Sleeping Women and Pockets Full of Tears

Work finally begins when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it badly.
~ Alain de Botton

Today was an exercise in doing what i know can work, if I can just bloody do it. My lack of proper sleep is making daily functioning progressively more difficult:

– I’m getting nervous and overwrought, and having trouble regulating the intensity of my emotions. I can zerotosixty in seconds, without being aware that my foot was on the pedal;

– My internal world commands more of my attention than i’d like, and more easily, too. Talk amongst the Peanut Gallery is leaking out, in public places, in front of other people. Someone will be looking at me quizzically, or ask me to repeat myself, when i had no idea i’d said anything;

– I don’t have the energy required to do all or even a lot of the things that help keep depression and mania at bay, like walking the dogs and keeping the house shipshape. I’m exhausted when i wake up, and each morning a bit more so.

I’m functioning at a bare minimum right now, and i worry how much worse it will get before it gets better.
I go back to basics, though. I know to cut back until things are manageable. If the house and i don’t stink, and my family gets fed and has clean clothes – it’s enough. One day i can spend some time with a friend. One day i can give myself a pedicure. One day i make a nice dessert to follow supper.

I’m trying to make writing as close to a must as i can, without making me hate it like i hate mopping floors or talking on the phone. You know, an unavoidable drudgery. I’ll tell you what though, this piece is like pulling teeth and i don’t like how it’s coming together (or not – it’s not coming together for me). I don’t want to post it, but i will.
I’m not here to blow you away with how great my writing skills are.
As you can clearly see by that last sentence, they are not great.
What i have to offer, indeed, what i very much want to blow you away with, as it were, is how alike we are, you and i.
How you struggle, and i struggle. How you feel alone in it and you worry that no one will understand. Maybe you’ve tried to share about your struggles and the responses were not what you’d hoped, wanted, or needed. Maybe, like me, you’ve bought the books and attended the seminars and planted your ass in so many fruitless chairs, spending money and energy that you could ill afford.
And they’re all telling you how to do the thing to arrive at the place.

And maybe you’re like me and you don’t know if that’s the thing you need or the place you want to go, but what you’ve got and where you’re at ain’t it -you fucking know that- so you listen and you try and you hope…

I appreciate, so much, that most of those working in the mental health field seem to truly want to help. Their enthusiasm and sincerity seem legit, and nearly every person/place/thing i went to for help had something i could take away with me and use, but it was never quite right. Not alltheway right anyway – a little bit right, here and there. Little treats and treasures that i secreted in my pockets as i edged out the door.

It all helped me to know myself better:
I like this. I don’t like that.
I want this. I don’t want that.
This speaks to me. This sounds like the teacher in the Peanuts cartoon.
I can work with this person. I’d rather chew someone else’s gum than work with this one.

Knowing myself, plus finding a professional i can work with, has been the basic recipe for my success so far.
I have no idea what will work for you, but after all the searching for help and answers that i’ve done over the decades, i think i have something to offer that may help someone (YOU?) to figure some things out – maybe get one step closer.

I offer a glimpse into how my brain works. What i think about what’s happened to me, what i think about my childhood and what i survived, and how i got through it. My thoughts about being bipolar, being multiple, and much more important than that – my thought processes as a person living with these particular challenges. I’ll share what i think about the people who hurt me and those who’ve helped – how i process their impact and how i package it all up and decide what shelf to keep it on.

I’m hoping you’ll see bits of yourself in me, not so that you can do what i did, but so you know that it can be done. I’m sharing my insides so you can see that i’m fucked up and flawed, and some of it was done to me, and some of it i did to myself. I’m probably more screwed up than you in some ways, and less than in others, but we’re both varying degrees of messy in various areas.
And i know full well that a lot of this mess ain’t mine, but if i don’t clean it up, no one will.

I think my brain is a hoarder of the highest order. It keeps everything – nothing is ever thrown out. NOT EVER. It’s all here, and it was piled from floor to ceiling. Some rooms were so full i couldn’t get into them. There was trash everywhere, but i couldn’t just shovel it all into a bin and have it hauled away, because there were precious, vital things strewn about in the clutter and disarray. My brain cannot be cured of its hoarding, and it cannot cope alone. I’m the homeowner and i couldn’t turf this beautiful, troubled creature out into the street. Instead i came and helped, as it agonised over every scrap of paper and broken bit of pottery. What to keep, what to toss, and what to give away. I brought in professional organisers as it allowed, and we went go through each room and put it to rights, starting at the front door and working our way to the basement, which desperately needed some repairs to the foundation. We’ve progressed to the attic, and it’s time get started, but we both hesitate. I’m tired and my brain is scared. That’s where it keeps the feelings.

