Treading Water

I’m having trouble writing.

Yes, again.

It’s not because i’m going through a bunch of crud and i’m waiting for it to be done so i might over analyse it and package it up prettily, replete with a spiffy bow for your easy consumption. I’ve shared before that i struggle with this – i hesitate to share when i’m in the trenches, because it can get so damn dark and cold down there, and i’m trying to bring a message of hope. But i’ve learned that the truth can bring hope, even if the truth is ugly. I’ve also learned that it’s not my responsibility to save the world. As all my children are now grown, i’m no longer responsible for anyone but myself, and my dog.

The best i can do is throw life buoys in the water. They’ll keep you afloat for a while. Allow you to rest. But i can’t make you swim over to it, or grab onto it, or keep holding on. I hope you do, though. I want us all to make it.

I’m having trouble writing because i’m tired. The effort it requires for me to stay present in my body and resist dissociation is maximal. I don’t seem to have much left over for anything else. That’s okay, because i’ve tailored my life to accommodate this kind of thing. I have a very supportive partner, my kids aren’t kids anymore, and i live on a farm. I enjoy private space all around me, and the people in my life all know that “just popping by” is not an option.

So yeah, i’ve got an excellent setup for the work i’m doing, and i’ve settled into a groove. Well, it’s less groove than zombie-shuffle, but i’m gettin’ through it.
Except life has this way of happening, and life has gone and done happened on me.
My life has absolutely and utterly changed. To what extent, and whether for good or ill i don’t yet know, but i’ll never be the same.

It’s not appropriate to talk about it yet. I’m gathering information and sitting with it for a while, first. It’s not a diagnosis; i’m not sick. Well, nothing has been added to my current laundry list, and nothing has intensified or become life-threatening, at least. And my primary relationship is solid. So for any of my readers who’re inclined to worry – don’t. It’s a big deal, but it’s not bad. It’s just BIG. I don’t have any energy left over for anything besides functioning in the day-to-days, listening to my body and trying not to dissociate.

But life isn’t a consciousness. It has no feelings or intents or plans. It’s not trying to mess with me. It’s not laughing at me. I’m not a rat in its maze. Life just lives until it doesn’t. It doesn’t care about timing. It isn’t concerned with how many spoons i have in my coping drawer. It just rolls along and happens. And oh boy, has it ever happened.

What i’m going to do here is just update. Just mention some things and check in with how i’m doing. Living stuff. Coping. Processing. Thoughts and sundry.

My physical health is okay. Not great, but manageable. I’m learning to live with osteopenia (low bone density, not severe enough to be classified osteoporosis) by taking prophylactic medication and the right exercise. The result has been a reduction in pain, and far less of the “crunching” that i was hearing by late afternoon. The pain wasn’t terrible, but the noise was quite disturbing. I’m currently working on bringing up my fitness level. I started with walking.

Walking is something i’ve been doing a lot of, since i was able to do it. When we lived in cities, my mother would send me to the corner store for snacks and cigarettes, and out to panhandle. One of the best ways for me to escape from my home life for a while was to be outside, so i was outside a LOT. Whatever the weather, and long after other children had gone home, you could find me outside. When we moved into more small town living, we tended to live far away from the school. We were a wrong-side-of-the-tracks sort of family, so there was usually a few miles between me and the school. Another thing i did to stay out of her hair/way/path (although i didn’t see it that way at the time), was to join clubs. I was in lots of clubs growing up: girl scout type clubs, choirs, drama troupes, sports clubs, military clubs… I didn’t do too much school oriented after school activities, because bullies, but other clubs seemed mostly populated with nerds and misfits like me, so i didn’t get picked on much.

Walking is where i come closest to a quiet state of mind, too. Meditation is beyond the capabilities of many multiples. My brain is never silent, even when i’m dreaming i can pick up background chatter if i’m lucid enough. After decades of having professionals and non alike tell me that meditation could fix a number of my issues (even cure my anxiety, tap into my deeper intellect, and become a spiritual giant!), i finally found a therapist i could work with, who told me straight away that my being unable to meditate at even the most basic level was not at all uncommon for those diagnosed with DID.

Walking is also my system’s response to extreme stress. I was programmed to “go home” if i got in a bad spot, and it’s still a hard reflex inside me. I’ve taken off hundreds and hundreds of times, and probably logged thousands of kilometres.
All this to say – i can walk, honey.
So i’m walking, and it’s good, and i’m good at it, and it’s good for me.

Except for the fibro flare it’s causing, of course. That’s the crap part of it. I’ve been living with this chronic pain since 1995, so i’m fairly educated on my condition, and i know this is to be expected. The key is to increase gently, with long periods of status quo in between. I’ve also taken up some beginners yoga stretching, which i’m finding calms me rather nicely, while warming up my muscles for the distances i put in during the day.

(This is where my dark and twisty sense of humour comes in handy, because it’s just so **ME** to be working on my fitness and pushing through the resultant uptick in pain, while also trying to cut back/eliminate dissociation. I have this built in ability to distance myself from pain, and i can’t use it. I mean, i can, but i choose not to. Ah well, the hard way is just a way in the end, amirite? Heh.)

My diet is good. I’m calorie restricting for weight loss, but i eat soundly. My FitBit is helping with keeping me mindful of what i eat, although i don’t use any of their programs – that stuff can easily trigger obsession in me. I’m just logging my calories so that i can keep track. Sometimes i weigh and measure just to give me a better idea where my calories are being spent. Sunday i take the FitBit off, i don’t exercise per se, and i have a slight cheat day, food wise. I don’t go all out cheat though, because i find that hard to bounce back from sometimes, and i need the momentum i’ve built up to cruise me through while i’m dealing with this overwhelming exhaustion.

