Anger Is A Mythical Beast

It can be tough for me to figure out what’s going on, but it’s important that i do. If i feel a bit off, i make it a priority, because things can go for shit before i know it. As a multiple, i think it’s at least partly due to my propensity for compartmentalisation and dissociation. Being able to do those things can be helpful – in the right situation and to the proper degree, but first i want to become aware of when i’m doing it (or wanting to do it) and why. If left unchecked, it can and has wreaked havoc in my life.

These last months have been filled with this work. I’m doing my best to stay present in my body and be in control of the face.*

As i’ve said before (and will say again because it’s the biggest thing in my life right now), it is hard, exhausting work. I’m tired and on edge all the time. It’s draining every reserve, and i mete out my daily allotment of spoons with consideration and care.

I’m angry. Like, every shade of anger on the spectrum is lit up and vibrating inside me. I’m everything from mildly ticked, to mad as a wet hen, to fuck-it-i’m-nuking-the-world. It’s been swimming around for some time, occasionally breaking the surface for air like some emotional Ogopogo. I’ve been catching brief glimpses in my psychic peripherals, and the other day something happened where i caught a clear view of it in action.

I had an encounter with someone from my past who wasn’t kind to me, and i found myself glad they weren’t doing well. Gleeful, even.
I made a joke about it with a friend, but my guts were already churning.

**********

So, i’m sitting here in my husband’s van, waiting for my therapy appointment. My regular ride fell through, and i advertised on social media for some help but none came. Then hubby says, You’re not doing well, i have a slow day at work tomorrow, so come in with me and we’ll see what we can make happen.

It’s probably for the best. I have a hair trigger ATM. Everyone is annoying. I feel people like an intrusion. My longtime online buddies are an exception, but only barely. Everyone else, including the very dear man i married, are varying levels of irritating. I feel attacked, but no one’s attacking me.

After my episode of Schadenfreude, i was at a friend’s house. The experience was simmering inside me, and i was feeling worse and worse about it.
That’s not me, that’s not who i am.
That was so mean, and ugly, too.
I feel mean and ugly.
Am i mean and ugly?

The answer is easily No. It’s a normal human reaction i think, to be momentarily glad that someone who hurt you is having a bad time. And i was immediately offput by my own reaction. I processed it and was thinking i could let it go and move on, when a knock brought my friend some visitors. I opened the door for them and BAM!
I was in trouble.

I could see them, but from an unrealistic distance. I was sliding away, and whoever was in the face was staring at them with hot, marble eyes. I resented them immediately. I didn’t want them there. Why? They’ve done nothing to me. One of them was an innocent child. Fortunately, i still had enough presence of mind to wrest control away from the protector who was in the face, and mellow my voice and countenance. But i could feel myself slipping, and knew i had to get away.
I quickly grabbed all my shit and got out of there. I knew i was acting strangely, so i was out the door in seconds, with only the most perfunctory of goodbyes. It was the best i could do; i could feel the rage coming up. The kind of destructive anger that unleashes my tongue to flay everyone around me to ribbons.
My mother had an acid tongue and i learned well.
I can destroy with a look, and my words have wrought untold damage over the course of my life. I’ve cut down swathes of people and relationships over the years.
It was a petty, shallow sort of anger i was feeling inside, like a tantrum.
I got TF out before i could do any harm.

Since then i’ve kept mostly away from people. I need to process this with my therapist.
Why am i so freaking choked?!

**********

Hubby came back to the van for a quick snack, and we discussed getting me to my appointment. I was able to process a bit with him while he munched away on cheese strings and meat sticks
Am i angry because it’s better then being sad?
Maybe it’s because i’m afraid of the pain that yet lies before me.
It’s a vast, roiling sea. I may drown in it.
No, really. That is a possibility.
I’m fairly sure i’ll make it through, but i’ll likely go under a couple of times.

Maybe it’s preferable to just stand on the beach and shake my fists at the water.

I was sitting here, waiting for more words to type, thinking about what’s ahead of me. I was thinking of the pain, but then it occurred to me that i’m already moving through the pain. My body is manifesting the physical sensations of my childhood. The ones i blocked and otherwise dissociated from: countless rapes and endless beatings.
So that’s not it.

