Red Robin

This was a tough day. I lost myself for a while.
I see i’m taking a turn with blogging. What i mean is…Thbfft. I don’t know. The things i write feel less random; i have more of a sense of purpose. Which is scary, because
what if no one picks up what i’m throwing down?

I’m not sure this belongs here, but let’s try. I’ve fucked up and freaked out before and i’m still here. My therapist said today (again, because i need it repeated) that no one ever died from feeling their feelings.

I wrote this but i didn’t.
WARNING: Contains references to childhood sexual abuse.

This throb throb throbbin’
blob goblin

Stomp stompin’
Stop your rompin’,

You’re blockin’ my talkin’ and rockin’ my noggin
Pop a sock in and i’ll drop the sobs and turn the knob

My open gob is toxic shock

My bleeding lips and broken box will feed and slip
Your twisted locks

I’m thump thump thumpin’
My blood’s still thrummin’ and you’ve got nothin’

You walk my block and pimp my tots
You robbed my plots

I balked, i stalked, i hid behind your seething thoughts
Gripped the lynchpin while you were pumpin’ filth and grinnin’

I bobbed and slipped your pinching hips
I clobbered
I punched your slobbing dick in

I cry
They lie
My head it died
I’m satisfied
They’re fried

I fly and wave goodbye

 

Purgatory

Agonies are one of my changes of garments,
I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become
the wounded person,
My heart turns livid upon me as i lean on a cane and observe.
~ Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

I’ve wasted time and energy being angry at the wrong things. It wasn’t safe to be angry at the right things, and once it was, i no longer remembered why i was so angry.

I’d colour a picture, and if i made even the tiniest titch outside of that thick, black line, i’d rip out the page, crumple it into a ball and throw it out. If i was almost finished when i did it, i could get so mad that i’d scribble all over it first – grinding the coloured wax into the paper and ripping through to the pages underneath, pressing so hard my fingers were dimpled and hot, stained with the crayon that would inevitably break in two.

when it was born in me — that first what the fuck is this?
i was triplets
My heart, My guts, chubby hands holding My face
orbiting My brain like little Plutos

i hid it away and kept it safe; clever girl
little bits of me chipped off or
chiseled, floating away
My eyes filled with crocodile tears
My burning vulva
My precious 4yr old, looking in the mirror with her bottle of poison
caught and gathered in to my gravitational field
chunks and gobbets, slivers and strands, frozen
flesh and rocky bone
orbiting My mass and My might.

Last night i tried to sleep, but one dose of Cipro couldn’t buy it. I left my disco waterbed and wandered into the living room, wishing for a fire in the hearth, but settling for dogs and cat and blanket.
The fibro is fire enough for my Pomeranian companion to abandon my legs for the chair beside me – i’m a furnace of pain. The cat leaves due to bad vibes (i’m sure), and the Pit Bull sniffs concernedly at my arms and shoulders. I reach down and wrap my arms around her neck, smelling her skin as she nuzzles me. Who knew the nose-juice of a dog could be a balm?
My girl parts are numb, curled around my traitorous waterworks that feel like ice. The heavy throb underneath the mons, urging me to urinate, but i can’t. I know there’s nothing there, or at least not enough. Its slicing exit is such a trigger i talk to myself while i pee -babble, really- anything to keep me present. As much as it hurts and as easy as it would be to let someone else deal with this pain, i know that it is positively VITAL that i do not.

The gift of this pain is its/it’s preparing me for what’s to come. It is a proving ground.
Can i handle what’s coming? They watch and judge. We all want to know.
Can i bear the pain that’s in store?
Can i gather them to me and keep them?
Can they stop drifting around my periphery and finally come home?

This is why i’m so angry.

Sometimes — i don’t care what anyone says — sometimes, anger is my primary emotion. But most of the time it is as they say, a secondary one. My response to pain or the threat of pain is anger. I still do the fight, flight, or freeze thing, but i’m usually pissed about it.

I live in the land of the dead. My thoughts are not connected to my feelings or my sensations on some kind of level that i can’t yet explain. I’ve been climbing up and out on old bones, and i have the land of the living in my sights, but i’ve gotta go through Purgatory to get there. I’ve got to pick through the sea of hot flesh and refuse, find my bits and my pieces, and slap them back on my cold, naked skeleton. I’ll sew ’em, weld ’em, glue ’em, nail ’em – whatever is required.

It’s gonna hurt like a motherfucker. It’s gonna hurt in a way i’ve never been hurt before.

And none of this is my doing. None of this is my fault. But it is all -allofit- my responsibility. My duty to my system and myself.

I’m coming up on rage soon, i think. Because i’m fucking terrified.

That’s enough for today. I’m getting super-dramatic up in here, and i need to decompress and get a bit of distance. I’m hoping by tonight this cursed (pronounce this CURSE-ed for full effect) UTI will have eased enough that i can get a bit of sleep, which may soften the fibro some.

And of that second kingdom will I sing
Wherein the human spirit doth purge itself,
And to ascend to heaven becometh worthy.
~ Dante Aleghieri, Purgatorio

Y’all hang in there. I promise i will, too.

~H~

Image: NASA

Fallow Fields In Winter

WARNING: This contains references to childhood sexual abuse and trauma.

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow…

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

~ Wallace Stevens, The Snow Man

This new year’s resolve to “write through the bad”, has been okay. (Good sounds better, but i’m not writing songs here, i’m emoting, dang it!) It doesn’t come naturally – i want to hide the unpleasantness and the uncomfortability until it’s passed, then turn a less passionate eye back upon it and create something easier to consume. To season it with the wisdom and hope of seeing clearly now, the rain is gone. A spoonful of sugar.
But this pushing through and sharing my struggles when i’m in the thick of it, is a vital part of what i wanted to do here, with this blog. And after more than a year of cutting myself some slack because it’s really scary and hard and what if it fails and i just look pathetic? it was high time to bite the bullet.

I lost a treasured friendship years ago, where her parting shot was to call me “disingenuous”. It was during the most chaotic time of my life, mentally speaking. I was learning what it meant to be a multiple, and getting to know my Bits N’ Pieces, while also in the grip of a powerful mania. I was in and out of hospital, i was barfing up the details of my childhood to a small group of people, including her, and i was switching and sliding around in the face on the daily. I was a bloomin’ shitshow. She broke up with me via private message, and it was like a shelf of scree peppering down and pelting the crap out of me as i’m climbing a mountain. Our friendship was intimate, on a level i’d not had with anyone else, and rejection is perhaps the core issue of my life. I slid hard after that. To be fair, that was happening anyway, but her completely unexpected and not a little vicious severing of our relationship certainly sped up my descent.

Oh, i knew how hard it was to believe in multiplicity. It seems ridiculous to begin with, and its portrayal in books, television, and movies has done it no favours. It’s weird and silly and awkward and cringy, and some of the best known examples of it have been soundly debunked. Take that, wrap it in my childhood programming that taught me to hide it from everyone including myself, and you have why i ran from the diagnosis until my early 30s. Hell, in my quest for mental health and happiness, i’ve met a lot of multiples, and i couldn’t stand being around them, either. Disingenuous fits them all quite aptly.

