Elephants, Snakes, and Bears

Anxiety.
I haz it.
I don’t have a diagnosis, but i could probably get one. I figure what i’ve already got on my plate as a diagnosed bipolar/multiple is enough. Long ago i decided that i was just gonna deal with how my brain works, and not get bogged down with labels.

One thing that helped me come to that decision was the mental health care system in my area. I’d only dealt with social workers, therapists, and church counselors until i catapulted into my first full blown mania in my 30s. Then i was in and out of psych wards and a mental hospital, and put under the care of psychologists and psychiatrists, various and sundry. What i experienced wasn’t particularly helpful or pleasant. The diagnoses and medications would change depending on what doc was in charge that day. I’ve been called borderline, schizophrenic, narcissistic, chronically depressed (but no mania), hypochondriacal, even antisocial (the most patently ridiculous of them all).

The other thing that cemented my decision to at least try some less conventional treatments was aaaall the freaking druuuugs, man.* I’ve been summarily yanked off of medications that one should be weaned from. I’ve been placed on meds that have dangerous interactions with other meds i was currently on. I’ve had doctors treat the diagnosis that they gave me, with medications that are clearly meant for another diagnosis. One psychiatrist had me on 6 different medications, 3 of which were only for treating the side effects caused by the other 3.
And he wanted to put me on a seventh.

I went from a psych ward to a mental hospital, only to have the doctor in charge there change my diagnosis (and of course my meds), and treat me with a therapy that is directly contraindicated for how my brain really works. If you’ve been in and out of the system too, you might be like me and now do a lot of reading and research and vetting sources. I’ve had to learn to advocate for myself – i was getting regularly psychically concussed from all the pingponging done by the pros in the field. I was sick and tired and getting crazier rather than better.

I went to my family doctor, and she agreed to help me get off the meds i was on and find someone else to help me. I was using up the shelf life of my organs for no good results. The next drug being pushed on me was one that is notoriously zombifying. Why would i take it if none of the 20 others i’d tried had helped me at all?

I found my current therapist (Ms T) during this period. She specialises in treating multiples. As none of the doctors would touch the DID diagnosis with a 10′ pole (some spent time and energy lecturing me on the terrible mistake it had been to put it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), and they hadn’t helped me manage living with Bipolar Disorder… Well, i was desperate, close to a more permanent sort of commitment to a care facility, and she would come to me at my house because i couldn’t leave it.
Kind of a no-brainer.

The DID controversy persists to this day. During the first few years of my work with Ms T, i still had to go to hospital for mental health care frequently. I knew the problems i was dealing with were a direct result of my dissociative issues, but i would only refer to being bipolar. I’d mentioned DID twice, and that’s all it took for me to learn not to bother. I could see their eyes glaze over and feel their emotional distancing.

All this to say, yeah, i’m anxiety-girl. It’s a bigger issue than dissociation right now. I’ve got a piano on my chest, and an elephant is bashing away at the keys with its trunk. Sometimes my heart feels like it’s being squeezed by an invisible hand, and sometimes it skips beats and feels as if it may tear out of my ribs, opening me up like poor old Kane on the Nostradamus. It can beat so fast it seems as if i must surely be having a heart attack. I can hear the blood rushing in my ears. My fingers get numb and tingly. I feel electric needles prickling at my breast, all the way through to the soft flesh near my shoulder blades.

I’m scared for my husband to go to work, and i’m scared for our once a week grocery trips. This Saturday, while i was waiting for him to catch up to me with the cart, i was gripped by an anxiety attack so bad i had to set my items down on the floor in front of at least a dozen people in line. I walked on rubbery legs to go sit on the grass at the far end of the parking lot, to run through my calming techniques for when i’m in the grips of it. He came and sat beside me, and asked What’s wrong?
I hissed at him and asked, What do you think?

Cluing in, he began running through all the reasons why i shouldn’t be worried, why it’ll all be okay. He’s done it before, bless his heart, and he might well do it again. The Copperhead living in my mouth struck before he could get on to statistics and Health Authority admonishments.

“ANXIETY IS NOT RATIONAL!!”
I asked him if he thought i wasn’t intelligent and informed. I asked him if he hadn’t been listening when we conversed on the subject of our current pandemic situation. I asked him if he remembered when i’ve told him that my anxiety doesn’t care about skepticism or experts or the scientific method or statistical data.
(I was snappish, but not verbally abusive, if you follow my blog and were wondering.)

The man knows when to slow his roll, and he did. He became gentle and soft. He smiled, said he was sorry, and asked how he could help. I told him that i don’t always know, but i do know that telling me he’s here and he cares is probably going to be a good place to start.
I bristle if someone starts asking me if i’m doing any of the things they may have heard help cope with anxiety. And don’t try logic, because my anxiety doesn’t respond to logic. Tell me you’re willing to help if i ask, but let me ask. Let me ask for help running through the 5-4-3-2-1 method. Let me ask for help with my yogic breathing. Let me ask for you to hold me or only my hand or place yours in the small of my back. Don’t ask questions – just tell me you’re here, and then be silent and mindful and as calm as you can manage.

