Suffer the Little Children

Alternate title: Jesus, Do You Smell That?

Content warning: Some references to childhood sexual abuse.

I’m settling in to this process a bit more every day. I don’t know how long it will take for me to forge a connection between my brain and my body, but i’m committed to and invested in it, even if i’m never quite done. I’m connecting parts slowly, a bit at a time, and i’m doing well resisting the urge to tackle it all, hard and head-on. When the Peanut Gallery pipes up with some judgey shit about how i should be further along than i am, i have plenty of examples of how terribly awry things can go when i push too hard. However, during my therapy sesh yesterday i realised there is an area where i could be doing a tad more, and i’m balking.

I try every day, all day, to stay present in my body and feel what’s happening to me physically; my aim is to dissociate as little as possible. I hold on to the face through the regular day-to-day sensations, like brushing my teeth, which can be triggery AF, and i’m hanging on through some awful body memory stuff, like phantom burning in my genital area. While i’m going through these intense body sensations, my Bits N’ Pieces are having various reactions to what’s going on, just like i am. I’m learning to care for the body memory stuff with warm drinks, blankets, binding, writing, and even talking about it with my hubs, but i’m hanging back when it comes to directly engaging my system and asking them what kind of care/comfort they’d like while dealing with this stuff.

Mutiplicity can be difficult to explain, and this is one of those areas that, no matter how i put it, it still seems inadequate; the words don’t communicate my reality sufficiently. Yes, i hear voices in my head. I know they’re all me, and yet they’re a little bit not me. Maybe think of it like we tend to think of things as natural or not natural: maple syrup gets the natural label, but Aunt Jemima doesn’t. They’re both made of ingredients that come from our world (some additives are man-made, sure, but it’s not like we folded space and travelled to another universe for the elements needed to make them), yet one doesn’t seem as raw or earthy – it’s not as much a part of the innate order of things. Unnatural? Not quite natural?

So it is with my system. I know the people that live in my brain, that chatter at me all day long and even into my dreamlife, that saved me when i was little and now help shoulder the minefield that is being a human living in a developed nation after severe trauma, by carrying my burdens, secreting my pain, and sometimes taking control of my body when i’m overwhelmed… Are all iterations of me – various versions of who i needed to be or thought i had to be in order to survive.
Yet they are not me.
There were walls between us for many years, borders that none of us would cross. They would not because they exist to care for/protect me, and i couldn’t because i hadn’t the knowledge or the space safe enough to do so. To step into the light and see my system – my big brain machine humming along, gears inside gears, turning alongside gears inside gears. A terrifically complicated and intricate psychic arrangement of snippets and gobs of personality. Actors that only exist between the green room and the stage. When i finally saw my face as a lit theatre and gained access to their dressing rooms, well, you know that not every actor whose work you like is a person you’d want to hang out with after the show, right?

Some of my people are not a good time. I might even say most of them aren’t, a lot of the time. I love them in a way that is only for them – not like i love my husband, my children, my friends. Not like food, or music, or art, or animals, or sunshine, or a cool glass of water, or my husband’s kiss. Not even like the characters in my favourite books. They’re more than these things, and less, too. Yet they’re closer to me than absolutely anyone else – no one, nothing else could get so close. They’re my saviours who occasionally get me into some serious scrapes. They’re my best friends and my champions. And they’re also my children who’re always getting into something and the only reason i don’t strangle them is they’re underdeveloped toddlers who can’t help it.

They remember awful things, sometimes as clearly as if they happened yesterday, sometimes as if they are happening now, in this moment, all the time. And i know i’m currently writing about feeling the physical sensations that go along with certain memories that’ve been locked away in certain parts of my body, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t also carry some physical pain. They feel the aching jaw, the bruises, the cuts, the headache like my skull is going to turn to dust, the swelling, the bleeding, the burning – all of it. It’s my hope that this work i’m doing will help them be free from pain. Perhaps even, that they can return to me as i return myself to homeostasis. They’ve told me their stories, now it’s my body’s turn. I see this as a housecleaning. I’m shining a light on all the dark places, removing all traces of black mould. But this house is currently serving as a temporary MASH unit, filled with sick and wounded soldiers. I have medicines and tonics and pills for them, and i have cleaners and disinfectants, tools and talent for cleaning a filthy home…
But the body has triggered my system, and i haven’t asked them if they want anything from me to help them bear it all.