Well.
I just found another level of forgiveness for her. Which she’s never asked for and may not be necessary. I mean, i’m going to guess, based on knowing her as well as she let me, that it wasn’t easy for her to come to that decision, but she did what she thought she had to do. Nevertheless, there it is – forgiveness. I feel it for her, so she has it. We’ve not had any contact since that awful email, but the aether that my brain floats around in burns hotter and shines brighter, illuminating more spaces and warming more faces.

Writing through the bad, i’m tellin’ ya.

To continue though, that painful loss with its attendant accusation stayed with me. Part of the reason i only (well, mostly) wrote after my internal storms was because of this. By writing after, i was able to curate the information i shared, editing out the kookier bits. I’d feed my readers a familiar stew: veg, gravy, salt and pepper, and cubes of recognisable meats. No misshapen bits of offal floating around, which, although they’ve been slow cooked to tenderness and skillfully seasoned, taste foreign and smell slightly funky, and are otherwise off-putting to the uninitiated palate.

Still trying so hard to be liked, to stay safe.
Don’t hurt me, don’t leave me.

The time for that is ending, or why else have i worked this bloody hard?
I’m learning more and more about who i am. As i plod along and work at this bit of trouble, and bag up that pile of shit, and clean the sludge off this window, i’m taking shape. This is me – put it there. That is not me – punt it.
To know myself is my great adventure and the greatest gift i have ever received. That it is i who gave it makes it priceless. That it is only i who had it to give, makes me glorious.

And with that wonderfully flourishy wordpaint as background, it’s time to decorate it with some gloomy little clouds and some scarecrow-lookin’ trees.
A barren landscape.

The few times i’ve spoken of how broken i am, it’s made everyone uncomfortable. People hasten to assure me that i can be healed. The way that they say it sounds like what they mean is “put back to rights”. I’ve stopped bringing it up, for the most part, because i can see how it touches on something deep and private and in need of protection inside them. That i’ve been destroyed on a level that can never be made right, seems to make people break out in a psychic sweat, like it threatens their inner sense of security or their worldview. I don’t quite know what it is, but i trigger something. Even my therapist pushes back at it, suggesting we use another word. Not broken, she says, “disregulated”. I’m willing to concede that’s part of it, and also that she definitely knows more about multiplicity and the healing process than i, but one thing i’ll always know better than she will, is me. And to me, some of that push back is just putting lipstick on a pig.

It tries to steal a little bit of the truth from me, and although the intentions have some good in them, they cannot have even a tiny bit of it. Not for me, not for my system, and certainly not for the people making these claims. I’ve fought too hard and bled too much to give even a smidge of this terrible truth. I won’t dull the edge of its blade, i won’t blur the colour of its blood, and i won’t move one single stone to make the mountain weigh any less.
What was done to me was monstrous and horrid, and the price i paid was destruction.

Before today i have never written or talked about how vast are my wastelands, but today i feel full of medieval stories with valiant knights and darksided princesses. I’m Histrionica Butterfly, full of shit and poetry, and shitty poetry, and the icy cold wind that blows through me sweeps over a place inside me that is empty and dead, that feels nothing and cannot love.

**One more warning: This may be bleak and ugly to read. Be as sure as you can that you’re okay/safe to read it before continuing.**

The abuse in my life began before i could speak. There is enough evidence for me to confirm my feelings and my system’s claims that it began almost from birth. One night, while in the middle of the natural disaster that was 2006-2015, i dreamed of a baby. All the people that live in my brain with me were there, standing around her in a little bassinet. It was the prettiest baby pink froth of frilly lace and tulle that a child’s mind can conjure. They parted as i approached, heavy-legged and leaden-bellied.  I stepped up, peered in and there she was, but she wasn’t pretty and pink like her bedding, she was pallid, with a hint of blue. There was no warmth, no rise and fall.
She’s the first, they said, And she’s dead.

It was years before i told anyone (i think) and i’ve only told my husband (i think), that the first person i was, my birth-me, is dead. I say “think” because those years are foggier than most, and even now, when i speak of these matters, things are generally hazy and the potential for sliding around is great. I do remember well though, that he rejected it quickly – threw it away like a hot potato. I could see it distressed him to think so, even to think that i thought so.
I let him convince me i was wrong and i didn’t bring it up again.

Please understand that when i use words like “claim”, “believe” and “know”, i’m not using them in a scientific context. This stuff is barely science. My psychiatrist once said psychology is such a soft science one could call it squishy. What i’m doing is decidedly not science, and nebulous as fuck. It’s cerebrally located, manifesting nowhere, Matrix-level, fantastical fancy that blinks in and out, existing ephemerally, as i construct a framework upon which i can build my understanding of myself. A mental map and a family tree/genealogy of my system.

To find my baseline. To achieve homeostasis.
But as i gather information and my framework gathers form upon it, there’s a deadspace – an empty spot where nothing grows.

I’m rarely able to build intimate relationships.
I can get to a point where i’m close with a person, but there is a step i seem unable to take. I don’t quite know what it is, but former friends have been able to feel and/or identify it in me, and have walked away.  I know this because they’ve told me as much. There is a wall, a door, a blank spot, a NOPE sign. On rare occasion i’ve developed deep friendships, but i’ve sabotaged them all, eventually. I’ve driven everyone away, except my husband and children, and my husband is just pure anomaly, because i’ve pushed him harder than anyone.

My children are a special case. The things i so needed to do for myself that i could not, i was able to do for them first. To protect, to champion, to trust, to stay, to love. They confirmed that my mother was evil, and that i am not.

Touch is a minefield for me. I like it and i want it, but rarely and only from certain people. It’s a tricky business because touch is something we need from birth, it’s essential to proper development, to feed and nurture a healthy psyche and self image. So while i was held and fed, i was also physically and sexually assaulted.

How does a preverbal mind, one that has no concept of self, process that?

A brand new mind can’t, it isn’t developed enough, so the brain cuts the connections between sensation and emotion and thought. If disconnection happens often, and/or for long enough, these detached, untethered bits can develop a kind of rudimentary system of their own, a sophistication not unlike a personality. A thought, an emotion, a need, floating around without context or connection for enough time that it begins to become its own person.

This is how the endless push and pull between come-closer-don’t-leave-me and stay-away-don’t-hurt-me began. Before self-awareness. Before speech. Before i could even walk, the instinct to withdraw from pain had been quashed. I didn’t run away because i didn’t know that i should. I’d already built pain takers and fear dampeners and sick little bits that allied themselves with my abusers.
Bad girl. Be a good girl.

I don’t know when i put that baby away in that morbid, cartoonish bed and built that funereal viewing room, but i started dreaming about them once i accepted that i was a multiple. I have some very specific themes and motifs in my dream life. Bugs, streets in suburbia, getting lost in a maze, stealing, eating, abandonment by groups; there’s more. Getting to know my system produced new dreams, and they’re not so much disturbing as they are exhausting. I’m in a house, and i’m caring for children. The size and condition of the house varies, as does whose children they are and who else lives there, but it always devolves into chaos. The children become disobedient, or they disappear, or they become filthy or sick, and the house becomes more and more cluttered and dirty, and i’m exasperated by the children and ashamed of the mess…
And there is always that room with the baby in it.