I’m not going to write about the thoughts and feelings i was wrestling with, because i know a lot of us are, and i know i don’t need to bring them to mind again. You’ve got your worries and i’ve got mine and we’re all under enough stress. Let’s not poke the bear, eh? It starts bellowing and then that elephant will roll in with its cursed piano.
We both have trunks, but mine isn’t my shnozz. It’s my brain and there are all kinds of toys, treasures, tools, and yes, tricks in there.

It doesn’t matter what anyone else calls those little tricks and trip-ups. This is me and this is how my brain works.
It’s as simple as that.
Heh.

I’m not going to diagnose anyone else’s brain stuffs.
I’m not going to tell anyone else how it looks when you’ve been given a mental health diagnosis.
But i am going to reiterate, in case anyone else struggling with anxiety and panic in these strange and stressful times can relate:

My anxiety is not rational.

Hang in there as best you can. I’m doing the same. It’s messy AF, but i’m getting the job done.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*I’m not antidrug. I’m 100% for taking medications when and where a doctor and their patient make the decision to do so. I wouldn’t hesitate to take a medication suggested by the health care professionals i have on my team now. They know me, they know my lifestyle, what i’m capable of, and what my goals are – and i trust them all.

Noping

I’ll be keeping this brief and kinda point form.

Adding back in structure didn’t work. My anxiety has me in a chokehold and i can’t stop this therapy. So i’m going to ground.

I’ve done it before, when things got so beyond my control i knew i had to cut my life back to bare minimum.

I can’t leave the house at this current time, like most of you, but i wouldn’t if i could.

Socialising, just my BFF, and even then, if it feels like too much to do anything more than the occasional text – she understands.

Zero news or social media.
We PVR everything and skip ALL commercials. I may have to cut out some of the darker fare that i usually enjoy watching. If it turns out it triggers anxiety, it’s getting noped.

I love cooking, but all the fancy stuff is getting noped. None of my typical careful concern for a balanced meal. I’ll be working with frozen and prepared foods as much as possible, and leftovers will be on the menu whenever there are any.

Personal hygiene is stripped to bare minimum.
Skincare will be a quick wipe and some cream (i have a near-Korean level regime).
Showering: when i stink, jump under the spray for 5mins with bar soap. Shaving is a nope. Exfoliating, nope.
Curly Curl Method is a hard nope. Regular shampoo/conditioner when needed.
All the extra lady things like mini-mani/pedis are also noped.

My new uniform will be comfy pajamas. No more stressing over what to wear and what looks cute and what style will i choose today and trying on item after item that turns my bedroom into a disaster area. Just… nope.

All notifications are turned off on my phone except for my husband, my 2 sons at home, and my therapist.

Housekeeping will be just enough so i don’t get triggered by the mess (my mother’s house was a pigsty).

Blogging will get done, but only when i feel like it, and only as much as i want to do. No shoulding myself to write out of some imagined obligation to my readers. I am going to focus on myself – 100%
The world will keep turning without me.
Other people can manage fine without my help.
I can’t change what’s happening, and frankly, i don’t want to know about it.
I simply cannot handle it.
I don’t need anyone to agree or even understand.
This is my life and i’m noping the fuck out of just about everyone and everything.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but it has become a matter of my survival.

I fell down a hole so hard and fast last week that it came close to ruining me.
No details, but know that i am okay.
A lot of my Facebook friends are regular readers, but i won’t be sharing my blog posts over there. If you’re subscribed, you’ll know. If you check in on the regular, you’ll know.

I have turned my eye inward to the point where i have no room for anything else.
And for the first time in my life, i feel no guilt or shame about it – at all.

This is my birthday present to me.
Happy birfday, H.

Had a (phone) sesh with my therapist today.
Maybe i’ll write about that next
… Or maybe i won’t. *wink*

Weights and Measures

Let proportion be found not only in numbers and measures, but also in sounds, weights, times, and positions, and what ever force there is.
~ Leonardo da Vinci

Anxiety is ever-present these days, but i’m learning ways to manage it and soften its intensity. On the weekend my sons and husband were home, so it lessened on its own, but Sunday afternoon it began amping back up, as i anticipated them returning to work. I have 1 son who works in a restaurant, and it’s so slow that he’s home until things change. I’m fine with that, and it’s also nice to have a pair of eyes on me at this time. Yes, sometimes my sons babysit me. I don’t know if it’s right or fair, but they’re both grown men. They have (admittedly too much) experience in dealing with my mental illness and multiplicity. I’m not abusive, i’m just not quite myself.

