Elephants, Snakes, and Bears

Anxiety.
I haz it.
I don’t have a diagnosis, but i could probably get one. I figure what i’ve already got on my plate as a diagnosed bipolar/multiple is enough. Long ago i decided that i was just gonna deal with how my brain works, and not get bogged down with labels.

One thing that helped me come to that decision was the mental health care system in my area. I’d only dealt with social workers, therapists, and church counselors until i catapulted into my first full blown mania in my 30s. Then i was in and out of psych wards and a mental hospital, and put under the care of psychologists and psychiatrists, various and sundry. What i experienced wasn’t particularly helpful or pleasant. The diagnoses and medications would change depending on what doc was in charge that day. I’ve been called borderline, schizophrenic, narcissistic, chronically depressed (but no mania), hypochondriacal, even antisocial (the most patently ridiculous of them all).

The other thing that cemented my decision to at least try some less conventional treatments was aaaall the freaking druuuugs, man.* I’ve been summarily yanked off of medications that one should be weaned from. I’ve been placed on meds that have dangerous interactions with other meds i was currently on. I’ve had doctors treat the diagnosis that they gave me, with medications that are clearly meant for another diagnosis. One psychiatrist had me on 6 different medications, 3 of which were only for treating the side effects caused by the other 3.
And he wanted to put me on a seventh.

I went from a psych ward to a mental hospital, only to have the doctor in charge there change my diagnosis (and of course my meds), and treat me with a therapy that is directly contraindicated for how my brain really works. If you’ve been in and out of the system too, you might be like me and now do a lot of reading and research and vetting sources. I’ve had to learn to advocate for myself – i was getting regularly psychically concussed from all the pingponging done by the pros in the field. I was sick and tired and getting crazier rather than better.

I went to my family doctor, and she agreed to help me get off the meds i was on and find someone else to help me. I was using up the shelf life of my organs for no good results. The next drug being pushed on me was one that is notoriously zombifying. Why would i take it if none of the 20 others i’d tried had helped me at all?

I found my current therapist (Ms T) during this period. She specialises in treating multiples. As none of the doctors would touch the DID diagnosis with a 10′ pole (some spent time and energy lecturing me on the terrible mistake it had been to put it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), and they hadn’t helped me manage living with Bipolar Disorder… Well, i was desperate, close to a more permanent sort of commitment to a care facility, and she would come to me at my house because i couldn’t leave it.
Kind of a no-brainer.

The DID controversy persists to this day. During the first few years of my work with Ms T, i still had to go to hospital for mental health care frequently. I knew the problems i was dealing with were a direct result of my dissociative issues, but i would only refer to being bipolar. I’d mentioned DID twice, and that’s all it took for me to learn not to bother. I could see their eyes glaze over and feel their emotional distancing.

All this to say, yeah, i’m anxiety-girl. It’s a bigger issue than dissociation right now. I’ve got a piano on my chest, and an elephant is bashing away at the keys with its trunk. Sometimes my heart feels like it’s being squeezed by an invisible hand, and sometimes it skips beats and feels as if it may tear out of my ribs, opening me up like poor old Kane on the Nostradamus. It can beat so fast it seems as if i must surely be having a heart attack. I can hear the blood rushing in my ears. My fingers get numb and tingly. I feel electric needles prickling at my breast, all the way through to the soft flesh near my shoulder blades.

I’m scared for my husband to go to work, and i’m scared for our once a week grocery trips. This Saturday, while i was waiting for him to catch up to me with the cart, i was gripped by an anxiety attack so bad i had to set my items down on the floor in front of at least a dozen people in line. I walked on rubbery legs to go sit on the grass at the far end of the parking lot, to run through my calming techniques for when i’m in the grips of it. He came and sat beside me, and asked What’s wrong?
I hissed at him and asked, What do you think?

Cluing in, he began running through all the reasons why i shouldn’t be worried, why it’ll all be okay. He’s done it before, bless his heart, and he might well do it again. The Copperhead living in my mouth struck before he could get on to statistics and Health Authority admonishments.

“ANXIETY IS NOT RATIONAL!!”
I asked him if he thought i wasn’t intelligent and informed. I asked him if he hadn’t been listening when we conversed on the subject of our current pandemic situation. I asked him if he remembered when i’ve told him that my anxiety doesn’t care about skepticism or experts or the scientific method or statistical data.
(I was snappish, but not verbally abusive, if you follow my blog and were wondering.)