Back when i was first learning to listen and relate to the other people who live with me in my brain, it was a gross and disgusting ordeal. Once i acknowledged that some of my dreams were actually memories, it was like trying to live a normal life in a locked room filled with decomposing bodies. I felt like i was coated in filth – it slicked my skin and filled up my nostrils and sat in the bottom of my belly like an angry, acid python, constantly twisting and spilling over itself. I stank of evil, life stank of rot. I was surrounded by horror, sex and death roiling and foaming together like a cannibal’s cauldron. It was the closest to giving up that i’ve ever come, i almost lost myself in the viscous fluid of memory, losing form and definition and nearly dissolving into hopelessness and endless nothing.

As i write this i’ve suddenly seen that i’m parenting my Bits like i parented my real life children. From a fucking distance. Afraid to touch, to engage, to connect. I didn’t know how with my sons, but i do now. I learned because i saw how much harm it had done to me not to have it from my parents. I’ve been learning and practising since then because i believe it’s not too late to give it to them unless they tell me so. And i would keep trying even if they told me it was too late and would never be enough, because i believe it’s my responsibility as a parent, and because i experience that doing so helps and heals me, too.

Yes, parenting my children with connection, engaging with them emotionally and physically – that’s what my brain-babies need/want, as well. Of course they do. I know that, it’s just that the feelings they carry, the stories the snapshots the motherfucking scary movie franchise…
Bah. The last time i got up close and personal with it all it was years before i felt clean again. It was years of barely being in the face because i couldn’t take the slime and the stench.
But comparing them to my boys helps.
Writing helps.
Therapy helps.
Hubby helps.
Truth helps.

They’re broken off bits of me, and they need me to wash them, bind up their wounds, and soothe them, just as i’ve done for myself, the primary me. If they were real live children, covered in blood and shit and filth, smelling like sex and rot, i wouldn’t hesitate for a second to gather them to me and minister to their needs.
These children are all me; why is it so hard to give myself what i would give to any other human in my position?
I was taught that i only existed to be poured out for the consumption of others, but i know now that that was a wicked, selfish lie told me by evil people.
Knowing where i come from and who i am is good, but it’s not enough. I have wounds that need washing and stitches and bandaging, breaks that need mending, and aches that need warmth.

This piece may not make much sense, i’m not sure. This is so close to my core that i don’t think i’m able to edit/proofread this with a critical eye. If you’ve made it this far, i thank you. Writing this made me want to throw up most of the way, but here and now, at this sentence, i feel recommitted and more fiercely dedicated than ever. If someone hurt a child the way i was hurt, if someone hurt my children the way i was hurt, i would ruin the world to make things better for them.

Yes, it’s a contradictory statement. It’s hyperbolic. It paints a picture and conveys the intensity of my conviction.

So, i guess i’m heading into the trenches.
This could get…

<insertwhateverwordcametoyourmindasitprobablyapplies>

Take Care and Try a Little Tenderness,
I will, too.

~H~

To The Bone

CONTENT WARNING: This contains frank discussion of suicide and childhood sexual abuse. If you aren’t in a good place, i’d strongly recommend skipping this one. Have someone handy that you can talk to if this brings up stuff for you.

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The first time i thought about suicide i was 4.
The first time i tried it i was 9.
I’ve tried multiple times since – one time was right in front of my 2 youngest children.
I’ve been given ipecac, had my stomach pumped, and a shot that may have been Narcan (?) back in the day – i’m not sure about that one. I was even more fucked up than usual that time.
I’ve written dozens of notes to loved ones and torn them up. I’ve written fuck-yous to some of those who tortured me who still unfortunately draw breath.

None of those times did i truly want to die. Not once. What was happening to me is something the pros call “parasuicidal behaviour”, meaning, i didn’t actually want to commit suicide, i just didn’t know what else to do and i needed my current situation/emotional state to STOP.