Which brings me to yesterday morning.
Because it’s taken me a day and a half to write this blasted thing.
Between the dreaming, the lack of restful sleep, and the anticipation and trepidation of what’s coming in therapy, it’s a sign and a wonder that i can put pants on and string together an intelligible sentence.

So yeah, yesterday i had to take Kiddo to the doctor, and because i no longer drive, and i couldn’t find someone free to help us out, we had to hitch a ride into the city with my husband, and then we had to find something to do until he was done for the day and could drive us home. Which means there would be people and i must do the peopling.

I woke at 5, bone tired and in a sour mood. I tried to keep it to myself, but it was taxing, and my anxiety level was rising as the hour of his appointment approached.
A little higher getting my coat and boots on.
A little higher on the highway heading in.
A little higher entering the city limits.

By the time my husband drops us off at the doctor’s office, i’m stretched so tight my face hurts, and i’m inexplicably furious at him – so much so i walk into the building without a kiss, because i know i’m irrational and i’m pretty sure i’d bark at him if i got close enough. My son can see the strain and he’s quiet and gentle with me, checking himself in and then sitting down without talking like we usually would. He looks at his phone and gives me space until his name is called.

Hubby texts and i’m anxious and still a bit miffed, so i’m terse in my replies. He tolerates me because he knows what it’s about. I’m cranky, not abusive. Kiddo is done and i don’t want to leave, because then it’s the bus and people, and then the library and more people, and then lunch at some restaurant full of people. And i know they’re not looking at me, but sharing space with them makes me feel vulnerable and exposed. My switching tics have returned recently, and i’ve even started vocalising some of the chatter that goes on in my head. Little blurts of other voices. After years of effort spent trying to marshal my inner forces, to win the trust and respect of my battle-worn soldiers, they’re a bit excitable and i fear they may break ranks.

I’m texting with a friend, trying to remain calm, but not having much luck. I can feel myself slipping and tell my husband. My son wants to get food before we take the bus downtown, and i’m starting to twitch and i want to scream -actually fucking scream- and i start mixing up who i’m texting with and my friend sends a ???
My husband texts again and has arranged with his boss to take 2hrs off and get me home. Which you’d think would be great news and a relief and holyfrackisitever! so why is my body shuddering and my face getting all squinchy like i’m gonna goddamn cry?

I don’t cry. I get choked up sometimes, but i don’t cry. I can tear up over other people’s lifestuffs – i’m an empathetic person. And if i’m going to actually cry about something in my life, you’d better believe that happens by myself around 90% of the time – the other 10% is with my husband and i’ve likely been drinking…

My son wraps his arms around my shoulders and pulls me to him and says it’s okay, that everything is going to be all right. My face is wet and i’m getting snotty and i can feel my most trusted alter coming through to take care of things, because i’m crying in a public place and people are looking at me and this cannot continue, and i can’t stop it.

She helped me until i could come back. I don’t know what made it so that i could, probably just getting back home and taking some time, but things were okay, as we all knew they would be: my husband, my son, my friend on the phone, and i knew, and even most of my system. I know why i can’t sleep and why i’m dreaming so much, just like i know that i will get through this chunk of therapy and be a happier, more effective and functional human when it’s done. We’re going up to the attic, my brain and i, and we’re going to take those feelings out of their boxes, and we’re going to hold them until we know where they go.

I put my tears away until i got home, when i emptied all my pockets out on this page for you. Take care of yourself as best you can and i’ll do the same.

~H~

Image: Die Jungfrau (1913), Gustav Klimt

Too Tired For Poetry

Sitting in front of the screen, waiting for words
that are ill-fitting at best
Like my aunt’s hand-me-downs that are too tight
even though she’s a decade older
I cram myself into them because there is nothing else
yanking down the hem every time i stand
I pull at the fabric, willing it to stretch
and to stay bigger, for the elastic to do the decent thing and give way
To at least have the decency to drape over my flesh
Coiled sausages sweating in the butcher’s display case
Discounted at the end of the day

I lay in my disco waterbed, hoping to sleep well
and straight through until morning, but words pour like ink
Drawing ominous images behind my closed lids
as they move, flowing towards the back wall
where my eyes are still open, hung there like a triptych
Squinching them tighter i see Thunder
throwing sparkling bolts of gold across the cream and white sky
An outdoor cathedral inside the red spiderweb
that can only be seen with a side glance
Fireworks and blood rain down, pattering ghost skin
They howl up at the moon of my inside-out face

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

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream… Or Not

My mania brings a particularly frantic kind of insomnia. If you struggle with sleeplessness, you know how it goes. You wake up either too early, or shocked awake by your alarm after only having slept a few hours. Worry about the coming night’s sleep begins whenever, and builds. You try to avoid obsession level, because you know it only works against you, but bedtime still finds you with varying intensities of dread and frustration. You try all the suggestions, you create a regimen and try to maintain good sleep hygiene, but it can be tremendously difficult and good results are elusive.

