The Tide

I have lost my safe space. It took me years to create and it’s gone. Getting acknowledgment of this has been difficult. Creating change can’t happen without it, nor can the work to make things right again be done by only one person. I cannot do the work that i’ve begun in therapy unless i get my safe space back. I must have a place where i can decompress, where i can be broken, where i can be vulnerable with no (reasonable*) fear.

It never rains but it pours.
I was berating myself for the issues people i love have, but i pulled myself out of it relatively quickly, thanks to some recent work i wrote about a couple of posts ago.

Things have been at such a crisis level that i considered putting therapy aside for a while. In crisis, it is my old pattern to dissociate and do what i think i should do. What i was taught to do was care for everyone else’s needs and to only have thoughts and feelings for others. Well, i can think of myself, but only how i’m not good at helping and i’ve caused my loved ones’ troubles. I’m allowed to think about how i’m bad and i’m a failure.

Fortunately, the personal work i’ve done and am currently doing, made stopping therapy like trying to hold back the tide. Can’t nobody do that, not any of me and not any of them.
That tide rushed in and washed it all away like so many children’s sandcastles.
No stopping. No old ways. Clean salt spray and pristine beaches.

My family is involved, so i won’t be going into specifics, only to say that i’ve been asking for change, but alone in the fight for it for a long time. I’ve been feeling so hopeless after therapy, and up until a few days ago, i didn’t connect the 2 things. Here i will point out that all the work i’ve done to learn about myself, to figure out how i work, and how to get healing and happiness, is invaluable. All the credit for figuring this shit out is mine.

Noticing my distress – that part was easy. Heh. Crying, feeling physically numb and emotionally disconnected (dissociating), switching, drinking, taking off, not eating or sleeping.
Looking at how that upset was manifesting, and then turning my eyes and ears inward, to see what my system would show me and hear what my body is trying to tell me. That second part is not so easy for me. It’s terrifying to me and therefore pretty goddamn hard.
My parts feel threatened and don’t like the atmosphere, and my legs want to get me the fuck outta there. It was so simple once i did those things; checked in to my body and was present and fully conscious of my own thoughts. It came pouring out of me in a rush. A relieved, grateful rush. A tidal wave.

Telling my loved ones what i need and calling out things that are unacceptable to me has helped tremendously.
I think i’m coming into the part of my healing where i refuse to tolerate shit anymore. This is a scary, awful time, but i also feel stronger, more powerful. EMPOWERED by my own actions. As soon as i stood up for myself i felt better. Less scared.

Less scared not to be heard.
Less scared not to be understood.
Less scared to be rejected.
LESS SCARED TO BE ALONE.

My loved ones will hear me, and they will work with me until we understand each other. They won’t reject me nor will they leave me. I know that, i truly do, but when i’m not PRESENT and CONSCIOUS and checking in with my system and more importantly now, CHECKING IN WITH MY BODY… Things can get fucked up mighty fast.

I need my safe space back.
My Bits N’ Pieces need my safe space back.
My body needs my safe space back.
I built this space with my heart and my mind and all my hard work and commitment to my love of my family and my desperate desire to love myself. This place is mine and no one can take it from me, and i know no one actually wants to, but it is an incredible feeling for me to be all fired up like this:

No one, whether dear to me or not, can have this space.
I’ll fight any motherfucker.

Until next time, take as good care as you’re able, and i promise to do the same.
Love and Peace,
~H~
* I say “reasonable” because being vulnerable is probably the hardest, most scary thing i have ever done.

Drips and Drabs

I’m not doing very well.
I know i committed to writing through the bad, but i’m not sure that’s a good idea at this point. I can devolve so quickly, like i think i am, now. I don’t think this helps anyone, except maybe me.
If you continue reading, be very clear that I live with serious, multiple diagnosis mental illness, and i’m not doing well right now. You may be triggered by the tone of my writing here. That can be good/helpful if you have a solid support system, but it can be problematic/downright dangerous if you don’t. You’re probably already juggling enough. Get some help before you go any further with this post. It’ll still be here when you’re better prepared.

