Swerve

There were many times before i was diagnosed, when not knowing how to handle my thoughts and feelings caused some wreckage. I don’t like looking at them, because they’re mostly mortifying, and because often when they occurred my multiplicity would be in play, so the details can be hard to recall. This week though, my mind keeps turning to some of these events, and i haven’t been able to shake the feeling that i need to examine them now, or i’m risking a return to those behaviours.

What i’m referring to is somewhat hard to define for a couple of reasons. One reason is because the emotions are so intense, the people who live in my brain take over, which often leaves me with little or no memory of what’s happened. Another is that scrutiny can be difficult just because the events precipitating them are unpleasant to recall, and my behaviour is so embarrassing to me that i must fight dissociation to even examine it. I’m sitting here with my morning cup of tea, my husband is beside me doing his morning guided meditation, and i’m struggling hard to concentrate. I was feeling out of sorts yesterday around suppertime, and so i went to bed early, thinking i’d read to relax and try to get some extra sleep in.
Ha. I woke every hour or so all night.

I’ve been going back to bed after the guys head off to work/school for this last week. I’m tired and not sleeping well, plus i’m still working on getting back to reading fiction, a thing that fell by the wayside when i began learning to deal with DID. I can and still do read a lot of non-fiction, but the imagination stuff was like skating on thin ice – i’d fall through the thin, brittle membrane that held me up, and begin flailing around in a panic, the cold, slushy soup of all those who live just underneath quickly deadening my limbs and pulling me down into the murk. I still struggle staying present while reading good fiction, but it’s worth every effort.

Allow me a brief digression from the topic at hand. I know that this  may be reading as a bit strange (maybe more like, HUH?), so let me try to make it a bit clearer.
My therapist told me that if some people really had mutant superpowers, that mine would be imagination. The mind of a multiple is capable of internal flights of fancy that can seem real. I know that there aren’t actual people inside my head, yet they seem real, and they’re capable of accomplishing daily activities and handling emergencies when the consciousness that my brain recognises as ME can’t be located. They aren’t real and yet they absolutely are. They’re so real it just took me nearly 5mins to be able to recall the word “integration”. That word is hard to remember because to all of us who live here in my brain, it carries a connotation akin to “murder”. It happens every time i try to remember that word. I could go deeper with this, and i likely will someday, but for now, if you’ll just take that little description and think on how that ability might apply itself to Tolkien’s works, or King’s, or to Gaiman’s, Bradbury’s, Vonnegut’s, Atwood’s, Well’s, Shelley’s, Pohl’s… Yeah, i’m partial to sci fi/fantasy – act shocked.

So, i’ve been going back to bed every morning this week, laying there and trying to read and rest,  but not accomplishing much of either. Part of my inability to get enough sleep may be due to depression, which i think has hold of me, although its grip isn’t nearly as rough as i’d anticipated. I’m vaguely tired and mildly irritated all the time, and i lost a much-loved family member on Sunday, which i know has intensified all the depression stuff i was already feeling prior. I try to concentrate on anything right now, and i can’t quite do it. My head is foggy. I can see the smudgey outlines of my thoughts speckling the mists like grey shadows, but the ground is like a skating rink beneath me, and squinting at the images makes them no clearer, rather they seem to disappear in the watery blur that swims between my eyelashes. I can’t think a thought through to its conclusion, or follow a question to its answer. The path fades before i can find firm footing – i’m not even clear what direction to go. And these attempts leave me cranky and frustrated, with one of those headaches that feels like a bass drum being repeatedly struck by a pedal-beater that’s been covered in muppet-fur. Fuzzy-thump, fuzzy-thump, fuzzy-thump… Hitting so hard i can hear the distant metallic rattle of the wires on the bottom of the snare above it.

I usually give up at this point, but this time i can’t. I can’t because i think i may be building up towards that kind of blow-up that i mentioned at the beginning. The kind of explosion that causes a lot of collateral damage. Like the time when i was 21yrs old and i ruined a funeral because i found out my girlfriend had cheated on me. Or the time i got drunk for 2wks and my Peanut Gallery all thought i was dead and my kids all hated me and were hiding from me. So they took a bunch of pills and first destroyed my own home and then went to the place the kids were at and put a metal chair through the front window and we wound up committed AGAIN.

And in a couple of days i’m going to a funeral, and it’s for the person whose window i demolished all those years ago. She’s my mother-in-law and she’s been a better mom to me than my own mother ever was, and i’m devastated to lose her. Over the last 2yrs dementia has stolen her from us all, a piece at a time, and last Monday morning she had nothing left to give.
I must look at the ugly past, learn as much as i can, and prepare myself in case anything comes up for me.

Wow.

This is why i write.
This right here.
These moments of clarity.
Of insight.
This peace i suddenly have inside me, because even though i was dreading it, even though i feel embarrassed and humiliated looking at those past events, those awful things i did, i am committed to doing the things i’ve put into place to do when life happens to me. When even death happens.

Be present in the moment. Practise mindfulness if necessary. (It’s necessary.)
Avoid triggery people, places, and things.
Do not attempt to eat, drink, drug, or fuck the problem away.
Write about it.
And most important of all…
WRITE ABOUT IT.

