Blippity-Blobbity-Oops!


Ah, so… I’ve hit my first wee bump with the writing thing. At long last, and apparently surprising to precisely zero people so far (although i’ve only told a handful), i decided to give this writing thing i do a real go. I’ve been at this in one form or another for most of my life, but comparing myself to established writers, both great and small, kept me stuck.

A couple of things needed to happen:

  1. I needed to be functional enough to take on the discipline of a job/career;
  2. I had to believe i have something worthy to offer.

You say, H, of course you have something worthy to offer! Everyone has something worthy to offer! I read your blog and i like it/learn from it/am helped by it!

To which i have invariably responded (in my head, because you haven’t had this conversation with me, but i’ve had it with you many times), Yes, that’s the right thing to say, but is it a true thing?

I got serious about blogging, when i started this on my birthday a number of years ago. I had another blog where i basically disclosed my abuse story to some friends i trusted. As a recently diagnosed multiple (you know it as DID), many of those posts were strange, unsettling, visceral, and i was in and out of hospital while writing them. I was regularly not the one telling the stories, it was other parts of my system. When i’d gained enough control and stumbled across days and days worth of incredibly distressing stories, i was horrified. Mortified. I shut it down and locked it up. I still get a bit hot in the face just thinking about it.

I don’t have many non-internet friends. There are people i’m friendly with, and i refer to them as friend out of courtesy now. It’s a shallow, polite interaction, like discussing the weather (which i’m fine with, to be clear). In actuality, i would say i have 3. Three real life friends. On the internet though, i claim a few dozen. These are people i’ve known for nearly 20yrs now, and they’ve stuck with me through my n00b years, my self-harm, my commitments, my hyperbolic vitriol, and bouts of white-hot rage. The interesting thing is that, an inordinate number of them write. While i only know of one other regular blogger, many are working on a novel, or teaching English, or are successful freelancers, or established writers with proper publishing houses. And they’re good.

Isn’t that interesting?

A few of them have regularly given me a gentle push to write MORE. To write a novel, a story, anything.

Recently, something clicked into place inside me and i said, I’m going to write as if it’s my job.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy.
I know, based on years of introspection, learning who i am and how my brain works, that there is potential for some problems:

– i’ll want to do it perfectly;
– i’ll try to do too much;
– i’ll compare every aspect of my writing to everyone else’s;
– the transition to a higher pressure medium of writing will be difficult;
– i could hit overwhelm and shut down;
– it could trigger a mania;
– i could get switchy and lose valuable time and momentum;
– i could lose functionality in other areas that i’ve worked hard to achieve.

I started off reading article after story after listicle on how to get published. How to get eyes on my stories, how to get added to the best publications, and OF COURSE! how to make money. Each publication that sounded like it might be a good fit had their own criteria to be added as a writer. Then there’s networking, engaging with your audience, signing up for their newsletters and being asked for support money…

I’ve already been added to a couple of lovely publications and i’ve gotten eyes on my stories. I’ve even entered a couple of pieces in a not-small competition. Oh, and did i mention i am NOT techie, but i have to learn how to use a completely different setup?
Pardon me, but the learning curve was steep as fuck.

I resurrect some social media.
I look into upgrading my phone so it’s easier to take nice pics (i suck at it, like, no really).
I try to beef up my interactions with people who contribute to an overall flavour i’m trying to… What, communicate? Sell?

I’m getting up at odd hours to write because i can’t sleep.
OH! and here’s some other things:

– a relationship exploded;
– my husband needed me to work with him somewhat regularly;
– and Mania comes knocking on my door asking if i want to come out and play.

So… That happened quickly.
At least i’d anticipated it. I talked to my partner and a couple of trusted friends.
And then i was stressed at work and annoyed and i got switchy.
I took a fall. Tripped over a light and a thick cord and went down, hard.
I lost the face, and a few days along with it.
It’s just how it goes, man.

I’m quite aware the tone of this piece is manic. It’s full of dramatic pauses and single lines for added emphasis. This is what i’m like when i’m in a mania. I don’t think i’m going to go any further down that road than where i am right now. I have plenty of tools at my disposal, and i’ll use any and all of them. I have supportive people who know i’m manic and we have open dialogue. They have a ticket to ride, and by that i mean they have permission to check in on me any time they wish. They’re allowed any commentary and no subject is taboo. I can’t know for sure what’s coming, but who does? I need to prepare for tomorrow but be as present and mindful as i can be today. Keep my mind on the business at hand, which isn’t being the poster child for how to be a successful internet writer.

I’m going to write for a few publications, only. I’m going to focus on giving them quality product. I’ll interact with my readers a little, when i can. I’ll do a teeny bit of work on my social media, so i guess that means pithy commentary and shitty pictures.
And, pause for effect…

This place is integral to my continued mental health.
If you got through whatever this is, you’re a rockstar — Thank you!

I feel more grounded just plunking all this out on my keyboard this morning. That’s how it works for me, here. Money would be nice, but it’s not my currency. Heh. I place my value in my own mental health, and in being able to help someone see the possibilities for having more of what they want and less of what they don’t. I won’t tell you how you should go about it, but i will give you an unvarnished look into how i’ve gone about it for me.

Y’all hang in there as best you can.
Love and Peace,
~H~

IMAGE: Sarah Kilian

And Just Like That…

I think my mania is over.

