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.

Chips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*SNORT*

Okay, YES. He got chips.

Climbing Every Mountain

How about some random stuff  that’s mostly uplifting?

PHYSICAL

1) I’m well enough mentally to be back to walking outside. The doggos are happy about it. I’m trying not to push myself to walk too much or too quickly. I take it slow, and i’m managing not to kick myself when i think i might’nt’ve  done enough.

2) Still working on improving my sleep. I’ve been experimenting with edibles for over 6mos now. I don’t like being high, and i’m an ex-smoker, so smoking/vaping is out. I find a gummie at night helps me get more deep sleep, which is great, as fibromyalgia makes D-level sleep a serious issue. I also now use an Indica tincture sublingually. During the day, i’m finding a Sativa tincture seems to be helping me manage my anxiety. And once every couple of weeks, i’ll take a higher dose 1:1 (THC/CBD) gummie on a Saturday; enough to get a body stone where i’m actually pain-free for a few hours.
I’m a serious lightweight, so it doesn’t take much or cost a lot to help me.

3) Since i don’t celebrate Christmas and i don’t people a bunch, it’s not a huge surprise, but still… I lost weight in December! I’m at a 12yr low. I only weighed this once in my adult life, after i’d had gastric bypass surgery, and it didn’t last much more than 2yrs, as i became terribly sick with bipolar mania. Medication and poor lifestyle/choices, packed over 100lbs back on.

I still have a ways to go, but i’m not worried. This weight has come off slowly, and with the exception of a couple of benders where i gained booze weight, it’s stayed off. It’s taken decades of gathering information and learning who i am and how i work to find a healthy, flexible plan where i don’t feel deprived and can go anywhere and still eat.
Food, weight, and body image no longer control me. That is one hell of an accomplishment.

MENTAL

1) I’ve learned an interesting and helpful skill. Now that i have a better idea what i like/want and don’t like/want. Now that i’m not constantly trying to avoid pain and rejection through compulsive people-pleasing. Now that i’m setting healthy boundaries for myself and the people i interact with.

I tell people what’s going on with me, and it works. It helps me with grounding and being present, and it gives whomever i’m engaging with a chance to understand and offer sympathy/empathy. I’m strong enough now that, if they don’t respond optimally, that’s fine. If they do, all the better. But i treat myself and my system with care and respect, which is good for me. And i think i’m a good representative for people like me. Not multiples specifically, but as someone who lives with mental illness (Bipolar Disorder). I will sometimes make mention of being neuroatypical (DID), but rarely. I’m not looking for attention or controversy, and multiplicity can shift the focus from where i’d like it to be. I want the world to see that there are people dealing with serious mental health issues all around us, every day. We are rarely dangerous, the same as non-crazies. Sometimes our brain glitches, or we’re low on or missing a certain chemical, or we process information differently.
I’m not “normal” in the strictest sense, but i am insofar as everyone of us has issues in our lives to deal with. We all have burdens to bear. And we are all unique individuals.

I’m tearing down my walls* and building bridges.

2) I’m exercising my brain. My head has been stuffed so full of commentary from my system that i haven’t had much room for growth intellectually and creatively. These days i’ve removed enough clutter to clear a nice space where i’m putting reading and writing and stimulating conversation. I feel kinda blossomy.

*Thoughtfully and carefully, while still maintaining appropriate levels of safety and privacy.

PHYSICAL/MENTAL

1) I’m practising yogic breathing, the 4-7-8 method, every night at bedtime, and sometimes to deal with anxiety. It relaxes me, keeps me in my body, lowers my heart rate, and gives me an experience of self-care. The alarm bells and strident voices inside me quiet down. I derive power and determination and pride and healing and connection from this.

2) I’m taking more time with my appearance. It’s not the old way, where i’d obsess and viciously pick at myself as i compared my looks and my body to everyone else’s. It’s more about learning how to touch my face and my body without leaving. I still recede from my face (i sort of mentally slide to the back of my brain and watch from a distance), but it’s not as far. I still feel a bit floaty while touching my body below the neck, but i can now remember showering, i give myself a conscious look when i’m drying off, and i talk to myself some while i apply lotions and creams and serums, etc.
The self-loathing and disgust are fading. Actually fading.

3) I’m trying to address body memories. It’s hard, as i’ve been ignoring myself from the neck down for over 50yrs, but it’s becoming clear to me just how important this work is. I can feel change happening inside me, deep down. I have some confidence, some pride, some love for my physical self. I feel stronger. I feel like i fit in my skin more comfortably. I matter to myself in more than just a survival way.

I’ve been so numb/dead for so long, being more present in my body can be intense at times. When i get cold, i’m instantly freezing, and when i’m hungry, i’m starving.

When my genitals burn i soothe myself with incontinence pads i’ve sprinkled water on and keep in the freezer.
When my legs or feet are itching to walk/take off, i take my dogs for a walk, or if the compulsion is particularly strong (in other words, i might literally hit the highway and hitchhike), i get on the treadmill.
When my throat burns i have a hot drink or treat myself to a popsicle.
When my hands cramp up or feel like they’re being stabbed with an ice pick i rub them with lotion, or even put winter gloves on in the house.

4) I’ve set down some boundaries around the safety of my body, difficult ones, but they feel right and important. I’m not having as much trouble maintaining them as i thought i would. No more touch that makes me feel yucky or ugly or used. I’m treating my body like it’s beautiful and precious.
Which it is.

There are some massive changes on the horizon. Hard changes. Things i wouldn’t have chosen, things i’m scared of, but for the first time i think i just might get through it and not be miserable.

I share this for the same reasons i share anything – for myself, and for you.
This keeps me focused and committed, and greases my wheels a bit.
I hope this keeps you hanging on.
The journey is for life, at least it is for me. A lot of it is plodding along, investing the time and energy, sometimes for the hope that hope will come, sometimes just because i’m stubborn AF. My experience has taught me that moments will arrive, when i can look back and see how far i’ve come and be amazed and proud. I’ve climbed many mountains, and those peaks… Well, they’re indescribable i guess, but i get to sit a spell and drink in the view.
And those moments are worth everything.
Those moments fill me with joy and purpose and renewed strength and dedication to continue.
Climbing, ever climbing.

On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

 

 

Cloak of Invisibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, and 100lbs heavier.

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

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

Heh.

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

*Relatively speaking.