Suffer the Little Children

Alternate title: Jesus, Do You Smell That?

Content warning: Some references to childhood sexual abuse.

I’m settling in to this process a bit more every day. I don’t know how long it will take for me to forge a connection between my brain and my body, but i’m committed to and invested in it, even if i’m never quite done. I’m connecting parts slowly, a bit at a time, and i’m doing well resisting the urge to tackle it all, hard and head-on. When the Peanut Gallery pipes up with some judgey shit about how i should be further along than i am, i have plenty of examples of how terribly awry things can go when i push too hard. However, during my therapy sesh yesterday i realised there is an area where i could be doing a tad more, and i’m balking.

I try every day, all day, to stay present in my body and feel what’s happening to me physically; my aim is to dissociate as little as possible. I hold on to the face through the regular day-to-day sensations, like brushing my teeth, which can be triggery AF, and i’m hanging on through some awful body memory stuff, like phantom burning in my genital area. While i’m going through these intense body sensations, my Bits N’ Pieces are having various reactions to what’s going on, just like i am. I’m learning to care for the body memory stuff with warm drinks, blankets, binding, writing, and even talking about it with my hubs, but i’m hanging back when it comes to directly engaging my system and asking them what kind of care/comfort they’d like while dealing with this stuff.

Mutiplicity can be difficult to explain, and this is one of those areas that, no matter how i put it, it still seems inadequate; the words don’t communicate my reality sufficiently. Yes, i hear voices in my head. I know they’re all me, and yet they’re a little bit not me. Maybe think of it like we tend to think of things as natural or not natural: maple syrup gets the natural label, but Aunt Jemima doesn’t. They’re both made of ingredients that come from our world (some additives are man-made, sure, but it’s not like we folded space and travelled to another universe for the elements needed to make them), yet one doesn’t seem as raw or earthy – it’s not as much a part of the innate order of things. Unnatural? Not quite natural?

So it is with my system. I know the people that live in my brain, that chatter at me all day long and even into my dreamlife, that saved me when i was little and now help shoulder the minefield that is being a human living in a developed nation after severe trauma, by carrying my burdens, secreting my pain, and sometimes taking control of my body when i’m overwhelmed… Are all iterations of me – various versions of who i needed to be or thought i had to be in order to survive.
Yet they are not me.
There were walls between us for many years, borders that none of us would cross. They would not because they exist to care for/protect me, and i couldn’t because i hadn’t the knowledge or the space safe enough to do so. To step into the light and see my system – my big brain machine humming along, gears inside gears, turning alongside gears inside gears. A terrifically complicated and intricate psychic arrangement of snippets and gobs of personality. Actors that only exist between the green room and the stage. When i finally saw my face as a lit theatre and gained access to their dressing rooms, well, you know that not every actor whose work you like is a person you’d want to hang out with after the show, right?

Some of my people are not a good time. I might even say most of them aren’t, a lot of the time. I love them in a way that is only for them – not like i love my husband, my children, my friends. Not like food, or music, or art, or animals, or sunshine, or a cool glass of water, or my husband’s kiss. Not even like the characters in my favourite books. They’re more than these things, and less, too. Yet they’re closer to me than absolutely anyone else – no one, nothing else could get so close. They’re my saviours who occasionally get me into some serious scrapes. They’re my best friends and my champions. And they’re also my children who’re always getting into something and the only reason i don’t strangle them is they’re underdeveloped toddlers who can’t help it.

They remember awful things, sometimes as clearly as if they happened yesterday, sometimes as if they are happening now, in this moment, all the time. And i know i’m currently writing about feeling the physical sensations that go along with certain memories that’ve been locked away in certain parts of my body, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t also carry some physical pain. They feel the aching jaw, the bruises, the cuts, the headache like my skull is going to turn to dust, the swelling, the bleeding, the burning – all of it. It’s my hope that this work i’m doing will help them be free from pain. Perhaps even, that they can return to me as i return myself to homeostasis. They’ve told me their stories, now it’s my body’s turn. I see this as a housecleaning. I’m shining a light on all the dark places, removing all traces of black mould. But this house is currently serving as a temporary MASH unit, filled with sick and wounded soldiers. I have medicines and tonics and pills for them, and i have cleaners and disinfectants, tools and talent for cleaning a filthy home…
But the body has triggered my system, and i haven’t asked them if they want anything from me to help them bear it all.