Mania complicates this by a factor of ghosts and lollipops.

I already have serious sleep issues due to fibromyalgia, but dealing with that for over 20yrs has brought me some hard-won success. I know what to do and have learned how to tailor it to my own quirks in order to maximise restful, restorative sleep. Mania, however, wraps me in a delicious gigglefit and confidently assures me that everything’ll be fine. I’ve done this before and i’ve learned from my mistakes and i won’t make them again. I’ve got this handled, i won’t let things get outta control, and besides, i feel fiiiiiiiine…

If you follow along with my blog, you know that i’ve known something was up since April. I thought it was just my approaching birthday, which was always a tough time for me growing up, coupled with some religious triggers. I tried to ride with the bumps. I lost some momentum regarding my progress towards becoming more like regular folks, but i would diligently pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again. /lalala
Back to the basics. If all i can do is have a clean house, a clean person, and get supper on the table, then that’s a good day. I managed to do even better than that most days – even keeping up with regular exercise, both personal and dog walkies. But i was still having weekly emotional meltdowns; a lot of tears. I don’t actually cry very often, and when i do they’re spent for someone else. Not these last few months, though. It’s all been for me, which again, i explained away with an intense personal issue i’ve been dealing with that is quickly coming to a head. It explained everything, i thought.

Then why did i feel like it didn’t?
I kept feeling like i was missing something, i had that niggling doubt, that feeling of unease that something was wrong and i wasn’t seeing it. I kept on doing what i’ve learned to do to manage my life to the best of my ability, and i knew i was doing relatively well, but i couldn’t shake a building suspicion that i just wasn’t quite right.

Sinead O’Connor provided me with an answer.
I’ve been listening to her a fair bit lately, and one night while chasing musical rabbit holes on YouTube, it pointed me to a recent video she’d posted. I could tell by looking at it that she was in a rough place. I’ve always loved her music and was both drawn to and repulsed by her manner outside of her art. When i found out she’s bipolar, i already had my own diagnosis, and it immediately explained both her behaviour, and my reaction to it. I felt immediate kinship with her, and from then on i always paid attention to any news about her.

So i watched the video.
I watched it again, plus a commentary on it by Russell Brand.
I went to bed, tossed and turned as had recently become the way of things, and when morning came i found myself listening to her music again.
And i watched that video again.
Holy shit, she’s clearly manic as fuck.
She’s talking a mile a minute, nakedly sharing hope and hopelessness in the same ragged breath.
And then it hits me like in a hospital drama when the brash young intern bashes their fist on some unconscious schmuck’s chest and they magically (because that mostly doesn’t happen in real life hospitals, and when it does, it doesn’t have that effect) open their eyes, sit up, and suck in a massive gulp of air all at the same time.
Sinead just punched me in the chest to tell me You’re manic, you bloody blind eejit!

And suddenly, as they say, everything made sense.
The way my emotions seemed to be ramping up. I’m switching with a frequency and lack of control that i’ve not experienced in a couple of years. I’m having regular emotional outbursts, which are often followed by angry walks. I’m setting up meetings with people and then obsessing over them and backing out. I really, like REALLY wanna party. My Nighthawk has come home to roost, and my sleep, when i get any, is for shit. I’m plagued with racing thoughts and neuroses, various and sundry. My dreams are upsetting, with plenty of family, both dead and estranged making unwelcome appearances. No lucid dreaming to set me free, so i awake many times with words and screams caught in my aching throat. I’m sleepwalking for the first time in years. Mania. Of course it is.

Unfortunately, this realisation didn’t just rib-smash me, it also smacked me hard across my horse’s ass and sent me at a full gallop downhill.
Picture Jim Craig in the climactic scene in The Man From Snowy River.
Yep.
I’m currently on the snow-covered steppe, bullwhip in hand, and we’ll see if i can bring the Brumbies down from the mountain.

~H~