I’m grateful that i never succeeded. In my years of struggle in various programs dealing with addictive behaviours, broken and abusive homes, and mental health issues, i’ve lost a great many people i knew to suicide. More than a dozen, easily. A couple of them were like sisters to me, and they broke my heart.

I wouldn’t do them the dishonour of speculating on their reasons for what they did – it was their life to do with as they wished. But i think, today, i understand the step beyond “para”. I’m bone tired. More tired than i’ve ever been in my life. I see that, while i’ve done the best i can, that it hasn’t been enough. I’ve failed my children and my husband and people in my past in such profound ways that i can feel my heart burning and dropping into my belly.

And now, today, this work i do is to “feel what i feel while knowing what i know”. I don’t mean to sound superior (although i know i do), but no one can possibly know how difficult, how awful this work is.
My childhood was wretched: filled with literal torture and near-constant pain. I’m not sure if the small moments of happiness and beauty made it easier or harder to bear. The loving babysitter who cared for me 5 days a week from 10mos old until i entered grade one; she is THE reason i didn’t swallow that bottle of poison when i was 4. I remember holding it in my hand, staring at myself in the mirror (i see now that the mirror was how i talked with the others in my brain back then) and saying, “If it gets too bad, i’ve got this.”

Back then, i severed the connections between my thoughts and emotions and sensations to survive the unsurvivable, and now, in my 50s, as i wade into this terrible work, i remain unconvinced that i can survive the reconnection. It feels as if i’m being torn apart, rather than put back together. My body is a misery to me. My genitals burn, and i keep going to the bathroom to check because it feels like my rectum is bleeding. My jaw feels like it’s going to crack, my throat aches, my head pounds like a giant is having a tantrum inside my brain. My ears won’t stop popping. I grind my teeth all day. It burns when i pee. My body feels battered and bruised everywhere. There isn’t an inch of me that doesn’t hurt. I can’t put anything in my mouth without gagging. There is no touch, no matter from whom it comes, that doesn’t make me flinch.
Dissociating would fix all that, and i want to so badly.

But my therapist says this is temporary, and she has never lied to me. Never not treated me with the utmost respect. Never touched or even approached me without my permission. (She sat on the couch on the other side of my living room for 2 fucking years before i’d even let her sit beside me.) She doesn’t mind telling me a thousand times, that she has no desire to hurt me, and she’s never pushed me to do anything i didn’t want to (made suggestions and let me fume and freak out and go home and think about them, yes). She even let me walk out of therapy thinking i was all “fixed”, when she knew damn well i wasn’t, but she didn’t tell me that, she honoured my process, even if that meant i never came back to her or got anymore therapy from anyone.

I trust her in a way that i trust no one else. No one. I’ve never trusted anyone like i trust her, and so i will sit with this agony and i will bear it. I will minister to pain that doesn’t really exist as if it’s real, and i will talk to the terrified little ones inside my brain as if they are my own children – because they are. They’ve always just wanted a Mommy who will hold them and rock them and say:
Shhh… It’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay. I’m going to take care of you.
Oh, it hurts down there? Let’s put you in a cool bath.
Your head feels like it’s splitting open? You poor thing. Does wrapping your head tightly in this scarf help?
Would you like to cuddle this teddy bear?
Would you like me to hold you and rock you to sleep?

I do these things, these ridiculous things, and they’re working. This fucking crazy-ass shit is working. It’s calming down the cacophony in my head, so that i can focus on my body. Which is super awesome because that means feeling the pain. Listening to what my body wants to tell me about what happened to it when i was little. It doesn’t have language, but it sure AF is talking to me, and i’m listening.

But i’m exhausted. I’m sososo tired. I’m sure i’ve never been this tired.
And life is still happening, all around me. The world had the nerve to keep turning. Problems still happening. Relationship problems. Money problems. Things breaking down and dogs getting sick. Family and friends who still need me. (Don’t get me wrong, they don’t expect much from me right now, they just need me, y’know?)

So i have brought this piece to the place where i tell you that i have considered not being here anymore. Every day, all day, this work feels like too much work. Every day, all day, i’m afraid i can’t do it, that i’ll fail.
I do not have a plan.
I’m not thinking about it obsessively.
I’m in therapy with the greatest therapist in the world (fight me), and i have good support.
My home is once again my safe place.
There’s no room in my life right now for anything but the pain, and the small shred of hope i have that it may end, and i may wind up with an even more normal*, functional life.

