a baby cry?
Hunger, thirst, pain, fear… Unmet needs.
What do we do when a baby cries?
Figure out which one it is and meet the need.
Sometimes though, we meet all the needs and the baby still cries. What do we do then?
We soothe them. We hush, we hold, we comfort, cuddle, softly sing. Blankets, stuffies, low lighting. We whisper words of love, vows of protection. We promise that everything is going to be okay.
And now, here we are at the hardest thing.
I’ll try to post about it in the next couple of days.
Until then, try to have as good a weekend as you can.
I will, too.
Do they still make tissues with lotion?
Love and Peace,
*If cuss words aren’t your thing, you might wanna pass on this piece. I mean, i often let 1 or 2 into my writing, because i write in my RL voice. What you’re reading is how i talk. Yeah, i’m pedantic and histrionic and show-offy with my admirable vocab. I’ve also been known to swear like a trucker made a baby with a sailor, and it was born with an itch it can’t scratch and a 2′ wide yapper.
This post is feelin’ like it needs to be full of swears.
Too much space
Too much waist
Too much taste
Know your place
Make less talk
Make less thoughts
Make less whats
Know you’re caught
Turn your head
Turn your heart
Turn your part
Know you’re dead
Kill that fact
Kill that face
Kill that case
Know your act
Take the time
Take the lyin’
Take the diein’
Know you’re mine
Survival is the Ability to Swim in Strange Water*
The willow submits to the wind and prospers until one day it is many willows – a wall against the wind. ~Dune
I’m utterly broken. I have nothing left. This is going to be a complete fucking downer, so be warned.
I thought i could do this, but so far, i’m living in a shit show. I’ve been in the hospital a couple of times since i last posted. The first time they suggested a few days in the Bin, the next time a nice long stay at a dual diagnosis facility. But guess what, i’ve done all that before and none of it worked. I found what worked for me, and i still have it all in play and they’re still helping me – it’s just messy and ugly right now.
The police have been to my property twice now, so by my old metric i’m a total fuckup. Do i change my metric? I have no idea. Both times they’ve left after determining i know what’s happening to me and i’m handling it the best i can.
Am i, though?
My home is in tatters. I finally stood up to being gaslit and controlled with aggression and non-physical violence on my person, though there was more than enough damage done to my house. It culminated 2 nights ago in fisticuffs with 2 loved ones and 2 doors being obliterated. I left the home because i couldn’t be involved in what was happening, but the violence followed me onto the road and i suddenly, just realised i’m done with it. I’ve been controlled by guilt, shame, and gaslighting for the last 3 or 4yrs, and i’ve had zero support with even acknowledging it, let alone support handling it.
Sometimes the people i love are assholes.
Sometimes the people i love fail me spectacularly.
I did the best i could to put off this work i have to do, but it couldn’t wait any longer – and now i couldn’t stop it if i wanted to. The thing is though, that i don’t want to and i won’t even try – not for any of them. So i’m trying to find another living situation, one where i can be safe and alone and focus on myself. It’s not going to be easy, but i can do it.
There may be a chance i can stay, but i’m not hopeful. Nothing’s changed in 4yrs, and me having the source of the violence removed from the property isn’t likely to change much.
He’ll be back, things will be back to how they were in less than 2mos, and i will be alone, with no protection.
I’m in constant, and intense physical pain, which i’m trying to soothe and treat as well as i can, because to be honest, most of it is not real. These are memories of things that happened to me when i child. Lozenges for my throat, Poise pads i keep in the freezer for my girl parts. I wrap myself tight in a sheet, i put pillows over my crotch area so no one can look, i wrap my head tightly in scarves when it throbs. I’m grinding my teeth again, so hard i need more Botox, which i’ll try to arrange this week, but it’ll be hard, because i can’t stand being around other people. Plus, having my face touched sends me instantly into a full-on anxiety attack.
I woke this morning with leaden legs, knees, arms. Head so heavy i could barely hold it up. I try to speak but the thoughts are slow, which make the words so much slower.
Can you tell by reading my blog i’m a fast talker? Because i am, even though i meander constantly down side roads and take detours. But today my tongue is slow, and my movements not unzombielike.
It’s depression. Depression is flowing through my veins. To think i was fighting a mania, just a few short weeks ago. My body screams in pain too, but at least now i know what the pain means and from whence it comes. I live with it every day, all day, trying to interact with friends i’ve made and people i know, and even though i can see – hell, EVERYONE/ANYONE can see i’m not doing well, yet it still drains me.
The stores i’d built up so carefully, with so much labour.
Waiting to unleash water upon the desert of Arrakis.
And then i had to have a loved one removed from my home, and i’m not sure there’s anything left of what i’d saved. I poured it over myself, trying to cool the hot parts and quench the thirst of the ones that live inside me and only know pain.
But the voices remain. Not just those of the ones i made to survive, but the ones they programmed into me to keep me their secrets safe.
When all seems lost – go home.
When people find out – go home.
And if you can’t get home, you must leave some other way.
I guess that’s why the doctors want to commit me and the police keep popping by to check on me. It’s all very kind of them, really.
I do not feel as if i can make it through this time. That i am thoroughly used up and finished.
But fear not, reader, for this is no goodbye piece.
I look back instead, at all the work i’ve done, all the times i’ve survived the unsurvivable, all the times i’ve pulled myself up out of the quagmire, and all the people who’ve stepped in to help me, too – to help me save my life.
And so i say to myself, this is just a feeling, and feelings have heretofore been transient in my life. If i give it long enough, if i can hang on long enough, i WILL feel something else.
It may suck a bucketful of maggots, but at least it’ll be something else.
And maybe the next feeling won’t suck.
Maybe it’ll be something full of light and hope.
I’m all over the place, and everywhere i look people want to put me in one of those sweaters with the extra long sleeves that tie up in the back.
But i am here, and i’m doing my veryveryVERY best to stay.
Hang on to me a little, in your heart, will ya?
I’d really appreciate it.
Whether a thought is spoken or not it is a real thing and it has power.
*Quote from, you guessed it, DUNE.