The Drop

I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.
~ Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

After my dear Ms T (i talk about my therapist so much, let’s give her a name) checks in with my current state, she goes over how i was switched and hung up on her during our last phone session. She asks me who i thought it might be that swatted the Little who was talking to her away, and then yelled at her and hung up.
She doesn’t usually ask me who was in the face in my absence.

For one, i often have no idea, and for another, none of us are inclined to give their names. We do so exceedingly rarely, and it tends to be delivered with not a little hostility. Even when i’m talking with my husband, who knows them all, i’ll use their role/job, rather than their names. It makes something twist up inside me to use their proper names. Like guitar feedback – and not the cool Jesus-and-Mary-Chain kind. It’s more like when your 12yr old is jamming with his friends in your garage.

I tell her i don’t know.
She asks me if i’d be willing to share with her what popped into my head when she asked me. I told her, but no name, only her role. I won’t be sharing either here, but i will say she is the #1 in the system: most developed, most power, most functional… most like me.

What followed is a bit on the hazy side, which is what happens when Ms T hits on something close to someone in my system. What i mean is, i tend to stay on track with my therapy sessions unless someone else who lives in my brain is triggered. If that happens, i feel myself getting pulled back, and i know someone is trying to pass me along the way, to get in the face. It’s like in a scary movie when the woman finally realises it’s the person she’s with, that she’s trusted the most, that’s killing everyone. When the camera pulls back for a long and wide shot – who knows, maybe i’m even wearing the same expression of dawning horror. /jk

It’s one way to describe how it initially feels during all the levels of dissociation that occur for me, as a multiple. First, there’s the initial receding, and then the numb and floaty feeling that comes with basic dissociation. I’m in a dopey, dreamy state here. Then there’s what i call sliding, where i’m not quite switched, but parts of my system are in the face, and i’m watching what’s happening without being able to affect my own actions. It’s a little like being the new baby at a family gathering – i get tossed around a bit. A full switch is where i can feel a violent pull back. It’d be like if the ocean of space inside my brain where all of them manifest were a pregnant woman. I feel a hard tug, right where my baby’s joined to me. I can share this weird analogy because my first son shot out of me like a football. The doctors weren’t anticipating a first timer to be done in 4hrs, so they were on the other side of the room, talking.

My doc said, OMG, the baby’s head is crowning! and ran over to catch. She did, but the fact that the umbilical cord was wrapped around my son’s neck and shoulders might have helped. I felt a pull on the inside so hard and strange; i could almost hear the boi-yoi-YOING! sound. Like if we were joined by a bungee cord.
You’re welcome for that image.
I’m saying switching comes from the baby-feeding belly-tube of my momma-brain.
K, i’m done. RLY.
Heh.

Back to my hazy recollection of my therapist and i discussing who flicked the wee one away and took her place.
I’ve been working on cutting down on the amount of time between her questions and my answers. There’s pressure to keep my mouth shut from many directions, but i have enough power to push up against it harder than before, i think. Like the football player in training pushing that sled just a little further each time.
I have a leftover impression of pressing myself to speak the answer as soon as i have it.
I’m not a fan of speaking without thought. It’s been my personal experience (so, not necessarily yours) that that can lead to a lack of proper skepticism. I’ve also seen the practise used overwhelmingly by those to whom i’d never go for help/healing.
I’m referring to practitioners of pop psychology (subjective), and to the religious (objective), and i mean no offense.
This is just life as me, making the best choices i can based on who i am, my life experiences, and what i want.
Your mileage will vary.

Having some trouble getting to my point today.
There’s a bit of a kerfuffle going on in this old noggin since that session 4days ago.
I’ll stop writing cute analogies, and just write what i know. It’ll be choppy, without my typical smooth transitions.
You may snort here.

This part of my system we talked about is basically my Number One. She’s task-driven, intimidating, sarcastic, grouchy, gruff and take charge. She’s the most protective over me, and when pushed, her words are nothing short of caustic. As i’ve written about though, she and i have both retired our ninjamouth ways. Still, i would have described her as one tough customer.

And then Ms T asks if it’s occurred to me that she’s probably somewhere around 6yrs old.
I remember it feeling a bit like looking down at a glass floor when you’re standing in a tower. It felt like i was going to slide back further (fall), but i didn’t.
I looked down and i saw HER, and i saw that she is a child.
And then it was like a drop tower at an amusement park.
I saw that they are all children, regardless of the age they affect.
They were all born when i was very small; how could they be anything but? They’re reflections of whatever age they claim to be; merely a manifestation of what i thought a rebellious teenager or provocative twentysomething or kind uncle or hardworking mother would be like.

I’m the only real grownup who lives in my brain.
All of the rest of me are children.

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.

Happy Sunday,
~H~

Bring It!

So, i think shame is my driving emotion, and one of my core issues is rejection.

It isn’t hard to see how the 2 things would be intertwined in anyone’s life – they’re certainly tightly wound together in mine.
Last Friday night they slammed into each other and almost brought the house down. My Little Crooked House, the house of cards i’ve built around me to handle the state of the world at this moment, and perhaps, even my house. My brain is a house where a lot of people live, you see. I’m the landlord, the property manager, and the onsite handyman for all of it. I own a lot of real estate up here. Occasionally, i have found a bit of space that i don’t, but i’m a keen negotiator, and so far all my offers to buy have been accepted. I’m quite the land baron, doncha know. My offers were generous, and the rent, low.

I’m going to talk about sex today. My life as a sexual being was heavily impacted by my upbringing –i mean, duh!– but i don’t write about it specifically. One, it’s deeply personal, not just for me, but for a lot of people. Another reason is that, if i started talking about sex on my blog, it would likely change the tone here and take things in a different direction. That’s something i’m not currently interested in, nor am i properly equipped to deal with its attendant baggage and potential pitfalls. This piece is more about what i learned in a situation that involved sex. A lot of things in this piece might seem double entendre, but unless i make the joke, no innuendo is intended. I’m mostly talking about emotional intimacy, the sexual kind is merely the vehicle driving me to my destination, ya dig?

So don’t worry… Nothing any more TMI than usual.
Heh.

As an adult, i never gave much thought to getting married. I was busy surviving, and also enjoying having a personal space that wasn’t being constantly violated. I liked being on my own, and alone. It relaxed me a little. (As much as i’m ever “relaxed”. It is getting better, though. Work in progress and all that.) When i fell in love for the first time, parts of my personality came into play that lie mostly dormant. By that i mean, i was born to serve the needs of my mother, and i was raised to be a person to be used, worked, consumed.

I’m not well educated. I’m not great at research. And while psychology is a science, it isn’t a hard one. The psychiatrist who treated my bipolar disorder once said that it’s so soft, it’s mushy. This is to preface my thinking on this matter. I don’t know if it’s correct, i’m not at all sure it could stand up to scientific scrutiny or even be tested. I just think it’s a possibility, and it helps me deal with the wreckage that childhood abuse has caused in my life. All of this to say, i think 1 of the positives that came from being a multiple, is that i’m hella good at compartmentalisation. I think it enabled me to take aspects of my personality that i was born with, ones that i couldn’t display, and hide them away in little pockets of my brain. Qualities like confident, bold, brash, assured.

