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.

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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.

Huh.

I missed my last counselling appointment… Kinda. My body was there, but i was not in the face.* At the time, i was in full-on chaos mode, and my therapist had to deal with some Littles and some Angries. Yesterday, she filled me in on how it went. I came in small, got very big and pissy, and tried to leave.
I’m a leaver, a take-off-er, a skedaddler of the highest order. I get stressed, anxious, scared, and i vacate the face and then the premises. Fortunately, my therapist deals with people like me for a living, and has done so for more than 20yrs. Apparently, she used mom-voice on me and it worked.
Mom voice.
Huh (not the question huh, the onomatopoeia huh). Who’da thunk it?

She ordered me to sit back down, told me i wasn’t going anywhere, and then informed me she was putting her weighted blanket on me.
Dudes – i do NOT do weighted blankets. I do NOT like any heaviness on me at all. In bed, i’ll usually even throw off the duvet and just use the sheet, my nightwear, and my husband’s body heat for warmth, because the weight on me triggers anxiety.**
Apparently, i tolerated it, and although i pouted and wore a sour face, i admitted that it made me feel a bit better.
Huh. Well, don’t that beat all?

While i don’t remember arriving there or leaving, when she described the part of the session with the blanket a bit of it came back to me. Sometimes, i’m completely gone when someone else is in the face, and i can’t find/feel an internal connection to the goings on being related to me, that i was involved in. Sometimes though, i’m not fully switched, and it’s like i’m in the corner of my brain, half asleep. When i’ve withdrawn but not left completely, a report of events can often trigger some recollection, or at least a tangible emotional connection. It’s like when you burp hours after a meal and are reminded of what you ate, maybe? Heh.

After the update, she asks me how i’m doing. I shrug and say, “Meh. But it’s a good meh.”
And it is good.

I think (hopehopehope) i’ve emerged from this period of pure, unadulterated panic that i’ve been operating in. It might be more accurate to say i’m hoping to avoid another one, because i don’t feel panicky, although my sense is that it’s not as far away as i’d like. These last few months have been exceptionally difficult as far as my mental health and maintaining a decent level of day-to-day function are concerned.

Way back i knew what i was undertaking was going to be hard, but not this hard.
I knew it was going to hurt, but not this much.
And i knew it would be scary, but didn’t anticipate abject terror.
I suppose i couldn’t have known until i was in it, and i was as prepared as i could have been. I’ve put in one heckuva lotta work.
It ain’t easy to bring a dead body back to life.

Yes okay, i’m the first one to admit i’m a bit on the dramatic side (my name is Histrionica after all), but when you spend most of your first decade of life literally trying not to die – i think you get some accommodation. I gave myself permission regardless, and i try to keep it on a relatively short leash, except in times like these. Therapy. Digging deep. Performing surgery on myself hurts like a motherfucker, and i get to emote, damn it.

Reestablishing the connections between my brain and my body is the hardest inner work i’ve done to date, and i’m never not exhausted.

Let’s backtrack a sec.

I was raised religious, but more than that, i was created by my parents to be obedient, above all other things. So, although i’d had it suggested to me a number of times, i rejected the MPD diagnosis (never went back to any p-doc type that suggested it). Dogma said it didn’t exist, and my mother both counted on me being multiple, and relied on it being hidden from me that i was one. It wasn’t until my mother’d been dead for some time that i considered it. When the social worker from my church who was counselling me told me i clearly was, and the psychologist who also attended our church agreed with her diagnosis, i finally accepted (or at least began the process) that i “had multiple personalities”. (Ooh, that stuff in quotes makes me cringe hard. I’ve developed my own slang surrounding multiplicity over the years, or i might never have been able to talk about it; my reaction to commonly used words and phrases regarding it is still so visceral.)

The lady who treated me was kind and sweet and worked with me for a few years, but it was still heavily centred on our shared faith. I think i was switched most of the time. I was starting to believe i was a multiple, but i still wasn’t really aware of it happening. Along the way i had weight loss surgery, became an apostate, and stopped seeing her.
I also went batshit crazy.

The bipolar disorder became obvious first – being thin for the first time in my adult life brought up a tonne (harhar) of issues that being in a food coma and surrounded by a wall of fat had kept at bay. Before the year following my surgery was up, i was tits-deep in mania. Mania is characterised as “a state of heightened overall activation with enhanced affective expression together with lability of affect” (Source: Wikipedia), and labile is an adjective meaning unstable, fluctuating wildly. Sounds about totally, yep, uh-huh.

It is my uneducated and purely experiential opinion that the mania blew the doors off in my brain that were keeping me from knowing my system, and kept them somewhat controlled in their behaviour. What followed was a free-for-all that kept me scrambling for the face, for years. I barely slept and mostly ran on booze and drugs and manic juice.

Back to present, now.