So Hi, this is how i’m doing today. You may have noticed i’m writing more. Writing through the bad, like i said i’d do. It’s helping more than i’d have thought it would.

Y’all take care of yourselves. Talk to someone trustworthy if this piece brought stuff up for you, okay? I’m still here, still hanging on. If i can, maybe you can too. I know i want you to.

It’s just a ride
And you’ve got the choice to get off anytime that you like
It’s just a ride
It’s just a ride
The alternative is nothingness
We might as well give it a try
~ The Ride, Amanda Palmer

Love and Peace,
~H~
*Comments like, “What is normal, really?” and “Nobody’s normal,” are NOT welcome here, plzkthx.

I’m Not A Bitch, Pt. IV

Warning: Contains some indirect references to integration, and refers to child rape and trafficking. This is a positive piece, but make sure you have good support in place.

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So, as i was saying… I’m not a bitch.

But i’ve been told i was one, and called one, ever since i can remember. My mother often exclaimed, “Oh, you little bitch!” when i failed to live up to her expectations, which were unrealistic, unreasonable, and very often unattainable, for my entire childhood. To give you an idea of how high they were, i could cook an entire roast beef dinner when i was 4yrs old.

One time when i was 6, i came home from school and realised i’d forgotten to thaw the liver i was supposed to be preparing for supper, and so i put it in the oven. I didn’t know the plastic container it was in would melt as well, so when the intense chemical smell hit me, i yanked open the oven door and tried to pull out the container, which was stuck to the rack, but managed to drip onto my wrist – a scar that’s visible today.
Her response when she got home from work was, “You stupid bitch!” plus the obligatory beating.

When i would ask for money to participate in a school activity, i was often called a selfish bitch. I only thought of myself, she’s needed new work clothes for years, all i care about is going to the stupid zoo/museum/farm/play, do i think money grows on trees?

And on the rare day when i completely lost my mind and dared to question or correct her, she’d slap or backhand me and call me some form of smartass/smart aleck/smart-mouth, attached to the ubiquitous “bitch”.

I learned that asking for anything, complaining about anything, and questioning anything were all bad and dangerous, but more than that –  they meant i was a bitch. Once i’d learned that lesson anyone could control my behaviour by indicating to me in some way that i was being a bitch. I let toxic people become close friends and allowed toxic family members to maintain contact with me. And i let them all have control over my life decisions and manipulate me into behaving the way they wanted.

Some told me i was the black sheep.
Some reminded me i was only half related to them.
Some pointed out i was only attached by marriage.
Some informed me i was a drama queen.
Some called me a liar.
Some said i was faking.
Some simply acted as if i didn’t exist.
Most treated me like i was the problem.

If you’ve read enough of my blog, you may well wonder how this fits with a self-professed “good girl”.
It is simply one of the gifts of being a multiple. I have many facets to my personality. Some, i’m now discovering, are intrinsically me. Some are aspects i took on in order to please and find relative safety. I have some parts of me that i created to be for me – parts that were on my side 100% of the time. These parts would occasionally come out and get me something that i wanted to have or be someone that i wished i could be, but could not.

They could tell people off. In fact, they could lay a verbal smackdown that left some folks practically punch drunk. They were capable of the silent treatment, a certain stubbornness that wouldn’t allow me to grovel or beg family for anything.  And they were able to keep the wrong kind of intimate relationships out of my life, almost entirely.
When the first person i seriously wanted to be with physically was a girl, they got her for me, in spite of all my religious upbringing, and my mother’s vicious homophobia.

It took them a while to gain power. I’m not sure when they were made/created/born, and if they were around when i was being regularly sexually abused, i’m not aware of it. However, once my mother stopped trafficking me, they grew in influence inside my brain.
They mouthed off to my mother, and stole food from her for us – and took the beating that always followed.
They told opportunistic boys No, when those creeps figured the fat girl would be only too happy to give them sex because i was getting a little attention.
When it was men, they got me the fuck outta there. And there were men.
Of course there were.