These qualities have popped up a few times over the years. They come out of nowhere and disappear again. When my mother’s relationship with the man i called Daddy ended, she moved away and i was no longer being passed around for a paycheque or as a party favour. My need for my system dropped drastically. Switching almost ceased entirely, although i still slid around on the daily. I remember people approaching me for sex. By that time, memories i had of being raped i thought were dreams, and details were murky. Sometimes i would be approached by local boys who assumed the fat girl would be grateful for their attention and just offer myself up. And sometimes, those who had enjoyed access to my body previously***, would come back for more. I rebuffed them all. It’s my guess that being a multiple enabled me to do that. I couldn’t say No before, but when we moved away, i could, and as soon as i was able to – i did. I stopped having those dreams-that-were-actually-memories for many years. They didn’t return until i was sexually assaulted again. And although i’ve been sexually assaulted a number of times as an adult, unlike when i was a child, i was in the face and fought each of them however i could.*

Wow, it’s like every paragraph is a preface for the next one. Is that how grownups write? Because i’m usually all over the place. You know, like i am right here. Heh.

This brings me back to that part in the beginning where i mentioned falling in love. Prior to him, i’d never been in love. My first relationship i thought i was in love, but once we broke up i quickly realised it was obsession. After her, i only chose partners that i wasn’t deeply attached to. I stumbled across him using a dating service. I’d never met anyone as kind and smart as he was. One day i looked at him and made up my mind i wanted him for good. We’ve been together ever since, coming up on 25yrs. Amd those pocket traits came in handy with all of my relationships, but especially with him.

Once i got him though, it triggered issues that created years of chaos and struggle for both of us. I wasn’t the only one with issues, and i wasn’t the only one who’d survived childhood trauma.

His story is not for me to tell, but i do have his permission to touch on this, and to write briefly that we’ve stumbled and faltered in our efforts to find our way to intimacy with each other, emotionally and otherwise. This last couple of years we’ve both gotten to a place where we wanted to focus more effort on us, as a couple. And as i’ve grown in this last round of therapy, i’ve been better able to share myself and give him more access to me as a friend, a lover, and a partner. So too, as i’m mending my mind/body connection, i’m learning who i am, and have been able to better define what i want and what i like –and here’s the big one– to ask for it.

I learned to be ashamed of my body, and as i moved through what happened to me and my system was fully functional again, i felt shame because who would want to be with crazy, gross me? I’d gained and lost hundreds of pounds, and my body showed it, and i was always going to be a bit of a cuckoobird. I told myself i’d tricked my poor husband into being with me. See there? I felt guilty, and then shame crept in because even though i’d convicted myself of bad actions, i still didn’t want to let him go and still craved deep connection with him.**

He’s had a bit of therapy, and then there’s me… Between us, we’ve been able to get some serious and significant work done, particularly over the last 6mos or so. We’re walking through all of this together, closer than we’ve ever been before, and in love again for the first time in, well, too long. Stupid, beautiful love. So some of those pocket traits aren’t so pockety anymore, and i boldly and somewhat brashly, asked for, ah, some. Nuff said here, right? I believed that asking out loud with my words might address some of the body shame i still carry, and maybe the shame that plagues me over going after him like a steamroller at our beginning.

I didn’t anticipate the anxiety. By afternoon i was tightly wound, and by the time he got home, i was fit to split. He was glad to see me, and was looking forward to later. (Oh god, the teenagers that live in my brain are cringing and eyerolling like mad, heh-heh-heh.) The brain chatter settled somewhat, and we had a nice supper and were watching some telly. And then… nothing. My husband works hard, long hours, and has extra duties as his boss sits in isolation, post-holiday. He sat on the couch and petered out. (Brain snorts ensue!) I, genius that i am, had a couple of cocktails in me to calm my jitters and hopefully shut the Peanut Gallery up. It worked until shame crept in… And then the shit hit the fan.

A shifting in my brain, a click. A spark of rage lit a fire in my belly. I knew i was in trouble but i was already fading, receding into the back side of my brain (M-O-O-N, that spells MOON!) and it was all i could do to get my ass to bed.
I recently retired my tongue as a sword, and so with a brief admonishment to my more laconic and caustic bits to mind their Ps and Qs, i went to sleep. When my husband came to bed, i started switching.

I woke up angry. Went to pee and my husband was sleeping on the couch. Weird, the bedroom door wasn’t locked, which is something my system sometimes does when they get mad at him. Great, is he mad at me, then? I decide to get something to eat and go back to my room and write. When he wakes, he comes in and asks me what’s wrong. I ask him to fill me in on what happened after i went to bed, which is when i learn i was switching. He also informs me that no one would engage him, because they said they weren’t allowed to talk to him. Well, something positive, at least. But i’m still angry, and i know i’m angry because i’m hurt, and i think shame is keeping my mouth closed, but NO! It isn’t! Shame is just an emotion that’s letting me know i’m craving connection with this man. It’s fear keeping my mouth shut. FEAR OF REJECTION.

In words still a bit on the terse side, i relate what caused me to go to bed early. He immediately apologises, and gently reminds me how tired he  is after work, but that his plans hadn’t changed. The brittleness inside me disappears, and i tell him my thoughts turned extreme, i began catastrophising, i could feel anger bubbling up and was becoming dissociated. I tell him i went to bed, rather than angry-walk. He says he understands, and as we stand to leave the bedroom (we have 2 children at home, so we try to keep our relationship stuffs there), he grasps my elbows, smiles (oh his smile makes me melt) at me, and makes sure we’re still on for later.
You betcher sweet bippy, baby.

Today, as i analyse and write about it, i see the rejection at play. In fact, it was the star of the show. Shame shone the light on my need for connection, but it was fear that was informing my actions. I was afraid he didn’t want me. I am afraid i don’t deserve him. I feel tremendous guilt over everything i’ve put him through, and shame points that out, as well. Because i still want him for my own, forspecial. And i don’t just want him to be mine, i want him to want me for his, too. I want these connections with him, and in the light of day, i know he does, because i can see it all over him, every day.

70s pop psychology had this concept someone called, “playing old tapes”, and in this case, i think it fits. Asking for what i wanted didn’t occur to me as a child; i’d have known better than to ask, anyway. Asking the other day triggered old home movies and old sad songs in my brain, of how i was only ever wanted for what i could do, or would allow – no one ever really wanted ME, specifically. The more the tapes played, the more i expected him to reject me. Who could want me? I’m afraid of losing him, even though more and more of me believes he’ll never leave me. I’ve lost so much, so many.

Fear of rejection and fear of loss and afraid to be alone, but afraid to be connected.

Shame tells me i need to connect, fear asks me, But what if he doesn’t want to connect with you? I’m not afraid of fear. I’ve dealt with it in all its forms and at all its intensities, the entirety of my life. I confront my fears, these days. I look it straight in the face and say, Yo! What’s up? I’m here to listen and learn from whatever it shines a light on.
Fear is just a feeling trying to tell me something – just like shame. So as i write this, i’m thinking that fear wasn’t keeping my mouth shut any more than shame was. It’s rejection, period, that kept my mouth closed. Fear was just blowing the whistle on it, which i think a subtle, but important, difference.
Being afraid never killed me, and neither has shame. I see them now as helpers, not harmers.