The thing that has thrown me for a loop is just how much i dissociate. I had no idea until i took on this work of being as present in my body as i can be, which becomes harder the further i am from the face, that i’m at a measurable level of dissociation most of the time. This all leaves me invariably exhausted, with no special juices to keep me going.

So i tell my therapist about how tired i am, and how much my body hurts, but how the fear no longer has me in a chokehold, and i’m strangely fine with it all. I say i think i might have an idea why that is, and i share my hypothesis.
That’s for next post, though.
Have the best week you’re able to, and i’ll do the same.

Peace and Love,
~H~

*For the uninitiated, “in the face” is a phrase i use to describe who’s currently in control of my system, i.e. the part who’s seeing/speaking and has physical agency.
**Upon proofreading, that’s a bit of a misnomer. I also sleep on an old disco waterbed where i keep the heat cranked – it helps my fibromyalgia pain. So i’m nice and warm and don’t need the duvet, even if i was fine with the weight of it.

Well, Ain’t That A Kick in the Head?

Mid-October 2016 is the last time i wrote about my physical pain at any length. It hasn’t gone away. In fact, it’s been steadily, yet thankfully slowly, building since back then. This new therapy has intensified my fibromyalgia pain, but it’s more than that. Sure, pain can be based in psychic trauma, and the stresses of day-to-day living can amp it up, but there’s more going on.

I’m just not dissociating as much.

I’ve done all this work and it’s brought me here. I know i refer to it in nearly every piece i write, but i’m not sorry for the repetition. It’s important, i think, to hammer it home for anyone reading my blog. It’s one of the most important things i want to get across. Not that this kind of thing takes a lot of work; this dealing with childhood abuse, and the way the brain and body copes with the devastation.

You already know that.

What i’m driving at is that it’s all work that we’re doing – this surviving it.
It’s all good work.

I hurt, and i had a dysfunctional and unsatisfying life and i wondered why.
I thought about it and i asked questions and took suggestions and tried things. And then i thought some more and i talked to people – professionals, friends, mentors, religious and lay folks, gurus, anybody… everybody. And then i thought some more. I pondered and i marinated, and i tried some more stuff and read books and went to lectures and joined groups and took courses, and i drew a smidge of wisdom from this and a pocketful of encouragement there and a wee cup of self-awareness from that, and i kept on going.
I picked up tiny jewels of truth here and there and i locked them up in a vault inside me, guarding them carefully, watching over them like treasure, like innocent babies who only had me to keep them safe.

All this movement, all this questing, all this work, all this surviving i did over the years, and yet i despaired a thousand times that i was getting nowhere, changing nothing, and learning little, fearing that i would be forever lost and broken and rudderless.

I kept looking back and seeing only the passage of time and my footprints.
Plus lots and lots of mess.
There were times i stopped. Sometimes frozen with fear, sometimes collapsed with exhaustion, sometimes consumed with rage, and many, many times weighed down to immobility by the cruel and crushing weight of my past.

But i learned to weather those tonic storms, to honour them, and as i’ve worked and persevered, i’ve drawn closer to the light.

There’s enough light now that i can look back and see, with emergent clarity, that nothing i did or did not do was in vain. All the mess was garbage that needed to be tossed: structures that needed to be torn down, toxic relationships that needed to be ended, hoarded memories that needed purging. The swamps filled with poison that i swam around in – it was poison that had washed out of ME, and i left it behind when i finally crawled out, cleansed. It was all good work.

Because i sought, because i wanted, because i tried, it all mattered.
Here, in this moment, i have both peace and confidence. I am, at last, at a place where i am no longer at the whim of unconscious and reflexive coping skills and protective actions that ceased being helpful long ago.
I am leaving behind my life in the land of the dead, and moving into the light, to live with the living. Yes, there are bits and pieces of me that are still afraid, but i’m not anymore.
I’m no longer stuck in a feedback loop, replaying the horrors of my past.

I’m in this current bit of business now because i want to be. I’ve done enough to manage and be okay, both for myself and my loved ones. But i want MORE. I want the next level, whatever it is that is more than just enough – and i suspect that is usefulness.

And to that end i am telling you, that i think, that as long as i keep seeking and wanting and trying, that nothing i have done or not done will be in vain.

**********

I was talking about physical pain. Right. Heh.

I was officially diagnosed with fibromyalgia in early ’98, after a car accident in August of the prior year. I tried many different treatments, all to little or no avail. I suffered tremendously – and then suddenly i didn’t. I mean, i still had pain, for sure, but it wasn’t like before. The intensity lessened and i was no longer consumed by it, every day, all day, where it even chased me into my dreams and i would moan and cry myself awake.