I have a great support system. So while i’m in an awful emotional place right now, it’s safe for me to feel and think the way I am right now, because I have trustworthy people and protected spaces around me, at this very moment. They cover me, and offer acceptance and understanding.

This is all i can write for now. Just know that things could, and probably will, get rough. The last time i was this vulnerable, i shut down my blog and pretended like it never happened, that i hadn’t shown my soft underbelly to anyone who cared to pay attention.

I’ve been on a bender, and i’ve upset my son, and i’m stressing out my husband. I haven’t been able to cook for a week, and i’m fairly sure i smell bad. Today i made hamburger soup in my Instant Pot, and i’m going to ask my husband to help me shower off my booze and sweat stench, because the bathtub is the scariest place in my house. So today is a success. Maybe i can achieve just a little bit more tomorrow. I have a dear friend who is going to babysit me at her house with cheesy movies. Maybe i can even make supper again. Gotta love my pressure cooker.

I’m not going to be sharing details of what happened to me. It’s awful and private, and it’s not what i made this place for. I made it to share with you that you can overcome terrible things. To share how quirky and weird my brain is, and to share how hard it’s been for me to figure out how to be alive and functional while being a victim of long term, traumatic abuse that split my brain apart into fragments – but i did it, and i’m going to keep doing it. And if i can, maybe you can too.

I will try my hardest to write some more tomorrow. It ain’t gonna be anything spectacular, in fact it’s gonna be maudlin and histrionic and very, very young, because that’s how i feel right now. Very young and very small.
And a bit smelly.

Then

I haven’t written in quite a long time. I always say i’m going to write through the tough times, but so far i’ve not been able to manage it. My brain gets so full when my people are stressed, it’s like chasing echoes, or trying to grab onto the mad wisps of dream smoke, upon awakening.
How am i supposed to fully realise my desire to help others by sharing how my brain works unless i can do this? The sigh that came from me just now felt like it rose up from the tips of my toes.

I’ll keep trying.

To that end, there may be some hope. I’m writing now, and i’m still not at all well. In fact i’m worse at this moment than i was when i stopped writing. Therein lies the reason for this warning:

I do not know you.
I do not have any magical formula or secret key to fix your life.
All i have is the desire and the will to find my own, and share it with you, because it is all and everything that i have to give.
Me. How my brain works. My journey towards a higher level of functionality in my world. Self-knowledge. Trial and error. Stubborn and steadfast, and always interminably slow.

Here is the second part of the warning, and it is most important:

I am not well right now, not mentally, or emotionally, or physically. I may not be making good decisions right now. I may look back and cringe/cry/curse. I’m not myself half the time, which in multiple speak, means that other, split parts of me are regularly in control of my body, and i have varying levels of awareness, from watching myself like i’m on tv, yet being unable to influence what’s happening, to no clue that i’ve been gone at all, until i find myself back in the face (my slang for back in control) again.

If you are currently in a place where you’re easily upset or triggered by content, this may be a piece you’d like to skip, either until you’re better able to process, or even altogether.
If you are a multiple, this piece contains the prelude to a discussion of integration. Take care of yourself and your system. Think about it before proceeding. Talk to your p-doc or whomever is your mental health professional go-to.

What follows now is the piece i was working on when i shut down. I’m working on more for tomorrow.
Yes, tomorrow, but we’ll see, won’t we?

**********

I know i always say this piece was hard to write. But this piece is hard to write.

