Swerve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow.

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

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

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

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

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

~William Carlos Williams

Like Swimming

HELLO, GOOD AFTERNOON, AND WELCOME TO THE MONTH BEFORE MY BIRTHDAY!

If you read that like Terry Gilliam stepping out of a Zulu suit in The Meaning of Life, then you’re reading it how it was written.

In one month i’ll be fifty.
I’LL BE 50 YEARS OLD! (That one was Sally O’ Malley.)
Pardon me folks, but holy shit.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not ageist. It’s not that i’ll be old, or too old, or washed up, or a failure. None of that applies.
Number one is that i never thought i’d make it. My whole life i have assumed i would die young. At this point 50 doesn’t seem that old anymore, but when i was 4yrs old, staring at myself in the mirror with a bottle of poison in my hand and contemplating suicide for the first of countless times, 50 was inconceivable.

There are other factors of course. The regular ones that most of us go through. I have regrets, and i wish i had accomplished more. Both of these things, oh, so very much. I try not to trouble myself with these thoughts overly, because what i have gathered from most of those who’ve been here before me is, honey, it’s de rigeur. As Socrates is said to have uttered, if “the unexamined life is not worth living,” then my life is chock full of value. Heh.

I’ve been feeling like i’m being slowly pulled down under. Like i’ve been fighting the current for too long, and i’m close to exhaustion. It’s largely due to the personal issue to which i’ve alluded a number of times, but some of it is because of something else i’ve devoted much of this blogging process to, and that is my certainty that i am at a pivotal place in my personal growth. I’ve done a tremendous amount of work over the years, but it has all been tearing down the old and laying the foundation for the new. Now it’s time to build. The junk’s been cleared out and the old structure razed. The basement’s poured and the framework is done. The rest is all sweat equity, and this house ain’t gonna build itself.

I’ve shared how i started with teeny tiny little baby steps. I’d take a wee and wobbly stumble forward, and immediately rest, congratulate myself, and do it again. The rest in between stumbles was not insubstantial, either. I mean, i rested. Starting with weeks. It was a long time before it was even days. It’s only been this last year that it’s become hours. Today, one month before i turn fiftyholyshityearsold, i don’t even need any time at all between some of those steps. I regularly do some of them one-right-after-the-damn-other.

Lookit me. I’m swimming. I’m stepping. I’m building.

This morning i felt the same terrible drag on my thoughts, my feelings, and my body that i’ve felt for a couple of weeks now. I thought, I’m fighting another depression. Well hell, that sucks a dirty penny, but hey, i’m just gonna keep fighting. I’ll just keep schleppin’ along, doin’ what i been doin’, and it’ll be all right.

It hasn’t been all right though, and it’s been troubling my mind and disturbing my sleep and stirring up my Peanut Gallery and i haven’t been able to write a goddamned word.
So like i said, i felt it again this morning, like more than a dozen other mornings in a freaking row, and so i went back to bed at around 10 or so.
I had the troubled dreams i’ve been having for the same amount of time, and i woke at 12 feeling worse. Worse.
Naps usually make me feel better. They are one of the things i can do between stumble-steps if i need to rest. I rarely nap anymore, though. Usually my rest/reward involves playing on the computer or watching something on telly. Naps are specially reserved for those times when i really need it.
But it didn’t bloody work.
I dragged my more-depressed ass out of bed and forced myself to shower like i haven’t had to force myself to shower in a long time. Which made me feel worse. And anxious.
Great, now i’m anxious too. Wonderful.
I shouldn’t have had leftover cheesy noodles for breakfast. Too many calories and heavy carbs. Ohai Inner Critic. I was definitely needing some self-hatred to add to this toxic brain-milieu, so thanks, ever so.

I’m still in the shower at this point, but already the doing of something positive, that is hard to do, starts having an effect. Rather than just thinking, i become aware of the fact that i am thinking, and i am, quite suddenly, keenly conscious of precisely what i am thinking. I practise a bit of mindfullness: i bring my awareness to the water spraying my skin, my hand with loofah, exfoliating, the scent of my bodywash, my fingers massaging my scalp, brushing the conditioner through. I watch everything wash down the drain and imagine that it is not just dirt and skin cells and soap, but also the psychic weight of all the negativity i’m carrying is sluicing away from me as well.