My husband and other son who lives here (i have one in his 30s with his own family) both have high risk jobs, and i’m twisted up every day they’re away from me. I’m 75% hermit anyway, so as i tell my friends, This is my jam, man. No biggie. The source of my stress are my loved ones who’re out there. I’m having trouble not obsessing about losing them.
But i haven’t done all this personal work to lose my shit now.
I’ve got a toolbox, and it’s chock-full.

First thing i did is i cut out most social media and all news.
I have apps for my social media that help me curate what i see, and i’ve unfollowed any of my friends that tend to post a lot of news and politics.
I’ve let my friends know i’m available for texts and PMs, and i post stuff on my own social media, to maintain contact.
My husband knows what news i’d want to hear and what i wouldn’t, so he keeps me informed.

Another thing i do is share everything that’s going on in my head. I pick an appropriate audience, but i spew. I do it all day. I call my husband, i talk to my boys, i have a group of trusted online friends that i check in with daily, and i blog. I’ve found over the years that sharing my thoughts and feelings is a good way for me to live my life in general. It is particularly helpful though, during painful and/or stressful times.

This current therapy that i’m doing has me dialing back my activity level. I’m trying to slow everything down so that i can focus in on my physical body. I’m trying to learn how to listen to its needs and wants, and its desire for comfort and care. By doing this, i hope to build a healthy connection between my thoughts, my emotions, and my physical sensations, which were separated from each other due to childhood abuse. This work is a priority, it would be difficult to stop it, and it takes most of my focus and energy every single day.

But, pandemic…

I can’t stop the anxiety, and after talking it through with my therapist, i think i can manage both.

So i’ve been checking in with myself every day. I don’t just blog, i write stuff every day that i don’t share. I journal, and i have written conversations with my system. It helps me to see the words, and to hear them, and to share them. I do it all. Multi-pronged approach to a multi-level problem. I’m a multifaceted multiple.
That might be redundant. Heh.

My new tweak today is to add a bit more structure. I’ve been giving myself some space to NOT accomplish everything i think i need to in order to be a good wife and mother. Sometimes i don’t cook. Sometimes i don’t shower. Sometimes the vacuuming or the laundry get left undone.
But my anxiousness is so big.
My heart keeps squeezing too tightly, and i get these zings through my chest that feel like electricity.
My reflex is to dissociate. To pull away from it all. To numb myself.
How do i stay present AND keep it together?

I’m adding back in some regimens/routines to see if it helps. It’s a way of checking out without checking out. I’m not dissociating, but i’m engaging in a chore that i’ve done so many times i could do it blindfolded, so it distances me a little, but not too much.
Does that make sense?
If it helps, it stays, if it doesn’t, whatever. I’ll just keep trying.
I twitch, i tweak, i try.

I’m doing all the other things that are tried and true in my life.
I eat healthy, but make room for indulgences.
I get outside, but i put the FitBit down until things are smaller and quieter.
I wear, use, and otherwise employ things that loved ones have given me. I’m wearing a shirt my BFF gave me. I’m cuddling a stuffie i got from a friend. I’m cooking with a spice sent to me by another.
I shnuggle our pets. I hug my kids. I have my husband in a death grip in our bed at night. I’m not very touchy, but he’s my person, my place, my centre, and as much of my body as can touch him as we lay together, is happening.
Poor guy. I’m going through menopause and we sleep in a disco waterbed that’s cranked to boiling… Sweat soup in the morning.*
Hey, it wouldn’t be my blog without some TMI, amirite?

I’m careful what i watch. I know what not to watch, because i know myself so well.
I take a few minutes in my room whenever i need to, to breathe, to connect with my body, to process whatever’s happened since the last time i sat there.
I sit and reinforce boundaries as they come up, and i say No. A LOT.

I don’t know what’s coming. I don’t know how bad things are going to get.
The truth though, is that i never have, and i never will.
I’m doing the best i can with what i have.
That elephant on my chest is okay. I know why he’s there. Plus, he’s super cute, and i mean, who doesn’t love elephants?
And maybe, i’ll find the feather that helps him fly.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*Y’all don’t even know how bad he has it. The waterbed is cranked because the heat helps with my fibromyalgia. I also deal regularly with insomnia, and i have a fan going for white noise, and also because menopause. So i make him all sweaty, and then i make him freezing cold.
Did i mention that i always have my window open, even if it’s blizzarding?
Yeah, he’s the best. I know it.

In My Cups

I’ve been avoiding writing about this for years. Over the last year or so though, i’ve mentioned it in a somewhat ancillary fashion. I think i’ve been testing the waters. If i’m going to share how my brain works and how i pursue the life i want, while juggling my particular set of issues, however, i would be remiss if i didn’t address it. It would be a lie by omission, and i do try to avoid those, here on my blog.

My addictive nature, and how that’s manifested in my life in general, and in my journey through mental illness and being neuroatypical particularly.