Now i think i have it – or a bit of it anyway.
It’s not the physical pain i’m terrified of. Like my therapist said, she could slap me across the face and i’d be able to handle it better than a hug.
No, it’s not that. It’s hard and it’s awful, but pain is the bully i’ve lived with my whole life – this process has just taken me deeper.

What about what comes after?
What’s underneath my ripped girl parts and swollen throat?
I know.
A different kind of pain.
Unmet needs.
Betrayal.

I’m going to feel the rejection and aloneness of my childhood. It was a bleak and terrible landscape where the sun cast no warmth and daytime was a lie.
I’m going to grieve, to mourn.

Gah, i don’t know what to do with this information. I’ve done so much work on myself that i’m getting to know who i genuinely am underneath all the coping mechanisms and fear. I’ve seen other people compartmentalise and put away potentially disabling life events and go on to live a relatively happy and successful life. I think that’s a viable way to handle things, and i know i could do it.
But that’s not who i am as a person. I want something else –not better than the one who locks it away forever– just different. More in alignment with my personality.
Me, i’m a person who’s gotta look at it. I want to know, and as much as i or anyone is able, to understand.

I was blocked from knowing by my upbringing. All i knew was what my abusers told me. It was all i believed. My obedience was so ingrained and unconscious that my intelligence may well have atrophied – my intellect very nearly starved to death. Once i began to wriggle free, there was no going back for me. Even a small taste of freedom whet my appetite for more. My mother’s bloody fingerprints are all over me, inside and out, shallow and deep. It’s not the way for everyone who survives trauma, but a thorough and intense forensic examination is my way.
Yes, i’m self-focused. Willfully so.
I submit that it has, and will continue to make me a better and more useful person.
No longer used, but useful. A human who contributes to the betterment of humankind, and the earth we inhabit.

**********

I’ve left my husband and walked to my appointment. He’ll be by to pick me up later. It was a lovely walk through a part of the city that’s interesting and pretty and well-known to me. It’s also wonderfully trigger-free. I’ve got my footing, a little. It helps. I can already feel my gaze softening and my body unclenching. I see better where i am and where i’m headed.
I’m going to check in with my pocket people, and devour a few more chapters of my current book.

Processing…

**********

Oh shit. Today was not what i expected. I have some plans for the weekend (i people sometimes now – on purpose!), but i’ll try to fit some writing in.
I wanna get it while it’s fresh.

Have as good a weekend as you can. If it’s crap or otherwise out of your control, hang in there.
Love and Peace,
~H~

*”In the face” and variations thereof, is the phrase i use to describe who is currently controlling me and my system.

Seriously

WARNING: References to suicidal thoughts.

**********

Love and boundaries. FML.

I was raised to have none.
All the better to enslave you, traffic you, and just generally abuse you, my dear.
~ My mother the wolf

Whatever people wanted to do to me, i generally let them. Sex stuff was strictly controlled by my system, which saved me from sexual abuse by peers, but adults could get away with anything, and school-aged kids could humiliate and torture me at will. I did nothing. I never fought back. I would try to avoid, to stay away, but once some bully had me cornered, they could say or do whatever they wanted, as long as sex wasn’t involved. Somewhat strange, is that i was never beaten up physically at school, or after, although i was often followed and threatened and hurt by harsh words. I think my size (Amazon) was intimidating.

Over the years i’ve learned to stand up for myself. Despite the years of screaming and yelling that came from other parts of me, i myself am not violent. When my system was basically unleashed on the world around me due to a severe bipolar mania, i broke a lot of shit. Dishes, glasses, i kicked holes in doors and slammed them off their hinges. I threw things at walls, and one time i threw a chair through a front window. And even worse, there were times during this first, years-long bout of madness, where my people would confuse my partner for a past abuser. I couldn’t control them, and he didn’t know how to handle me switched, so there were times when he pushed for communication too hard, got in too close, and they would scratch and bite at him, and even pull out his hair.
I’m fortunate he stuck with me through that.
He would have been well within his rights to have me arrested and charged.
He saw me as sick and forgave my physical acting out.

It wasn’t long after i was first in therapy with the person i’m working with again now, that i was able to regain control of myself enough to stop the violence. It’s been a decade since i fought him off like a wet cat, and at least a half dozen since i’ve broken or otherwise destroyed anything (although i can still occasionally slam the shit out of a door).

