Treading Water

I’m having trouble writing.

Yes, again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and Peace,
~H~

Homeostasis

ho·me·o·sta·sis
/ˌhōmēəˈstāsəs/
noun
  1. the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.

This has been a good year; my most functional to date. I stopped hermitting, made a couple of friends, and reconnected with some old ones. It’s the year that i added exercise to all my lifestyle changes regarding food and eating, and all the work finally started paying off with some significant weight loss. I took up some parttime work, and i began volunteering my time in a couple of areas that matter to me.
By the time summer rolled around, i’d hit my stride and was feeling successful, and also like it was just the beginning.

Fall brought a change in the weather, dead leaves picked up and strewn about by chill winds, sucking the warmth from the ground, bringing the kind of silence that fills your ears and echoes in the stillness.
It’s analogous to what was happening in my brain; old voices whispered into an unsettling quiet, invading the hush. I shushed but they persisted, until i was so full of sound my body couldn’t contain it and it spilled out of me like Shhhhhhhh, bleeding off the pressure like a tire with too much air.

Dreams, too many, then nightmares and sleeplessness, and then the old urge to run. To get away, to go home, and for the first time in a very long time, wondering if it might be better to just stop. I didn’t know why it had gotten quiet, but i did know that it had caused fear and panic inside me. I went looking for answers in the dark corners of myself, but i only found emptiness, a yawning blackness where something once had been. The voices following after, soughing through my head like wind through trees.

No sleep, no peace, the anxious murmurs, old bones rustling like ancient scrolls. I have trouble hearing my therapist over the susurration – she repeats everything once, twice. Again please. Sorry.
She doesn’t say “integration”, she says “homeostasis”.

My switching tics return.
I stop exercising because i keep trying to “go home”.
I pull away from people, from work, from helping.
I don’t fit in my body correctly.
I break my ankle.

Maybe it seems like my year started out good, got great, and then got fucked.
Kinda accurate.
Maybe it looks like i started out walking, broke into a run, then tripped on a stone in the road and went sprawling.
I mean, that does look like road rash.

All those years spent fighting the urge my parents programmed into me to go home. I think in resisting it i found true direction. My Fortress of Solitude. My true north.
Homeostasis. HOME.

This has been a good year.

**********

I have some resolutions. I have some little goals and some bigger ones. I intend to continue on as i have been, one foot in front of the other, pushing doggedly forward, adding one kilometre onto the next, putting distance between myself and the place i was told to go, and instead heading towards the place i want to be.

My resolutions this year are less nebulous, more distinct and definitive.
They are little things like building my wardrobe to better reflect my own personal style, and having exercise be an integral part of my personal hygiene, like showering and brushing my teeth.
They are bigger things too, like blogging and keeping in touch with family and friends. Deepening my relationships; letting worthy people in a bit more.
Returning to helping and growing its scope.
Getting my house shipshape, top to bottom. Declutter. Organise. Move Kiddo downstairs and finally turn his room into my makeup/change room, with a day bed and a light-up mirror.
Keep moving our home toward healthier eating.
Read more fiction, and maybe even write some?
Blog more than last year, maybe even through the tough bits this time?

It’s 5:37am on January 1st, and i was woken by a bad dream a couple of hours ago. I got up, got a cup of tea, recorded what i remembered of the dream, and then i brought up my blog and clicked that little rounded rectangle button that says WRITE, with a plus sign, and bashed out this wee thingy.

Not a bad start to the year.
Homeostasis right now looks like bed and hubby-shnuggles.

Love and Peace To You, and Happy New Year!
~H~

Perseverance

I’m not sure what’s going on in my brain, so i’m gonna write a bit, and see if i can figure it out. Let me say plainly that this may be a dog’s breakfast, and it may not end up with any answers for me or insights for you, but it’s a coping skill that has helped in the past, and it’s one i’ve committed to using, regardless. So, even if we both wind up empty-handed, i’ll at least have the behaviour more ingrained, and i can glean some pride and self-esteem from my sticktoitiveness.

