Inside My Skin

There is a part 3 for I’m Not A Bitch, but today i’m posting a little blurp-up on how i’m doing right now.

Last year i had a schedule, with routines, regimens, and rituals aplenty, and i was hummin’ along like a vintage car that’s still with and well cared for by its original owner. I was as functional as i’d ever been in. my. life. and i was proud of what i’d accomplished and excited for more and better in my very near future.

That was when my body started poking my brain and saying, Ahem? Ah, excuse me?
I need some help.

It’s a little on the airy-fairy side for a firm atheist like me, but i have come to believe that it’s possible that it’s not just my brain that houses my memories, but my body, as well. Like, when i feel threatened, i can feel it immediately in my feet, my calves, my knees – the urge to run, to get away. The memories of being trapped by my abusers and unable to leave might be there, i think. Nestled in there with my muscles and tendons, lying dormant until a situation triggers old thoughts and feelings about the past and my fast-twitchers spark awake, GOGOGONOW!

I recognise that this may not be measurable in a scientific sense as of yet, but that’s okay. I’ve been working on getting down into my feelings,
<feelfreetorollyoureyesherebecauseicertainlyam>
and the deeper into them i get, the more i experience how connected my thoughts and emotions are to my physical body, when i feel safe enough to allow it.

As a highly dissociative human, i put distance between emotion and sensation and thought, because they have historically been too much for me to cope with all at once. I also never had a person safe enough and knowledgeable enough to teach me how to process these things; the why-am-i-like-this and the how-do-i-fix-it. Now that i do, when she (my therapist) suggests that my memories are not just in my brain, but in parts of me that exist in real time below the neck, well…
I experience, observe, and exist consciously in those moments when i sit down in the armchair by the window in her office, and my girl parts are buzzing like they’re covered in a thousand bumblebees, and she asks how i’m doing today, and my vagina starts to burn, like the bees are stinging me, so she has me take a big pillow and hide myself behind it, and wrap my arms around that pillow and pull it in tight, hugging my genital area, protecting it with a soft, warm barrier and my loving arms, and she asks me,

“How does that feel?”

And i roll my teary eyes and say, “I don’t know. Weird. Better… I guess. Good.”

Or how i pull my legs up onto that armchair, fanning them out alongside me because if i put them on the floor, they’ll start bouncing like corn popping, wanting to run. I feel safe with her in her office, and i come ready to be conscious of my body and be in it in real time. But other people that live in my brain, especially those that exist in a painful moment from the past, come wide awake and all they feel is trauma, and they want it to stop, so badly; they want to get away, nownownow. So my therapist has me put my feet back on the floor and bounce my knees and flex my feet and sometimes i’ve even placed the bottoms of my feet on the bottoms of hers and pumped my legs, HARD, like i’m riding a bicycle away – away from pain, away from danger, away from evil.

And i’ll be damned if it doesn’t help. I think my body is purging the memories of all the terrible things that were done to me when i was little. When i was with my mother and dependent on her for everything – helpless and unable to get away from the things that she did and allowed to be done to me.
It’s like i’m shedding “psychic” pounds.
I know, another metaphysical word coming from me, but i use it as a poetic description of what i’m experiencing, rather than an actual, tangible thing that exists.
What i mean is, i feel lighter in my feelings and my mood and my outlook on life, when i do these things –when i directly address the sensations in my body, and act out the movements it seems to be itching to do– i feel better.

So this is what i’ve been doing. Learning to tune in to my body, rather than distance myself from it. Letting my fists ball up, kicking my legs, covering my breasts, my belly, my nethers, with blankets, pillows, honouring the need for a barrier. Pulling my big dog into my lap and wrapping my arms around her, burying my face in her neck and feeling her warmth, her weight, her protection.

And walking again. Not taking off. Not getting away.
Recognising and honouring the need of my feet, my calves, my knees, my thighs, to move. The memories of wanting and needing so badly to get away from what was happening to me all those years ago and being unable to, all trapped there in my flesh and fascia. Pumping it out of me with each determined step, the pain and the fear pouring down into my toes and out, like i’ve lanced an infection and i’m draining the pus, leaving a trail on the dirt road behind me.

Lighter. Healthier. Cleaner. Freer.

It’s constant work but i don’t mind. I can see and feel the benefits. Unlike the brain work, where i slogged and slogged through the muck, such slow-going. Putting in so much time with little to no change, but hoping. And then seeing that which had been unravelled, ever so slowly knit back together.
The body work yields refreshingly immediate results. They don’t always last, but i can do it again, and the good stuff lasts a bit longer each time. One day, it might just settle right into my bones and that will be that.

So here i am today.
I’m sober. I’m not doing anything to numb myself, neither brain nor body. I’m living my life as simply as i can so that i might teach myself to be present and feel it all. To make conscious, thoughtful decisions on how to handle and cope with the day-to-days, and those times when life just happens. I mean, i wish it wouldn’t do that, but even to have the presence and awareness inside this skin sack in real time to think, Geez, Universe, now why’dja have to go and do that?! is a priceless gift.

I’ve lost the booze bloat and the grey cast to my skin. I’m back to managing my food choices and eating at a calorie deficit, nutritionally sound and designed for slow and steady weight loss, my goal of a single digit clothing size before summer hits is doable.
I often wear my clothes a bit on the tight side because:

1) I like having my business held in, hugged, and smoothed out;
2) It boosts my self-esteem and motivation to be wearing smaller sizes; and
3) It keeps me consciously in my body, that tight squeeze, that occasional escape of flesh over the top of my jeans.