Back when i was first learning to listen and relate to the other people who live with me in my brain, it was a gross and disgusting ordeal. Once i acknowledged that some of my dreams were actually memories, it was like trying to live a normal life in a locked room filled with decomposing bodies. I felt like i was coated in filth – it slicked my skin and filled up my nostrils and sat in the bottom of my belly like an angry, acid python, constantly twisting and spilling over itself. I stank of evil, life stank of rot. I was surrounded by horror, sex and death roiling and foaming together like a cannibal’s cauldron. It was the closest to giving up that i’ve ever come, i almost lost myself in the viscous fluid of memory, losing form and definition and nearly dissolving into hopelessness and endless nothing.

As i write this i’ve suddenly seen that i’m parenting my Bits like i parented my real life children. From a fucking distance. Afraid to touch, to engage, to connect. I didn’t know how with my sons, but i do now. I learned because i saw how much harm it had done to me not to have it from my parents. I’ve been learning and practising since then because i believe it’s not too late to give it to them unless they tell me so. And i would keep trying even if they told me it was too late and would never be enough, because i believe it’s my responsibility as a parent, and because i experience that doing so helps and heals me, too.

Yes, parenting my children with connection, engaging with them emotionally and physically – that’s what my brain-babies need/want, as well. Of course they do. I know that, it’s just that the feelings they carry, the stories the snapshots the motherfucking scary movie franchise…
Bah. The last time i got up close and personal with it all it was years before i felt clean again. It was years of barely being in the face because i couldn’t take the slime and the stench.
But comparing them to my boys helps.
Writing helps.
Therapy helps.
Hubby helps.
Truth helps.

They’re broken off bits of me, and they need me to wash them, bind up their wounds, and soothe them, just as i’ve done for myself, the primary me. If they were real live children, covered in blood and shit and filth, smelling like sex and rot, i wouldn’t hesitate for a second to gather them to me and minister to their needs.
These children are all me; why is it so hard to give myself what i would give to any other human in my position?
I was taught that i only existed to be poured out for the consumption of others, but i know now that that was a wicked, selfish lie told me by evil people.
Knowing where i come from and who i am is good, but it’s not enough. I have wounds that need washing and stitches and bandaging, breaks that need mending, and aches that need warmth.

This piece may not make much sense, i’m not sure. This is so close to my core that i don’t think i’m able to edit/proofread this with a critical eye. If you’ve made it this far, i thank you. Writing this made me want to throw up most of the way, but here and now, at this sentence, i feel recommitted and more fiercely dedicated than ever. If someone hurt a child the way i was hurt, if someone hurt my children the way i was hurt, i would ruin the world to make things better for them.

Yes, it’s a contradictory statement. It’s hyperbolic. It paints a picture and conveys the intensity of my conviction.

So, i guess i’m heading into the trenches.
This could get…

<insertwhateverwordcametoyourmindasitprobablyapplies>

Take Care and Try a Little Tenderness,
I will, too.

~H~

Mind Your Pace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pardon me, but fuck, fuckety-fuck.

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

Well.
<insert Maximus Profanitatum here>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

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

Fallow Fields In Winter

WARNING: This contains references to childhood sexual abuse and trauma.

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow…

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

~ Wallace Stevens, The Snow Man

This new year’s resolve to “write through the bad”, has been okay. (Good sounds better, but i’m not writing songs here, i’m emoting, dang it!) It doesn’t come naturally – i want to hide the unpleasantness and the uncomfortability until it’s passed, then turn a less passionate eye back upon it and create something easier to consume. To season it with the wisdom and hope of seeing clearly now, the rain is gone. A spoonful of sugar.
But this pushing through and sharing my struggles when i’m in the thick of it, is a vital part of what i wanted to do here, with this blog. And after more than a year of cutting myself some slack because it’s really scary and hard and what if it fails and i just look pathetic? it was high time to bite the bullet.