Socialising is hard for me right now. It happened suddenly, but that’s not out of the ordinary. I don’t want to go out and i don’t want to see anyone, but it’s slightly different now; i’m less extreme. In the past, i would hole up in my Little Crooked House and just hermit. No phones, no answering the door, no leaving the house except when unavoidable. Now i can see someone if i need to, for instance, i know a lovely woman who’s helping me with eyelash extensions while mine grow out after nuking them and my eyebrows in the Burning Barrel Incident that i mentioned a few posts ago. She’s softspoken and very kind and low key, and i don’t want to scream when she touches my face. If only there were eyebrow extensions. <insertruefulexpressionhere>

A dear friend invited me out to supper last Saturday  and i said Yes. When i got there, my body and brain started acting up immediately, and i knew i couldn’t stay. I did a quick negotiation with my Peanut Gallery: Yo, if y’all will just STFU and let me touch base with my friend, i won’t stay any longer than an hour. So i ordered my food to go, and had a nice chat with my friend while it was being prepared.
That’s some gold standard problem solving for me, right there.

I think what i’m seeing is, i can do one-on-ones, but i’m finding any more than that quickly saps what little energy i have. I love humans and enjoy their company – except when i don’t, and these last couple of weeks i’ve occasionally felt almost misanthropic. That’s a neon sign that my stress level is high.

I don’t like ending on a low note, but yeah… As i mentioned to my online group of friends yesterday, i’ve gotta look up to see dirt. Depression is seeping in, making me sluggish and mopey. These last couple of days i’ve felt sad and alone. There’s some self-pity there, sure. I can hear the sad trombone. But i’m going to allow myself a bit of ass-dragging, because i’ve learned if i don’t acknowledge what’s happening and just let myself BE™, a little, my condition will just get bigger and bigger until i pay attention. I must give it some space to breathe, and move, and act in accordance with my emotions (scared, mad, sad, etc.) and sensations (pain, ache, emptiness, etc.). I must listen to what my brain and my body are trying to tell me.

I haven’t been this down and heavy in my bones for a long time.
I can hang on until therapy tomorrow. Little goals.
My body is heavy and slow, so i do a few things around the house, with long breaks of doing sweet fuck all in between. My brain is foggy and fuzzy and full of low thoughts, so i read for entertainment only, and limit who i share space with, and i curate conversations to avoid topics that will feed my depressive feelings. I’m watching emotional stuff that helps me cry, because tears want to come, but i have trouble crying for myself. I can always cry for someone else, so sappy movies it is. I start crying because The Fisher King or RENT, but i keep crying because holy shit am i ever going through it right now.

This work is hard and it’s taking everything i have to do it. And life just has no heart, no mercy, no grace for me – it just keeps doing its thing and that’s just how life does things and i’ve gotta get with the program, man.
I’m plodding along, but it’s forward.
I’m doing the minimum, but i’m DOING.
I’m standing here on the shore as the tide advances, lapping at my feet, then swirling around my knees, and now it’s pulling me out, out into the deep…
And i’m letting it pull me.
I’m treading water for now, but i’ll get to swimming at some point.
I will.
You watch me.

Love and Peace,
~H~

Baby, I’m On Fire

I set myself on fire last week. Yes, literally.

This last 2wks i’ve been either slidey* or outright switched. I’ve required near constant supervision, lest i leave, or get up to other sorts of destructive behaviours. Unfortunately, after 5 or 6yrs of no interventions, the police and ambulance were called to determine if i was a danger to myself or others. Although it was determined i was definitely not a threat to others, i did a small stint in the hospital, where i received good care. The doctor offered (or perhaps urged, heh) that i stay longer for more assistance, but i was allowed to leave when it was clear i have family/friend/therapist support at home. He prescribed some medications to help ease my anxiety, and they’ve helped.

I saw my therapist and she always calms me. She helps me see my path more clearly and refocus, but unfortunately, she’s a real, live human, with other clients, a family and a life of her own, and thusly i cannot carry her with me wherever i go.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that this stage of my therapy involves learning to feel my feelings without dissociating. I’m not looking for perfection. I’m not looking for “integration” (i’m not even sure what that word means with regards to multiples), but i am looking for a higher level of day-to-day functionality, and a greater degree of healing.

To put it a little more clearly, when i was abused as a child, my brain severed the connections between my thoughts, my emotions, and my physical sensations, in order to survive trauma so great that i simply had no ability to understand, let alone process it. Without connection, without the means to apprehend what had happened/was happening to me, some of those thoughts and emotions, even some moments frozen in time in my mind, developed their own personalities, from flat and static, to a couple who’re more fully rounded than some people i’ve known. (That was snarky i know, but i’m leaving it, because it’s true. Pfft.)

Continuing on then, i leave the safety and support of my counsellor’s office, and step out into a world that is currently full of triggers. I’ve lived my life either not noticing, or quickly dissociating from these things. I had to, or i simply wouldn’t’ve been able to function at all. I would’ve been stuck in trauma-response, unable to work, to have relationships, to care for myself or others, in other words, to participate in what it means to be alive. I myself would’ve been frozen in time.
The gazelle that freezes when she sees the tiger.

The ability to dissociate not only saved my life growing up, it allowed me to be somewhat effective as an adult. However, as time passed i could see it was only minimally helpful, and in certain cases quite harmful. I wanted more from life, especially once i had children.