I’m standing in front of the mirror and i look at myself and what i’m doing. I’m towelling off, i’m moisturising my skin, i’m doing my morning toilette and i treat my skin to a deep-pore extraction and my hair to some keratin creme. I’ve been practising looking at my body -really looking- while i do this, and so i find myself doing so out of habit.
But today… Today that work bears fruit. My body bears the scars of a childhood full of beatings and sexual abuse, and the resultant war of self-hatred that i waged against it for the majority of my life. Years of morbid obesity have not been kind, and now that i’ve lost most of the weight, my skin looks as empty and hollow as i might look on the inside if it were possible to see after all the psychological fat i’ve shed.

But i look, and today i see. And today i don’t hate it. Today as i was standing there and really seeing my body i thought i looked okay. I accepted what i was looking at in a reasonable and rational way, and i was kind to myself. It was not a you’re-a-beautiful-fucking-goddess moment. That’s not who i am, nor who i want to be. I saw myself as nakedly as i’ve ever seen myself and it was more than okay. It was fine. 
And it was then that my brain asploded with a lovely epiphany.
I don’t seek them and i don’t need them, but they sure are nice to have, sometimes.

I know what’s going on and i know what i need to do. It’s a lot and i’m scared AF, but i’ll even tell you.
I need to do MORE than i’ve been doing. It’s okay that i haven’t been doing enough because i didn’t know that i wasn’t. I’ve been progressing along the road to mature functionality admirably well, all things considered.
But now my brain is telling me to do more, and i didn’t understand, and so my feelings tried to help by telling me something was wrong. This is how it’s supposed to work.
I have been working the way healthy people generally work.

I need to start acting just a bit more like regular folks though.
So i won’t be going back to bed after i’m already up for at least the next month.
Weekdays i’ll be getting up at 5:30 like usual, and i’ll be going to bed at 10:30, which i try for, but it’s a bit spotty (maybe because i can go back to bed?)
And i’ll be blogging too – Monday to firetrucking Friday. (I know i cussed a fair bit for this post, so i’m trying not to overdo. Heh.)

I don’t know how terribly concise this post was, but welcome to how my brain works. This is who i am and this is all i have to offer. If you’re still here i thank you, and maybe i’ll see you tomorrow.

Be as well and as happy today as you are able. I’ll do the same.

It’s a lot like swimming first time over your head
It gets easier when you move your arms and legs
And for air you lift your head, why don’t we try right now
Yes right now
Yes right now
Well
~Like Swimming, Morphine

Love and Peace,

~H~

People Who Need People

Are you ready for some positivity?
Could you use a hope injection?
I may be able to help.

If you’ve read more than a couple of my posts you probably know that i have struggled with the day-to-days of being a grown-up, and that one of my most important goals is to be more fully functioning on a more consistent basis.
Well, to that end, i have a story to tell you.

I’ll remind you real quick of some major life points to help set the stage (Have you ever noticed that cops always say “real quick”? Could you get off the highway and come over here real quick, ma’am? Could you sit down over there real quick while i have a conversation with your husband? Have you also noticed it’s never real quick at all? You haven’t had a lot of interaction with the police? Oh. Well, never mind then.):

  • the people who made me did terrible things to me,
  • i strove to be good enough to avoid pain,
  • i still got hurt,
  • i developed some rather extreme avoidance skills,
  • my sense of personal identity was all but lost,
  • without a strong sense of self my interpersonal relationships were tenuous and fleeting at best and often contentious and tumultuous.

It’s been a funny few years, and by funny, i mean peculiar rather than haha. I expected to get better at peopling, but instead i found it more difficult. It’s probably because i didn’t want to avoid dealing with certain people and situations by dissociating or using substances anymore. It became excruciatingly difficult to be social. I would either switch immediately, or drink/drug to cope which was more and more frequently followed by a bunch of sliding* around. I wanted friends, real friends who knew the real me, but i couldn’t keep my damn door open – it didn’t take much wind to slam it shut again, and that doorman is a tough sumbitch to get by. If your brain is the gathering place for your friends to hang out and shoot the breeze for a spell, my brain was a crowded karaoke bar where no one listened to anyone else sing, where everyone was just waiting for their turn at the mic. The rotation was filled and there was no room for any new singers.