I lost a treasured friendship years ago, where her parting shot was to call me “disingenuous”. It was during the most chaotic time of my life, mentally speaking. I was learning what it meant to be a multiple, and getting to know my Bits N’ Pieces, while also in the grip of a powerful mania. I was in and out of hospital, i was barfing up the details of my childhood to a small group of people, including her, and i was switching and sliding around in the face on the daily. I was a bloomin’ shitshow. She broke up with me via private message, and it was like a shelf of scree peppering down and pelting the crap out of me as i’m climbing a mountain. Our friendship was intimate, on a level i’d not had with anyone else, and rejection is perhaps the core issue of my life. I slid hard after that. To be fair, that was happening anyway, but her completely unexpected and not a little vicious severing of our relationship certainly sped up my descent.

Oh, i knew how hard it was to believe in multiplicity. It seems ridiculous to begin with, and its portrayal in books, television, and movies has done it no favours. It’s weird and silly and awkward and cringy, and some of the best known examples of it have been soundly debunked. Take that, wrap it in my childhood programming that taught me to hide it from everyone including myself, and you have why i ran from the diagnosis until my early 30s. Hell, in my quest for mental health and happiness, i’ve met a lot of multiples, and i couldn’t stand being around them, either. Disingenuous fits them all quite aptly.

Well.
I just found another level of forgiveness for her. Which she’s never asked for and may not be necessary. I mean, i’m going to guess, based on knowing her as well as she let me, that it wasn’t easy for her to come to that decision, but she did what she thought she had to do. Nevertheless, there it is – forgiveness. I feel it for her, so she has it. We’ve not had any contact since that awful email, but the aether that my brain floats around in burns hotter and shines brighter, illuminating more spaces and warming more faces.

Writing through the bad, i’m tellin’ ya.

To continue though, that painful loss with its attendant accusation stayed with me. Part of the reason i only (well, mostly) wrote after my internal storms was because of this. By writing after, i was able to curate the information i shared, editing out the kookier bits. I’d feed my readers a familiar stew: veg, gravy, salt and pepper, and cubes of recognisable meats. No misshapen bits of offal floating around, which, although they’ve been slow cooked to tenderness and skillfully seasoned, taste foreign and smell slightly funky, and are otherwise off-putting to the uninitiated palate.

Still trying so hard to be liked, to stay safe.
Don’t hurt me, don’t leave me.

The time for that is ending, or why else have i worked this bloody hard?
I’m learning more and more about who i am. As i plod along and work at this bit of trouble, and bag up that pile of shit, and clean the sludge off this window, i’m taking shape. This is me – put it there. That is not me – punt it.
To know myself is my great adventure and the greatest gift i have ever received. That it is i who gave it makes it priceless. That it is only i who had it to give, makes me glorious.

And with that wonderfully flourishy wordpaint as background, it’s time to decorate it with some gloomy little clouds and some scarecrow-lookin’ trees.
A barren landscape.

The few times i’ve spoken of how broken i am, it’s made everyone uncomfortable. People hasten to assure me that i can be healed. The way that they say it sounds like what they mean is “put back to rights”. I’ve stopped bringing it up, for the most part, because i can see how it touches on something deep and private and in need of protection inside them. That i’ve been destroyed on a level that can never be made right, seems to make people break out in a psychic sweat, like it threatens their inner sense of security or their worldview. I don’t quite know what it is, but i trigger something. Even my therapist pushes back at it, suggesting we use another word. Not broken, she says, “disregulated”. I’m willing to concede that’s part of it, and also that she definitely knows more about multiplicity and the healing process than i, but one thing i’ll always know better than she will, is me. And to me, some of that push back is just putting lipstick on a pig.

It tries to steal a little bit of the truth from me, and although the intentions have some good in them, they cannot have even a tiny bit of it. Not for me, not for my system, and certainly not for the people making these claims. I’ve fought too hard and bled too much to give even a smidge of this terrible truth. I won’t dull the edge of its blade, i won’t blur the colour of its blood, and i won’t move one single stone to make the mountain weigh any less.
What was done to me was monstrous and horrid, and the price i paid was destruction.

Before today i have never written or talked about how vast are my wastelands, but today i feel full of medieval stories with valiant knights and darksided princesses. I’m Histrionica Butterfly, full of shit and poetry, and shitty poetry, and the icy cold wind that blows through me sweeps over a place inside me that is empty and dead, that feels nothing and cannot love.