The man knows when to slow his roll, and he did. He became gentle and soft. He smiled, said he was sorry, and asked how he could help. I told him that i don’t always know, but i do know that telling me he’s here and he cares is probably going to be a good place to start.
I bristle if someone starts asking me if i’m doing any of the things they may have heard help cope with anxiety. And don’t try logic, because my anxiety doesn’t respond to logic. Tell me you’re willing to help if i ask, but let me ask. Let me ask for help running through the 5-4-3-2-1 method. Let me ask for help with my yogic breathing. Let me ask for you to hold me or only my hand or place yours in the small of my back. Don’t ask questions – just tell me you’re here, and then be silent and mindful and as calm as you can manage.

I’m not going to write about the thoughts and feelings i was wrestling with, because i know a lot of us are, and i know i don’t need to bring them to mind again. You’ve got your worries and i’ve got mine and we’re all under enough stress. Let’s not poke the bear, eh? It starts bellowing and then that elephant will roll in with its cursed piano.
We both have trunks, but mine isn’t my shnozz. It’s my brain and there are all kinds of toys, treasures, tools, and yes, tricks in there.

It doesn’t matter what anyone else calls those little tricks and trip-ups. This is me and this is how my brain works.
It’s as simple as that.
Heh.

I’m not going to diagnose anyone else’s brain stuffs.
I’m not going to tell anyone else how it looks when you’ve been given a mental health diagnosis.
But i am going to reiterate, in case anyone else struggling with anxiety and panic in these strange and stressful times can relate:

My anxiety is not rational.

Hang in there as best you can. I’m doing the same. It’s messy AF, but i’m getting the job done.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*I’m not antidrug. I’m 100% for taking medications when and where a doctor and their patient make the decision to do so. I wouldn’t hesitate to take a medication suggested by the health care professionals i have on my team now. They know me, they know my lifestyle, what i’m capable of, and what my goals are – and i trust them all.

Bring It!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and Peace,
~H~

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

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

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

Promise

WARNING: This piece contains graphic, specific speech regarding child sex abuse.

Also, a brief note: These are the thoughts and musings of my mind, only. This isn’t an invitation to discussion, nor a request for answers regarding any of the “questions” asked herein. I would say they’re better characterised as “wonderings”. If any of this piece triggers a strong response, the place for a rousing discussion/debate on any of this is not here.

Thank you,
~H~

**********

I made a promise, Mr Frodo. A promise. “Don’t you leave him Samwise Gamgee.” And I don’t mean to.
~ The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

People hurt me.

They just do.

I’ve been both irresistibly attracted to and repelled by them since i can remember.
I wonder if it’s like that for most of us, all of us, or particularly those of us who are survivors of abuse, or maybe just anyone who’s neuroatypical. I don’t know. I just know i love people, but i can’t be around them too much.

Maybe it’s because, when the person who gives birth to you does what my mom did to me, it splits you in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with my diagnosis.
I need you, but you hurt me.
I can’t live without you, but you keep putting my life in jeopardy.
How do i reconcile needing people, but also being tremendously harmed by them?

I do not fucking know.

What i’m saying right now feels so deep and poetic and emotional.
Ha.
Not at all. No more than anything else.
My experience
Yours
Hers
His
Beautiful and tragic and transcendent, all. To a one.

Sometimes i feel so alone that i think my life, my suffering, must be some kind of poetry.
But it is and isn’t – no more than yours and theirs.

If i elevate my rape, mustn’t i also then elevate the time you fell and skinned your knee alone – with no one to cry out and care and comfort you? Am i worshipping at the altar of pain? Must pain be pain, regardless, lest i risk the sick admiration -the twisted crown- bestowed to whomever’s been through the most?

1 rape
2 rapes
2 dozen
3 hundred

Baby
Toddler
Precocious child
Does the rape when i was 21 mean less because i was an adult
Does it matter that i’d still never had sex by choice at that point
Does it matter that it was someone who said they loved me
Would it matter more if we were related
Would it have been better if he’d used a knife
More legitimate
More understandable that i’m a total fuckup

Why would it fuck me up that i started sucking dicks before i even had teeth
I was a baby and i don’t remember, so what’s my problem
Or do i get big sympathy points for baby rape
How much of a waste of skin do i get to be that my mom was the one who sexually prepared me to be raped by the various people she gave me to

Cringe
Feel uncomfortable
Stop reading – i totally get it
That’s some ugly, revolting shit to read
To live it, there will never be words

I know i sound angry, and ohyoubestbelieve i am
But that is not my current overarching feeling
When i’m able to speak, to put words to what is my day-to-day existence right now
I say i’m scared
I’m scared all the time

I’ve stopped leaving my house again
I go to my room when someone comes to the door
The phone is an abomination, an affront to nature
I force myself to keep 1 curtain open
Some light

**********

I don’t know what to tell you if you’ve gotten this far. I’m sorry for the words, but they’re mine and this seems to be what i have to do to have the life i want.
Feel what i feel while knowing what i know. Put my pieces back together. Become whole.
TO BE WHOLE.
Oh my, can you even imagine?
I cannot quite, yet. But i aim to.
I am the lidless eye, pouring all my focus into the having of it.