At first i thought it was a supplement i’d been given to try, but when that stuff was scientifically debunked, i stopped taking it and my symptoms did not intensify. I still had the occasional flareup, but my pain levels didn’t spike nearly as high as they had. I thought maybe i’d just become acclimated.
I watched other people with the diagnosis suffer far more, and i told myself i was fortunate to not’ve been afflicted as terribly as they.

This was shortly after my massive weight loss, the mania that followed, and the more conscious and chaotic experience of my multiplicity that quickly took hold of me whilst in that state.

It’s probably obvious where i’m going with this, but i’ll spell it out anyway.

As i’ve become sounder of mind and clearer of purpose, so has my pain become bigger and harder to ignore. I’ve tempered the voices in my head and adjusted their various volumes, only to have the confusion they brought replaced by so-called “fibro fog”, which happens when pain saps my energy and robs me of deep sleep.

I remember my doctor sending me to our city’s FMS specialist, for an official diagnosis. I don’t know if it’s still done this way, but one of the things he checked was my response to certain trigger points in my body. All but 2 of them were very tender.
The pain was terrific, sometimes all i knew. There were days i couldn’t move without tears. I gained a prodigious amount of weight. I slept my days away, yet never felt rested.

Then i had another baby and i needed to do better. So i had weight loss surgery, and well, i’ve already mentioned here what followed: thin begat bipolar mania begat dissociative chaos begat a parade of people who live in my brain coming out to experience life in the face and wreak not a small amount of havoc.
But my fibro had become easily manageable. I figured the weight loss had done it.

I spent years learning how my brain worked and how to coexist with my Bits N’ Pieces and live a decently functional life.
And i got there and thought i was done.
But i wasn’t satisfied after a while, and more than that, i became unsettled, my carefully constructed wa was rattled. I then did what i do — i thought about it and went looking for answers and for help finding them.
And what i found was that there was more work to do if i wanted, and i knew right away that i did.

This work involves being in my body and feeling my feelings -both emotions and physical sensations- while being present in my brain and listening to what it’s saying. My thoughts and my emotions and my sensations have been disconnected from each other since i was a baby enduring trauma.
I’m bringing myself back together, and the physical pain is a sign that it’s working.

Well, ain’t that a kick in the head?

It’s all coming back to me now. The pain, the insidiousness of it, the gaping maw of it. I see how it swallowed me whole back then, and i looked up hopelessly from the bottom of its belly as it slowly digested me.
This time ’round it’s different.
The pain is still incredible. I’ve woken to a painful throat from moaning in my sleep. Mornings are awful, the pain and the stiffness at times barely tolerable. I often wake as tired as i was when i fell asleep, or more. It’s advanced in severity over the years, quietly and unbeknownst to me. I can feel it seeping into the bones of my hands, like i’ve been in subzero temperatures with no gloves. I was recently diagnosed with osteopenia in my lumbar region, and i can feel the fibro ache radiating like an electric sun. I’m going in to see the doctor after a bunch of tests that were ordered because i’m now telling her about things i used to ignore, like chronic UTIs, like plummeting blood sugar, like maybe tennis elbow?

And friends, writing is a misery. I have little energy, and my brain is cloudy. I can’t find the words to formulate a cohesive sentence, and i get frustrated and tired out so quickly. Grrr. Argh.
But i’m learning too, and it’s not as hard as it once was. Because i’m in my body and feeling the pain, i can figure out where and how much i can push through it. I’m finding ways to still have the quality of life i desire, according to my current set of limitations. I’m being reasonable, and careful, and conscious. One of the most helpful things i’ve learned over the years is that small tweaks over time is what works best for me. Don’t push too hard or too fast, jumping in with both feet doesn’t tend to work well.

All the work i’ve done prior is coming into play. The small tweaks, the slow pace, the mindfulness, sharing my thoughts with a safe person, breathing, gentle self-talk, hygiene, and today, finishing a piece for my blog in spite of wicked pain. A piece that took many more days than i’d wish, but a thing that wouldn’t have been conceivable, let alone doable, all those years ago when fibromyalgia first made a meal out of me.

One more thing – i thought the urge to dissociate from this pain would be a constant battle, but amazingly, it’s not. Once again, i believe it’s all the work i’ve done that’s making this possible. I’ve been careful and diligent with the others who live with me in my brain. I’ve gotten to know them and addressed their concerns and met their needs as much as i’m able, thus winning their trust and earning their compliance and assistance. We’re as close to one mind as we’ve ever been, and so my desire has become theirs. My work, their work.

I’m not looking to suffer, i don’t think there’s anything redemptive or rewarding to be found in it, but it’s what some people do, every day. They learn to cope, to live, with suffering and pain, emotional and physical. They don’t leave their bodies, they don’t perform psychic surgery on themselves, they don’t play dead – they deal with it.