**One more warning: This may be bleak and ugly to read. Be as sure as you can that you’re okay/safe to read it before continuing.**

The abuse in my life began before i could speak. There is enough evidence for me to confirm my feelings and my system’s claims that it began almost from birth. One night, while in the middle of the natural disaster that was 2006-2015, i dreamed of a baby. All the people that live in my brain with me were there, standing around her in a little bassinet. It was the prettiest baby pink froth of frilly lace and tulle that a child’s mind can conjure. They parted as i approached, heavy-legged and leaden-bellied.  I stepped up, peered in and there she was, but she wasn’t pretty and pink like her bedding, she was pallid, with a hint of blue. There was no warmth, no rise and fall.
She’s the first, they said, And she’s dead.

It was years before i told anyone (i think) and i’ve only told my husband (i think), that the first person i was, my birth-me, is dead. I say “think” because those years are foggier than most, and even now, when i speak of these matters, things are generally hazy and the potential for sliding around is great. I do remember well though, that he rejected it quickly – threw it away like a hot potato. I could see it distressed him to think so, even to think that i thought so.
I let him convince me i was wrong and i didn’t bring it up again.

Please understand that when i use words like “claim”, “believe” and “know”, i’m not using them in a scientific context. This stuff is barely science. My psychiatrist once said psychology is such a soft science one could call it squishy. What i’m doing is decidedly not science, and nebulous as fuck. It’s cerebrally located, manifesting nowhere, Matrix-level, fantastical fancy that blinks in and out, existing ephemerally, as i construct a framework upon which i can build my understanding of myself. A mental map and a family tree/genealogy of my system.

To find my baseline. To achieve homeostasis.
But as i gather information and my framework gathers form upon it, there’s a deadspace – an empty spot where nothing grows.

I’m rarely able to build intimate relationships.
I can get to a point where i’m close with a person, but there is a step i seem unable to take. I don’t quite know what it is, but former friends have been able to feel and/or identify it in me, and have walked away.  I know this because they’ve told me as much. There is a wall, a door, a blank spot, a NOPE sign. On rare occasion i’ve developed deep friendships, but i’ve sabotaged them all, eventually. I’ve driven everyone away, except my husband and children, and my husband is just pure anomaly, because i’ve pushed him harder than anyone.

My children are a special case. The things i so needed to do for myself that i could not, i was able to do for them first. To protect, to champion, to trust, to stay, to love. They confirmed that my mother was evil, and that i am not.

Touch is a minefield for me. I like it and i want it, but rarely and only from certain people. It’s a tricky business because touch is something we need from birth, it’s essential to proper development, to feed and nurture a healthy psyche and self image. So while i was held and fed, i was also physically and sexually assaulted.

How does a preverbal mind, one that has no concept of self, process that?

A brand new mind can’t, it isn’t developed enough, so the brain cuts the connections between sensation and emotion and thought. If disconnection happens often, and/or for long enough, these detached, untethered bits can develop a kind of rudimentary system of their own, a sophistication not unlike a personality. A thought, an emotion, a need, floating around without context or connection for enough time that it begins to become its own person.

This is how the endless push and pull between come-closer-don’t-leave-me and stay-away-don’t-hurt-me began. Before self-awareness. Before speech. Before i could even walk, the instinct to withdraw from pain had been quashed. I didn’t run away because i didn’t know that i should. I’d already built pain takers and fear dampeners and sick little bits that allied themselves with my abusers.
Bad girl. Be a good girl.

I don’t know when i put that baby away in that morbid, cartoonish bed and built that funereal viewing room, but i started dreaming about them once i accepted that i was a multiple. I have some very specific themes and motifs in my dream life. Bugs, streets in suburbia, getting lost in a maze, stealing, eating, abandonment by groups; there’s more. Getting to know my system produced new dreams, and they’re not so much disturbing as they are exhausting. I’m in a house, and i’m caring for children. The size and condition of the house varies, as does whose children they are and who else lives there, but it always devolves into chaos. The children become disobedient, or they disappear, or they become filthy or sick, and the house becomes more and more cluttered and dirty, and i’m exasperated by the children and ashamed of the mess…
And there is always that room with the baby in it.

