Detox

Warning: Discussion of body reaction to heavy drinking, including detoxification. Includes body function talk, e.g. toileting, vomiting, and menstruation.

NOTE: This is merely a description of what i go through getting off the sauce. Do NOT do this. It isn’t a step-by-step method. Detoxification from alcohol/drugs should be done under a doctor’s or other accredited professional’s care, at a hospital or other detox facility. I’ve gone to the ER for IV fluids and other care on numerous occasions, and wouldn’t hesitate to go again.

In the past, over time, i’ve learned to share about when i fall. It started out as vague references couched in romantic metaphors, and has progressed to full disclosure about what falling can mean in my life. Among other things, it can mean i lose control to a full switch for a significant period of time. It can mean i engage in any number of destructive behaviours. These have involved things like hitchhiking into the city (i live on a farm more than 30mins away), partying and its ubiquitous drug and alcohol use, which can and has resulted in stays in the “psych ward”, and the involvement of law enforcement. As i’ve improved, the higher risk stuff has disappeared, but taking off, and drug and alcohol* use, can still occur.

Lately, therapy + world events = my anxiety being at a near fever pitch, which means i can experience a hard switch that i cannot control. Well, that’s somewhat redundant, because i can’t control a switch at all. Therapy has me so vulnerable, that i can lose the face before the end of a session. Even long after, i remain raw and easily triggered. My Bits N’ Pieces are either terrified and totally flipping out, or i’ve done enough work that they’re beginning to feel safe in my environment and are asserting themselves a bit more. Understand that i’m not saying it’s one or the other – i’m saying it’s both, it just depends on which part we’re dealing with. They’re not a fun time right now. Everyone is stirred up and i’m losing my grip.

I’m fine for a week or 2, and then BAM, the next thing i know i have a raging hangover and must figure out what the damage is. They crawl into a bottle for a number of reasons: it was used in abuse scenarios, it made social interaction easier in my late teens, and it made consensual sexual encounters as a young adult tolerable. During all those times drinking was not a problem. It became a problem when i first became fully manic in my late 30s. It seemed like that’s when the levee broke, and everything and everyone came flooding out. I’d begun drinking heavily when the mania first started, while i worked a job that had me mostly in various bars. It progressed to the point where i lost my job, lost my oldest son to emancipation, was forcibly committed on more than one occasion, in a detox facility twice, in long term rehab once, and spent a few weeks in an actual mental hospital. At that time, i was completely at the mercy of my system and the mania. They conspired to break me, utterly.

Years and lots of stories that i’ve already told later (like this one, but it’d be hard to read everything, and this is relevant), i’m doing far better than probably most people thought i would. But after a few years of being out of therapy and thinking i was fine, i found out there was more work to do, and that it was the hardest work. It’s exacerbated drinking behaviours, as i once again struggle to manage and control the people who live in my brain. These people who’d all been born by the time i was 10, most of whom masquerade as being older than that.

I’ve been finally, and fully honest about that here, but i haven’t said much about the part where i crawl out of the hole i’d fallen into. I haven’t because it’s ugly, and very, very embarrassing. However, one should know all of it that i can tell. You should have the clearest picture of how dark and far down i’ve been, and how hard i still struggle today. In the truth lies hope, and i know well and surely that it is hope that i offer here. It’s all i have to give the world, and after so many years of contributing little, my love of humanity compels me to do what i can, until i can do more, and then do that, too. I assure you that i aim to.

So we are on to the ugly bits now. This may be full of TMI for some, so a second warning here.

The first thing to know is, while my system is out and very active during a bender, i am not. It’s like blackout drinking, except i wasn’t even there to get to the blackout stage in the first place. The second thing to know/understand, is that they can drink a LOT. My husband and son have both related to me how this can look. They’re dealing with 1 particular part who is clearly drunk; stumbling, slurred speech, etc., and then i’ll switch to another part and will immediately present as sober; the prior symptoms being gone, and i’m speaking and moving without difficulty. They can hand off to each other like this for days, but when my body has had enough and begins to become the primary, unavoidable concern, here is the third thing to know: the little buggers always ditch the party, and leave me holding the bag.