I learned to live my life as a multiple, the insight into how my brain works making my life easier and better than it had ever been before… Until a little over a year ago. I was living a reasonably happy and successful life, when i suddenly crashed. It wasn’t like my Thelma&Louise crashes of the past, thankfully. (I play both parts, just fyi.) But i wanted to party, which is something i don’t much care for now, and i felt that old childhood imperative that my abusers had programmed into me to GO HOME; a place that doesn’t exist anymore, and would be beyond dangerous for me if it did.

I had the sense to get my ass back into therapy. When i asked her what i was doing wrong, she said, “Not a thing. You are taking such good care of your brain that your body is now wanting that same care and attention.”
My body is tired of being numbed out and alone. It wants to rejoin my brain. It wants me to listen to it as diligently and lovingly as i did my brain.
And i want to. I know it’s the good and right thing to do for me, but it is a haaaard thing.
It is perhaps, the hardest thing i’ve done in my life, to date.

I stay in my body and feel my emotions and physical sensations, while knowing what i know — that i was repeatedly traumatised from birth, until my mother died when i was in my early 20s.

This was a difficult concept for me to grasp, so i can imagine that it may be for others, as well. I’ll provide an example to help explain:
One of my abusers would always jingle the change in his pocket. As an adult, i would often hear the sounds made by coins jingling together, and when i’d hear it i was bothered, unsettled somehow. But the memory of the man who did that was held by a part of me that i wasn’t personally connected to, and so the pain of what he did to me didn’t consciously affect me, it just left me with a vague sense of unease. The reason it upset me was kept from me by both the little girl bit that lives in my brain who remembered, and the part of my body that he had hurt, and while i’ve now connected to the girl who’s held that memory, i hadn’t yet connected to the pain that he’d caused in my body.

So now, today, when i hear change jingling, i remember the man and what he did, but i also feel the pain in my body: the terror making my heart beat faster, the violation of my genitals, the itch in my legs to run away. I don’t just remember, i feel it, and although this may not make sense, in a way it is for the first time.

This has been my life for the last few months. I’m triggered frequently, repeatedly, daily, and i sit with it and i remember and i feel it and i hang on for dear fucking life, until the connection has been made. My Bits N’ Pieces are being reconnected to my body and so am i.
I’ve lived my life playing dead so the bear won’t eat me, but the bear’s long gone and it’s time for me to rise up and join the living.

It’s terrifying, painful work, and i’m physically and psychically exhausted.

So last week, i get it in my head that i must purge the clutter in my house. I’m convinced that i’m drowning my entire family in hoard (i don’t come remotely close to such a diagnosis), and i’ve got to get it out of the house or everyone’s going to get sick and die. While my family’s been great at helping me with this (we’ve been slowly decluttering over the last few months), i had some angry, protective parts come out and start throwing out everything they could get their hands on, including some heavy items that i have no business lifting, given my current fibro flare and the osteopenia in my lumbar region.
Once their rage was spent, as is my system’s way, a little part came out to be a “good girl”, to try to assuage any hurt feelings the angry ones may have caused. She came out to help.

I was raised part urban, part rural, and i know how to use a burning barrel. It was my job as a kid to use it, and save us a trip or 3 to the dump.
But i didn’t know how to do that when i was 5.
She wanted to help, and there was some paper/cardboard trash that needed burning.
So she poured gasoline all over everything in the burning barrel and lit it with a little cigarette lighter.

I was slammed back into the face by her terror and pain and i heard the WOOF! as the fumes lit. I felt the fire kiss my face from my hairline to my top lip. The fire lingered a little longer on my right hand and danced about halfway to my elbow. It took a couple of seconds, no more, but it seemed longer. Every emotion was intensified by me having not been there before it happened.
Which has happened to me countless times, and it’s never not been scary.
To find myself in a completely different situation from the one i last remember, with no consciousness of the passage of time, where in fact it seems like 1 second one thing is happening, and the very next second i’m somewhere else entirely doing a completely unrelated thing… Well, i would imagine that would scare just about anyone.

I singed off a fair bit of my hairline, and most of my eyebrows and eyelashes. (Which i’ve spent time and money regrowing due to trichotillomania. /majoreyeroll) The tip of my nose got it pretty good, so i’ve referred to myself as Rudolph for the last week, heh. There’s a bit of scabbing on my upper lip, but not noticeable, i just feel it. It was my hand that got the worst of it, with significant blistering and lizardy feeling skin across my hand about a third of the way to my elbow, plus 2 second degree burns on my fingers, and a third degree on my thumb.
I’m sure we all realise this could have been much, much worse.

In this blog i share my day-to-days: adventures, misshaps, and ho-hums all, to help myself sort my shit out, to help foster understanding of those of us living with mental illness (like me), and those of us considered neuroatypical (also me). I also write to reach out to those like me, to let them know they aren’t alone, and to offer hope that they might too, find their way to a place of functionality and happiness that works for them.

My point with this post is quite specific, and of utmost importance for me to understand.

Sometimes, no matter how much work i’ve done or how far i’ve come, shit’s gonna happen. I’m not a danger to others – for instance, if i’d been around children, angries and littles wouldn’t have come out that day, only protectors.
But sometimes, sometimes my brain is just gonna do what my brain’s gonna do.
I am who i am, and i’m finally starting to like me. Not just accept, not just love, but i’m growing attached to me. I’m rather fond of myself. I’d hang out with someone exactly like me.
Crazy, broken, occasionally completely dysfunctional me.**
Yes, i’m working hard AF to get to what i consider to be a higher level of function – i’m seeking more happiness and more usefulness and just, i don’t know, more presence and availability to the world around me and the beings sharing space with me in it.