They built a wall of protection around me. Once the raping stopped, they began laying bricks. Occasionally someone would get through a hole in my defenses, and they’d brick it up right quick. They drew lines in the sand of me that no one could cross. No one. Kept my need for love and acceptance and understanding and compassion in check. Managed my levels. Made sure no one could sneak in and eat the fruit of the 1 little tree that had survived the violent plunder of my garden.

Pull out this brick, she needs some sun.
Shit, someone’s coming, put it back!
Shhh…

Then i met someone i wanted more than i’d ever wanted anyone — more than the girl all those years ago. I had relationships by pure accident. I wanted companionship, i occasionally wanted sex, but mostly i craved normalcy, and being in a relationship was what society and religion seemed to be telling me i needed to have in order to get that.
But no one ever got passed that brick wall. If the relationship fizzled or fell flat, i was fine in a day or 2, tops.
Then i found myself dating an excellent human, and i took down the bricks, crossed my own line to go over to him, and i pulled him close to me and haven’t let go for going on 24yrs. I found my person, my soft place to fall.
And i fell.

I’d been trying, before i met him. I tried my best sometimes, even. Like when a family member attempted rape, like when my mother died, like when my first son was born. But between not finding the right kind of help with the right person, and running from any hint of a DID diagnosis, i was just spinning my wheels. I couldn’t find any traction. I’d get exhausted and quit for a while, only trying again when crisis would hit.

When i fell in love with him and started building a life with him is when my work began in earnest, and although mental illness and the way my brain works has tripped me up hard here and there, i’ve never not picked myself up and gotten back at it as soon as i was able.
And as building a life with him created safe space around us, i set to rebuilding myself. As per my own specs.

I’ve put in a tremendous amount of work, i’ve suffered setbacks aplenty, and i’ve despaired at length. I’ve lost and/or eliminated a great many people. I’ve stripped myself down to the absolute barest of necessities: air, water, food, shelter, love. HIM. And at one point i was prepared to continue without him, if need be.*
Many times i’ve looked behind me and only seen wreckage, but ever so slowly, as i turned back, tightened my focus on the path directly in front of me and set my shoulder to the wheel, i found my perspective broadened. Each time i turned back i saw less of what i’ve lost and more how far i’ve come – what i’ve gained.

It was tough for me last year, when i thought i’d done all the therapy, and was so dang functional and fine, only to have my body pipe up and ask, then beg, then INSIST that there was more work to do, and it was deeper and more painful than that which came before. I panicked when i saw what i was looking at: to bring together my thoughts and my emotions, that have existed separate from each other since i was a baby.
To feel what i feel while knowing what i know. At the same time.

The last few months have been filled with terror. I lost sleep, i slid into fibro agony, my system worked up into a chaotic froth, bringing with it a constant headache, loosening my hard-won grip over who could be in the face and when – losing control, losing time, that old, internal imperative built into me to GO HOME. A place that no longer exists, and only held suffering and misery when it did. Between the hard switches and the drinking i was doing to cope, it was beginning to look like a stay in The Bin was in my very near future.

But the time and the work i’ve invested in myself and my quality of life have begun to pay off. Panic and terror are not fun to feel, but they don’t actually last for long. These are states of feeling that are intense, and they tend to burn brightly, but fizzle or at least fade relatively quickly. I know from my past that i can ride these feelings through, and they haven’t killed me. And they’ve had a chance to more times than i can count.
My therapist says that no one ever died from feeling their feelings, but they have from not feeling them. I don’t know if that’s true for everyone, but i can see it blazing bright in my own life. Feeling this stuff won’t kill me, i have that repeated experience to have at least a small amount of trust in. And if doing this chunk of work can bring me an even higher level of function and more opportunities for happiness, helpfulness, and success than i was enjoying back when everything went for shit last year (and my therapist –in whom i also have some not-insignificant trust in– assures me it will), then i’m not just in, honey i’m ALL in.

Now, finally, this is the part where i tie it all together.

