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~

Well, Ain’t That A Kick in the Head?

Mid-October 2016 is the last time i wrote about my physical pain at any length. It hasn’t gone away. In fact, it’s been steadily, yet thankfully slowly, building since back then. This new therapy has intensified my fibromyalgia pain, but it’s more than that. Sure, pain can be based in psychic trauma, and the stresses of day-to-day living can amp it up, but there’s more going on.

I’m just not dissociating as much.

I’ve done all this work and it’s brought me here. I know i refer to it in nearly every piece i write, but i’m not sorry for the repetition. It’s important, i think, to hammer it home for anyone reading my blog. It’s one of the most important things i want to get across. Not that this kind of thing takes a lot of work; this dealing with childhood abuse, and the way the brain and body copes with the devastation.

You already know that.

What i’m driving at is that it’s all work that we’re doing – this surviving it.
It’s all good work.

I hurt, and i had a dysfunctional and unsatisfying life and i wondered why.
I thought about it and i asked questions and took suggestions and tried things. And then i thought some more and i talked to people – professionals, friends, mentors, religious and lay folks, gurus, anybody… everybody. And then i thought some more. I pondered and i marinated, and i tried some more stuff and read books and went to lectures and joined groups and took courses, and i drew a smidge of wisdom from this and a pocketful of encouragement there and a wee cup of self-awareness from that, and i kept on going.
I picked up tiny jewels of truth here and there and i locked them up in a vault inside me, guarding them carefully, watching over them like treasure, like innocent babies who only had me to keep them safe.

All this movement, all this questing, all this work, all this surviving i did over the years, and yet i despaired a thousand times that i was getting nowhere, changing nothing, and learning little, fearing that i would be forever lost and broken and rudderless.

I kept looking back and seeing only the passage of time and my footprints.
Plus lots and lots of mess.
There were times i stopped. Sometimes frozen with fear, sometimes collapsed with exhaustion, sometimes consumed with rage, and many, many times weighed down to immobility by the cruel and crushing weight of my past.

But i learned to weather those tonic storms, to honour them, and as i’ve worked and persevered, i’ve drawn closer to the light.

There’s enough light now that i can look back and see, with emergent clarity, that nothing i did or did not do was in vain. All the mess was garbage that needed to be tossed: structures that needed to be torn down, toxic relationships that needed to be ended, hoarded memories that needed purging. The swamps filled with poison that i swam around in – it was poison that had washed out of ME, and i left it behind when i finally crawled out, cleansed. It was all good work.

Because i sought, because i wanted, because i tried, it all mattered.
Here, in this moment, i have both peace and confidence. I am, at last, at a place where i am no longer at the whim of unconscious and reflexive coping skills and protective actions that ceased being helpful long ago.
I am leaving behind my life in the land of the dead, and moving into the light, to live with the living. Yes, there are bits and pieces of me that are still afraid, but i’m not anymore.
I’m no longer stuck in a feedback loop, replaying the horrors of my past.

I’m in this current bit of business now because i want to be. I’ve done enough to manage and be okay, both for myself and my loved ones. But i want MORE. I want the next level, whatever it is that is more than just enough – and i suspect that is usefulness.

And to that end i am telling you, that i think, that as long as i keep seeking and wanting and trying, that nothing i have done or not done will be in vain.

**********

I was talking about physical pain. Right. Heh.

I was officially diagnosed with fibromyalgia in early ’98, after a car accident in August of the prior year. I tried many different treatments, all to little or no avail. I suffered tremendously – and then suddenly i didn’t. I mean, i still had pain, for sure, but it wasn’t like before. The intensity lessened and i was no longer consumed by it, every day, all day, where it even chased me into my dreams and i would moan and cry myself awake.

At first i thought it was a supplement i’d been given to try, but when that stuff was scientifically debunked, i stopped taking it and my symptoms did not intensify. I still had the occasional flareup, but my pain levels didn’t spike nearly as high as they had. I thought maybe i’d just become acclimated.
I watched other people with the diagnosis suffer far more, and i told myself i was fortunate to not’ve been afflicted as terribly as they.

This was shortly after my massive weight loss, the mania that followed, and the more conscious and chaotic experience of my multiplicity that quickly took hold of me whilst in that state.

It’s probably obvious where i’m going with this, but i’ll spell it out anyway.

As i’ve become sounder of mind and clearer of purpose, so has my pain become bigger and harder to ignore. I’ve tempered the voices in my head and adjusted their various volumes, only to have the confusion they brought replaced by so-called “fibro fog”, which happens when pain saps my energy and robs me of deep sleep.

