Slow

Unreasonable haste is the direct road to error.
~Molière

I’ve flown by the seat of my pants my entire life. Trauma was a regular part of my life from birth, until i was finally free from my mother around the age of 21. Although i sought treatment over the years that followed, i didn’t find anyone that helped me significantly until around 45. It’s only been since then that i’ve been able to properly identify my many trauma-based reactions to typical life situations. These responses have been generally dissociative, with hair-trigger responses to stress and anxiety manifesting regularly as fight, flight, or freeze. More than half my time since then was initially spent dealing with more chaos, rather than less, and the work left me so exhausted that i spent a couple of years just hermitting and resting.

The last few years i’ve built a fairly normal life for myself, and that took some planning. As you might guess after reading my first paragraph, that did not come naturally to me. I needed to be told how to do it step-by-step, incrementally, and to see it modeled, and to be given the grace and the freedom to practise it safely, and fail quite spectacularly, too. Because there’s so much going on in my head, i can be quite scattered. I’m one of those people that regularly loses track of what i was saying or doing, the reason usually being that i’ve been tripped up by a voice in my head. Something/someone on the inside has caught my attention, and i’m now more focused on my inner world than my outer.

Then there was my mother, who wasn’t into the teaching part of parenting. Fortunately, i had the same babysitter for my first 6yrs, so she taught me how to play and how to socialise with other children. My grandmother was a teacher, and she gave me reading, writing, and basic arithmetic, and along with Grandpa, some normal and fun family activities. What my mother taught me was by example, and it was a crash-bang-tinkle course in how to be manipulative and dysfunctional. I knew nothing about planning for the future, or setting goals, or organising my living space, activities, chores, or events. No people skills save charm, which was used strictly for manipulation. She taught me how to hide in plain sight. I was a tumour dressed up like a cupcake. Although i’ve always been a good person, i did things that weren’t good because that’s what i was taught, and i treated people poorly sometimes, because that’s what i knew. I looked down on others, because part of the way it’d been so easy to keep quiet about my upbringing, was that i was indoctrinated to believe i was special; different than the people around me, and better. Others wouldn’t understand our ways – they didn’t belong, and they weren’t smart enough to understand.

I wanted to be liked and accepted so badly. Part of that is a natural human desire, but some of it was because, deep down, i desperately wanted to be rescued, and also because i’d been trained to seek approval. Of course, at the very bottom of the well, was a little girl starving for love and affection. I was too dysfunctional for anything healthy and lasting, though. No one could get to know me well enough for intimacy to develop, as my mother had Rapunzeled me long before i hit school age.

I’ve not digressed – i share this so you might see how the way i was raised was a roadblock to learning life skills from anyone. Back when i was just trying to survive, living an unexamined life, i wasn’t conscious of looking down on people, nor did i know i trusted no one. It simply didn’t occur to me that i could find someone who had what i wanted and ask them how they got it, or even just observe them and try to emulate what i saw. There were many flaws in the way i thought about life and people, and i lacked the insight to see what the problems were. All i knew was that there was something wrong with me. Learning that i was a victim of child abuse opened my eyes to how ill-equipped i was to live life on life’s terms. I saw how abuse had twisted me in some ways, and had atrophied my development in others. Eventually i could see how i kept people far, far away. I was all closed doors and drawn shades.

(You know, as i’m proofreading this, i just had a little a-ha moment! I can see on a deeper level why i had to hide in my house for a couple of years, while i was trying out my new self-knowledge and acquired life skills. I still needed the protection of closed doors and drawn shades around me. It’s like taking your clothes off in front of a new lover. I’m in the bedroom with them and yes, we are going to be intimate, but first time i take my clothes off will be behind this beautiful shoji screen, thank you. We can even light one candle! You’re welcome.)

Having a child was a brutal awakening to how completely disconnected i was, but it was also the beginning of me reaching out to find connection. My son needed me for everything, including affection, and as his concept of himself as separate from me grew, so did his requirement for love and to have his need for attachment be honoured, respected, and nurtured. My son was probably the first person i didn’t fear, the first with whom i had no walls or filters or masks. He was the most amazing, most precious thing i’d ever known, and my love for him shone a stark light on how i was unable to meet some of those needs to the level he seemed to be wanting. Needing.
I began looking to other parents for cues on how to do this. I took a couple of weeks-long parenting courses. I hired money management. I went back to school. I walked away from some troubled friendships and i began purposely building relationships with more functional and successful people.