Becoming a multiple is what i did to survive my childhood. My system has saved me countless times from losing my life or my mind. Dissociating from what was happening around me was the best i could do, but once the trauma had ended, it became more and more of an impediment to experiencing life on life’s terms, and inhibited me from building the life and the relationships i wanted. It all came to a head and burst when i fell in love and got married. I knew, both from intuition and from every single experience i had with him, that i could trust him, and he would support me as i fell completely apart and put myself back together again. And he did. He has. He will.

I’ve figured out how my brain works, and i’ve gotten to know everyone that lives in there, formed relationships with them that work, and helped them get along with each other. I’ve studied the people around me, the people who left me, the people i left and the ones i let go, and my relationships with them. I’m at peace with it all, and though my current circle is small, it’s tight and strong and healthy and there’s room for more if i so choose. My requirements for relationship are appropriate and well thought out, and i know what i bring to the table.

Clearing a spot for me to do this next-level therapy has not been easy. I had a home safety issue that i’d been avoiding, because i wasn’t getting the help that i’d repeatedly asked for to deal with the problem. I had to get that squared away. Then i had to simplify and streamline my day-to-day routine, because my energy was limited, and my current therapy needed to be my priority. And i also had to ask people in my circle for understanding, for patience, for help. I had to take a hard look at what others were asking of me, prioritise, and say No to people. Dearest loved ones, even. No, i can’t do that, and No, i won’t do that anymore, like ever. I put up some walls and drew some lines in the sand, and when they weren’t respected, i raised my voice and pumped my fists until i was heard. I require this, and that, and ohbtw, that must stop immediately.

I built this safe space for me to live and be and work. And if you’re not on board with that, either you go, or i will. Whatever. I’ll build another place to be safe. I’ve seen a light coming from somewhere just over this next peak, something bright and beautiful.
I think it’s me. Or maybe it’s a mirror.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with mirrors my entire life. I’ve always hated looking into them. I have to be careful not to look into my own eyes. I can glance quickly, but if it’s more than a second or 2, i dissociate. I pull back – retreat inside myself. I’m suddenly further away from the mirror. Quite a number of my Bits N’ Pieces love to look in the mirror, though. They’re curious. What do *I* look like? When i first began getting to know them and stopped fighting all the switching, some of them had a field day. Makeup, clothes, the mirror, and hundreds of selfies. As i’ve brokered a mostly peaceful coexistence with them, i’ve lost a lot of the fear and loathing i had for the mirror, but it can still be a trigger when i’m low or tired or already sliding around a bit.

Yes… I think it’s a mirror. I think i might meet the person i’m creating inside that mirror, and i’ll bet when i turn around i’ll see who i once was – all of them. I think the work i’m doing right now is a pretty huge fucking deal.

Something has happened over the last month and some, and i think it’s empowerment.

I’m moving into all the spaces inside my brain and my body – i’m filling myself up with ME. Sharing space with my system and moving into the cold and barren places, letting in the light. I am the light.

I’m not afraid.
I’m not afraid to piss anyone off.
I’m not afraid that someone i love won’t like who i’m becoming.
I’m not afraid that people won’t “get it”.
I’m not afraid to lose someone i love to this process.
I’m not afraid to be alone.

I’m not a bitch for focusing on myself.
I’m not a bitch for needing or even just wanting things, and i’m not being a bitch by asking for them, or going out and getting them myself.
I’m not a bitch for creating a safe space, and defending it against all who threaten it.
I’m not a bitch for demanding to be heard and respected in my own home.
I’m not a bitch for saying NO.
I’m not a bitch for calling out abusive behaviour.
I’m not a bitch for refusing to take anyone’s shit.
I’m not a bitch for not taking on other people’s burdens.
I’m not a bitch because i’m tall, and strong, and smart, and pretty, and funny, and wise… I’m not a bitch because i take up more room than someone wants me to, and i’m not a bitch if i intimidate the absolute fuck out of anyone.

This is my road.
Move or i’ll move you.

~H~
*Hey, every relationship goes through rough patches, if they stay together long enough. It shone a light on both our flaws and made us painfully aware of our personal baggage that we’d brought with us. But that’s a story for another time.

 

Inside My Skin

There is a part 3 for I’m Not A Bitch, but today i’m posting a little blurp-up on how i’m doing right now.