I remember my doctor sending me to our city’s FMS specialist, for an official diagnosis. I don’t know if it’s still done this way, but one of the things he checked was my response to certain trigger points in my body. All but 2 of them were very tender.
The pain was terrific, sometimes all i knew. There were days i couldn’t move without tears. I gained a prodigious amount of weight. I slept my days away, yet never felt rested.

Then i had another baby and i needed to do better. So i had weight loss surgery, and well, i’ve already mentioned here what followed: thin begat bipolar mania begat dissociative chaos begat a parade of people who live in my brain coming out to experience life in the face and wreak not a small amount of havoc.
But my fibro had become easily manageable. I figured the weight loss had done it.

I spent years learning how my brain worked and how to coexist with my Bits N’ Pieces and live a decently functional life.
And i got there and thought i was done.
But i wasn’t satisfied after a while, and more than that, i became unsettled, my carefully constructed wa was rattled. I then did what i do — i thought about it and went looking for answers and for help finding them.
And what i found was that there was more work to do if i wanted, and i knew right away that i did.

This work involves being in my body and feeling my feelings -both emotions and physical sensations- while being present in my brain and listening to what it’s saying. My thoughts and my emotions and my sensations have been disconnected from each other since i was a baby enduring trauma.
I’m bringing myself back together, and the physical pain is a sign that it’s working.

Well, ain’t that a kick in the head?

It’s all coming back to me now. The pain, the insidiousness of it, the gaping maw of it. I see how it swallowed me whole back then, and i looked up hopelessly from the bottom of its belly as it slowly digested me.
This time ’round it’s different.
The pain is still incredible. I’ve woken to a painful throat from moaning in my sleep. Mornings are awful, the pain and the stiffness at times barely tolerable. I often wake as tired as i was when i fell asleep, or more. It’s advanced in severity over the years, quietly and unbeknownst to me. I can feel it seeping into the bones of my hands, like i’ve been in subzero temperatures with no gloves. I was recently diagnosed with osteopenia in my lumbar region, and i can feel the fibro ache radiating like an electric sun. I’m going in to see the doctor after a bunch of tests that were ordered because i’m now telling her about things i used to ignore, like chronic UTIs, like plummeting blood sugar, like maybe tennis elbow?

And friends, writing is a misery. I have little energy, and my brain is cloudy. I can’t find the words to formulate a cohesive sentence, and i get frustrated and tired out so quickly. Grrr. Argh.
But i’m learning too, and it’s not as hard as it once was. Because i’m in my body and feeling the pain, i can figure out where and how much i can push through it. I’m finding ways to still have the quality of life i desire, according to my current set of limitations. I’m being reasonable, and careful, and conscious. One of the most helpful things i’ve learned over the years is that small tweaks over time is what works best for me. Don’t push too hard or too fast, jumping in with both feet doesn’t tend to work well.

All the work i’ve done prior is coming into play. The small tweaks, the slow pace, the mindfulness, sharing my thoughts with a safe person, breathing, gentle self-talk, hygiene, and today, finishing a piece for my blog in spite of wicked pain. A piece that took many more days than i’d wish, but a thing that wouldn’t have been conceivable, let alone doable, all those years ago when fibromyalgia first made a meal out of me.

One more thing – i thought the urge to dissociate from this pain would be a constant battle, but amazingly, it’s not. Once again, i believe it’s all the work i’ve done that’s making this possible. I’ve been careful and diligent with the others who live with me in my brain. I’ve gotten to know them and addressed their concerns and met their needs as much as i’m able, thus winning their trust and earning their compliance and assistance. We’re as close to one mind as we’ve ever been, and so my desire has become theirs. My work, their work.

I’m not looking to suffer, i don’t think there’s anything redemptive or rewarding to be found in it, but it’s what some people do, every day. They learn to cope, to live, with suffering and pain, emotional and physical. They don’t leave their bodies, they don’t perform psychic surgery on themselves, they don’t play dead – they deal with it.

I want to be more like regular people, like normal people. Let me immediately follow that statement by saying a couple of things:

1) I don’t want to hear about What’s normal? Who’s normal?
While i grok the sentiment behind it, i know what i mean when i say that – to be just a little bit more like other people. You are of course, free to not want those things.
And,

2) I’m both mentally ill and neuroatypical, depending on your definitions, and while i’d love to ditch the Bipolar Disorder, that’s not how it works and i’m okay with that. Being a multiple is considered by some to be more neuroatypical than a disorder, and although i’m moving in a direction that some might call integration, i personally don’t see how my brain works in that regard as a “disorder”.
NOTE: I am not a professional, these are just the thoughts and feels of someone living with it, not someone who’s gone to school to understand and treat it.

I want to live as present a life as i can, including feeling pain, both physical and not.


Yeah, i’m still a bit crazy.
I like me this way.

IMAGE: Without Hope (1945), Frida Kahlo