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.

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~

Water of Life

CW: Contains indirect references to childhood sexual abuse. This one is heavy for me – emotional. It may be for you, too. Take good care.

**********

Heavy hearts, like heavy clouds in the sky, are best relieved by the letting of a little water.
~ Christopher Morley

So i made it to my therapist’s office today. And i started crying as soon as i saw her.
In the parking lot.
Crying.
Fuck.*

Tears are difficult for me. There is, as with just about every fucking thing in my life, a push and a pull with tears. As an infant, i know that i would have cried. I know from gathering as much information as i could from people who would talk to me about her honestly, that she wasn’t a terribly attentive mother. Unless family or someone she wanted something from was around, and then she was perfect and doting. But her mask would slip occasionally with those she called friend. She’d leave me cry in my crib for too long, saying i needed to cry it out or i’d be spoiled. Claimed i was colicky and would drown me in gripe water (which contained alcohol back in the day), and push baby Aspirin. Based on behaviours i do remember from a young age, i imagine the ignoring of my needs went for longer when no one was around to see.

When she’d spank me or hit me, sometimes she’d stop when i cried, and sometimes she’d go harder. If i cried for something other than beatings, say, disappointment or sadness or fear, she’d berate and humiliate me. I was a big baby and needed to toughen up. She’d accuse me of crocodile tears. I remember her telling other people when they’d show concern, “Don’t believe it. She’s faking. She’s an amazing little actress.”

She groomed me for predators from infancy, so i’m going to assume there were some tears involved there. And the people she gave me to were the hardest, when it came to shedding tears. Some of them would hurt me worse if i cried. Some would complain to my mother and then she’d beat me. And some needed me to cry, which became a problem when sometime around 3 or 4, my tears dried up. She took me to the doctor about it, i think, but i don’t remember what he said.

I do remember what caused my tears to flow again. I was around 12 or 13. I’ll tell that story another time, because this subject matter is already heavy enough.

I’ll share another interesting tidbit about me and tears, though. For my whole life, since my tears stopped flowing and through their adolescent return, you couldn’t tell i’d been crying when it was over. No matter how long i’d cried –i could, and did, bawl my little eyes out sometimes– all i had to do was wipe my eyes and blow my nose, and no one knew.

Sometime during this recent bout of therapy, that’s changed. I’ve never been asked, “Have you been crying?” until a couple of months ago. My face gets blotchy, my eyes and nose get red… It’s like my body is giving up all its ghosts. I’m no longer carved from alabaster. I’m becoming a living, breathing, crying being. Filled with snot, apparently. Buckets of snot.

I’m coming to life and i’m mourning my dead. The tears water me. They wash off my grave clothes. They cleanse me of the filth that coats me that was never mine. I’m pink and warm underneath. Red and blue and purple and golden light! I pulse and sparkle as life flows into dead limbs. I’m sitting in my cemetery, surrounded by beautiful dead things, and as i water the barren sand it becomes fecund. Living things are sprouting up around me. Pretty things. Green things. Life from death. Beauty from shit.

Which is all very lovely and poetic (and still true), but in the meantime – i cry. I want to cry all the time, and i cry just about every day.
People, i am not a fucking cryer. I get choked up over art and suchlike. Verklempt. Sometimes my eyes will fill up with tears, but they generally remain unshed. I can cry for other people, too. If a friend/loved one is suffering, i cry. But that place where one sobs until there is nothing but hitching breaths and hiccoughing? That place where one connects with one’s own pain and suffering? Almost never. And until my first round of effective headshrinking with my current therapist, if it did happen it wasn’t really for me. I didn’t cry over what happened to me, what was DONE TO ME.

Now i am.
I’ll be attending to some task, speaking with someone, reading something unconnected, sitting on the goddamned toilet – and the tears will suddenly come. They spill out and pour down my cheeks, hot and salty. My heart aches and my belly clenches. I weep. I mourn. And i know this is only the beginning. I know there is an ocean of tears inside me yet. A torrent waiting to be unleashed.
I’m going to let them come.

I’ve marinated in self-pity before, and i fucking deserved to. But this isn’t that.
I’m transporting myself back to my childhood, to bear witness to the crimes committed against me. I look upon that innocent little baby, toddler, child, adolescent, teen, and yes, young woman. I watch what happened to her. I listen, and i feel.
And then i mourn. I weep for her suffering. I ache with her needs. I lament her violation, and i grieve her death. She died over and over again, scavenged bits of flesh and blood from the corpse and made a new thing. A zombie. A golem. A robot. A doll.

The water flows and there’s no bottom to this well inside me.

And i thought it was hard to cry. To release my white knuckle control and cry. To stop dissociating from the grief and cry. To feel the pain of past abuse in my body today, and cry. But it is not the hardest thing. Not by a fucking long shot.
Why does a baby cry?
Hunger, thirst, pain, fear… Unmet needs.
What do we do when a baby cries?
Figure out which one it is and meet the need.
Sometimes though, we meet all the needs and the baby still cries. What do we do then?
We soothe them. We hush, we hold, we comfort, cuddle, softly sing. Blankets, stuffies, low lighting. We whisper words of love, vows of protection. We promise that everything is going to be okay.

And now, here we are at the hardest thing.

I’ll try to post about it in the next couple of days.
Until then, try to have as good a weekend as you can.
I will, too.
Do they still make tissues with lotion?

Love and Peace,
~H~

*If cuss words aren’t your thing, you might wanna pass on this piece. I mean, i often let 1 or 2 into my writing, because i write in my RL voice. What you’re reading is how i talk. Yeah, i’m pedantic and histrionic and show-offy with my admirable vocab. I’ve also been known to swear like a trucker made a baby with a sailor, and it was born with an itch it can’t scratch and a 2′ wide yapper.
This post is feelin’ like it needs to be full of swears.