Well i did, i have. Er… I AM.
Suddenly it happened. I just realised that, although i need to look harder for what i was feeling and thinking that preceded my destructive outbursts, i’m not going to behave that way this time. It’s a non-issue. I’ve grown up enough and i’ve learned enough about myself, how i work, and the world around me, that i won’t be losing control like that in any fashion, due to my MIL’s death or the upcoming funeral.
It’ll all be okay, and i’m going to be all right.

I’ve fashioned my own Guide To Happy Usefulness, and it works when i work it.
I had to force myself to sit down and write about it, but once i did, it worked.
Holy fuck, H.

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

~William Carlos Williams

I Made This

The weekend was okay. I guess. I’m still depressed, damn it. Not full-on, which i’ll take and i’m grateful, but maybe not grateful enough. It may seem as if i’m always up and celebrating my accomplishments, but i assure you that is not the case. I’m so often disappointed and frustrated with myself that it feels like part of my skin and has proven to be a rather sticky and sensitive issue to treat.

That is what you witness on these pages. I mean, i know intellectually that i’ve come a long way, but i have so far yet to go. I also know that comparing myself to others is nothing short of a mental minefield, requiring my full awareness and absolute attention whilst navigating, lest i trigger a trip wire and anti my personnel. Comparison can be inspiring and motivating if done correctly. It can also keep one from veering too far off the main road, if you follow; i’m odd enough as it is, thankyouverymuch.
An emotionally jaundiced eye such as is the current state of mine however, renders my vision suspect, and the reward not worth the risk.

So today i will remember that i was intended for evil purposes that i will never fulfill.
I was raised to do as i was told and not ask any questions and today i do as i wish and i demand answers and doggedly pursue them.
Life happens and there has been joy in the tragedies and mercy in the pain – but only because i decided it was so.
I have created the life that i live today. No one gave me this. Some of it may have fallen into my lap, but i (ME!) had the sense to see it for what it was and hang on to it.
I chose to look for the lesson.
I decided what and who to let go of and what to keep.
I picked agony over avoidance.
I picked truth over safety.
I chose being happy over being right.
I sought knowledge instead of acceptance.
I chose myself over relationships.

Today i love myself first so that i might love you better, but i love myself today because i loved you first.

I did need a gratitude adjustment.
Thanks H. Good job.

 

Bother

Woke up the same damn way as i have for over 2 weeks now. Once the hubs and our Kiddo were gone, i was sorely tempted to go back to bed, so tempted in fact, that i brought out my body pillow to cuddle with on the couch, by way of compromise.

If we don’t go back to bed, i’ll let you cuddle with the big pillow, okay?

I’m always “we”, but i only use the pronoun when other parts of me are directly involved in what’s happening, which they were this morning. Some were active in my dreams last night, and sometimes that will result in some more conscious interaction continuing on once i’ve woken up.

Dreams are a very potent aspect of how my brain works, and always have been.
My dreams have been an outlet and a safe place and an alarm bell and a movie based on real life events, and even my very own episodes of This Is Your Life, masquerading as dreams. So, while i remember my dreams with varying levels of recall, from vividly to barely, if i wake to someone close-talking* me, there’s a fairly good chance that i’ve been dreaming rather intensely.

So i wake up and someone is close-talking me, and their commentary is negative and constant. Luckily nobody talks much around here in the mornings, so i don’t have to filter them out in order to hear anyone else. I let her drone on because she’ll fade soon enough if i do, but by the time my guys have gone to work and school for the day, i’m already running low on energy and feeling heavy with depression. I sit in my recliner, put the body pillow on the arm, place my wee fluffbutt on the pillow so he’s giving me intravenous puppy shnuggles, place my laptop in position and begin to write.

My dreams are incredibly thematic and rich with meaning, and have been since i can remember. My earliest were of being chased through a neighbourhood that looked very like the epitome of middle class suburban life in the 70s – by a nameless, faceless terror that was always right behind me. I’d run into a house that looked like my grandparents’ looking for help, but no one was ever there. No matter how hard i tried to stop myself from going down into the basement i’d inevitably end up there, facing away from the stairs, on my knees, and i’d place my face in my hands  in submission to the thing that was about to touch me from behind.

In my early 20s i began to dream about being in a group of popular young people, and we’d hang around town and go shopping and eat out, but i would always get separated from them somehow, and spend the rest of the dream trying to find them – feeling so alone and hopeless. In my late 20s it morphed a bit into me winning my place in the group by impressing them with either my singing, or my secret superhero powers, but i still managed to lose them along the way, and even mutant abilities couldn’t find them again. I would be left with this same feeling that i’ll invariably end up alone, with nothing and no one. The young girl inside me that feels that way all the time is the one that was talking to me when i woke up this morning.
She’s all Eeyore, all the time.
I cannot muster up Tigger for her today. I don’t feel up to Christopher Robin, either.
I try to Pooh for her. Heh.

I almost went back to bed. I thought of lying about it, too.
I thought about it. And then i thought about how it would make it easier to lie again.
Of course i can’t do that. Not to myself, and not to anyone who reads this.
So i’m sitting here and tapping away on this blasted keyboard, not about anything in particular, and not with any other purpose in mind save not going back to bed. It’s funny, i don’t do that often anymore, but once i’d made the commitment not to do it for a month, i supermega want to. Like, a LOT. Fortunately, i know myself well enough at this point in my life that i knew it was a distinct possibility, if not practically a sure thing.