I had to have a phone sesh with my therapist this last week. It’s better than nothing, until i’m able to leave the house. It was way more of a fruitful hour than i’d have thought possible on the phone, definitely the most impactful of my experience. One of the many things i love about my therapist is that she knows what i need to hear. She is not a tough love therapist, or a preachy therapist, or a psychotherapist (i’ve walked out of a few of those offices, heh). She’s not a do this/do that therapist. She’s not a “time’s up, see you next week” therapist.

She’s a mother.
She comforts, she soothes, she loves, she holds space.
She wept for me when i couldn’t shed a single tear for myself.
She’s shelter.
She asks me what i want, what i need, and helps me figure it out because i don’t have a fucking clue.
Soft fury pours out of her eyes as she gently, always gently, speaks her bleeding heart for all of us that have suffered as i’ve suffered, watering the desert inside me.
She cheers me on, she cheers me up.
She thinks i’m a superhero. She said so.
Can you fucking believe that?

So, we’re talking on the phone, which means she’s quietly, calmly asking me questions, and then we wait 1 minute, 2, while i try to make my mouth move. It’s a difficult and frustrating process (at least for me, i can’t speak for her), because there’s pressure inside me not to speak. I was raised/indoctrinated/brainwashed/threatened/beaten to never speak of these things. There are many parts of me who were made to keep the secrets. Not only that, but after all the work i’ve already done, there’re lots of parts of me that’ve been freed to speak, too. My therapist asks me a question and i’m immediately flooded with intense force to keep quiet. Also with words from those who have something to say. The push-pull fills me with distress. Sometimes i choke the words out, sometimes i whisper, sometimes i snark, sometimes i sob them out, and many more times than i’d wish – i say nothing.

I share with her how i’m not sleeping; how i’m afraid i’ll die. How we’re ALL afraid i’ll die. I tell her i can’t leave the house again. I tell her i’m scared all the time.

She says, You’re not scared, H.
You could probably hear the click of my rolling eyeballs over the phone as i spat, Oh really?
She says No. You’re not scared, you’re absolutely terrified. Your little Bits N’ Pieces carry the memories of what happened, but your body carries the memories of how it felt.
She says, You’re feeling terror; you feel in fear for your life because that’s how it felt when you were being hurt.
And the nights are worse because that’s when they came, to which i reply, Mostly.*

After that, we do some work on how to take care of the babies that live in my brain that aren’t real. I cringe at the merest entertainment of the thought that i might share some of how that looks.
I’ll think about it.

**********

I’m sorry for this post in a way, because it is harsh and sad and terrible, but this is how my brain works and this is my life right now and i made a promise to do my best to share. I am getting to the meat of the matter, and it smells of rot and filth and death.

I’m also not at all sorry for this post. One, because i’m a multiple, so i feel/think all the things at the same time (please feel free to join me in a hearty snort here), but also because it’s brought me closer to my goal, it’s made me more present in my mind and body, and it’s brought me precious hope that i can continue.

I intend to crest the peak of Mount Doom, where i shall toss this evil, poisonous thing that i’ve carried all my days, and watch it burn away to nothing in the eternal fire.
And that will be the finest and greatest moment of my life.

If this brought stuff up for you, do what you know to do to take care of yourself.
With Love and Gratitude,
~H~

*Of course my nerdbrain goes straight to Newt in Aliens and i giggle a little inside, because i’m a dark and twisty nerd. Heh.

Yo, Knock It Off!

Growing up, i learned not to complain about anything. There was no point, unless i was looking for a beating. A lot of my circumstances i didn’t even recognise as abusive or neglectful,  and any time i did, i was adept at putting it away somewhere inside myself and never thinking about it again.

When i got away and out on my own, that changed a little. I became hypersensitive to some low-level wrongs (the value i’m placing on these may not be anyone else’s), like being misunderstood, spoken to harshly, feeling excluded or ignored. I had no idea how to address these issues, but i had a great deal of experience with passive-aggressive behaviours, and that became my routine method of handling them. I was the stereotypical wife who slammed kitchen cupboards and furiously cleaned the house. When my husband would ask me what was wrong, i’d snap Nothing, stonefaced.

My second way to express it, was to GTFO; i’d leave the situation immediately, sometimes even end the relationship (if there was one) entirely. My past is probably littered with dead relationships with people who have no idea why i left. I’m a pro at ghosting. When the person who gave you life treats you the way my mother treated me, i think it can create a hard, twisted, dead part inside you.* I have the ability to cut off contact, completely, utterly, and immediately, with a loved one. I close a door between us and it is done. It’s only been in the last couple of years that i’ve been addressing this practise of mine, and it’s been quite the sticky wicket.

