Imagination

Writing through the bad.

It struck me as maybe an important and helpful thing i could do.
I think i’m right about that – i think.
I fully intend to get to the other side of this, this current pile of crap i’m slogging around in, but sweet, smilin’ Buddha on a bicycle i didn’t know it was gonna be like this.

I’ve worked so hard to get control of myself  – to harness the power of this brain and channel it for good. My therapist says all multiples have a mutant superpower, and as soon as she said what it was i felt it in my bones.

IMAGINATION.
<insertSpongebobmemehere>

My brain is a place that’s hard to describe, even i don’t quite understand.
Years ago, my therapist asked me if i could make a place for one of my people to live. She prefers to be alone. She loves to read and listen to dark music. She’s obsessed with the supernatural and loves the forest.
I immediately made a cabin in the woods for her, a few miles away from the mansion where everyone else lives.
I do not know how to explain that these places exist inside my head. I can see them right now. Outrageously weird and stupid, right? I know.
My imagination is a mutant superpower.

I can make myself sick.
If i were to tell myself i have a terrible headache, one will manifest in a matter of minutes. And i’m not faking it. I’m feeling the pain in my head. I currently have a headache, heh. It’s a doozy.

I’ve had this thumper for months now.
Ever since i returned to therapy.
My head throbs and my legs itch to walk. To go home. To get away from people.

My head hurts. It’s so full. So many people are talking and i know this is my imagination at work. I know these people that live in my brain aren’t real. I know that my brain did an amazing thing to get me through my childhood. It separated my thoughts, my emotions, and my sensations from each other, so that i could survive what was happening to me. And these disconnected thoughts and experiences floated around in my head for so long they became something almost tangible…

My mutant brain had no trouble ascribing identities to them.
These weird and disembodied, precious Bits N’ Pieces.
I know they aren’t real.
Some of them even know it, too.

But here’s the thing. All i have is my own experience to go by.
I may be a brain in a jar, but i have no evidence of that — what i have is experience, and what i experience is other people living inside my brain. Most of them live in a mansion surrounded by a moat. One lives in a cabin. One stomps around the forest like a sasquatch.

And you’d better believe i have a dragon.
When you’ve got these mutant superpowers, of fucking course you get yourself a dragon.

This is the most exposed and vulnerable i’ve been since i disclosed my story all those years ago. I’m sharing this because, what happened to me as a child made me so dysfunctional that i haven’t been able to accomplish much of anything that looks like success by the world’s current metric. This is all i have to give. I made it through and i’m here and i’m a fairly decent human and i’m learning and growing and getting better every single day.

My head is throbbing and bursting with voices. They leak out my ears and spill down my body like a bloody waterfall. Blood in the water.
I survived what happened to me because i became a multiple.
My head is bleeding thoughts because i’m not supposed to talk about this. I was programmed for secrecy. I love my system, but they’re shouting at me SHUT UP! NO! YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED! PRIVATE!

I’m walking around waiting for the beating because i’m not allowed to tell.
I’m a guitar string stretched too tight. Every muscle in my body is on hyper-alert. There’s a terror inside me that they’re going to take me away from my mom.
She’s been dead for nearly 30yrs.

This is writing through the bad. I’ve just gotta get this shit out; if it stays in my brain it rots, putrifies, poisons me. My brain is too dangerous a neighbourhood to walk through on my own. I am holding your hand, reader, so tight.
So many shadows and wisps and slivers of people inside my brain, yet i’ve always felt so alone.

This is reaching out into the dark for a hand – any hand. Anybody.
I know this will be okay. I know i will be okay. I already survived the worst of it – i can be all naked and weird and vomity. One foot in front of the other. One word and then the next.

Thanks for reading. You have no idea how much it means to me.

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.

Come With Me

Come with me, I said, and no one knew
where, or how my pain throbbed,
no carnations or barcaroles for me, 
only a wound that love had opened.
~Pablo Neruda, Come With Me, I Said, And No One Knew (VII)

Surprise twist movies have been done to death. I’m over them, especially when there’s nothing much going for it besides the twist, which is often the case these days. There are some that stand out because the story is masterfully told, the buildup too subtle to notice until it’s revealed. With them it’s like suddenly, the entire landscape of the story changes, becoming something you hadn’t foreseen, and looking back you almost can’t see what it once was. And now, oh! how you see all the little clues, and feel a fool, for you’re certainly clever enough and experienced enough in these things to have seen it coming.