Dear Eeyore-Girl,

“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”
You dreamed your dream, now go to sleep. We’ll still be together when you wake up.
I promise.

Love,
~Pooh-ish~

*Have you seen the Seinfeld episode about the close-talker? Well, my bits n’ pieces can do that, too. It’s when they aren’t fully in the face**, but i can hear and feel them one or more of them as if they’re standing directly behind me.

**In the face means that i’m either not there at all and someone else is working the crowd***, or i am there, but i’m the close-talker.

***Whoever the world outside is currently interacting with, is “working the crowd”.

Inside Outside Upside Down*


Manic episode symptoms: The symptoms of mania include: elevated mood, inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, difficulty maintaining attention, increase in goal-directed activity, and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities. These manic symptoms significantly impact a person’s daily living.
Source: Steve Bressert, Ph.D., PsychCentral

“The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long… ”
~Tyrell

This will not be a tell-all of my escapades while in the grips of mania. Suffice to say they were not at all epic, in fact i’d say they bordered on the pathetic.
But of course that’s only in hindsight.

To me, the world had suddenly become more exciting, more enticing, and much, much more accessible. I was pretty and i was crazy and i was fun and i was hungry for experiences. I’d shut myself off from being very social for most of my life. It was difficult, and i knew i wasn’t very good at it, although i tried hard and with sincerity. Being shunted to the bottom of the social pile in nearly every school i attended taught me that i would never be cool. I didn’t have the family standing, i didn’t have the clothes or the toys, and i was never able to talk like they talked or act like they acted. I had nothing going for me and zero chance of getting any of it.

As i’ve mentioned before, once i got away from the judgmental hell of school, i did find some acceptance and favour in certain social circles. I could have more friends if i wanted, but i discovered a lot of life situations still foster an atmosphere that’s no more emotionally developed than high school. It was less acute, but there were still pecking orders and hierarchies in places like work and church. I still flopped and floundered around like the proverbial fish out of water a lot of the time, but it wasn’t the intense microcosm of human social behaviour that school can be.

Weight loss provided me with a little more attractive packaging, and mania dished me up a heaping helping of thoughtlessness masquerading as confidence, like eating a bowl of chili that you never know was actually made with TVP.** I went where i wanted and did what i pleased with whomever i wished. I overindulged in everything except food. I was -yeah, you guessed it- the life of the party, the centre of attention, the belle of the ball.
I was wanted.
I was liked.
I was accepted.
I was popular.

Of course it was all an illusion, brought about by the grandiose thinking and fearlessness i feel when i’m manic. Oh and if dissociation dulls self-awareness – mania makes the blade utterly useless.
It’s mania that almost cost me my children.
Not depression and suicide attempts, not anxiety or panic attacks, not PTSD, and not borderline agoraphobia. Because mania made me selfish, and it blinded me to the effects my behaviour was having on anyone around me – even, and especially, my husband and my children. I repeatedly put myself in high risk situations, doing harmful things to myself with dangerous people.

When the mania finally wore off i’d paid a terrible price. I’d lost loved ones and things that were precious. I was empty and beyond mortified and fully penitent. My thinking still wasn’t terribly coherent, but i knew i needed to stop and start over.

Sometimes a change in geography can help facilitate a cure of sorts.
A new town provided the emotional cytotoxins.
The depression irradiated every thought in my head.

I spent months hiding under my mother-in-law’s gentle and protective wing, and longer still in my brand new Little Crooked House, but my brain was percolating. I had no defenses left to protect me from either the truth of my upbringing, or what my brain had done in order to keep me alive. My brain got very full. Very LOUD. I call it “bursty”. I’ll tell you why. Because one day, my head got too full and i exploded.

I’d been drinking too much for weeks, months, trying to shut my head up. Trying to find peace and quiet. Trying to sleep. Trying to avoid the hangover the next day. Trying to laugh instead of cry. Well one day it all came crashing down around me and i wrecked one house, smashed in another, terrified my loved ones, attempted suicide, and got put away for a couple of months in a special mental hospital. Not a ward, not a floor, but an entire hospital dedicated to VERY crazy people.
I was in the big leagues.

I got help… kinda. I got more diagnoses and conflicting diagnoses and shrinks who would tell me the last one was wrong and take me off all the old medications and put me on new ones. I got thrown out of a couple of programs that the p-docs at the hospital signed me up for, and that’s when i started seeing the “You again?” look on the nurses’ faces.

I’ve been in and out of The Bin for the better part of 20yrs, but after this last big blow out that happened in front of my family, something happened inside me. I decided i’d had enough of running away from who i am and what i’d been through. So i made a 180 and instead, i ran right into it. I threw myself head first into whatever the hell was gonna happen. I’d had enough of trying so hard not to be fucked up and being fucked up anyway.

I slid around inside my head – not gone, but not totally there. I was so tired. Two and a half years of pedal to the metal mania will do that to a person. I was used up inside, emotionally and physically.