More than a few times i’ve heard from friends that there is an uncrossable line inside me, a place where none can come. That one can only know me so well, before approaching the locked door. Implacable me. The big fat NOPE. Reading my blog, you might find that strange, but let me assure you that the observation is correct and well-earned. I was raised in hiddenness, taught that i was bad and dirty, drank down a steady draught of shame until it spilled out of my body and filled the space around me and i had to grow gills to breathe in it. Until only a few short years ago, i believed that if you really knew me, you’d leave me. Immediately, and in disgust. And so i learned tricks to manipulate people into sticking with me. I didn’t think it out as consciously as i share this. Heh. No, i knew i was a sneak and a fake –my mother had told me these things since i can remember– but i didn’t think clearly that i must control the flow of information about me in order to have relationships with anyone. It was the subconscious impetus that guided all my interactions with other humans that i desired to have in my life. I was the Beast who’d give access to anywhere in the castle, save the wing that houses his dying rose. And if i caught you sniffing around, you’d likely get a similar reaction to his; a lot of roaring and throwing things.

If you really knew me, you would leave me.

I have a speckled, rocky, treacherous, traitorous history with friendship. I’ve spent decades now trying to unravel and decipher what i did, what they did, where my culpability lies and where it actuallyseriouslynoreally wasn’t me, it was them. I want to know the truth. One thing i’m not afraid of is truth. Okay, that’s not entirely true, as it is also not totally true that lies are pain. But the lie i was forced to live as truth caused me nothing but pain and suffering and separated me from life and those around me who were truly living it. So, in this particular instance i am not at all afraid (anymore, cuz laws yes, was i ever!) to know what i did wrong and where and to whom.

This need to control every aspect of how i present myself to various loved ones and sundry, has bled into every interaction i have. Just day-to-days, it’s not necessarily a high price to pay, or even wrong. I’m of the opinion that when the cashier asks me how i am today, it’s okay for me to respond Fine, even if i’m far from it, for various reasons. they’re just doing they’re job, i don’t feel like mentioning how much my day sucks, there’s a bunch of people in line behind me and they ain’t here for that, etc. There are times though, when my fear and shame-based tightlipped interactions and forced joviality have cost me too much. I’ve come away hurt and diminished.

All this to relate something that happened to me yesterday.

I went to see a movie with my husband. The last time we went to a theatre we were with one of our sons, and the person sitting behind him kept kicking his seat. He wanted to handle it on his own, and so i had to sit back and watch him do it in a way that i wouldn’t have. Grrr, but he’s grown and he gets to, and that’s good for both of us. I’m excellent at standing up for other people, known and loved or not. But last night my son wasn’t there and the seat-kicking was happening to me, and it wasn’t just 1 person, it was half the row, and it wasn’t just any group, it was a group of teenagers. Ugh.

Teenagers are a tough group for me. Not because i don’t like them – i like them very much. I have a patience, understanding, and tolerance for them that i don’t see often enough. It’s a good quality, but it comes from a bad place, and has required some understanding and some tempering to know when to use it and to what degree. My teen years were hell, and a lot of my peers were awful to me, and if they weren’t awful, they stood by and watched or ignored while i was teased and bullied every single day. So i carried unresolved pain and anger into my adulthood, and when you add in some of my teenage parts, this created an unhealthy need in me for teenager’s approval. I wanted them to like me and think i’m cool. I used them as bandages for old wounds. When mania had hold of me, i’d gravitate towards younger people. I was trying to relive those years; to fix the loneliness, the exclusion, the mean girls who made sport of me, the cute boys who didn’t want me, the parties and crazy adventures to which i was never invited. The fat, dirty, dishevelled, poor, weird girl.

These kids were just being kids, sure, but we were watching a horror movie. I love horror movies, i love being startled, freaked out, and have the everloving crap scared outta me (in a movie – IRL i hate these things because i often lose control of the face). I couldn’t get any buildup of suspense because my chair was being jiggled by giggly teenagers every 30 seconds or less. I consciously decided to handle it. I thought about it and figured they might not respond like i’d want, and briefly went over in my mind what i was willing to do about it. I asked myself how far i’d go, and quickly ran over a few likely scenarios, but not too deeply, because movie.

I started with a polite request for them to stop kicking my seat. It resumed after mere minutes, at which time i looked pointedly back at them, raised 2 of my fingers and said, That’s twice. It only stopped for a few minutes, but i gave them a break while they went and got more snacks and used the washroom. After a couple of minutes of settle-back-in-your-seats time, i looked back at them and said, loudly enough for the entire theatre to hear, Yo, knock it off! When i received more chair jiggling less than 2mins later, i got up and complained to management, who followed me back to my seat, taking note while i pointed out the 6 or so teens that were causing my problem.

