They Exist

Down on your knees
Begging us please
Praying that we don’t exist
~ We Exist, Arcade Fire

I’m not going to use proper paragraph structure here (i mean, as proper as i ever get, because i’m no English major), because i want to highlight the process.

Therapy sesh by phone today, of course. After checking each other’s health and ability to handle self-isolation (verdict: i’m a legit hermit, she’s currently the guru on the mountaintop), i opened with a request. I asked her to help me work through the possibility of putting this therapy on hold while my anxiety level is at Defcon4.

She answers that she is here for me, and to help me figure out how to have the life i want. She reiterates that she has no agenda, no opinion on what my life should look like. She’s told me this dozens of times before, but i need to hear it often, and it calms me like it always has.

I tell her i don’t think i have enough to handle both things; i was stretched too thin already. She asks me what is it about the therapy i’m doing at home that’s causing me to think about stopping for a while.
At first i say it’s because it’s too much to do both and i can’t stop a pandemic, so the therapy has got to go.
I go on to add that my level of function is very low, and my anxiety so high that i’m close to panic all the time.

She asks me how i’ve been caring for my body’s needs.
“When you ask your body what would help it feel safe, what’s the first thing that pops into your head?”

This always takes a minute. When consulting my system or my body, i always have to wade through the chatter, and consciously connect my brain to my physical body. My natural state is one of detachment from the body, which is not natural at all. I do a quick settling in: awareness of breathing, of where my body is touching other things, e.g. feet on floor, butt in chair, etc.

She gives me time for this, because she knows, and after about 3 I don’t knows, i get to,
“Well, i’ve been hiding in my room most mornings.”

She says, “Okay, good. Do that, then.”

I immediately come back with, “But i’m just lying in bed playing games and reading like a lump. Sometimes i’m here till noon.”

She tells me that’s okay. My instant and intense response tells me it’s not. I tell her how ashamed i am that i’m so low functioning and i don’t want to face my loved ones. I tell her even when i get up, i often stay in my pajamas and just watch telly and play games all day. Sometimes i can get supper on the table, sometimes i can shower, but there are days i can’t. Too many days for my liking.

She reminds me that healing from trauma is intensive and exhausting work. She says, “I know how hard this work is for you, because i know how badly you were hurt.”

“Can’t i just dissociate through this; just slide and switch until it’s over?”

“Of course you can. Is that what you want to do?”

“Well, no, but i’m tired of my life falling apart around me while i’m down the rabbit hole. AGAIN.”

I tell her i feel too heavy to move, and then quickly correct myself. I feel frozen, like i can’t move.
One of the ways i survived my childhood was the freeze response. My head separated from my body and i had no emotions (brain) and no sensations (body). It was like feigning death until the immediate threat was over.
My most common response to anything stressful these days is fleeing, but i still regularly experience what’s called tonic immobility. My body will shut down and i can’t move.

We go over what it is that i’m doing in therapy right now. I’m reconnecting my brain to my body. I’m learning to feel what i feel while knowing what i know. I’m turning my attention from my brain to my body, which carries (in some strange way i don’t exactly grasp) memories of the traumas i endured while my mother raised me. If i’m feeling sexually vulnerable or otherwise exposed, i put a pillow in my lap. When my throat aches and jaw feels broken i eat a popsicle. Sometimes i massage it with my fingers if i can handle touch.

While we’re discussing this, she brings up how difficult this work is for me to do, because i never received proper care. If i wasn’t being outright abused, any appearance of care from my abusers usually turned out to be selfishly driven and booby-trapped. Like a hug that turned into a fondle. I unraveled the lies they told me. Now i must dismantle… Dismantle what?**

I said, “I think i just wanted to stop the therapy because i’m ashamed that i’m such a mess. I think shame is my driving emotion.”

“H, shame is the body’s response to a lack of connection. It’s the body asking for connection. When we are connected to ourselves and to another, the body’s need has been heard and met and shame goes away.”

Yeah, go ahead and read it again. I asked her to repeat it a couple of times.

If i was connected to my body, and my body was hurt, i’d deal with the hurt myself, and get help from someone else if i needed it. I couldn’t as a child. There was no help. So i did what children do – disconnect and then blame themselves.
I’m a master of finding my fault in everything that goes wrong.
Heck, i’ll find fault and pick at myself when things go well.
In context this makes sense, but it’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

She asked me if i’d ever experienced connection that deep with another person, the last session when she held me as i made noises that sounded like pure agony being pulled from the centre of my personhood.

“Nope. Not ever.”

“Stay in bed until noon. Wear your jammies all day. Play games and watch funny things and tell the guys to make their own supper. Cover yourself with a blanket. Surround yourself with pillows. Cuddle your dog. Eat salad AND candy. Hide. Protect. Check in to your body and give it care and safety. Give your body back the dignity that was taken from it by listening and providing care. Then shame will just go away because its work is done.

Emotions are never wrong. They’re too primitive to be anything but what they are. Feelings have no agenda, no faults or flaws, no plans for the future, no thoughts or personal agency. They just are.”*

Wanna know how much shame governs my life?
I’m ashamed of being so filled with shame.
As of today, i’m not anymore. Oh, i still carry a boatload of shame, that’s gonna take more work yet, but now i think i understand why.
And it makes sense to me.
And i am not ashamed of that at all.

I’m going to keep plugging along. It’s good that i’ve dialed things back and i’m not doing much. This is what my body is asking for.
I’m exhausted beyond words, but i can continue.
Part of me was looking for a good excuse to stop this work, even for a couple of weeks.
Because as much as it’s good for me to do it, and the results are what i’m looking for…

It hurts like fuck and i feel like shit most of the time.
Shame is my body’s response to the unmet need for connection.
Shame will be on board for some time yet.
I’ve received the message, and i’ll listen and give care, and return my body’s dignity, until i don’t feel shame anymore.

I don’t want to dwell too much on the COVID-19 pandemic, but i have a brief story to share.

I have a dark and twisty sense of humour, and it’s an integral part of my personality. A cornerstone of my ability to survive, even. Lately though, i haven’t found any of the current jokes going around about the virus, or people’s fear, or self-isolation funny at all.