The world’s current system of criminal justice, levied against my childhood abusers would have been nice. I’m in my 50s now though, and my primary abuser is long dead, some of the others that i have names for are either dead or dying, and there were many whose names i cannot recall, if i ever knew them in the first place. I’ve never thought about revenge towards them. Not even my mother. Oh, i’ve reimagined what i might say to her as she lay dying in her hospital bed, only days from the coma that would cradle her to her death.

I had my girlfriend drive me when i went to visit her. I’ve always been a crappy driver.* I’ve got too much going on in my brain to pay proper attention i think, and even back then i knew i was too emotional to get behind the wheel and not have an accident. This time i asked her to take me to see my mom because i’d made her a cassette with music on it (yes, i’m mix-tape years old) and wanted to talk to her. The song list was gross. It bore witness to me years later of how sick and twisted my relationship with her was, as it was filled with love songs, e.g. Without You, by Badfinger.

“I can’t live, if living is without you… “

And i begged her to love me with T’Pau’s Heart and Soul. Yeesh.

I went to her room and she graciously received me (/s), and i gave her my little gift, and then proceeded to apologise for being such a bad daughter. I told her how her accident made me realise how lucky i was to have her for a mom, and how desperately sorry i was for all the difficulties she’d had because of me.
Seriously.

She raised her arms up off the bed and spread them open to either side of her, splaying her fingers wide. She shrugged and nodded and with lips slightly pursed, she magnanimously (/s!) forgave me. I wept with gratitude.
Seriously.
Of course she didn’t say sorry back.

(My mother said sorry to me once in my life. I was 3 or 4 and i said “Fuck” while playing with my dolls. She slapped me across the face so hard i fell off my chair and later couldn’t see out of one eye. She did a lot worse things than that both before and after though, so i don’t know what moved her that day.)

At least she died a week or so later.
Of sepsis.
She rotted from the inside out.
Damn right it’s poetic.

Raised with no boundaries and to take the blame for everything.
I come from a country that’s made gentle fun of for saying Sorry a lot. Take my cultural influences and my upbringing, and i’ve said sorry countless times. Every day, multiple times a day. My first response to so very many situations and happenings is, Sorry! I know that sometimes i drive my husband and sons batty with my constant apologising. It’s not just, Sorry, i oversalted the soup.
It’s, Sorry you have a headache (because i’m annoying and needy and do stupid shit).
And, Sorry kids, i know between the nature and the nurture i’ve completely fucked up your lives forever.
When we used to watch team sports on television and our team was losing, i’d say sorry and leave the room because i felt like it was my fault.
Seriously.

After years of counselling i’ve been able to tone it down quite a bit, but a new close friendship i have has made it clear i have a ways to go. She’s told me a number of times to stop saying sorry for things that aren’t my responsibility, have nothing to do with me, or were due to circumstances i couldn’t have helped. She lets me see the love and the frustration on her face when she says it, too. So i know i still have a problem.

I know now that i have an overblown, highly developed sense of blame, and i’ve been working hard over the years to temper it. To be honest though, i struggle. I’ve hermitted a great deal over the last number of years, because i’m just not well enough or together enough yet to do a lot of peopling. It’s too complicated and too fraught with emotion for me. It takes so much effort and energy to be present and conscious and stay in the face while being around others. Now i do it in small chunks, almost always with just 1 or 2 people. If it’s a group, i don’t last more than 3hrs, except for a wedding i went to this summer where i lasted just over 4 – but i was switched for the last hour and some, so yeah, 3 hours, tops.

I put my personal growth in this area to the test a few months ago, when i stopped taking the blame for a loved one’s problems, and removed them from my safe place. It was incredibly difficult, it took years of poor treatment for me to do it, but it was an empowering experience. I now know i can say Stop, and No, to a loved one, and i’m not bad and i won’t die.
The problem is, that was just a dress rehearsal for what i’m facing today.