Then i lucked out and got a really good social worker. (It’s happened a couple of times – they’re out there.) She accepted my diagnosis and actually knew a lot about it. She treated me like a person and not a case. She helped me make a plan and set goals. Most of all she helped me feel good about who i was as a human and especially as a mother. She helped me get my feet underneath me and take more than a few steps in the right direction. I even had a little momentum going.

Eventually my husband convinced me to go out and meet people.
I don’t actually have much to tell you about that time.
I know we met people, but i don’t know who, or how. I think some of it happened through going to the bar and singing karaoke, but beyond that, i have no idea. I don’t remember very much. The problem was, i could feel another explosion building inside my head, and i was so afraid and still so very tired from the last one that i was dissociating to avoid… everything. Relationships, feelings, my past, my mental issues. All of it.

I already knew what i had to do in order to avoid yet another major meltdown. I knew that i had to disclose and i knew to whom. I sat my husband down and told him that i had to purge it all, that it would likely take a couple of weeks, that i would be a slobbering, jibbering mess throughout, and i was pretty sure that afterwards i would be useless at best and dangerous to myself and others at worst.
He said Okay, let ‘er fly. I’ve got this.
I was right and he was almost wrong.

Let me see the dark sides as well as the bright
I’m gonna love you inside out
I’m gonna love you inside out
Let me
~Inside Out, The Chainsmokers

* The title is a reference to a children’s book by the great Stan and Jan Berenstain
** Textured vegetable protein. It’s actually great, and i use it in place of hamburger often.

Sledgehammer, Part One

WARNING: This piece is about my relationship with my mother, and includes references to both physical and non-physical forms of sexual abuse, including rape.

Let me tell you about my mother.”
~Leon

I don’t really know what happened to my mother. She told so many stories that cannot now be verified, and i’ve caught so many of her lies, that i cannot paint her picture with much detail.

Abstract expressionism it is, then.

My mother was born out of wedlock in 1945, to an young Canadian nurse and a British RAF officer.* She was adopted out to a first generation Canadian couple in southern Alberta. They’d lost their first child, a son, within weeks of his birth, to measles, and my grandmother was unable to bear more children. They adopted her first, and then later, a boy. This was during a time when many people believed that adopted children had “bad blood”, because they’d been born to loose, sinful women.

They were raised in a place where nearly everyone, including their relatives practised a particular faith, a faith my mother’s family decidedly did not. The bullying in school was constant, and terrible. The teachers were all of the same faith, and the bullies were never reprimanded. Her brother though, as a boy and a baseball star, avoided most of the school bullying, and all of the suspicions of adopted children being tainted at home. He had replaced the son my grandparents had lost. Mother was an unfortunately necessary step to getting their precious boy – girls were less desirable than boys, but a girl could get your foot in the door, you see.

She must have at least sensed from the very beginning that she wasn’t wanted. When she was raped by one of my grandfather’s ranch hands, their response must have settled the matter. The man had threatened to kill her brother if she told, but she was hemorrhaging so badly it could not be hidden. She wasn’t taken to a hospital, a local doctor came to the ranch to see to her privately. The man wasn’t accused, arrested, charged, or punished, he was merely fired. She was 5yrs old.*

She got pregnant at 15, and was sent to a home for unwed mothers in the US where she was forced to give her baby up for adoption.* Following the surrender, she attended school away from home, to help keep her secret shame safe from the rest of the town and area. The girls at her school being as purely vicious as they were, i don’t imagine she minded at all.

At 22yrs old, she got pregnant again.
This is the point in her life where i enter, and now there are too many asterisks to even bother using them.

~~~~~~~~~~

-she got pregnant by a married man,
-she was raped by a married man,
-she got pregnant by a man of another faith whose parents would have disowned him,
-she got pregnant by a man who left to fight in Vietnam and was captured in country…

She went again to the States to the same home for unwed mothers, but this time she rebelled. She left and got a job and her own apartment, where 8mos into her pregnancy she was the victim of a break and enter and a violent rape.

~~~~~~~~~~

She fled the US for home, only to go into labour on her way, requiring her to make an unscheduled stop in Vancouver, where i born.

I won’t be going into what happened the first 7 or 8yrs of my life. It’s a story that doesn’t need to be told again. What i mean is, i can tell you a bit about my mom by way of explaining the terrible fear i always carry of becoming like her, without putting myself through the unnecessary pain of recounting the most painful years of my life. The years that fractured my brain into the little pieces that i am now trying so hard to manage and love and maybe even heal…

What i will say about those years is this: Afterwards, i believe that she suffered a crisis of conscience over what she’d done, and she didn’t manage the crisis well. I think she fell into a deep depression. I think she tried to fix what she’d done by having other children and parenting them better than she had me. And when she wasn’t able to (she was better to them in some ways and worse in others), she set upon years of self hatred and vain attempts to excuse her behaviour. Finally, it is my opinion that she eventually gave up and gave in to what she had become, and spent her final years reflecting more and more on the outside, what she was on the inside. Filthy. Bloated. Foul.

It is her final years that have most imprinted upon me this fear i have inside.
I watched her descent into utter depravity. As parts of me can move forward or recede as required, as parts of me can emotionlessly record events i have watched her slow free fall into a bottomless pit of what i can only describe as uncleanness.