I don’t begrudge anyone their jokes, but they amped up my anxiety, and added to my sadness, pulling me into an empathetic state for which i simply lack the spoons.

Last night i joked to my husband, “I can’t lose my marbles. The last place on earth i’d want to be right now is a locked down institution.”

When i relayed this to my therapist, as evidence that i am still progressing and working through things (more for myself than her – she clearly knows), she laughed.

“I can’t go crazy cuz the last place i’d wanna be right now is the psych ward. That’s funny.”

Babystepping away over here, folks. Carrying a lot of feelings/emotions along with me, and they can all stay as long as they need.
They just are, after all. They exist. We exist.

But I’d lose my heart
If I turned away from you
Daddy don’t turn away
You know that I’m so scared
But will you watch us drown?
You know we’re going nowhere
We know we’re young
And no shit we’re confused
But will you watch us drown?
What are you so afraid to lose?

*This is my best recollection, not her exact words.

**Perhaps i’m done dismantling. Maybe only mantling remains?
Heh.

Intermission

So…
That last post wasn’t exactly written by me, which hasn’t happened in a long time.
I only have a few parts that can handle today’s technology, and based on the tone of the writing i’m fairly certain who it was. While it’s a little worrisome, i’m not overly concerned. In fact, i can see this might be a good thing. If all of me can express how they feel about the body work i’m doing, and all the past issues i’m dealing with as a result, i can see how i might just be building a more cohesive unit inside this weird old noggin of mine.

She’s hurting and feeling abandoned by family. She’s feeling like we never belonged anywhere, and that no one wanted us. I do think about that. I wonder if my mother drove her adopted family away, or if it was more about her not being a part of their religion. As i’ve found tends to be the way of things, it was probably a bit of both. When it comes to my step-family, i’m the one who walked away – they just breathed a sigh of relief and told me not to let the door hit my ass on the way out.

Today i’m going to rest, and try to get a bit closer to the author of yesterday’s piece. I don’t want her to feel so alone, although it’s the primary characteristic of her personality. (How’s that for meta?) I’m going to shift my focus slightly, more towards my system than my body today. I’m thinking if 1 comes out with things to say, i have a couple others who’d be capable of the same, but many only have me, and paper and pen.
I’m going to love on them and listen carefully.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Love and Peace,
~H~

Baby Stepping

I’m doing the work, I’m baby-stepping, I’m not a slacker! Just look, I’m in really bad shape!
~ Bob Wiley, What About Bob? (1991)

When i’m in the weeds, you know, down the rabbit hole, neck deep in shit, whatever you wanna call it – i’m learning to make temporary changes to accommodate whatever it is i’m currently dealing with.

This body work has, at times, been all-consuming, as in, it’s all i can do, and i have nothing left for anything else. When that’s happened, i’ve built a circle of support around me to help get things done that must be done, like cooking and light housekeeping and pet care. There are times in between though, where i’m capable of doing a few things, but i’m still not able to function at the level i could when i wasn’t dealing with body memories and pain, and the panic and chaos that can cause.

I’m fortunate that i’ve been able to create the kind of life where i can just stop everything and focus on myself – i know not everyone can do that. It was hard work and i made some good life choices, but i know that for some people, what i’ve been able to achieve simply isn’t possible. That’s made me both proud of myself, and so grateful for the opportunities life’s thrown my way.

What my life looks like right now is not what it looked like a few months ago. There are days where my body’s so wracked with pain that i can barely get my ass out of bed to the bathroom or the couch. I’m not able to shower, cook, or clean house. Those are the times when loved ones step in to help with the basics. And no one minds if i’m unkempt and stinky for a couple of days. Most days though, i’m able to accomplish a few basic, maintenance-type activities, but it’s taken time, and a lot of experimentation to figure out what works best for me.

The key for me is baby steps. (If you’ve seen the movie What About Bob?, you may chuckle now – i am.) I drop anchor and take a look at what i can reasonably get done. I’m going to need to sail eventually, but can i proceed now, or are the conditions too dangerous, and my best bet is to wait. If it’s something i can navigate if i’m careful, then i’ll weigh anchor. I’m sailing. I’m sailing! I’m saaaailing!
Okay, done with the movie reference. Heh.

I get up in the morning with my husband at 5am, if i can, and i’ll make him breakfast. Sometimes all i can manage is cereal and juice for his meds, sometimes i can get a hot meal on the table. If i can get his breakfast together, his lunch is a cinch. All i need to do is make a sandwich. He’s not a picky guy, so whether it’s PB&J on white or turkey and swiss on rye w/lettuce and dijon, he’s satisfied. Everything else that goes in his lunchbox is prepackaged, so i just grab it and throw it in there.

Once that’s done, i can go back to bed if i want/need to. Sometimes i need to, because i haven’t slept well, or i’m in pain, or both. Sometimes i want to, because he watches the news in the morning and i don’t want to, or i just want to shnuggle up under the covers, or that’s all the peopling and activity i can handle for the moment. Some days i can stay up with him and see him off to work, which is nice for both of us.
Speaking of him watching the news…

I can’t handle it lately – at all. I’ve tried, because i like to be up on world events, but over these last few weeks any little bit that i take in has had a detrimental effect on my mental health. I get angry and anxious and i’m too easily triggered right now. So if i can stay up with him and see him off to work, i listen to music on my headphones and surf the web while sitting beside him. I trust him to tell me world events that he knows i would want to know. The last few days i got sucked back into the news due to COVID-19, and yesterday i realised that wasn’t good for me. I know what to do to best protect myself and i’m doing that, and there is nothing that i can reasonably do for what’s going on for people in the rest of the world. It may seem coldhearted, but it is self-preservation. I must cut the emotional baggage wherever possible; what’s happening is breaking my heart and i need all of my heart for myself at this time. Politics is an absolute NO, full stop. Take out “breaking my heart” and insert “scaring the shit outta me”. Again, i need my thoughts and emotions for myself, to get through this work. Selfish? Perhaps, but i know that once this work is done, i’ll be a far more functional and capable human, with a lot more to give. My well-being will increase the world’s well-being.
I don’t have many spoons in my drawer, and i’m going to need them all before this is done. The earth will continue to turn with or without me, and people will continue to do good or bad as they choose.