Today i say Stop, and No, and draw a boundary around myself that’s been decades coming. It’s a big deal, the biggest, and i might pay dearly for it. The cost may very well be losing the relationship. I have to do this though, or there’s a good chance i won’t make it through the therapy i’m currently in. I’m afraid i’ll just stop it and walk away. I’m afraid i’ll get sick and locked up. I’m afraid i’ll get overwhelmed, lose control, and end the relationship myself, in an unhealthy way. I’m afraid i’ll fold in on myself, and those soft, suicidal whispers i’ve been hearing lately will get louder and start suggesting a plan**…

Right now as i’m writing, i’m reminding myself that this person’s reaction to my boundary will be their own. I cannot control it, and more importantly, i won’t even try. They get to think what they think about it. They get to think whatever they wish about me, and whether what i’m doing is right or wrong. They get to question my motives and even come up with an answer that i think is incorrect. They get to misunderstand and get as hurt and/or angry as they want to get.
I’ve written down what i want to say, because i know my Bits N’ Pieces are going to be active and talkative in my brain, so i’ve made sure i don’t miss anything that i think is important. I want to chicken out and not do this, but i can’t. This ache in my belly will consume me, and i’ll lose myself for who knows how long? I want to send the words by text or email, because it’s going to be brutal for me -i’ll probably cry my face off while reading it out loud- but this relationship deserves a face-to-face.
I
I
I
I deserve a face-to-face.
Seriously.

I know this is a little vague, but as i’ve embraced a more rational and critical method of thinking, i’ve learned that i’m the kind of person who prefers the unvarnished truth. You don’t need to sugarcoat it, and you can be as blunt as you’d like. I would just rather know what’s real and what’s not. I want to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible – even if it hurts and changes my worldview or drastically alters my circumstances.

Maybe i’ll write about that sometime soon.

Sorry this is a bit of a downer for the holiday, but it’s the truth.
Sorry.
Heh.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*I quit driving a long time ago, don’t worry.

**I’m doing all the things i know to do when i have suicidal thoughts. There is no current plan, but i’ve stepped up the frequency of my therapy appointments, and i’ll be sharing this uptick in invasive thoughts with her this week. I’m maintaining my house and my personal hygiene, but eating and sleeping are difficult. My BFF is spending the day with me tomorrow, and that will put a spoon or 2 back in my drawer for later. My thoughts do not determine my actions so much as my conscious awareness of them facilitates better choices and decisions. I’m not at the place where a higher level of care is required. I assure you that if it was, i’d go get it.

The Door

Sometimes i wanna just lay this body down
float away and leave it behind
It’s heavy, this flesh
this warm and soft skin-wreath that hangs on my door
It beckons
This toothy smile, these sparkling eyes
like a lit doorbell in the night
My hands spread open, palms up
A welcome mat

I’m hiding behind the door
peeking through the curtains
The fire behind me illuminates my form
Stop knocking, i’m not here
The hearth is hot and the blue light bids me come
I step in and dance, rippling pink and golden, white, orange
Then grey and wispy, like air with fur,
I rise up and float away
My body lies below me, still warm and waiting

Suddenly, a torrent, and i am acrid
wetness,
Tears in hot ash, sss-ing
Someone’s at the door and they won’t stop knocking
Pushing the doorbell that fairly tinkles my name
while i sweep myself into a pile and inch towards the door
Taking shape, heavier with each step
Light and shadow filling the carved wood of the door
My door, my face, my flesh… Hullo?

Sometimes i wanna just lay this body down

Huh.

I missed my last counselling appointment… Kinda. My body was there, but i was not in the face.* At the time, i was in full-on chaos mode, and my therapist had to deal with some Littles and some Angries. Yesterday, she filled me in on how it went. I came in small, got very big and pissy, and tried to leave.
I’m a leaver, a take-off-er, a skedaddler of the highest order. I get stressed, anxious, scared, and i vacate the face and then the premises. Fortunately, my therapist deals with people like me for a living, and has done so for more than 20yrs. Apparently, she used mom-voice on me and it worked.
Mom voice.
Huh (not the question huh, the onomatopoeia huh). Who’da thunk it?

She ordered me to sit back down, told me i wasn’t going anywhere, and then informed me she was putting her weighted blanket on me.
Dudes – i do NOT do weighted blankets. I do NOT like any heaviness on me at all. In bed, i’ll usually even throw off the duvet and just use the sheet, my nightwear, and my husband’s body heat for warmth, because the weight on me triggers anxiety.**
Apparently, i tolerated it, and although i pouted and wore a sour face, i admitted that it made me feel a bit better.
Huh. Well, don’t that beat all?

While i don’t remember arriving there or leaving, when she described the part of the session with the blanket a bit of it came back to me. Sometimes, i’m completely gone when someone else is in the face, and i can’t find/feel an internal connection to the goings on being related to me, that i was involved in. Sometimes though, i’m not fully switched, and it’s like i’m in the corner of my brain, half asleep. When i’ve withdrawn but not left completely, a report of events can often trigger some recollection, or at least a tangible emotional connection. It’s like when you burp hours after a meal and are reminded of what you ate, maybe? Heh.