Suddenly, a few days ago, i couldn’t get out of bed in the mornings. I mean, i did, because there were things for me to do, but i had to mentally drag my butt outta bed. The last 2 mornings i’ve gotten my husband fed and off to work with his lunch, taken a couple of pain relievers, and crawled back under my blanket. I hide in old dreams, told over and over again. Only the faces change; all the situations are familiar ones. Then it wakes me around 9:30 or 10 – the pull inside to get out of bed and do something, but i’ve been resisting until 11 or 12. Today i got up at noon, pottied myself and my dog, took a phone call and a text with tears streaming down my face, grabbed a mug of tea, and plodded back to bed.

I am here now, writing. It’s something i should do, and i’m glad that i can.
I’m so low, and i feel nothing inside but despair. I’m so sad and so alone. That empty, sucking maw has opened up inside me, but instead of it being in my guts, today it’s in my chest. My heart hurts. My throat is clenched and reaching out at my shoulders, gathering them in. My eyes keep filling with tears. I feel weighted down, heavy and lethargic.
I think this is depression.

This last mania is the first i’ve been mindful through, so i cannot think/write these things with full assurance, but it did seem to be particularly mired in irritability. Everything and everyone annoyed me. I immediately went as news-free as i was able, and dialed back my social media presence, which is what i’ve learned to do, and it’s a smart thing to do. Anything can amp me up; my emotions can go from baseline to off the charts in literal seconds. I’ve been wound very tightly, which was intensified by the mania, but its origins were in legitimate situations.

It’s hard to say for sure, but i feel a bit like a tiger in a cage. Yes, i’m more of an introvert than i ever would have guessed, but i still love my fellow humans, a few of them in more than a kum by yah kinda way, even. I’ve got 1 real life BFF that i can go to for intimate talks and deep connection, but the pandemic… She was the only person i could have had as my cohort, but she needed someone other than me to meet her needs. I live with 2 adult males, so i could go to them for connection and commiseration and comfort… Except i couldn’t. I’m having serious issues with my 2 primary relationships, and that’s where things started to get big and burdensome. I could go to my husband about my son, except things are strained for me there, and of course i cannot go to my son about any of my marriage problems. I have a therapist, and she is the best therapist i have ever had, but we’re financially strapped, and she hasn’t been as receptive as i’ve needed when it comes to my problems with him. I had 1 very close and special online friend queued up for this specifically, but she’s suddenly got a lot on her plate. I am alone, and i feel this in my bones.

I will not be blogging about my marriage issues. I never have, and anyone who knows me would probably be surprised to know that i even have any. But i do, and they are not insignificant ones. My mental illness, my multiplicity, and my struggle for literal survival, and then day-to-day functionality, has taken precedence over all. But once things got markedly better for me and i became fairly functional, the problems were more obvious. I didn’t go to anyone for help, because i didn’t feel worthy. >>I<< was clearly the fucked up crazy woman, and he was the obvious long-suffering saint. Who would believe me? Who would hear me out as anything but histrionic and unreasonable (and ungrateful)? My therapist didn’t. Fortunately, my medical doctor did, and walked me through 2 particularly terrible years. I found my BFF around that time, and she supported me 100%, which i desperately needed. It saved me from the depths and kept me from pulling the trigger on the marriage.

The healthier i get though, the less willing i am to settle, and the less likely i am to be controlled by guilt and shame and the old programming that tells me everything is my fault. I’ve been easily controlled by the aggression of one, and the distance of the other. I back down, i pull inside, i blame myself. And i dissociate, naturally. These interactions and their implications are too frightening and painful to feel – so i check out. Yeah, i’ve felt like i’ve been in a cage, but upon reflection while writing this, i don’t think i am the tiger. I am the prey, hiding in the corner, with 2 big tigers who could eat me at any time. So far, as long as i’m quiet, they only torment me in the hours before feeding time. But if the zookeeper was ever late, or i tried to get out…

Personal growth + mania = not tolerating any bullshit.
I’ve been standing up for myself more and more. It’s been difficult, because in the past, i let various parts of my system handle confrontations and the spectrum of anger. Even those closest to me might be surprised to know how meek and compliant i actually am. I can be a lot of bark, but i have no real bite. Yes, i have a history of being caustic and cruel and cold, but it was a rarity. And it was me, but it wasn’t quite me. Most of the time, behind closed doors, i was easily cowed by anyone who wished to. I was sailing rudderless, on an ocean made of the past, speckled with childlike flotsam and jetsam. Now that i have the helm on this crazy ship, those huge crashing waves that once tossed me hither and yon, have calmed considerably as i navigate more confidently. I look up, to the stars, and i’m charting a course.

It takes a great deal of energy and intent to stand up to someone in a healthy way. I must trust myself, in order to put down the tried and true methods of fight, flight, freeze, fawn, and feint. This applies to anyone and everyone, but especially those i hold most dear. I walked a tightrope through this (shortest ever!) mania, aware that i had to keep a tight leash on my emotions, not make any decisions, but still find a way to take good care, and not allow myself to be harmed.*

Some of my boundaries have become more clear over the last few weeks. Some by virtue of having been crossed, others i have pointed out for the purpose of their edification. One has pushed back a little, but not more than i can take, and the other has upped their passive-aggressive game. I can and will handle both, but i am scraping the bottom of the barrel, here. I don’t have much left.

Still and always, there is cause for hope. This is the quickest and most consciously i’ve ever gone through a mania. There is zero wreckage to clean up. My relationships are all still standing, much the same as they were when it started. Nothing has fallen by the wayside. I’m in my second year of feeling exhausted most of the time, and i’m still managing to learn and grow and move forward. I think i’ve walked away from a mania relatively unscathed. Unfortunately, i fear i’ve walked smack into a depression. I’m not certain, though. Time will tell. If i can yank out enough weeds to see where i’m going, i should be okay. I’m no longer tolerating the intolerable. I will assume responsibility where appropriate, but i will only carry the burdens that are mine. I’m not shouldering the blame for anyone else any longer. Their stuff is their stuff, regardless of who i am and what i do.