I rarely go into the room, i mean, i can count the number of times on one hand and have fingers left over. Also, i regularly forget that the baby and the room are a part of the dream, but whenever i remember, i suddenly know she’s in all of them. She’s never alone – there’s always someone with her, watching over her. And sometimes the thing watching over her is the faceless darkness that is always in all of my dreams, sometimes pursuing me, mostly just there. Sometimes it’s content with hovering at the edge of the dream, but sometimes it makes a more insistent appearance, demanding my dream-conscious acknowledgment that it’s there. I’ve become rather adept at waking myself when it does.
I wonder how it feels about that.

This is hard for me, and my brain keeps wanting to cloud it all over, so words are echoing, and i’m getting tired, and it tries to tempt me with squirrels and shiny things, like sound, light, movement. I’m frustrated, verging on pissed off, so let me sum up:

I have a dead baby and an evil stalker.

There is a piece of me that is dead forever and can’t be resurrected. And that formless, terrible thing that is everywhere and always inside me fills me with dread. It sends out a constant simmering disquiet that covers a space inside me like a fog rolling over winter-fallow.

The work i’ve done and the person i’m currently working with have convinced me that a level of healing and health that i’d not thought possible, is in fact likely, as long as i continue onward in the spirit of dogged dedication that i have been. But i know absolutely that there is a place, a spot, a space, where a living thing will never grow, and a dear, tiny being that will never again draw breath.

I have more to say about this, and it’s not bleak. This part of me that vexes others so much, is integral to how beautiful and amazing i am.
Take care of yourself. Hang in there. Get help. Keep trying. Rest until you can try again. Don’t give up. I care and i want you to make it – so much so that i hang my weird naked ass out here for everyone to see.

~H~

The Box

WARNING: If you are a multiple, this piece contains references to integration. Take care of yourself and your system. I also refer indirectly to childhood abuse, both physical and sexual. Think about it before proceeding. Talk to your p-doc or whomever is your mental health professional go-to.

**********

Paul Atreides:
What’s in the box?

Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam:
Pain.

~ Frank Herbert, Dune

The silence has been frightening. It’s still not quiet in my brain – it never is unless i’m sleeping or unconscious. What i mean is that certain people who live in my brain aren’t talking anymore. It took a while to identify what the problem was, but i knew something wasn’t right because i began having trouble sleeping and i was dreaming more than usual. At first, my whole system feared they were dead, and wondered if everyone was going to die. I couldn’t sleep at all without nightmares, and even booze provided little escape. (I sure tried for a few weeks, though. Blargh.) I was losing time and feeling that old pull to “go home”, which is a place that doesn’t exist, and would be dangerous for me if it did.

I had the sense to get back into therapy, where the first thing i learned was that they weren’t dead, that none of us were going to die – that it’s impossible for any of my precious Bits N’ Pieces to die. They’re resting, or hiding even, and that’s okay by me. I came to understand that, contrary to what i’d assumed when i walked away from therapy — all cocksure and pleased with myself — i wasn’t done. I learned that maybe my brain and my body are healing so well that i’m evolving to a higher level of function that i’d thought was possible for me. I am currently, carefully, gently, quietly, considering the possibility that a lot of my voices may go silent. That there may be room inside my skull for nothingness. The pulse of blood and the throb of tissue, and soft, warm, blankety silence wrapped around space, thick, with no echoes.
Some call it integration, but i prefer my therapist’s term: homeostasis.
The instinctual tendency of the body to seek a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements.
When i’m cold i shiver. When i’m hot i sweat.
I shattered into pieces to survive the unsurvivable. I broke things into pieces that i could not process in order to live. I kept things away from each other so i didn’t die or go insane. I had a mom who fed and clothed me and told me i was smart and pretty, and i kept her for me, and then i chipped off a chunk of myself and made her handle the woman who beat me, and another who went for rides with strangers, and another who cleaned up and made dinner, and another who spent weekends with daddies and uncles.

I’m Humpty Dumpty. And the King’s horses and his men, too.
I’m the pieces in a quest movie. You know how it goes, they finally get all the pieces together in the right order, and then a glowy light flows through it all and some magical, glorious shit happens?
You know, except for the glorious part. I’m not feeling glorious.
I do feel the shit part, though.