I sat back down and was hit with intense body reaction. I was shaking and had to bring my breathing under control… But it wasn’t hard, and i settled quickly. I decided that if it didn’t stop at that point, i was prepared to go and ask for a refund and try again tonight. There were a couple of minor jiggles in the first 2 or 3mins after they were warned, but nothing after that. When the movie was nearly over and it was mushy, tying-up-loose-ends stuff, i asked myself what i’d do if they came for me in any way as we were leaving. I decided i didn’t need to even look at them. If they had words for me, i might ignore or i might engage, depending on what they said, but i found i wasn’t angry at them. I bore no ill will at all. They were just kids being kids, but i had the right to enjoy my movie undisturbed, and part of growing up is realising it’s not just about you.

I didn’t even need to process it with my husband on the way home, which is a wow kinda thing. I’m very introspective (hahaha, no kidding, H) and will often go over human interactions somewhat *ah* obsessively. This happened, i handled it, and it was no big deal. They may understand or not – it doesn’t matter. They may talk about me and what a bitch i was – not my business. I have a circle of friends who know me and care about me and they are more than enough. I don’t need everyone to like me. It’s an unhealthy and impossible goal, and it doesn’t shield me from pain and abandonment anyway. Plus, i’m not a teenager anymore and they are not my peers.

It’s not a big deal, but it is. To hide who i am and to take the shit some people will heap on me was what i was born to do. Standing up for myself, even in small ways like this one, saying No, or Stop! don’t come naturally to me. In fact, it goes against my entire upbringing. That is to say, it’s a helluva thing for me to do, and i’m a bit pleased with myself right now.

Thought i’d share.

Therapy tomorrow. Yeehaw.

I’ll post again soon.
Love and Peace,
~H~

*”Can”, not “will” or “must”.

The Elephant

WARNING: This contains some specific references to childhood sexual abuse and integration with regards to DID/MPD. Consider speaking with your p-doc or mental health go-to before proceeding. Take good care.

**********

I’ve been ruminating over what’s happening to me through this recent therapy.
I mean, of course i have – duh. What else does one do when one is getting their head shrunk?
I’m navel-gazing.

I’ve been in the hospital twice since getting back into therapy this last fall. Nothing as glamourous as being placed in a soft room wearing a sweater with extra long sleeves that tie up in the back.
Just detox.
Not at all pretty, with no romantic wash of the tortured poet.
Just a woman whose demons are so terrifying and whose memories so fantastically ugly that i’ve been hiding in the oblivion of alcohol.

Alcohol and drugs were used to keep me compliant as a child.
I won’t go into lurid detail, but
— Here, drink this —
** SMILE **

As an adult i didn’t have much use for it.
I mean, i could party, but i didn’t much care for the blotto, head-hanging-over-the-toilet, devastating hangover the next day, sort of drinking i saw in others.
I was the one who held your hair out of your face.
I was the one who made sure you got home.

Then came my devolution.
A sweet social worker in service to a crazy pastor at the cuckoo church i was attending was finally able to convince me of my multiplicity.
I fell in love with and married a beautiful atheist.
I freaked right the fuck out and promptly gained over 200lbs.
I had weight loss surgery and lost it all plus more.

And then i had my first bipolar mania, and i discovered booze.
Food and fat had been my medication and my protection, keeping the pain and the fear and the people who live with me in my brain at bay.
When that fell away, i felt completely exposed and vulnerable – but of course i lacked that insight at the time. All i knew was everyone thought i was beautiful and sexy and wanted to be close to me and give me things.
Mostly attention.
Sexual attention.

I was easily lured into working in the entertainment industry. I’d had some experience as a child and enjoyed some success. My mother’s abuse and neglect of me, coupled with her own dysfunction and envy/jealousy, made certain i never got very far with it. I’d get involved in something, get noticed, get offered opportunities, and she’d either put the kibosh on them straight away, or we’d be moving soon to escape creditors/social workers anyway.

But the problem was i wasn’t a child anymore, and my system hadn’t been more than minimally active for a long, long time.

I was quite unprepared to be struck with crippling stage fright. My job came to the rescue because it revolved around making sure people spent money on –yep, you guessed it– alcohol.
Guess what made my stage fright disappear?
Guess what made all the sexual attention i got tolerable, even enjoyable?
Guess what took away the fear of being exposed and vulnerable because i no longer took up as much space?