I lost my mother-in-law about a week and a half ago. I tried to write about it, but i didn’t see myself in the draft, so it’s sitting in my folder, waiting for me to find myself and tell the story that’s there.
I’m tired, though. I am so fucking tired, and i don’t know why.
Okay, well, it’s probably depression, but this one feels different. I’m trying to get through it without checking out – no booze, no drugs. Food and sex are handled for now, but i can still stumble with the other 2. And switching.
I want to make it through this depression (?)

Yeah okay, it’s a fucking depression. It is. I know it is. Just because it feels different doesn’t mean it’s not a depression. I’m tired all the time, i have no oomph, no joy, no passion, and i have absolutely no fucks to give about anything.
It’s a depression.

I want to make it through this depression without alcohol, drugs, or switching. I’m okay with a bit of sliding (meaning i’m not in the face, but i can observe what’s happening – kinda like watching myself on telly), but no losing time.
If i don’t make it, i won’t punish myself or hate myself – i’ll give my performance a proper critique, tweak my technique, and prepare for the matinee showing.
That was poetic. Or at least a bit precious, eh?

My legs are heavy, leaden. My head feels like it’s filled with fresh cement that’s in the process of hardening. I went back to bed at 10 this morning, and i’ve only been up since noon and i already want to go back to bed at 2:30. The fibro has settled into my neck and shoulders, my forearms too. It’s moved down into my thighs, which almost never happens. My back feels out of place like it hasn’t in years. My sinuses are acting like they’re infected. I’ve broken my retainer and we’re too broke to afford a new one, so i’m grinding and clenching all night and the pain in my face is excruciating.
I have no sense of time.
My head is a burden, my thoughts are tribulation.
I want chocolate and bourbon and media distractions.
I want to hide in my dreams.
I do NOT want people.
A cabin in the deep woods with books and DVDs and enough fresh snow and firewood would be pure heaven.

As i type this out i can see the truth of it; this is something tangible and it helps to look at it. While i may be feeling heavy, i am not at all grounded. I am the lead balloon. I need my feet back down on earth. I must keep moving, even if it’s a plod, plod, shuffle-stumble, plod… My feet on the ground, the smell of the earth, the pricking grip of the frigid air…

YES.
I know what i’ll do.
I will take some strong pain reliever right now. Then the vacuuming and dusting. I will throw something in a pot for supper. Then i will drink some very hot tea -not my usual black- herb. Something soothing. I like Chamomile, or some delicate mint. Then i will watch a feel-good movie. A happy-cry movie. While i’m watching, i’ll finish up the ironing that’s making me feel bad by sitting there undone, and when that’s finished i will brush out my doggy. After that i will do nothing remotely productive until i must feed my family. I’m going to retire early with a good book.

Tomorrow i’m going to return to my walks. I’m not paranoid due to mania anymore. No hallucinations.
It was the metaphors about continuing on my path. The bite of the winter air.
Ohhh, THAT’S what i need! It’s what i’m now missing.
It’s time to start walking again. I have no doubt that it’s going to help.
Holy shit, i’m excited about something.

I am marking in words on this page made of technology and ether –

Writing works for me.
My thoughts are seeds. The harmful thoughts are born in fertile ground: isolation, darkness, fear. The helpful thoughts must be planted outside, under the open sky. In the sun, with the rain and the air and the other helpful thoughts that came before, that are already growing and blooming and bearing sweet fruits.

I’m going for a walk tomorrow, before breakfast.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
~Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Traction

So, it’s clear to me that i’m gonna need to force this one out. Meh, it’s okay. Sometimes i’ve gotta drag out the first bits before it begins to flow. Sometimes the whole thing is pure straining effort, but not as often anymore.
(Did that sound like i’m constipated to you? Because i just read it and snarfled.)

The words aren’t so much stuck as i am maybe holding them back. I’m afraid to tell you this next bit. Not because it’s painful, or embarrassing, or ugly, or anything else like that. It’s because it’s good, and i’m afraid of good.

I’m afraid it’s a fluke.
I’m afraid i don’t deserve it.
I’m afraid someone will come and take it away from me.
I’m afraid it’s not real.
I’m afraid it won’t last, that something terrible will surely follow.