After the update, she asks me how i’m doing. I shrug and say, “Meh. But it’s a good meh.”
And it is good.

I think (hopehopehope) i’ve emerged from this period of pure, unadulterated panic that i’ve been operating in. It might be more accurate to say i’m hoping to avoid another one, because i don’t feel panicky, although my sense is that it’s not as far away as i’d like. These last few months have been exceptionally difficult as far as my mental health and maintaining a decent level of day-to-day function are concerned.

Way back i knew what i was undertaking was going to be hard, but not this hard.
I knew it was going to hurt, but not this much.
And i knew it would be scary, but didn’t anticipate abject terror.
I suppose i couldn’t have known until i was in it, and i was as prepared as i could have been. I’ve put in one heckuva lotta work.
It ain’t easy to bring a dead body back to life.

Yes okay, i’m the first one to admit i’m a bit on the dramatic side (my name is Histrionica after all), but when you spend most of your first decade of life literally trying not to die – i think you get some accommodation. I gave myself permission regardless, and i try to keep it on a relatively short leash, except in times like these. Therapy. Digging deep. Performing surgery on myself hurts like a motherfucker, and i get to emote, damn it.

Reestablishing the connections between my brain and my body is the hardest inner work i’ve done to date, and i’m never not exhausted.

Let’s backtrack a sec.

I was raised religious, but more than that, i was created by my parents to be obedient, above all other things. So, although i’d had it suggested to me a number of times, i rejected the MPD diagnosis (never went back to any p-doc type that suggested it). Dogma said it didn’t exist, and my mother both counted on me being multiple, and relied on it being hidden from me that i was one. It wasn’t until my mother’d been dead for some time that i considered it. When the social worker from my church who was counselling me told me i clearly was, and the psychologist who also attended our church agreed with her diagnosis, i finally accepted (or at least began the process) that i “had multiple personalities”. (Ooh, that stuff in quotes makes me cringe hard. I’ve developed my own slang surrounding multiplicity over the years, or i might never have been able to talk about it; my reaction to commonly used words and phrases regarding it is still so visceral.)

The lady who treated me was kind and sweet and worked with me for a few years, but it was still heavily centred on our shared faith. I think i was switched most of the time. I was starting to believe i was a multiple, but i still wasn’t really aware of it happening. Along the way i had weight loss surgery, became an apostate, and stopped seeing her.
I also went batshit crazy.

The bipolar disorder became obvious first – being thin for the first time in my adult life brought up a tonne (harhar) of issues that being in a food coma and surrounded by a wall of fat had kept at bay. Before the year following my surgery was up, i was tits-deep in mania. Mania is characterised as “a state of heightened overall activation with enhanced affective expression together with lability of affect” (Source: Wikipedia), and labile is an adjective meaning unstable, fluctuating wildly. Sounds about totally, yep, uh-huh.

It is my uneducated and purely experiential opinion that the mania blew the doors off in my brain that were keeping me from knowing my system, and kept them somewhat controlled in their behaviour. What followed was a free-for-all that kept me scrambling for the face, for years. I barely slept and mostly ran on booze and drugs and manic juice.

Back to present, now.

The thing that has thrown me for a loop is just how much i dissociate. I had no idea until i took on this work of being as present in my body as i can be, which becomes harder the further i am from the face, that i’m at a measurable level of dissociation most of the time. This all leaves me invariably exhausted, with no special juices to keep me going.

So i tell my therapist about how tired i am, and how much my body hurts, but how the fear no longer has me in a chokehold, and i’m strangely fine with it all. I say i think i might have an idea why that is, and i share my hypothesis.
That’s for next post, though.
Have the best week you’re able to, and i’ll do the same.

Peace and Love,
~H~

*For the uninitiated, “in the face” is a phrase i use to describe who’s currently in control of my system, i.e. the part who’s seeing/speaking and has physical agency.
**Upon proofreading, that’s a bit of a misnomer. I also sleep on an old disco waterbed where i keep the heat cranked – it helps my fibromyalgia pain. So i’m nice and warm and don’t need the duvet, even if i was fine with the weight of it.