I know immediately something’s been going on upon waking. Sometimes waking is the regular kind, sometimes it’s being slammed back into the face by a part that doesn’t want to handle what’s going on for me, physically. I’ll have a raging headache and my guts will feel like they’ve been the ball in a game of rugby. I’ve the physical certainty that “we’re done here”, coupled with the mental experience of my system hiding in my brain. I hear whispers and soft crying – they know we can’t go any further. There’ve also been occasions where i’m thrust back in the primary position because they’ve gotten me into some trouble they’re either afraid to deal with, or think i’m the only one who can, say, an argument, destruction of property**, or damage to the body**.

I know what’s coming, and brace myself – although there’s nothing to be done but survive the process.
Despite the already terrible state of withdrawal beginning, i usually still feel that buzzy-numbness of being drunk. I know i can’t take anything for my symptoms yet, lest i fall asleep/pass out while my breathing and heart rate drop too low. It’s not that acetominophen raises one’s heart rate, it’s that i can become comfortable enough to fall asleep. (See: My Fear of Dying, coming soon!) If i’m not in bed, i go there.

There, my headache will increase, and then will come the worst –and it won’t leave me for days– nausea. I learned from a doctor years ago, that i likely carry a genetic trait for severe nausea. I’m inclined to believe him. Like one of my sons once remarked, “For someone who hates puking as much as you do, you sure do it a lot.”
In this case i won’t be puking though, and the truth is i almost never do, technically speaking. I retch. Almost nothing will ever come out of me, due to a history of childhood abuse and bingeing/purging. In other words, vomiting during abuse resulted in more abuse, and one of the ways the abuse manifested in later years was to eat until i was physically sick to my stomach.

So the retching has begun, which takes my kicked and punched entrails, and wrings them like a wet dishrag, repeatedly. At some point my heart rate will begin to rise, and so i take some acetominophen and diphenhydramine. The latter never works to suppress the nausea, but it can aid in getting me some sleep. I try because that will soon become impossible. I sleep as much as i can before my body begins removing the poison i’ve put into it. When that happens, i’ll be pissing razor blades and shit for around 12hrs. All while retching my guts into a nearly paralysed state. So i sip as much water as i can – once my guts shut down, there will be no food or water for anywhere from 12hrs, to a full day (for water, food can go longer).

Now i’m sweating: i soak my clothes and the sheets and anyone close to me, i.e. my husband and my dog. I’m alternately hot and then cold. There is no comfortable position; i shift from laying positions, to semi-sitting ones. My back aches and my head feels like it’s being crushed, the base of my skull as if it’s being ground to powder. I feel like i’m going through a rough period, literally. Back when i did menstruate, one could start. I feel as if i’m being filled with cement that’s slowly hardening, except when i must use the washroom, which is frequently. Then, my legs have trouble supporting me and getting me there. Urination has ended but the other isn’t done with me yet. I’m becoming severely dehydrated, with scratchy eyeballs, an itchy, sticky throat, and numb hands and feet. I get random stabbing pains that feel electric.

I want to sleep, but now anxiety manifests in the form of fear of death. I’m gripped by it. I know it’s a part of the process, and that i’m still here so far, but i also know that i’ve repeatedly taxed my body way past what is reasonable or healthy. Now there is no laying, only sitting up as straight as i can. I try to distract myself with mindless games and videos online. Every muscle cries out, my organs feel like stones. My brain feels as if it may explode; the band across my forehead so tight my skull may crack. If it’s daytime, i see movement out of the corners of my eyes. If it’s nighttime, i see figures in the blackness of the room, and behind my eyelids. There are whispery, skittish breaths across my flesh.
These are not full-on DTs, but i would guess they’re similar, if not a precursor.

No food, no water, no sleep, only anxiety and pain. Time passes with excruciating slowness and i sit with it, knowing i deserve it all (i know i do and i don’t, this is just my mindset at the time). My thoughts are drawn inexorably towards all my failures and shortcomings. I’m coated in a foul slick of hopelessness. I feel heavy with despair and shame. At some point my legs start working better, and my body scrapes me out and gets rid of everything. I now notice how very badly i need a shower, but i still can’t stand for long enough to get it done. No, not even 5mins with a bar of soap.
I take acetominophen where i dare, but now it hurts my insides, so only 1 at a time. Two caplets burns (stomach acid) like heck, so i stagger them. Diphenhydramine is not an option. I’m afraid if i go to sleep, i won’t wake up.