I could still take the blame for things that aren’t my fault. I could still kiss ass and/or keep silent. I’m a stubborn, willful, tenacious human who is beyond determined to survive. Yes, i’m exhausted, but when i look back on the first 10yrs of my life i am emboldened and energised. Because if i can live through that, i can live through this. Yes, i’m so low today that i can barely raise my head, but i damn well raised it. My BFF went to the store for me and brought me something i needed more than the pain relievers that i’d run out of – she brought her loving, concerned face, and plenty of air-hugs. After she left i went to my room and cried, and then i changed out of my jammies and got supper planned. I washed my face and brushed my teeth. I’m taking a break from coffee, and only drinking water and tea. I ate something healthy. I wrote this.

Now i’m going to do nothing but watch telly and shnuggle the dogs.
My 2 problematic relationships are going to be what they’re going to be. My guys will think their thoughts and make their choices.
Whatever happens, i’mma keep on truckin’.
I hope you do the same.

Love and Peace,
~H~
* I’m referring to emotional harm, here. I’m not in any danger at all of being hurt physically.

Identifying Issues In Real Time

Like i wrote yesterday in my hey-let’s-blog-through-a-mania-and-see-what-happens! post, i can see evidence that i am, indeed, in a manic state. While proofreading i became progressively more wound up and irritated, until i snapped at both my husband and my son for no particular reason. I apologised immediately and arranged to be alone, so as to avoid any further stress. The extra awareness i have from blogging enabled me to mark my churlishness in real time. While the words and the tone were leaving my mouth i knew they were inappropriate for the situation, and had to do with me and my mental state, and nothing whatever to do with my husband or son.
That’s kind of awesome.
As a highly dissociative person i’ve spent more time cleaning up relationship messes than most. My Bits N’ Pieces can slide into the face and do all sorts of damage, but it’s not just parts of my system. I’ve spent a great deal of my life floating around, not entirely focused on other people, my surroundings, or my situations. I’m sure i came off as rather vapid sometimes, but i was distancing myself out of fear. I expected to be hurt, and between home and school, i was right to expect it.

Yesterday, i knew i’d spoken out of turn.
I knew it was about my mental state and not about them.
I apologised, and made amends by changing the situation to reduce stress. I took some time alone to ground and centre myself.
I reaffirmed that Yeah, i’m acting manic, but i know it.
I can identify the behaviours as they’re happening:
– i saw it in my blog post;
– i saw it in my interactions with my family;
– i marked it in my racing thoughts;
– i felt it in my intense emotions.
I reminded myself how much work i’ve done and that i’ve accumulated many coping skills.
I told myself that it’s gonna be okay and i can handle this –and if i can’t– i know i can and will seek help. I know what to do, i know where to go, and i have excellent, completely trustworthy support.

Today my pinched nerve flared up and it was hard to breathe and move around. I reached out to friends and asked for support by way of funny and/or lovely distractions, which were quickly provided. I took some pain relievers and rested in bed, reading and watching a movie. I easily banished any guilty feelings. When i felt able to, i got up, made my bed, got dressed, did my skin care and slapped on some makeup. I was able to be there for a friend who needed to talk. I taught my son how to make homemade tomato soup.

My husband came home from work early, so we grabbed a drive-thru coffee and talked about our day.
I can still feel irritation bubbling around inside me, but i know it’s coming from me and not anyone else. I’M the cause of my hair trigger annoyance, not anyone or anything else. The knowledge gives me enough inner strength to stand down, take a step back, and breathe through it until it passes. I was inexplicably gripped by panic a few times today too, and i handled it the same way. I acknowledged it, i knew where it was coming from, and i took some time to breathe and tell myself positive and encouraging things until the feeling passed.

Now i’m going to make grilled cheese sandwiches to go with the soup, and i’m going to spend time with my guys and shnuggle my pets.
Today was a fine day.
Looking forward to tomorrow.

Love and Peace,
~H~

IMAGE: Jennifer Burk

Based On Results

After my mother died, my stepfather was left with a lot to process, i’m sure. She’d gotten her hooks into him early, starting when she’d babysit him and his siblings when they were very small children, and then later, when he was an adolescent. I know the sexual abuse began quickly, and by the time he was 15 he’d quit high school and was living with us. When he turned off her life support (a car accident involving a drunk driver), she was 45 and he was 27.

Some time after she was gone, he came for a visit, and said he’d paid for my registration to attend this week long, group therapy/encounter session course. Told me it was transformative. I went, mostly because i did whatever he’d ask of me. That was back in the day when i put all the blame for the abuse on her alone, and didn’t hold him accountable. (It was always niggling around in the back of my mind, though. It was some years before i was able to see that childhood abuse doesn’t excuse one from committing child abuse.) I was still seeking acceptance and approval – especially from a person who’d functioned in a parental capacity for more than 12yrs.

The group was your typical encounter group (i say typical because i have a lot of experience with various forms of therapy, starting early in my childhood). They asked questions like, “What are you pretending not to know?” and yelled at us like they were drill sergeants. One phrase they repeated over and over was, “Based on results…”

For example:
– Based on results, you don’t think you’re worth anything better than getting hit every night;
– Based on results, you’re satisfied with the amount of money your boss pays you to do your job;
– Based on results, you’re exactly where you want to be in life.