<insertdeepsighhere>

This will be a rough one for me.
I was raised to keep things hidden.
It was modeled for me that one doesn’t acknowledge one’s flaws, let alone talk about them. If one did, then various religions were the answer.

What i have learned though, is that people know anyway. Despite our best efforts, if we hang around with people for either long enough, or at the right moments – they’ll figure it out. (Not the biggest reason i became a hermit, but not a small one, either.) They may not know exactly what it is, but they’ll smell it on us. Something not quite right. Something’s gone off, and it’s rotting away inside.

For addiction, i have both nature and nurture. My mother ate her way up so high there was no scale at the time to weigh her. We’ve figured out ways in our current society to do so, but we’ve had to, because so many are afflicted with the problem. When my mom was super-morbidly obese, she was the fattest person anyone had ever seen in real life, everywhere we went. She’d always held food over me as a reward, and withheld it from me as punishment, and also due to neglect.

So i learned to comfort myself with food. I used it to numb out pain. It was a drug that filled me with a false and fleeting happiness. After a long and checkered history, i’ve learned enough about myself and nutrition to have found a way to handle my food issues.
Oh, but i have addictive behaviours, plural, and my relationship with food, eating, weight, and body image are well-documented in this blog already.

Food wasn’t the only thing that was used to control me as a child.
When you want her to like you, you start out with ice cream and candy.
When you want her to relax and lie still, you use alcohol and pills.

Abusers used pills, i was on pills to control my epilepsy, and when i was diagnosed with fibromyalgia as an adult, more pills. That was when i began using the non-prescription codeine to help me cope with the constant pain. By the time i was diagnosed bipolar, i was going through a 250 count bottle of the stuff in less than a week. At one point, i was on 6 different medications at the same time to try and regulate me, and oh, did i mention that i’d started drinking?

For years drinking wasn’t a problem. Then i had weight loss surgery, lost over 300lbs, and slammed into my first full blown mania. The weight loss got me lots of sexual attention and a job in the entertainment industry. More social interactions with me as the centre of everything than i’d had to deal with since my school and church years in plays and vocal performances. I was dealing with no impulse control and sexual and social anxiety through the roof. I didn’t want to eat because i was thin and i loved the way people were treating me… I worked mostly in bars, so i drank.

Between booze and the male gaze, my mania became so severe i lost my job. Mania didn’t just amp me up, either. Between it, the weight loss, and problematic drinking, my DID became a cyclone. And then came the years of psych wards, detox facilities, recovery centres, an actual mental hospital, and LOTS of religion.

As i’ve written before, none of it worked. Eventually, as my husband desperately searched for help for me, he found the therapist i’ve been working with ever since. I long ago laid down the pill-popping, but unfortunately, the drinking behaviours remain. Not the partying all the time kind of drinking, which is good. But when i fall down the rabbit hole – i drink. And there are many parts of my system who will naturally gravitate towards alcohol, because it’s familiar. It wasn’t just that it was a part of our regular life.
It’s that it helped, you see.

It’s easier to slide and switch around with alcohol. It greases the wheels, so to speak. And when, in that first real mania, my system decided to properly introduce themselves to me AND return to full duty, so too, did they return to alcohol. I could go without drinking for long periods of time, but then i would switch, and find myself drunk when i was back in the face. Or viciously hungover.

Sometimes in therapy, we touch on something and i know i’m going to drink over it. If i (specifically speaking) didn’t get some, i knew the issue was enough for me to switch, and then they’d just go get it anyway. There were times when someone or something would trigger me HARD, and i knew what was coming. Life would do what life does, and often become too much for me, and i’d fall down the rabbit hole. Crawling out always involves detoxing from a binge. I had to figure out a way to get, and maintain, some kind of control.

My therapist doesn’t really deal with addiction or bipolar stuffs, even. She focuses on my system, and helping me learn how to listen, address my issues, and build the kind of life i want. Problematic use of drugs, alcohol, food, sex, etc. is, let’s say rampant, with multiples. She deals with cause, rather than effects. When i first started seeing her, she would come to my house, because i couldn’t leave it. I’d have a mickey of something stuffed beside me on the couch, because i’d have needed a couple of nips to even be able to let her in the door, and i knew that after she left i’d have a couple more.

The more work i’ve done in therapy the better it’s gotten. I even stopped therapy for a few years because i thought i was done. When i found out i wasn’t, old behaviours began kicking in, like, i can’t control the face as well as i was, and this body work makes everyone want a drink.
Everyone.

I knew i had to figure out a new way to handle things during this time. I’m not going back to square 1. I know i won’t either, because my problem solving skills are rather fantastic. One of the first things i did is i stopped hiding the problem. My husband and my kids already knew, so be honest. Why have this undercurrent of tenseness for my boys, where i act like it’s not happening and they act like they don’t know that it is? Why make my husband complicit in the lie? These things aren’t healthy and they erode the trust and poison the relationships that i have with them, that i’ve worked so freaking hard to build.