Last year i had a schedule, with routines, regimens, and rituals aplenty, and i was hummin’ along like a vintage car that’s still with and well cared for by its original owner. I was as functional as i’d ever been in. my. life. and i was proud of what i’d accomplished and excited for more and better in my very near future.

That was when my body started poking my brain and saying, Ahem? Ah, excuse me?
I need some help.

It’s a little on the airy-fairy side for a firm atheist like me, but i have come to believe that it’s possible that it’s not just my brain that houses my memories, but my body, as well. Like, when i feel threatened, i can feel it immediately in my feet, my calves, my knees – the urge to run, to get away. The memories of being trapped by my abusers and unable to leave might be there, i think. Nestled in there with my muscles and tendons, lying dormant until a situation triggers old thoughts and feelings about the past and my fast-twitchers spark awake, GOGOGONOW!

I recognise that this may not be measurable in a scientific sense as of yet, but that’s okay. I’ve been working on getting down into my feelings,
<feelfreetorollyoureyesherebecauseicertainlyam>
and the deeper into them i get, the more i experience how connected my thoughts and emotions are to my physical body, when i feel safe enough to allow it.

As a highly dissociative human, i put distance between emotion and sensation and thought, because they have historically been too much for me to cope with all at once. I also never had a person safe enough and knowledgeable enough to teach me how to process these things; the why-am-i-like-this and the how-do-i-fix-it. Now that i do, when she (my therapist) suggests that my memories are not just in my brain, but in parts of me that exist in real time below the neck, well…
I experience, observe, and exist consciously in those moments when i sit down in the armchair by the window in her office, and my girl parts are buzzing like they’re covered in a thousand bumblebees, and she asks how i’m doing today, and my vagina starts to burn, like the bees are stinging me, so she has me take a big pillow and hide myself behind it, and wrap my arms around that pillow and pull it in tight, hugging my genital area, protecting it with a soft, warm barrier and my loving arms, and she asks me,

“How does that feel?”

And i roll my teary eyes and say, “I don’t know. Weird. Better… I guess. Good.”

Or how i pull my legs up onto that armchair, fanning them out alongside me because if i put them on the floor, they’ll start bouncing like corn popping, wanting to run. I feel safe with her in her office, and i come ready to be conscious of my body and be in it in real time. But other people that live in my brain, especially those that exist in a painful moment from the past, come wide awake and all they feel is trauma, and they want it to stop, so badly; they want to get away, nownownow. So my therapist has me put my feet back on the floor and bounce my knees and flex my feet and sometimes i’ve even placed the bottoms of my feet on the bottoms of hers and pumped my legs, HARD, like i’m riding a bicycle away – away from pain, away from danger, away from evil.

And i’ll be damned if it doesn’t help. I think my body is purging the memories of all the terrible things that were done to me when i was little. When i was with my mother and dependent on her for everything – helpless and unable to get away from the things that she did and allowed to be done to me.
It’s like i’m shedding “psychic” pounds.
I know, another metaphysical word coming from me, but i use it as a poetic description of what i’m experiencing, rather than an actual, tangible thing that exists.
What i mean is, i feel lighter in my feelings and my mood and my outlook on life, when i do these things –when i directly address the sensations in my body, and act out the movements it seems to be itching to do– i feel better.

So this is what i’ve been doing. Learning to tune in to my body, rather than distance myself from it. Letting my fists ball up, kicking my legs, covering my breasts, my belly, my nethers, with blankets, pillows, honouring the need for a barrier. Pulling my big dog into my lap and wrapping my arms around her, burying my face in her neck and feeling her warmth, her weight, her protection.

And walking again. Not taking off. Not getting away.
Recognising and honouring the need of my feet, my calves, my knees, my thighs, to move. The memories of wanting and needing so badly to get away from what was happening to me all those years ago and being unable to, all trapped there in my flesh and fascia. Pumping it out of me with each determined step, the pain and the fear pouring down into my toes and out, like i’ve lanced an infection and i’m draining the pus, leaving a trail on the dirt road behind me.

Lighter. Healthier. Cleaner. Freer.