After 24hrs, things are usually improving a little, and i begin to drink a bit of water.

The final stages:
– everything tastes like crap, even water;
– thickly chapped lips;
– canker sores on my tongue.

The headache lasts for at least a week.
The nausea comes and goes.
I want to eat compulsively.
At least 1 or 2 days of insomnia.
Three days to 1 week to get back to normal energy/functioning levels.

I’ve only been struggling with this since i started back at therapy 2yrs ago. It’s frightening, dangerous behaviour and i know it. I’ve been working hard for my betterment #1, but also because i know that at my age, my body can’t tolerate much of this, or for long. I’ve stopped every self-destructive habit i’ve ever had, and this one will be no different. I’m no longer abusive, nor do i put others in harm’s way. There’s a process by which my brain figures stuff out. For a long time there had to be general consensus to lay something down or stop it. Now it comes down to me – if i say it’s done, it’s bloody done.
The realisation that the impetus is on me has been a sobering one, in this case especially.
<go ahead and snort – i did>

Yes, i realise there are people, places, and programs out there designed to help this specific problem. I have worked them and sought the receipt of their promises as hard as i sought those offered by religion. If i am, as some claim, “terminally unique”, it will not be from lack of trying or a desire to let go. I am a woman with a particular set of skills that make it difficult to function with the rest of the world on its terms, but i am doing my damnedest.

While there has been a disconcerting return to some undesireable actions while i flop around trying to find my legs out of this psychic primordial ooze, it hasn’t all been about a loss of control. I think some of it comes from trusting myself and freeing myself from the shame that’s followed me for my whole life, like Pigpen’s cloud in the Peanuts comic strip. When i learn something in therapy (like when i learned shame is my body asking for human connection), there comes a time when the rubber meets the road. This may be one of those times, i’m not sure. I am sure i’ll do my best, and if i fall down another hole, no matter what is entailed, i’ll crawl out again.

I watch myself from the inside and from the outside. I provide constant inner commentary on my own life. I see the thing that i was and am, and am becoming. And i have much to say about it all. Maybe it’s worth sharing, but perhaps not. Then i think of that stupid, wonderful starfish, and i know that >>i<< am the starfish. And i am the one who tosses the starfish. I am also the beach and the ocean, and the one who asks why any of it matters.
So i write about drinking to excess and retching and piss and shit and blood and tears.
I write it all out to live.
I write it all out because it seems to be helping.
I write it all out because i must.
And i have a lot ot say about that, too.

So, while i am indeed sorry for the TMI, it was starting to feel like i was hiding/avoiding, so i blogged it. Life as me and all that.

I’m an innocent victim of a blinded alley
And I’m tired of all these soldiers here
No one speaks English, and every thing’s broken
And my Stacy’s are soaking wet
~Tom Waits, Tom Traubert’s Blues

Have as good a weekend as you’re able, and so will i.
Love and Peace,
~H~
P.S. The 2 dreams i was going to write about won’t be happening… I waited too long and now they’re gone but for wee snippets. Ah well, lesson learned.

*I know alcohol is a drug, but find the distinction an important one.
** With the exception of a few weeks ago, these haven’t happened in many years.

IMAGE: Melodie Wasser

In My Cups

I’ve been avoiding writing about this for years. Over the last year or so though, i’ve mentioned it in a somewhat ancillary fashion. I think i’ve been testing the waters. If i’m going to share how my brain works and how i pursue the life i want, while juggling my particular set of issues, however, i would be remiss if i didn’t address it. It would be a lie by omission, and i do try to avoid those, here on my blog.

My addictive nature, and how that’s manifested in my life in general, and in my journey through mental illness and being neuroatypical particularly.

<insertdeepsighhere>

This will be a rough one for me.
I was raised to keep things hidden.
It was modeled for me that one doesn’t acknowledge one’s flaws, let alone talk about them. If one did, then various religions were the answer.