The booze and the mania swept me along for years. I practically abandoned my children and nearly destroyed my marriage. In a brief moment of clarity (sometimes referred to as a DUI), i realised i needed to get away from the place i lived and the industry i worked in.
The geographical change wasn’t the cure, but it made the disease more easily treatable.
This was the place where i finally found a mental health professional i could trust; i could work with her and figure my shit out and get my feet planted firmly on the ground and begin my slow, dogged plodding toward a decent level of function and some semblance of normalcy.

I got to a place where my body, my marriage, my children, and my home, were all in a manageable, reasonably healthy place. I was even handling my system. I was in the face most of the time. There was a bit of sliding around, but not much switching. I’m highly dissociative (naturally, heh), so i was always coping with that as best i could, but there was very little chaos.
Except for relationships outside my husband and children.

While learning to live as a multiple, i either lost or walked away from every friendship i had, and became completely estranged from any family.
Don’t misunderstand – that is not a bad thing. My life is better for it, but i did want some new friends.
The difficulty was i couldn’t do it.
I had absolutely zero experience with making friends. In the past, i’d just fallen into them, or the other person had pursued the friendship and i’d just gone along with it.
I barely knew who i was, let alone how to be myself and make a friend.

It was then i discovered yet another serious mental/emotional problem of mine – social anxiety.
I HAZ IT.
If i’m the engine of my train, i’m pulling plenty of cars, y’all. I carry passenger cars with a profusion of riders, but i’ve also got more than a few hoppers full of a combustible black rock called ANXIETY. It’s fueled nearly every social interaction i’ve ever had.
I’ve always found it difficult to people, but being a multiple at least made it less obvious to me. Being dissociative tamped down the nervousness and dampened the awkwardness.

And being morbidly obese gave me a doctor’s note excusing me from gym class, indefinitely.

When i found myself out and about in the world again, not just without the body armour of fat, but armed with the knowledge that i was my own army…
I was boots on the ground with no lieutenant and no orders.

Once again, alcohol made everything easier.
HA.
Until, of course, it didn’t.
I found a lot of drinking buddies, but no one knew me, and i didn’t know them. That’s certainly not their fault – all the booze did for me was make it easier to hide myself and therefore less scary to be around people. It gave me the illusion of friends.

Speaking frankly (why should i stop now, and also, my name is Shirley), i know folks who navigate that lifestyle well. They meet at the bar for a few drinks after work, sometimes they get loaded on the weekend, they have friends over for supper and they crack open a few beers or uncork some wine… They do these things with their genuine friends who truly know them and their relationships are strong and do not revolve around drinking.

I couldn’t manage my intense fear and crippling social anxiety without it – so i pulled away from everyone and hermitted in my Little Crooked House for years.
Not to hide. Not to avoid.
To do the work required to learn who i am and how to live as functionally as possible as more than one person occupying the same body. To hang out with and get to know my precious Bits N’ Pieces.
To know myself, so that when i was ready to return to real life social interactions, i would be able to stay present, in the face, in my body, and engage with people.
And who knows, maybe make a friend or 2.

I discovered i could socialise without drinking with no problem.
It was a transformative and cathartic experience.
I pursued a friendship with someone who is now my best friend.

So why have i needed hospital help to detox, twice in the last few months?

My childhood experiences taught me that using alcohol made scary situations not-scary.
This new round of therapy i’m in is all about feeling all the things that my abusers gave me alcohol and drugs to not feel.
The fear, the pain, the hopelessness, and awful, terrible aloneness that they visited upon me – over and over and over again, for years and years and years.

So now, while grownup me no longer needs or even wants the crutch of being chemically numbed, there are little scraps and wisps and snippets of lovely little creatures inside me, for whom that is all they know.

On the way to every appointment with my therapist, my throat starts to ache, i feel like i need to puke, to defecate, my genitals burn.
I sit in a chair in her office with my legs tucked up underneath me and a pillow clutched tightly against me, covering my girl parts – so i won’t run. So i can sit there with her and ride out the pain and the abject terror.

So that i might be more than just in control of the way my brain works.
So that i might be more than just the Captain of this ship of fools.
So that i might be more than just able to function in the world, on the world’s terms.

So that i might be 1 engine
1 retired soldier, a celebrated veteran of a war long over
1 beautiful tapestry with all the threads intricately and astoundingly woven together
1 song, with a thousand voices in perfect unison
Kintsugi
Not just to navigate the world, but to be a living, breathing, integral part of the world.

It’s excruciating work for me, let alone for children. These programmed, invaluable wee ones want their medication. Numbness. Oblivion.
And i have been overwhelmed and exhausted by this process and unable, and yes, often unwilling, to resist their demands.

Today i am detoxed and sober* and renewed.
Sometimes it takes me a long time to learn something, but by sticking with this process i believe i have arrived at a place of relatively calm acceptance of what i’m currently doing and what is coming.
I have gained purchase and am slowly inching towards my centre.