Bit of a side note here: A couple of years ago, i cut out entertainment industry gossip, talk shows, and fashion magazines. I’ve been amazed how much better i feel. I used to be envious of the rich and famous, and disgusted by their conspicuous consumption. I used to get pulled into the staged talk show “discussions”, get sucked into the belief that i must be an us or a them, and get swept along with the waves of outrage, rhetoric, and vitriol. Do i even need to say why i feel better now that i don’t read fashion mags or watch red carpet events? I’m gonna go with Hell no! and leave it at that.

If i’ve gone back to bed in the morning, and sometimes i do even after i’ve seen my husband off to work, i get up as soon as i can.
The rest of my day is fairly easy to describe. I do some something productive, and then i take at least as much time to rest and do something that’s not work. The productive things in the morning usually involve stuff like making my bed, tidying my room, personal hygiene, washing dishes from the night before (by the end of the day, i’m often too tired to do anything but scrape the dishes off and place them in the sink), cleaning the countertops, and even planning supper can use up some energy. I’m careful to only do 1 or 2 things at a time, and then i get to sit down and surf the net or watch some telly or read. In the afternoons, i’ll try to get at least 1 larger chore done, like vacuuming or sweeping, or cleaning a bathroom. There are times all i can do in the bathroom is a basic wipe down, other times i can do a proper scrubbing with cleaning products. Often the tub and tile are too much for me, so i just spray with the foam that’s supposed to do it for you – you know the one, right? Then i squeegee it off and that has to be good enough.

With hygiene, again, i do what i can. I like to use an electric toothbrush, do the full 2mins, floss, but sometimes all i can do is scrub the fur off with a regular toothbrush and call it done. I have a very intensive skin care regime for morning and night, but if all i can manage is to wipe my face with a warm cloth and slap on a dab of cream, then Yay for me. Some days the shower is too much energy and some days it’s too much of a trigger, so then i just do a quick gas station wipe down of the pits and the bits. If i can’t even do that, i put on clean underwear, and use extra pit-stick. If i’m that low energy, chances are i’m not leaving the house anyway, and my people love me even when i reek.

Fresh air is good for me, and i love to walk, so i’ll try to get out for a bit. Some days i’ll get in a solid hour w/the dogs too, sometimes i just walk down the road to meet my husband as he comes home from work, and there are days it’s a triumph if i can stand on the front steps and do some yogic breathing for 10mins.
I listen to my inner thoughts, i pay attention to my body and try to minister to its needs. I do what i can and i take lots of breaks in between.

As you can probably imagine, sometimes supper is at the table, with something i’ve made myself, but there have been many times recently, when my husband’s brought take-away and we sit in front of the telly and eat crap.
I have to let that go and be okay with it.

Just for the record, some days writing is my reward, and sometimes it is my chore. And too many times for my liking, lately it’s been too much to even try, and even trying i’ve found my well dry.
I have to let that go, too.

I know this post may be a bit mundane and boring, but i wanted to share it anyway. I want for readers to see my process, to see how i figure things out, to see how my brain works. There are plenty of gurus and self-help books out there, full of advice on how to manage one’s life, and some of it is pretty good. All it ever did for me was make me feel pressured and judged if i didn’t do it or didn’t do it right, or did it and it didn’t work. It mostly just caused me more stress and anxiety, but i did collect enough information from all of it that helped me to carve out my own way to do things.
And that’s why i’m sharing this today –not to tell anyone how to do it– only to show that i’ve done it, and i”m doing it, and i’m learning more and tweaking my routines and getting better results, and having more of the kind of life i want for myself.
I share this to extend hope that if i can, maybe you can, too.

Hang in there. Do what you can. Try not to worry about the rest.

Love and Peace,
~H~

1 Day in the Life of a Crazy Woman

Where i buy a turkey sandwich, but don’t eat it.

Last week i went to see my plastic surgeon. When you lose over 300lbs, you generally need some work done, and i did. I’ve had double brachioplasty, abdominoplasty, double mastopexy and breast implants. I began having tearing pain in 1 breast, and the beginnings of the same pain in the other. As my surgery was 15yrs ago, i went to see if the implants were the problem.
It was a dicey situation for me to walk into, loaded with potential triggers. I thought hard about it and tried my best to prepare. Being topless in front of someone who isn’t my husband, who’s looking at me critically and touching me… I knew it would be difficult, and i’d be dealing with a strong desire to dissociate.

It was hard, and then some. What i didn’t anticipate was that there was nothing wrong with my implants, which left waiting for a mammogram. Great. So something could be wrong with my boobs, like, my real boobs? Fantastic.
There was no way for me to not be alone after the appointment, so i’d invited myself over to my son’s house to visit my DIL and my grandchildren. I figured the bus might be another hurdle still, but doable. I got to their neighbourhood without a single hitch, and then shit happened, as shit do.

I’m on the bus, heading up the hill, and i start feeling nauseated. I know this part of the city well, and i realise i’ve failed to anticipate the real trouble. I’ve spent countless hours in this area’s local park. Waiting for abusers to pick me up and abuse me.
The dissociation happens as soon as the realisation hits, and i can’t stop it.

My body wants to run back down the hill. Get away, go downtown. The library is a haven, and i wonder when it closes. Evening comes early on my side of the equator, so dusk has fallen, and is rapidly becoming nighttime. The air is thick with moisture, and the streetlights illuminate the fog, creating little clouds every 30m or so. I’m wearing knee-high suede boots, because they’re fashionable, and because i’ve only just lost enough weight that my calves can fit any. Yes, i wear them every chance i get, and no, they don’t keep my feet warm at all.

I know the house is only a couple of blocks away, so i should be able to find it. I head up another hill, off the main road, and into the maze of suburbia. In less than 2 blocks i’m scattered, anxiety has started squeezing my heart in its icy hand, and the fog surrounding me seeps into my brain. I find a map on my phone, but it’s too late. I look at it without understanding. I try to zero in on the street names, but i can’t focus. The names bounce around in my head, echoing off bone, passing through each other like string theory. I’m in a cold, foamy sea of yellow roads and names that start with “C”. I’m treading water but i can’t feel my feet and my legs are fast becoming numb…

I startle and quickly look up and around me.
I don’t know where i am.
My feet are blocks of ice and i have snotsicles.
I’ve lost time and wandered.