What i have learned though, is that people know anyway. Despite our best efforts, if we hang around with people for either long enough, or at the right moments – they’ll figure it out. (Not the biggest reason i became a hermit, but not a small one, either.) They may not know exactly what it is, but they’ll smell it on us. Something not quite right. Something’s gone off, and it’s rotting away inside.

For addiction, i have both nature and nurture. My mother ate her way up so high there was no scale at the time to weigh her. We’ve figured out ways in our current society to do so, but we’ve had to, because so many are afflicted with the problem. When my mom was super-morbidly obese, she was the fattest person anyone had ever seen in real life, everywhere we went. She’d always held food over me as a reward, and withheld it from me as punishment, and also due to neglect.

So i learned to comfort myself with food. I used it to numb out pain. It was a drug that filled me with a false and fleeting happiness. After a long and checkered history, i’ve learned enough about myself and nutrition to have found a way to handle my food issues.
Oh, but i have addictive behaviours, plural, and my relationship with food, eating, weight, and body image are well-documented in this blog already.

Food wasn’t the only thing that was used to control me as a child.
When you want her to like you, you start out with ice cream and candy.
When you want her to relax and lie still, you use alcohol and pills.

Abusers used pills, i was on pills to control my epilepsy, and when i was diagnosed with fibromyalgia as an adult, more pills. That was when i began using the non-prescription codeine to help me cope with the constant pain. By the time i was diagnosed bipolar, i was going through a 250 count bottle of the stuff in less than a week. At one point, i was on 6 different medications at the same time to try and regulate me, and oh, did i mention that i’d started drinking?

For years drinking wasn’t a problem. Then i had weight loss surgery, lost over 300lbs, and slammed into my first full blown mania. The weight loss got me lots of sexual attention and a job in the entertainment industry. More social interactions with me as the centre of everything than i’d had to deal with since my school and church years in plays and vocal performances. I was dealing with no impulse control and sexual and social anxiety through the roof. I didn’t want to eat because i was thin and i loved the way people were treating me… I worked mostly in bars, so i drank.

Between booze and the male gaze, my mania became so severe i lost my job. Mania didn’t just amp me up, either. Between it, the weight loss, and problematic drinking, my DID became a cyclone. And then came the years of psych wards, detox facilities, recovery centres, an actual mental hospital, and LOTS of religion.

As i’ve written before, none of it worked. Eventually, as my husband desperately searched for help for me, he found the therapist i’ve been working with ever since. I long ago laid down the pill-popping, but unfortunately, the drinking behaviours remain. Not the partying all the time kind of drinking, which is good. But when i fall down the rabbit hole – i drink. And there are many parts of my system who will naturally gravitate towards alcohol, because it’s familiar. It wasn’t just that it was a part of our regular life.
It’s that it helped, you see.

It’s easier to slide and switch around with alcohol. It greases the wheels, so to speak. And when, in that first real mania, my system decided to properly introduce themselves to me AND return to full duty, so too, did they return to alcohol. I could go without drinking for long periods of time, but then i would switch, and find myself drunk when i was back in the face. Or viciously hungover.

Sometimes in therapy, we touch on something and i know i’m going to drink over it. If i (specifically speaking) didn’t get some, i knew the issue was enough for me to switch, and then they’d just go get it anyway. There were times when someone or something would trigger me HARD, and i knew what was coming. Life would do what life does, and often become too much for me, and i’d fall down the rabbit hole. Crawling out always involves detoxing from a binge. I had to figure out a way to get, and maintain, some kind of control.

My therapist doesn’t really deal with addiction or bipolar stuffs, even. She focuses on my system, and helping me learn how to listen, address my issues, and build the kind of life i want. Problematic use of drugs, alcohol, food, sex, etc. is, let’s say rampant, with multiples. She deals with cause, rather than effects. When i first started seeing her, she would come to my house, because i couldn’t leave it. I’d have a mickey of something stuffed beside me on the couch, because i’d have needed a couple of nips to even be able to let her in the door, and i knew that after she left i’d have a couple more.

The more work i’ve done in therapy the better it’s gotten. I even stopped therapy for a few years because i thought i was done. When i found out i wasn’t, old behaviours began kicking in, like, i can’t control the face as well as i was, and this body work makes everyone want a drink.
Everyone.