Understand, this is not a shaming technique. I’m proud as heck of what i’ve accomplished, and any shame i carry about my body is due to childhood stuff, which i’m working through, tyvm. I’m also not suggesting anyone else do what i do for my weight, my body, my brain, my relationships – none of it, period. What i’m doing is sharing my process, in every way and on every level (save sexual and spiritual, although that may come some day), not so that you can do what i do, but so you can see that it can be done. 

I’m 52yrs old, and there’s no shame in that, either.
I am not who i was born to be.
It’s taken a lot of hard, intense, terrifying work to get where i am today.
Nobody could do it for me and a lot of it i did alone because i couldn’t find the right person to do it with me. But i persevered, taking little nuggets of wisdom from this place and that person, knocking on door after door, taking class after class, asking “professional” after professional? for help.
(That word though, what a loaded word in this particular field, heh.)

I got disheartened, led down wrong paths, misunderstood, misdiagnosed, ignored, unfairly judged, and many times, told i was Just fine! and/or Highly functional! because i was so willing to open up and do the work, and already had so much self-knowledge and personal insight and i’m clearly intelligent and have a large vocabulary and i’ve never been arrested or lived on the street, so… What’s your problem?

With such narrow definitions, it’s a wonder anyone gets any, let alone enough help, but some of us do.
If you have stuff inside you that needs work, i want you to see that i’m doing it, and so maybe you can, too.
If you need help with that work (and who doesn’t?), i want you to see that i found some (FINALLY!), and so maybe you can take heart and keep trying until you find that good fit: that person, that place, that program, that system -whatever it is- that clicks with you and helps you get your feet underneath you and walking forward. Or running, swimming, flying – however it works for you to figure your shit out and get through it. Whatever gets you moving towards something that you’ve always wanted for yourself.

I did it and i’m still doing it.
I should be either dead, or locked up, or completely non-functional, or just a shitty, awful human. I am none of those things.

Every time i blog it’s for me first, because it’s been very effective.
But it’s for you, second – because i want you to hang in there. I want you to find help, answers, love, success, happiness. All of it.
I wish i could do more, but i’m a lot of work, and this is what i can manage.
So far, anyway.

I’m pluggin’ away. It’s what works for me. I go through some tough, scary shit, but i just keep plodding along, learning about myself and how i work and doing the work that’s in front of me.

Then there are moments, beautiful, transformative, life-affirming moments, where i can see, not only how far i’ve come, but the depth and the breadth and the weight of what i’ve been able to achieve. It may not look like much to the rest of the world, but that no longer matters to me. What i’ve been able to do with my brain, my body, my life, is incredible and amazing. TO ME.

I hope that i can inspire others to just hang in there and keep trying. Stop and rest and feel how hard it is when you need to, you deserve that, but as soon as you can muster, try some more.

Love and Peace and So Much Thanks,
~H~

Image: Reclining Nude (c1887), George Hendrik Breitner

The Garden and the Gate

WARNING: Contains specific references to childhood neglect, physical assault, sexual assault, and incest. This piece is a bit brutal and a bit odd. Be certain you’re in a good place and/or have good support before proceeding.

Note: I’m very vague regarding the current situation i’m dealing with, in order to protect myself and my loved ones. Stuff can and does happen between me and people i care about. One of the most effective ways for me to maintain a decent grip on my mental/emotional health is to talk and write about my life. This current therapy i’m in makes it even more important to be diligent in cleaning the clutter out of my head. I must listen to what my system has to say and be mindful of their thoughts, feelings, and needs.

While i am the one who’s written this piece, i’ve done so in a highly dissociated state. I wasn’t completely switched (i.e. i didn’t lose time), but there were a few particular Bits N’ Pieces that dictated the more vague, analogy-driven parts at the end. It’s like, if my brain was a starship, the inside of my forehead feels like the bridge right now. I’m Data at the helm, and Captain Picard, Commander Riker, and Counsellor Troi are discussing where to go, what course to plot, and at what warp speed to travel. (Okay, i’m not Data. I’m very emotional today. I’m Wesley, which is fine, because i love Wesley. So there.)

**********

I was brought into the world for a selfish purpose. My mother wanted someone to love her, which is not unreasonable in and of itself, but her definition of love was twisted and sick. She expected me, from infancy, to fill all her needs.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she often failed to meet my most basic needs, like food, clean diapers, protection from harm, soothing, medication/care when sick, vaccinations, play times, clothing that was clean, and proper according to the weather, and warm human contact.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she slapped me, punched me, kicked me, pulled my hair out, pushed me down flights of stairs, bashed my face into walls, doors, cupboards, stove tops, twisted my arm, pinched me, bit me, bent my fingers backwards, threw things at me, broke things on me, even if she choked and suffocated me, sometimes to unconsciousness.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she sent me out on the street to beg for money. Even if she sent me to the store to steal food. Even if she rented out my body for favours and gifts and cash.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she used me as a receptacle for every feeling she couldn’t/wouldn’t express in a healthy way: fear, shame, guilt, and angerangeranger RAAAAGE. Even if i was her vessel into which she poured an endless stream of poison/venom/bile/shit.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she spoke to me like i was a grownup since i remember comprehending speech. Even when she talked to me like I was her counsellor/confessor/best friend. Even when she had me touch her like I was her husband.