I call my daughter-in-law for directions, thinking her voice might ground me a bit, or at least force me into a more conscious state. I forget that she doesn’t drive either, and between the 2 of us, we’re not getting me there.
I’m fading in and out. I hear her voice in my ear and then it moves away from me.
My guts churn and my head feels floaty; it starts pounding mercilessly. It feels like my brain is swelling, filling the space like a balloon ready to burst. It presses down into my throat, pulsing, throbbing. My neck and the base of my skull feel like broken glass.

By the time she suggests my son come out to find me, hope is lost. I’ve taken that stumbling hitch-step from Anxiety Hill into Panicland. I feel an icy-hot rush flood my skin at the suggestion of seeing my son. I can’t allow him to see me like this.
I cannot allow my dear daughter or precious granddaughters to see me this way.

Trying to sound calm and blasé, knowing that i’m failing, i tell her i’m going to make my way to the strip mall on the main road. I can hear my scared Little voice quietly harmonising with my desperately false one, but i’m helpless to temper it. All i know is that i must get away from them. She and my son have seen far too much of my calamity as it is, and i committed myself long ago to testing their acceptance and forgiveness of me as little as possible.
I get off the phone and make my way to the string of shops below.

I know i’m close to mild frostbite, but i wander back and forth in front of the various businesses, unable to decide which one i should risk entering. I see a gas station, and think i could buy some gum and use the restroom to gather myself, but as i draw nearer i see it’s a kiosk. Damn.
I see a burger place decorated like a diner set back behind it, but as i walk towards it i see it’s take-away only. Blargh.
Heading back the way i came i see a Korean restaurant, which is a favourite cuisine, but there is 1 person sitting at a table, and that’s not enough to hide, so ixnay on the Ulgogi-bay.
The coffee shop i’d first come across has closed during my indecision. Fucksticks.
Subway sandwiches is open, and while it is cramped AF so not ideal, there are a handful of patrons inside, which might afford me some anonymity.

As i open the door to the restaurant, i close the door on myself.

I look up at blurred images of melting yellows and blacks. My feet are being jabbed with long needles, but instead of delivering anaesthetic it hits me like amyl nitrate – popping me into consciousness with a gasp of pain, immediately followed by panic.
I feel small and naked and my breath is getting away. There’s food and drink in front of me, and my phone is in my hand. Only a couple of my Bits N’ Pieces can use a cell phone, and they’re strictly helping parts, so when i check i see i’ve contacted Kurt.
That should help, but it doesn’t.
I’m too far along and it has me. Full anxiety attack. My chest feels expanded and tight, metallic. My heart is a bomb inside, and it’s going to blow. I need to manage this, but i can’t. I need help, but i can’t think.
I’m scurrying around inside my brain, bumping into thoughts and parts. My emotions jangling, like cymbals crashing, filling my ears, my eyes too wide, one set of fingernails biting into my palm, the other white-knuckling my phone.
My phone.
MY PHONE.

I have a group of friends that i met nearly 20yrs ago on a fansite/message board, and we’ve remained close long after the page’s demise. They’ve stuck with me through all my crazy, supported and encouraged me, held my hand when i was lost and held me up when i was so low i had to look up to see dirt.
We have our own texting group on the phone.
I reach out as sobs are bubbling up and ask if anyone’s there.

They are.
They hop on in response to my need, and proceed to talk me off the ledge.
Helpmehelpmehelpmeplease. I’m trying not to cry but i’m crying. I’m crying alone at a table in a Subway restaurant.
Look down, they say, Look down and no one will see.
It’sokayyou’reokayeverything’sgoingtobeokay. Okay?
Okay.
Can you see 5 things? I say Yes, and whisper them out.
Name 4 sensations, 3 sounds, 2 smells…
I keep my eyes down, and smash the iwonderiftheycanhearmewho’slookingatme that comes and almost derails me.
Do you know any breathing techniques?
Yes! I can 4-7-8.
My no-yoga ass 4-7-8s its little heart out.
Quietly.
In a little curvy Subway chair that cups my rump and thighs and attaches to the table and another chair in 1 big piece.
They continue to text me and say good and kind and right things until the door tinkles open and gives me my husband. His warm and gently smiling face washes over me like a beam of sun and his strong hand knits through my shaking one as he guides me through the watercolour people and into his work van. It’s warm and purring inside, dark and quiet and safe. Safe metal box. Safe space.

I breathe into my collapse. My grateful release of sobs. Panic stops its painful squeezing and my body discharges into the night.

My mother would pick me up from the babysitter’s after work. When she turned left off Northmount before 14th Street, i knew. Sometimes, a man would already be there, waiting. On many occasions though, she would just drop me off in the parking lot of the park, where i would wait.
Wait for a man who was coming to hurt me.
Winter and weekends were the worst.
Weekdays they were usually prompt, but weekends seemed at times to take hours, and our winters are very cold.
My babysitter was the next suburb over, and my grandparents, the one on the other side. A few times i panicked and tried to find them, wandering the streets up and down, looking for help and safety, but never finding it.
Those times my mother would find me, get me into the car, and hit me all the way home. I’d run straight to my room, hoping she was too tired for anything else besides denying me food.

As my husband drove me home i was an earthquake in my seat. My thighs quivered helplessly, my knees knocked together, my shoulders shook, my body heaved and my guts writhed, nausea snaking its way into my mouth. I sobbed and retched as my body discharged and discharged, until i went completely rigid. I arched up against the seatbelt, as if in the grips of a seizure, and then everything let go and i fell back, limp and exhausted.

The panic was gone, and with it went the fear and embarrassment, too. And i wasn’t just emotionally spent, i was calm. I felt noticeably lighter. I felt relief. I felt clearheaded.
As we drove the 50 or so minutes home, i looked back upon what’d happened and i didn’t see failure. I saw success – i felt successful. I was less amorphous in my body; my thoughts and sensations felt firm, solid, like they carried physical weight. My head and my limbs weren’t trying to rise and float away from me, i could feel where they attached to my neck and torso. I was a human being, individual, and contained in 1 whole piece.