Bring ’em on, then. Whenever, wherever.
I’m ready.

Steep learning curve right now. Fear is reminding me that historically, i fall into a deep crevasse after that. But i’m already down the rabbit hole… Do i meet the Mad Hatter, or do i go full popsicle? Stop confusing me! Damn metaphors, being all contradictish.

Enjoy your Sunday, if you’re reading the day i post this.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*One of them required me to freeze, but i was fighting for the safety of the other woman in the car with me. It was the best course of action, as she was spared.

**See the previous few posts for what i’ve been learning about shame in my life.

***Added after posting: I didn’t know at the time that these people had raped me in the past. All i knew was they were trying to be sexual with me, and i wasn’t having it. It was only when i dove into an ocean full of crazy that started around 2006, did i realise they’d abused me with impunity in the past. Some of them brushed it off and made light of the interaction. Others were right pissed off and pushed harder and/or came at me over and over again. I don’t know if all of them knew i’m a multiple, but i know some did.

Anger Is A Mythical Beast

It can be tough for me to figure out what’s going on, but it’s important that i do. If i feel a bit off, i make it a priority, because things can go for shit before i know it. As a multiple, i think it’s at least partly due to my propensity for compartmentalisation and dissociation. Being able to do those things can be helpful – in the right situation and to the proper degree, but first i want to become aware of when i’m doing it (or wanting to do it) and why. If left unchecked, it can and has wreaked havoc in my life.

These last months have been filled with this work. I’m doing my best to stay present in my body and be in control of the face.*

As i’ve said before (and will say again because it’s the biggest thing in my life right now), it is hard, exhausting work. I’m tired and on edge all the time. It’s draining every reserve, and i mete out my daily allotment of spoons with consideration and care.

I’m angry. Like, every shade of anger on the spectrum is lit up and vibrating inside me. I’m everything from mildly ticked, to mad as a wet hen, to fuck-it-i’m-nuking-the-world. It’s been swimming around for some time, occasionally breaking the surface for air like some emotional Ogopogo. I’ve been catching brief glimpses in my psychic peripherals, and the other day something happened where i caught a clear view of it in action.

I had an encounter with someone from my past who wasn’t kind to me, and i found myself glad they weren’t doing well. Gleeful, even.
I made a joke about it with a friend, but my guts were already churning.

**********

So, i’m sitting here in my husband’s van, waiting for my therapy appointment. My regular ride fell through, and i advertised on social media for some help but none came. Then hubby says, You’re not doing well, i have a slow day at work tomorrow, so come in with me and we’ll see what we can make happen.

It’s probably for the best. I have a hair trigger ATM. Everyone is annoying. I feel people like an intrusion. My longtime online buddies are an exception, but only barely. Everyone else, including the very dear man i married, are varying levels of irritating. I feel attacked, but no one’s attacking me.

After my episode of Schadenfreude, i was at a friend’s house. The experience was simmering inside me, and i was feeling worse and worse about it.
That’s not me, that’s not who i am.
That was so mean, and ugly, too.
I feel mean and ugly.
Am i mean and ugly?

The answer is easily No. It’s a normal human reaction i think, to be momentarily glad that someone who hurt you is having a bad time. And i was immediately offput by my own reaction. I processed it and was thinking i could let it go and move on, when a knock brought my friend some visitors. I opened the door for them and BAM!
I was in trouble.

I could see them, but from an unrealistic distance. I was sliding away, and whoever was in the face was staring at them with hot, marble eyes. I resented them immediately. I didn’t want them there. Why? They’ve done nothing to me. One of them was an innocent child. Fortunately, i still had enough presence of mind to wrest control away from the protector who was in the face, and mellow my voice and countenance. But i could feel myself slipping, and knew i had to get away.
I quickly grabbed all my shit and got out of there. I knew i was acting strangely, so i was out the door in seconds, with only the most perfunctory of goodbyes. It was the best i could do; i could feel the rage coming up. The kind of destructive anger that unleashes my tongue to flay everyone around me to ribbons.
My mother had an acid tongue and i learned well.
I can destroy with a look, and my words have wrought untold damage over the course of my life. I’ve cut down swathes of people and relationships over the years.
It was a petty, shallow sort of anger i was feeling inside, like a tantrum.
I got TF out before i could do any harm.

Since then i’ve kept mostly away from people. I need to process this with my therapist.
Why am i so freaking choked?!

**********

Hubby came back to the van for a quick snack, and we discussed getting me to my appointment. I was able to process a bit with him while he munched away on cheese strings and meat sticks
Am i angry because it’s better then being sad?
Maybe it’s because i’m afraid of the pain that yet lies before me.
It’s a vast, roiling sea. I may drown in it.
No, really. That is a possibility.
I’m fairly sure i’ll make it through, but i’ll likely go under a couple of times.

Maybe it’s preferable to just stand on the beach and shake my fists at the water.

I was sitting here, waiting for more words to type, thinking about what’s ahead of me. I was thinking of the pain, but then it occurred to me that i’m already moving through the pain. My body is manifesting the physical sensations of my childhood. The ones i blocked and otherwise dissociated from: countless rapes and endless beatings.
So that’s not it.

Now i think i have it – or a bit of it anyway.
It’s not the physical pain i’m terrified of. Like my therapist said, she could slap me across the face and i’d be able to handle it better than a hug.
No, it’s not that. It’s hard and it’s awful, but pain is the bully i’ve lived with my whole life – this process has just taken me deeper.

What about what comes after?
What’s underneath my ripped girl parts and swollen throat?
I know.
A different kind of pain.
Unmet needs.
Betrayal.

I’m going to feel the rejection and aloneness of my childhood. It was a bleak and terrible landscape where the sun cast no warmth and daytime was a lie.
I’m going to grieve, to mourn.

Gah, i don’t know what to do with this information. I’ve done so much work on myself that i’m getting to know who i genuinely am underneath all the coping mechanisms and fear. I’ve seen other people compartmentalise and put away potentially disabling life events and go on to live a relatively happy and successful life. I think that’s a viable way to handle things, and i know i could do it.
But that’s not who i am as a person. I want something else –not better than the one who locks it away forever– just different. More in alignment with my personality.
Me, i’m a person who’s gotta look at it. I want to know, and as much as i or anyone is able, to understand.

I was blocked from knowing by my upbringing. All i knew was what my abusers told me. It was all i believed. My obedience was so ingrained and unconscious that my intelligence may well have atrophied – my intellect very nearly starved to death. Once i began to wriggle free, there was no going back for me. Even a small taste of freedom whet my appetite for more. My mother’s bloody fingerprints are all over me, inside and out, shallow and deep. It’s not the way for everyone who survives trauma, but a thorough and intense forensic examination is my way.
Yes, i’m self-focused. Willfully so.
I submit that it has, and will continue to make me a better and more useful person.
No longer used, but useful. A human who contributes to the betterment of humankind, and the earth we inhabit.

**********

I’ve left my husband and walked to my appointment. He’ll be by to pick me up later. It was a lovely walk through a part of the city that’s interesting and pretty and well-known to me. It’s also wonderfully trigger-free. I’ve got my footing, a little. It helps. I can already feel my gaze softening and my body unclenching. I see better where i am and where i’m headed.
I’m going to check in with my pocket people, and devour a few more chapters of my current book.