I rarely go into the room, i mean, i can count the number of times on one hand and have fingers left over. Also, i regularly forget that the baby and the room are a part of the dream, but whenever i remember, i suddenly know she’s in all of them. She’s never alone – there’s always someone with her, watching over her. And sometimes the thing watching over her is the faceless darkness that is always in all of my dreams, sometimes pursuing me, mostly just there. Sometimes it’s content with hovering at the edge of the dream, but sometimes it makes a more insistent appearance, demanding my dream-conscious acknowledgment that it’s there. I’ve become rather adept at waking myself when it does.
I wonder how it feels about that.

This is hard for me, and my brain keeps wanting to cloud it all over, so words are echoing, and i’m getting tired, and it tries to tempt me with squirrels and shiny things, like sound, light, movement. I’m frustrated, verging on pissed off, so let me sum up:

I have a dead baby and an evil stalker.

There is a piece of me that is dead forever and can’t be resurrected. And that formless, terrible thing that is everywhere and always inside me fills me with dread. It sends out a constant simmering disquiet that covers a space inside me like a fog rolling over winter-fallow.

The work i’ve done and the person i’m currently working with have convinced me that a level of healing and health that i’d not thought possible, is in fact likely, as long as i continue onward in the spirit of dogged dedication that i have been. But i know absolutely that there is a place, a spot, a space, where a living thing will never grow, and a dear, tiny being that will never again draw breath.

I have more to say about this, and it’s not bleak. This part of me that vexes others so much, is integral to how beautiful and amazing i am.
Take care of yourself. Hang in there. Get help. Keep trying. Rest until you can try again. Don’t give up. I care and i want you to make it – so much so that i hang my weird naked ass out here for everyone to see.

~H~

Still Not Poetry

face grease on the glass
a youthful picture in oils
exuberant still

She watches as the car drives up
knowing he is here for her
Rising from the carpeting she smooths down her dress
the marks left behind on her knees itch
Pleasantries are exchanged with a small bag at the door
He smiles Hello and his eyes sparkle
She walks down the steep concrete steps
deftly stepping off and to the left
plunking down in the cooling grass to stare into Dandelions
Looking up as he helps her settle in the passenger seat
She waves and waits for candy

she waves back and smiles
the car smells like cigarettes
nothing matters now

It Was Awful and It’s Enough

This is mostly about memories. It’s a massively complicated field, especially for the one who holds them. Mine is like a demilitarised zone, burdened by landmines everywhere and sudden bursts of friendly fire. I’ll share a bit about my experiences with my memories over the years, and i’ll try to communicate how i’ve sifted through the wreckage and managed to deactivate some and tiptoe around others.
I live with my memories as i live with my people: We have an arrangement. I own the land they’re on so, my turf, my rules.

In case it has not been clear heretofore, i live with Bipolar Disorder and multiplicity. I will explain my word choices.
When i look at the definition of BP, i fully agree, including the characterisation of it as a disorder, which means a mental condition that is not healthy. I use the term “multiplicity” because i do not agree that “dissociative identity” or “multiple personality” is a disorder.*
I see being bipolar as an injury, whereas i see my multiplicity as more of a mutation. My survival was at risk, and my brain found a way to alter (haha) itself and save my life. Calling that a disorder deeply offends me. It dredges up feelings of resentment and bitterness, because i fought the diagnosis and blocked myself from getting the help i needed for so many years, due to the misunderstandings, mischaracterisations, tropes and morbid fascination surrounding it. I view my bipolar behaviours as dysfunctional, but i see my multiplicity as creative or differently functioning. Further, it suggests that the parts of my brain that may technically be me, but aren’t quite me, are a sickness or a virus that needs to be eradicated. As a collection of various bits and pieces, we view this as tantamount to murder.

(As a brief aside i would like to impress that these opinions are my own. I don’t take my thoughts and conclusions about my diagnoses and apply them to anyone else. If you’re bipolar and/or multiple and you see things differently, i don’t think you’re wrong. This is only how i view things through the lens of my own life experience, my own personality, my own personal philosophy, and what i believe to be truths. I’m looking through my own kaleidoscope, facing the sun at a particular time and place in the sky, twisting the tube and marking the bits of coloured glass where they fall. You have your own cylinder of mirrored magic, and i’d love to hear what you see when you look through it. Tell me who you are and i’ll believe you.)

I have memories from very early on. I’d be relating things to other family members and they’d ask, “How can you remember that?”
My grandmother was a teacher, and she taught me to read very early. She saw my gift for memorisation and gave me poems and portions of books to learn and recite back to her. When Mom picked up on it, she’d get me to do it too. She was a single mother on a tight budget who often had to bring me along to adult functions, and i would sit there quietly reading and committing to memory whatever she’d given me. Sometimes she’d make me demonstrate my abilities to the people gathered – she loved the attention.

I also remember my dreams. They go back almost as far as the memories, i think. To this day all my dreams fall into distinct categories and are filled with recognisable patterns and motifs. I was terrified of the dark and plagued with night terrors. Mom was mostly just irritated by it all until i was diagnosed with epilepsy. Then she was able to milk sympathy from everyone, and money from her parents. It also gave her a reason to get me in bed and out of her hair a couple of hours earlier, because proper sleep was paramount to controlling the seizures. This proved problematic for both of us because of my sleep issues. She found someone who could help me (her), and i saw him a few times. He taught me lucid dreaming. I met him in an office and he had nice furniture, so i’m going to guess he was somewhat educated. He might have been an MD or a p-doc or a counsellor with accredited courses under his belt. Regardless of his education, i took to his instruction like the proverbial duck to water, and my ability to fall asleep and stay asleep improved measurably.

I wish i knew who he was, because he saved me in more ways than he or i or anyone could have known. He taught me to examine my dreams: to think about them, talk about them, even write them down. He had me prepare for sleep, too. I would lay in bed and purposely think about prior dreams that had scared me, and tell myself firmly that i wouldn’t be dreaming about those things that night. He had me remind myself that i could get away from anything that scared me in a dream by either waking myself up, or doing something creative within the dream to change things, like fly away (which is awesome, and i can still do it). Then i would use the breathing techniques we’d practised in his office and i’d fall asleep.

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you might already know that as a multiple, my imagination is practically a super-power, and although my fear of the dark persisted until i left home and i would still sleepwalk occasionally, my night terrors stopped.

Once away from home and relatively out of my mother’s reach, my dreams began changing, becoming horrific once again. The subject matter was sexually violent and bloody. Although i was still adept at lucid dreaming, i was frustrated in any attempt i made to control these dreams. At best i might be able to wake myself up, but often i was helpless until it was done with me. In these dreams i felt heavy and had terrible difficulty in holding my head up or moving my arms and legs. Everything around me was distorted, including sounds. I could hear cries of pain and pleasure, and there were thick, awful smells that made me actually retch. I remember the therapist telling me that if i wasn’t certain whether i was dreaming, to pinch myself hard. If it didn’t hurt, then i was dreaming. But i was almost never able to,  and i’d usually cry or scream myself awake. I’d realise that i’d been dreaming, but i could still smell the smells sometimes, and my body would hurt where it hurt in the dreams, including my arm if i’d been able to pinch it.