Removing the hiddenness immediately calmed my impulsivity. My sons both accepted the behaviour and said it was okay. They understood, and both relayed to me that they’ve seen nothing but improvements in the way i’ve lived my life since my brain fell apart.

Hm. Maybe there’s something here for me to learn.

I told my BFF, and since the beginning of our friendship (it’s a couple of years old, now), she’s been nothing but supportive. I’ve never lied to her, and as our friendship’s grown and trust has built, i’ve let her in like i have never, ever let a friend in before. I can call her up and say, “I’m either gonna have a drink or 2, or i’m hittin’ the highway,” and she will come babysit me until my husband gets home.* I don’t bother hiding from her, because i know i don’t need to.

I’m seeing a pattern here…

I’m down the rabbit hole, right now. At first, i got drunk and stayed that way for a few days. The therapy i’m doing, plus this pandemic situation the world is in, summarily tossed me down there by the seat of my pants.
Down you go H, no choice.
But my kids kept loving me and telling me it was okay.
And my husband did things that he knows will maintain my connection to him.

Ah. I know where this is going.

So this time, my Angries didn’t come out and get belligerent. My highly sexualised parts didn’t come forward and demand more and more booze, until i was blacked out and became a parade of damaged Bits N’ Pieces that are very low functioning and can be quite troublesome (to put it mildly). In fact, i was able to slow down and even sober up for my therapy the other day. I’d been fine for a few days.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
~Tao Te Ching

I was ready when i first met my therapist. She taught me a great many things and then i left, thinking i had moved on. It was not so. I simply wasn’t ready for the next lesson. I humbly returned when i realised the truth, and i’ve been learning ever since. These lessons are more painful than the previous ones, and yet, tired as i am, i see myself listening more readily and learning faster. Now it’s more like, When the student is ready, the lesson will come.

Two weeks ago i connected to my therapist in a way i’ve never connected to another human being ever. I shared grief and pain with her, not with words, but with sounds of suffering that i’ve kept buried deep, deep down inside me, at my most broken place. And i let her hold me through it – something i have never allowed before, in the dozen or more years we’ve been working together to help me.

CONNECTION. A mother’s love in her arms around me, in her voice as she soothed me, in her tears as she cried for me.

I strongly suspect that the other day on the phone with her, i learned my most important lesson yet. I told her that shame is my driving emotion. The one that controls me at every step. Every thought, every action is somewhat shame-driven. She responded that shame isn’t bad; shame is just an emotion, a feeling. She said it’s the body’s response to the human need for connection to another human.
I believe i was ready for this lesson.

Yesterday, i was chatting with my husband after supper, and it just came up out of me. I said, “I think shame is the reason i drink – the reason we all drink.** I think what i really want is to be connected to myself, to be alive so that i can truly connect to another person. To you, to our children, to my friends… ”

I was ashamed to want connection, too. The messages that i internalised as a child were that i was filthy and disgusting and not worthy.
But all the work i’ve done has been slowly taking down this deadly razor-wire that my mother and my upbringing built around me.
It’s going to take more work, but i’m going to listen to what shame is trying to tell me, and i’m going to keep disarming the landmines around me. I will be fully alive and interactive with other human beings. I will be living.

As for the booze, i don’t know. It’s just a symptom, as destructive as it can be, and i live with multiplicity, which means i cannot (at least as of yet) always control what i’m going to do. And that’s okay, today. Sometimes i drink to cope. But it’s nothing at all like it was, and i believe with my whole heart, that it’s possible that someday it won’t be a problem at all. Today i’m neither hungover, nor am i drunk. Tomorrow may be something different.

But i’ll handle it.

I have no wise pronouncements to make on addictive behaviours. I have no solutions save the one i’m working out for myself. I won’t be bashing any of the other ways to handle such issues, because i don’t find it helpful or productive. This is me, and my way only. I share for my own continued healing and growth, but also to maybe give others hope that they can find their own way, too.

Just hang on. It’s the place where i started all this, and it’s where i return as often as needed.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*For those who are new to my blog, i run when i’m stressed or triggered. We live on a farm, and i’ll hit the highway and hitchhike into the city, where i am in immediate danger due to switching. I haven’t hitchhiked in a few years now, but i’ll still angry walk for many kilometres, in any weather, and have been in fairly desperate need of rescue a few times, just due to that.

**We means me and all my parts. My system.

Chips

The current state of the world has me at my limit, anxiety-wise. I’ve cut off reading anyone’s social media, i don’t watch the news, and i’ve had to become selective about the art i consume.

In the interest of my own mental health, i’m going to post a funny (to me, at least) story.