There was a group of women that i wanted very much to be a part of; they knew how to cut loose and have a good time, but were all successful in their careers and fully functional and involved with their families. I had been hanging out with a younger crowd, twentysomethings not fully established or set upon a firm path. It was an indication of how i functioned on an emotional level, and a reflection of who in my Peanut Gallery was usually in charge, or as i call it, “in the face”. I craved the company of women with whom i had more in common.

But i consistently buckled under the pressure. They kindly invited me to a number of their get-togethers, but i would be so nervous and anxious that i’d pound back the liquid courage (way too much and way too quickly), leaving  myself vulnerable to switch at the slightest provocation. Such lovely and welcoming women every one of them, but i felt unworthy of their company and out of place amongst them. I forced a kind of blithe joviality until the effects of the alcohol calmed me down from my state of near panic.

It all came crashing down on me one night and broke my leg in three places. No really.
I knew then that i needed to withdraw from people and figure my shit out. I had one remaining social obligation that managed to be only a minor disaster, and then i shut ‘er down.
I stopped peopling.
I hermitted in my Little Crooked House.
I hunkered down and i got to work.
No more drinking and drugging to cope, because i removed the stimulus.
I needed to scrutinise my behaviour in social situations, so that i could figure out what worked and what didn’t, what i was looking for and what i was willing to give in return.
When, where, and with whom was i most and least comfortable, and why?

It was a tremendous relief. I didn’t miss peopling. I mean, i didn’t miss anyone at all. I have a group of online friends that provided me with the perfect amount of socialisation, with no touching and from the safety and sanctity of my personal bubble, which at that point stretched out around 2km in all directions. I could stay in general contact with those i’ve interacted with locally by using social media, and no one noticed my withdrawal. Instead of hurting my precious little feelings, i found it liberating to see the world a bit more realistically through my physical detachment. I saw that people had lives of their own, and i was only a teeny, tiny part of their experience that could be removed easily and without a flicker of acknowledgment, let alone any fanfare. It brought my intense anxiety into sharp focus. It was vividly clear to me that my response to social interactions was wildly off-kilter with the significance attached by those around me.

This was more than a consolation, it was a revelation.
I currently have a personal (and very private) issue that i’m dealing with in my life, and this time away from anyone outside my immediate family has freed me to concentrate my attention on it and not be distracted by obsession over social minutiae. It’s enabled me to prioritise appropriately, it’s shifted my focus to where my actions are now better in alignment with my values.

I ventured out to socialise in the flesh a couple of times, to observe my deportment in a local bar run by a safe friend. It was for a set amount of time, with my husband as chaperone, and during low traffic hours. I saw people i knew and spoke with them, but only briefly. I had conversations with my friend and a couple of others i don’t know well, where my aim was to listen more than talk. I recognised all the old familiar thoughts and feelings, but they weren’t as acute – they’d been softened by the light of fresh knowledge and the insight i’d gained. I’d go home and go over my time there, trying to learn more and continue to ease the pressure i felt being in social situations.

I was still very content to stay at home, with only my husband and my children and their families for company, but i knew it was getting on to time for me to go back out into the big, bad world and see if i did indeed have my shit figured out. Recent events in the world of politics had brought me pretty low though, and i wondered if i’d ever want to go anywhere, ever again.

Then along came the Women’s March on Washington, and suddenly i knew it was time.

… to be continued with a flourish, tomorrow

*Not fully switched, but no longer running the show. It’s like standing right behind someone, observing them live my life for me. I’m not generally able to affect whoever is currently in the face, just helplessly watch.

Soldiering On Then…

I grew up needing to be rescued, but no one ever came.
I grew up knowing something was wrong with me, but never knowing what.
I believe these are 2 of the biggest reasons my personality became fractured and in some ways, warped.