BUT

I’m absolutely fine and right and good already.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*What i call a dissociative state where i’m some level of conscious of what’s happening to and around me, but i’m unable to affect my own actions and have little to no agency – it’s sort of like watching myself on tv.
**I know some of these descriptors don’t work for everyone, but they do for me.

Sometimes I’m Just Wrong

As people with a history like mine often do, i’ve had severe dental phobia most of my life. To have to hang my mouth open and have someone poking around in there, sometimes causing me pain, can be a brutal trigger. As a child, my mother stopped caring about my dental health around the time she was committed; i was in grade one. The only time she’d bring me in was for an emergency, which happened occasionally. I wasn’t much for brushing, which resulted in a few abscesses and a couple of pulled teeth.

Once on my own i just dodged the dentist. I finally paid attention when i found an excellent family physician during my pregnancy with my second child. She urged me to attend to my teeth, which were becoming problematic.
I required many appointments to get my teeth cleaned and a number of fillings followed. Neither the hygienist nor the dentist seemed to realise or care about my severe anxiety, and i was shamed and lectured every visit, guaranteeing more avoidant behaviour. It wasn’t until i was well into therapy with my current counsellor that i finally dealt with my fear head-on.

I found a nice lady dentist who’d been doing it for decades, and i went to talk to her. No cleaning, just x-rays, and a chat about what i was looking at to get my teeth shipshape. I told her of my phobia. (No, really? Like my huge, watering eyes and clenched fists didn’t already announce it.) I indicated as delicately as i could that it was trauma-based. She was immediately receptive, kind and gentle in her response, and assured me that i wasn’t her only patient with these issues. She said she’d work with me, to help me overcome my anxiety as much as possible (at my pace), and to attain and maintain healthy teeth and gums.

I know a fair number of people who use sedation dentistry to handle this issue, but i wanted to at least try to do it without drugs of any kind. I prepared as best i could; going over what was going to happen in my head, looking at pictures i’d taken of the dentist’s office, and the chair that i’d be sitting in, the ceiling that i’d be looking at (they have tellies up there – how smart is that?), i thought of how i feel in a dentist’s chair, and went over the different methods i could use to cope:

– focused breathing,
– body mindfulness,
– reminding myself that the intensity of the feelings are a response to trauma that’s no longer happening,
– stopping the hygienist and asking for a break,
– stopping the hygienist and talking briefly about the feelings,
– stopping the hygienist and rescheduling,
– using an anti-anxiety med beforehand,
– sedation dentistry,
– maintain dental health as best i can on my own, do more therapy around the issue, and try again at a later date.

I was stiff as a board the first time i sat for a cleaning; eyes as big as saucers, hands and feet clenched hard enough to cramp. The hygienist had a soft, soothing voice, and she calmed my jangled nerves with banter about her children, a recent move, a holiday. Her demeanor was quiet and kind, and i knew she wasn’t going to hurt me. Cleaning my teeth properly would take a few visits, they’d already told me, but i never sensed any disapproval from her, and there was never the slightest hint of a tsk or a tut-tut in her voice.

Then it’s time for my dentist to do some fillings, some caps, and even a root canal, to preserve my teeth for as long as possible. Her voice is also soft (i think dentists may cultivate this voice – also smart) but her vibe is jovial, even goofy. Her assistant is sarcastic, with a deadpan delivery, and between the 2 of them, they provide a great service and a show besides, which distracted and delighted me so much that i came to look forward to seeing them. Not even kidding.

I settled in to regular maintenance, and then the recession hit. We had to let go of our dental insurance, and i didn’t want to stress our already squeaky budget, when i knew my teeth were in good shape, and i was now diligent and conscientious with care. We still had a son at home who required extensive orthodontic work, and so i stopped going for a couple of years. When our financial situation improved,  i went back, thinking there’d be no problem.

Oh, but there was.

I missed a number of appointments, for which i provided lame excuses, and i’d call after and reschedule with a self-deprecating chuckle. Six months later i did the same thing, i missed my first appointment and called, saying it had totally slipped my mind and i’d be there for sure next time. The receptionist fixed another time with me, but i noted something in her voice before we hung up – a hesitancy. I felt uneasy.

She called me mid-morning the next day.
She told me that they wanted very much to continue providing me with dental care, but in order for that to happen they were going to require the cost of the appointment up front. She explained that my dentist couldn’t continue losing money when i didn’t show up, that it wasn’t fair for her or anyone.
I bristled. Feelings flooded my body, and i reacted with offense.

“This feels like i’m being punished for being mentally ill,” i said.
“I’m going to have to discuss this with my husband and i’ll get back to you,” i said.

To my credit, before the end of the phone call, i knew she had me dead to rights. But shame is a massive trigger, and i was dissociated and edgy for the rest of the day. It took me a while to bring it up with my husband, but not too long, and he understood right away. I called the receptionist back within a day or 2, and told her i knew they had to do what they were doing. And then i paid them.

I was anxious about the cleaning. I thought about why. It wasn’t just being embarrassed – it was a few things. There’d been a break in my association with them, one where i wasn’t in therapy, and i hadn’t had to deal with some of the triggers that dentistry touches on. I was now back in therapy, and learning to stay in my body during times when i feel emotions and/or physical sensations that i don’t want to feel. I understood why i was dodging. I knew i was setting myself up to miss my dates with my dentist.
I was trying to avoid all the feelings.