It involves sharing some deeper, more intimate details of how my brain works, and that has filled me with anxiety and no small amount of shame. I’m anxious because i don’t know if i’m going to be able to communicate it well enough that anyone can understand, and i might just come off as kooky, or wholly unbelievable. Then there’s the shame part. I always struggle with shame when i’m sharing about my multiplicity. This is due in part to it being a controversial diagnosis, partly due to my own struggle in accepting it, and a lot because doing so is an undressing of the rawest kind. This is deeply personal and private. Getting to this point, where i have enough of a consensus to do so, was a difficult task.*

From the jump i’m fairly certain this won’t make much sense, but i’m forging ahead, because i’m committed to sharing who i am and how my brain works: for me, for my beloved Bits N’ Pieces, and for anyone who might find help or comfort in these pages filled with angsty blurts and hopeful gushing.

I struggled with my diagnosis for many years, running from any mental health professional who’d suggest it. I finally considered it because i’d been trained from birth to believe what any religious elder told me, and i’d sought counselling from a social worker who attended my church. She brought in a psychologist who was also a church member to backup her diagnosis. So i finally, seriously considered that i might be a multiple, because i was raised to be a good girl, to respect authority, and to respect religious authority above all.

I could see that i easily met all the criteria for MPD/DID, but it just seemed so ridiculous. There were a number of high profile cases that had been soundly debunked. There was also something about other multiples – i didn’t like them. None of them. In fact, it was an instantaneous and visceral dislike, except for one who became my very best friend (but that’s a story for another time). I also understood that my mother had gone out of her way to both encourage my multiplicity, and to indoctrinate and threaten me against acknowledging any of my more obvious symptoms to anyone, especially myself.

I found what i was looking for in my dreams. Answers, affirmation, and even confirmation, after a fashion.
My dreaming life has always been a significant part of my life. I suffered night terrors from the time i was a toddler, to the point where my mother took me to a specialist for treatment. I remember dreams from as far back as around 4yrs old, i think. My dreams are heavy with themes and motifs, and most fall into a few categories. As a child, the most common ones were of being hunted by something i sometimes couldn’t, sometimes wouldn’t see, of houses filled with death, and of being covered in bugs. There were other themes added as i became a teenager, more still as a young adult, and again since i accepted that i am more than one.

I’d pored over my dreams my whole life, trying to understand what they could tell me about myself. I knew they were different from my peers from an early age. There was a moment of stunning clarity when i realised that some of them were not dreams at all, but memories. The therapist my mother had sent me to when i was so little, taught me lucid dreaming, and part of that was to pinch myself, HARD, as a way to ground myself, to know i was okay, the idea being that a pinch in a dream is painless…

But in my dissociated state i’d begun pinching myself while being abused, and it did hurt. And when i acknowledged that there were pinch dreams that hurt, i was struck with how those dreams were so much more literal than the other ones. There was no need to interpret, there were no metaphors, no symbolism; it was all ugly and starkly, painfully clear, and yet blurry, fuzzy, with softened edges, unlike the dreams where my skin felt like i was covered in bees, and everything was in technicolor, with sensurround! TM

I was able to identify a feeling that came along with all these “dreams”, a putrid, stinking hopelessness, and panic so intense that it was like a vacuum that seemed to suck me inside of myself. It pulled me towards a black door in the middle of my body, the centre of the universe of my brain; the door beckoned me, it promised safety and relief.  It was a splotch covered in stars and i wasn’t afraid of it. I knew i could go there and everything would be okay.
I now think that’s the place i went while my people took care of me.

My dreams that were not memories were so clear, with crisp edges and vibrant colours, but the feelings were fluffy, nebulous, bouncing around and occasionally brushing up against me.
The memories were seen through a sleeping fog, bathing me in a soft froth of imagery, but the feelings grabbed and held me captive with hard, bony fingers, and as i squirmed helplessly, they sliced away at me until all was bloody and ragged.

That was when i began the work of accepting what had happened to me as a child. I vomited it all up to my husband and a small, trusted group of blog friends. This was cathartic, and almost certainly necessary for me, but as soon as it was done i locked down the blog and was slammed with a hurricane of parts demanding to be heard, demanding face time, demanding my time, wanting random needs met and feelings assuaged and needing to know if they were safe and who the hell was going to take care of them? It was years of chaos.