Processing…

**********

Oh shit. Today was not what i expected. I have some plans for the weekend (i people sometimes now – on purpose!), but i’ll try to fit some writing in.
I wanna get it while it’s fresh.

Have as good a weekend as you can. If it’s crap or otherwise out of your control, hang in there.
Love and Peace,
~H~

*”In the face” and variations thereof, is the phrase i use to describe who is currently controlling me and my system.

1 Day in the Life of a Crazy Woman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and Peace to You All,
~H~

Low

Today i’m low
Oh, i’m so low
I can pretend i’m not, but can i not pretend?
Dear Ms. Therapist, i am trying
I thought i had it rough, but now i know i didn’t – not really
My brain can do this amazing thing where it takes me out of the shit and fills my face with someone else
I float
I float up here and watch some actressrobotclone do me for the masses
If it’s too much to watch, the door in my belly bids me come
It locks onto me like a tractor beam and pulls me in and slams behind me
I am nothingness
Was it all that bad if i wasn’t even there for it?
I inch my way slowly past the beckoning door, pressed flat against the far wall
I take the stairs down into my guts
It reeks down here. Like the smell of their fear that i could never scrub off me
Afraid of a little girl
The air tastes like salt and metal, like his hands when he pressed them over my nose and mouth
Shh, be quiet, shut up, stop fighting me!
Why do i have to come down here with these old ghosts?
I cleverly escaped their filthy clutches – why should i return?
They paw at me, and they stink
I don’t need anything down here
I look up and see my heart, beating blackly, shivering with pain
Reaching up, i place my hand firmly on it, the muscle quivers like a horse’s flank after a race
I pet my poor heart until it slows
It stops twitching and warms beneath my fingers
Stop running Dear One, i whisper
The race is done
We won a long time ago
I’m going back up the stairs now
Still tired and low, and this didn’t change me
There’s a light at the top that bids me come
Going carefully up over slime covered stone
I look down and say I’ll be back and that’s funny
The bilge water needs to be pumped out
My shoes are soaked and my feet, ice
I’ll bring salt when next i come, to dry up the fine, slick crust
I wave from the last step, and hope it doesn’t take me as long to clean the basement as it did the attic

Deprogramming, Pt. II

I have only the vaguest recollection of my meeting with the man who tried to exorcise my “demonic possession”. I remember crawling the walls of my brain, completely freaked out by him. He and my counsellor did some initial praying, and then he read some passages from the bible. He began asking me who was in charge. He came at me like my head had been taken over by an army of demons, and he was looking to map out who were platoon leaders, and who was in charge of the platoon.
Seriously.

I remember sliding out of the face and someone else talking out of my mouth. It’s like a dream except i’m awake. I’m somewhat lucid, but entirely ineffectual. I slide further away from the front, and as i do, the voices and faces in front of me fade to blurs and murmurs. Someone in my system has taken over, maybe telling him what he wants to hear? Maybe stoic and resistant? I don’t know.
I just know i didn’t see him again.
I’ll just go ahead and use the word “blessing” here:
It was a blessing that i didn’t see him again.

Another bible-based treatment that i took at my counsellor’s behest was a course designed to break me free of demonic influence by reading about and being quizzed on how dangerous it was for me to have masturbated and fantasised while doing so, and how calamitous for me to have had sex outside of marriage, and how just plain awful it was for me to be queer. All chapters in the workbook were followed by extensive prayer, both one-on-one with her, and in the group of other church folk taking the course.
Lots and lots of hands-on prayer, replete with speaking in tongues and herky-jerky movements, laughing, and rivers of tears.
All the touching made me jump out the top of my head and go watch from an empty corner of the room.

These “treatments” did nothing but stir up my Peanut Gallery. The noise, the chatter intensified, activating parts that had been deeply harmed by churches my mother had attended when i was small. (I know this now, back then i was just sure i was going insane.) I was packing on the weight, eating for comfort, for emotional coma, for protection from all the laying on of hands. I drowned myself in food as i was drowning in guilt and shame. I began twitching and jerking during worship on Sundays. I thought i was finally being filled with the spirit, as so many around me in my church seemed to be. (Hindsight tells me, it was ticcing behaviours due to my system being triggered.) Instead of making me feel like the expressions i saw on the faces of those around me (bliss?), i was terrified and disgusted. I began skipping church, and the weekly group meetings we’d have in other member’s homes. I was uncharacteristically silent and withdrawn when i did attend. On a couple of occasions i was able to share that i was struggling, that i felt seriously shaken, mentally and emotionally, and i was deeply afraid.

This was met with perfunctory prayer, and hand-patting assurances that this was part of the journey, that my god had me and my situation well in hand. All would be revealed as i pushed on in faith. Plus, the conversion/aversion course i’d taken had assured me i’d been set free from demonic bonds, so my god could really start working in my life!
(What, he couldn’t/wouldn’t handle demons?)

I see now that i was devolving, as was my church. There’s no need to go into detail, suffice to say my church was part of a movement that had begun having some major leadership issues and was facing a crisis of money and membership. My counsellor was stripped of her position in the church in a public shaming session that destroyed my trust in those in authority there, and my attendance dropped drastically. I continued seeing her though, on and off, for a few years afterward, i think? My memory is spotty here, as i was starting down the road to apostasy, which caused a tumult inside. My sense of blasphemy had been informed by my mother, the denomination i’d been a part of had sharpened it to a razor’s edge.

My home and my partner provided the safety and support i needed to consider forbidden thoughts. My church was sick and dying, and my belief in a god along with it. I avoided the anxiety and stress by not going there anymore. I slipped into a dissociative state where faith and religion were concerned, instead turning my attention to the hundreds of pounds i’d gained while trying to rid myself of the psychic weight i carried. Gastric bypass followed, along with dramatic weight loss, and as some of you already know, serious mental illness.

The  constant tug-of-war going on had to stop. Between my church and my changing lifestyle, and the parts of my system that were deeply religious and those that were not, something had to give.
Church fell by the wayside, as bipolar mania crashed my beaches and swept me away.
The lock busted off the door that’d kept both me and my system relatively controlled. We poured out into the real world, flooding my home with madness and filling my family with frustration and fear.

Religion was lost at sea, god had washed up on the sand and needed someone to push the saltwater out of his lungs and breathe air into them. He took his last choking gasps while i partied at a cabana further up the strand. He died along with my faith.

That was my outside god and my outside church, though. I still practised another religion. The god that i’d blasphemously put before my man-made one. I still worshipped and obeyed a woman-made god. My mother-made god.
She had always been my highest authority.
Her words carried the most weight.
Bits of her personality had embedded themselves in other parts of my system. Her thoughts, beliefs, and opinions echoed down the halls of my brain. Her screaming invective flung spittle at my psychic skin, infecting me with her like a virus. Her rage that flew out of her like a hot wind blew over me and through me. It burned my skin while the fever cooked my guts.