I knew i had to figure out a new way to handle things during this time. I’m not going back to square 1. I know i won’t either, because my problem solving skills are rather fantastic. One of the first things i did is i stopped hiding the problem. My husband and my kids already knew, so be honest. Why have this undercurrent of tenseness for my boys, where i act like it’s not happening and they act like they don’t know that it is? Why make my husband complicit in the lie? These things aren’t healthy and they erode the trust and poison the relationships that i have with them, that i’ve worked so freaking hard to build.

Removing the hiddenness immediately calmed my impulsivity. My sons both accepted the behaviour and said it was okay. They understood, and both relayed to me that they’ve seen nothing but improvements in the way i’ve lived my life since my brain fell apart.

Hm. Maybe there’s something here for me to learn.

I told my BFF, and since the beginning of our friendship (it’s a couple of years old, now), she’s been nothing but supportive. I’ve never lied to her, and as our friendship’s grown and trust has built, i’ve let her in like i have never, ever let a friend in before. I can call her up and say, “I’m either gonna have a drink or 2, or i’m hittin’ the highway,” and she will come babysit me until my husband gets home.* I don’t bother hiding from her, because i know i don’t need to.

I’m seeing a pattern here…

I’m down the rabbit hole, right now. At first, i got drunk and stayed that way for a few days. The therapy i’m doing, plus this pandemic situation the world is in, summarily tossed me down there by the seat of my pants.
Down you go H, no choice.
But my kids kept loving me and telling me it was okay.
And my husband did things that he knows will maintain my connection to him.

Ah. I know where this is going.

So this time, my Angries didn’t come out and get belligerent. My highly sexualised parts didn’t come forward and demand more and more booze, until i was blacked out and became a parade of damaged Bits N’ Pieces that are very low functioning and can be quite troublesome (to put it mildly). In fact, i was able to slow down and even sober up for my therapy the other day. I’d been fine for a few days.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
~Tao Te Ching

I was ready when i first met my therapist. She taught me a great many things and then i left, thinking i had moved on. It was not so. I simply wasn’t ready for the next lesson. I humbly returned when i realised the truth, and i’ve been learning ever since. These lessons are more painful than the previous ones, and yet, tired as i am, i see myself listening more readily and learning faster. Now it’s more like, When the student is ready, the lesson will come.

Two weeks ago i connected to my therapist in a way i’ve never connected to another human being ever. I shared grief and pain with her, not with words, but with sounds of suffering that i’ve kept buried deep, deep down inside me, at my most broken place. And i let her hold me through it – something i have never allowed before, in the dozen or more years we’ve been working together to help me.

CONNECTION. A mother’s love in her arms around me, in her voice as she soothed me, in her tears as she cried for me.

I strongly suspect that the other day on the phone with her, i learned my most important lesson yet. I told her that shame is my driving emotion. The one that controls me at every step. Every thought, every action is somewhat shame-driven. She responded that shame isn’t bad; shame is just an emotion, a feeling. She said it’s the body’s response to the human need for connection to another human.
I believe i was ready for this lesson.

Yesterday, i was chatting with my husband after supper, and it just came up out of me. I said, “I think shame is the reason i drink – the reason we all drink.** I think what i really want is to be connected to myself, to be alive so that i can truly connect to another person. To you, to our children, to my friends… ”

I was ashamed to want connection, too. The messages that i internalised as a child were that i was filthy and disgusting and not worthy.
But all the work i’ve done has been slowly taking down this deadly razor-wire that my mother and my upbringing built around me.
It’s going to take more work, but i’m going to listen to what shame is trying to tell me, and i’m going to keep disarming the landmines around me. I will be fully alive and interactive with other human beings. I will be living.

As for the booze, i don’t know. It’s just a symptom, as destructive as it can be, and i live with multiplicity, which means i cannot (at least as of yet) always control what i’m going to do. And that’s okay, today. Sometimes i drink to cope. But it’s nothing at all like it was, and i believe with my whole heart, that it’s possible that someday it won’t be a problem at all. Today i’m neither hungover, nor am i drunk. Tomorrow may be something different.

But i’ll handle it.

I have no wise pronouncements to make on addictive behaviours. I have no solutions save the one i’m working out for myself. I won’t be bashing any of the other ways to handle such issues, because i don’t find it helpful or productive. This is me, and my way only. I share for my own continued healing and growth, but also to maybe give others hope that they can find their own way, too.