And i did, with my whole heart and mind and body. I loved her; she was my world. She was the best mom ever. And no one ever loved a child like my mom loved me. She’d had such a terrible childhood, i knew. She regaled me with stories* in lurid detail, stories that i might have identified with if she’d not already consciously, purposefully, carefully, and skillfully, helped me split apart and compartmentalise my brain.

How wonderful, how fortunate, how blessed i was to have such a special mother. So unique, so highly evolved, so triumphant over the evil that had surrounded her. So decent, so kind, so good.

She told me what to think, what to do, what to feel, whom to like and dislike.
I obeyed, i followed, i acquiesced, i surrendered, i died. I died over and over again, cutting off little bits of myself and shoving them into some black void inside me. Junk drawers and overstuffed closets and garbage bins inside my brain, and yes, i see now, inside my body too. Chunks of unacceptable personality tossed onto a compost heap and rotting, decomposing into some rich pile of shit that started talking to me when i was alone and in silence. Monsters morphing behind those closet doors, mostly muppet-like, but not all. Some terrifying and filled with rage and capable of destroying anything and anyone. Clawing at the door and rattling the knob, roaring to be set free, seeking apocalypse – annihilation.

I knew not to speak about how it was between us when the 2 of us were alone and behind closed doors, but not because it was bad or shameful or wrong. I knew how she treated me was special and we were highly evolved and incredibly intelligent and meant for a purpose. I knew the rest of the world was meaningless, and other people were dumb and stupid and incapable of understanding our ways.
I was indoctrinated, brainwashed, and Stockholmed. Fully. Completely. Utterly.

In the years since i first fell in love, accepted my multiplicity, got fat, got thin, got mania, got apostated, and lost or walked away from all friends and relatives, i’ve come to realise and own and carve out a reasonably functional and happy life from this washed up driftwood – to chip out a recognisable figure from this implacable slab of marble, this obdurate pile of refuse, this intransigent fabric.

It’s been the hardest work I’ve ever done; i’ve sweated and toiled and ached beyond measure to create and feed and grow this garden of mine, and it has yielded the most beautiful fruit.
Yes, i’m asserting that i’m amazing and colourful and worth a great deal. My fruit is too rare and precious to ever be put on sale, or for my location to be marked as a destination, though. One must be invited here, and my fruit is by offer only, although free to whom i would give it.

Another weird post, i know. It protects me and those i would shelter to be so arcane.
I’m HistrionicaButterfly, and i’m multifaceted AF, and sometimes it pleases and soothes me to be poetic and mysterious.
Today i’m being so because i’m sad and scared.
Someone i love is causing me a great deal of heartsickness and vexation.

I have a dragon who lives in my brain and he’s like an angel with a sword in that he oversees and protects all my lands and watches the gate.
I might have to banish someone i love, and my heart feels so laden and heavy and burdened. It feels as if it’s sinking into a yawning pit of emptiness that lies behind my heart. The ache reaches out of the muscle and into my bones; my sternum, my ribs, my scapulae.

This is not what i was born to be, or how i was raised to behave.
To tolerate is not even a consideration, and yet i’ve considered, and i’ve called it by that name. I’ve extended myself in grace that i was assured i never possessed.
I’m preparing to put my loved one out of this garden that i’d tended so long for my mother. This garden that was never hers and was always mine.
No matter how loved or how once welcome, you cannot dig up my flowers, my plants, or my trees. You cannot shit in my garden, and you can’t pick or partake of my fruit without permission.

I’m prepared to send my Dragon-Angel to swoop down upon this once-welcome visitor –to be swooped up by the talons and be deposited on the other side of my gate– to be guarded against as one might an interloper. I’m prepared to harden my heart until such time as they return with hat in hand, to humbly ask for reentrance.

No one, no matter how much I love them, will ever be allowed to abuse me again, and i will fight anyone for my safe space, no matter who they are or what they mean to me.

I have hope that all will be well, and in not too much time.
Nevertheless, i’m as prepared as i can be to say No and bar them from the safety and beauty of the space that i’ve built inside me and around me.

Y’all Take Care,
Love and Peace,
~H~

*Some that i’ve been able to verify, some that i’ve been able to debunk, some that i’ll never know for sure.

Image: Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Thomas Cole (1828)

Mind Your Pace

Let us explore it together. Each man hides a secret pain. It must be exposed and reckoned with. It must be dragged from the darkness and forced* into the light. Share your pain. Share your pain with me, and gain strength from the sharing.
~ Sybok, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

I figured out that i needed to be back in therapy.
Great. Go me.
There’s not as much sarcasm there as you might imagine. I’ve become conscious/present/mindful enough that i knew something was up before things got seriously problematic.

So I return to my therapist and I find out that i’m an onion, just like everybody else on the planet; I have layers. Whoopee. (Now that was sarcastic.) This is the next level, deeper healing, my body and my brain trying to get back to where it’s supposed to be. I’m cold, so i shiver, i’m hot so i sweat, i’m hungry i eat, i’m tired i sleep, i’m upset, so i soothe.
Except that last one i’m not so good at.

Anytime i’m upset, my system is ready to do its thing. Now, i’ve spent the last few years practising being the head of my inner household, and that’s involved taking the lead as well and as often as i can when i experience anger or fear. It wasn’t easy. Dissociating is something i’ve done since before i could speak, and it’s nearly as reflexive as breathing. I had to learn what triggered it (no problem there – EVERYTHING!) and identify symptoms that sliding was occurring or a switch likely to happen.
Mindfulness. Mindfulness has been absolutely necessary in this process.