So yeah, Sunday. Sunday i wake, sleep deprived as fuck, grumpy and snarky and in full fibro flareup, with my psychic skin about as thin as a gnat’s wing. I try to keep it to myself, because i know what’s going on with me and why, and it’s certainly no one’s fault that i live with…
But people are annoying, and no one more so than family. And they are in my space, breathing and being flawed creatures. I’m trying and i know they are too, but something happens with someone and i blink right out of existence.

It’s not a slippery slide from one part of me to another. It’s not like when i recede into the background and watch someone else standing in front of me. It’s not like when i’m suddenly slapped in a jail cell and i’m watching myself on a tv screen and  can’t reach the dial to change the channel (i’m that old, okay?). It’s a hard switch, when i disappear in an instant, like i’ve ceased to exist.
And unfortunately, it was just as hard coming back.
Suddenly, i’m looking up at my husband, and he’s got this smile on his face that i’m very familiar with – it’s the one he uses on young parts of me, when they’re afraid.
I feel myself lurch, once, twice, 3 times. It’s like when you’re going to sleep and you feel like you’re falling and your body jerks you back awake. I’m on my ass on the dirty gravel shoulder of a snowy back road. Our van is behind him, and a friend of mine stands to his right. He’s talking and she’s talking, but i don’t understand for a while. My brain is sizzling with synapses, trying to figure out what is required of me in this moment:

– an apology? (almost certainly),
– an excuse? (i might throw a generic one to see if it hits the target),
– can i safely ask a question?

Sometimes it’s not safe to ask, because i’m not with safe people. My husband’s dealt with this hundreds of times, so i trot out the old familiar, “What did i do?”
It’s a cut-to-the-chase question. I can tell i’ve been gone for some time, and my system has been handling things, and we both have a lot of experience with this, so let’s start dealing with whatever has happened.

I’m in my pajamas, with a very thin housecoat (funny story: it’s a hospital gown from one of many visits), with my winter coat over top, and i’m wearing my husband’s work boots. I’m covered in dirt, and leaves, and there’s sticks in my hair.
I know i’ve been out for some time, because i’m cold in my bones and my skin feels numb. My clothes are soaked through on the ass end, and it would seem i’ve been hiding in a ditch. He says he’s been looking for me for hours, and she says i’d been texting but had stopped. Even with warm clean clothes, hot tea, and a raging fire, it takes hours and hours before i’m warm. I need to cry, but i can’t; parts of me fight it hard. I eat because my body is starving, hubby gets take-away because i’m not functional, and he asks if i like it and i say it’s good, but i can’t taste a thing.

I’m numb and yet everything hurts and my brain buzzes like it’s full of old tv snow… And i still can’t fucking sleep.

This is writing through the hard parts. I don’t usually write until after the rough stuff passes. I want to look back and analyse, it feels safer. It’s easier to do when the feelings have faded. Word paintings with muted washes of watercolours. Instead i have this jumble of splotches, like a wannabe Pollock that’s just a weird bore. Trying too hard to be something.

It’s okay, though. I’m not mad, or even disappointed. I don’t need to tie it all up in a pretty bow with some pithy observations and sign off with forced optimism.
I can be pithy later (betcher sweet bippy), and i know from experience that the sun’s gone shine, cuz that’s what the sun do.

This is a process, and it’s never been easy. There’s no need to think it’ll be any other way now. I can do hard, hell, getting here has been so close to impossible i can smell the devil’s breath and feel the heat on the back of my neck. If it’s gotta be ugly and painful, so be it. I’ve come too far now to stop. I should literally be dead, many times over. There ain’t nothing so scary that i can’t live through lookin’ at it.

I’m scared, but it’s not the fear of a child: nameless, faceless, squeezing all the breath out of me with icy claws. It’s a fear of the unknown, but one i believe i’m prepared to face, and before which i stand, resolute. Come what may. I’ve said it many times since i read it in junior high, when the young prince that spoke them, first grabbed my heart and spirited it away in adventure and joy and wonder:

Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

~Frank Herbert, Dune

I’m going to be putting my hand in the box very soon now. I think i’m as ready as i can be.