I want to be more like regular people, like normal people. Let me immediately follow that statement by saying a couple of things:

1) I don’t want to hear about What’s normal? Who’s normal?
While i grok the sentiment behind it, i know what i mean when i say that – to be just a little bit more like other people. You are of course, free to not want those things.
And,

2) I’m both mentally ill and neuroatypical, depending on your definitions, and while i’d love to ditch the Bipolar Disorder, that’s not how it works and i’m okay with that. Being a multiple is considered by some to be more neuroatypical than a disorder, and although i’m moving in a direction that some might call integration, i personally don’t see how my brain works in that regard as a “disorder”.
NOTE: I am not a professional, these are just the thoughts and feels of someone living with it, not someone who’s gone to school to understand and treat it.

I want to live as present a life as i can, including feeling pain, both physical and not.


Yeah, i’m still a bit crazy.
I like me this way.

IMAGE: Without Hope (1945), Frida Kahlo

Uh-Oh

The irrational in the human has something about it altogether repulsive and terrible, as we see in the maniac, the miser, the drunkard or the ape.
~ George Santayana

Now that i’ve mapped out how i was indoctrinated and gaslit into thinking i was a bitch my whole life, and how i figured out that that just ain’t so, on to the next…

Another scary thing sits on my horizon. She looks like some kind of ape or monkey. Sometimes she’s sitting there crosslegged, with a massive grin on her face, her teeth too many and too big, and sometimes she gets up and does a goofy dance – a shuffle and hitch, toe-to-heel thing. If you’ve seen that cartoon orangutan dancing GIF, you’re there.
She’s Mania, and she wants to come out and play.

I’m not just a multiple, i’m bipolar. I don’t generally use “DID”, because i don’t see being a multiple as a disorder. My experience being bipolar though, definitely warrants the term. A brief history:

I wasn’t diagnosed until around 2006, in my late 30s. That might seem odd, and well, it is, but so am i. Heh. Being as involved in self-knowledge and therapy as i am, i think i, and the medical professionals involved in my diagnosis, have figured out why it took so long.

Fat.
I’ve had disordered eating since birth, being regularly starved, bribed, placated, and rewarded with food. I hit chubby at around 8yrs old and worked my way up to morbidly obese after i got married at 30. Food was my antidepressant and anxiety medication, and the resultant fat was my protection from people and the world around me. Fat kept me warm and insulated from the chill of rejection, and it put a wall between me and sex and sexual attention.
More than that though, i think it kept my system in a drug-like stupor. It fed the starved bits and numbed those born of sexual trauma, and shushed the angry ones.
I used food as a drug to take the edge off of the intensity of my thoughts, my physical sensations, and my emotions. I self-thorazined with fat and sugar. I over-satiated myself into an emotional coma. Zombified.

Seeing Carnie Wilson have gastric bypass on the internet woke me from my slumber, poking me with the sharp stick of possibilities. I might not be stuck in my ever-growing wall of bloated flesh. I had a vague, Suzy Creamcheese notion that losing the weight would help me get rid of emotional baggage. I had no clue whatever that a literal maniac (n. A person who has an excessive enthusiasm or desire for something, n. A person who acts in a wildly irresponsible way) lie dormant inside, awakened and gradually set free, her prison bars dissolving as the fat melted away. A dancing baboon.

I lost the weight quickly, and thoroughly, hitting my first big goal within a year.* I’d joined a club with others who were also seeking surgery, and we stuck together as one by one, we grabbed for what we all hoped was the brass ring. It was, for me, and though food, eating, weight, and body image will likely always be something i must be conscious of and deal with, i’ve never struggled like i did before WLS, nor have i felt hopeless, nor experienced the extreme end of disordered eating since.

I saw other women losing the weight alongside me, and i watched their lives do a 180. From shy, quiet hermit-types, to bombastic thrill-seekers. From a wardrobe consisting of dark colours and drapey, flowing fabrics to body conscious, flesh-hugging outfits and vava-voom. Makeup and hair and nails all done. Strap on some high heels and get yourself to the club gurl, your look is on point!

It looked like a lot of fun.
To a woman who’d been overweight since elementary school – it looked liked redemption and revenge, too.

The attention came at me hard and fast once i hit my first weight loss milestone. Everyone was nicer, and people wanted to do things for me. People like attractive people, and i was closer to societal beauty standards than i’d been since i was 8. So i had doors held open and was let in quickly during traffic jams and everyone smiled at me, and men…
Men wanted to carry my packages, and men wanted my attention at stop lights, and when i strapped on those heels and went to the club, all the chairs around me were taken and all my drinks were free. Because men.

That’s heady stuff for someone who was as wounded by school as i was. I never had a boyfriend, nor any male-peers’ sexual attention, save the odd grope that occurred from time to time. Always when no one else was around (and always followed by shock and anger when they were rebuffed, thanks to my system). I’d known i had a traditionally attractive face, but since my weight gain around grade 2, the information came with a sad trombone playing at the end.