In short – they were a bunch of jerks. I ate it up at the time, of course. I thought they were amazing, and even paid for the next level. Most of the instructors were arrogant and sarcastic, and talked to us like we were idiots. That’s just how my parents acted, so i ate that shit up.
But like my experiences with other courses, therapy/therapists, and programs (self help and not), i did learn some stuff i’ve been able to apply. One of those places actually taught me that when they told me, “Take what you like and leave the rest.”
Thank you, i will.

Although the course came at their base concepts with a crappy tone, like, How could you not know this? Duh! i could see the wake up call it could provide me. It reminded me that most people wanted things in life, and they were setting goals and working towards them. I was starting to see that i wasn’t living, so much as being tossed about on the waters of life, no course, no rudder. I knew my situation wouldn’t change unless i took active steps to do so. I’m still being generous to them though, because all the courses ultimately were was what many might refer to as “common sense.” They couched it in the current pop psychology slang, revealed it to us in a strangely militaristic style within school play scenarios. Then they tempted and taunted us with promises of hidden, esoteric knowledge, and the thing i wanted most – to belong. This was an exclusive club, and all i had to do was come up with enough money to ascend to the upper echelons (where i could wear expensive suits and treat people like they were stupid, too!)

Right here is where i could become caustic in my commentary, suffice to say that i have a significant amount of experience with the pop psychology/self help world of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. It’s probably obvious what my opinion is regarding such, so i’ll leave it there. It wasn’t all awful, and i was able to glean some things from all of the steps and levels and playacting. I’ve seen such programs do a great deal of good for a number of people. For me personally, i couldn’t share to the depth some required. I’d been raised to keep some things hidden, and as a multiple i’d done that so well that even i didn’t know a lot of things. Also, the complexity of my problems proved unmasterable by the quick fix, and my past full of religious issues never lent itself well to any membership requirements or steps to success or common referrals to anyone’s god/supernatural beliefs.*

Back to the oft-repeated phrase of my title. While the group’s liberal use of it seems like victim-blaming a bunch a variously broken and desperately seeking people –as i’ve done with so much of that psychological pablum– i’ve turned it into something i can use. Which, to put aside my obviously hurt and angry feelings for 1 darn second, may have been their intention. (Some of them. Others were just opportunistic dicks.)

I’ve recently suffered a fairly serious setback to my physical health. These days i’m limited in what i can accomplish along the lines of housework and exercise. Because these are 2 of the best things i do to feed and maintain my self-esteem, i’ve been feeling a bit down, emotionally speaking. I don’t feel useful, and worse, i feel like a burden on those i love most. I’ve felt like a pathetic slob. I knew if i didn’t address these thoughts and feelings soon, i’d find myself in a spiral.
So am i a useless layabout? Best way to handle the messages my brain is sending me is to meet them head on, so to speak. Heh.

If i were to judge how successful i am based on results… I am fairly successful. I have more than enough of everything i need to physically survive, emotionally thrive, and more than enough mental stimulation at my literal fingertips to keep learning and growing as a human. And i’m the one who built this life around me. A lot of the life i enjoy today is a direct result of choices i made and yes, the toil of my own hands. I have only the people in my life that i want to, and do only that which i want or am at least willing, to do. I am a living combination of fortunate and scrappy.

All to say i now find it occasionally useful to ask myself, Based on results:

– am i healthy;
– am i successful;
– am i happy/satisfied?

The questions, to my mind, encourage me to evaluate what i’m producing.
Am i putting out into the world what i intend?
Am i coming along well, progressing, moving along this path at a decent pace, achieving goals and racking up some accomplishments as i go?
Am i more the person i want to be?
Do i have more of what i want?

Perhaps i’m in the weeds emotionally/mentally. Maybe i’ve got some issues in one of my relationships. I might look inward and feel unhappy and/or dissatisfied. I might look in the mirror and have trouble focusing because i don’t like what i see. Then there are more questions:

Is this a result of either action or inaction on my part?
Is this just life doing what life does?
Is this just an uncomfortable and/or difficult part of an ongoing process?

Depending on the answers there are, of course, more questions.
Do i need to change something?
Do i need to work/work harder at something?
Have i missed something i could be doing, or dropped something i used to do, that has, or might help?

Today, was a slow, decent day. I had to kick my own ass a bit to get moving, but i had reasonable expectations that i based on my current situation. I had an idea, based on the time i’ve spent in this current situation, of how much energy i had to spend. I asked myself, based on that, what was most important to me to accomplish. Then i started at the top and worked my way down, stopping when, based on prior experience, i recognised my body telling me that to continue accomplishing more would likely cost me more spoons than i wanted to use. In other words, continuing to cross things off my to-do list might potentially intensify my pain and/or my manic state.

And so, based on what i know and what i wanted, i finished the day satisfied with how i’d conducted myself, and pleased with my results. Today was a good day. I’m still manic, and i’m dealing with a fair amount of physical pain, which limits what i can do, but i got enough done. Beyond basic hygiene and light housekeeping though, my interpersonal relationships were rewarding and nurturing and supportive for all parties involved. I’m pleased with my conduct, and the people i interacted with are satisfied with mine (i asked).

If i wasn’t satisfied with some aspect of how i’d lived the day, i’d take a look and try and figure out what went wrong or otherwise didn’t happen the way i wanted. From there i’d maybe try something different or try a bit harder or cut myself a bit more slack. Tweaking things here and there to see if i can improve on things.
Then based on results, i’ll change or alter something.
It’s all designed to get more of what i want and less of what i don’t.