For any who aren’t familiar, Google states that mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” It’s the least pop-psychology, airy-fairy explanation i’ve found. It’s simple and practical, which often works best for me. My imagination is already over 9000, so something uncomplicated and workable can temper my inner chaos quite nicely.
Learning to turn my awareness inward, and listen to what my body is trying to tell me that it needs is going to increase the degree to which i can function in the world.
I seek fulfillment. I want deeper and more meaningful relationships, with reciprocity. I hope to bring more and better to humanity’s table.

It’s been a bit tricky to find the calm and dispassionate observer inside myself, without switching to a disconnected part of me that i made long ago to perform that function. A desensitised transmogrification i have, because i lacked the ability to stay and do it myself, save under the most benign of circumstances. I could pause and take stock if something physical was going on for me, like a cold, or something gastrointestinal, and i wasn’t too bad at it when my children needed that from me, but beyond that, i don’t think i was in the face for that stuff. Even a small amount of stress and anxiety could mean distance, for me. I might become a numb outlier, frozen in the periphery, watching only, affecting nothing.

I started mindfulness with my therapist, here in my Little Crooked House. At first, i couldn’t even close my eyes, and she had to sit on the far side of the room from me. We began with easy observations, like whether i’m warm or cold, am i hungry, do i have a headache today, how’s my fibro pain… I could feel the calm flowing in just from an easy, surface check-in. I’ve always found these psychological exercises difficult – i can become snarky and eye-rollish. I feel extremely uncomfortable because my mother was into every new therapy that came around, and she expected me to perform for whatever group she was trying to fit into at the time. She wasn’t using these tools to deal with her issues and make a better life for us, she used the people in these groups for attention, for pity, for money. She also had a deep disdain for the practitioners of these various methods. I picked up that scorn and still struggle with it, every time my counsellor brings up something new.
Besides, it never did anything for my mother except make her more dangerous, so my reflex response is usually to cringe and call bullshit.

The breakthrough came in the shower. The bathroom is the most triggery room in the house for me, and i’ve had to fight to develop decent, regular hygiene. It’s not just a reminder of abuse, but also of its aftermath. And there are always mirrors, which are a delicate business. I always dissociate to some extent when i look in one. Touching my face, touching my body, toileting, all these daily activities that occur in the bathroom are minefields for me even when i’m doing well.

One day i’d had enough of feeling scared and repulsed every time i shower. I decided to use what i was learning in therapy. I felt the warm water on my skin. I felt my feet touching the bottom of the tub. I could smell soap. I looked at the shower curtain that i’d bought at the store because the colour calmed me. I reminded myself that i’m not a child anymore, and the people who hurt me in the bathroom are either dead or no longer in my life. My husband wouldn’t allow any of them to get near me. I’m big now and able to defend myself. I like being clean and smelling nice, because it makes me feel normal and capable and strong and grown up.

It worked. I can stay in the shower for longer than 10mins now. I can take hot showers if i want to, and talk myself through it if i get freaked out. I don’t even lock the door anymore. A few years of bathroom mindfulness later and i can stand naked in front of the mirror after showering and do my skincare regimen. I still recede a little to wash my face and do my makeup – but i don’t have to leave anymore and let someone else do it. I never thought i’d be able to use the bathroom like a regular person.

Mindfulness is an effective coping skill whenever i use it, but i still need lots of practise. I’ve brought it into my eating habits with great success. I ask myself if i’m hungry and check in with my body. If i don’t feel it physically, i try not to eat. (I will occasionally allow myself to soothe with food, but it’s rare.) I also try to eat at the table, especially when i’m alone, so i’m conscious of how much i’m eating. It’s also easier to catch myself if i’m gobbling it down. Then i remember that i’m no longer a child going through extreme poverty, nor am i being punished or rewarded with food. I’m a grown woman who has a full refrigerator and a stocked pantry. My mother’s dead and can never starve me again.

Social situations are where i still struggle to use mindfulness. It’s difficult to stop myself from shifting to automatic when i’m around people, but when i do the benefits are amazing and deeply impactful. Some friends actually ask if they can touch me now, and although i’ve come far enough along that i’m mostly okay with physical contact, being asked my permission heals broken parts of me on the deepest level. It gives my system a sense of safety they’ve never had, but desperately wanted. I’ve got a long ways to go, but peopling productively and successfully will require no less than my lifetime i reckon, so i’m reconciled to the work. I love people, and the better i get at being around them, the easier it will be to show them how much.

I brought up mindfulness because i believe it’s part of the reason i lost time on Thursday. The thing about it that’s perhaps the hardest part for me, is that it requires me not to be numb (freeze). I’ve got to find that sweet spot where i’m fully present in my body, but not being swept away by my emotions or overwhelmed by physical sensations, where fight/flight can kick in. I must venture out from the graveyard where my brain hides, and be manifest among the living. To not only see but to be seen.

This will take time and effort, which i knew, but there was a piece missing. My therapist had been gently trying to show me, week after week, but i kept missing her point.
I’ve done all this work over the years, all this incredibly hard work. And it took maximum effort and total commitment. It was arduous, but i did it assiduously. Some of it was nothing short of brutal. I can do time and effort.

So i came into this a little puffed up. I have accomplished a lot, and i figured that i was so experienced at this kind of inner work, that i was gonna power through it and just get it done. My childhood was hellish and i survived. I live with a bunch of other people in my brain and i make it work. I got this.
My body seeks homeostasis, so i must establish a baseline? Okay, lemme jus’ go back to my therapist for a few sessions, she’ll tell me what i have to do, i’ll do it – boom. Done.