You have such a pretty face /wahwahwaaaahh
<insertsighandlookofpityhere>

or

You’d be hot if you weren’t fat. /pickupline (No, i’m not joking.)
I could pity-fuck you. You know, if you want…

I’d never been pursued, so when men stopped in their tracks and stared at me or whistled when i walked by – it was a thrill. That hurt, angry schoolgirl inside me felt vindicated.
And then i got offered a job in the entertainment business and i took it, and the performer that had been stifled by parental interference and fat felt like a star.
I felt beautiful and sexy and wanted and i was the centre of attention. Any fear that came up or parts that were triggered as a result of it all was dulled, muted by alcohol, or handled by parts that were made for men who wanted sex from me. Parts that acted sexually sophisticated, or childishly naive, depending on what seemed to be required.
I was 10ft tall and bulletproof.
I was a dancing baboon.
I was manic AF.

What followed was a rather epic, and painfully pathetic disaster. I was spending all my time and money on myself, and my children and my husband suffered for it. I was in and out of The Bin, medications, detox, therapy, and facilities for long term care for crazies and boozers, too.

I was disordered, that’s for damn sure.

A geographical cure followed, which helped some. Then finding a therapist i clicked with helped ever so much more. Oh, and maybe regaining about a third of the weight i’d lost played a part, too. Which brings me to today, and that grinning primate. I figure i’ve lost about half of what i’d put back on, and that, coupled with this new work i’m doing, has been making me feel a bit giddy.

I’m pleased with myself – proud, even. The 2 manias i’ve experienced since being diagnosed were long and intense. Cleaning up the wreckage afterwards taught me a lot; i know how mania feels. It’s like the first time i ate raw onions. I hated them, and they made me retch, so i avoided them as much as possible over the years. But even though i rarely ate them, i sure knew when one had snuck its way into my salad or sandwich.

I remember mania, and i can taste it in my brain-salad.
Here’s the thing: i don’t hate raw onions as much as i once did. My guts don’t heave at the once dreaded crisp bite and strong smell. Sometimes, i don’t even ask for them to be left out, and sometimes i even add them to something i know i’m going to be eating. I’m wondering: do i search through my brain and pick out all the crunchy, stinky chunks of mania, or do i chew and swallow?

I don’t know, and i won’t be seeing my therapist until next week, because therapy is expensive and i was seeing her every week but now i’m feeling better about the whole process and more in control of what’s happening so i thought i’d be fine with biweekly.
Heh.
Fuck?

Oh, oobee doo
I wanna be like you
I wanna walk like you
Talk like you, too
You’ll see it’s true
An ape like me
Can learn to be human too
~ I Wanna Be Like You, Robert and Richard Sherman

*I won’t be talking numbers, because that’s dangerous territory for me. It triggers a comparison response, that in turn brings up perfectionism, that can shred my self-esteem as quickly as i can get fast food delivered.

Still Not A Bitch

PART III

Lately i’ve been thinking on the reactions to this person that i’m becoming. I’ll tell you flat out and straight up that i’m incredibly self-focused. It’s not that i don’t care about others – i’m chock full of sympathy and fairly bleeding empathy. I believe that turning an intense and unflinching eye inward is how i not only saved my life, but made myself into a decent and functional human. My mother intended for me to be someone quite different than who i am today. To put it mildly, she wanted me as slave labour, as a receptacle for her rage, to worship her as a deity (you think i’m kidding… ) and as an ever-flowing fountain of unconditional love for her and her alone.

The best gift i got from her other than my life, was her early death. It might have been my only chance to escape her conscious and deliberate indoctrination of me. I’m not sure i would have had the insight, the will, or the strength to free myself from her iron grip. When she died, while i was immediately emancipated from serving her, i was still left with a personality and behaviours that had been designed to ally myself with selfish manipulators who mostly took and rarely gave. I was a slave without a master.

My system didn’t just save me from the horrors of my childhood, they kept me from bad relationships, and some potentially awful friendships. I still managed to make best friends with 2 of the kind of people i’ve described above, though. Not deadly like my mother, but toxic AF. They both did me the favour of ending our friendship, which i’m grateful for today. (More commentary on that later.) Some of my more developed and powerful parts would exert their influence in other areas. For instance, i avoided roommate situations, preferring to live alone. I could perform the sex act, although it was mostly other parts in control when it was happening – or i was heavily medicated with alcohol and/or other drugs.  What i couldn’t do was commit. I never thought about marriage or children. I became pregnant due to unsafe sex practises, and was engaged for a time because i was asked and i was very religious and thought it was expected. It was my system that made the decisions to keep the baby and ditch the dude (to be clear, he wasn’t the father).