I watched the house get dirtier and dirtier, until there were used dishes covered in molding food all over the house, including the floors, and yes, even the bathtub, where they were also covered with stinking scummy water, like the ones that filled every sink.

I watched my siblings get dirtier and dirtier, until their eyes, which looked unnaturally large against the pulled masks of their starving faces, seemed to fairly glow. I watched them climb through piles of unwashed laundry that were stacked higher than they themselves stood, looking to find the least filthy item to wear to school.

And i watched my mother. I watched her take food out of her children’s mouths to fill her own gargantuan appetite. I watched her swell from an incredibly beautiful woman who would be called “thick” today, to a mass of heavy, unwashed flesh that topped out somewhere over 600lbs. I watched her stop caring about what she wore, until she simply wore nothing at all. Moving from room to room completely naked. When someone came to the door i had to beg her to drape a blanket over herself. And i was privy to her abandonment of all attempts at personal hygiene, until her stench would fill the room so pungently, that i would involuntarily heave.

I tried to help stem the tide of garbage and odour and clutter and spoiled food, but i was living a life almost completely dissociated from what was going on around me. My room was a sty, too. I would be beaten for it regularly, and it would be clean for a while, but it wasn’t long before it looked much as it had at my last beating. My environment was a reflection of what was going on inside me, just as it was with my mother. I was also terrified of cleaning the house. If i did so under her watchful eye, i’d get criticised, screamed at, and beaten. If i tried to get a bunch of cleaning done when she wasn’t around, i almost never did it right, and she’d beat me when she got home. She even told me once, after my best friend and i had come home for a visit to an empty home full of trash that one had to actually wade through in places, and spent over a day cleaning, that she would have preferred i’d done nothing.

(To this day i hate cleaning the house when other people are around, it makes me terribly anxious and i avoid it as much as possible.)

After i left home, nothing really changed except that my portion of abuse was redistributed among my siblings. I know she beat them until the day she was in the car accident that would eventually kill her. I know that some religious folks who’d been trying to help her went to her home while she was in hospital, to clean it up in anticipation of her return and were pretty grossed out by what they found. I know that i visited her in hospital and begged her forgiveness for all the trouble i’d been to her and she magnanimously forgave me. I know that she seemed to be recovering, but because of her massive girth and doctors’ relative inexperience with the super morbidly obese back then, they missed a small tear in her cecum, which leaked slowly into her guts for nearly 6wks following the accident, causing her to die from multiple organ failure due to sepsis.

And i know it was years before i even began to unravel, examine, and otherwise dissect the relationship i’d had with my mother. I’ve spent years and tears and not a little money in an attempt to learn the extent of the damage she wrought in my life, and to find ways to counteract it all. For a very long time all i could do was stem the flow. I was like her, thinking i was getting better and then i’d find another source of infection that was keeping me sick. And like in our literal lives, sometimes the antibiotic wouldn’t work, or it would stop working, and i’d have to search for something else – something stronger, or something else altogether.

END PART ONE

*Maybe. I cannot verify this as fact, but i have included it because, after years of study and contemplation, i accept that it is probably true.

Under My Dome

This is one of those days where i really, really wish i was normal.

I’m not having that glib toss off comment that people often make about no one being normal, or what the heck is normal anyway. I understand where it comes from, and i know people don’t mean any harm or offense when they make it. And it doesn’t harm me or offend me when it’s made, either. I’m just saying that for today, if one were to make such a comment regarding this post – that might be considered by me to be a little insensitive.

I’m not referring to everyone’s little quirks and oddities. Yes, we all have those. I’m talking about living every single day of your life with a brain that works -in some very significant ways- much differently than most people’s. In ways that slow me down in my daily life, and have even held me back from achieving some things that i’ve wanted to do.

I’ve always had a terribly short attention span. I’ve struggled with concentration. In recent years, with the addition of bipolar disorder, i’ve had an awful time reading. Reading was one of the biggest things that saved my life growing up, and it’s been a slow and exasperating process trying to retrain my brain to read for pleasure again.

My thoughts either race so fast with mania, or process words so slowly with depression and dissociation, that i stopped reading novels. I forced myself to deal with the issue starting with non-fiction. As a person who’d finally broken free of my childhood programming that had taught me not to think for myself or question authority, i was hungry for information. So i started reading a lot of news articles, science articles, political pieces, and learning about philosophy. I’m not entirely sure why it’s been so much easier to read non-fiction, but i suspect it has something to do with fiction triggering my dissociative behaviours because it stimulates my imagination.

I’m trying though. I’ve had to, because i’m currently on a news/social media fast. The last year’s worth of campaigning, leading to the most frightening and disappointing election result in the US in my lifetime, necessitated a break. I’ve got too much going on in my personal life to even begin to process that event. Even typing this little bit about it in my blog is ramping up my anxiety level. And the Peanut Gallery in my head is on hypervigilant alert, meaning social media isn’t a good idea, either. I’m at a high risk for switching, and i can’t ask my online friends to go through that with me. It’s confusing enough for my husband and my children, i can’t imagine how much harder it would be when you don’t live with me, and don’t even have experience with me outside of the internet. (I was gonna say, “in the flesh”, but that sounded a bit dirty. Heh.)