I’m having trouble writing some transitional sentences to get you to the point i’m trying to make. I think my difficulty is a reflection of where i’m at with this bit of information. The knowledge that i can’t push or power through this next bit of treatment. This foul chunk of reality that i must chew and swallow if i want my dessert. It chased me right out of my own damn face.
I have to be mindful while i go through the traumatic events of my childhood. I must meet my Bits N’ Pieces where they’re at, join hands with them, and feel what they feel while knowing what i know. Mindfulness can’t be done quickly. Mindfulness is methodical. I can’t just take a quick dip in this slough. I can’t just burn rubber and rip through the neighbourhood.

Pardon me, but fuck, fuckety-fuck.

Back around 10yrs ago, i barfed up my story for my husband, and a few blog buddies. I shut that blog down tight shortly thereafter and i don’t discuss it with my husband unless i absolutely have to, which up until a few months ago, wasn’t very often. And one of my favourite things about my therapist, was that she never asked me to tell my story.

Well.
<insert Maximus Profanitatum here>

Everything inside me was created to hide the truth. I was hardwired never to speak about it, to denydenydeny. I dealt with that by mastering the way my brain works.
The leader of my pack.
The Wah-wah-wah teacher of my own Peanut Gallery.
I am Queen Face of Cuckoo Island.
But the first rule of Fight Club applies. (Yeah, i don’t care for the trope, but it was an excellent movie, and i saw it before i found my anger about it.)

I’ve become close with my system. With some i’m parental, with some i’m the boss, but i’m friends with them all, and i love every one: deeply, emphatically, and unconditionally. They’ve taught me how to love myself, because of course, they are me. Yet i loved them as a separate entity first. I looked at it like, they lived in my brain, but they weren’t a part or product of my brain. (Having mutant-level imagination made these concepts easy for me to grasp, but i think you’ll get the gist.) The time came where i’d learned enough about them and had enough conscious awareness as a multiple, that these partitions in my mind melted away, and i had a psychological experience of them as part of me and my brain.

That experience has made my life richer and finer by far, but the abuse is not discussed, per se. There are little bits that are trapped in a moment, and those that are not much more than emotion, but i gently care for them, and conversation about what or why they are hasn’t seemed necessary. Until now. And i understand why this process can’t be rushed and must be mindful. They are delicate creatures, and they’ve been through more than enough already. They need me to hold their hand while they tell their story, and so i will.

I know now why a good therapist had to let me walk away, knowing that i probably wasn’t done yet. Because it must all be my choice:

– how to live with how my brain works,
– how involved with other humans i want to be,
– how much real world function would i like to have,
– what is healing?
– what is successful?
– what is fulfilling/fulfilled?

And the most important thing of all is that it must be on my time. None of this can ever be forced* – not by her, not even by me. She said it a couple of weeks ago and it’s reverberated in my head ever since. She said that she would never, ever try to force us to do anything we didn’t want to do. She said that forcing is abuse, and we were forced, over and over, and that needs to not happen again.
This means that i have no idea how long this process will take, but it ain’t gonna be done anytime soon.

I love Star Trek, and i’ve seen all the movies (don’t even talk to me about the reboots, as they don’t count in my world). Since i accepted that i must move through this process slowly and meaningfully, i keep thinking about The Final Frontier. I see myself as Sybok, moving amongst these strange aliens and offering to share their pain.

It is through maudlin sentimentality, dark humour, and cheesy movies, that i will survive.

Stay tuned.

*It’s a great quote, and fits, except for his use of force. Sybok was a bit off, and he was wrong about god, so i think it still works for me. Heh.

Sleeping Women and Pockets Full of Tears

Work finally begins when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it badly.
~ Alain de Botton

Today was an exercise in doing what i know can work, if I can just bloody do it. My lack of proper sleep is making daily functioning progressively more difficult:

– I’m getting nervous and overwrought, and having trouble regulating the intensity of my emotions. I can zerotosixty in seconds, without being aware that my foot was on the pedal;

– My internal world commands more of my attention than i’d like, and more easily, too. Talk amongst the Peanut Gallery is leaking out, in public places, in front of other people. Someone will be looking at me quizzically, or ask me to repeat myself, when i had no idea i’d said anything;

– I don’t have the energy required to do all or even a lot of the things that help keep depression and mania at bay, like walking the dogs and keeping the house shipshape. I’m exhausted when i wake up, and each morning a bit more so.

I’m functioning at a bare minimum right now, and i worry how much worse it will get before it gets better.
I go back to basics, though. I know to cut back until things are manageable. If the house and i don’t stink, and my family gets fed and has clean clothes – it’s enough. One day i can spend some time with a friend. One day i can give myself a pedicure. One day i make a nice dessert to follow supper.

I’m trying to make writing as close to a must as i can, without making me hate it like i hate mopping floors or talking on the phone. You know, an unavoidable drudgery. I’ll tell you what though, this piece is like pulling teeth and i don’t like how it’s coming together (or not – it’s not coming together for me). I don’t want to post it, but i will.
I’m not here to blow you away with how great my writing skills are.
As you can clearly see by that last sentence, they are not great.
What i have to offer, indeed, what i very much want to blow you away with, as it were, is how alike we are, you and i.
How you struggle, and i struggle. How you feel alone in it and you worry that no one will understand. Maybe you’ve tried to share about your struggles and the responses were not what you’d hoped, wanted, or needed. Maybe, like me, you’ve bought the books and attended the seminars and planted your ass in so many fruitless chairs, spending money and energy that you could ill afford.
And they’re all telling you how to do the thing to arrive at the place.