When i accepted that i was bipolar and a multiple (years after these events), my level of function plummeted. I practically abandoned my children and nearly destroyed my marriage (a different, way more suitable dude). On the plus side my crap friends ditched me and i became estranged from what was left of my family. I had no one to pretend for, anymore. All that was left was my husband, my children, and a couple of excellent professional health care providers – one medical, and one therapeutic.

Everything inside me fell apart. Some fully sentient creatures (by the broadest definition), some feelings and memories that had developed their own personalities, and then all the other things that make up a person, like: my good qualities, my flaws, my skills, how i coped (besides being crazy), my hopes for the future (mostly for my loved ones, and for my relationships with them – i never really had much in the way of life goals or aspirations – too busy just surviving, i think).
Everything that made me who i was became detached and scattered about. I’ve spent the last dozen years or so trying to put myself back together. I’ve spent it trying to become the captain of this ship of fools. Learning to read the stars. Making repairs. Trying to fix the goddamned rudder.

I started out with a blueprint, but somewhere along the way i decided it wasn’t mine. I decided on a major overhaul. I decided i would be the architect and i would have precisely the ship i wanted.

I didn’t know enough about myself to know how to rebuild me, let alone how to REMAKE me, but i didn’t do this much work at this much cost for this much time not to have exactly what i want.

I started out with only the vaguest ideas, mostly based on not wanting to be in pain or stuck in chaos or hurting those i loved anymore. But somewhere along the way i discovered that there was more to life than that, and i wanted some of it. I discovered that i was a capable and talented architect. I discovered that i already had almost everything i needed to build the ship of my dreams. I discovered good and hopeful dreams inside me. And i discovered that i knew how to get, or at least could figure out how to get, anything i didn’t already have, in order to be shipshape.

Some of the changes i’ve made have upset those around me, and a lot of those people are now gone. Mostly it was their choice, and it happened before i realised what i was doing or how it was affecting them. And all the leaving hurt. Often, it hurt so much i would fall into a deep depression or act out in some way that caused chaos. But i kept doing the work, the remodeling and the cleaning up after, and now? It still stings a bit occasionally, but less and less all the time. Now i know i have choices, too.

Some of those toxic people have tried to contact me. Sick, passive-aggressive bullshit that’s so obvious to me now. And those parts of me that my mother built so carefully, those parts that think that people who love me abuse me because i’m bad and i deserve it? Those parts that think abuse IS love? I’m gathering them to me and showing them what love really is – by keeping the bad people away. By helping them form alliances and friendships with protectors in my system, including me.

Those sick and dangerous people who wove a false narrative. That told me not to tell the truth. That told me not to be angry or sad. That expected me to act like everything was okay and no one is bad (except me) and no one is hurting and everything is great because Jesus and the Cross. Those people that never, not one of them, not one, single time, said sorry to me for anything they did to me, ever.

My ship is a sailboat: small, sleek, mostly slow and just soaking up the sun, but fast as fuck when she wants to be.
Underneath, my ship is also a submarine, full of sailors who love the life, and we’re slowly building a yacht.
(This is almost more allegory than analogy, because the way they treated me is a moral issue.)

My mother made me a tugboat and she used me constantly, with no decent or regular maintenance. I was already in terrible disrepair when she died, but it didn’t stop the rest of ’em from having me haul their shit around. None of them believed there was an invisible submarine underneath. I’ll bet if they saw me, they’d still see an old tugboat, too.

Well, they won’t get more’n a glimpse, and no Ahoy! cuz i’ll trim the sails and hightail it outta there, lickety split. They can just stay on the shore, danglin’ their feet in putrid water and tellin’ each other how fine the day is.

If these parts don’t seem quite connected, stay tuned. Heh.

The Elephant

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

**********

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and Peace Always,
~H~

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

Hungry

Content/Trigger Warning: This deals with food and weight issues, and references childhood abuse and neglect with regards to food, as well as indirect referral to childhood sexual abuse as it relates to such. Take good care.

**********

It is fatal to look hungry. It makes people want to kick you.
~ George Orwell

I’ve struggled with food my entire life, and with my weight since i was around 8yrs old. I’ve tried every diet, but gradually starved and binged my way to around 230lbs in high school, where i stayed until i Grey-sheeted (Overeaters Anonymous’ suggested eating plan) myself to 180lbs when i was 27. For a 6′ tall female, that wasn’t half bad. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long because i went and fell in love for the first time in my life, got married, got triggered massively by the whole thing, and ate my way up to an all-time high of 465lbs.

In the early aughts, weight loss surgery became a thing again. There had been a craze of “stomach stapling”, but that hadn’t been easy to come by for many years. People would overeat, pop their staples, and some even died. Doctors weren’t too keen on it, and the idea that weight loss is simply a matter of the right diet and some willpower was still the overwhelming attitude of many, if not most.