Today was decent. As i proofread and edit, however, i can see strong evidence of my mania in this post. It’s a bit nonsensical and rambly, and i’m not sure there’s a cogent point here. I mean, i can see lots of good stuff, but it’s not put together particularly well.
I sat on it for a few hours while i decided whether or not to put it up.
I’ve decided to throw it up because, if nothing else, it can serve as a demonstration of my process through times when my brain function is particularly problematic. Maybe this doesn’t seem as frantic and lost to anyone else. There have been times before when i’ve posted something that i thought was a bit too far out, only to read it later and think it wasn’t that big a deal at all. This entry reads jumbled and meandering and very animated, to me.

So there you have it. I’m manic in a pandemic and this is how my brain’s handling it. I’m doing pretty well, all things considered. I have excellent support and i know that i’ll just keep on truckin’ until i’ve moved through whatever this is and on to the next adventure.
Is this what my grandmother would have called a dog’s breakfast?
Heh.

I’ll check in tomorrow if i can, and i guess we’ll see how it’s all going.
Until then, y’all hang in there.
Love and Peace,
~H~

*I will say, steps and programs and other people’s gods taught me something extremely important, and that is that my path is my own. I found the way to health and freedom and happiness by seeing that i was going my own way, and so is everyone else. They all helped me to know myself and find my voice, insofar as i understood that i want to tell the story of how i have learned to live and even thrive, with the circumstances of my birth and upbringing, and my overarching message is that it CAN be done, rather than HOW.

IMAGE: Amador Loureiro

Ninja Brain

I know I’ve got a tendency
To exaggerate what I’m seein’
And I know that it’s unfair of me
To make a memory out of a feelin’
It’s ’cause I notice every single thing
That’s ever happening in the moment
And I don’t know why it’s consumin’ me
~ I Hate Everybody, Halsey


I am bipolar. I was diagnosed less than 20yrs ago. I have the kind of bipolar characterised by intense manias. My first diagnosed mania lasted more than 2yrs. After that, i plunged into a depression that was as deep as my mania had been high, and it lasted about as long. What followed were years of long, slow, intense cycling between the 2. I could always count on my depression to be inversely proportional to my mania.

I now think that has changed. As i’ve learned to deal with my incredibly interesting brain (if you’re reading a sarcastic tone here, you get an internet cookie), my cycling has shortened and the intensity of each aspect has lessened. Thank goodness. For the first number of years i was in and out of hospital. It was, ah, kind of a big deal. It was part of what broke me down to the point where i was finally willing to deal with my DID diagnosis. As soon as i found a therapist i could work with in that area (hahaha, i used the word “soon”), my issues with being bipolar swiftly took a backseat. The mental health professionals in my area (and let’s be clear, when i started dealing with my multiplicity, i lived in a very metropolitan area of over 1 million), treated DID like a fart in church. Out of all the quirks and eccentricities and generally not typical neurological processing going on in my brain, the dissociation aspects have proved the most disruptive and problematic.

My therapist deals with causes though, rather than symptoms, so it didn’t matter that my Bits N’ Pieces were consistently taking centre stage, because it all stemmed from a couple of root causes. As with anyone, it’s nature, it’s nurture – where and to what extent is unique and individual. Both my manic and depressive behaviours were easily identifiable to me, and i had accumulated a good amount of education from various sources from which i was able to assemble a handy toolkit for that particular flavour of my crazy.* There are some parts of my system that seem to be able to be affected by mania/depression, others that don’t. It didn’t matter because it all wound up being processed by me with my therapist.

Over time i eventually (mostly) stopped even seeing the way my brain works in terms of the diagnoses i’ve been given. Now i just check in consciously every day (more if necessary), figure out where i’m at, and adjust my lifestyle accordingly. I do basic brain housekeeping, fix simple problems on my own, and call in a professional when the job is too big or complicated for me to handle by myself. I’ve settled in to a remarkably functional, daily routine. When the virus hit, i kept my therapy up by phone, but a couple of months ago i felt well enough to take a break. Peopling is the biggest trigger for me, so being isolated has drastically cut down on my emotional upheaval and any resultant dysfunction.

But.

It’s been creeping up in the background, so subtly i completely missed its approach. I saw it for what it was on my recent wedding anniversary. I got too stimulated and became agitated. I switched soon afterward and lost a couple of days. I don’t always need or want a blow-by-blow account of what happens when i’m dissociated, but this time i did. The more i heard the more obvious it became that i’m currently manic. I couldn’t see it when i was in the face, but when switching gave me a bit of distance, it became abundantly clear. I’m extremely easily annoyed and deeply paranoid. I want to use drugs and alcohol to excess. I go from 0-60 emotionally, in mere seconds. I can go from calm to complete overwhelm in the space of a single breath. My thoughts are racing so fast it’s been hard to identify what i’m thinking about anything. And i’ve been chasing sleep for a couple of weeks.
The thing that might have thrown me off the scent of anything being wrong is that my last bipolar episode was also a mania. I skipped the depression part. In fact, i think i’ve been skipping the depression side of my bipolar for some time, now.

I don’t know what this means for my diagnosis. It doesn’t currently matter because the symptoms are manageable and i’ll keep dealing with the cause, as well. I’m wondering if maybe it wouldn’t be helpful to do a daily blog for a bit. It could help with staying conscious and grounded. It could point out if/when i need to call in a professional. It could provide some extra focus and reaffirm my commitment to this work. Sometimes my brain is a ninja.

I have no idea how useful it would be for anyone else. My physical health is in the dumper, and now with mania too, i’m having trouble with cogent thinking and communication. It might be a shitshow. Let’s find out, shall we? Heh.