I was filled with her sickness. I’ve spent 20+yrs battling her influence in my life. I cut her out, like a cancer. First, i removed the obvious tumours, but then i needed the chemo and radiation, too. And i use this analogy because my body reacted to the treatments like they were poison. For a long time i felt like i was sick and dying. Her programming had gone to my very marrow. These last dozen years or so have been spent studying my brain. Studying it and mapping it out like a geneticist with a genome. Working with my therapist to develop my own CRISPR. And now this last year and a half, i’ve been editing her out, and splicing in help and health.

I still doubt my diagnosis on the regular.
It’s the programming.

I’m a bad girl.
I’m a liar.
I’m a thief.
I’m lazy and full of excuses.
I’m the reason bad things happen.
I’m the reason you’re mad or sad or tired or broke or lonely or in trouble.
I’m a fraud, an imposter.
Deep down inside, i’m disgusting and filthy and wrong and evil, and if you really knew me, you’d hate me and leave me.

Though i don’t recall her saying so specifically, her personality is so present in my brain that i know how she’d respond to my DID diagnosis.
She’d bark out harsh laughter and snidely call Bullshit. She’d roll her eyes and talk about how hard my life was, her voice dripping with sarcasm. She’d launch into a heart-wrenching speech about how if anyone should be split apart into pieces it should be her. She’d (rerere)retell tear-jerking stories of her own awful childhood, her emotions rising, until she’d wound herself up so tightly she’d burst open with a caustic rant about how grateful i should be that i had her as a mother, and how she’d brought me home a great father, and given me great siblings – friends and protectors and supporters forever.

I could be her speechwriter and she wouldn’t change a single word.
Well, she would, just so i wouldn’t think i was all that. I’m already conceited enough. She’d sigh and say, I suppose this’ll have to do.

I’ve taken her with me everywhere i’ve gone. She’s had something to say about everything i’ve done and everyone i’ve known. Some think that knowing your shadow makes you a better person. A lot of therapy has been learning who i am and looking at all of it, so that i might address what’s not working and what’s harming me and make changes.
I know my shadow very well, because it’s my mother.

When a mental health professional would broach the subject of my dissociativeness, i would never go back.
A door inside me immediately slammed shut because i knew what she would think about it and i knew what she’d say. I knew what she would want me to do – expect me to do. I knew she’d punish me if i didn’t do it. She may be dead 30yrs, but she still survives in my brain. A ghost, a poltergeist tipping over lamps and smashing glasses and turning lights on and off in my head. She messes with my Bits N’ Pieces; terrifying some, shaming others, sometimes pretending to be a friend. Manipulating all of us. All of ME.

When i realised that some of what i thought were dreams were actually memories, i could hear her angry shrieks. When i started living my life as if it might be true that i’m a multiple, i could hear her derisive voice, nagging me, shaming me, cawing with laughter at how pathetic i was. When i found a therapist i could work with, i could feel her tight-lipped silence and her hot stare; i could hear her passive-aggression:

Fine, blame me.
Take the easy way out.
Lazy.
Liar.

Now that i’m working on connecting my brain and my body back together, i hear her more loudly than i have in some years. My therapist asks me to pay attention to what my body is trying to tell me, rather than what my brain is saying. We’re talking, and like the last couple of sessions prior, i find myself snarking at her and feeling frustrated, bitchy… angry. I don’t know why. She picks up on it, and draws my attention to my feet. The one pressed to the floor is going up and down on its toes, and the one crossed over my knee is swishing back and forth like a cat’s tail warns you a bite is coming. She suggests making the movements bigger, putting more energy into it, and then asks me how i feel about her suggestion. After some time and some deft handling on her part, i snarl at her that it feels stupid.
I sound like a teenager. I feel like a teenager. I AM a teenager.

I’ve slid out of the face and i know the rolled eyes and twisted mouth of the girl who’s currently hissing at her. I’m desperately embarrassed to be speaking to her in this way. She’s done nothing but help me. Frankly, i wouldn’t be this far along and doing this well without her. I’d still be looking for her or someone like her i think, because my kids anchor me to this earth, but i might well be locked up somewhere. I might be divorced. My sons might have cut me out of their lives. I might not have the joy of a daughter and grandchildren to make life indescribably beautiful.
Plus, i was taught never to talk sass to anyone in authority. It reflected poorly on my mother. It might make them ask questions, make them look a little more closely. People were only allowed to see what she wanted them to see. The more weight she gained, the more she became a shut-in, because her mask didn’t fit properly anymore and kept slipping. She’d still hear things, though. Teachers were great for earning me a few smacks or an outright beating. Family members. Her occasional, transient friendship…

I must also factor in what she taught me about psychology.
Distrust it and those who practise it.
Look down on it and those who practise it.
And finally, she didn’t tell me this, she showed me:
Give them what they want and impress them, learn everything they have to teach about it, and then go out into the world and use the fuck out of it against others to get what you want.

So, i’ve had bad experiences with psychology and mental health professionals.
Most of them have thought i was fine, or at least well on my way to handling my issues.
I thought most of them were idiots, so i didn’t open up.
They used buzzwords that triggered TF out of me and i’d shut down.
Anyone who started nosing around my dissociative aspects was immediately dismissed. I ran away from the ones who might have been able to help me.*

This means i sit there in her office, i sit with this person who has helped me save my life, this woman who has patiently and gently helped me learn about how my brain works, and sift through the wreckage inside me to find who i truly am. I sit there with her and i want to yell at her and i want to leave and i want to say 10 different things to her, but i can’t speak. I try to WILL myself to speak, but all that comes out most of the time are Yes, No, and more often than not, I don’t know.

It’s the programming.
I had to be a good girl to survive. I had to obey. I had to shut up. I had to agree with everything the adults said around me. I had to believe what they believed. I had to think as they thought. I had to have the same opinions. I had to literally sleep with the enemy in order to live. And no matter what i think on a low day, or what some of my parts believe, or what my mother would have told you – i WAS a good girl. I was the best little girl any mother could have ever had.

I look back, armed with information and real love, and this is how i do it. I confront these thoughts and feelings and i examine them with a critical eye. There is an incredibly delicate balance of allowing emotion and reining it in, because i must stay present to learn, to discern, to grasp, to absorb. I’m fighting some seriously ingrained behaviours, here. Or perhaps better put, i’m sitting in a chair, opposite a very good and cute little girl, in the office of my brain, and i’m helping her figure out that her mommy was the one that was bad, not her.
But man, she is so good and loving and loyal and true, that this news is not accepted easily. Her beliefs are dying a wretched death.

I see who i am and how my brain works, and i know that there are people who live inside my head, and they talk to me and sometimes they take care of me. And i know they aren’t real. I know they’re all me.

And i know the diagnosis is still controversial. But i also know that, regardless of who does or doesn’t believe or what label they put on it, my brain will still work this way, and i’m the one who has to deal with it. I must learn to live with it if i want to live – and i do. None of those headshrinkers can fix me/mend me/heal me – only i can do that.

And i hear my mother’s voice in my head telling me i’m full of shit and faking it, and her programming is so strong and so ingrained that i almost believe her.
I fucking want to believe her, do ya ken?
So i pull those thoughts, those voices out of my head and i share them out loud. I make them real, and then i see that they’re naked, just like that dumbfuck Emperor in the story. They’re walking around in my head like they’re all dressed for the Ball, but when i bring them outside they’ve got nothing on. Then they run from me, their influence over me gone. The spell, broken.
Slowly, i am waking from my mother’s thrall.