I learned to live with the dreams, what else could i do? They faded over time, and once i had my first child i only suffered the bloody ones a few times a year.

I’m going to fast forward through finding love, having more children, gaining and losing a tremendous amount of weight, losing my religion (lalala), and being diagnosed with both multiplicity and Bipolar Disorder. I’m going to pick up again where i’m trying to keep myself alive and out of the Bin, and it is REALLY FUCKING HARD, because i’m drowning in a sea of memories and my dreams won’t leave me alone, and i have realised and accepted that there are, to all intents and purposes, other people who live in my head and holy shit! do they have a lot to say about EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME.

Then they tell me that some of my dreams are actually memories, and my whole world explodes.
And here i’d thought it already had.
Hahaha! Nope.

What followed was a massive purge. I liken it to when you’re eating something that tastes okay, but then your mom tells you it’s not the usual chicken stew, it’s actually the wild rabbit that’s been nibbling the cabbages in the garden, teeheehee… And your stomach suddenly clenches up and you know you’re gonna catch hell for it but that bunny is comin’ back up.

I spilled everything that was in my head out into my husband’s lap, sorting through it, picking up various items for closer inspection, grabbing him for support, shaking him as things became horribly clearer, shaking him as i was shaken inside. Recognising voices that i’d always assumed were random thoughts like everyone else had. Learning that they weren’t, that they were me yet not quite, that they were siblings and friends and protectors, yet all of them my own children somehow…

Feelings attached to dreams-that-weren’t-dreams.
There was the awful, sickening internal thud, as these memory-stones that had been floating through my brain-space were finally weighted and overcome by the terrible gravity of my knowingness.
They fell, one after another, like a meteoric hailstorm, scorching the ground and leaving massive craters. I could do nothing to stop them, only watch as they burned until they could burn no more.

Those dreams, those terrible movies that played in my head while i was sleeping, now i knew they weren’t horror movies that i’d directed.
I’d always feared i must be twisted, perverted, and depraved, because children don’t think like that, but my dreams had always been so putrid, so filthy. As an adult i knew i was sick, because i could see nothing like it in my own children.
It was always with me; a shadow, a secret that i tried desperately to keep, a constant plaguing surety that if you reeeeally knew me…

Relief came, relief because i wasn’t a depraved degenerate! but it was bitter and short-lived as it was quickly consumed by feelings that my people had been absorbing and holding for me for so long. They unleashed a torrent that swept me into the cesspool that i swam in for the next decade or so.
But while i was soaking, wallowing and marinating, i was able to identify a lot of the crap that was floating around in there with me.

Metaphors and poetic imagery aside now – i went to science for help. I’d left religion behind some time before, and any belief in the supernatural soon after. I knew that scientific study had found some answers about the brain, and specifically how memory works, so that’s where i started.
I read scientific, peer-reviewed articles on mental illness and how my particular set of challenges affects my brain functions. I learned what skepticism is, and have tried to be a good skeptic ever since. I try to think critically and rationally. I learned about memories and the effects things like trauma, drugs, and time can have on them.
I learned to look for corroborating evidence; i asked family wherever it was possible and safe for me to do so.
My yardstick became a phrase made popular by Carl Sagan, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.
I let go of the need to be right, the fear of being wrong, the idea that i needed to justify my life to anyone, and instead focused only on what i could reasonably believe to be true.

My dreams were finally able to offer some help. They come, regularly, in their highly stylised, easily categorised ways; full of recognisable imagery and well-used motifs. The ones i can affect or alter, are of my own imagining. The ones that hold me in their bloody grip and i can only rarely escape through the sheer horror/terror of them, or my own cries and screams waking me… Well, those are memories. Even those though, can be suspect. Yet still, i can suss out some truth. Some of them have what i thought at first to be a dreamlike quality to them: blurry, melting colours, strange shapes, unnatural creatures, unlikely behaviours and the like. But i know i was often made docile or malleable with the use of drugs, so even those become a confirmation of a kind.

And some of that truly fantastical stuff that i shared with my husband and a few trusted friends? Some of it almost certainly never happened, and some of it may very well have, and although i might like to know for sure, i do not need to.
Because this: Even if i’d never had any realisations, never got my diagnoses, never figured out a damn thing, even if i’d just kept truckin’ along with what i’d been present in the face for, even if all i had was my own flawed recollections from about 4yrs old and upward…

IT WAS AWFUL AND IT’S ENOUGH.

I’m the kind of person that is curious and wants to learn about stuff and wants to know things. The more emotional garbage i toss out, the more organised i become mentally, the more functional i am on a day-to-day basis, the more i am freed up to learn and to know more stuff.

I want to believe true things and be a good human.
I am muddling my way along to that end.

Love and Peace,
~H~
*I do use the terms “MPD” and “DID” in my tags, so those interested and others of like mind may find me.

Thanks, I’ll Pass

I’m not celebrating Christmas this year. This will be the third year i’ve not done so. I’m certain about my decision and very comfortable with it, but i’m 100% open to returning to it at some point.

Christmas had become my personal microcosm. It was a vignette of how i once viewed life and the living of it. But as i was getting healthier mentally and emotionally, i could see that it was getting hard for me to continue my growth through the holiday season, or even maintain the status quo until it was over. It had become a frantic sketch of the overwhelmed wife and mother who is desperate to be Martha Stewart but only manages Lucy Ricardo. It was like looking at an old snapshot, with yellow seeping into all the colours and the edges curling up.
Quite a few things were happening for me back then. I realised that i was doing the backstroke in my ocean of despair, which was probably a sign that it was time to get out and dry off. I can’t tell you with absolute certainty that i needed to swim around for as long as i did, but i thought so, so that happened and there you have it. When i stepped out onto the shore i immediately felt the sun’s warmth. I realised the ocean had been cold and brackish, and i had turned blue and prune-skinned. My mourning clothes lay on the ground where i’d left them, but they proved scratchy and a poor fit, so i left them behind and walked on, keeping an eye peeled for something more appropriate for the walk and the weather.

I loved Christmas as a child for all the regular reasons, but mostly because my mother was almost always on her best behaviour. She loved the music, the decorations, the gifts of course, and Oh my! didn’t she love the food. When i was young she made a real effort to make things beautiful and festive, she gave care and thought to my gifts, and when she wanted to, my mom was a helluva fine cook. When she was happy, everyone was happy. She could be brilliant and charming and funny and dear. My grandparents, although they had become careful what and how much they gave her, were wonderfully generous with me, and to the best of my recollection, we spent all, or at least part, of every one of those Christmases with them until i was 7yrs old. Christmases slowly, but steadily declined after that.