Love and Peace,
~H~
* I use words that some see as a pejorative to describe myself, because i find it freeing and healing to do so, YMMV.

IMAGE: Matthew Brodeur

Momentum

I didn’t blog the next day after my last post, but i am today, and i feel okay about that. Momentum is good for me, but must be strictly managed. Too fast and mania kicks in, but a little certainly helps me feel better about myself and get more done. It’s a healthy cycle: i do some stuff, i feel better about myself, which lightens my mood, which frees up some energy, so i do some more stuff. And as a gain momentum, i take fewer breaks and accomplish more things between them. I’m careful though, ever watchful for warning signs that mania is seeping in.

I’ll catch it first in my feelings. It’s an urgency, coupled with dissatisfaction.
Then thoughts. It’s not enough. I need to do more. I should be doing more.
Soon, i’ll begin comparing myself to others, and finding myself always coming up short.
I’m not doing enough. I am not enough.

It’s then my thinking can become twisted by the mania, as i compare myself TO myself. All the times that i’ve done all the things and had all the successes and looked and felt and was FABULOUS… All those times that i was manic AF.

I must be vigilant against its approach, its encroachment. Manias are a cyclone that can quickly become a storm and then a hurricane, leaving destruction in its wake. Sometimes the damage can’t be undone. Some of my surroundings, my relationships, and even aspects of my health, are unsalvageable. In my past i have destroyed some lovely and precious things.

I don’t see that on my horizon right now, and that’s good.
I’m more than capable of the proverbial dime-turn, however, and so for that, and so many other reasons, i practise mindfulness and keep watch over my brain, and all my Bits N’ Pieces.

My last post brought me more into the here and now, and afforded me a not insignificant amount of peace. I’m struggling, but i’m okay. I’m in the face, in control. Managing. Mindful. I’m present in my (albeit limited) relationships. I’m functioning at a satisfactory level. I’m silver lining everything, and it’s not forced. The shit is just that – shit.
But the light is there too, and i’m not pretending i can see it.
I’m not stiff-upper-lipping, because screw that nonsense.
Being present and mindful for me means acknowledging the bad and the good. There is balance required in the seeing and the sharing of it, which requires me to pay attention, but that’s absolutely fine because that’s been integral to any long term successes i’ve had in my life.

Dissociation allowed me to survive.
Conscious involvement –in myself, my loved ones, and the world around me– allows me to thrive.

I’m not currently in danger of a mania, or depression, or switching.
I’m here, i’m in it, and i’m not going anywhere.
(Seriously, i’m not. I’m stuck in my goddamn house like the rest of us. Heh.)

Hang in there, everyone.
Love and Peace,
~H~

IMAGE: Valerie Blanchett

Making My House A Home

When you can’t take it anymore
Why not forget the past
And off you run
Baby, run
No more tears, no more mistakes
Why don’t you just check out your bags and run?
Baby, run
~ Run Baby Run, Amanda Lear

I’m hard-wired to run.

My mother would move us every year or 2, without fail – sooner if folks started becoming suspicious, or the authorities came poking around home or school. The abusers that surrounded me also programmed me to return home at the first sign of danger. /irony
Paedophiles love a multiple, but that’s a different story, and one too dark for me to tell today. Once i left home, i never stayed in one place for very long, maybe, 3-6mos, tops. I never thought anything of it, it was just the way i lived. I’d get antsy and the urge to go somewhere else was never far from me. Memory fades some with age of course, but even now i can think of 32 places i’ve lived in my 53yrs.

I had some decent therapy under my belt when i had my first child, and so i had the insight to promise myself that i’d stay in one place for 1yr minimum for his sake. And one year was the best i could manage. That is, until i moved in with the man who’d become my husband. We lived in our city’s ‘Hood in the same house for 10yrs, and we’ve been out here on our beloved Little Crooked House on the Prairie for 12, now.
But still… I deal with the urge to run on a regular basis.
The therapy i’m in, coupled with our current pandemic, has kicked it up to daily, and sometimes many times a day.

My childhood taught me that some shit is always gonna come down the pike where you gotta skedaddle. You smell trouble brewing, you GTFO ASAP. We always left things behind, too. When we moved we generally had to move fast, say, to evade creditors or avoid Social Services. Other times it was due to local gossip – whispers about the huge woman with the husband that looked like a teenager (he was), or the children that didn’t seem to be properly cared for (we weren’t). There were also occasions when my mother would tank a friendship so badly, that she’d move us out of anger, shame, owed money or apologies… She was the queen of the geographical cure.

I learned not to get attached to things, e.g. clothing, stuffies, pictures, various knickknacks and tchotchkes (isn’t that a wonderful word?), bedding, dishes. Even books could be left behind. (Yes, i’m as aghast as you.) Even some lovely things of my grandparents’ that she inherited upon their deaths. That carried into my adulthood. Although i didn’t leave things behind when i moved out –i left places empty and clean– i manifested my mother’s example in a particular way.*

I didn’t decorate my space.
I didn’t put up pictures or paint or have a decorating style. Bric-à-brac was minimal. And i lived frugally, so i’d take whatever furniture, dishes, bedding, and suchlike that i could get. I’m one of those people that has trouble resisting something if it’s free. Number one, i keep my money for something else. The #2 (hahaha – yes i still laugh at poop jokes) that was quietly hovering in the background, was that if i needed to run, i wouldn’t feel as guilty for leaving things behind because i hadn’t spent money on them.