I tell my therapist i’m angry and i don’t know why. I’m crying and i don’t know why. I’m twitching and ticcing and i don’t know why. And she shushes me and tells me not to worry about the why of it right now. She asks me if i would be willing to just let my feet do what they want to do. Stretch up, stretch down. Flex. Bounce. She asks if she can provide her own foot for me to push against, and i ignore the eyerolling teenager inside me, and i shove my mother’s voice to the back of my brain, and i nod.

I put the bottom of my foot on the bottom of hers and she pushes against me, just a little, and i push back. After just a few seconds i’m pushing harder and she keeps her foot there, steady, letting me push her foot away a bit, and then pushing back into my foot -not much, not hard- just giving me room to push her foot away again. And then my foot is pumping against hers, and suddenly my leg starts shaking violently, and i look up at her, wide-eyed and say, What the fuck?!

She tells me it’s okay, it’s good, she says i’m discharging.
My foot that wanted to run, my leg that wanted to leave. To get me away from what was happening to me. The action that i always wanted to take when i was being harmed…
GETAWAYGETAWAYGETAWAYRUNRUNRUN
And i never could.
The memory of wanting so badly to escape and not being able to, trapped there for so long. So i let my foot and my leg do what it wants to do and it’s so weird, but it works for me. The anger is gone. The need to leave fades.
I felt what i felt while knowing what i know, and i made another connection between my brain and my body.

My therapist smiled at me, and she said, “This was very good work that you did today. This is the work and you’re doing it.”

Deprogramming.
Reconnecting.
Living.

Love and Peace to All,
And to All a Hearty “Hang in there!”
~H~

*Heavy emphasis on the word “might”. They probably could have helped a bit, but i’m going to say not much. If they started talking about MPD (what it was called back then), they’d often launch right into wanting to know names and speak to parts. In my case, not the way to go about it.

Deprogramming, Pt. I

I was raised religious. I’m gonna say some stuff about that, and you may not agree. That’s fine. The majority of the world holds some sort of belief in the supernatural. I once did, and now i do not. It’s no big. As long as i’m not being preached at or proselytised, i have no problems listening to those around me talk about such things. But this is my blog, written by me, full of my thoughts, experiences, and opinions. I’ve chosen a path and am mapping my own route to get where i want to go.

I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I’m just talkin’ ’bout Life As Me.
I’ve been wrong thousands of times, and will be thousands more yet (at least, i’m hoping for the opportunity to be). If you think there’s a god/gods out there, i think you’re wrong. So? You think i’m wrong, too. Doesn’t bother me in the least. I might be wrong, and i could be convinced by enough good evidence.*

Now that’s out of the way, lemme get to it.
Like many people, like many female people, like many female people born into a religious family, like many female people born into an abusive, religious family, i wasn’t allowed to say No. My permission was never required – not if it affected me directly or indirectly, and not even if it involved the use of my own body. Growing up, it didn’t occur to me that i could say No, and i rarely said it. It occasionally popped out when i was in extreme distress. If i said it outside the house and family interactions, it was usually respected, if for no other reason than, if i was saying No, i was likely completely unhinged at that point. When i lost control it got weird for those around me: wild eyes, panicked voice, heaving chest, all my ticcing behaviours on display… Most would back off. On the exceedingly unusual occasion that i used it in my house and/or with my parents, i was beaten.

I had no rights, no autonomy. Along with not being allowed to use the word No, i was never permitted to question anything. I was raised to obey without a word. I couldn’t pull a face either, that’d earn me a slap or 2, for sure. This contributed to my being an insular person; i was hidden deep inside, any natural individuality was subverted, and i compartmentalised in order to survive. My traumas were so intense and ongoing, my compartmentalisation became so widespread, rigid, and rigorous, that i split apart inside my brain. I’ve been diagnosed with what is currently referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder.

As i’ve said before, i fought the diagnosis for years. I never went back to mental health professionals that even brought it up peripherally. Being around others who identified themselves as multiples made my skin crawl. I believed it was a real thing, but i thought most people were faking it.** I believed what i was raised to believe; what my parents and others in authority over me told me to believe. I was taught what to think, never how, (and in that, i think i have more company than just fellow abuse survivors).

I was punished for asking questions. I might get yelled at, shamed, or even beaten if i dared use the word “why”. To this day, if you want to see me get frustrated, then angry, and then shut down, just start asking me questions. I get nervous and irritated quickly. What was happening in my family had to be hidden. I was taught that nosy people were a threat. Others weren’t as smart and socially evolved as we were – they wouldn’t understand. They’d take me away and i’d have no one. I was such a handful, such a difficult child; no one would be able to tolerate me for long. It was always indirectly, subtly reinforced that i was a terribly misbehaved child, and not easy to love. I was lucky to have my amazing and long-suffering mother there to care for and love me. Without her i’d be completely alone.

She’d always let me watch old movies, because she liked them, but she banned me from watching All About Eve. I was an advanced reader, and had worked my way through her large collection of books by grade 6, but when she caught me reading Sybil, she lost her mind, took it away and hid it. I don’t remember her ever telling me it was bullshit, though. In fact, looking back with grown up eyes, i think she was obsessed with the subject. I think there may have been a time that she played around with the diagnosis for herself. She loved attention and struggled with her mental health, and i have some memories of some talks and programs that she brought me along to, where the way she was talking and the way she was treated by others there would fit her claiming some form of multiplicity.

When i finally got away from my mother, i knew i needed professional help, but it never occurred to me that i had a diagnosable, mental illness (or 2).*** I was just bad, not ill. My brain wasn’t sick, i was just a rotten person. I was a disobedient, selfish liar.
Ah yes… Liar.
You bet she drummed that one in to me as far back as i can remember.

She told me i was a compulsive liar until the day she wound up in the hospital where she died. Hey, i did lie. I lied a lot and i lied as easily as i breathed, but they were all rooted in her teaching me to do it, and modeling it for me so well. I lied to get out of trouble, e.g. denying eating something i wasn’t supposed to eat, which i ate because i was not fed properly. I lied to impress other kids, because my life sucked and i wanted them to like me and i wanted to be more like them. And the #1 reason i’d lie, was to cover for my parents. To hide the abuse that was going on in our home. The abuse that i was told wasn’t abuse but only what i deserved because i was so very, very bad.

My whole life growing up was a lie to the outside world, but that was one i didn’t know i was telling. I didn’t know i was abused until i was 21. I knew my mom hit me often, and sometimes beat the absolute crap outta me, but i knew i deserved it. I never thought that she was wrong or she shouldn’t have done it. She’d raised me to think i was a piece of shit and she was my gracious and merciful teacher and provider.

And church was invaluable in backing up everything she wanted me to believe.

She went through many periods where she didn’t attend church, but she made sure i always did. She’d arrange for other families to pick me up and drop me home, or insist i go with other children whose parents would make them invite me. She was highly intelligent, clever, an incredible manipulator, and deeply devious. She never sat me down and preached at me that i remember, but she did this thing that i didn’t recognise until i was a parent myself.