And maybe you’re like me and you don’t know if that’s the thing you need or the place you want to go, but what you’ve got and where you’re at ain’t it -you fucking know that- so you listen and you try and you hope…

I appreciate, so much, that most of those working in the mental health field seem to truly want to help. Their enthusiasm and sincerity seem legit, and nearly every person/place/thing i went to for help had something i could take away with me and use, but it was never quite right. Not alltheway right anyway – a little bit right, here and there. Little treats and treasures that i secreted in my pockets as i edged out the door.

It all helped me to know myself better:
I like this. I don’t like that.
I want this. I don’t want that.
This speaks to me. This sounds like the teacher in the Peanuts cartoon.
I can work with this person. I’d rather chew someone else’s gum than work with this one.

Knowing myself, plus finding a professional i can work with, has been the basic recipe for my success so far.
I have no idea what will work for you, but after all the searching for help and answers that i’ve done over the decades, i think i have something to offer that may help someone (YOU?) to figure some things out – maybe get one step closer.

I offer a glimpse into how my brain works. What i think about what’s happened to me, what i think about my childhood and what i survived, and how i got through it. My thoughts about being bipolar, being multiple, and much more important than that – my thought processes as a person living with these particular challenges. I’ll share what i think about the people who hurt me and those who’ve helped – how i process their impact and how i package it all up and decide what shelf to keep it on.

I’m hoping you’ll see bits of yourself in me, not so that you can do what i did, but so you know that it can be done. I’m sharing my insides so you can see that i’m fucked up and flawed, and some of it was done to me, and some of it i did to myself. I’m probably more screwed up than you in some ways, and less than in others, but we’re both varying degrees of messy in various areas.
And i know full well that a lot of this mess ain’t mine, but if i don’t clean it up, no one will.

I think my brain is a hoarder of the highest order. It keeps everything – nothing is ever thrown out. NOT EVER. It’s all here, and it was piled from floor to ceiling. Some rooms were so full i couldn’t get into them. There was trash everywhere, but i couldn’t just shovel it all into a bin and have it hauled away, because there were precious, vital things strewn about in the clutter and disarray. My brain cannot be cured of its hoarding, and it cannot cope alone. I’m the homeowner and i couldn’t turf this beautiful, troubled creature out into the street. Instead i came and helped, as it agonised over every scrap of paper and broken bit of pottery. What to keep, what to toss, and what to give away. I brought in professional organisers as it allowed, and we went go through each room and put it to rights, starting at the front door and working our way to the basement, which desperately needed some repairs to the foundation. We’ve progressed to the attic, and it’s time get started, but we both hesitate. I’m tired and my brain is scared. That’s where it keeps the feelings.

Which brings me to yesterday morning.
Because it’s taken me a day and a half to write this blasted thing.
Between the dreaming, the lack of restful sleep, and the anticipation and trepidation of what’s coming in therapy, it’s a sign and a wonder that i can put pants on and string together an intelligible sentence.

So yeah, yesterday i had to take Kiddo to the doctor, and because i no longer drive, and i couldn’t find someone free to help us out, we had to hitch a ride into the city with my husband, and then we had to find something to do until he was done for the day and could drive us home. Which means there would be people and i must do the peopling.

I woke at 5, bone tired and in a sour mood. I tried to keep it to myself, but it was taxing, and my anxiety level was rising as the hour of his appointment approached.
A little higher getting my coat and boots on.
A little higher on the highway heading in.
A little higher entering the city limits.

By the time my husband drops us off at the doctor’s office, i’m stretched so tight my face hurts, and i’m inexplicably furious at him – so much so i walk into the building without a kiss, because i know i’m irrational and i’m pretty sure i’d bark at him if i got close enough. My son can see the strain and he’s quiet and gentle with me, checking himself in and then sitting down without talking like we usually would. He looks at his phone and gives me space until his name is called.

Hubby texts and i’m anxious and still a bit miffed, so i’m terse in my replies. He tolerates me because he knows what it’s about. I’m cranky, not abusive. Kiddo is done and i don’t want to leave, because then it’s the bus and people, and then the library and more people, and then lunch at some restaurant full of people. And i know they’re not looking at me, but sharing space with them makes me feel vulnerable and exposed. My switching tics have returned recently, and i’ve even started vocalising some of the chatter that goes on in my head. Little blurts of other voices. After years of effort spent trying to marshal my inner forces, to win the trust and respect of my battle-worn soldiers, they’re a bit excitable and i fear they may break ranks.

I’m texting with a friend, trying to remain calm, but not having much luck. I can feel myself slipping and tell my husband. My son wants to get food before we take the bus downtown, and i’m starting to twitch and i want to scream -actually fucking scream- and i start mixing up who i’m texting with and my friend sends a ???
My husband texts again and has arranged with his boss to take 2hrs off and get me home. Which you’d think would be great news and a relief and holyfrackisitever! so why is my body shuddering and my face getting all squinchy like i’m gonna goddamn cry?

I don’t cry. I get choked up sometimes, but i don’t cry. I can tear up over other people’s lifestuffs – i’m an empathetic person. And if i’m going to actually cry about something in my life, you’d better believe that happens by myself around 90% of the time – the other 10% is with my husband and i’ve likely been drinking…

My son wraps his arms around my shoulders and pulls me to him and says it’s okay, that everything is going to be all right. My face is wet and i’m getting snotty and i can feel my most trusted alter coming through to take care of things, because i’m crying in a public place and people are looking at me and this cannot continue, and i can’t stop it.