Anyway, i’m trying to read a book i’ve been trying to get through for 2yrs. I’ve read other novels over the last few years, but King novels are especially hard for me, i think because he’s my favourite. I didn’t understand until a few years ago that my experience of imagination is different than most people. My therapist says that i am a superhero, and my mutant power is imagination. I was able to create people and worlds inside my brain in order to escape some of the awful things that happened to me as a child. My brain is a whole different level of creative. Not better than you, but very intense. Like, for those of you around my age, think in Technicolor, with Sensurround! If you’re a more recent arrival on the planet, think over 9,000!

When i found Stephen King novels it changed my life. It was more than just giving me an escape, the fact that they were based in horror helped me stay alive and be more sane. No, really. There were things that happened to me that i never spoke about. As years went by, they became like dreams i had, and as i grew i eventually “forgot” that they were real events and believed instead that they were only dreams. When other young people would talk about their dreams, i would wonder why mine were so strange and terrifying compared to theirs. I think King’s stories made it easier for me to, in due time, accept that there had been true evil in my life, as there is in the world, and that it can be overcome. As if reading about it in well-told stories made what i had lived through a bit more palatable. It was art. Dark, terrible art. It was maybe more romantic/poetic to me, seen through a writer’s eyes. That may not make sense to anyone else, but it does to me. Stephen King helped soften the blow in a way. His stories helped me to acknowledge and accept that my life was a story that he could have written.

For a week i have sat with this massive book in my lap. Forcing myself to read half an hour of this novel every day. It’s laborious and sluggish work. I have echobrain right now, meaning that i hear the sentence i just read bounce around inside my skull over and over, until it gradually fades. This forces me to say the sentence silently in my head as i’m reading it in order to cut down on the echo. Unfortunately, it also sloooows me doooown. I find it demeaning. I know i shouldn’t, but my reading speed and comprehension was something i was always so proud of, and here i am slogging away at a snail’s pace. And when i get frustrated i can always count on a voice or 2 to pipe up in there, which makes concentrating even more difficult.

So this is why i’m whining and wishing i was normal. It goes much deeper and darker than that though. It starts with the once-star-reader-turned-plodding-toiler and ends with oh-for-pity’s-sake-i’m-almost-50-and-i’m-barely-functional.

You thought this was gonna be a bombastic tirade on how you non-crazies have it so good, didn’tcha?

Nah. I’m just PO’ed because all i want is to read my dang story. *sigh*

Who you lookin’ for
What was his name
you can prob’ly find him
at the football game
it’s a small town
you know what i mean
it’s a small town, son
and we all support the team
~James McMurtry

Y’all have yourself as good a day as you can.

Love and Peace,
~H~

The Art of Broken Pieces

“When you write, you should put your skin on the table.”
~Louis-Ferdinand Celine

I’m afraid to write too often or too regularly, because i’m afraid of what might come out. I’ve made a firm commitment though, to share how i deal with how my brain works, and to deny it -even to hedge a little- would lead me to stumble on my path. I’m as committed to stumbling as little as possible, as i am to telling you about it when i do, therefore i must write. As much and as able as i am to do so, i will.

Even if all i end up being is an excellent example of what not to do. Heh.

So yes, i am feeling somewhat fatalistic today. Which is odd and also amusing when one considers that i don’t believe in fate at all. Not a whit. Maybe it’s not so much fate, as it is this feeling that comes over me when i’m at the keyboard – the feeling that i MUST do this. The caged bird singing and all that, how poetic, tralala. I’ve expressed myself artistically in other ways, but i was too dysfunctional to pursue any of the opportunities that came my way as an adult. As a child, my seethingly jealous and envious mother did all my sabotage for me. I don’t know if i’ll ever be any good at writing, but i know i have one thing going for me, and that is that i’ve found my voice. I may never bash out any fiction (the mere thought makes me perspire), but when i write anything about my own thoughts and my personal life, i am exactly me, myself, and i. Which is darkly amusing, because i am many parts making up a whole person.

What do i want to write about today? I guess i want to write about what i’m going through right now, which is pretty much what i always write about. About a month ago, something happened that is the worst thing to happen to me since i’ve gotten my mental health on track. I’ve got one full year of no full blown mania or depression, no police or judge involvement, no voluntary or involuntary hospital admissions, and manageable levels of dissociation. I haven’t had two months of that, let alone thirteen and a half, since i went off the rails in 2006.

So i am deep in the shit. I’m going to do everything in my power to maintain my streak, but the pressure’s high, and i know that i might fail. I know some people bristle at the use of such words, but the word “fail” doesn’t bother me at all. I understand that sometimes it can help to shift someone’s perspective in a positive way to use different words. For instance, instead of the word “fail” i could call it a “stumble” or a “learning opportunity”. If that’s what works for you, then you keep doing it. You’ve got to tailor your plan of personal growth to suit your personality. I find a tremendous amount of freedom in calling a thing what it is and just dealing with it head-on. For some people, calling something they did a failure could be detrimental to their health, and i get it. Try not to hurt yourself anymore than you’ve already been hurt. Because of my upbringing, i loathe euphemisms and pop psychology is tough for me to take. Calling a thing what i think it is, helps me stay real and honestly connected to myself and my surroundings. What i mean to say is, just because it would be a euphemism for me, doesn’t make it one for you. Yours may be more accurately called a “learning opportunity”. Geez, i hope i made some sense, there. Heh.