When i was still small, she hung out with younger, childless folks who were going for their degrees, and sometimes the older, established professors whose children were grown (she worked at universities and colleges as a secretary). If she wasn’t farming me out to someone (let’s just call it that for this piece), she’d bring me along. I was a perfectly behaved child out in public – i knew what would happen if i wasn’t. So i’d sit quietly and unobtrusively at parties and various get-togethers and even courses she was taking, and the people there would eventually start talking like i wasn’t there. They’d forgotten. I heard things no child that age should hear, and learned things no child should know. I was mentally sophisticated, and i suppose precocious (UGH), so i grasped the subjects being discussed relatively easily.
The thing she’d do to secure her control of me is she’d say things to other adults at these events, knowing full well that i was listening. That i was, in fact, all ears. She’d talk religiously and philosophically with these people, but she’d drop bits that i now think were meant for me.

This bit is difficult to convey. I’ve been thinking about how to make it understandable for the last couple of days. Say for instance, her friends were discussing Dr. Spock and his views on spanking children. She’d say something like, “Well, Dr. Spock must have some very well-behaved children. We aren’t all so lucky.”

That would be a message for me.
I hope that illustrates my point well enough.

When things were particularly rough at home, money was tighter than usual, or maybe she’d been beating me more frequently, she’d talk more about her own childhood. She’d tell me horror stories of being locked in the root cellar, or bathed in scalding hot water. And she’d share all her rape stories in lurid detail,**** starting when i was very young, say 5 or 6, maybe earlier, i don’t know.

The message there was she was the one who was abused, not me.

She never let up on the programming. Manipulation was her life’s work. She played me like Perlman played violin until the day she slipped into a coma.

All this to say that it has been a gargantuan effort on my part to get help for myself. I thought that i was the problem and i didn’t need any help for the first 20+yrs of my life. Once i knew i was a victim, and had experienced my lack of proper adult functionality in the real world, it didn’t get much easier. My mother had availed herself of every psychological tool, every method, every book, every well-respected researcher and public speaker, every self-help group… I’d been saturated in psychology most of my childhood. She used it to hone her skills, and i think it put a lot of people in her path that were easy for her to get something from. Money, attention, whatever.

The result for me was that i didn’t trust any of them. Frankly, i found most of them stupid (i’d been raised to look down my intellectual nose at anyone outside of my parents) and, big surprise here, easy to manipulate. I knew what they wanted to hear, and despite my inner derision, i wanted to be the best damn screwup they’d ever had sit in their office. I was programmed to want people to like me and to seek their approval. So i’d figure out what they wanted and give it to them, and they’d quickly determine that i was well on my way to mastering whatever issues i’d dumped on their desk. I used all the right buzzwords, and mixed it in with an appropriate demonstration of how smart i was, and i’d manipulate myself right out of any genuine help they might have offered me.

I’d talk myself out of their help, and go back out into the world, and things would still get chaotic and painful. I was still struggling. I still couldn’t manage to live life on life’s terms. And then i popped out a couple of kids and fell in love (yes, in that order), and i began searching for someone to help me in earnest. I’d returned to religion with the birth of my first child, and i found a counsellor to work with through my church, after the birth of my second. She had her master’s in social work and she was one of the kindest people i’d ever met. I had completely submitted to church authority, and i worked hard with her, always doing what she asked me and any homework she gave me. One day she sat me down and said she had been thinking she had a diagnosis for my particular issues, and had consulted with the psychologist who attended our church, who agreed.

She said it was her professional opinion that i had Multiple Personality Disorder. She reiterated that her colleague concurred. I’ve tried to remember what happened after that, but i can’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if i left, but i don’t think i did. With my mother gone, there was no greater authority in my life than their authority.
And i was raised to be obedient, above all things.

Great, so i had a diagnosis. The problem was, the treatment was bible-based. She took me to an old guy (BAD IDEA) who specialised in helping members map out their systems, so they could start praying over them and casting them out by name.

Because they were demons.
Of course.
I was demon-possessed.

**********

*Not here though. My blog isn’t for that.

**I’m not sure about that now. The important thing is that, even if they are, it’s none of my business.

***Okay, 3 or 4. Maybe 5, but that one’s relatively dormant, so i don’t count it. I’m kidding here, one might diagnose me with more than 2, but the 2 i deal with most can (kind of?) umbrella the rest, thereby cutting down on my stress and anxiety… So 2 shots of the hard stuff with a smartass chaser.

****I don’t know if her stories were true, as she lied practically every time she opened her mouth. To me, it doesn’t matter.

Water of Life

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

**********

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now, here we are at the hardest thing.

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

Love and Peace,
~H~

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

Treading Water

I’m having trouble writing.

Yes, again.

It’s not because i’m going through a bunch of crud and i’m waiting for it to be done so i might over analyse it and package it up prettily, replete with a spiffy bow for your easy consumption. I’ve shared before that i struggle with this – i hesitate to share when i’m in the trenches, because it can get so damn dark and cold down there, and i’m trying to bring a message of hope. But i’ve learned that the truth can bring hope, even if the truth is ugly. I’ve also learned that it’s not my responsibility to save the world. As all my children are now grown, i’m no longer responsible for anyone but myself, and my dog.

The best i can do is throw life buoys in the water. They’ll keep you afloat for a while. Allow you to rest. But i can’t make you swim over to it, or grab onto it, or keep holding on. I hope you do, though. I want us all to make it.

I’m having trouble writing because i’m tired. The effort it requires for me to stay present in my body and resist dissociation is maximal. I don’t seem to have much left over for anything else. That’s okay, because i’ve tailored my life to accommodate this kind of thing. I have a very supportive partner, my kids aren’t kids anymore, and i live on a farm. I enjoy private space all around me, and the people in my life all know that “just popping by” is not an option.

So yeah, i’ve got an excellent setup for the work i’m doing, and i’ve settled into a groove. Well, it’s less groove than zombie-shuffle, but i’m gettin’ through it.
Except life has this way of happening, and life has gone and done happened on me.
My life has absolutely and utterly changed. To what extent, and whether for good or ill i don’t yet know, but i’ll never be the same.

It’s not appropriate to talk about it yet. I’m gathering information and sitting with it for a while, first. It’s not a diagnosis; i’m not sick. Well, nothing has been added to my current laundry list, and nothing has intensified or become life-threatening, at least. And my primary relationship is solid. So for any of my readers who’re inclined to worry – don’t. It’s a big deal, but it’s not bad. It’s just BIG. I don’t have any energy left over for anything besides functioning in the day-to-days, listening to my body and trying not to dissociate.

But life isn’t a consciousness. It has no feelings or intents or plans. It’s not trying to mess with me. It’s not laughing at me. I’m not a rat in its maze. Life just lives until it doesn’t. It doesn’t care about timing. It isn’t concerned with how many spoons i have in my coping drawer. It just rolls along and happens. And oh boy, has it ever happened.

What i’m going to do here is just update. Just mention some things and check in with how i’m doing. Living stuff. Coping. Processing. Thoughts and sundry.