I showed up on time, and prepared. I knew i was going to feel awkward and embarrassed, which was normal and appropriate to feel, because i’d done them wrong. I hadn’t meant to, and i knew that. I knew they would all be gracious and kind, as they had always been, and they were. When the cleaning was done, my dentist was there at reception, and she gently asked me, “Do you understand that we had to do what we did?”

I told her that i did, and i told them all that i was sorry. I told them that it hadn’t occurred to me that i was costing her money, or inconveniencing anyone – but it should have, and i was ashamed about it.

She said, “You know, we just wouldn’t have had you back if we didn’t like you so much, eh?” And i could see that that was true.

I could also see that, while i’d fucked up, i’d also done some things right.

I’d been honest about my mental illness and my fears and anxieties from the jump.
I’d carefully built relationship with them, so much so that when i started behaving poorly, they tolerated that behaviour for as long as they could – perhaps longer than they should have done, and only for my benefit.
And when they finally called me out, i accepted responsibility for my actions.
Yes, for the briefest of moments -the space of a phone call- i reacted badly, but i knew almost immediately that i was in the wrong, and why, and that i could and would put it right and it was going to be okay.

I got caught doing something shitty, and i reacted by trying to avoid taking the blame. To assuage my chagrin by haughtily providing an excuse.

I’m not bad – i’m sick!

While that is true in a way, it’s neither appropriate nor is it helpful to apply that in this instance. After i hung up the phone i felt it right away – i was convicted in my heart by a jury of me. I’ve identified myself to these people as someone who lives with serious, multiple diagnosis mental illness. I’ve done so first for my benefit, but also for others like me. I want to bring awareness and exposure to those around us, in service to us and apart from that, who have little or no experience with us (or knowledge that they’re having such – because they certainly are, am i right?), and by so doing, help pave a way for fellow neuroatypicals and those living with mental illness to do the same. To see that it can be done, and perhaps they might do it, too.

I feel the weight of that responsibility. It’s a good weight, one i’ve willingly and purposefully shouldered, and it’s a right thing and a steadying force in my life. It gives meaning and provides balance and even serendipity. I would not so inadequately, so boorishly represent a community that has my love so easily, and needs help and understanding so desperately.

The love and life that i’ve found there made my path clear, and set my shoulders squarely towards it.
Yes, part of the reason why i behaved the way i did was the way i was raised and the way my brain responded to try and save me, to help me cope and to perhaps spare me some of the worst of it, that i might survive. And survive i did – and in these last years, even more and better.
Yes, there are reasons -childhood causations- for my behaviour, but in the end, today, right now, at this moment, i am as free and autonomous and aware as i can possibly be, and i am happy and grateful and relieved indeed, to be solely responsible for my choices and actions.

And sometimes i’m just wrong. And i was.
I accepted the consequences, which were fair, and no one abused me and i didn’t die.

I can hardly wait to screw up again.
Heh.

The Garden and the Gate

WARNING: Contains specific references to childhood neglect, physical assault, sexual assault, and incest. This piece is a bit brutal and a bit odd. Be certain you’re in a good place and/or have good support before proceeding.

Note: I’m very vague regarding the current situation i’m dealing with, in order to protect myself and my loved ones. Stuff can and does happen between me and people i care about. One of the most effective ways for me to maintain a decent grip on my mental/emotional health is to talk and write about my life. This current therapy i’m in makes it even more important to be diligent in cleaning the clutter out of my head. I must listen to what my system has to say and be mindful of their thoughts, feelings, and needs.

While i am the one who’s written this piece, i’ve done so in a highly dissociated state. I wasn’t completely switched (i.e. i didn’t lose time), but there were a few particular Bits N’ Pieces that dictated the more vague, analogy-driven parts at the end. It’s like, if my brain was a starship, the inside of my forehead feels like the bridge right now. I’m Data at the helm, and Captain Picard, Commander Riker, and Counsellor Troi are discussing where to go, what course to plot, and at what warp speed to travel. (Okay, i’m not Data. I’m very emotional today. I’m Wesley, which is fine, because i love Wesley. So there.)

**********

I was brought into the world for a selfish purpose. My mother wanted someone to love her, which is not unreasonable in and of itself, but her definition of love was twisted and sick. She expected me, from infancy, to fill all her needs.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she often failed to meet my most basic needs, like food, clean diapers, protection from harm, soothing, medication/care when sick, vaccinations, play times, clothing that was clean, and proper according to the weather, and warm human contact.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she slapped me, punched me, kicked me, pulled my hair out, pushed me down flights of stairs, bashed my face into walls, doors, cupboards, stove tops, twisted my arm, pinched me, bit me, bent my fingers backwards, threw things at me, broke things on me, even if she choked and suffocated me, sometimes to unconsciousness.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she sent me out on the street to beg for money. Even if she sent me to the store to steal food. Even if she rented out my body for favours and gifts and cash.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she used me as a receptacle for every feeling she couldn’t/wouldn’t express in a healthy way: fear, shame, guilt, and angerangeranger RAAAAGE. Even if i was her vessel into which she poured an endless stream of poison/venom/bile/shit.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she spoke to me like i was a grownup since i remember comprehending speech. Even when she talked to me like I was her counsellor/confessor/best friend. Even when she had me touch her like I was her husband.

And i did, with my whole heart and mind and body. I loved her; she was my world. She was the best mom ever. And no one ever loved a child like my mom loved me. She’d had such a terrible childhood, i knew. She regaled me with stories* in lurid detail, stories that i might have identified with if she’d not already consciously, purposefully, carefully, and skillfully, helped me split apart and compartmentalise my brain.