All this trying, all this trytrytry, try more, try again, wait and try harder, try different, try her, him, this, that, them. This struggle. This work.
It’s all brought me here.
My brain is afraid and it runs and hides.
My body hurts and it curls up tight like a fist and tries to make the pain disappear.
But all this struggle, all this work, all this freaking TIME i’ve put in, to figure out where i’m broken and put myself back together has brought me here.

Today i have a kit full of tools and a phone full of support.
I still slide and switch and freak right the fuck out, but today i can figure out why. I dig around in my bag and pull out something that helps. There are dozens –yes, DOZENS– of people who will love me and help me through it. The crises that inevitably come are not beyond my ability to cope. I’m no longer left drowning in wreckage, wretched and lost in the aftermath.

This is life as me.
It’s changing and it’s good.
And that’s storytime for today.
Be well readers, friends.

Love and Peace to You All,
~H~

I Twitch, I Tweak, I Try

I flit, i fleetly fly.

I don’t know how to accept kindness and care.
It may be the hardest thing i ever learn to do.
I’ve been so focused on other things that seemed so much bigger for so long, but this work of reconnecting my brain to my body, requires it. My body is sharing its memories as my brain did before. My brain needed me to listen, and i did. I separated memories from dreams, i sat quietly and heard the chatter, the tearful whispers and the bellows of rage from the people who live in my head. And i responded with words that assured them they had my attention. I reassured them, over and over, that i wanted to, and was capable of, setting everything to rights. I asked for some trust and some time to get it all sorted: them, me, our past, our future. To help even the quietest, the most wounded, the angriest, the most dangerous – all of them. Us. Me.

They gave me what i asked for, and i got pretty dang functional.
I thought i was done.
Now i know differently. I know because i couldn’t maintain that level of function. It eeked away from me, and i cut back on those things that i’d recently added to my life when it seemed i could handle it. The volunteering, the community work, the extra socialising… And then i noticed there were some familiar voices missing in my head. I couldn’t hear them and i couldn’t find them. Some of my Bits N’ Pieces wailed that they were dead. Old urges crept back in.

I got my ass back in therapy, and learned that i was not done, rather i was ready for the next phase of healing.
My body was asking me for the same attention that i’d given my brain.
My scattered, shattered brain had given me words, thoughts, pictures that helped me understand myself and my past better, and in return i gave those who dwelt there safety and stability.
Now my body wanted to give me sensations. It wanted me to turn my attention to its many deep wounds. It wanted to share information via physical feelings. And just like my brain, it wanted my help to put things right.
Homeostasis.
Which means i must psychically bind and stitch this battered body with kindness and care. I must provide gentleness and softness and soothe all these areas of my body that exist below my neck. These places that carry such pain, pain so terrible that my little girl body could not feel it and live. And i must stay present and aware and in the face while i do it. No floating, no fleeing, no freezing, no fighting, no dying. As i listened to the words spoken by my system, and was mentally slashed and stabbed with each proffered story filled with terror and hopelessness, so must i receive the body’s tangible communications.

Aching jaw, bruised throat, burning sex, and my muscles ache to my bones, which feel as if they’ve been ground against each other. I feel stiff and puffy, so much so i search my body for signs of the symptoms, but there are none.
Can this possibly be real, or is it the suggestibility from my childhood and my powerful imagination manifesting in my flesh? I truly don’t know. What i do know is that after decades of searching, the therapist who’s (overwhelmingly – like, no contest) helped me the most suggested ways to address the tumult in my head, and they seemed to help. Usually, a lot. Given that, i’m going to entertain her recommendations. If they don’t work, i know she’ll help me find some other way.
But i don’t think it’ll come to that. Even rolling my eyes so hard i get a headache, and only grudgingly doing the work brings about immediate relief.
It may be that i stumbled across someone whose particular brand of crazy merely jibes with my own. Whatever. Based on results, i’m going to keep working with her.

I don’t doubt that i might have achieved this much self-awareness and functionality without her, but i do think it less likely that someone could reach me in the place where i’m the most broken and twisted. She’s invested years of patience, literally meeting me where i was at (my home, because i so often couldn’t leave it), and letting me set the pace (interminable). She dug deep into her education, training, and experience, to communicate to me in language i could understand. Gentle, slow, flexible, slow, kind and with much care, and ever so slow. With no agenda, no plan for me, no measure of success save my own.

Her cure for my traumatised brain was thought.
Her cure for my traumatised body is touch. Safe, care-full touch. Mothering. Nurturing.
Not some weirdo EST encounter type touch. Not some self-help Omega type cradling bullcrap.*
If i want to run, she has me pump my legs to discharge the energy. If my genitals start to numb out, she has me place a pillow firmly in my lap, thereby providing a protective barrier. If my jaw aches i can gently cup it in my hands, and rub it with my thumbs. If my anxiety is a piano on my chest playing cold music on keys made of ice, a weighted blanket is a warm hug when i can’t bear to be touched by a person – even myself. Yes, i can’t even wrap my own arms around me.**

I don’t know how to accept kindness and care.
I was born to be a fountain of unconditional love for my mother, to be a receptacle for her rage, to be a slave to her needs, and to worship her as my god.
She was miserly and capricious with her affection, and i received it all as a blessing bestowed upon me for which i was not worthy.
She mercifully raised me and graciously stooped to love me.
She let me know every day, in ways both overt and insidious, that i was bad, incorrigible, weak, irredeemable.
I was her faithful and penitent acolyte, mortifying myself to gain her forgiveness for my sinful mind and filthy heart.

Intellectually, i’ve rejected her and her parenting.
I’ve dealt with the thoughts and beliefs she planted in my head. Being a parent helped me a great deal. I could ask myself if i would say the things she said to me to my own children, teach the things she taught to mine – i could connect to the answers because i was connected to my children in a way i’d never been to anyone else.
I’ve watched the traumatic events of my childhood like a movie, like a dream that isn’t a dream, and i can see that i was an innocent, a naif. I see that she was sick, and profoundly immoral. I would destroy the world rather than allow that to be done to my children. I would destroy myself at the merest inkling of such terrible urges inside me.