The person who made me did not meet my basic needs, and also consistently hurt me. Now that i have the benefit of some education and emotional distance, i can see that it created both an empty well and a vacuum inside me. I’m not even sure my mother loved me, although i do believe she tried. I think she rebelled against her parents and refused to give me up for adoption because her well was empty – she needed someone to love her, and she knew (hoped?) that her child would. So growing up, not only was i not fed properly on an emotional level, what bounty i may have had as a child to share with others was almost entirely used up by her. And so i lived my life needing: attention, acknowledgement, acceptance, affection (henceforth to be referred to as the 4As)… All i can tell you is i must have gotten enough to keep me alive, because here i am, but it was most definitely not enough for me to grow and develop properly. I was nutrient starved – both quantity and quality was lacking. I was malnourished, and as with any child who’s not properly fed growing up, my growth was stunted. And i was always hungry.

I can see now how emotionally immature i was growing up, indeed, how far i’ve yet to go. As a child at home, i learned to keep to myself and be as quiet as i could be in order to avoid abuse. I could still be very… well, ME, at home, but only when Mom was of like mood. My home was the very embodiment of the adage, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” and so i learned to behave in accordance with her moods. Even if she was in high spirits, it was possible for her to turn violent. In a flicker of the Almighty’s eyelash she could go from laughing with me to beating me.

From this i learned to gauge the moods of the people i was around, to determine how i should act in order to get what i wanted. And since i almost never got anything i wanted from anyone, i learned that my thoughts, feelings, and desires were probably not right/good/appropriate and i should therefore bury them. Not that i had much success, mind you. I was a terrifically abused child, and my woundedness leaked out all over the place. I had discipline problems at school and elsewhere, and i’ve written much about my social ineptitude.

I was constantly starved for those 4As. I was afraid to ask for them, and plus, i didn’t even know how to ask. I rarely asked for the tangibles, like food, clothing, shelter, entertainment – even though i often went without. Parents are supposed to meet their children’s needs without them having to ask -at least in the beginning- and then slowly teach them how to meet their own needs, AND give them the emotional vocabulary to ask for what they want from others.

This is where i believe i got a bit warped.
On some level i knew i wanted the 4As, but i didn’t know their names, nor did i know how to ask. The behaviour modeled for me at home was immature to say the least, and nothing short of abominable in many respects. I learned very early on though, that we behaved one way at home, but entirely another way whenever we weren’t. From that, i think i was able to glean some information on how i should act, based on how i saw other people act. Still, what little instruction i received from babysitters and relatives and educators was not enough to counteract what i was receiving at home.

This is very complicated, at least it is for me, and i want very much to be clear. I’m not sure i’ll be able to entangled all the thoughts in my brain sufficiently to communicate what i understand was going on, but i’m trying very hard. Just on the off chance that there is someone out there like me – someone i might be able to help, if only by sharing.

You see, my mother didn’t have any small emotions, she only had big ones. For what i suspect are myriad reasons, she couldn’t stand peace. She craved upheaval, chaos, and drama, and if there was none, she would bloody well create some. She kept her mask tightly in place for the outside world (it slipped over the years), but once safely ensconced at home it came off, and she would be her real self. She was angry and mean. Now that i’ve learned a few things, i suppose underneath all that was fear and pain, but mostly what i saw was anger. Even her silences were menacing; they filled me with dread. Sometimes it was a relief when she’d snap and beat me. Okay, she hit me all the time, but i mean lose all semblance of control and beat the everloving snot outta me. She’d often be quite a bit nicer to me for some time afterward. (The last few times she beat me there was no nice period.)

So, whatever natural personality traits i may have been born with, like being theatrical and gregarious and effusive and intense, i think they got contorted somehow, becoming misshapen by my upbringing. Further, i misused them to achieve my unmet needs.
And therein lies the tremendous difficulty i’ve had accepting my DID diagnosis.

More on that, probably tomorrow. Until then, may your Monday be as good as a Monday can be. Heh.

Love and Peace to All,
~H~