This is the unvarnished truth of it.
It’s enough for me. In fact, i don’t want it any other way, anymore.

Love and Peace Always,
~H~

*Respectfully, i’d ask that there be no 12-step commentary, plzkthx.

Hang On

WARNING: This contains intense descriptions of a current state of anxiety and stress. Know that i am okay, and take care of you.

**********

We never left you
We never left you that day
We never left you
Even though we felt far away
~ Hang On, Amos Lee

I’m having trouble leaving the house again, lately. Being around people is scary. Sometimes it’s physically painful.

My anxiety level has been higher than i’ve ever felt outside of a mania. My heart beats so fast. I can feel my guts burning and pushing up into my chest, my throat, taking my breath. I’m barely sleeping because i’m certain i won’t wake up. I sleep maybe 20mins at a time, and i wake up alive, but i still fight the next sleep with the same overwhelming certainty i’m going to die.

I’m being tortured by obsessive thoughts. How i’ve accomplished nothing in life. How i’ve failed my children. How i’ve been a constant source of worry and concern for my husband. How i never went to college, or travelled, or had a career, or found a “passion”.
It’s been eating me alive.

When i’m dealing with my childhood trauma, hygiene can be difficult. I’m afraid to be in the bathroom, i’m triggered by the shower, the toilet, the smell of soap and toothpaste.
Last week i was either switched or too exhausted to cook, so my family ate a lot of take-away.
There was a massive blowup in my home around the issue of personal safety, and it had been a long time coming. I’m already so tired from this therapy i’m currently working through, that i had zero ability to handle it without switching. It’s not how i would have liked to handle it, but at last i feel heard and some important changes have been made.

I will continue to stand up and demand my safe space, if required to do so. Maybe i won’t ever have to again. Maybe if i do, the fallout won’t be a parade of switching. I have more than a small bit of hope.

This week i was able to cook, to clean my house and myself, but i couldn’t make it out the door for peopling.
So another phone appointment with my therapist.
<insertdeepsighhere>

At least i could do that much, so i’ll take it. And it bore good fruit.
She talks me through, not what’s happened this past week, or what i thought about it, but how my body felt when stuff was happening, and how my body felt as i was talking to her and thinking back on those events.
This is the work i’m doing. It’s constant, and sometimes it’s nothing short of terrifying and brutally painful.

But mostly, when i look back at it, it’s like a feeling of malaise, with the occasional intense bout of vomiting and diarrhea. Quite the image, i know, but it’s accurate.
What i mean is, i feel like shit all the time right now, but the times when i feel so sick i might die don’t last for very long at all.

If i can ground myself even the teensiest little bit with that knowledge, that belief, that experience (because that is how it has indeed always been), then i can maybe, just maybe — stay present in the moment and tune in to my body and just hang on.

–HANGTHEFUCKON–

I also had what feels like an epiphany, and boyohboy did i ever need one.
While talking to her, i suddenly realised that i’ve done all this work before, i just did it with regards to how my brain works.

Now i’m doing the same work, but with my body.
She said, Honey, you are in pain because you’ve done all the work that had to come before you could get here.

I’ve seen myself as a disembodied head when i was able to see myself at all.
Completely disconnected from my body. Nothing from the neck down.
My body exists in the land of the dead. It went there when i was a baby.
It hid from pain, from suffering, from unmet needs.

I’ve done the hard work with my brain, and it’s ready to dwell in the land of the living.
Now it’s my body’s turn. It wants to join with my brain and be alive, too.
But first i’ve got to do this work.

I must feel what it feels while knowing what i now know.

I can hang on for that.
I so fucking can.

We never failed you
Even though we might have felt that way
We never left you
Hurt to see you in so much pain
So hang on, hang on
Hang on, hang on
Hang on, hang on
When morning comes you won’t be here alone
~ Amos Lee

Love and Peace To You All,
HANG IN THERE.

~H~

Toast

Hunger has always been more or less at my elbow when I played, but now I began to wake up at night to find hunger standing at my bedside, staring at me gauntly.
~ Richard Wright

As i was saying yesterday – i woke up. I had a couple of tough days that involved more peopling than i’m comfortable handling right now, and by “more”, i mean any. I lost a bit of time on the second day, but it wasn’t too bad. I had a friend come and help me, and then i talked to my husband about what happened, and my feelings about it, and how things might have gone better and could go better next time. Because there will be a next time.