Yet i’ve struggled to be soft and gentle and kind to the person i see in the mirror, at any given moment/day/year of my life. The programming began at birth. The grooming, the preparation for what was to come, the job training. It’s all down so deep, it’s so entrenched, i don’t know if i can dig it all out. I don’t think i’ve gotten to the root yet.
If i replay a memory of past abuse and i watch it dispassionately, in a dissociated state, i can look at that little girl and feel rage and pity and sadness. But when i try to connect with the little girl that lives inside me that was present for that abuse, i can’t. I’m filled with disgust and revulsion. Yes, and worse, a thinly veiled anger. At a sweet and beautiful little girl who endured harm, for me. At a terrified, innocent child who just wanted food and drink, shelter, protection, and love.

I can feel for her, until the moment that connection is made and she is me. Then i recoil in antipathy. I put her away in the farthest reaches of my brain, in a nursery/day room area with all the other littles – the ones most in need of the person and mother that i am today. I keep them from me because they make me feel filthy and disgusting and bad.
I know the truth and have an appropriate response for anyone else. And i know it intellectually for myself. But when i’m fully present and in the face, i cannot seem to extend myself TO myself. Not in grace, or mercy, or gentleness.
I love myself and my system.
But i can’t seem to sit with myself in a soft, quiet space, and be kind, comforting, soothing, nurturing. I can’t provide gentle, motherly care.

This place i’m going, it’s the place where i had to align myself with my abuser or i would die. I had to believe what she told me. I had to be who she said i was. It’s down so deep, it’s back at the beginning. It’s at the start of everything. I’m going to try to get down there, and i’m going to try to dig it out of me. But i’m truly afraid it will kill me. Not intellectually, although i do believe this has the potential to mess me up enough that i require psychiatric care. I’m afraid in my body. My chest and my guts are heavy with dread. My limbs are numb and my girl parts are ice. I’m filled with foreboding, with a sense of doom.

I think this body work i’m doing is both the key to my success, and my biggest stumbling block. Touch is difficult for me. I get anxious about it and have trouble with boundaries, but i’m working it out. The hardest touch to take is my own. It twists me up inside, and i don’t think i see the whole picture yet, as to why that is. I get so freaked out by my own touch that i often dissociate while doing my skincare or makeup, and i’m a numbed-out robot in the shower. Years after my personal hygiene had drastically improved, i still wasn’t pleased with my feminine smell. I’d change my underwear multiple times a day, but i still seemed somewhat unwashed to myself. It took more therapy to understand, and then one day in the shower i realised i barely paid any attention to that area, including wiping my labia and vulva dry after urinating. The slight, lingering odour disappeared immediately. I can’t hug myself when i’m cold, either. I just squinch myself up as tight as i can, but wrapping my arms around myself makes me feel creepy.

I have to conquer this issue to continue reconnecting my mind with my body, and i want to. Doing the work elicits the most skin-crawly feelings i’ve had outside of sexual abuse. Today, as i’m typing this, i wonder if it’s not a defense mechanism. A lot of living things keep unwanted touch away by provoking disgust.
Hm. Something to ponder.
I will push through it, as i have with everything else. I will feel it, i will learn what it has to teach me, and then on to the next.
I’m not sure what sort of shape i’ll be in when it’s done, but i’ll handle that, too.

I’ll use whatever tool that works, to keep me upright and moving towards the person i am/want to be, living the life i’ve envisioned. Today i’m doing it because
THAT BITCH DOESN’T WIN
Maybe one day soon, i’ll be motivated to continue because i’m holding all my littles close and they need me.

To feel good about myself, to my very marrow… Now that’s worth ALL the squick.

Love and Peace To All,
~H~

*For those new to my story, i have issues with psychology (especially of the “pop” variety), and mental health care professionals. My mother jumped on every bandwagon they rode into town, and used it all to become a more efficient and successful manipulator/abuser.

**It might seem contradictory that i can’t touch my face, but i can. It’s levels of dissociation, and they’re dependent on how deep the trigger goes, and how many spoons i have to cope that day. Anything involving my hands on myself, especially around my face, is particularly difficult. Many times i don’t have what it takes to soothe my jaw, or my burning eyes in their aching sockets, or my stiff neck.

The Golden Chain

WARNING: References to paedophilia and childhood sexual abuse.

“Touch me not, touch me not, come back tomorrow.”
Oh my heart, oh my heart shies from the sorrow.
I’m as puzzled as a newborn child.
I’m as riddled as the tide.
Should I stand amid the breakers?
Or shall I lie with death my bride?
~ This Mortal Coil, Song to the Siren

As i’ve said many times before, as a highly dissociative person, it can take me a while to figure out wtf is going on. I knew therapy – duh. Yeah, that’s going on, and it’s about learning to feel what my body is feeling and tend to its needs. To allow my body to release the pain and torment and terror it has stored for all these years, and in so doing, to rebuild a connection between my brain and my body. It was severed before i could even speak, due to severe childhood trauma. I knew that part, so all i was going through emotionally, the downward spiral that i expected, and all its attendant intensity, i attributed to the process.

But life doesn’t stop happening just because i’m doing some serious internal self-improvement, does it? And life happened to me a few months ago – it happened hard and fast and it exploded all over me. It splattered me and my safe place with blood. No one’s dead, and no one’s dying (except for everyone – you’re welcome), but beyond that, i cannot speak about it. My blog is public, and i intend for it to remain so, which means that unsafe people have access to it. I will share about it eventually, but not for some time. I only bring it up to say that, as i’ve been spiralling, it made perfect sense that it was a contributing factor. As it most certainly TF is.

I started using a Fitbit a few months ago. I find it motivational and informative for my slow and careful journey from overweight and unfit to something healthier. One aspect i didn’t expect, and immediately found interesting, is its sleep tracking. I’ve always been a terrible sleeper. I’ve struggled with insomnia for my entire life… For years i identified myself as a nighthawk and lived my life that way, as much as i could manage it. However, as i slowly got healthier in other ways, a couple of years ago i decided to see if my quality of life would improve if i tried being a “morning person”. Since then, with the exception of Sundays, i rise at 5, and try to be in bed between 10 and 11. The change in my mood was immediate and rather drastic. My Fitbit gave me information i didn’t have though, and more detail. I’m a very light sleeper, i wake repeatedly, and i’m restless most of the night. It also reminded me that, as a person with fibromyalgia, i never get much D-level, or restorative, sleep.