I should have seen it coming.

I’m not exactly full of myself about it, but i am proud of all the hard work i’ve done. I’ve accomplished more than i’d thought i could, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that i was afraid that i wouldn’t be able to get this far. Yet i’m here. I stubbornly, doggedly, resolutely, and with no small amount of backing myself into a corner and its resultant terror, have managed to be able to navigate the day-to-days of an almost-normal life. I must do a great many things that most others do not in order to achieve this, but these things have become a part of my daily routine, my mental toilette, if you will. My life is ordinary and average, and by me being me and it being so, it is absolutely not.
Well! Heh. I guess i do sound a bit conceited.

It’s funny (peculiar AND haha), i’ve almost always guessed correctly and way ahead of time when the twist is that someone’s a multiple (what a sad, tired trope that is, UGH). Not only do i know personally what it’s like, but i’m a smug and jaded movie lover from way back who has pissed off many a friend and family member by guessing the end, and taking an annoying amount of satisfaction in how smart i am. (Don’t hate me – i don’t do it anymore unless i’m with my husband, who must legally tolerate it, or someone who also loves guessing.)

I see dead people.
Just kidding, i only hear people who aren’t actually real and am occasionally possessed by them. It’s no big deal. Not really. Not comparatively or relatively or even practically. I did all this work and now i have this life. There will very likely always be the odd hiccough here and there, but i have this life now and i made it, and i like it this way. I’ve had enough change, and turmoil, and chaos, and drama to choke a horse, feed an army, and slap your mama. I’m happy and satisfied with this quiet, bucolic existence.
I figured i’d plug along like this for the rest of my life. Well, i think that’s what i thought.

I try not to think too much on the future, as it tends to trigger anxiety and depression. Most of my long term successes have come from small tweaks to thinking or action, built upon slowly. Sweeping changes and massive lifestyle overhauls can easily kick me into mania, which usually finds me at least 3 steps back when the dust settles.
If life is Mario Bros., i play all the way through. I know i can skip through quickly and just ride that flag to the top, but i collect all the powerups and coins available before i level up. And I don’t skip any levels either, for the same reason. When i get up to those tougher levels (like Ice World – fuck that world, man), i know i’m going to need extra life, and all the mushrooms and stars i’ve got to make it out of there.
I need to be prepared with a strong foundation, and i need practise to succeed. I need to go slowly too, because i’m clumsy and i stumble – regularly, and hard.

I keep my eyes on the ground in front of me. I choose where to put my foot next. I do look up periodically, lest i walk off a cliff or run into a tree, but i’m more concerned with firm footing, and avoiding the odd stone or embedded root.
And i’m the type that does better by looking back and seeing how far i’ve come, rather than looking ahead to see how far i’ve yet to go.
I could see some potential for trouble up ahead, but what i couldn’t see was that i was slowly descending into a valley. The scenery changed very gradually, and it all looked fine until dusk. I look up and around me now, in all directions, and it’s all vaguely sinister. I’m standing here, trepidatious, afraid to take the next step. The warmth of the day is fading with the light, replaced with the chill that tags along with the bleeding of the night, seeping into my bones as dread.

I’m frozen here. I’m unable to move. I can’t tear my eyes away from what is ahead of me. It’s like the dirty snow on the screen of my tv when i was a child, at the end of the programming day. I’d stare at the funny coloured bars that would pop up after the playing of the national anthem. The fear would gather slowly in the pit of my stomach once the late night news was over. If i was lucky there’d be a movie, but often it was just some old cop show, like Barnaby Jones or Cannon. They scared me a little, but i suffered them because it was better than being alone. My mother would be out somewhere, doing whatever, and i was 4, 5, 6 (and older), and terrified of the dark and being alone. Of course i was, and that box filled with pictures and voices of people was company and distraction from the places my superpowered, mutant imagination could take me. Would take me. Even just with the snow, at least it was a beacon of light, and i’d stare at it, and imagine i could see figures and hear whispers… The movie Poltergeist triggered me so hard; those glowing, dancing specks were alive for me, too.