When we lived in the city and were expecting our third child, i tried to decorate. I watched HGTV all day, every day, and became obsessed with painting techniques and decorating. I started, but i couldn’t finish. I seriously couldn’t. I painted the room, did a cool texture thingy with plastic bags and primer, and started putting up a teddybear border close to the ceiling. I thought i stopped because i was pregnant and tired, which i was, but also negative crap like i was fat and useless and talentless. (Honestly, those teddybears were rather awful. Heh.)
I believe now that it’s tied directly to my reticence to set down roots.
Lest they be torn mercilessly from the ground, you know?
No, says my mind.
No, you never know.
What’s HOME, Precioussss?
I didn’t know, and i distrusted the concept, though i saw it modeled well many times outside of my childhood hellhouse.

My husband and i moved  me and our 2 younger boys out of our blue-grey house with the red metal roof, on a relatively quiet street, smack in the middle of the ‘Hood. I was at the peak of my first big mania, working in the entertainment industry. I was partying 5 days a week, engaging in high risk behaviours, and day-drinking while neglecting my children. It would take some time to sell the house and deal with our furious 15yr old who refused to move with us who was trying to figure out how to emancipate himself (and understandably, rightly so). He stayed in the city and we went to live with Mum on the farm. (His mom, but she took me on as her own. She was the sweetest person i’ve ever known.)

It was the right thing to do. I calmed down measurably. I kept my drinking to the weekends when hubs would come and visit. I spent quiet days eating toast and drinking tea with Mum, sleeping, and… And what, i don’t actually don’t know. I was a cavalcade of people taking their place in my face and having their way with my thoughts and body. She accepted it all with gentleness and grace. She mothered my Bits N’ Pieces, and never spoke of it. When i brought it up to her years later, she told me she hardly noticed and every part of me was nice to her and she liked them all.
(Pardon me, friends, while i have a wee cry that she’s gone now, and i miss her so much in this moment.)

That’s a little better. Sister Jeannine was correct when she told me, over-and-goddamn-over, that tears are cleansing and healing. I would roll my eyes at her and she would laugh at me were she still with us.
Ah me, loss is such a bitch.
Sec. Gotta blow my nose.

Anyhoo, the man-thingy made it out to us 6mos later and we moved into the Little Crooked House across the road from Mum. The day my mania hit its apex i had been drinking (i’d returned to it once out of my mother-in-law’s house). I’ve written about what happened at length, and am happy to leave it done. I bring it up to say on that day i tore up our house. I broke things and threw things and did a significant amount of damage.

I’ve been crawling my way out of chaos and dysfunction since then.
Mr. Man works 12-14hrs a day, 6 days a week to support our family.
I turned my attention to raising my children while figuring out my brain and my past, as best i could.

Our house sat damaged; clean but unadorned. We took some of the money we made on the sale of the house and bought new furniture for the first time. I thought i was a post-modernist, minimalist. Ha. Turns out my taste runs to the somewhat masculine, my-living-room-looks-like-a-study, style. Huh. Okie doke. I found myself eyeing a large picture at the local hardware store. It was damaged, and i looked at it every time we went. For months it sat there, not selling, and finally offered the manager a price below what they were asking and he said Sold! We took it home and placed it above our fireplace.
It was my first picture.

Over my years of therapy with my best and current Ms T, i’ve picked up a wall clock and a few tchotchkes. Friends have kindly given me some of that LiveLoveLaugh kinda stuff that i see in other people’s homes. My boys made things at school that i proudly displayed on tables and shelves, and clinging to my refrigerator with magnets. I was almost like a normal, regular mommy. I’ve picked up a lot of mirrors over the years, and Mr. Man has hung a few here and there. (HGTV taught me it makes small spaces look bigger. They were right.)

About a year ago i was shopping at Ikea with my bestie. I’d been back in therapy for a while and was feeling better but worse, as one tends to do when one is doing the therapy thing, i think. Then i saw it. A large, unframed print of a Klimt painting. I love Klimt. No, i adore Klimt. It was one of my favourites, it was on sale. I thought about buying it, walked away, then made myself go back and grab it. I bought it quickly, with as little thought as possible, because i knew that’s what it would take for me to get it home. I also had my husband hang it that evening for the same reason. Progress, w00t!

Still and all, the damage i’d done all those years ago, stayed. The divots and scrapes and holes hung like stark pictures of my pain and failure; coloured in violence and shame. He works so hard i hadn’t the heart to ask him to help me fix it. Plus, i felt i deserved to be reminded of how horrible i can be, how sick and out of control. Bad H. A finger pointed and waggling, poking me hard in the chest. My reaping.

Cue pandemic.
He’s still working enough (so grateful), but his hours are cut and he’s getting some weekends off. Entire weekends, holy crap. He turns to me and asks if i’d like to fix up the bathroom. My eyes well up and i’m nodding as he’s talking about plaster and drywall and paint. He brings home an epic whack of swatches (he works in construction) and i get to choose! He fixes the massive chunk he cut out of the wall when we had a leak, and when i come back to see how things are progressing, i see he’s been patching and sanding outside the bathroom. He’s erasing the damage of my past actions.

Well, i’m a bit of a crybaby today.
Cleeeeansing, heeeealing, H.
Oh look, tears can act as lube for my eyerolling. There’s no click as i look at the back of my brain. Heh.

Work like this has taken me a long, loooong time, but i’m here, i’m doing it, and i’m HOME. We have plans for more paint, and yes, more pictures on the walls. If this madness continues, there may even be curtains, folks!