I went to bed and sleep took me more quickly than it has in some weeks. I woke up a couple of hours later though, and i was hungry. I was more than hungry, actually – i was starving. I used the bathroom before i went to the kitchen, and i was so hungry my hands were shaking, like i had low blood sugar or something. I’m sitting on the toilet and i have to pee but i can’t, because i’m panicky and tense. So i reach over and turn on the sink faucet, and the sound of running water has the desired effect of intensifying my need to urinate to the point where it overcomes my clenching pelvic floor. As my muscles relax a little and i feel relief, i have enough clarity to recognise that i’m having an intense physical and emotional reaction to something.

If it was a dream, i don’t remember it, but i don’t think that’s what’s up. I feel small. I feel young. My little Bits are up and active and upset. They need comfort and reassurance that everything is okay. When it hurt me to walk that morning it was more than a physical pain, it was a distressing emotional loss. Walking is an important and valuable tool in my coping kit. I work off stress and worry and i find peace and equilibrium in walking. It’s a place for my system to communicate more efficiently and freely. When they’re in upheaval they want to walk, and i get self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment from walking, so it’s mutually beneficial. It can be nearly impossible to communicate with my system when it’s particularly busy. Walking is a distraction. Walking deescalates. Walking is the oil that gets the gears moving in synchrony. As long as i get to be in charge of where we go, it’s worked exceptionally well for all of us.

But when my back signalled us that it was in too much pain to walk, we all cried out in my brain at once. It was too much for me, and BLINK i was gone.

Grocery shopping the day before had sapped too much of my strength; i had no stores upon which to draw. There was too much peopling and too much anxiety and too little sleep and some unmet needs that hurt and scared me. It’s hard for me not to see those things as rejection, and it takes effort to process it correctly.

Concentrate. I am loved. I have a history of being loved here. Experience tells me that this is a misunderstanding. Shhh. It’s okay. I know this feels like pain and terror and fury all at once. Breathe. This feeling will pass and another will take its place. It’s never not happened that way. I can ride this through until i’m in another place where i can look back and i know i know i know that perspective will come. It always comes. Breathe. Hug the pillow close. Adjust the fan so it cools the sweat on my face. Shhh. It’s okay. This feeling will end and another will come and take its place.

And one did. I slept fitfully. I made it to the point of drop off, where my husband drove to work in the city and i was to walk the rest of the way to the hospital to get my tests. But when it immediately became clear that i couldn’t walk, i had nothing left inside me to deal with losing something that i hold so dear. That we all hold so dear. I’ve got to feel my feelings and listen to my body to get to the next level of healing, and this is what i get? My emotions are hurting me and my body is hurting me too, and now one of my favouritest-best coping tools is no longer in the box.
Too much, World.
Too fucking much.

So i’m on the road trying to walk to the hospital to get my x-rays but i can’t walk and we all cry out and BLINK i’m gone. When the day is over and i’m processing the events with my partner, i tell him of my unmet needs and the feelings i had about it and how it took all the spoons left in my drawer, so that i had none left when i was standing there on the road, barely able to walk. It’s why he received a call from crying children wanting to go home, and it’s why they tried to jump out of the vehicle later when he picked us up, full of frustration and exasperation for being late to work on an important day.
I’m not easy and he’s not perfect.
So a raised voice and cuss words are heard and they’re further rattled, and they bounce around and wail and whine in my head all day long. And now older, caretaker types are pissed off and stompstompstomping through my brain…

After discussion between he and i it’s all good, but i’m spent and jangly.
I fall asleep feeling fairly content, and then wake up suddenly, so hungry i can barely focus. Another moment of toilet-clarity (i’ve had a considerable number of them), i know it’s my wee ones who need feeding so badly. I wash my trembling hands and head to the kitchen. I know it’s going to be a frenzy, and i make a conscious choice to let it happen; to do my best to stay present and watch, perhaps to learn and to be a better help next time.
I’m in the kind of dissociative state where i’m still there, watching, but i cannot affect what i’m doing.
They want toast. They want toast and the lamb gravy from supper. I sit down in my living room with no lights on, and they eat it so fast i think i might accidentally bite my fingers. Once it’s all gone the frantic feelings fade, and i’m able to talk to them again.
Concentrate. Breathe. It’s okay. There’s more. There’s enough. You can eat whenever you want to eat, and you can have whatever you’d like. Wash your hands and face. Look in the mirror. Hi. Breathe. It’s okay. Go rest now.

Tomorrow i want to talk about my mother, and food. I touched on it on my old blog, the one where i disclosed my story, but there is so much more now. I know and i see so much more. It may be triggery stuff for some. For me, i think i might be a little excited to get it all out. I’m done hiding and i’m through with glossing over it.
My body has been trying to tell this story since forever.

No I will not lay down 
I will not live my life like a ghost in this town 
I am not lonely swear to God I’m just alone 
~ The Sound Of, Jann Arden