Then along came Carnie Wilson, daughter of Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys, and member of the 90s pop group Wilson Phillips, and she not only got herself a new, better, safer-than-stapling weight loss surgery called a Roux-en-Y (RNY), it was filmed and released for public consumption. I saw my doctor immediately, got a referral, lost enough weight that he okayed me for surgery, and went from 367 to around 150lbs.

Cue my first major Bipolar mania. And just for fun, cue my multiplicity run amok. What followed was more chaos than i’d ever endured as an adult. It had me searching, once again, for a therapist that i could work with, someone who would help me gain control of my runaway brain that was making an absolute train wreck out of my marriage, my mothering, my life. I did some decent inner work on my own, but without help to understand how my brain worked, my system derailed me, over and over again. My doctor diagnosed the bipolar and i went to a psychiatrist, got medicated, and regained around 100lbs. I’ve struggled with it ever since.

When i started working with the therapist that changed everything, the one who helped me save my life, the one i’m working with again today, i finally had a painfully clear and complete picture of why i had such issues around food.

My mother.

Her abuse of me started soon after i was born, and based on others’ recollections of me as a baby, feeding and food was likely an immediate issue. My earliest, clearest memories that i can confirm start when i was around 4yrs old. I remember her showing me how to prepare a roast with a package of onion soup mix, and how to turn on the oven. She also showed me how to peel the potatoes and carrots to go in with it, the dexterity of which was tough for me to learn, and she’d smack me across the head regularly for not doing it right.

I remember her locked in the bathroom, threatening to kill herself, screaming about getting fat and being alone. I remember wailing and banging on the other side of the door, begging her not to do it.
I remember staring at my face in the mirror a short time later, holding a bottle of some pinkish-orange liquid (Mercurochrome?) with a skull and crossbones on it, thinking i could kill myself too, if things got too bad. It’s the first time i remember a soft switch.

I also remember her leaving me alone, sometimes for days, and there would be nothing to eat in the house. I became quite resourceful. I’d put ketchup and mustard on saltines and pretend they were fancy appetizers. I ate food out of the garbage. I ate frozen food, spoiled food, anything i could find.
Sometimes when she came back she’d bring treats for me.
Sometimes she’d beat me for eating things i wasn’t supposed to, and feed me frozen food or garbage as further punishment.

When times were particularly lean, she’d taught me to shoplift food – to stuff my coat with meat, cheese, chocolate. She taught me to panhandle, as well. Sometimes she’d buy me a treat if i made enough money to satisfy her, but mostly not.
As her relationship with the man i think was my father (not a story for today) began to deteriorate, she ate more and more, and there often wasn’t enough money or food for both of us to eat. I was always the one to go hungry.

All my life she would buy salty and sweet snacks for herself, and only take them out after i’d gone to bed. I could hear the bags crinkling and her masticating and watching television. Sometimes she’d even cook, and i’d be laying in bed, hungry and tortured by the delicious smells wafting under my door.

She also used food as punishment and reward with regards to the sexual abuse, as did the people with whom she associated for such. When she was happy with me, her face would be lit up and she’d make us an incredible meal, or even take us out to dinner at a sit-down restaurant. I remember her regularly being complimented for my behaviour and etiquette out in public – she’d incline her head to the side slightly and nod as if it were her due. If i got too much attention, she’d beat me when we got home, and forbid me to eat for a couple of meals.

This abuse and willful neglect shaped me into my school years. I learned to sneak food from anywhere i could: school, friends, friend’s homes, any place where my mother would farm me out.

I rarely brought lunch to school, and at best i’d have a peanut butter sandwich and a carrot or an apple, all of which i’d have scrounged together myself. She never made me a lunch, even though she quit working when i was 10 and laid around the house watching tv all day after that. So when children threw their lunches into the trashcan at the front of the classroom, i’d wait until everyone was gone and root through, smuggling whatever i found into the bathroom, where i’d sit on the toilet in a stall and pack it all into me in a frenzy, barely chewing it enough to swallow without choking.
When i began babysitting outside the home, i’d make up for the $1/hr we were paid in my day by eating the couple out of house and home.
And when my mother married and started popping out other children, i began brazenly stealing food from her; my fear of starving was so great it even overcame my fear of being beaten, as i inevitably was, every single time i was caught. I think i saw my new siblings as competition for what little food was in the house.
I think that’s exactly what she intended.

One might ask, how could i be starved as regularly as i say and still be the fat kid?

The years of regularly starving and being withheld food had made their mark on me. Not just emotionally either, as i was to learn much later in life; my body would hold onto calories as fat in anticipation of the next period of starvation that would come. Once my mother was married and had morphed herself into a (somewhat) different person, my fears were set, and my behaviours ingrained.

Eat whatever i could when it was available.
Food was comfort. Food was reward. Food was a stimulant, and made me feel euphoric. Food was like an opioid too, numbing the pain and fear. And food tamped down my anger, which i was never, ever allowed to display, let alone express. Food and my system worked together so well i didn’t even know i was angry.