She helped me until i could come back. I don’t know what made it so that i could, probably just getting back home and taking some time, but things were okay, as we all knew they would be: my husband, my son, my friend on the phone, and i knew, and even most of my system. I know why i can’t sleep and why i’m dreaming so much, just like i know that i will get through this chunk of therapy and be a happier, more effective and functional human when it’s done. We’re going up to the attic, my brain and i, and we’re going to take those feelings out of their boxes, and we’re going to hold them until we know where they go.

I put my tears away until i got home, when i emptied all my pockets out on this page for you. Take care of yourself as best you can and i’ll do the same.

~H~

Image: Die Jungfrau (1913), Gustav Klimt

Fear Is The Mind Killer

Content Warning: This piece contains references to integration, which may be triggering for some.

When routine bites hard
And ambitions are low
When resentment rides high
And emotions won’t grow
And we’re changing our ways
Taking different roads

Love, love will tear us apart again
~Love Will Tear Us Apart, Evelyn Evelyn

This next part must come now, or it won’t. I’m committed to talking about my multiplicity – a lot here, maybe sometimes a little outside the protective bubble of the etherosphere where i dwell. (Did you see what i did there? I like it. Also, my use of qualifiers seems to be directly proportional to my difficulty with the subject matter. I’ll try to edit as many out as i can before i post, heh.)
In my prior entry, i wrote about how i hadn’t been paying enough attention to the people that live in my brain, and how once i did, i recognised that something was terribly wrong.

A little background before i get into what’s happened:

There are some multiples for whom success is integration, and others for whom that isn’t even on the table as a possibility. I fall into the latter camp. It felt, on a visceral level, like that would be akin to murdering the people who’d saved my life. I set about carving out a functional and satisfying life for all of us, which was no small task, and in fact took me nearly a decade to achieve. My system works from the agreement amongst us that i am the head, and i am in charge. There’s really no other way for this to work, because i have an intellectual understanding that my people aren’t actually real – they were created by me in order to help me survive my upbringing.

You may well ask, If you know they aren’t real, then how would integration be murder?
I’m not quite sure if i have a reasonable answer, but what i can say is that it’s the way i’ve learned to live with how my brain works. This involves a constant tinkering to find a workable balance between thoughts and feelings, between imagination and reality, and on finding a way to live in and be a part of the world as much as possible, while still honouring and protecting the parts of me that are broken and delicate and deserve to be shielded from any more pain or ugliness. In living my life as if they are real – i’m healing myself.

Multiples are no different from anyone else in that we must all find or create our own path, no one’s journey through life is exactly like anyone else’s. I’ve sought healing and happiness through examining what happened to me and learning as much as i can about how i coped, and what that might say about me as a person (and what it might not). I’ve been intensely self-focused for nearly 20yrs now, and as with most of us who get exceptional at anything, i’d been managing my people well for enough time that i’d become complacent.

When i finally turned my eyes and ears inward, i discovered that some of my people were missing. I asked after them and was mostly met with stony silence. A couple of them yelled things at me, but it was name calling, not information. Those that i know would help me were being hidden from me, and i had to listen to cursing and condemnation before any cooperation was going to happen. I’m not going to describe what happened in any more detail than that, as it’s private and it’s weird, and frankly i’m not sure i can paint a word picture that would make enough sense to either of us for me to bother.

They were gone, and no one wanted to talk about it.
When i think things, as a multiple, it is as if i’m talking to other people (sometimes at, because no one is listening, heh). Usually there’s at least one response, and occasionally it’s many. There can also be other conversations already happening, or what i “say” can spur some side conversation, in other words 2 or more of my people want to talk to each other about what i just said. There’s often murmurs that follow, where i can catch a snippet or 2, but it’s more like a sussuration unless i consciously focus on it. This time, i’m wondering where a few of my people are, i’m thinking that i don’t remember hearing from them recently, and it happens just like BOOM! in a moment:

I know they’re gone.
I’m struck by the terrible, thick, unnatural (as in NEVER happens) silence.
I’m at once overwhelmed by their feelings of fear, and my legs are watery and my head is floaty and i’m hit with a violent wave of nausea.

I don’t know how long i sat there, but i know i must have been acting weird, because suddenly i was aware that my dogs were at me, one was pawing my face, and the other was sitting at my feet, staring directly at me, which isn’t like her. At this point, i get up and go back about my day. This is the beginning of a couple of weeks spent in a highly dissociative state. I sort of forget about what happened, but i’m also aware of it, like a dark figure, always present at the edge of my peripheral vision. I’m easily startled at the best of times, but now i’m jumping out of my skin fairly regularly. And i’m losing time, nearly every day.

I was able to keep to my regular schedule, which is no small point of pride, for me. Yet i was filled with foreboding, and felt menaced by something or someone, although i knew that it was just the way my brain was manifesting what was going on in my system. I tried to cope by becoming more functional, i exercised more and was more careful with my diet, and i tackled more chores around the house. The results of that were all good, except it didn’t help with my inner turmoil much, and i knew that if i didn’t deal with what had happened soon, i’d find myself in some manufactured chaos.

One night i got royally pissed off at something, which got the ball rolling, or rather it got my tongue wagging. I told my husband that i thought some of my Bits N’ Pieces were gone. And then i think i cried for a long time.