Over the last few months i’ve been tinkering with ways to improve my sleep, with some success. Then everything stopped working. My sleep was tanking. I honestly didn’t give it much thought because it happens whenever i spiral. I picked up booze again, to knock me out. It works, but the price i pay is high. My hangovers are epic. As i got more tired and more strung out emotionally, i became less able to say No to the booze.

Alcohol and pills, and for the particularly young, food too, are integral in most paedophile’s toolkits. Therefore, some of the people that live in my brain crave that regularly. Some see it as an escape, some see it as a reward, and some see it as just the way things are supposed to be.
First, i stopped eating compulsively, and then i quit the pills. But then booze, which prior to my weight loss had never been much of an issue, became one, as i sped along on my first full-blown bipolar mania.

I hope i’m setting this up so that it’s understandable. I’m doing my best.

Another thing that happens when i’m struggling mentally/emotionally, is i go to ground. It can be a wise decision. I find people exhausting at the best of times. I mean, i love humans, but y’all can be a lot, man.
I do it partly because i need more energy to cope with my current inner chaos. I do it so i can focus. I do it so as to eliminate the problem of always having to fight the programming i received as a child: to be good, to be liked, to figure out what people want/expect of me and do my best to give it to them. To fit in and be like the person/group i’m with. To please, to placate… to hide myself deep inside. To avoid pain and rejection. It’s easier to be myself than it used to be, but i may always have to deal with the need to feel safe couched in the desire to please.

And so it made sense to me that i was once again hermitting in my Little Crooked House.

So i’m continuing my therapy, i’m getting some sleep thanks to drinking, and i’ve removed the extra stress that peopling adds.
But my anxiety is through the roof. It’s so high i find it difficult to breathe. My brain is catastrophising every thought. I feel terrified all the time. Not scared. Terrified.  I stop sleeping because i’m afraid to close my eyes. I am convinced every night that if i do, i will never open them again. I get an hour or 2 every couple of nights due to pure exhaustion, but i wake up with a scream caught in my throat and my body fully gripped by panic.

I’m switching and sliding around without much control, but there are moments of clarity, where i am fully in the face. My husband tries to help, but i have no words to offer him, no thoughts to share. There is too much going on in my brain, too many conversations, so many voices crying out. I sit beside him in bed at night, mostly playing mindless games and watching shitty horror flicks on YouTube. Sometimes i grab onto him and wrap my body tight around him, thinking it may very well be the last time i ever do so.

I tried so very hard to write, but i was completely unable to do so. I couldn’t even bash out any weird, crappy not-poetry or stream-of-consciousness bullshit. I’d stare at the screen and will my fingers to type something; i could feel that elephant sitting on my chest, and then he’d do a fancy swan dive into the the roiling waters in the pit of my belly (he’s an asshole).

A few nights ago i was drunk, but in the face, my system having abandoned me to their respective corners as i got more panicked and out of control. We amp each other up when things get that bad. It’s like mass hysteria. I tried to sleep, but i woke to me trying to put my clothes on and go outside. Hubby tried to comfort me by taking me for a drive (it’s 12am and he gets up at 5).
I have trouble crying, but when i get like that, the floodgates can open. I was sobbing, the tears running in rivers down my face and soaking my shirt. Hitching sobs and a wrenching in my heart, my throat burning and feeling almost bruised by the force of my wailing.

I try to think of what my therapist tells me to do when i’m in utter crisis. I’m already feeling my body, no need to breathe and drop down into body awareness, right? What is my body asking for? What comfort, soothing, or action can i offer it?
I hear myself saying, over and over, I can’t do this.
I can’t do this, it’s too much.
I can’t breathe i can’t breathe i’m going to die.
I try to tell my husband that i am terrified of death. I’m afraid to close my eyes because i’m terrified i’ll never open them again.
The weight on my chest.
My burning throat.
A lifetime of insomnia and light sleeping.
A deep and debilitating fear of death.
I can’t breathe.
I’m dying.

I lay my hands on my chest, above my breasts, and i press down, splaying my fingers in some strange hug. I take the fingers  of 1 hand and gently, eversogently stroke my throat. I take the fingers of both hands and massage the back of my neck, which throbs, and then i take the bottom of my palms, the bony part just above the wrist, and i carefully, slowly massage my jawline, switching to my thumbs to massage my upper jaw just underneath my cheekbones.

This is when my body communicates to my brain.
Being woken in the middle of the night, sometimes knowing who, sometimes not. Baby, toddler, preschool, elementary… Jaws forced open, not being able to breathe, the weight of a grown body on my tiny one.

This is the work. My body carrying the terrible truth because my brain could not bear it. The sensations containing information that my brain would interpret and cause emotions that i could not live through. I split apart so that i could live.

I’m putting myself back together and this is the work.
One brilliant, gossamer strand between my body and my brain. Attached. Communicating. Mended. I will continue to weave until i am brilliantly, fully alive.
This is the work.

Maybe i can sleep?

Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.
~ Thomas Dekker

IMAGE: Caught In Her Eye, ElleShaped

Curb Appeal

When i was crying in therapy yesterday, my therapist asked if i wanted the weighted blanket. Instant Nope! because i hate that thing. Then she asked if she could come closer and help me feel better. To maybe put her hands on my bouncing knees. No thank you, because touch is too much. Then she helps me find something i can do to honour and respect how my body is reacting. It doesn’t matter how small, she says. All i can muster is 1 foot, up on its heel – a sign. My body is saying Stay away.

I know i’m not saying stay away to her. I know i’m saying it to people who’re long gone from my life. She stands in their stead for me, knowing how much i need to say No, and I don’t want that, and You can’t do that, and Don’t touch me.

My foot, saying Do not come closer. Stay back.
My knees, bouncing. Let’s get the fuck outta here.
My eyes, always glancing between the window and the door. Avoiding her gaze. But it’s not her read i’m trying to hide from. It’s other prying eyes. Eyes that looked into mine and read me to use me better. My mother, reading every book, attending all the conferences, learning how to get more of what she wanted from people through subtle manipulations. People wanted to open up to her. They wanted to give her what she wanted.