~H~
(Yes, this one is even more dramatic than usual – you’ve seen the name i go by, right?)

 

Slow Trees and Sweet Fruit

Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.
~Molière

To be committed this year to writing through the bad, means that i must write today.
Because yesterday was bad.

I’m not sleeping well. I haven’t in months, but it’s taken a steep downturn these last few weeks. I don’t think i’m getting enough restorative sleep. I sleep without dreams for the first 2 or 3hrs, but then a dream will wake me, and after that i’m awake every half hour or so for the rest of the night. If i have a nightmare, i usually have to get up and write a bit about it before i can get back to sleep. In the morning i can usually catch another hour or 2 unbroken, but it’s not enough, and i’m not sure i’m hitting D-level sleep.

I’ve struggled with sleep issues since childhood:
It started with night terrors, which eventually got so bad my mother actually sought treatment for me (unless i needed stitches, i was generally on my own). Learning lucid dreaming helped me drastically improve my sleep, which was particularly important as a child with epilepsy.
Abuse would sometimes come to visit me in my room at night, so i’ve spent a lifetime as a light sleeper.
I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in ’95. It’s known to those who’ve heard of it as chronic, deep muscle pain, and it sure is, but what most who don’t suffer don’t know, is that it’s also characterised by an inability to reach the restorative level of sleep that follows REM.
Although i practised good sleep hygiene in my 30s, manic bipolar episodes regularly threw me waaaay out of whack, and i began using alcohol as a way to get some sleep. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and it seemed to be a favourite way of my system to cope, too. Imagine that, heh. I’m sure you can imagine the price i paid for it, too. The problem wasn’t so much that, for me it was the toll it took on my husband and children.

The cost is simply too high.

These last few years have consisted of learning how to live with how my brain works, and building quality of life. I settled in to checking in with my brain at the start of the day, tailoring my activities to optimise function, monitoring my inside chatter and maintaining connection with my Bits N’ Pieces, and ending with a little roundtable at the edge of my bed each night. This was designed to set me up for success in the morning, and also to quiet my mind as much as possible, in order to achieve restful sleep.

I’ve plugged away rather successfully at this for some time now, i think. I set a very small goal, and i work slowly and methodically to reach it. Once i do, i practise it until it becomes an unconscious part of my daily routine, and then i set to adding in another little thing. I tweak things a bit here and there to improve my efficiency, and i’ve needed the odd course correction, but i haven’t gone too far astray. In fact, i did so well for so long a time that i felt like i needed to set bigger goals; things like working parttime, volunteering, and more peopling – including building friendships.

You may gasp now. Heh.
You may also understand how i found myself back in therapy, tits deep, and not sleeping for shit.

Looking back at the last year, at first i thought i’d been going too fast. Now, i think that may have played a part, but it’s not the crux of it. There’s a tinge of fear too, the waiting for the other shoe to drop, but that was my childhood. Once i got away from my parents, my physical and mental well-being were no longer in serious jeopardy. After that, when a bad thing would happen it could be traced back to some genuine responsibility on my part, usually accompanied by some unconscious actions/reactions and choices i’d made due to my upbringing.
It might also be something utterly out of my control.

But that’s not this. I think this is homeostasis.
I’m establishing a baseline. It’s a minimum level of quality and safety that i must have in order to live the life of my choosing. I’ve never had this before. I’ve spent most of my life just surviving, much more time than was necessary. I’m not blaming myself – it was all i knew, and like Maya Angelou said, when i knew better, i did better. And i’ve done better. So much better, in fact, that some parts of me are resting now. I think the nightlights inside my brain that various parts of me keep on for fear, my dear, hypervigilant little soldiers, are blinking off because they can finally rest. They’re leaving their posts to go home for a rest, and i think they may sleep for a very long time.

But hey, just because going too fast wasn’t what got me here — fucked up and freaking out — that doesn’t mean that slowing down isn’t part of the solution. I think it is. When i get upset and anxious i’ve learned that dialing it back a bit can free up some much needed energy to deal with the stress. And Boy Howdy! has there been stress.
I’ll tell you about yesterday, tomorrow.

See You Then,
~H~

Homeostasis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This has been a good year.

**********

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

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

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

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

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