What i see before me is like that dirty snow – it buzzes fuzzily, like millions of bees crammed together yet still in flight. But it’s not greyish white with black flecks like that old tv with the foil wrapped bunny ears, it’s black. It’s dozens of shades of black, giving depth and detail, giving off heat like a fever or infected flesh. It’s insidious.

I can’t walk into that, let alone through it.

I can’t talk about the fear that’s in me and on me every day now. Sucking all my energy and wearing at my will, making me snappish and easily hurt. I hide and i switch and i often cannot get more than a half hour’s sleep at a time before dreams wake me. At least with dreams i can go back to sleep, but when the nightmares come i’m up, sometimes for an hour, sometimes until i get my family up and out for the day, when i’m sometimes able to nap a bit. I don’t know if i can do this work that’s presented itself for me to do.
I know myself and so i know i’m going to try – my hardest, my best – but i sincerely don’t know if i’ll succeed, or even if that’s possible.

Today i am leaning on my New Year’s Resolution to blog through the bad.
Sorry it’s mostly just a nonsensical mishmash of metaphor and analogy, seasoned liberally with histrionics, but it’s what i can do, for now.

the geysers flooding from deep in its vault:
in my mouth I felt the taste of fire again,
of blood and carnations, of rock and scald.
~Neruda

Image: Promotional poster from the movie Poltergeist (1982)

 

Fear Is The Mind Killer

Content Warning: This piece contains references to integration, which may be triggering for some.

When routine bites hard
And ambitions are low
When resentment rides high
And emotions won’t grow
And we’re changing our ways
Taking different roads

Love, love will tear us apart again
~Love Will Tear Us Apart, Evelyn Evelyn

This next part must come now, or it won’t. I’m committed to talking about my multiplicity – a lot here, maybe sometimes a little outside the protective bubble of the etherosphere where i dwell. (Did you see what i did there? I like it. Also, my use of qualifiers seems to be directly proportional to my difficulty with the subject matter. I’ll try to edit as many out as i can before i post, heh.)
In my prior entry, i wrote about how i hadn’t been paying enough attention to the people that live in my brain, and how once i did, i recognised that something was terribly wrong.

A little background before i get into what’s happened:

There are some multiples for whom success is integration, and others for whom that isn’t even on the table as a possibility. I fall into the latter camp. It felt, on a visceral level, like that would be akin to murdering the people who’d saved my life. I set about carving out a functional and satisfying life for all of us, which was no small task, and in fact took me nearly a decade to achieve. My system works from the agreement amongst us that i am the head, and i am in charge. There’s really no other way for this to work, because i have an intellectual understanding that my people aren’t actually real – they were created by me in order to help me survive my upbringing.

You may well ask, If you know they aren’t real, then how would integration be murder?
I’m not quite sure if i have a reasonable answer, but what i can say is that it’s the way i’ve learned to live with how my brain works. This involves a constant tinkering to find a workable balance between thoughts and feelings, between imagination and reality, and on finding a way to live in and be a part of the world as much as possible, while still honouring and protecting the parts of me that are broken and delicate and deserve to be shielded from any more pain or ugliness. In living my life as if they are real – i’m healing myself.

Multiples are no different from anyone else in that we must all find or create our own path, no one’s journey through life is exactly like anyone else’s. I’ve sought healing and happiness through examining what happened to me and learning as much as i can about how i coped, and what that might say about me as a person (and what it might not). I’ve been intensely self-focused for nearly 20yrs now, and as with most of us who get exceptional at anything, i’d been managing my people well for enough time that i’d become complacent.

When i finally turned my eyes and ears inward, i discovered that some of my people were missing. I asked after them and was mostly met with stony silence. A couple of them yelled things at me, but it was name calling, not information. Those that i know would help me were being hidden from me, and i had to listen to cursing and condemnation before any cooperation was going to happen. I’m not going to describe what happened in any more detail than that, as it’s private and it’s weird, and frankly i’m not sure i can paint a word picture that would make enough sense to either of us for me to bother.