As someone with my particular set of mental challenges can do, i took this new information that i could learn from modeled behaviour and ran with it. I would zero in on someone who had what i wanted (like 12-step groups had been teaching me), and then i would do what i saw them do, or what they told me they were doing.
Some of it i just couldn’t get the hang of though, like commitment, discipline, and sticktuitiveness. I continued to look for a good therapist or group, but had little success, and couldn’t tolerate any of them for the length of time required to build relationships.

A ridiculously long mania in my late 30s taught me that what was missing, in part, was pacing. I was impatient for results, i was pushing too hard and going too fast. I was caught in a chaotic and humiliating cycle of 3 steps forward and 3 back – 4 if i got mad. I was learning how my brain worked and how to deal with it, and that would have to come before i’d have the cognition and the skills to be able to slow down; to figure out where i wanted to go, and the best route for me to get there.

After half a century i seem to be heading in the right direction.
Of course it has to be playground zones the whole way.
There’s children all over the damn place.

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~

Like Swimming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and Peace,

~H~

Ice Cream As Kudos

There’s a bit of panic in me these days. I’m living a less chaotic life, stumbling towards something like normalcy. What i wrote the other day about no parades or kudos has been like scratching a record, scrubbing across the vinyl and playfully warning me that there are No kyu-doze. N-n-n-n-no kyu-doze. Just little victories noted by me and mostly only me.

This is my life today, and though it’s a good life and i’m heartened by my progress, i can be suddenly overwhelmed by the enormity of the work in front of me. I stepped back to get a break from the mood i’ve been in, and as i did so i looked up and caught the big picture. Based on results, that was not a good idea.

I was in the kitchen when it hit me. I’d been putting off little things here and there, trying to give myself some space, to nurse my mood a little. I saw a life of cleaning up the same messes, over and over. Making the same meals, scrubbing the toilet, doing the laundry…

And then i cast both my literal and my figurative eye around myself, my house, my life.
THAT i should not have done. It’s too much for me to bear. The enormity of all that lies before me, waiting to be done, to be cleaned up, to be put right. In mere moments i’m in the grip of an anxiety attack; i’m crying, it’s hard to catch my breath, i feel physically weak, like i’d suddenly picked up a huge burden. Which i had.
Many have either heard or made some joke about trying to manage all the bags of groceries in one go. We want to get it all over at once, but we often end up hurting ourselves or dropping and damaging household items. It might very well have been faster to take what we can easily carry and just go back for the rest. We’re not injured, the supplies we needed are intact, and hey, we got a little more exercise – which most of us can always use.

The fact that i am well behind many of my peers and contemporaries when it comes to the day-to-days of what i see as a relatively normal and functional adult life, cannot be denied. I’m not sure exactly where i learned it -and by that i mean i have no wish to ascertain blame- but i grew up believing that only those doomed to fail offered up any excuses. More than that though -and this is where blame can certainly be assigned- i believed i had none to offer.

They would be excuses if i offered them up and then did nothing. As that is clearly not what i’m doing, what i have are reasons. I have a legitimate basis upon which to build a case for my status as a late bloomer. But even a sincere acknowledgment by me of that truth cannot gird me well enough to step back and absorb the monumental work that lies before me.
So it’s too much to look at it all, and it is also not enough to only look at what is in front of me.
So it’s to be balance, again.
I don’t need a parade, but maybe a small celebration is in order.
Just me and my Peanut Gallery.

There’s no poetry in this and i don’t have a clever literary device to use in closing.
I’m just putting in the blasted work.
I’m paying attention to what’s going on in my brain and i’m regularly checking in to see what we’re feeling. Roll call. Heh.
I’m learning what thoughts and feelings need to be addressed and i’m facing them and following through.
I believe i have earned a small dish of ice cream and a cat nap.
Huzzah.

I shall keep on keepin’ on, and i hope you do, too.

Love and Peace,
~H~

Tuesday’s Tidbit

I’ve been struggling with mood.
It’s crap. It may not seem like it, but i feel like crap and the world seems crappy.

I want to dive into a bottle or a tub of ice cream.
I want to hide in bed but i can’t – i’m dreaming all night long. It’s a sign that my Peanut Gallery is agitated.
I know it. I know why, too. The why doesn’t fix things, though. The only fix there is, is to keep moving.
Not frenetic. Not a beautiful interpretive dance. Not drill or a colour guard. No knee-scraping mortifications necessary.