How wonderful, how fortunate, how blessed i was to have such a special mother. So unique, so highly evolved, so triumphant over the evil that had surrounded her. So decent, so kind, so good.

She told me what to think, what to do, what to feel, whom to like and dislike.
I obeyed, i followed, i acquiesced, i surrendered, i died. I died over and over again, cutting off little bits of myself and shoving them into some black void inside me. Junk drawers and overstuffed closets and garbage bins inside my brain, and yes, i see now, inside my body too. Chunks of unacceptable personality tossed onto a compost heap and rotting, decomposing into some rich pile of shit that started talking to me when i was alone and in silence. Monsters morphing behind those closet doors, mostly muppet-like, but not all. Some terrifying and filled with rage and capable of destroying anything and anyone. Clawing at the door and rattling the knob, roaring to be set free, seeking apocalypse – annihilation.

I knew not to speak about how it was between us when the 2 of us were alone and behind closed doors, but not because it was bad or shameful or wrong. I knew how she treated me was special and we were highly evolved and incredibly intelligent and meant for a purpose. I knew the rest of the world was meaningless, and other people were dumb and stupid and incapable of understanding our ways.
I was indoctrinated, brainwashed, and Stockholmed. Fully. Completely. Utterly.

In the years since i first fell in love, accepted my multiplicity, got fat, got thin, got mania, got apostated, and lost or walked away from all friends and relatives, i’ve come to realise and own and carve out a reasonably functional and happy life from this washed up driftwood – to chip out a recognisable figure from this implacable slab of marble, this obdurate pile of refuse, this intransigent fabric.

It’s been the hardest work I’ve ever done; i’ve sweated and toiled and ached beyond measure to create and feed and grow this garden of mine, and it has yielded the most beautiful fruit.
Yes, i’m asserting that i’m amazing and colourful and worth a great deal. My fruit is too rare and precious to ever be put on sale, or for my location to be marked as a destination, though. One must be invited here, and my fruit is by offer only, although free to whom i would give it.

Another weird post, i know. It protects me and those i would shelter to be so arcane.
I’m HistrionicaButterfly, and i’m multifaceted AF, and sometimes it pleases and soothes me to be poetic and mysterious.
Today i’m being so because i’m sad and scared.
Someone i love is causing me a great deal of heartsickness and vexation.

I have a dragon who lives in my brain and he’s like an angel with a sword in that he oversees and protects all my lands and watches the gate.
I might have to banish someone i love, and my heart feels so laden and heavy and burdened. It feels as if it’s sinking into a yawning pit of emptiness that lies behind my heart. The ache reaches out of the muscle and into my bones; my sternum, my ribs, my scapulae.

This is not what i was born to be, or how i was raised to behave.
To tolerate is not even a consideration, and yet i’ve considered, and i’ve called it by that name. I’ve extended myself in grace that i was assured i never possessed.
I’m preparing to put my loved one out of this garden that i’d tended so long for my mother. This garden that was never hers and was always mine.
No matter how loved or how once welcome, you cannot dig up my flowers, my plants, or my trees. You cannot shit in my garden, and you can’t pick or partake of my fruit without permission.

I’m prepared to send my Dragon-Angel to swoop down upon this once-welcome visitor –to be swooped up by the talons and be deposited on the other side of my gate– to be guarded against as one might an interloper. I’m prepared to harden my heart until such time as they return with hat in hand, to humbly ask for reentrance.

No one, no matter how much I love them, will ever be allowed to abuse me again, and i will fight anyone for my safe space, no matter who they are or what they mean to me.

I have hope that all will be well, and in not too much time.
Nevertheless, i’m as prepared as i can be to say No and bar them from the safety and beauty of the space that i’ve built inside me and around me.

Y’all Take Care,
Love and Peace,
~H~

*Some that i’ve been able to verify, some that i’ve been able to debunk, some that i’ll never know for sure.

Image: Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Thomas Cole (1828)

The Elephant

WARNING: This contains some specific references to childhood sexual abuse and integration with regards to DID/MPD. Consider speaking with your p-doc or mental health go-to before proceeding. Take good care.

**********

I’ve been ruminating over what’s happening to me through this recent therapy.
I mean, of course i have – duh. What else does one do when one is getting their head shrunk?
I’m navel-gazing.

I’ve been in the hospital twice since getting back into therapy this last fall. Nothing as glamourous as being placed in a soft room wearing a sweater with extra long sleeves that tie up in the back.
Just detox.
Not at all pretty, with no romantic wash of the tortured poet.
Just a woman whose demons are so terrifying and whose memories so fantastically ugly that i’ve been hiding in the oblivion of alcohol.

Alcohol and drugs were used to keep me compliant as a child.
I won’t go into lurid detail, but
— Here, drink this —
** SMILE **

As an adult i didn’t have much use for it.
I mean, i could party, but i didn’t much care for the blotto, head-hanging-over-the-toilet, devastating hangover the next day, sort of drinking i saw in others.
I was the one who held your hair out of your face.
I was the one who made sure you got home.

Then came my devolution.
A sweet social worker in service to a crazy pastor at the cuckoo church i was attending was finally able to convince me of my multiplicity.
I fell in love with and married a beautiful atheist.
I freaked right the fuck out and promptly gained over 200lbs.
I had weight loss surgery and lost it all plus more.

And then i had my first bipolar mania, and i discovered booze.
Food and fat had been my medication and my protection, keeping the pain and the fear and the people who live with me in my brain at bay.
When that fell away, i felt completely exposed and vulnerable – but of course i lacked that insight at the time. All i knew was everyone thought i was beautiful and sexy and wanted to be close to me and give me things.
Mostly attention.
Sexual attention.