They were gone, and no one wanted to talk about it.
When i think things, as a multiple, it is as if i’m talking to other people (sometimes at, because no one is listening, heh). Usually there’s at least one response, and occasionally it’s many. There can also be other conversations already happening, or what i “say” can spur some side conversation, in other words 2 or more of my people want to talk to each other about what i just said. There’s often murmurs that follow, where i can catch a snippet or 2, but it’s more like a sussuration unless i consciously focus on it. This time, i’m wondering where a few of my people are, i’m thinking that i don’t remember hearing from them recently, and it happens just like BOOM! in a moment:

I know they’re gone.
I’m struck by the terrible, thick, unnatural (as in NEVER happens) silence.
I’m at once overwhelmed by their feelings of fear, and my legs are watery and my head is floaty and i’m hit with a violent wave of nausea.

I don’t know how long i sat there, but i know i must have been acting weird, because suddenly i was aware that my dogs were at me, one was pawing my face, and the other was sitting at my feet, staring directly at me, which isn’t like her. At this point, i get up and go back about my day. This is the beginning of a couple of weeks spent in a highly dissociative state. I sort of forget about what happened, but i’m also aware of it, like a dark figure, always present at the edge of my peripheral vision. I’m easily startled at the best of times, but now i’m jumping out of my skin fairly regularly. And i’m losing time, nearly every day.

I was able to keep to my regular schedule, which is no small point of pride, for me. Yet i was filled with foreboding, and felt menaced by something or someone, although i knew that it was just the way my brain was manifesting what was going on in my system. I tried to cope by becoming more functional, i exercised more and was more careful with my diet, and i tackled more chores around the house. The results of that were all good, except it didn’t help with my inner turmoil much, and i knew that if i didn’t deal with what had happened soon, i’d find myself in some manufactured chaos.

One night i got royally pissed off at something, which got the ball rolling, or rather it got my tongue wagging. I told my husband that i thought some of my Bits N’ Pieces were gone. And then i think i cried for a long time.

You cry out in your sleep
All my failings exposed
There’s a taste in my mouth
As desperation takes hold
Just that something so good
Just can’t function no more

Love, love will tear us apart again
END OF PART TWO

Swerve

There were many times before i was diagnosed, when not knowing how to handle my thoughts and feelings caused some wreckage. I don’t like looking at them, because they’re mostly mortifying, and because often when they occurred my multiplicity would be in play, so the details can be hard to recall. This week though, my mind keeps turning to some of these events, and i haven’t been able to shake the feeling that i need to examine them now, or i’m risking a return to those behaviours.

What i’m referring to is somewhat hard to define for a couple of reasons. One reason is because the emotions are so intense, the people who live in my brain take over, which often leaves me with little or no memory of what’s happened. Another is that scrutiny can be difficult just because the events precipitating them are unpleasant to recall, and my behaviour is so embarrassing to me that i must fight dissociation to even examine it. I’m sitting here with my morning cup of tea, my husband is beside me doing his morning guided meditation, and i’m struggling hard to concentrate. I was feeling out of sorts yesterday around suppertime, and so i went to bed early, thinking i’d read to relax and try to get some extra sleep in.
Ha. I woke every hour or so all night.

I’ve been going back to bed after the guys head off to work/school for this last week. I’m tired and not sleeping well, plus i’m still working on getting back to reading fiction, a thing that fell by the wayside when i began learning to deal with DID. I can and still do read a lot of non-fiction, but the imagination stuff was like skating on thin ice – i’d fall through the thin, brittle membrane that held me up, and begin flailing around in a panic, the cold, slushy soup of all those who live just underneath quickly deadening my limbs and pulling me down into the murk. I still struggle staying present while reading good fiction, but it’s worth every effort.

Allow me a brief digression from the topic at hand. I know that this  may be reading as a bit strange (maybe more like, HUH?), so let me try to make it a bit clearer.
My therapist told me that if some people really had mutant superpowers, that mine would be imagination. The mind of a multiple is capable of internal flights of fancy that can seem real. I know that there aren’t actual people inside my head, yet they seem real, and they’re capable of accomplishing daily activities and handling emergencies when the consciousness that my brain recognises as ME can’t be located. They aren’t real and yet they absolutely are. They’re so real it just took me nearly 5mins to be able to recall the word “integration”. That word is hard to remember because to all of us who live here in my brain, it carries a connotation akin to “murder”. It happens every time i try to remember that word. I could go deeper with this, and i likely will someday, but for now, if you’ll just take that little description and think on how that ability might apply itself to Tolkien’s works, or King’s, or to Gaiman’s, Bradbury’s, Vonnegut’s, Atwood’s, Well’s, Shelley’s, Pohl’s… Yeah, i’m partial to sci fi/fantasy – act shocked.