Just one foot in front of the other, no cadence, no pacing, no ETA.
I’m not looking up right now. Honestly, i don’t care to see the scenery. I’m in a mood where everything seems overcast and everyone’s tainted.
I know what this is about and it’s not helping. There’s no less of a burden, no light seepage, no magic.
Just the fucking work.

If you have been reading you know i’m doing quite well, very likely better than i have ever done. More clearheaded, functional, and emotionally level than i’ve ever been before.
But i have this personal issue. It’s there all the time. And some days it weighs heavier than others.
I have set my feet upon a path and i know that not everyone will be coming along.
I have choices to make, decisions that won’t wait much longer.

My problems have been so big. They have eaten up the time and the energy of everyone i love who has also loved me. There is no fucking parade. No kudos and congratulations here. Just the catching of breath and the settling of dust.

My problems have been so big and i had to stop pretending they weren’t. I let it all hang out and gave the world a double bird flip. It’s what i had to do to get right, but there is a price to pay that i’m only now beginning to count. My problems have dwarfed those of anyone around me. It’s easy to be Jesus when you’re standing next to Legion. I see now that it may always be that way.

I’ve put one foot in front of the other and been grateful that i’m dogged and tenacious and one stubborn motherfucker. Because it hasn’t helped. I don’t feel better. I don’t feel very que sera, sera.
I know my brain is restless. I itch to wrest control away from anyone that may have it besides me. I ache to stir up some temporary drama to distract me from this feeling. This feeling that i can only do what i can do – and baby, that ain’t much.

I eat properly. I look after my hygiene. I do housework. I continue setting my house to rights. I take care of my dogs. I exercise. I touch base with people who care about me.

I write.

Sometimes, actually a lot of the damn time, all there is is this.
Plodding along. Time ticking interminably by. No fanfare. No epiphany.
No moment.
Just the investment, the commitment, the work.

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~

Inside Out

As we leave behind our last Chinook and move into more frigid weather, my fibro has hit harder. My pressure points are hardest hit from shoulders to wrists, and today my forearms feel heavy and hard to rotate, which is making typing somewhat difficult. The thing which i haven’t told anyone, is that my Carpal tunnel syndrome is returning. When i was first diagnosed with moderate CTS in my right arm around 12+ years ago, the man who gave me the news very kindly (/s) informed me that if i wasn’t super-morbidly obese, my symptoms would likely disappear almost entirely. When i lost all the weight i discovered he was quite right, and i’ve had only small bouts of numbness since.

Until recently that is. It’s been more than 10yrs since i was profoundly overweight, but this last year i’ve noticed the numbness happening more often and for longer periods. Typing right now i can feel it. I sincerely hope it progresses slowly and doesn’t impede my writing. I’ll handle it of course, but just… GEEZ, y’know?!

My days begin and end with routine, and as i mentioned, i’m increasing my activity level; more things to do and and more focus on the tangible. I’m decluttering, seeking order. I’m working towards accomplishing things that can be observed by anyone. I’m maintaining the relatively healthy functioning of my brain and its thoughts, but also pursuing goals that, once achieved, would be obvious to anyone who was looking. Less esoteric – more skin deep.

It’s time. The foundation is strong now. I’m like a renovated house and it’s time to start making the outside reflect the inside. It’s hard, scary work, but i am committed.

Nothing wrong with a pretty facade.

Body work is tough for any survivor.
I didn’t have a weight problem until i was around 8yrs old. My mother’s relationship with my father was over, as was her association with his people and his activities. She had a major psychological breakdown, was committed, and i was thrown into the system. When i was finally returned to my mother, i quickly packed on enough weight to make me the chubby kid, and then slowly packed on a few pounds here and there until i married 20yrs ago. I’d lost weight twice in that time, and both times i was just inside healthy range, but i put the weight back on within short order. I did so many things unconsciously; i wasn’t present in my body so i neither took much notice when i lost weight, nor when i gained it back.

Marriage caused my thoughts and emotions a tremendous amount of stress. I was freaked out that someone appeared to really want me, and subsequently terrified that i’d lose him. He’d find out that i was a phony, that i was actually an awful human being and he’d leave me. It set us up for years of push-pull behaviour by me. Come-here-i-need-you-fuck-off-i-don’t-need-anyone. I felt more vulnerable than ever and i put up a massive wall, one made from pounds and pounds of fat. I ate to numb the fear, fear of being known and fear of being rejected. When weight loss surgery became an option, i took it and the weight fairly fell off me.