I was easily lured into working in the entertainment industry. I’d had some experience as a child and enjoyed some success. My mother’s abuse and neglect of me, coupled with her own dysfunction and envy/jealousy, made certain i never got very far with it. I’d get involved in something, get noticed, get offered opportunities, and she’d either put the kibosh on them straight away, or we’d be moving soon to escape creditors/social workers anyway.

But the problem was i wasn’t a child anymore, and my system hadn’t been more than minimally active for a long, long time.

I was quite unprepared to be struck with crippling stage fright. My job came to the rescue because it revolved around making sure people spent money on –yep, you guessed it– alcohol.
Guess what made my stage fright disappear?
Guess what made all the sexual attention i got tolerable, even enjoyable?
Guess what took away the fear of being exposed and vulnerable because i no longer took up as much space?

The booze and the mania swept me along for years. I practically abandoned my children and nearly destroyed my marriage. In a brief moment of clarity (sometimes referred to as a DUI), i realised i needed to get away from the place i lived and the industry i worked in.
The geographical change wasn’t the cure, but it made the disease more easily treatable.
This was the place where i finally found a mental health professional i could trust; i could work with her and figure my shit out and get my feet planted firmly on the ground and begin my slow, dogged plodding toward a decent level of function and some semblance of normalcy.

I got to a place where my body, my marriage, my children, and my home, were all in a manageable, reasonably healthy place. I was even handling my system. I was in the face most of the time. There was a bit of sliding around, but not much switching. I’m highly dissociative (naturally, heh), so i was always coping with that as best i could, but there was very little chaos.
Except for relationships outside my husband and children.

While learning to live as a multiple, i either lost or walked away from every friendship i had, and became completely estranged from any family.
Don’t misunderstand – that is not a bad thing. My life is better for it, but i did want some new friends.
The difficulty was i couldn’t do it.
I had absolutely zero experience with making friends. In the past, i’d just fallen into them, or the other person had pursued the friendship and i’d just gone along with it.
I barely knew who i was, let alone how to be myself and make a friend.

It was then i discovered yet another serious mental/emotional problem of mine – social anxiety.
I HAZ IT.
If i’m the engine of my train, i’m pulling plenty of cars, y’all. I carry passenger cars with a profusion of riders, but i’ve also got more than a few hoppers full of a combustible black rock called ANXIETY. It’s fueled nearly every social interaction i’ve ever had.
I’ve always found it difficult to people, but being a multiple at least made it less obvious to me. Being dissociative tamped down the nervousness and dampened the awkwardness.

And being morbidly obese gave me a doctor’s note excusing me from gym class, indefinitely.

When i found myself out and about in the world again, not just without the body armour of fat, but armed with the knowledge that i was my own army…
I was boots on the ground with no lieutenant and no orders.

Once again, alcohol made everything easier.
HA.
Until, of course, it didn’t.
I found a lot of drinking buddies, but no one knew me, and i didn’t know them. That’s certainly not their fault – all the booze did for me was make it easier to hide myself and therefore less scary to be around people. It gave me the illusion of friends.

Speaking frankly (why should i stop now, and also, my name is Shirley), i know folks who navigate that lifestyle well. They meet at the bar for a few drinks after work, sometimes they get loaded on the weekend, they have friends over for supper and they crack open a few beers or uncork some wine… They do these things with their genuine friends who truly know them and their relationships are strong and do not revolve around drinking.

I couldn’t manage my intense fear and crippling social anxiety without it – so i pulled away from everyone and hermitted in my Little Crooked House for years.
Not to hide. Not to avoid.
To do the work required to learn who i am and how to live as functionally as possible as more than one person occupying the same body. To hang out with and get to know my precious Bits N’ Pieces.
To know myself, so that when i was ready to return to real life social interactions, i would be able to stay present, in the face, in my body, and engage with people.
And who knows, maybe make a friend or 2.

I discovered i could socialise without drinking with no problem.
It was a transformative and cathartic experience.
I pursued a friendship with someone who is now my best friend.

So why have i needed hospital help to detox, twice in the last few months?

My childhood experiences taught me that using alcohol made scary situations not-scary.
This new round of therapy i’m in is all about feeling all the things that my abusers gave me alcohol and drugs to not feel.
The fear, the pain, the hopelessness, and awful, terrible aloneness that they visited upon me – over and over and over again, for years and years and years.

So now, while grownup me no longer needs or even wants the crutch of being chemically numbed, there are little scraps and wisps and snippets of lovely little creatures inside me, for whom that is all they know.

On the way to every appointment with my therapist, my throat starts to ache, i feel like i need to puke, to defecate, my genitals burn.
I sit in a chair in her office with my legs tucked up underneath me and a pillow clutched tightly against me, covering my girl parts – so i won’t run. So i can sit there with her and ride out the pain and the abject terror.

So that i might be more than just in control of the way my brain works.
So that i might be more than just the Captain of this ship of fools.
So that i might be more than just able to function in the world, on the world’s terms.

So that i might be 1 engine
1 retired soldier, a celebrated veteran of a war long over
1 beautiful tapestry with all the threads intricately and astoundingly woven together
1 song, with a thousand voices in perfect unison
Kintsugi
Not just to navigate the world, but to be a living, breathing, integral part of the world.

It’s excruciating work for me, let alone for children. These programmed, invaluable wee ones want their medication. Numbness. Oblivion.
And i have been overwhelmed and exhausted by this process and unable, and yes, often unwilling, to resist their demands.