I always opened up to her and gave her what she wanted.
Even my brain was hers to poke around in.
She purposely made some of the parts that live here with me.

So i look away from my therapist and calm myself by looking at the door i can rush out of, or if worse comes to worst, there’s always the window.
She doesn’t take this personally. She lets me set fear-based boundaries because it’s symbolic. It’s healing and empowering for me to say No! and set limits, even unreasonable ones.
Don’t touch me.
Don’t talk to me.
Don’t look at me.

This is the beginning of learning to soothe and comfort and care for myself. And this may be the hardest thing i ever do. (Yeah i know i keep saying that, but JFC, if you could “Strange Days” my current experience you’d understand – this shit keeps amping up!)

I was born to be a receptacle for pain, frustration, rage, sickness, filth.
I was taught it was my job.
I was also taught that i deserved it.

My therapist looks at me with care, her eyes are watery.
She says, “I could wind up and smack you across the face as hard as i could, and you would probably be able to handle that more easily than my offer of kindness and care.”
She asks me questions about how i’m feeling, and all i can come up with is a head shake and an I don’t know. But that’s not quite right. I have thoughts and feelings all jumbled up inside me, and words want to come out, but there’s so many i can’t isolate any one thing in order to make sense. It would just be a big, soupy spew.
So i demure, frustrated, and full of vitriolic froth.

This is my life right now. It’s therapy. It’s my absolute #1 priority. I mete out my spoons, Scrooge-like, becoming more miserly with each passing week.
I cannot care about this right now; i need my spoons for therapy.
I cannot share space with this person right now; i need my spoons for therapy.
I cannot deal with this situation right now; i need my spoons for therapy.

This is gonna have to wait.
YOU are gonna have to wait.
I NEED MY SPOONS FOR THERAPY.

I’m curating my life like i learned to curate my social media exposure.
I won’t be making any new friends or any big decisions (hell, even small decisions).
If there’s something not working in my relationships or my daily routines, it’s all getting stuffed in a junk drawer for now because i’m constantly exhausted and stressed dealing with this stuff and there is no room for anyone else’s feelings or issues or problems.*

There’s a baby in my brain. She’s in a frilly bassinet and i have someone that watches over her. Other parts are allowed to go and visit her, but only if they’re in a good place – or at least good enough not to cause trouble. I’m sorry to say she’s not alive, but she is beautiful, and perfectly preserved. Behind her is a vault, where i keep the toxic waste. I thought that was the best place to keep it, locked to all but me. I’ve been gathering it over the years – slurping it up into tanks in my hazmat suit. Hiding it behind metres of steel and locks only i can open. It’s the stuff that killed me as a baby, and poisoned the rest of us. I thought it would stay there, safe and untouched, forever.

But now i know it’s got to go. And i know how to do it, too.
I made a door at the back of the vault. It opens like a big metal one in a scifi show. There’s an episode of Star Trek: TNG, where the ship accidentally travels beyond space and time, “Where No One Has Gone Before”. Beyond my back door lies this place. It will swallow the tanks and they’ll no longer be capable of bringing harm to anyone. They’ll be timeless, formless – existing and yet, not.
I’m preparing to dump them overboard.

*There are exceptions, for instance my kids, or if someone isn’t asking for too much from me and i want to give them some. “Want to” being the important part. Drama is the onion on my pizza right now – and i pick that shit off, man.

**********

I was getting groceries yesterday, and a lovely woman i know commented on my appearance, and asked me how i’ve accomplished my weight loss. I told her, “I changed one thing about the way i eat, and i did that one thing until it became a part of me. And then i changed one more small thing and did it again.”

And that is exactly how i’ve been chipping away at the 100lbs i’ve been struggling with since around 2009.
Yes, 10yrs. Yo-yo-ing the same 30lbs or so, over and over, with diets and food plans and shakes and pills.
But that entire time, i was learning things. About myself, about food, and about how i used food and how i relate to food, and how all of that is affected and shaped by who i am as a person and the trauma i endured growing up.

So while it may have looked like i was stagnating in my 100lbs-overweightness, i was absolutely not. I was tearing myself down to my foundations and building myself back up: Better. Stronger. Faster. (Like Steve Austin, except i’m Jamie Sommers.)
Yes, it’s taken years. That’s okay with me, because i know that i’ll never be obese, morbidly obese, or knocking on the door of super morbidly obese, ever again. My weight might still fluctuate on occasion, but i have infrangible confidence in my ability to handle it, should a problem arise.

As i’ve moved through therapy and learned about who i am and how i work, i’ve been able to tweak what i eat and how i eat. I no longer become despondent when something doesn’t work. I just try something else. I know that i’m in this for the long haul and i can trust myself to stick with it, and everything… Well, everything is gonna be okay – or at least some version of okay that i can live with while working towards a better okay. Or –what the hell– why not try for better than okay?

Then it hit me. I’ve done the exact same thing with my mental health.
It’s been 15yrs of looking my diagnoses full in the face and working on living with my abusive childhood, all to achieve a better quality of life. I’ve lost treasured relationships and i’ve abandoned even more.
I’ve been judged, whether unfairly or justly, to be too fucked up to associate with by many. I started out being devastated by this, but eventually i learned it was their right, and kind of not my business.
Then i thought i could avoid this by starting each new friendship with a serious, candid warning about how i can be a lot, so honest, open communication is helpful…
Sometimes that’s worked and sometimes it hasn’t.

I must’ve seemed like a freakshow that derailed a train.
Well, i know i did, as some people were kind enough to tell me so. /s
Ah, thanks?

I wasn’t any of that, though.
I was tearing myself down to my foundation so that i could build myself back up with better materials, in a style that suited me. Me. Not them. ME.
I was a bit of a fixer-upper, yes. And the renos have taken a loooooooong time, yes.
But i’m no money pit.
And no, i’m not on the market. I do the odd showing, but most people will just have to admire me from a distance. I’m private property.

I’ve been tweaking myself like i’ve been tweaking my diet and my lifestyle and my relationships. I’m just finally starting to reflect on the outside, all the work i’ve been doing on the inside.

So there.
Neener.
And also, How about that, eh?

Happy Monday.
Love and Peace,
~H~