I had no bloody clue the chain of events that would set off.

The first thing that happened was i got a lot of attention. It’s not just straight men who are more gratuitous, either. Everyone is nicer to attractive people. I think it’s mostly unconsciously done when someone is not sexually attracted to you, per se. It started out being wonderful but it quickly unsettled me. You know, not so’s anyone as unconscious as i was would notice. Heh. All kinds of things were going on inside my brain, though. The outside wall had come down and while that appeared to everyone around me to be a purely positive thing, it had unforeseen and unanticipated consequences.

My inside wall came down, too.
I didn’t realise i even had an inside wall.
There were people living on the other side of that wall.
I saw them, and they saw me seeing them.
It would not be histrionic of me to say that all hell broke loose.

MORE TOMORROW

Sledgehammer, Part Two


I hit a wall, I thought that I would hurt myself
Oh I was sure, your words would leave me unconscious
And on the floor I’d be lying cold, lifeless
But I hit a wall, I hit ’em all, watch the fall
You’re just another brick and I’m a sledgehammer
You’re just another brick and I’m a sledgehammer
~Rihanna

When my mother died i thought it was the most horrible event of my life. I can remember numbness and shock. I remember 2 of my siblings shuffling around like wide-eyed zombies, and 2 of them giving voice to the pain and loss we were all feeling. Overwhelmingly though, the impression i took away was one of confusion and not a little exasperated and annoyed.

It was a start.

I hadn’t been close to her for the 2yrs or so prior to her death. We’d had a falling out of sorts, over an issue i won’t be discussing here. Suffice to say, she was punishing me by not only cutting off our relationship, but refusing to allow me access to my siblings. I’d been thrown into therapy almost against my will due to some family legal issues, and my mother did not care for the way things were going.
I was talking.
I was telling.
I was not allowed to do that.
It was implicitly known that whatever abuse was done to me had never happened, as soon as it was over. It was never to be discussed, and i know now from my own investigations into my past, that the few times she was confronted it was cleverly denied. (If it was a family friend, the friendship was suddenly over. If it was someone in authority like a teacher or social worker – we’d move.)

I was in a religiously run halfway house for women in crisis. The women there were both young and old, wealthy and poor, different colours and creeds. We were addicts, and we were battered, we were mentally ill, and we were sexually misused and maltreated. We attended classes on everything from addiction and treatment to life skills like how to balance your chequebook and how to get a job. We went to school and we did volunteer work. We exercised regularly and were taken to gyms and swimming pools. Each of us had a worker assigned to us, most of whom lived in-house with us, from whom we received one-on-one counselling.

It started in the classes at Native Alcohol Services. The home where i was did a lot of work with First Nations women, and NAS offered daytime classes and they accepted everyone, even non-aboriginals. I still remember the name of the woman who taught the class. Darlene told us about her life on Rez: the abuse she endured, her descent into addiction, and how she got sober and got educated and became an activist. She was tiny and powerful and i was mesmerised. She handed out worksheets and questionnaires and i filled them all out diligently. I wanted the teacher to like me. I want to impress her, so i work hard and i fill it all out as completely as i can.

I’m 21yrs old and i am realising for perhaps the first time that i was abused growing up.

My mom had so many wonderful qualities. She was warm and funny and highly intelligent. She knew a little bit about everything, was a great conversationalist and could hold her own in many an intellectual discussion. She was an excellent cook, a superlative baker, and had a gift for any craft she put her hand to: sewing, knitting, crocheting, fine needlework. She had perfect penmanship – i’ve never seen more beautiful. Although never more formally educated than her high school diploma, where girls those days could avail themselves of some intensive secretarial training, she initially surrounded herself with intellectuals and various highly educated professionals. She did so by incredible typing skills. Although slow compared to some at 65 words per minute, she almost never made a mistake, and had a gift for deciphering even the most illegible scrawl. She eventually made her way to a local university, where she ended up working for the head of the department. For extra money she would go in to work at night and type up grad students’ theses. She’d bring me with her and i’d wander the halls, never getting into any trouble, but i can tell you i had some adventures. She was well-liked and found herself invited to professors’ homes and student parties alike. I was brought along to these also, where i learned that if i sat very quietly and just listened, no one would notice me and so i wouldn’t be put to bed.

I don’t know exactly who or what got to her, but some of the people she hung out with were into some cutting edge new therapies. Self-exploration and self-discovery. What started with Gestalt therapy, Erhard and EST, took a wrong turn somewhere and she became involved with some bad people and some evil things. I didn’t understand at the time, but i do believe that’s when my mother really died.