I’m on my way
Just set me free
Home sweet home…
~ Motley Crue, Home Sweet Home

Y’all hang in there now, y’hear?
Love and Peace,
~H~

*My mother also left things behind because she was slovenly and lazy, and hadn’t a shred of gratitude for anything she had, ever.

IMAGE: The Kiss, Gustav Klimt (1907/08)

 

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.

It Can Wait

I’m eating birthday cake for breakfast. My babe braved the store to get me one, even though i told him not to bother. It’s triple layer, with chocolate and vanilla cake, mocha frosting and that cherry jam stuff between the layers, dark and white chocolate ganache, plus blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, AND some mocha chocolate leaves… So decadent. So yummy.

Because of my gastric bypass, this is my fourth go at it. I can only eat a small amount of something this rich at a time. One of the possible side effects of the surgery is called Dumping Syndrome. It occurs when food, especially sugar, moves too fast from the stomach to the duodenum—the first part of the small intestine—in the upper gastrointestinal tract. What follows when dumping happens is 20mins of heck if i’ve overeaten, or eaten too much dairy or meat. When it’s sugar though, it’s hell. It’s not great (and it’s not what it sounds like it is), but i’ll tell you what, it sure has helped me keep the size of my stomach to that of a lemon. I had my surgery nearly 20yrs ago, and i’ve seen many of my friends who had the surgery too, regain their weight. Some stretch their stomachs, and others do it by grazing all day. I could, and in fact did, regain some of my weight. Some by grazing, and some by boozing my way through a 2+yr mania. I’m happy to share that of the weight i put back on, i have a quarter left to lose.

NOTE: I don’t talk numbers much, because i don’t find it useful. Just know it’s a healthy weight. I’ll go back to my doctor when that happens, and we’ll figure out if that’s where i should be, or if less is required. (As people age, their weight requirement lowers.)

So yeah. Cake for brekkie. A bit left for lunch too, i should think.

**********

Since my country enforced self-isolation, i’ve been conducting all my therapy sessions over the phone. I don’t like video calls at all, i find them creepy. We talk every week now, because i’m in crisis. Not sure how long we can sustain it, what with work slowing down for my husband. Hopefully things will get better, sooner rather than later. Every 2wks wasn’t enough, my anxiety is critical, and i’m tits-deep in the hardest therapy i’ve ever done.

She checks in with how i’m feeling at the moment, and i tell her i was doing okay, but talking to her amps things up in my brain. She asks if i remember our last session, and i have to admit that i don’t. She said one of the Littles was talking to her, the one she calls Peanut. (My system is loathe to give their names, so i don’t know who was talking to her. I don’t suppose it matters, because i don’t share their names, either. Heh.) My Little was sharing how hurt and scared she was, when someone else popped into the face, told my therapist NO! and promptly hung up on her. Her calls back weren’t answered.

What followed were lost days. This pains me to write, but this place of mine is for truth. I don’t describe the sexual abuse. I keep back details of my adult life to protect friends and family. Plus, there are some bits that are simply private – they have no bearing on my story or my journey through mental illness (bipolar) and neuroatypicality* (DID).

I fairly ran down the rabbit hole this time. I don’t know how bad things got, but once i emerged i could barely lift my head. I see a broken wooden tv tray, my bedroom is a complete disaster, and when i hobble to the bathroom i immediately see that i’m covered in bruises. I also quickly discover that something’s wrong with the middle finger of my right hand. At this point, i’m gonna guess it’s broken, but the hospital will have to wait awhile. I don’t know how wise that is, but i do know there ain’t no way, no how, anybody’s gettin’ me to go there.

Once i began feeling a bit better, i made another decision.
When i come back to the face after losing time, i want to know what happened. I trust my husband with this task, but anyone else who interacted with me, as long as i consider them safe, is welcome to share their thoughts and feelings.

Not this time.

I’d know if i was violent with someone, or if i was verbally abusive. These are strictly out of bounds for me or my system. But still, something is wrong. I can feel it, simmering around up there in my cranium. I also sense that it’s more than i can handle at the moment. I check with my husband, and ask if it can wait. He smiles in the gentlest way, and says, Of course.
This both confirms my suspicions, and ups my anxiety. Greeeeat. /s
I trust him implicitly though, and know it will be okay.

What you don’t know won’t hurt you, is an old idiom that many a cranky commentator has had a crack at. Margaret Atwood, my second favourite author, once called it a “dubious maxim”. I see both sides of things. I’m the kind of person who always wants to know. I’m endlessly curious about everything. Over the years, i’ve pulled back my curiosity about other people. I prefer to let them decide what to tell me and and then let their behaviour tell me the rest. As for myself – i want to know EVERYTHING.

Just not right now.
This one’s gonna hurt.
I’m only a few days out of the hole.
I need to be stronger; to have a lot less on my plate before i try to digest whatever it is.

More on my phone-shrinking will follow soon… **

Love and Peace,
~H~

*I don’t consider my multiplicity to be an illness. My brain just processes information and social cues differently. I want to be clear that i don’t know if that fits according to the psychological community. I’m not on the autism spectrum. However, as it is a neologism, i’d like to submit my challenge that it does apply to me. I don’t believe the way i think is sick; merely different on a grand enough scale that i qualify for the term. I also know that bipolar is considered neuroatypical, and while it might be, i see it more as an illness.
Yeah, that might be ironic. Or is it?
I just gotta be me.

**I’m keeping things stripped down and as simple as possible right now. This could be a longer piece, but i’m chopping it into 2, so i can focus on my therapy homework. I talk about it in most of my recent pieces, if you’re curious and new to my blog.

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.