The year i turned 8 she fell out with the man i believe to be my biological father and suffered a psychotic breakdown. She was committed, and i was removed from the home and placed in foster care. During that time my uncle was killed while on holiday, and my grandparents were devastated and never recovered. They were completely unable to handle my mother, and they gradually lost interest in seeing me (i’ll never know how much she had to do with that, but i suspect at least some). When she was released it took her some time to get me back, and interestingly enough for this piece, i was returned to her on Christmas Eve. The honeymoon period lasted a couple of weeks,  but by the time next Christmas rolled around she had taken an underage lover and moved us to a small town to hide her crime. She made him a father at 16. She was 34. I was 11.

She proceeded to have 3 more children in the next five years. The boy she stole from his family became a man, but had dropped out of school in grade ten to be with her, and she wouldn’t let him out of her sight long enough to get any education or training that could translate into enough income to care properly for all of us. She wouldn’t even permit him to put in the kind of overtime that might be parlayed into more money or a dogged climb up the ladder won by the sweat of his brow. Even if they liked him and gave him opportunities for advancement, people would eventually figure out that something was off about him, or his home life. Mom’s mask would eventually slip, the house and/or the children would be seen, and then suddenly he had a new job and we had to move, or the other way around.

Mother became less and less able to keep her mask in place, and she coped by isolating and eating. She became angrier, lazier, and fatter. The places we lived became more broken down and she filled them with dirty dishes and piles of unwashed laundry. The children were beaten when they weren’t ignored, and they responded by fighting constantly and destroying everything in the house that wasn’t already broken.
And every Christmas was a little worse than the one before it.

After she died and i had a child of my own, Christmas suddenly became important again. I wanted him to have the perfect ones i’d seen on tv, and i had those distant childhood memories to help me. Some of the people who live in my brain were a great help in this, and they derived happiness and healing from it as well. We all did. It’s probably worthwhile to mention that my son was born a week before Christmas, and i spent December 25th alone with him in a room at the YWCA, listening to Christmas music on the local radio station.  On his first birthday he set fire to the apartment we lived in, but it was professionally cleaned and ready for us by the 25th. Both of them were better than any Christmas i’d had since my grandparents.

I became the Christmas queen. I did it all: the decorating, cards, gifts, cooking, baking, entertaining. Capital E entertaining. Family, friends, friends that were like family… Anyone and everyone. And i was good at it. Maybe not Ina Garten-good, but i put on a mean Roseanne. Christmas was my favourite time of year. I felt happy and functional and almost normal.

In the years that followed i had another child, fell in love and got married, gained a tremendous amount of weight, had another child, had weight loss surgery, and then fell head first into the deep end of my first clinical mania. My childhood was catching up to me, becoming inescapable as i saw myself reflected in my children. My fears and flaws were magnified in the lens of a committed sexual relationship. My old wounds were still raw. Being a mom, being in love, and playing house had proved merely a Band-Aid. I felt like a failure and a fraud and the anguish became so unbearable that i couldn’t control my people. December became one long bender for me, but i still had to keep up appearances for everyone else.

How do you throw a fabulous holiday while you fall somewhere on the scale from tipsy to pass-out drunk? I had varying levels of success. It was never a write-off, but my mental health was lousy and my drinking to cope was obvious and my family is not stupid…

These last few years i’ve been doing markedly better. Don’t misunderstand me though, through all of it i was trying very hard not to be a mess, and i spent time, money, and most of my energy trying to figure my shit out. It just took a long time. You know, wearing mourning clothes and swimming in the ocean of despair and all that, heh. It took time and patience and a lot of work to get some damn traction in my life. Along the way i learned some things about myself that i didn’t know, like:

– I’m not religious;
– I’m much more of an introvert than an extrovert;
– I crave a simple, quiet life;
– I’m a terrible driver;
– I’m a helper and a giver and a lover.

I realised that putting on Christmas was not bringing me the excitement and the joy that it used to. My 2 oldest children were grown and gone, and our youngest was close to legal. The holidays are culturally enjoyable and edifying, but no longer hold any spiritual significance for me. We’ve been experiencing an economic recession where we live for the last few years, and the money could be better spent on other things. I wanted to curtail my drinking, and the holidays are a skating rink made from all the booze i’ve spilled on Christmases past.

So i put up a few decorations, we had a fancy supper and exchanged gifts. And it was pretty good.
The next year i broke my leg and couldn’t put up any decorations or even make supper. We decided to spend our money on a fancy spread in the city downtown, and then we went and saw Star Wars: TFA. There were a few gifts for the kids, but hubby and i didn’t exchange anything. We both liked it.
Last year i cooked and baked for our children and grandchildren, but that was it. Our youngest prefers us to take him shopping and spend the money on new clothes, which i love. Everyone was satisfied.
This year’s holiday season will include Star Wars, Chinese food, and feeding the entire family all day long until they can roll home on their own.

This year i knew i was doing well enough that i could do the Christmas thing if i wanted to… But i just didn’t. The other 2 years of not celebrating Christmas weren’t super-conscious choices. Hubby and i discussed it a little from the mental health and financial standpoint, but we didn’t go much deeper than that.
This year i went deep. I gave it a lot of thought. I was my own 3 ghosts and took myself to all the places and looked at all the Christmases and contemplated what could be.
And i still love Christmas. I’m no Scrooge, humbugging all over other people’s holidays. The decorating is gorgeous and the music is fun and festive – it’s just not in my house right now. Even though there’s no religious meaning for me anymore, Christmas remains very significant from a cultural perspective. I like the generosity and the parties and the FOOOOD! but i’m really enjoying the freedom and power i feel in saying No, i’m not buying anything. I don’t feel guilty or less than or left out by refusing to do so, either. In fact, the rebel in me is revelling in telling corporate North America and conspicuous consumption to shove it up their Black Friday.

I see a very real possibility, even likelihood, that i’ll return to some of the things i used to do during Christmas, like decorating and music and parties. For now though, this feels so good and so right. It’s not often that i have no doubts about a big decision, but i have zero regarding this one. If and when i do return to marking the occasion, it will be on my terms, and in my way. There’ll be no more trying to fix what was wrong with the Christmases of my youth, and i won’t need to put a pretty bow or a star on top of a pile of unresolved issues.
Whatever you do or don’t do for the holidays, i hope it’s a minimum of stuff you don’t want, with a maximum of what you do.

I’ll be here on the other side of all of it, no matter what.

Love and Peace to All-a Y’all,
~H~

Joyful Girl

How to explain how hard just living life can be with my particular set of challenges without it sounding like a pity party? I’m not sure, but i am going to try.

I am not a “safe space” person. I firmly believe that if someone wants one, they can ask, they can try to create, and i can and will respect designated safe spaces. I think it’s a very good idea, and i’ve seen it implemented both well, and terribly. I suppose my Little Crooked House is my safe space, for the most part. There are times though, when it is not, and i’m okay with that.

The word “trigger” has been getting tossed around a lot over the last few years. It became part of the abuse survivor’s lexicon, and it was appropriate. As seems to be becoming the way in our increasingly politically polarised society though, it got tossed back and forth between various ideologies and has emerged a little the worse for wear. I’m going to use it anyway, because it is still appropriate, despite being co-opted for scorn and black comedy. I don’t hold with the disdainful crowd, but i’m all for a little dark humour now and again; laughing at myself and my life has been integral to me making it this far.