You call what you call it, and i’ll do the same, and neither one of us is necessarily wrong. Although you might be. (I need a smartass font.)

Another word that i use that can make some people uncomfortable -even my therapist doesn’t care for it- is “broken”. Maybe some day i won’t use that word to describe myself anymore, but i can’t see it happening. I was profoundly abused as a child, and i’m broken in ways that will never be fixed. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life trying to emulate what normal looks like to me, and despite my best efforts, i’ve never quite gotten the hang of it. Once the most important thing became to know myself and be myself, the first thing that was abundantly clear to me is that my childhood broke me, and i will never know what i could have been or done with my life had i not been so broken.

As with most things though, i do find that there is a line to walk with this knowledge. I’ve seen what happens when the freedom that comes from acknowledgment becomes an excuse not to bother trying to fix the things that can be fixed. I have dived deeply into the waters of self-pity and while i believe i needed/deserved to and i’m glad i did, there came a time when i knew it was time to get out, shower, and dry off. I will never be returned to my original state, but i can stitch the wounds and set the bones.

I see myself as a piece of Kintsugi, which is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery using lacquer that has been mixed with gold, silver, or platinum. Instead of hiding my cracks, i decorate them with something beautiful and those mended bits become the most precious parts of me. It’s not to say that i take a perverse kind of pleasure in being this broken, it is more that what others might see as useless and throw away, i put back together. And not just in a utilitarian manner – i did so artfully, and now it is even more beautiful and precious than it was in its unbroken form.

Freedom.

I have been broken and i have failed and i am free.

I am currently repairing the chip in my bowl with gold.

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
~Leonard Cohen

Love and Peace to All,

~H~
P.S. Did you notice how i started out writing about stumbling and then got on to failure? I didn’t until i was proofreading. Welcome to how my brain works – she is an interesting bit of stuff. Heh.

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.

Reanimator

As i work towards being healthier and more functional, one of the most important things i can do, i think, is ask a lot of questions. Of myself. Hard ones.

It’s a bit tricky, because navel-gazing isn’t a good place for me. I can get obsessed, or mired in circular thinking rather easily. I need to ask the hard questions, but answer them relatively quickly, without dwelling on them. It’s not as difficult as i’d worried it might be. I’ve given most of these questions significant thought before, but either stuffed them away in some nook of my brain because i couldn’t deal with it, or just simply been unable/unwilling to implement whatever conclusions i’d come to. Simply put, most of the answers are in there, and fairly accessible just by asking the questions.

By asking and answering some of those harder ones, i’ve been able to set my feet upon a path, and plod in a generally forward direction. I know there are things about my brain that work differently than most people, and for the purposes of being more relatable i refer to them as mental illnesses. I’ve asked why i am this way and come to some kind of conclusion that, at least for now, satisfies me to the point where i can accept it and move on. I’ve asked myself what i’d like to change about myself and my life, and acknowledged what i need to do to get there. The questions don’t stop there, but the biggest, most serious ones regarding what made me this way are mostly behind me (probably). Hopefully. Maybe? Okay, we’ll go with “for now”.

 

As someone who’s spent a significant part of my life in deep contemplation, i suppose i’ve developed a sort of slapdash personal philosophy, at least with respect to the broader definition of my own existence. I see my life as a tightrope walk. Or a balance beam. Or standing in the centre of a teeter totter, with one foot on either side. Yeah, i think i’m that sort of person. I’m looking for balance. Not so much for stasis, because boring, but i’m on a swing and if it goes too high i fall off and if i don’t pump my legs i’ll eventually stop, and either of those is death. That extends to my worldview, but only in the broadest and most non-theistic sense. I see that there are a chain of events set off by every action we take, whether conscious or unconscious, and that which happens as a result are natural consequences. I do what i do, and life responds in return, and while i see life around me as somewhat random and coincidental, i see evidence every day that convinces me that my choices play an important part in who i am and how i live, thus persuading me of the benefit of living a more conscious life. I am compelled to continue.

Yes, Life happens. Every day, all day. With me and without me. But insofar as i am conscious and aware, i have autonomy in how i respond to it. As someone born into a mental cage inside an emotional prison – this is sweet freedom. I’m deeply comforted by the unconsciousness of Life’s non-response to my presence, which is a balm to the constant and strident histrionics of humans responding both to me and around me. And while i love humans very much, i’m loathe to be associated with most of them.

Each time depression cycles back around it’s like dying. Things slow and darken and everything is tiring and painful. People exacerbate the condition, making me want to skip to the inevitable conclusion and save myself the suffering. So i withdraw to a place where the feelings are more manageable. My Fortress of (relative) Solitude.

It’s difficult with this particular brain and heart to be amongst you for very long and remain conscious, intentional, and contribute positively to those around me. I know it will change as i move forward – i see continued improvement with every small foray i make into the big, bad world. I have much evidence to hope that one day it might be mostly natural, and even fluid. For now though, i’m fortunately able to live in my Little Crooked House with my moat of trees and grass and wagon wheels, and my dragon-dogs and fire breathing husband and son.