Fed hubby, got his lunch made and sent him off to work. I returned to bed this morning, as my stress level is keeping me up. It seems as soon as i’m able to drop off, i launch into dreaming immediately, and wake from my brain trying to figure out how to cope with living in a pandemic. That pattern didn’t change, but i did get in 2, 20min naps. Better than nothing, i’ll take it.

Ate some breakfast and watched a couple of shows with my Kiddo, while my Brat snored softly on the couch. They’ve both been sent home from work, and i can tell they’re keeping an eye on me. Yes, i’m the mom, but they’re grown men and i don’t hide my process from them. After all the mistakes i’ve made with them, probably the best gift i can give them is watching me deal with shit, push through, and get better. I don’t lie to them or hide what i’m going through (although certain details would be inappropriate).

As is my way, i then get up to accomplish a few small goals that will help keep my self-esteem up. Most of my spoons are currently going to managing anxiousness. If i don’t give some care here, it would be likely for me to fall into depression or mania without realising. Neither are ever far enough away, so i’m vigilant.

One of the first things i do is make my bed. My Pomeranian doesn’t sleep in my bed at night, but sometimes i let him have naps with me. This morning he follows me into the bedroom and does a little circle at my feet, his signal that he’d like to be picked up. I put him on the bed while i make it – he’s not bothered at all. He sits and looks at me expectantly.

My tiny doggo is the most foodcentric dog EVER. No, really. He was in the hospital for bloat, a rarity for a guy his size, not once, but twice. We learned to soften his food because otherwise, he just swallows the kibble whole. We also learned to put a tennis ball in his dish to slow him down. Without the ball he’ll eat it so fast he’ll barf it back up. He’s trained not to mooch – except in the kitchen. He’s allowed to sit there while i prepare food, as long as he doesn’t get underfoot. He’ll sit there, absolutely still, for as long as it takes for me to drop something on the floor, or offer him a wee taste. On the bed though…

I keep a lot of snack foods in my bedroom, because i want them to last a while, and i have a son that’s an eating machine. Occasionally, when i’m fetching some treat for one of us, Roland will get a bit, too.
So he’s sitting there on the bed while i’m making it, trying to find the line between mooching outside the kitchen (NO), to boring his teeny eyeballs into my back like he does when i’m cooking.

One of the things i’ve learned to do to help me manage the way my brain works, is i talk to myself. Out loud. A LOT. Getting the thoughts out of my head helps keep them from getting rancid or poisonous, if you feel me. Writing is one thing, but i’ve got constant chatter going on up there, and i can’t always write.
So i talk. And i have conversations with my Bits N’ Pieces, sure, but i also act a little. I’m on the dramatic side, doncha know. Heh. So even random thoughts that don’t come from my system fall out of my face when i’m alone. (Well okay, i talk to myself even if my family is around. It’s just a great coping skill for me and i use it all the time.) I’ll adopt voices that have nothing to do with being a multiple. I’ve been aping people and doing voices since i was a child.
I started talking as Roland within days of getting him.

K. So i’m making my bed, and he’s staring at me, but trying not to stare too hard, lest he get told to knock it off. He’s trying to stay still, but it’s hard when your mommy has a 70s disco waterbed, and is pulling the sheets and duvet into place. I’m talking in his voice (which is very cute i assure you) and saying stuff like:

Yeah, ah… i’m looking pretty cute today, huh Mom? But maybe, oh, i dunno, i think i might be looking a little on the skinny side… Are you sure i’m getting enough calories and the proper nutrients? With all this walking we’re doing now, i might be deficient. I mean –and i’m not complaining here– but you do go kinda fast. Lookit your legs, lookit my legs; you see what i’m sayin’? I see you have some chips over there on the shelf. Mm, salty and crispy deliciousness. You think maybe, uh, i could… ? Just a couple of the broken ones, you know, you won’t miss them. Top up my tank for the walk later, so i don’t slow you down. You really give ‘er out there, and i’m your fur person, ‘member? We’re best buds and lifelong pals – you help me, i help you, hey?
Hey, Mom?
Mommy?
Momma?
I love you, Mom.
Aren’t i cute?
Lookit my face, and these floofs.
I’m skin and bones under these floofs, Mom.
I think i might be dying.
Chips.

Then i respond, looking into his adorable little face as i’m smoothing out the duvet and puffing up the pillows and placing them just so.

Oh Roly, you’re very well fed, and you know it. Plus, where would you be without me to watch what you eat? We both know you’d wind up so round your toot widdow paws wouldn’t reach the floor. We’d have to roll you around to get you anywhere. Or maybe get one of those bags for bowling balls. Yes, i’d have to carry you around in a bowling ball bag, and people would ask me, Why is your bowling ball furry? And i’d say, That’s not a bowling ball, that’s my dog who ate too many chips!