It’s constant work but i don’t mind. I can see and feel the benefits. Unlike the brain work, where i slogged and slogged through the muck, such slow-going. Putting in so much time with little to no change, but hoping. And then seeing that which had been unravelled, ever so slowly knit back together.
The body work yields refreshingly immediate results. They don’t always last, but i can do it again, and the good stuff lasts a bit longer each time. One day, it might just settle right into my bones and that will be that.

So here i am today.
I’m sober. I’m not doing anything to numb myself, neither brain nor body. I’m living my life as simply as i can so that i might teach myself to be present and feel it all. To make conscious, thoughtful decisions on how to handle and cope with the day-to-days, and those times when life just happens. I mean, i wish it wouldn’t do that, but even to have the presence and awareness inside this skin sack in real time to think, Geez, Universe, now why’dja have to go and do that?! is a priceless gift.

I’ve lost the booze bloat and the grey cast to my skin. I’m back to managing my food choices and eating at a calorie deficit, nutritionally sound and designed for slow and steady weight loss, my goal of a single digit clothing size before summer hits is doable.
I often wear my clothes a bit on the tight side because:

1) I like having my business held in, hugged, and smoothed out;
2) It boosts my self-esteem and motivation to be wearing smaller sizes; and
3) It keeps me consciously in my body, that tight squeeze, that occasional escape of flesh over the top of my jeans.

Understand, this is not a shaming technique. I’m proud as heck of what i’ve accomplished, and any shame i carry about my body is due to childhood stuff, which i’m working through, tyvm. I’m also not suggesting anyone else do what i do for my weight, my body, my brain, my relationships – none of it, period. What i’m doing is sharing my process, in every way and on every level (save sexual and spiritual, although that may come some day), not so that you can do what i do, but so you can see that it can be done. 

I’m 52yrs old, and there’s no shame in that, either.
I am not who i was born to be.
It’s taken a lot of hard, intense, terrifying work to get where i am today.
Nobody could do it for me and a lot of it i did alone because i couldn’t find the right person to do it with me. But i persevered, taking little nuggets of wisdom from this place and that person, knocking on door after door, taking class after class, asking “professional” after professional? for help.
(That word though, what a loaded word in this particular field, heh.)

I got disheartened, led down wrong paths, misunderstood, misdiagnosed, ignored, unfairly judged, and many times, told i was Just fine! and/or Highly functional! because i was so willing to open up and do the work, and already had so much self-knowledge and personal insight and i’m clearly intelligent and have a large vocabulary and i’ve never been arrested or lived on the street, so… What’s your problem?

With such narrow definitions, it’s a wonder anyone gets any, let alone enough help, but some of us do.
If you have stuff inside you that needs work, i want you to see that i’m doing it, and so maybe you can, too.
If you need help with that work (and who doesn’t?), i want you to see that i found some (FINALLY!), and so maybe you can take heart and keep trying until you find that good fit: that person, that place, that program, that system -whatever it is- that clicks with you and helps you get your feet underneath you and walking forward. Or running, swimming, flying – however it works for you to figure your shit out and get through it. Whatever gets you moving towards something that you’ve always wanted for yourself.

I did it and i’m still doing it.
I should be either dead, or locked up, or completely non-functional, or just a shitty, awful human. I am none of those things.

Every time i blog it’s for me first, because it’s been very effective.
But it’s for you, second – because i want you to hang in there. I want you to find help, answers, love, success, happiness. All of it.
I wish i could do more, but i’m a lot of work, and this is what i can manage.
So far, anyway.

I’m pluggin’ away. It’s what works for me. I go through some tough, scary shit, but i just keep plodding along, learning about myself and how i work and doing the work that’s in front of me.

Then there are moments, beautiful, transformative, life-affirming moments, where i can see, not only how far i’ve come, but the depth and the breadth and the weight of what i’ve been able to achieve. It may not look like much to the rest of the world, but that no longer matters to me. What i’ve been able to do with my brain, my body, my life, is incredible and amazing. TO ME.

I hope that i can inspire others to just hang in there and keep trying. Stop and rest and feel how hard it is when you need to, you deserve that, but as soon as you can muster, try some more.

Love and Peace and So Much Thanks,
~H~

Image: Reclining Nude (c1887), George Hendrik Breitner

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.