I ask questions, form hypotheses, and then go out and test them, gathering evidence to bring back to my lab, where i study the data and then do it all again. I’m working on a theory, but that paper is a long way from being written, and peer review still scares the  shit outta me.

 

I just combined the 2 prior images and came up with Princess Frankenstein. I like it.

 

Love and Peace,

~H~

 

Aftermath

 

“States are crumbling
Walls are rising high again
It’s no place for the faint-hearted
But my heart is strong
Because now I know where I belong
It’s you and I against the world
We are free”
~Muse, Aftermath

I thought i was fighting my depression. I emerged from my last round with Mania, with my glove that delivered the knockout punch held high, only for that smug bastard Depression to step into the squared circle and call me out. I had no choice but i was already so tired that i just kept pulling him in for the clinch. That SOB easily slipped my hold and clocked me with a combination.

Sucka.

The mass shooting in Orlando was at least a standing 8 count. I was dazed initially, but now i’m pissed. Depression likes it when i’m angry because it makes me vulnerable. And when i feel vulnerable i go somewhere alone and curl up in ball and try to stop my thoughts from eating me alive. Stay away from me when i’m like that because i will lash out at anyone, for no reason other than unfortunate proximity. This isn’t a fair fight. There isn’t even a referee.

**********

I don’t really talk about my sexuality at all. There was just so much inside that needed to come out and be subjected to endless scrutiny. Heh. I didn’t start to really know myself until well into my marriage, so a firm (le hahaha) definition of my sexuality came through the process of my middle-aged self-discovery. Sure, the feelings were always there, but i was raised religious. Severely sexually abused and religious. So everything was all twisted up inside and i had to undo a lot of knots and clip a lot of loose threads to reveal the original weave.

Currently, and to the best of my understanding, i’m a married, monogamous bisexual. My first preteen fumblings were with a girl, my first consensual sexual experience was with a girl, my first relationship was with a girl. I thought all of that was wrong and shameful, and so i hid it. I was well into my twenties before i realised i wasn’t obsessing over certain females because i wanted to look like them, rather that i wanted to be with them. I had no serious relationships with men until my husband. I’ll tell you bluntly that, although i tried to play at it a couple of times, i just used men for sex. I sought women for connection.  I never thought about marriage. I wasn’t driven to be in an intimate relationship with anyone, regardless of their sex. I found it difficult enough to be present for my sons. I had a couple of close girlfriends, but there was zero attraction. Meeting my husband changed everything, of course.

Once i finally had my very own person, i felt safe for the first time in my life. I began to think for myself. I began moving away from people and things that hurt me. I started making up my own mind about things, which included the big three: religion, politics, and sex. Once i had religion squared away, it was glaringly obvious that i’m bisexual. It wasn’t anything that required therapy or prayer. I’m capable of an intimate sexual relationship with a man or a woman. For that matter, i’d include trans, intersexed, and gender fluids on my list of possible partners as well.

As i stated previously though, i’m currently monogamous, and intend to remain so, if everything goes as planned. And because of my situation, most people don’t realise i’m queer. I’m not regularly subjected to hate, whether casual or targeted. As a woman i can relate to always being at least slightly afraid for my physical/sexual safety when i leave my own home, but i’m a cisfemale married to a cismale. No one gives us a second look when we hold hands or openly flirt with each other.  But make no mistake, i’m queer, and the terrible events on June 12 in Orlando felt like a jackboot on my neck.

I was raised to hate myself for myriad reasons, but the hatred i was taught to have for the LGBTQIA community slipped another in there; a silent destroyer. I kicked that lying motherfucker to the curb many years ago, but there are scars of course.

~Like the time i had just left my dead mother’s side as she lay in her hospital bed, only to be pulled aside by a family member and be told my mother had been deeply concerned for my soul, as the whole family was, because they feared i was dating a female. Was i aware i was going to hell?

~Or all the times i was “encouraged” to confess all my homosexual encounters so that i might be prayed over in tongues with much wailing and gnashing of teeth and funky chicken dancing all designed to break the evil “soul ties” i’d created, and banish all the demons that i’d invited in with my abominable behaviours.

~Or the time i lost a treasured friend because after a year of intensely close friendship, she found out my first relationship was with a woman.

~How about the fact that some of my most important relationships would become tenuous if i was too “out”?

As with all of us who aren’t heterosexual, living in a heteronormative world, i have more examples, but not as many as those of you who clearly present as lesbian, gay, trans, or otherwise queer. I’m absolutely gutted for you – for all of us. I’m trying to channel my anger appropriately, but it’s very difficult. I want to aim it at the places that hurt me the most, but it’s probably not productive. At least, it’s not when i’m this busted up inside. Let me make it clear though – i HATE religion, particularly the one i was raised in, but i see all of them as harmful and intrinsically evil. Let me also make it clear that i do not see most of its practitioners that way, but if i was the king of the world…

Anyway…

“From this moment
From this moment
You will never be alone
We’re bound together
Now and forever
The loneliness has gone”

I will continue to fight this blasted depression, and i will win. But i want you to know that i’m sorry for my complacency, unconscious and unintentional as it was.  I will do my clumsy, goofy best to take a more active role in the community. You are not alone.

I’M HERE. I’M QUEER. GET USED TO IT.

~H~