I’m certain i’m not the only one who struggles with good news. I was the receptacle for all my parents’ negativity. I was raised believing i was a bad seed, that i provoked the hatred and the rage and the disgust that spewed out at me. As a result i felt less than everyone around me. The teachers, preachers, caregivers, and of course, my fellow students, mostly confirmed for me that i was low and wretched, unworthy of the good things in life.

And yes, i was one of those people who would sabotage the good things. That is, if my mother didn’t do it first, so full of envy and jealousy, she was. I was approached a number of times to do commercials when i was a little girl – NO. Twice, my teachers suggested skipping me a grade – NO. Good families offered to take me in and raise me as their own – NO. By the time i left home i felt destined for a hardscrabble life. Looking back now, i see a dozen missed opportunities for really good things. At the time they were offered i didn’t even see them.

Things began to change once i started dealing with my problems, and the childhood abuse from which it all seemed to stem. I could see how badly i’d been hurt, how much wrong had been done me – having children of my own made it glaringly obvious how awful my mother had been. Although i wrestled with corporal punishment due to my continued affiliation with my religion, and when Bipolar Disorder got its teeth into me i was shamefully neglectful, but the sexual abuse, the terrible beatings, the constant manipulation of my thoughts and feelings – that was anathema to me.

Slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, i began to allow myself to want good things, and to think that maybe i even deserved them. Even typing that causes a reaction though. Still. It’s hard, but it is easier than it was, and i expect it to get better and better, as i continue to do the work that’s in front of me. I’m learning more about who i am and what i think, healing this skin suit i was born with and finally growing into it so it fits. It’s what i came into this life wearing, and it’s served me well. It’s held together despite some serious wear and tear. I’ve spent years now, stitching it up, patching the holes, mending burst seams and tacking up all the fallen hems. I’ve scrounged fabric from wherever i could get it, at first taking the stuff in the bargain bins, but working my way towards the fine and fancy bolts of cloth that are always displayed in the window. And why shouldn’t i have them? I can afford it now.

This skin suit i wear is now rather natty. I’m haute couture, y’all. I was ready to strut my stuff. Or march, as it were. And when i marched a couple of weeks ago, i felt like i belonged.
Well, maybe that’s not quite it. I still feel apart – different. I’m open to connecting with humans outside of my husband and children (and my treasured online friends), but i don’t quite have the knack of it yet. It’ll take more work and a lot of practise, i think, but that doesn’t trouble me anymore.
What i felt was that i had a right to be there. I know that that is a powerful, perhaps even crucial step in my development, and i can’t quite quantify why or how yet, but i will. I had a right to be there.

I HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE HERE.

After the march ended, my companion asked if i would go with her to the grand opening of a new refugee centre in our city. I said yes. And just like when i knew i was going to march, i knew i was going to offer to help if they would have me. And just like that i started volunteering.
The week following i was filled with this kind of simmering excitement, like i am bubbling to the surface. I’m ready to start being the person that i want to be, the person that i am, the person that i’ve always been. I acknowledged the wreckage and i cleaned up the mess, looking at every broken bit and deciding what could be fixed and what needed to be tossed. I arranged things to please myself, i brought order and functionality and let in the air and the light and made everything fresh, and i am good. to. go. Whether it’s strutting around town in my spiffy new suit (okay vintage, but revamped – like Molly Ringwald’s prom dress in Pretty in Pink), or inviting someone into my newly reno’ed home. I’m ready.

I do this blog for myself and my Peanut Gallery, #1, but a very close second is everyone out there who can relate to my experiences and struggles to be happy and functional. If i can encourage anyone to keep going, keep trying… If you struggle with your thoughts and emotions, if you think you’re worthless or hopelessly defective… I’ve been there, and i am living, breathing, functioning, reasonably happy proof that it can get better. Long term and consistently better.

Here is a list of the things i’ve done since the Women’s March on Washington:

-started volunteering,
-spent the day with my MIL at the senior’s home, with a firm commitment to do so bimonthly,
-asked my local community of friends for help with a problem (within 5mins i had offers!)
-asked a friend to come for lunch and take me and my doggie to the vet (he’s fine and so was lunch!)
-finally started work on a project i’ve had swimming around in my brain for a year or 2,
-set down some firm boundaries with someone very close,
-added more exercise to my daily than just dog-walking.