Today i am detoxed and sober* and renewed.
Sometimes it takes me a long time to learn something, but by sticking with this process i believe i have arrived at a place of relatively calm acceptance of what i’m currently doing and what is coming.
I have gained purchase and am slowly inching towards my centre.

This is the unvarnished truth of it.
It’s enough for me. In fact, i don’t want it any other way, anymore.

Love and Peace Always,
~H~

*Respectfully, i’d ask that there be no 12-step commentary, plzkthx.

Hang On

WARNING: This contains intense descriptions of a current state of anxiety and stress. Know that i am okay, and take care of you.

**********

We never left you
We never left you that day
We never left you
Even though we felt far away
~ Hang On, Amos Lee

I’m having trouble leaving the house again, lately. Being around people is scary. Sometimes it’s physically painful.

My anxiety level has been higher than i’ve ever felt outside of a mania. My heart beats so fast. I can feel my guts burning and pushing up into my chest, my throat, taking my breath. I’m barely sleeping because i’m certain i won’t wake up. I sleep maybe 20mins at a time, and i wake up alive, but i still fight the next sleep with the same overwhelming certainty i’m going to die.

I’m being tortured by obsessive thoughts. How i’ve accomplished nothing in life. How i’ve failed my children. How i’ve been a constant source of worry and concern for my husband. How i never went to college, or travelled, or had a career, or found a “passion”.
It’s been eating me alive.

When i’m dealing with my childhood trauma, hygiene can be difficult. I’m afraid to be in the bathroom, i’m triggered by the shower, the toilet, the smell of soap and toothpaste.
Last week i was either switched or too exhausted to cook, so my family ate a lot of take-away.
There was a massive blowup in my home around the issue of personal safety, and it had been a long time coming. I’m already so tired from this therapy i’m currently working through, that i had zero ability to handle it without switching. It’s not how i would have liked to handle it, but at last i feel heard and some important changes have been made.

I will continue to stand up and demand my safe space, if required to do so. Maybe i won’t ever have to again. Maybe if i do, the fallout won’t be a parade of switching. I have more than a small bit of hope.

This week i was able to cook, to clean my house and myself, but i couldn’t make it out the door for peopling.
So another phone appointment with my therapist.
<insertdeepsighhere>

At least i could do that much, so i’ll take it. And it bore good fruit.
She talks me through, not what’s happened this past week, or what i thought about it, but how my body felt when stuff was happening, and how my body felt as i was talking to her and thinking back on those events.
This is the work i’m doing. It’s constant, and sometimes it’s nothing short of terrifying and brutally painful.

But mostly, when i look back at it, it’s like a feeling of malaise, with the occasional intense bout of vomiting and diarrhea. Quite the image, i know, but it’s accurate.
What i mean is, i feel like shit all the time right now, but the times when i feel so sick i might die don’t last for very long at all.

If i can ground myself even the teensiest little bit with that knowledge, that belief, that experience (because that is how it has indeed always been), then i can maybe, just maybe — stay present in the moment and tune in to my body and just hang on.

–HANGTHEFUCKON–

I also had what feels like an epiphany, and boyohboy did i ever need one.
While talking to her, i suddenly realised that i’ve done all this work before, i just did it with regards to how my brain works.

Now i’m doing the same work, but with my body.
She said, Honey, you are in pain because you’ve done all the work that had to come before you could get here.

I’ve seen myself as a disembodied head when i was able to see myself at all.
Completely disconnected from my body. Nothing from the neck down.
My body exists in the land of the dead. It went there when i was a baby.
It hid from pain, from suffering, from unmet needs.

I’ve done the hard work with my brain, and it’s ready to dwell in the land of the living.
Now it’s my body’s turn. It wants to join with my brain and be alive, too.
But first i’ve got to do this work.

I must feel what it feels while knowing what i now know.

I can hang on for that.
I so fucking can.

We never failed you
Even though we might have felt that way
We never left you
Hurt to see you in so much pain
So hang on, hang on
Hang on, hang on
Hang on, hang on
When morning comes you won’t be here alone
~ Amos Lee

Love and Peace To You All,
HANG IN THERE.

~H~

So That Happened…

Went to the hospital this weekend. They didn’t do shit, of course. When have they ever?

I’m so desperate to stop feeling this way i actually gave them another chance at it.
FAIL.

You’ll feel better if you stop drinking.
I FEEL THIS WAY BECAUSE I STOPPED DRINKING!!

Listen, everyone there was nice to me, and they always are. I got the doctor i like best. But they gave me Ativan and fluids and sent me home.

I’m so anxious all the time i feel like there’s an elephant sitting on my chest.
Oh wait, that’s just my dead mother. Did i mention she was 500lbs when she died and i’d put her top weight easily over 700.
Well, i’ve got my dead, cremated mother sitting on my chest and i can’t breathe and even my skin hurts.

I’m not allowed to talk about what happened to me but i am talking about it and it’s terrifying.
And when i’m not being suffocated by the weight of her evil, and her brainwashing, and her awful terribleness, i’m hit by the onslaught of all the judgment i feel for still being this fucked up at 52.

But today, i did about 500lbs of laundry, so maybe it all evens out?
Also, i made 7-layer dip for supper, because when you feel like i feel, making anything for supper is a motherfucking triumph and it used up a lot of stuff that might go bad otherwise, and i knew it would make my man-thingy happy.

And when he gets home we’re gonna scarf that dip down with tortilla chips until shreds of skin are hanging down from the roofs of our mouths.
Oh, he seriously, really just drove into the yard.

So there’s my week.
I’m breathing and it hurts, but goddammit, i’m breathing.