I had a lot of profoundly horrible things done to me growing up. My abuse was not occasional, it was nearly constant at times, with only very rare and tragically brief slow periods. My fabulously inventive brain saved me by birthing siblings/friends/protectors/sponges that shared my burdens and made some of the worst things merely the nightmares of an imaginative child.
Before i acknowledged my multiplicity i just thought i was the flakiest person i’d ever known. A veritable all-you-eat buffet of quirks and oddities that seemed completely nonsensical. But as it turned out, some of them made perfect sense once i had all the information.
I was being triggered, and in the early days of dealing with all my Bits N’ Pieces, it was most of the damn time. It was everything from the smell of a certain cologne to the creaking of a door to playground equipment to bugs to change being jangled in a pocket  to meeting someone new. An old song or television program could have me practically catatonic in seconds. Being startled often caused a crying jag or  hyperventilation. In large crowds of people i would suddenly just keel over in a dead faint.

It’s taken years of hard work, but i’m not just raw flesh with no skin anymore. I’ve toughened up, learned to cope. I’ve developed skills that help me get through the day, i’ve tended to the wounds of all the broken people inside of me, been their confessor, borne witness to all their stories. I’ve been their medium, their conduit, and their vessel into which they poured all their terror and rage and pain. It was all burned into me until i finally had a skin – a skin made of scars.

I work that skin every day. I bend, i stretch, i reach, i pivot ’round, i kneel. I nurture it with the oils of understanding, acceptance, forgiveness, and i feed it with mindfulness, which for me, has proven to be the water of life. My skin has grown smooth, and supple, and beautiful. There are still very visible scars, some are angry red and keloid. There are still times when i see or hear or smell or am otherwise reminded of some awful thing, and i can still react reflexively from a place of remembered fear and pain.
This morning it happened with a random conversation with a loved one that twisted me in a way that made one of my scars cry out NO!

I don’t expect the rest of the world to tiptoe around me, but i won’t let it trample me, either. I don’t want to live in a world where people are feet and i am an eggshell. I don’t want you to know all my triggers, because i don’t want you to see the abuse when you look at me. I don’t want you not to speak about X or not wear Y, because you know i was abused by someone who X’ed and was wearing Y when they did something terrible to me.

I want you to look at me and see who i am, and feel how you feel about me, regardless of whether that is good or bad, liking or not at all liking, without the shadow that would be cast if you let a cloud of past abuse hang over me.
Today i was triggered. HARD. In my own home, by someone i love more than my own life. I don’t need him to know about it or to understand. This is his home too and it’s not all about me, and i am so glad about that. This is the safest place i know, and my favourite place to be, and today that particular scar got a little softer, a little smoother.

I do it for the joy it brings
‘Cause I’m a joyful girl
‘Cause the world owes me nothing 
And we owe each other the world
I do it ’cause it’s the least I can do
I do it ’cause I learned it from you
And I do it just because I want to 
‘Cause I want to
Everything I do is judged
And they mostly get it wrong
But oh well
Bathroom mirror has not budged
And the woman who lives there can tell
The truth from the stuff that they say
She looks me in the eye
So, you would you prefer the easy way
No, well OK then
Don’t cry
I wonder if everything I do
I do instead 
Of something I want to do more
The question fills my head
And I know there’s no grand plan here
This is just the way it goes
When everything else seems unclear
I guess at least I know
I do it for the joy it brings
‘Cause I’m a joyful girl
‘Cause the world owes me nothing 
And we owe each other the world
I do it ’cause it’s the least I can do
I do it ’cause I learned it from you
I do it just because I want to~Joyful Girl, Ani DiFranco

 

Stitches and Stains

I was born into a job. Pain, anger, lust, shame, guilt, fear, loneliness, hate. They would come for me and open me up and put things inside. And i kept them. People would give me things; things that they could no longer bear. Things that were too heavy, too old, too hot, too dirty, too ugly. Rotten things and evil things and secrets for my tiny little pockets. I kept them until they overflowed, little squares of filth and flesh pressed into my waiting palms that i sewed into my clothes until every hem burst open. I squirreled them away inside myself until my body bulged and undulated, fetid and fecund.

Pushing me into little rooms, pressing against me, pushing until i had no breath. Opening doors without knocking, breaking windows that i had nailed shut, screaming into my empty spaces, filling me like a bellows with their rancid breath. The smell of their panicky need staining my lips like my grandmother’s sample case of lipsticks, the gaudy orange-red made my teeth appear yellow, it bled outside the lines and gathered in the corners of my mouth. No amount of scrubbing could hide the evidence of my experimentation, just as i couldn’t brush the taste of their hatred out of my teeth, my gums, my tongue.

 

If It Quacks Like A Duck…

Put your gun down and don’t shoot it.

It’s funny (peculiar, not ha-ha) how the thing i’ve been trying to write about for, well, maybe years, comes to the forefront after i get back to a draft i’ve saved for 6+mos. It’s sat on my blog and been reworded, revised, and deleted over and over, because it’s one of the most difficult subjects for me to address. I’ve never felt like i’ve gotten enough distance from it to have anything helpful to share.
Maybe now i do.
I may still put this back on the shelf.
I don’t know what i’m gonna decide, but i’m in suspense!
(I know, if you’re reading this, that makes precisely one of us. Heh.)

The bullying started in grade two. I’d just been returned to my mother after nearly a year of being in the foster care system. During that time, i learned to cope with food. Unlike at home, foster care afforded me regular access to healthy food. Breakfasts came with fruit, toast, cereal – i had Flintstones chewable vitamins for the first time in my life. Lunches were either prepared for me to take to school, or i came home to a mother who had it ready on the table. And the most amazing meal of the day was suppertime, when there was a father, hungry and home from work, sitting with mother and children. Everyone chatting about their day, as the other children snuck their Brussels sprouts onto my plate. It was just like i’d seen on television. There were even after school and bedtime snacks, for crying out loud.
At home there was often nothing in the fridge. I’d come home from school starving, having not had lunch, and tear apart the cupboards looking for anything edible. I remember i’d make a treat out of soda crackers: i’d put a small dollop of ketchup on one, followed by a tiny drip of mustard, topped with a quick sploosh of Worcestershire sauce, and then pop the entire thing in my mouth. I pretended i was eating fancy appetizers.
If there was food, i was often expected to prepare it, and if my mother thought i had eaten any of it before she returned home from work, i was guaranteed some kind of beating, the severity of which usually depended on what kind of day she’d had.

I’m telling you this to demonstrate why, when i was returned to my mom on Christmas Eve, i was a bit overweight. Add to that, my mom was celebrating getting me back from the “evil” foster parents that were trying to take me away from her – and her favourite way to celebrate was food. This time though, she actually shared it all with me, because she was fresh out of the mental hospital and chest-deep into the latest 70s pop psychology, so she was wearing her Bonnie-Franklin-as-Ann-Romano-in-One-Day-At-A-Time-i’m-a-great-modern-mom mask. (It came off before Christmas holidays were over.) For 2 solid weeks, all i did was eat. And i’m telling you that so you know why the bullying started immediately on a frigid January day in 1975.
I was the fat (not really) kid.