So, i’ve been going back to bed every morning this week, laying there and trying to read and rest,  but not accomplishing much of either. Part of my inability to get enough sleep may be due to depression, which i think has hold of me, although its grip isn’t nearly as rough as i’d anticipated. I’m vaguely tired and mildly irritated all the time, and i lost a much-loved family member on Sunday, which i know has intensified all the depression stuff i was already feeling prior. I try to concentrate on anything right now, and i can’t quite do it. My head is foggy. I can see the smudgey outlines of my thoughts speckling the mists like grey shadows, but the ground is like a skating rink beneath me, and squinting at the images makes them no clearer, rather they seem to disappear in the watery blur that swims between my eyelashes. I can’t think a thought through to its conclusion, or follow a question to its answer. The path fades before i can find firm footing – i’m not even clear what direction to go. And these attempts leave me cranky and frustrated, with one of those headaches that feels like a bass drum being repeatedly struck by a pedal-beater that’s been covered in muppet-fur. Fuzzy-thump, fuzzy-thump, fuzzy-thump… Hitting so hard i can hear the distant metallic rattle of the wires on the bottom of the snare above it.

I usually give up at this point, but this time i can’t. I can’t because i think i may be building up towards that kind of blow-up that i mentioned at the beginning. The kind of explosion that causes a lot of collateral damage. Like the time when i was 21yrs old and i ruined a funeral because i found out my girlfriend had cheated on me. Or the time i got drunk for 2wks and my Peanut Gallery all thought i was dead and my kids all hated me and were hiding from me. So they took a bunch of pills and first destroyed my own home and then went to the place the kids were at and put a metal chair through the front window and we wound up committed AGAIN.

And in a couple of days i’m going to a funeral, and it’s for the person whose window i demolished all those years ago. She’s my mother-in-law and she’s been a better mom to me than my own mother ever was, and i’m devastated to lose her. Over the last 2yrs dementia has stolen her from us all, a piece at a time, and last Monday morning she had nothing left to give.
I must look at the ugly past, learn as much as i can, and prepare myself in case anything comes up for me.

Wow.

This is why i write.
This right here.
These moments of clarity.
Of insight.
This peace i suddenly have inside me, because even though i was dreading it, even though i feel embarrassed and humiliated looking at those past events, those awful things i did, i am committed to doing the things i’ve put into place to do when life happens to me. When even death happens.

Be present in the moment. Practise mindfulness if necessary. (It’s necessary.)
Avoid triggery people, places, and things.
Do not attempt to eat, drink, drug, or fuck the problem away.
Write about it.
And most important of all…
WRITE ABOUT IT.

Well i did, i have. Er… I AM.
Suddenly it happened. I just realised that, although i need to look harder for what i was feeling and thinking that preceded my destructive outbursts, i’m not going to behave that way this time. It’s a non-issue. I’ve grown up enough and i’ve learned enough about myself, how i work, and the world around me, that i won’t be losing control like that in any fashion, due to my MIL’s death or the upcoming funeral.
It’ll all be okay, and i’m going to be all right.

I’ve fashioned my own Guide To Happy Usefulness, and it works when i work it.
I had to force myself to sit down and write about it, but once i did, it worked.
Holy fuck, H.

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

~William Carlos Williams

Let Reality Be Reality

Those who know me might be very confused as to why someone with my personality would have a problem accepting a diagnosis of dissociation.
After all, i do make a rather strong impression. That i’ve changed significantly through study and hard work notwithstanding, people generally remember meeting me. More than that, they probably also have a fairly good idea whether they like me or they don’t; i’m that sort of person. I’m drawn to extremes, i feel things intensely, i have strong opinions, and i don’t mind telling you about them – even though you may not have asked. Heh.