And then a Little’s voice popped out of my face and said, Don’t listen to her, RolyPolyOly. You’re not fat and i’m gonna give you a chip.

And Roland’s face lit up, because he’s my fur person and he knows and loves me in all my iterations, and he recognised her voice, and he knows the word “chips”. He stood up on the bed and did a circle and wagged his tail.

So i said –to him and all of my selves–
This just got way too meta.

Maybe this is only funny to me, but i hope it brought a smile to your face while you’re enduring these strange and scary days.

Hang in there. This was the day before yesterday, and yesterday was a bit of a shitshow, so i may post about that. We’re already conversating about it.

*SNORT*

Okay, YES. He got chips.

1 Day in the Life of a Crazy Woman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and Peace to You All,
~H~

The Gift of Estrangement

Hello.

Sleep left me hanging around 3:30 this morning*, so here i am.
I did the few dishes left in the sink from last night while i brewed some freshly ground beans in my French press – because fancy! I thought i’d treat myself to peanut butter ice cream for breakfast, but i haven’t got the taste for it. It’s sitting beside me, melted, so i guess i’m tossing it when i get up next.

I’m so fucking tired. Like, all the time. Staying present takes so much focus and commitment, it takes all my energy. Even when i do nothing, i’m tired. I wish i could go back to bed, but i know how that’ll go, and my husband doesn’t get many opportunities to sleep in, so i won’t subject him to my frustrated restlessness.

I don’t speak about family that’s living. That’s because if i did, they might get the idea that they can contribute some thoughts or opinions, some counter arguments, to my own. I’m comfortably estranged from them, and have no desire to go and mend any fences or let go any bygones.
Today though.
Today, how do i not think of family?
Perhaps i wouldn’t if i still celebrated this infernal holiday, but i don’t. My day would be busy with celebratory activities, and i’d be too busy to think. Wonder. Ponder.
But as it stands, my children are grown, i’m an atheist and the conspicuous consumption and crass commercialism all turn me off. I don’t feel the need to tear down other people’s enjoyment and celebration, but this is my blog, so it seems okay to me to put it here.

This is the third year we haven’t decorated, exchanged presents, had a huge meal, watched holiday programming or listened to festive music. I’m more convinced each year that it was a wise and self-loving decision. It’s too much for me.
My expectations, my perceived expectations of others, the money spent, all the obligations, the places i must go, the people i must see, and i must bring tasty things. The heightened danger on the road because of the office party tipsies and the revelling chronic drunks, and no one is paying attention to their driving or the road because their minds are filled up with ALL THE THINGS. So many brittle smiles and everyone looks like they’re desperately in need of a decent night’s sleep.
And if i heard Santa Baby one more time i was gonna drop my packages on the department store floor and just start screaming…

I know it’s not that way for everyone.
It was that way for me.
My blog, my experiences, and my thoughts about them.
I’m happy for anyone who enjoys this season.
I enjoy it, too.
Now.

I’ve found that one of the most effective ways to limit, or better control my stress and anxiety levels, is to eliminate the things causing them to rise. Maybe as i get healthier and more functional, i can bring some things back. I Hallowe’ened with my BFF this year, for the first time in 5 or so years, and it went okay. Perhaps one day i’ll Christmas again. I leave room to grow and to change and to become capable of handling more if i want to. For now, i have this, and it suits me well.

I didn’t so much make a decision to cut my family out of my life as i decided i wasn’t going to work at it anymore. I was tired of being told what i could and couldn’t do. I was tired of the gossip and backstabbing. Most of all i was tired of all the fakery. Going to family gatherings and pretending that there weren’t sick and dangerous people there. People who’d done serious damage to me. People who’d gravely harmed me. Pretending i was one of them because i wanted so badly to belong to someone. To be claimed by someone. And then pretending i didn’t see and feel what was really happening behind the facades. It was clear i wasn’t one of them. I was merely a religious feather in their ridiculously large caps.
(For reference, watch Carlin’s bit on the religious and their hats.)

It took years to figure it all out, like it sometimes does for me. As i increased the distance i saw more and more clearly. I pulled away because i was beginning to listen to what my system was saying, and i was trying to pay attention to emotions and respond with something other than dissociation. I felt anxious and depressed and exhausted after family associations. I felt like i wasn’t good enough. I felt unloved. I felt hurt and lonely and left out.

So the pulling away was a direct response to the symptoms. It took some time before i started a full examination of my family situation. I sought the cause of my malaise.
I was right. I wasn’t one of them – never was.

I think when i was young it was different, because there was hope i could still be molded into someone more acceptable. However, as i grew into adulthood, i became too different. I strayed too far from the fold. Maybe i was too much like my mother? I don’t know. Beyond our looks and intelligence level, i don’t see that i have much in common with her. I can be scary when i’m pissed off, like her, but i never got pissed off at them. I was only ever scared of losing them – of not being accepted. I was terrified they’d reject me, as i was taught so well to be.