Just hang on. It’s the place where i started all this, and it’s where i return as often as needed.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*For those who are new to my blog, i run when i’m stressed or triggered. We live on a farm, and i’ll hit the highway and hitchhike into the city, where i am in immediate danger due to switching. I haven’t hitchhiked in a few years now, but i’ll still angry walk for many kilometres, in any weather, and have been in fairly desperate need of rescue a few times, just due to that.

**We means me and all my parts. My system.

Thanks, I’ll Pass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and Peace to All-a Y’all,
~H~

Organising The Clutter

A little more functional today, and a little less afraid, which is good. I’ve got a small list of things that are important to me to accomplish, and i’ve implemented a couple of tweaks that i can already tell are very good ones.
I’ve moved up my exercise to the first thing i do once my husband leaves for work. I have some personal cardio that i do, and then i take the doggies for a long, brisk walk. I also don’t eat breakfast until i come back, thereby burning calories from my fat stores, especially since i don’t take in any nutrition after 8pm, i need some fat burning done for energy. YAY!
I used to shower every other day, because i don’t get sweaty/smelly working around my Little Crooked House all day, but i’ve decided to make it a daily thing. It’s good for mindfullness for me, and it’s positive, caretaking touch that reminds me how well i’m doing and how far i’ve come. Also, as my exercise regimen increases, i actually am starting to sweat, so i probably need it now anyway.

I like lists and i like a schedule and i like ticking things off as done. This is keeping my current fear of falling back into old behaviours at bay quite handily. I am dealing with worry regarding how far i’ll ever get socially. I do so much better alone, or just with my husband and kids and their families; i’m still really struggling with being around other people. I’m grateful that i have this life where i can live that way most of the time, but what if i’m never able to be a particularly social person ever again? And even if i want to, i don’t really have any friends to return to. The friendships i’ve had over the last 10yrs have been superficial at best, with the exception of 1 or 2. And that’s not a commentary on the people i’ve been friendly with, either. I kept people at arm’s length. I had friends i could go drinking with, mostly. It was the easiest way for me to have friends.

I liked drinking to be part of any social event. One, because it was part of my mania/depression, two, because other parts of me would take over, i.e. party girls and the like, and three, because alcohol keeps a nice, safe barrier between me and anyone getting to know me. Meaning, you can’t get to know anyone very well when you’re both under the influence – and that’s how i wanted it. I wanted the illusion of friendship, but none of the meaty, visceral reality of it.

And the thing that worries me is i like being alone and i think it’s mostly who i am.
But what if it’s not? Maybe i’m lying to myself, saying i like it this way because the ugly truth is that i just suck at social situations and i’m not very likeable. I mean, i can be fairly likeable online, but you have to be at an asshole level over 9,000 to not have any friends on social media. And even then you’ll probably have quite a few, so i’m thinking that’s not a terribly good indicator.

Yeah, overthinking. I haz it.
That’s why i’m going to at least try to blog more often. As my Peanut Gallery has become more vocal and active, my brain is even more full than usual, and that makes me feel like a buncha crazy is gonna come bursting out of me at any second… So i’m gonna try to cut back on the clutter, y’know? There’s a lot of stuff strewn about in here that i could trip over and hurt somethin’ – maybe me, maybe them, maybe someone else. This will be like putting things in boxes and sticking them in a storage facility. I may still be a hoarder, but at least my house’ll be too clean for rats n’ roaches.

Heh.

Love and Peace and Hope For Us All,

~H~

Pain is the Great Winnower

I’ve got a couple of big, emotional pieces coming up that i’m not looking forward to – and this is one of them. Right now, all my feelings are very close to the surface. Chronic pain has a way of stripping away everything you use to protect yourself, until there’s nothing left but the brutal, naked truth. There’s no energy for anything but coping.

It doesn’t have to be that way, but it does. I’ll tell you why.