Did you notice the name i use for my site? Histrionica is a name i made up (which i’ve since learned is the name of a beetle) years ago when i joined a scifi fan page. I thought it hilariously appropriate because i can be a tad histrionic upon occasion. I added an “a” to make it sound feminine, and voila!

I revelled in drama growing up. I joined choirs and drama groups every place we lived. I joined every club and after school activity i could in order to get out of the house as much as possible. (Not after school SCHOOL activities, though. School was as hellish as home was, sometimes.) I sang and i acted and i was very, very good. Gifted, by all accounts by all the directors with whom i ever worked. Full of potential and promise. I could sing anything, play anyone convincingly. I could affect any accent you wished, i only had to listen to it for a bit and i could do it. I could ape anyone. I could do you, for anyone who knew you, and they’d know it was you.

And then there was school… UGH. Well, there’s no sense in sugarcoating shit at this stage of the game, so i won’t.

I lied. I lied a LOT. I lied about anything, to anyone, for any reason. For no reason.
It started at home. If i did something wrong, i got hit. I didn’t want to get hit, so i would deny i did the wrong thing, even if i had done it. Pretty typical kid behaviour, except the abuse i was living with exacerbated the problem. Even when i hadn’t done anything wrong, i was consistently treated as if i had. I was the receptacle for all my parent’s unwanted emotions. I grew up believing there was something terribly wrong with me – that i was bad and deserving of punishment. That doesn’t mean i didn’t still try to avoid it.

My first defense was always denial.
Then i’d tell a story about why i couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t do the thing of which i was accused, that i had actually done.

This carried itself into my school performance. I didn’t want to get into trouble, so i would lie. There was so much tumult at home that i often wouldn’t complete my homework, and when the teacher would ask me about it, i’d lie. And i was so strange in my appearance (read: poor and unkempt) and odd in my behaviour, that i would invent grand and fantastical stories as to why. I mean, i knew i was different, if for no other reason than my fellow students would regularly remind me. Some even questioned me about it – mostly the bullies, but every once in a while, a genuine, concerned query would come from a kinder peer. I’d always lie. Well, i told a bit of truth to a couple of friends in high school, but their lack of response only reaffirmed what i’d learned growing up:

1) We do not speak of these things;

2) It’s not a big deal;

3) You deserve what’s happening to you.

Honestly though, i must have had quite the reputation for telling whoppers, so how were they supposed to know when i was telling the truth? I don’t blame them a bit. The one teacher i disclosed to is another story… He was my favourite teacher and he broke my heart and it hurts to this day.

Sorry… A bit off topic, but still somewhat relevant to what i’m trying to relay.

Finally, i must devote some time to my love of fantasy. Growing up, my ability to lose myself in art: books, movies, television, even music – it saved my life. Both figuratively speaking, and i believe, quite literally as well. I didn’t just read Lord of the Rings – i lived it. I read the books through 3 or 4 times, just to go back and be with my friends and have those adventures again. My imagination is very developed, very adept, very intense. I WAS Alice. I was Pippi Longstocking, i was Marcia Brady, i was Ginger AND Mary Ann. I was Velma, and i was the smart one who solved the mystery. I would come home from a day of teachers ignoring me and children torturing me, and i would be Belinda Carlisle on tour with the Go-Go’s, and i would bump into Harrison Ford or Sting at some Hollywood party, where they would see me and ask me out and we’d fall in love…

I would comfort my poor, hurt feelings for hours sometimes, with only enough time left to take orders from Mom over cooking, cleaning, or kid care, and then to bed. Door closed and light off or i’d get yelled at and/or hit. Next day at school, i’d lie to the teacher about why my homework wasn’t done.

Once i got away from school and home, i didn’t need to lie so much. And so i actually didn’t. Over the years though, the one thing i found i couldn’t quite let go of was my penchant for exaggeration. It was like a lingering imprint or a reflex that lessened with age, but still… For many years, i just couldn’t seem to resist embellishing the truth a little. If i lost 10lbs, i’d tell you 20. If i hadn’t slept a wink last night, i’d tell you not for the last 2 or 3. If i ate an entire pizza to myself and you asked what i’d had for supper, i’d tell you salad and fresh fruit. Okay that last one was an outright lie. I admit i still told those sometimes.