You cry out in your sleep
All my failings exposed
There’s a taste in my mouth
As desperation takes hold
Just that something so good
Just can’t function no more

Love, love will tear us apart again
END OF PART TWO

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

Rubber, Meet Road

Hello,

I’m not doing very well today and i’m not sure what to say about that. There are terrible and private things going on in my life that i’ve no one to talk to about. I have a therapist, but money is very tight, and we can only afford for one person to be seeing her right now and that person is not me.

I have no close friendships and i’ve suspended my social media. I’m so dissociative right now that i don’t feel like i have enough self-control to be on there. Everything everyone says either frightens, angers, or hurts me. These things that i want someone to talk to about involve the only people i have to talk to…

I don’t know what to do. All i have is this little piece of cyberspace and i don’t know what inside me is currently fit to print.

I do NOT like crying and i can feel my throat tensing up. I’ve got that terrible, painful ache that lives in the space behind the bottom of my sternum. That ache that spreads behind my breastplate, reaching up to fill the gap between my shoulder blades. The headache i’ve had for weeks is now at full throb and my sinuses are swollen and painful. And there’s a piano on my chest playing anxious music that sounds like something from a 60s British horror film.

Okay, i just took an hour’s break from this.

I’ll confess that i’ve been so low that i let my personal hygeine slip last night and this morning. Hey, i wasn’t dirty or smelly okay? Just slow, heavy, tired… sad. But y’all can read other blog posts that refer to the importance of regularity and regimen in my life, and particularly in this area. Clean house, clean person. I have set these routines in place when i was in a better frame of mind, to help get me through the times when i wasn’t quite myself.

So i thought, “Well, that will be a positive thing i can put in my blog, which will be better than going full Eeyore.”

Never go full Eeyore.

So i got up and stripped off my pajamas that i’d been in all day, and i dragged my unwashed arse into the shower. After that i did my skincare and took proper care of my teeth. I even flossed and gargled. Heck, i also lotioned and spritzed and put on a clean outfit.
In part, so i could come here and report that i’d done it.
I’d set that in place, too. So yay me.  /ns (not sarcastic)

Honestly, i didn’t feel much better. A little better, but still so low.
I had defeating thoughts. Like, “It didn’t help. Nothing’s gonna help,” and “I’m not gonna get through this without screwing up.”

Anyone who deals with this sort of self talk may be able to relate when i share that i almost bought in to those thoughts. I mean, that’s what has usually happened, right? I feel this way and i can’t get out from under it. So there’s this feeling of inevitability. And then there’s the lack of energy or fighting spirit. These feelings use up so much energy. I spend most of my will coping, with not much left with which to fight. None left to fight, it seems to my exhausted mind.

But i think about what could happen if i give in and stop trying/fighting:

– police involvement,
– involuntary commitment,
– suicidal feelings/attempts,
– pain and suffering for my loved ones,
– loss of my “streak” and at least some modicum of starting over.

So i tried to focus on getting supper ready.
My worldview shrank to very small chunks of time. Minutes.

Hang in there until my husband gets home.
Put finishing touches on pot roast.
Set table.
Distract myself with an engrossing program.

I made it until he got home. I’d shared with him by text that i’d lost a large part of the day and was not doing well mentally/emotionally.
He was gentle and kind and asked concerned questions when he got home.
He provided a buffer between me and a somewhat contentious teenager (hey, it happens, and he doesn’t know how awful my day has been).
They enjoyed the meal and said so.

After supper my husband hugs me and says how sorry he is about my day.
He asks if there’s anything he can do to help.
I say he’s already helped some, and i thank him. He works 12hrs a day, 6 days/wk, and so i keep supper late, and he sits down to eat before he showers, so that we can eat together as a family, before our son retires to his room.
While he’s showering i’m sitting right here and staring at this screen, trying to think of what to type. I want to be both honest and uplifting.

And that is when i realise that i can be.

You know what?
I’m in trouble. My mental health has been threatened by a terrible event and things could go very badly for me.
I have done all this hard work because, not only do i want to be happy and good, but i know that my mental illness can be a serious impediment to achieving those things. Especially when life happens. Which it does and it always will.

So i am sitting here with my fingers poised over my keyboard – waiting for something inspiring and poetic and deep and true to zing into existence inside my brain and zap my fingers into a rhythmic ratatat-tat on these blasted keys.

Last night my busy, busy, anxious AF brain wouldn’t let me sleep, so i made 4 1/2 dozen refrigerator cookies. Chocolate Haystacks, a childhood favourite.

Today i realised that i’d lost time and i texted my husband and told him i was in a bad place.

I knew things could go badly and i knew i didn’t want them to and i knew that it’s up to me to cope.
I reminded myself that my brain works in weird and fantastical ways, and i may not handle things as well as i -or anyone else for that matter- might like.

Today, i made a labour-intensive, slowcooker pot roast, while switched.

I have made it through the day without going full Eeyore.

While i am not currently suicidal, i can feel it, looming in the background like dark wings ready to fly. Whatever comes i feel even more committed and competent to handle it than i did yesterday. And that is a reasonable expectation realised.

This piece may have a metric fuck-tonne of mistakes in it, but i think i should post it without proofreading. That’s something i never do, but i don’t want to overthink this and end up not posting because it’s so raw and lacking any flowery accoutrement. I admit i checked my spelling of the fancy French word. Heh.

Love and Peace and THANK YOU,

~H~