I’d be invited to big celebrations, like the holidays, or the head of the family’s birthday. If i wanted to get together for lunch or shopping or a cup of tea and some connection, i had to make the call. They seemed to enjoy those kinds of things like i did, i just wasn’t on their call list. I’d hear about all the casual get-togethers they’d enjoyed with each other at big holiday celebrations. I’d see pictures and hear funny stories that i wasn’t invited to be a part of. The chatter at the supper table let me know they were always in contact with each other.

Maybe i was a trophy? A sign of how well they lived their religion. Their holiday oblation.
Look how generous and forgiving and pious we are, to have this orphan, this urchin, this weird, loud, awkward woman in our midst. See how we treat her like family when she’s clearly not one of us.

Their smiles looked like grimaces.
Their children avoided me like i had a communicable disease.
But i bashed about these gatherings like a moth on a light bulb, completely unaware. Spastic AF. Trying so hard to be liked and loved, accepted and wanted. I think the truth is i was merely tolerated. I was their charity case. I was the pat on their back that reassured them that they’re good people. (Spoiler: They’re not.)

Just dodged a bullet. I was 2 deep and into my third example of how they’re not good people. That’s an invitation. They aren’t welcome here, and i have nothing to prove. I get to feel and think whatever i want about them, even if i’m wrong. And it’s not like i talk shit about them. I don’t talk about them much at all, except to my therapist or my husband if something comes up for me, like a bad memory or a nightmare.
They’re fake and sick and toxic to me. To me.
Anyone else’s opinion is their right to have and not my business. All i know for sure is that i felt noticeably better about myself and the world when i stopped associating with them, and that’s increased over time.
When i let go and stopped begging for love and chasing them for belonging, it was one of the quickest lessons i’ve learned. The relief was immediate, and the pain of separation, not that bad.

It was last year around this time when a family member sent me a gift. It was a card with the Footprints poem thingy on it, and instead of signing with the name that i’ve called them since i was 11, they signed it with their proper, “Christian” name.
Message received. It was passive-aggressive, hypocritical, petty, and mean-spirited.
I’m genuinely grateful, because it helped me stop looking back and wishing. It showed me who i was dealing with, and confirmed that i’d done the best thing for me.

I’ve spent today with my husband, one of my children, 2 doggos, 1 kitty cat, and my BFF.
It’s been calm and low-key and relaxing. We only listened to one holiday tune, and it was totally perverted. There has been laughter and junk food. I haven’t felt for one single second like i have to be anyone other than myself. I haven’t felt like i’m not enough or i’ve done anything wrong. (Except i burnt the breakfast sausages on one side, and i told my brain that no one would care – and no one did.) We played games, and drank coffee, tea, and ginger ale with cranberry juice in it, because again – FANCY! One son spent the day crafting and making jokes, one son went to work and made double time and a half, woohoo! There were naps, and i had time and space to write. There was music and chatter and hugs.

I think today i’ve written the final chapter on my association with a group of people that aren’t my people. They don’t need to like, love, agree with, or understand me. I never needed anything from them, and now i don’t want anything, either. Here today, i see that i’ve triumphed over not just one family’s lies, but two. All their threats and emotional blackmail, all their cozening ways – none of it stuck. One side of my family died, and it felt so good, a part of me wondered if it wouldn’t feel just as good to be rid of the other side.

It did.
It does.

If you’re reading this and you have tumultuous, painful, difficult relationships with your family, i’m truly sorry for you. What i’ve written here is for me and about me. If you’ve made the decision to suck it up and remain connected to them, i don’t condemn you. I don’t think you’re weak or dumb. I support you in your process, in doing what you think best. Your journey is yours. I hope you have safe people that you can talk to about it; people that you trust who will tell you the truth and support you while you try to navigate the minefield of familial relationships.

The best thing for me was to let go and walk away.
I don’t know what the best thing is for you. If you’ve gotta slap a smile on your face and act like you’re enjoying yourself, then maybe you could do something you enjoy with someone you love after. You know, to wash the stink off you and recharge your batteries.
Hear me though, when i say that there’s no shame in trying something else when what you’re currently doing isn’t working.

All i did initially was to take some time away, because i couldn’t think straight when i was around them. So many of my actions and responses were pure reflex. I’d act instinctually. I found quiet and safety away, and once there, i felt so much better that i never wanted to go back. They don’t miss me and i don’t miss them.
Your mileage may vary.
Do what you want, do what you will.
But if i’m any indication, there aren’t as many MUSTs as we’ve been raised and trained to think there are.
I’m not lonely and i’m not dead.
In fact, i’m quite happy sometimes, and if i keep dropping deadweight like this, i think there’s at least an outside chance i might fly.

Enjoy Your Holiday If You Can,
~H~
*Yesterday, Christmas morning.