It wasn’t until i learned enough about the effects of abuse that i understood why i was lying and telling fish stories. I believed i wasn’t good enough. I was afraid that deep down inside, i was bad. I was trying to hide it – trying to keep others from finding out. It took years of concerted effort, but that kind of behaviour has been behind me for a long time.

I still lie, but only when necessary, or for reasons of self-care or kindness. If you think honesty is the best policy, or lying is always bad, well… This piece isn’t for that subject, but maybe one day i’ll write a bit about my thoughts in this area, and you can read it and see what you think.

Maybe you’re starting to see where i’m going.
Why i resisted my diagnosis so hard, and for so long.
If you are, maybe you can help me out here, because it’s freaking hard to put into words. Blargh. It’s all buzzing around up there in my brain, but it’s like trying to separate the ingredients once you’ve made soup out of them.
Good luck.

This is a mental illness with more baggage than most. A lot of people don’t even believe it exists. Some people fake it in order to escape the consequences of their bad behaviour, or to get attention. Most people’s only experience of it is through ham-handed tv tropes, or as a literary device, including the (in?)famously debunked novels like “Sybil” and “Michelle Remembers”. It’s an illness chock full of drama and controversy. It invites and elicits very strong opinions.

Once i got away from my mother and her influence, i realised i was an abused child. Once i had a child of my own i knew i needed to deal with it or i couldn’t be the kind of mom i wanted to be. Through doing the work, i realised i was mentally ill, but i didn’t know exactly what was wrong – no diagnosis seemed to fit. And then this diagnosis comes along that fits me perfectly, but it appeals to parts of my nature that i’m trying to change or eliminate altogether. Parts like my propensity for embellishment and my tendency towards histrionics. I was terrified that people were telling me what the sick parts of me wanted to hear. Factor in that out of the dozens of people i’d met claiming to be dissociative, they all seemed to be faking it, save one.

I couldn’t allow myself to accept something because it offered a convenient excuse for all the troubles of my life. And i couldn’t allow myself to believe it just because it was perfect for the artist inside me, or even for the little girl who saved her own life with her mutant power of imagination.

What got me there is what you read on my blog in every single post i make.
I was indoctrinated from birth. I was actively brainwashed.
The greatest, most beautiful, powerful, and incredible thing that happened to me when i got away from my mother, is that i was given the opportunity to think for myself. It was slow going until i found my safe place (my person*), but once i had that i was able to work harder and achieve better results. I wanted to know what i thought and why i thought it. As the bible i once studied required of me, i wanted to have a reason for what i believed. From there i learned to study independently, and i was on my way. I didn’t know that there was a name for what i was doing, but i now know it’s called critical thinking.

I’m not going to share with you my step-by-step examination of who i am and what the diagnosis says dissociatives are. It would be an exercise in people-pleasing on my part, and that is something i try to do only because i want to, not because i’m trying to prove something. Like anyone, i still crave those 4As (attention, acknowledgement, acceptance, affection), but that’s not what this is about. Whether or not you believe in the diagnosis, believe that what i share in this blog is genuinely me. This is who i am and how my brain works.

This is life as me, whatever name you give me or box you put me in. I don’t mind.
I want to help myself and be a better human. I hope that by sharing how i’m helping myself, i can do both.

He thought he was gonna die,
But he didn’t.
She thought she just couldn’t cope,
But she did.
We thought it would be so hard,
But it wasn’t…
It wasn’t easy, though!
~Walk Straight Down the Middle, Kate Bush

Love and Peace As Always,
~H~

*Grey’s Anatomy reference, my not-guilty-at-all pleasure.

Under My Dome

This is one of those days where i really, really wish i was normal.

I’m not having that glib toss off comment that people often make about no one being normal, or what the heck is normal anyway. I understand where it comes from, and i know people don’t mean any harm or offense when they make it. And it doesn’t harm me or offend me when it’s made, either. I’m just saying that for today, if one were to make such a comment regarding this post – that might be considered by me to be a little insensitive.

I’m not referring to everyone’s little quirks and oddities. Yes, we all have those. I’m talking about living every single day of your life with a brain that works -in some very significant ways- much differently than most people’s. In ways that slow me down in my daily life, and have even held me back from achieving some things that i’ve wanted to do.