I learned how to manage this onslaught by first acknowledging them, one by one, and then getting to know them by listening to them. Hours and hours and days and months and years of listening. I had to purposefully, mindfully, and with clear intentions, pull myself out of the dissociated, fugue-like fogginess i’d settled into through a lifetime of living with constant commentary and background chatter. I gave my head a shake, figuratively and literally, focused on my breathing and feeling myself inside my body: feet on the floor, hands on my thighs, butt in the chair, churning in my belly, mild headache, sweat under my arms, all of it, whatever it was, as long as it was real and tangible and ME. And then i’d listen. They started out, most of them, talking only to themselves (they knew i was listening, and i knew they knew), but eventually they began speaking and/or throwing feelings directly to me.

Well, at first it was AT me, but you know…
Patience is a dad-blasted virtue, i can tell you.

*Anyone who was against this, agreed that it was okay as long as any details occurring when they were in the face, would not be discussed, which has been honoured, with love and respect.

So, That Happened

The other day everything exploded. Why doesn’t matter. It happens to everyone. A bomb goes off in your life and then you lay there dazed and check if all your parts are still attached. I went immediately into shock . I was numb, but really panicky. I recognised the gravity of what had happened and i knew right away, that THIS MOMENT is where the rubber hits the road. All the work i’ve done in order to beat the odds. To find a way to live with my past and to live with my crazy and be useful and good and happy. These things happen to everyone and one major reason for all this work i’ve done is so that when crisis hits, i handle it without wrecking my world. I made an appointment with my therapist for the next day.

After Tuesday’s dazed, numb, and panicky, was Wednesday’s hurt. It reopened that pit inside me that sucks everything into it. That ache that begins way back in the ether of my emotions that i imagine filling up my insides instead of my guts. Emotional pain always has an affect on Fibromyalgia, and so my flare-up, well, flared up. Anxiety was there too, of course. Sitting on my chest and somehow reaching inside and squeezing everything with frantic fists. It hurt to breathe. I went to a group of online friends that i’ve had for over 10yrs now, to let them know i was going through something awful, and could really use their support in the coming days. They’re perfect for me because, as i discussed in my prior post – i don’t people much anymore, but i still like and need people. They’ve been there for me since it happened, and i return to them daily just to check in emotionally and reaffirm that i’m okay. That part is important for me, of course. I’m not really telling them I’m okay, so much as i’m telling myself. I’m still here, still breathing, and the world is still in one piece.

I had a phone appointment with my therapist, and as soon as i heard her voice i felt more grounded. Her voice reminds me of years of work. Years spent figuring out how to deal with the ugliness and pain in my past, along with all the resultant dysfunction. Learning and practising new ways to think and to cope with thoughts, feelings, people, life. How to stay present at all times, no matter what’s happening around me or to me. It was an opportunity to speak directly to the crisis itself, and i felt heard and acknowledged. I listened to her suggestions and felt calmed. I had some educated and trustworthy perspective outside of my own. We made another appointment and i promised to touch base.

On Thursday i got angry. The first thing i want to say about that is how amazing it is that it took me so long. See, when i used to get hurt, you could count on one of two things happening. One, i shut down and disappear, or the other, I feel angry and i get mad. I go on the offensive. I attack. You hurt me and you’d better run, because i’ll come for you and hurt you. Not physically, but i’ll say things that will deeply wound you. I learned from a very young age how to read people. It was a survival mechanism that carried on past the constant imminent danger of my childhood. I didn’t know i was doing it, let alone that it wasn’t always particularly helpful in my quest for good relationships with other people, but it persisted and it’s only been in the last year that i’ve been making an effort to stop. So before around a year ago, if you hurt me, and i might read your personal mail to you. Strip you naked and make you look like a fool. Say things that might very well haunt you for a long time. Now, i only did that on a rare occasion, i usually just closed myself off from you and that was it. But the closer our relationship was, the larger the latter possibility loomed. Someone very close to me was the one to toss the grenade, and yet i didn’t even see the need to make a choice between get mad or dissociate until Thursday. That’s good.