My physical health is okay. Not great, but manageable. I’m learning to live with osteopenia (low bone density, not severe enough to be classified osteoporosis) by taking prophylactic medication and the right exercise. The result has been a reduction in pain, and far less of the “crunching” that i was hearing by late afternoon. The pain wasn’t terrible, but the noise was quite disturbing. I’m currently working on bringing up my fitness level. I started with walking.

Walking is something i’ve been doing a lot of, since i was able to do it. When we lived in cities, my mother would send me to the corner store for snacks and cigarettes, and out to panhandle. One of the best ways for me to escape from my home life for a while was to be outside, so i was outside a LOT. Whatever the weather, and long after other children had gone home, you could find me outside. When we moved into more small town living, we tended to live far away from the school. We were a wrong-side-of-the-tracks sort of family, so there was usually a few miles between me and the school. Another thing i did to stay out of her hair/way/path (although i didn’t see it that way at the time), was to join clubs. I was in lots of clubs growing up: girl scout type clubs, choirs, drama troupes, sports clubs, military clubs… I didn’t do too much school oriented after school activities, because bullies, but other clubs seemed mostly populated with nerds and misfits like me, so i didn’t get picked on much.

Walking is where i come closest to a quiet state of mind, too. Meditation is beyond the capabilities of many multiples. My brain is never silent, even when i’m dreaming i can pick up background chatter if i’m lucid enough. After decades of having professionals and non alike tell me that meditation could fix a number of my issues (even cure my anxiety, tap into my deeper intellect, and become a spiritual giant!), i finally found a therapist i could work with, who told me straight away that my being unable to meditate at even the most basic level was not at all uncommon for those diagnosed with DID.

Walking is also my system’s response to extreme stress. I was programmed to “go home” if i got in a bad spot, and it’s still a hard reflex inside me. I’ve taken off hundreds and hundreds of times, and probably logged thousands of kilometres.
All this to say – i can walk, honey.
So i’m walking, and it’s good, and i’m good at it, and it’s good for me.

Except for the fibro flare it’s causing, of course. That’s the crap part of it. I’ve been living with this chronic pain since 1995, so i’m fairly educated on my condition, and i know this is to be expected. The key is to increase gently, with long periods of status quo in between. I’ve also taken up some beginners yoga stretching, which i’m finding calms me rather nicely, while warming up my muscles for the distances i put in during the day.

(This is where my dark and twisty sense of humour comes in handy, because it’s just so **ME** to be working on my fitness and pushing through the resultant uptick in pain, while also trying to cut back/eliminate dissociation. I have this built in ability to distance myself from pain, and i can’t use it. I mean, i can, but i choose not to. Ah well, the hard way is just a way in the end, amirite? Heh.)

My diet is good. I’m calorie restricting for weight loss, but i eat soundly. My FitBit is helping with keeping me mindful of what i eat, although i don’t use any of their programs – that stuff can easily trigger obsession in me. I’m just logging my calories so that i can keep track. Sometimes i weigh and measure just to give me a better idea where my calories are being spent. Sunday i take the FitBit off, i don’t exercise per se, and i have a slight cheat day, food wise. I don’t go all out cheat though, because i find that hard to bounce back from sometimes, and i need the momentum i’ve built up to cruise me through while i’m dealing with this overwhelming exhaustion.

Socialising is hard for me right now. It happened suddenly, but that’s not out of the ordinary. I don’t want to go out and i don’t want to see anyone, but it’s slightly different now; i’m less extreme. In the past, i would hole up in my Little Crooked House and just hermit. No phones, no answering the door, no leaving the house except when unavoidable. Now i can see someone if i need to, for instance, i know a lovely woman who’s helping me with eyelash extensions while mine grow out after nuking them and my eyebrows in the Burning Barrel Incident that i mentioned a few posts ago. She’s softspoken and very kind and low key, and i don’t want to scream when she touches my face. If only there were eyebrow extensions. <insertruefulexpressionhere>

A dear friend invited me out to supper last Saturday  and i said Yes. When i got there, my body and brain started acting up immediately, and i knew i couldn’t stay. I did a quick negotiation with my Peanut Gallery: Yo, if y’all will just STFU and let me touch base with my friend, i won’t stay any longer than an hour. So i ordered my food to go, and had a nice chat with my friend while it was being prepared.
That’s some gold standard problem solving for me, right there.

I think what i’m seeing is, i can do one-on-ones, but i’m finding any more than that quickly saps what little energy i have. I love humans and enjoy their company – except when i don’t, and these last couple of weeks i’ve occasionally felt almost misanthropic. That’s a neon sign that my stress level is high.

I don’t like ending on a low note, but yeah… As i mentioned to my online group of friends yesterday, i’ve gotta look up to see dirt. Depression is seeping in, making me sluggish and mopey. These last couple of days i’ve felt sad and alone. There’s some self-pity there, sure. I can hear the sad trombone. But i’m going to allow myself a bit of ass-dragging, because i’ve learned if i don’t acknowledge what’s happening and just let myself BE™, a little, my condition will just get bigger and bigger until i pay attention. I must give it some space to breathe, and move, and act in accordance with my emotions (scared, mad, sad, etc.) and sensations (pain, ache, emptiness, etc.). I must listen to what my brain and my body are trying to tell me.

I haven’t been this down and heavy in my bones for a long time.
I can hang on until therapy tomorrow. Little goals.
My body is heavy and slow, so i do a few things around the house, with long breaks of doing sweet fuck all in between. My brain is foggy and fuzzy and full of low thoughts, so i read for entertainment only, and limit who i share space with, and i curate conversations to avoid topics that will feed my depressive feelings. I’m watching emotional stuff that helps me cry, because tears want to come, but i have trouble crying for myself. I can always cry for someone else, so sappy movies it is. I start crying because The Fisher King or RENT, but i keep crying because holy shit am i ever going through it right now.

This work is hard and it’s taking everything i have to do it. And life just has no heart, no mercy, no grace for me – it just keeps doing its thing and that’s just how life does things and i’ve gotta get with the program, man.
I’m plodding along, but it’s forward.
I’m doing the minimum, but i’m DOING.
I’m standing here on the shore as the tide advances, lapping at my feet, then swirling around my knees, and now it’s pulling me out, out into the deep…
And i’m letting it pull me.
I’m treading water for now, but i’ll get to swimming at some point.
I will.
You watch me.

Love and Peace,
~H~

The Door

Sometimes i wanna just lay this body down
float away and leave it behind
It’s heavy, this flesh
this warm and soft skin-wreath that hangs on my door
It beckons
This toothy smile, these sparkling eyes
like a lit doorbell in the night
My hands spread open, palms up
A welcome mat

I’m hiding behind the door
peeking through the curtains
The fire behind me illuminates my form
Stop knocking, i’m not here
The hearth is hot and the blue light bids me come
I step in and dance, rippling pink and golden, white, orange
Then grey and wispy, like air with fur,
I rise up and float away
My body lies below me, still warm and waiting

Suddenly, a torrent, and i am acrid
wetness,
Tears in hot ash, sss-ing
Someone’s at the door and they won’t stop knocking
Pushing the doorbell that fairly tinkles my name
while i sweep myself into a pile and inch towards the door
Taking shape, heavier with each step
Light and shadow filling the carved wood of the door
My door, my face, my flesh… Hullo?

Sometimes i wanna just lay this body down