I don’t know if i’ll ever be able to sufficiently describe my feelings for her. I loved her certainly, at least when i was a child, but her parenting was, from the very beginning, so selfish and self-focused, that i felt more towards her as one might their god. I was in awe of her. I feared her. Most children want to please their parents i imagine, but it was more than that for me – i sought only to please her. I would search her face for micro expressions, listen intently for tone and inflection, puzzle endlessly over her behaviours… Always, always to gauge how she was feeling, what she wanted, had i done right, had i done wrong.

I think some of her manipulations came naturally. It started as a natural human quality, and was likely skewed by the lack of attention and love in her home life. I can tell you absolutely that all of the therapy, counselling, and encounter sessions she ever participated in never ended up making her a better person – only better at screwing with others to get what she wanted. She was, at the end, an incredibly dangerous person, limited only by her appearance, or those either lucky or savvy enough to pick up on the sickness that was much, much more than skin deep.

Which brings me back to her funeral.
There were over 100 people at her funeral.
There were only a handful of people there who’d known her longer than i had, and no one who’d spent more time with her.
I knew maybe 2 dozen of them.

There was a receiving line afterwards, and all these people filed by that i didn’t know, telling me things that should have been gratifying, but thanks to the education i’d been receiving at the halfway house, they unsettled me instead.

The priest spoke of their meetings together and of her desire to convert and her love of and identification with, the Holy Mother. (Is there an are-you-fucking-serious font?!)

Woman after woman embraced me and told me she was their food sponsor and inspiration. (Um, did you notice she’s over 500lbs?!)
How she’d been through so much and had come so far.
Really? How far is that, because she still has a filthy house, a huge, filthy body, and she’s still beating the shit out her children that have the misfortune of being too young to get the fuck away from her.

Not that they would have, if they’d been able. I mean, i didn’t. I’d leave home and come back, leave and come back again. I had broken away from her because she’d put me out.
Our separation was her idea. Oh, how it must have rankled that the law had taken things out of her hands. The legal system had finally stepped in to do its job and was protecting me from further abuse by prosecuting the abuse that they could.

The loss of control must have driven her crazy. First thing she did was take my siblings away from me. Over the years she’d made the delineation between them and me more and more clear. It was like i was the unwanted, adopted girl, and they were the prodigal son, reincarnated and returned home. Not that being so spared them any abuse; no, their lives were full of pain and neglect. It was more subtle torture for me, a reinforcement of my otherness and aloneness. She kept me separate. Always only hers.

So, when i went to her funeral my sister and my brothers were afraid of me.

And that is the woman that all these strangers were mourning.

Are you beginning to see, reader, why i am so afraid?

My mother taught me hiddenness, she exemplified laziness, and though many believed otherwise, she was diseased and rotten inside.

I often feel as if i’m fighting against what i was intended to be. I’m often afraid that, deep down inside, i’m bad. That maybe i’m tricking everyone just like my mother did. You can say, Oh H, look at how far you’ve come and how much you’ve accomplished…

Yes. Well. Didn’t they say that about her, too?

Yes, in the next thing that you will say you are quite right. I am not beating my children, my house is not filthy and neither am i.

This is why i blog. This is why i share my thoughts with you. Because as i’m typing i think it is the laziness that scares me more than anything.
She did less and less, until finally she couldn’t have saved herself had she wanted to.
She sat there on the couch, massive and naked and stinking, watching television while her children starved and her house fell apart.

I am terrified of that level of laziness. I fear that it’s inside me, and not too hard to reach.
I had so much potential: highly intelligent and gifted in many areas. Successful in most things i tried. Yet here i am, nearly 50 and with only a couple of years of basic, adult functionality under my belt. Could i have been more if i’d only tried harder?

Well that’s an easy question to answer. Brutally – yes. Yes of course. But i didn’t and so i’m not and it is what it is. So then the next question would be whether or not my reasons are valid enough to justify being at this point in my life rather than somewhere much further along in my personal development as a human.

Don’t worry. I’m just sharing with you what life is like as me. This is how my brain works and these are the thoughts that i have that are mine and are not yours because they are mine. Heh.
I know that the answer is that i am not bad, and while i struggle with laziness because it was so perfectly modeled for me growing up, i am not at that level. I am relatively successful, relatively functional, and reasonably good, with intentions, goals, and long term plans that are already in play to be consistently better.