Being the fat kid was bad enough, but i increased my target value by being both obviously poor, and overflowing with personality… personalities… Whatever. I had the reek of something gone off inside me, and everyone around me could smell it. To the sharks on the playground, i was blood in the water.
I could share lots of stories, but you’ve likely heard similar ones, or had an experience or two yourself. I don’t want to wallow or dwell. I’m loathe to talk about this part of my life at all, but it has become clear to me that it still effects how i experience friendships and peer groups, so i either handle it, or it’ll just keep on handling me.

I’ve said stuff like this before in other journalling pieces, but i may have glossed over it. Maybe it’ll help if i just let it get embarrassingly emotional and awkward for everyone – the ugly cry of the blog post. A little bloodletting to balance the humours. Trephination to release my inner demons. Barf it up and flush it, H. (I’m revving myself up with metaphors.)

I avoid this issue because that’s how i felt the entire 12 years i was in public school. Embarrassed. Emotional. Awkward. Also, exposed and vulnerable and utterly alone.

I was being raped and beaten and emotionally tortured at home. On the good days i was just neglected. School should have been a port in the storm. It should have been some respite from the constant emotional upheaval. Instead, the armour i wore to protect me at home was like waving a cape at the school bullies. I added more fat over the years, and threw in poor hygiene because i’m an overachiever. Heh. It was actually because my mother modelled it for me, coupled with the bathroom being a very dangerous place for me, abuse-wise, but if that had occurred to anyone at school, it never manifested in my rescue. There were a couple of visits from social workers – they came to the school, not the home, so i think a teacher or 2 may have tried, but my mother was an exceptionally clever woman, and a fabulous actress.

For 19 solid years i had it drilled into me that i was alone.
I was defective and gross and no one would ever like, love, or want me.
Everything i did was wrong, or not enough.
Everyone i loved hurt and/or left me.

That’s a long time for some extensive programming to sink in, take hold, and grow roots.

I was physically separated from my mother at 20, but even though she died before we could be reunited, she was always with me. Fortunately, gratefully, no one in my Peanut Gallery is representative of her, although they all have their own experiences and opinions of who she was to them. I’m referring to just how well her indoctrination took. I was generally a very obedient child, especially when i was younger, and her training was thorough. I did what i was told: in public i was unfailingly polite and proper, deferred to all adults, was quiet and demure, unless called upon to be precocious in order to impress someone. As she descended into hopelessness, depression, and rage, her mask began to slip, her hold on me lessened some, and my own facade developed some cracks.

Still, i approached every person and every situation the same way. I wanted desperately to be liked and accepted, but i was terrified for them to get to know me too well, because they might find out how rotted and filthy i was at my core.
Thusly i conducted every friendship i ever attempted – a stilted dance of pulling someone in too close, out of tempo, only to fling them stage left for an ill-timed solo, or turn away and dance by myself as if they weren’t even there, usually in a style that didn’t match the song.
I know now that i must have been very difficult to be friends with. I’m surprised at how long some of them stuck with me. Some left with good reason, others were probably just tired. I mourned them all, but miss none of them today. (I have been happy to reconnect with a couple of good people, though.) People as broken as i was don’t always have the greatest taste. The only long-term friends i have that i’m even remotely intimate with now, are online. They either don’t notice or don’t mind that i get close and then faaaaaaaar. Most of them even know and accept that i’m not always quite myself, and they treat my people with as much love and respect and patience as they treat me.

I don’t know if i can ever have that with anyone in the flesh.
I don’t think i’ve ever given anyone a decent opportunity, but i was ignorant, and now…
Now i don’t know if i can, or even if i want to.
My mother and my home life taught me to wear a mask, and i got so good at it that my masks became people that live in my brain.
My peers and my school life taught me that all my masks were ugly, and it hurt so much that i crawled up inside my brain and let my masks take over.

Since all this inner gardening work i’ve done has finally started bearing some truly delicious fruit, i have only shared it with family in the flesh, and with my dear online friends. I’ve not yet invited someone to my table and served them any of my harvest. I’m afraid they won’t even want to sit and partake. Or what if they do and they find it bitter, or overripe? Or what if they eat it, and i suddenly find that i’m one with my bounty and they’re hungrily devouring me and i cannot stop them? What if they pillage my garden and feed until i am nothing?

Angry children climbing my trees and plucking every fruit, trouncing every lush vine, and mercilessly uprooting every flower. And always, the children who watch and do nothing, as my beautiful garden is turned to desert, their whispers blow all my top soil away.

This is the ugly cry of it.
My mother twisted me into an odd duck, and schoolchildren -both the bullies and the do-nothings- plucked me to death, one feather at a time.

~A Conversation Between Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou~

OPRAH: Maya, you were telling me that your life is defined by principles, and one principle you have taught me is that we can’t allow ourselves to be “pecked to death by ducks.”

MAYA: That is true. Some people don’t have the nerve to just reach up and grab your throat, so they just take …

OPRAH:  … little pieces of you, with their rude comments.

MAYA: That’s right.

OPRAH: They try to demean you.

MAYA: Reduce your humanity through what New York cartoonist Jules Feiffer called “little murders.” The minute I hear [someone trying to demean me], I know that person means to have my life. And I won’t give it to them.

OPRAH: It is an assassination attempt by a coward.

MAYA: Yes, some people don’t have the courage to just walk up to you and pull the trigger. If somebody just walked up and said “Boom!” — well, there you go. Bye. But when a person commits these little murders, and then you catch him or her at it, he or she might say, “Oh, I didn’t mean it.” But make no mistake: It is an assassination attempt.

**********

I’ll just be over here, swimming in my little pond in my garden.
No peckers allowed.

The Long Walk Home

When you have been used for sexual gratification from before you could speak, it does things to you on a deeply reflexive, primal level. I didn’t even know acquiescence until my brain developed more and i learned that i didn’t like it, but i had to submit to avoid pain and punishment. I’ve been sexually victimised my entire life, although the frequency has lessened the older and more aware i’ve become. I wanna write about how it’s still happening and what i think and feel about it, and what i’m learning.

I didn’t know for most of my life that i didn’t like touch, and i’ve only been aware for a couple of years that i could say No. I haven’t said it yet – but at least i know that i can. For the first year i would still go in for the hug, and i was often the one to initiate. It’s a reflex. It’s what people do these days so i should do it. I might hurt someone’s feelings and i wouldn’t want to make anyone feel rejected. It would be awkward, and as much as awkward situations are a regular part of my life, i would prefer it wasn’t that way and i try to avoid them. I’m not the smooth, cool type, but i’ve always wished to be so.
Maybe one day i’ll be fine with touch, but for now, i just really enjoy not touching or being touched. I’m learning to use body language to communicate this in a non-threatening way, without even conveying fear. I’m finding that if i don’t take a step closer to people and i keep my arms at my sides and my palms towards myself that they will respond by not approaching for a physical greeting. One person who has read some of my blog posts even said she was consciously not touching me because she respects my boundaries. That was amazing and felt great. (If you ever get around to reading this, you know who you are, and thank you.)