All of this is yippee-skippy, for sure, but it is also scary stuff. I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid it’s too much and i’ll self-destruct. I’m afraid of letting others down. I’m afraid of growing out of some relationships. I’m afraid of gossip and ridicule. Most of all, i’m afraid of mania. This is fertile ground for my Little Miss Maniac to wanna come out and play. But the work i’ve done has provided me with not only this foresight, but also the tools with which to handle her, should she suddenly appear.

I can and will handle it, if it happens, to the best of my abilities, and if i stumble, i will do what i have learned is perhaps my best and most admirable quality.

I will pick myself up, dust myself off, survey the damage, make recompense wherever possible, and get back to work. You just watch me.
No seriously, i mean it. Watch me. Anyone who reads anything here that i have posted – know that you matter to me. You’re a great help to me. Knowing you’re reading, relating, empathising, witnessing. You’re tremendous, and i thank you.

Always,
~H~

Off You Go

I like this British idiom. It seems to mean giving someone leave to go and do something in particular. An informal, but not unkind way to indicate that if one is prepared for a particular action, then one should go ahead and begin.

So off i go…

I’ll be spending this year concentrating on small, significant lifestyle tweaks that are intended to improve my health and well-being. Not just mental and emotional, but physical too. My physical health has consistently taken a back seat to my other issues, but i intend to make it a priority this year. I tried to last year, but i just didn’t have enough good brain days to make it work. Now, i finally have some decent experience with managing my mental issues, and i’ve been able to live months (MONTHS!) without any significant chaos or mental hiccoughs.

Don’t get me wrong, life still happens. I have a particularly large issue that finally required my complete attention last year. I’ve been in the shit ever since because of it, and after a year of quietly and calmly dealing with it, it’s clear that it’s not going anywhere, anytime soon. And just to make things interesting, another issue is surfacing, one that may prove particularly challenging, and one that holds the potential for a lot of short-term drama. Whee.

I’m implementing two small changes to my lifestyle today. One is that i intend to go for a walk outside every day. No matter the weather and no matter the company, and regardless of whether i’m on the treadmill or elliptical that day. I live in a beautiful place, where i’m very fortunate not to have to see people regularly. I’m also most fortunate to have furry companions that love to go for walkies. I already take them out fairly regularly, but it’s one of the first things to go when i’m feeling low. Physical exercise and being outdoors have both been proven in multiple peer-reviewed, scientific studies to have a positive effect on mental illness, both in prevention of onset symptoms and treatment should symptoms occur. So that’s pretty clearly a beneficial addition to my daily schedule.

The second thing is no eating after 9pm. Pure suckage here, but it’s an absolute no-brainer. I’ve been a nighthawk my entire life, and i’m trying to transition slowly into a more regular schedule. It’s been tough. Daytime means people and normalcy and nighttime means alone and as strange as i wanna be. There are all kinds of studies out that show some initial support for certain kinds people having legitimate reasons for keeping late hours, but they aren’t definitive, and even if they were i wouldn’t care. I want to experience life as a Daywalker. I may actually like it – hell, i might even prefer to live amongst the living. Heh.

Of course it’s not just the matter of my circadian rhythms. Food and weight have been an issue since i was 8yrs old. There were many nights that i ate myself into a coma and woke with one helluva hangover. And although i haven’t lived like that for over a decade, my weight has crept back up due to mental illness, medication, and yes, complacency. I’ve addressed the illness, and my medications levels may always require adjustment, but it’s time to require more of myself with regards to eating. Nothing to eat after 9pm will encourage me to go to bed at a reasonable hour, and it should also keep me from more than one after supper snack. Plus, my brain seems to be really grooving on a regular schedule. I think i might thrive on rules and regimens. Rules and regimens that are mine, made by me, of course. Because screw you – i do what i want.

Oh and by the way, life has thrown me a super suckass curve ball today. Just its way of welcoming me to the neighbourhood. Life can be a real asshole. Still and all, i’m gonna finish my tea, put on a sweater, and take my fuzzbuddies for a walk.

dogbone