I’ve always had a terribly short attention span. I’ve struggled with concentration. In recent years, with the addition of bipolar disorder, i’ve had an awful time reading. Reading was one of the biggest things that saved my life growing up, and it’s been a slow and exasperating process trying to retrain my brain to read for pleasure again.

My thoughts either race so fast with mania, or process words so slowly with depression and dissociation, that i stopped reading novels. I forced myself to deal with the issue starting with non-fiction. As a person who’d finally broken free of my childhood programming that had taught me not to think for myself or question authority, i was hungry for information. So i started reading a lot of news articles, science articles, political pieces, and learning about philosophy. I’m not entirely sure why it’s been so much easier to read non-fiction, but i suspect it has something to do with fiction triggering my dissociative behaviours because it stimulates my imagination.

I’m trying though. I’ve had to, because i’m currently on a news/social media fast. The last year’s worth of campaigning, leading to the most frightening and disappointing election result in the US in my lifetime, necessitated a break. I’ve got too much going on in my personal life to even begin to process that event. Even typing this little bit about it in my blog is ramping up my anxiety level. And the Peanut Gallery in my head is on hypervigilant alert, meaning social media isn’t a good idea, either. I’m at a high risk for switching, and i can’t ask my online friends to go through that with me. It’s confusing enough for my husband and my children, i can’t imagine how much harder it would be when you don’t live with me, and don’t even have experience with me outside of the internet. (I was gonna say, “in the flesh”, but that sounded a bit dirty. Heh.)

Anyway, i’m trying to read a book i’ve been trying to get through for 2yrs. I’ve read other novels over the last few years, but King novels are especially hard for me, i think because he’s my favourite. I didn’t understand until a few years ago that my experience of imagination is different than most people. My therapist says that i am a superhero, and my mutant power is imagination. I was able to create people and worlds inside my brain in order to escape some of the awful things that happened to me as a child. My brain is a whole different level of creative. Not better than you, but very intense. Like, for those of you around my age, think in Technicolor, with Sensurround! If you’re a more recent arrival on the planet, think over 9,000!

When i found Stephen King novels it changed my life. It was more than just giving me an escape, the fact that they were based in horror helped me stay alive and be more sane. No, really. There were things that happened to me that i never spoke about. As years went by, they became like dreams i had, and as i grew i eventually “forgot” that they were real events and believed instead that they were only dreams. When other young people would talk about their dreams, i would wonder why mine were so strange and terrifying compared to theirs. I think King’s stories made it easier for me to, in due time, accept that there had been true evil in my life, as there is in the world, and that it can be overcome. As if reading about it in well-told stories made what i had lived through a bit more palatable. It was art. Dark, terrible art. It was maybe more romantic/poetic to me, seen through a writer’s eyes. That may not make sense to anyone else, but it does to me. Stephen King helped soften the blow in a way. His stories helped me to acknowledge and accept that my life was a story that he could have written.

For a week i have sat with this massive book in my lap. Forcing myself to read half an hour of this novel every day. It’s laborious and sluggish work. I have echobrain right now, meaning that i hear the sentence i just read bounce around inside my skull over and over, until it gradually fades. This forces me to say the sentence silently in my head as i’m reading it in order to cut down on the echo. Unfortunately, it also sloooows me doooown. I find it demeaning. I know i shouldn’t, but my reading speed and comprehension was something i was always so proud of, and here i am slogging away at a snail’s pace. And when i get frustrated i can always count on a voice or 2 to pipe up in there, which makes concentrating even more difficult.

So this is why i’m whining and wishing i was normal. It goes much deeper and darker than that though. It starts with the once-star-reader-turned-plodding-toiler and ends with oh-for-pity’s-sake-i’m-almost-50-and-i’m-barely-functional.

You thought this was gonna be a bombastic tirade on how you non-crazies have it so good, didn’tcha?

Nah. I’m just PO’ed because all i want is to read my dang story. *sigh*

Who you lookin’ for
What was his name
you can prob’ly find him
at the football game
it’s a small town
you know what i mean
it’s a small town, son
and we all support the team
~James McMurtry

Y’all have yourself as good a day as you can.

Love and Peace,
~H~