And once there were other people in the house living with us, her behaviour changed.
A bit.
She no longer earned money, gifts, and favours using me.
Her mask had begun to slip, she was gaining weight at an alarming rate, and she slowly became a shut-in, rarely going out and almost never socialising.
She continued to put food above everyone else around her. She used her much younger, new husband to procure food for her, which she consumed whilst her children with him were skeletally thin.

I was young and didn’t see the way things had progressed, naturally. I think my subconscious mind processed things like, the bigger i got, the less i was being molested. And i’d found that food was the closest to love i could get. I thought that if i was eating, i must be okay. So food became my metric. For everything. For love, for happiness, for safety.

Food was my currency.

I probably don’t need to tell you what that cost me.
How the fat kid is guaranteed to be bullied.
How people assume the fat kid is indulged rather than neglected/abused because clearly i was getting enough to eat.
How the fat girl gets preyed upon by sexual opportunists who think we should be grateful that anyone would want to screw us.

Any potential as an adult that i had was always at least partially marred by my fatness. The unspoken assumption that i was lazy, slovenly, even pampered. That i had no self-control. No determination, no gumption, no tenacity.

When i’d finally done enough inner work that i could look back and see all these things (all these things that i’ve shared about food and yet i assure you there is still so much more) i was set free.

I now understand why i love grocery shopping so much, and why no one else gets to unpack and put them away. I now totally get why i become antsy as soon as my fridge or my pantry doesn’t look full, when i get low on things. I know why i’m curious what foods other people have in their kitchens when i visit. I know why i have such trouble throwing out spoiled food, or food that just doesn’t taste good, or food that i’ve burned or overcooked or over-spiced…

I know why when i’m doing well and feeling good i want cake, and when i’m doing poorly and feeling bad i want cake.
And i know why i don’t want sex when i’ve overeaten and when i have great sex i’m not scared to eat when i’m hungry.
I know why i gained almost 200lbs when i fell in love and got married.
And i know why i went completely batshit when i lost all the fat and was a healthy, normal weight.

I tried a dozen different times to write about how my mother’s sexual abuse factored in to my issues with food, but i don’t think it’s necessary for this piece – neither for me, nor for anyone else. Perhaps another time, but i’ve agonised enough over this. It was hard to write and even harder to come to a decision about whether or not to post. I prefer glossing over the abuse and focusing on how it affected me and how i’ve coped.

But being fat since i was 8yrs old really, deeply hurt me. It’s held me back from so much living, so much that i might have achieved, because all i could see was my weight. It seemed like it was all anyone could see, honestly.
You could have this if only…
You could be this if only…
You could do this if only…

Relationships. Sex. Body image. Food.

I’ve spent my adult life trying to take these things back, and it’s taken everything i have, and it will continue to do so. I have to examine all of it, and it’s deeply personal and drenched in secrecy and shame.

I’m so fucking tired of it.
This is not my shame to carry – not my embarrassment to bear.
It’s ugly because SHE made it ugly. Because she was so terribly ugly.

I’ve learned over the years that eating and food and weight issues are rarely a matter of willpower coupled with the right diet. I’ve found it to be intricate and complicated. Skeins of moments and messages woven together in a tapestry of pain and fear, unmet needs, loneliness, dashed hopes, and hunger beyond the belly.

This is painful and intensely personal for me, and i’ve cried through a lot of it – but i see how i got to 465lbs and i see how i got here, sharing this piece today. I don’t weigh myself anymore, but i have enough experience with my body to be able to tell you that i’m likely less than 50lbs from where i’d ideally like to be. I took a hard look at my past, a harder look at who i am and how my brain works, and then puzzled over how those 2 things are related with respect to how i see food and eating.

I now know myself so well and have amassed enough knowledge about diet and nutrition (h/t to Registered Dietitians – where i go to get the most accurate information), that i’ve been able to tailor-make my own way to eat to lose weight and keep it off, finally, for good.
I make small, sustainable tweaks to how and what i eat.
I comfort and feed the parts inside me that hunger for much more than food.

My body physically manifested the wrongs that were done to me as a child. I wore it in pounds of fat.
My body is becoming evidence of the good and kind and right things i’ve been doing for myself.

Starving for love, starving for food. These things are so intertwined for me.
These knots inside me are being untied, these constraints inside me are being unbound.
By me.
I’m trying to help anyone reading this to find hope in however your own childhood struggles may have expressed themselves in how you do or don’t eat, and how much or how little you weigh.
This piece is disjointed and choppy AF. I did my best. I think it’s been super hard to foment into something consumable because it’s not just mental, this stuff is inextricable from the physical. It’s visceral.

I hope this was helpful.
Please take care of yourself and talk to someone if you’re stirred up inside.

I Wish You All Love and Peace,
~H~