While there will realistically be set backs, and perhaps even glorious failures, i know one thing as certainly as anyone can know anything:

I will never, EVER stop trying.

END, PART TWO

Where Metaphors Collide

Something is happening to me in my life and i’m very afraid to talk about it. I am afraid because it will make it all more real. By sharing it here, with even the couple of readers that i have, i will be giving these new thoughts and feelings fertile soil in which to grow.

I think i’m changing direction. Somewhat subtly, because i’ve been headed in that general direction, but i’m being drawn more strongly towards something. I’ve been heading towards something like a true north, but i seem to be experiencing some declination. Oh, little magnet-me. I’m afraid. I’m afraid because this rubber-meets-the-road thing i’ve been giving so much blog time to, has tricked me. This concept that invited my brain to entertain it.

Hey there H’s Brain, nice to see you and won’t you come on in and have yourself a seat?
Have a hot cuppa and oh, i’ve made us some nice bikkies… I heard you have a weakness for homemade shortbread. I fear they don’t measure up to yours, you have a reputation, but won’t you try them anyway and tell me honestly what you think? We can talk about anything you wish… Dear, you look starved for conversation.

<insertherwarmsmileandwinkhere>

I am desperate for conversation. I’ve wanted for a good jaw for a long time. Miss RMR read me well and set me up perfectly. I talked. And i talked. I talked about what she meant to me, and i yakked about many other things, both various and sundry.
She listened raptly, the atmosphere was so welcoming and it invited me to take a load off. And take one off i did. In fact, i took off many. I pontificated about how glorious it was to be so functional, so present and in charge of not just myself, but my Peanut Gallery. I marveled at how well i was handling it all.
Oh, how i did go on.
Yes, the seas had gotten quite rough, hadn’t they? But i had held the deck with some sturdy legs had i not? Lookit me!
Oh i fairly crowed like the Top Castle himself.

<insertmyresignedsighhere>

Tricky wench.
She reeled me in like a big fat old fish that’s always been able to slip the hook before.
Before now, anyway.
Once i was done, done talking, done exhausting every last word out of my apparently full-to-bursting bag of wind, so through with words coming out of my face i must have resembled a closed bellows, she began to speak.

And now i fear i am caught. Reeled in. Flopping on the deck. Fallen out of the Crow’s Nest. I’m in her web and she is rolling me carefully up in her strong and sticky silk…

Yeah, sorry. I like metaphors. I promise i’m done for now.
I think if i make it poetic it will be easier. Prettier. Less terrifying.
We’ll see, i guess. I’ll let you know.

What i’m trying to say is that this concept i have of the rubber and the road has gotten bigger. I saw it as a representation of all the work i’d done to get myself well – to pull myself out of the swamp of anxiety and pity and despair and mourning and pain and rage that i’d been slogging around in and get on dry land. And further, i saw it as that point when a strong wind hits, threatening to blow me backwards, back into the filthy bog and its ever-present miasma.

(Oops. Metaphor again. Sorry.)

Anyway, i see now it wasn’t just about getting functional. I see now that “getting well” isn’t just about not acting crazy, and it’s not only about being functional. Learning to live a happy and productive life while living with this brain has suddenly become MORE than just those things. The definition has become bigger, and broader, and more detailed, and if you’ll pardon me for just a moment…

Holy motherfuckingfucketyfuck.

I’ve been feeling this way for a while. Feeling like what i’ve accomplished is not enough, or rather, no longer enough. It’s no longer enough that i haven’t been committed in over 2yrs, and it’s no longer sufficient that my house and my body are clean, and it’s not enough that my children forgive me for my past transgressions and neglect and lack of presentness in their lives.
It’s not enough.
Wellness is now requiring MORE. And not just MORE, Wellness has made it clear through her spokesperson, Miss RMR, that if i do not do MORE, i risk losing what i now possess.
(Yeah, metaphor. Sue me. Iamwhatiam. Heh.)

I will spare you more cursing, just consider it implicit.

I am afraid i will fail. Utterly and spectacularly. I am terrified that i won’t be able to produce any greater or more impressive accomplishments than those which i have already achieved.

I am sososo very scared that i will be consumed by fear and laziness.
I am sick at the thought that i am doomed to be my mother’s daughter.

More on this later, but for now, i wish everyone

Love and Peace,
Always,
~H~

Rubber, Meet Road

Hello,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never go full Eeyore.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that is when i realise that i can be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and Peace and THANK YOU,

~H~