What i’ve been focusing more on now is the sexual aspect of touch. When it’s okay and when it isn’t. Who can and who can’t. Choosing to be in a monogamous relationship has helped. One person can seek me out for sex and nobody else. No one else may approach me sexually, whether it’s physically or verbally.
This is very difficult for me to write about.

I understand that a person has value just because they’re a person, but it never occurred to me that the concept also applied to me. I’ve only recently begun to understand that, a) i’m intrinsically valuable and worthy, and b) i decide to whom i mete out my value, and what part of the treasure that is me i share or gift them with, and also when i do, meaning that i am not required to do so ever again if i don’t wish to.
But for the vast majority of my life i have not known this.
If someone wants something from me i just give it to them. My time, my effort, my friendship, and sometimes, my body. Not always my body, because thankfully, i have other people who live in my brain who, if they can make it to the face, can either get me the fuck away, or joke me out of it. I’ve never been able to just shut someone down, though. I’ve always had to be nice about it. I crack jokes, or i smile and say I’m flattered, but… Or i apologise and offer a gentle I can’t, the implication being that i would if i could…

All of this started a few months ago when i began walking for exercise.
I live on an acreage and our road doesn’t get much traffic, but we do get the occasional driver who’s lost, or bylaw officer, or farmer checking his cattle or crops. I began to notice that i couldn’t remember the make/model/license plate number of any of the vehicles once they’d passed out of my sight. Nor could i tell you who was in the vehicle or give a description – even if i’d spoken with them briefly. All the Datelines and various forensic programs and cold case murders i’d watched on telly had impacted me and i realised i would be easy pickings for anyone looking for a victim.

I started applying my mindfulness techniques to my walks. Looking around at things instead of just being lost in my thoughts. Using my phone to record license plates and other details about the vehicles i’d see. Who’s driving and is there anyone else with them? Calling my husband to talk to him if someone was pulled over for whatever reason and i had to pass them. Memorising the emergency number assigned to our acreage; knowing our land location and range road, and what township road we intersect. Awareness of my surroundings; body language that conveys that awareness and also let’s anyone know that Yes, i see you, and Yes, i’m taking note of you and your vehicle.

As i’ve improved my fitness level i’ve grown to really enjoy my walks, and sometimes i’ll take on more distance. Sometimes i’ll walk into town for an errand.
It happened the very first time i did it.

A friend had taken me into the city for a doctor’s appointment (i don’t drive), and when we came back, i asked her if she’d drop me at a shop in town where i had some business, instead of taking me home. I’d then walk home from there. After i assured her that i actually wanted to walk home, it didn’t take long for me to be finished and on my way. I was nearly on the highway when a man drove by in a truck and he slowed, Wow!ed and whistled at my appearance, and asked me to go to coffee with him.

I beamed a smile at him and said, No, thank you.

I fucking beamed a smile at him and said, No, thank you.

That’s when i first started realising what i was doing. The reflex – like breathing. No thought involved at all, totally automatic.
But i’d already learned from my walks on my own road. The awareness kicked in and i stopped walking after he’d gone on a bit, and i made sure he was out of sight before i gave away that i was crossing the highway, lest he take note of the easier access a deserted road might allow him, and mark that that road likely led to where i live.

A few weeks later my husband dropped me off in town so that i might walk the dogs at the park for a treat. On the way home, i stopped at the local highway gas station for a cold drink. I came out not more than 2mins later and there were 2 men petting my dogs. They made with the dog compliments as they eyed my body up and down. They asked me to come out for a drink with them, and when i smilingly turned them down, offered to take my dogs home first. Again i declined, after which they tried to insist on at least taking all of us home. It’s so hot out today, you’re going to get heat stroke.
They had greasy smiles and i could smell the booze on them, and then i switched. Hard and fast. 
Whoever took over was a GTFO type. Crossed us over to the service road that goes past the road home. I found myself back in the face before i’d even made the turn, so she must have thought we were safe.
But i clocked them in their truck, driving down the highway.
First in one direction, and then in the other.
I pretended to talk on the phone and made like i was waiting for someone.
I didn’t start walking again until i hadn’t seen them for 10mins or so.

After all the work i’ve done in order to deal with my past, i’ve learned some things that help me deal, and being targeted since then has confirmed some of it.
It’s not about me, personally. It has nothing whatever to do with how attractive i am or what i’m wearing or what i’m doing.
Predators are gonna hunt.
I’m potential prey.
That’s it. That’s all. That’s everything.

Then there was this morning’s walk.
As i set off, i can see right away that there’s a truck on the road, driving extremely slowly, but away from me. I mentally tick off the possibilities: bylaw officer, farmer, sight-seer, someone walking their dog the disabled or lazy way, guy getting a blowjob, etc. The closer i get, i’m crossing more off the list.
Maybe i recognise the truck but i can’t be sure. One male. The passenger side is so close to the shoulder i’d have to walk in the ditch to get around, and if i cross on the driver’s side he could easily grab me.
I pull out my phone to record his license plate and make/model/colour of the truck.
I make the pass on the barest shoulder of the passenger side, and he rolls down the window.
He’s not looking at me and i can feel an aura alerting me that i’m getting ready to switch, but when i look at him, i think i know who he is, so i relax. A little.

He says he’s just checking the fences, he’s not a robber.
I say I’m walking my dogs alone, and a girl can’t be too careful.
He seems a little offended.
I’m considering this as i pass, and i almost went back to apologise.

I almost fucking went back to apologise.

And i referred to myself as a girl. Ugh.
There was some progress, though. I wasn’t smiling, and i didn’t say sorry.
Not perfect, but it is progress, and i’ll take it, thanks.
It’s okay because i was raised to be that way. It’s going to take time, advertence, and energetic application, but i will get there. Ownership of my body. My body serves me and my needs and desires, and no one else’s unless i decide i want to share.

I look back on all the sexual harm that was done to me, and i will never, ever get over it. I was fully indoctrinated, brainwashed, made, schooled, expected, ordered, demanded, to always be available for whatever my mother wished. I did what she told me to do, went wherever with whomever; didn’t ask questions, and easily intuited that i wasn’t to speak of the evenings and weekends i went to a “babysitter”. It is the contention of the Peanut Gallery that i first split in infancy, but i’ll never know for certain. It doesn’t matter, but i am certain that i was fractured and fracturing by 4yrs old, which is the first time i clearly remember leaving my body and hearing someone else speak from inside my face.

The thing that i’m currently most angry about with respect to the sexual abuse is that they made me complicit in their actions. Not just while they were actively abusing me, but after they had stopped. They taught me to allow myself to be used, abused, and victimised, by any and all who would come for me. Because of them i craved and was flattered by any sexual attention from anyone who’d show it to me, regardless of whether or not i wanted them, or would at least accept them, into my bed. And when i finally could smell the stink of what they’d done all over me, it caused me to act out in dangerous ways, in an immature and terrified attempt to scrub it off of me. A pretense of triumph and control.

Because of them, predators may always get at least a whiff of prey about me.
I will never forgive a single one of them for that, and i’m glad for every death that’s already come, and look forward to the last breath of those who yet have it.

Fuck Them All,
~H~