And even better – i didn’t do either of those things. I did something completely different. Something i’ve been putting into practise for some time now. It’s taken a lot of practise, and will continue to take more. I have the angry conversation without the person being there. It’s a fine balancing act because i can easily dissociate, but if i couple the pretend conversation with grounding techniques (i.e. being present in my body and aware of my surroundings), it can be effective in deescalating any intense feelings.

I have a pretend conversation. Well, it’s one-sided in the literal sense, but mostly in the figurative one as well. I say -sometimes out loud and sometimes just in my head- the things i would say if i could let ‘er fly, so to speak. You see, my brain is never quiet. There are always conversations going on in there. So yes, now you know – i hear voices. (But they’re always mine, and they’re always inside my head, so i don’t hit on the shizophrenia spectrum, just in case you wondered.) My point is that my brain is always busy and always full. When something upsets me, the intensity of the conversations can rise, and even more voices can be added. This can cause what i call a “bursty” feeling, like my mind may explode. I begin to panic, partly because it’s overwhelming and frightening, but in recent years it’s also become because i know it leaves me vulnerable to dissociating, something i try not to do. So, i say all the vicious, hateful things that are inside my head -all the things that i would say if i really wanted to get under someone’s skin- within the bounds of an imaginary conversation, where the other person can’t be harmed. It’s like bleeding a pressure valve, which leaves more room for problem solving and positive thinking.

Which left me free to be sad on Thursday. Which i was. I felt heavy and hopeless and lonely. I felt numb and anxious and hurt. But i took care of myself and i took care of my house – we’re both clean. That is much improved from the last time i was hurt and upset this much. I was able to remember some of the things i’ve put in place and practised to live a better, happier life. I knew i’d feel even worse if i allowed my house to get messy, and didn’t try to cook some kind of meal for my family – even if all i could do was set the table and microwave something in a box. As i got up and began to do these things, only doing them because, while i didn’t expect to feel any better, i sure as hell didn’t want to feel any worse, i discovered i was able to do more than the bare minimum. And that did, in fact, make me feel better. Not just not worse, but actually better.

I kept in touch with my therapist and my online community once a day or so. Even just to say, Everything is awful, but i am alive and have no plans to change that. I was careful to maintain my schedule as much as possible, but i did allow more time in bed. I drank a bit too much, and i ate waaaay too much, but i knew i was doing it, that i was choosing it, that i was coping as well as i could while i processed what had happened and waited for the next appointment with my therapist. I tried to write a few times, but it was a minefield. I’ve banged out a bit here, but my mind fogs over really quickly, either that or i suddenly feel like crying, and i am currently avoiding crying like a junkie avoids their old neighbourhood. It’s a dangerous place to go, because who knows who you’ll meet and it’s hard to say No to some of those people.

***NOTE: This was the week of November 7-11. Although i’ve written something every day since, it’s devolved and not even as intelligible as this – if this is at all. I waited to publish it until i was certain it wasn’t just chock full o’ crazy, but i’m still not sure. In fact, i fear that i may be careening in slow motion towards some kind of head-on collision with something in the road that i can’t yet see… Something my son said to me yesterday encouraged me to post it anyway. I write this blog to try to help someone, to help anyone, to help even just one, by sharing how my brain works and how i try to cope and strive to be a happier and more functional human. I’m currently completely shut off from the rest of the world, and trying to piece together something to post for Monday the 12th of December at the latest. I’ve written a fair bit, but i don’t know what i’m willing to share and what i’m not. What would be helpful to me or you or both of us is hard for me to figure out right now. I’m not fully in control of my thoughts or actions as i’m in a highly dissociative state.

I’m hypervigilant right now. I’m easily hurt, and when i’m not quite myself, i’m liable to hurt back. I can’t do much about it except associate with people as little as possible.

And that’s where we’re at.