I was going to my high school reunion. I’d been planning it for a while, and it was the night before i was to leave. I should have stayed home and gotten a solid 8hrs sleep, but i was dating this new guy, and i was falling for him like i’d never fallen for anybody. I went to his place and he made supper, and we lay in bed after, and he just held me all night. No sex -we hadn’t been intimate yet- but my body was on fire . I didn’t get a wink of sleep and i was punch drunk and stupid with lust. I went home and picked up my kids and my sister, and i set off on the drive to stay with my grandparents and attend my 10yr reunion, 833km away.
Yeah. I had no business behind the wheel for any distance, but i packed my 5yr old and my baby and my kid sister into my big ass old van and blithely navigated highway traffic. Yeah. To put all those precious people at grave risk apparently wasn’t enough for me, so i picked up a Belgian hitchhiker.
Yeah. I rolled my van 2 1/2 times. I threw that poor young man out and broke his collarbone. My oldest son still bears the scar from the deep scalp laceration. I could have killed them all: a stranger, my babies, and the sister i’d tried so hard to save.
Luckily, the only lasting damage i did was to myself. When we were finally stopped by a ditch culvert, upside down, i felt something just… i don’t know, give way in my back, and i knew it was bad.
Yeah. I’d spent my entire school career being messed up and awkward and my reunion was no different. Such not surprise. Heh.

Although my back injury healed, i was experiencing widespread, diffuse muscle pain, which my truly spectacular family doctor suspected was Fibromyalgia. She sent me to a specialist who confirmed her suspicions. I don’t know how much you know about the condition, but all you really need to know is that i was in constant pain, and it never went away. My doctor tried everything and nothing gave me any relief until i found over-the-counter codeine, which i immediately began abusing all day, every day. I could go through a 250tab bottle in 5 days, easily. That’s a lot, like a dangerous lot. It still didn’t do enough, but i kept at it for about 5 or 6 yrs, when i quit it, cold turkey.
So how then, you may ask, did i cope with the pain that didn’t magically disappear, and in fact had become even worse, as of course is the way with an opioid addiction. Well, i had something else on my horizon, and that was Bipolar Disorder getting its hooks in me and with it came a hard drinking, party lifestyle. Oh, and it didn’t take long before i was so out of control that i couldn’t hide my dissociations any longer. Rather than just happening when i was undergoing extreme emotional distress or feared for my safety, it was happening at any time, and it was happening often.

So in other words, if i wasn’t feeling no pain because i was drunk off my ass, i was feeling no pain because i was completely dissociated from my body.

It’s taken years to get here, and i’ve traded one kind of pain for another. Now, i don’t mean that to sound as fatalistic and whiny as i know it does, but hey, i’m in a lot of pain. Physical pain. And i’m not running from it for the first time since my diagnosis over 20yrs ago. I’m not medicating with pills or booze, or street drugs, and i’m not leaving my body to escape it. I’m here and i’m feeling it and HOLY FRICKETY FRACK does it hurt.  I can feel the pain in my body when i’m dreaming for pity’s sake.

But i needed to take control of my brain, and i knew the day would come when i’d have to work harder and do more in order to stay on track. I have to find a way to cope with this physical pain without abusing drugs or letting the inmates run my asylum.
Last year around this time i made a lot of hard decisions, and my reward is that i’m as fully present and conscious of myself, my surroundings, my situation, my relationships, my choices, and my desires as i have perhaps ever been before. No, not perhaps. Definitely. I’ve never been more capable of being who i want to be and doing what i want to do as i am right now.

I’m beginning to envision the kind of human i want to be now. I can also !FINALLY! look back and see all the work i’ve done and be proud. Because i’ll tell you something – i have never given up. Even when i was in the absolute shit of it all, i was always trying. I wanted to be better and do better and understand what in the hell was wrong with me. And now i know and i’m very better. Not all the way and never fixed, but WOW kinda better.

I guess the gift in the pain is i’m just too exhausted to deal with all my bullshittery anymore, let alone anyone else’s. My emotional pain carved away all the relationships and activities and interactions that were standing in the way of me just growing the hell up. I expect my physical pain will do something along the same lines. I don’t exactly know yet how i’m gonna deal with it, but i know that i will deal with it, head on, and no checking out.

There will be whimpering, though. And some whining. Perhaps some whinging.

I’ll end with some happy news: That guy that kept me up all night? Next year we’ll be married 20yrs.

Love and Peace,

~H~