Inside My Skin

There is a part 3 for I’m Not A Bitch, but today i’m posting a little blurp-up on how i’m doing right now.

Last year i had a schedule, with routines, regimens, and rituals aplenty, and i was hummin’ along like a vintage car that’s still with and well cared for by its original owner. I was as functional as i’d ever been in. my. life. and i was proud of what i’d accomplished and excited for more and better in my very near future.

That was when my body started poking my brain and saying, Ahem? Ah, excuse me?
I need some help.

It’s a little on the airy-fairy side for a firm atheist like me, but i have come to believe that it’s possible that it’s not just my brain that houses my memories, but my body, as well. Like, when i feel threatened, i can feel it immediately in my feet, my calves, my knees – the urge to run, to get away. The memories of being trapped by my abusers and unable to leave might be there, i think. Nestled in there with my muscles and tendons, lying dormant until a situation triggers old thoughts and feelings about the past and my fast-twitchers spark awake, GOGOGONOW!

I recognise that this may not be measurable in a scientific sense as of yet, but that’s okay. I’ve been working on getting down into my feelings,
<feelfreetorollyoureyesherebecauseicertainlyam>
and the deeper into them i get, the more i experience how connected my thoughts and emotions are to my physical body, when i feel safe enough to allow it.

As a highly dissociative human, i put distance between emotion and sensation and thought, because they have historically been too much for me to cope with all at once. I also never had a person safe enough and knowledgeable enough to teach me how to process these things; the why-am-i-like-this and the how-do-i-fix-it. Now that i do, when she (my therapist) suggests that my memories are not just in my brain, but in parts of me that exist in real time below the neck, well…
I experience, observe, and exist consciously in those moments when i sit down in the armchair by the window in her office, and my girl parts are buzzing like they’re covered in a thousand bumblebees, and she asks how i’m doing today, and my vagina starts to burn, like the bees are stinging me, so she has me take a big pillow and hide myself behind it, and wrap my arms around that pillow and pull it in tight, hugging my genital area, protecting it with a soft, warm barrier and my loving arms, and she asks me,

“How does that feel?”

And i roll my teary eyes and say, “I don’t know. Weird. Better… I guess. Good.”

Or how i pull my legs up onto that armchair, fanning them out alongside me because if i put them on the floor, they’ll start bouncing like corn popping, wanting to run. I feel safe with her in her office, and i come ready to be conscious of my body and be in it in real time. But other people that live in my brain, especially those that exist in a painful moment from the past, come wide awake and all they feel is trauma, and they want it to stop, so badly; they want to get away, nownownow. So my therapist has me put my feet back on the floor and bounce my knees and flex my feet and sometimes i’ve even placed the bottoms of my feet on the bottoms of hers and pumped my legs, HARD, like i’m riding a bicycle away – away from pain, away from danger, away from evil.

And i’ll be damned if it doesn’t help. I think my body is purging the memories of all the terrible things that were done to me when i was little. When i was with my mother and dependent on her for everything – helpless and unable to get away from the things that she did and allowed to be done to me.
It’s like i’m shedding “psychic” pounds.
I know, another metaphysical word coming from me, but i use it as a poetic description of what i’m experiencing, rather than an actual, tangible thing that exists.
What i mean is, i feel lighter in my feelings and my mood and my outlook on life, when i do these things –when i directly address the sensations in my body, and act out the movements it seems to be itching to do– i feel better.

So this is what i’ve been doing. Learning to tune in to my body, rather than distance myself from it. Letting my fists ball up, kicking my legs, covering my breasts, my belly, my nethers, with blankets, pillows, honouring the need for a barrier. Pulling my big dog into my lap and wrapping my arms around her, burying my face in her neck and feeling her warmth, her weight, her protection.

And walking again. Not taking off. Not getting away.
Recognising and honouring the need of my feet, my calves, my knees, my thighs, to move. The memories of wanting and needing so badly to get away from what was happening to me all those years ago and being unable to, all trapped there in my flesh and fascia. Pumping it out of me with each determined step, the pain and the fear pouring down into my toes and out, like i’ve lanced an infection and i’m draining the pus, leaving a trail on the dirt road behind me.

Lighter. Healthier. Cleaner. Freer.

It’s constant work but i don’t mind. I can see and feel the benefits. Unlike the brain work, where i slogged and slogged through the muck, such slow-going. Putting in so much time with little to no change, but hoping. And then seeing that which had been unravelled, ever so slowly knit back together.
The body work yields refreshingly immediate results. They don’t always last, but i can do it again, and the good stuff lasts a bit longer each time. One day, it might just settle right into my bones and that will be that.

So here i am today.
I’m sober. I’m not doing anything to numb myself, neither brain nor body. I’m living my life as simply as i can so that i might teach myself to be present and feel it all. To make conscious, thoughtful decisions on how to handle and cope with the day-to-days, and those times when life just happens. I mean, i wish it wouldn’t do that, but even to have the presence and awareness inside this skin sack in real time to think, Geez, Universe, now why’dja have to go and do that?! is a priceless gift.

I’ve lost the booze bloat and the grey cast to my skin. I’m back to managing my food choices and eating at a calorie deficit, nutritionally sound and designed for slow and steady weight loss, my goal of a single digit clothing size before summer hits is doable.
I often wear my clothes a bit on the tight side because:

1) I like having my business held in, hugged, and smoothed out;
2) It boosts my self-esteem and motivation to be wearing smaller sizes; and
3) It keeps me consciously in my body, that tight squeeze, that occasional escape of flesh over the top of my jeans.

Understand, this is not a shaming technique. I’m proud as heck of what i’ve accomplished, and any shame i carry about my body is due to childhood stuff, which i’m working through, tyvm. I’m also not suggesting anyone else do what i do for my weight, my body, my brain, my relationships – none of it, period. What i’m doing is sharing my process, in every way and on every level (save sexual and spiritual, although that may come some day), not so that you can do what i do, but so you can see that it can be done. 

I’m 52yrs old, and there’s no shame in that, either.
I am not who i was born to be.
It’s taken a lot of hard, intense, terrifying work to get where i am today.
Nobody could do it for me and a lot of it i did alone because i couldn’t find the right person to do it with me. But i persevered, taking little nuggets of wisdom from this place and that person, knocking on door after door, taking class after class, asking “professional” after professional? for help.
(That word though, what a loaded word in this particular field, heh.)

I got disheartened, led down wrong paths, misunderstood, misdiagnosed, ignored, unfairly judged, and many times, told i was Just fine! and/or Highly functional! because i was so willing to open up and do the work, and already had so much self-knowledge and personal insight and i’m clearly intelligent and have a large vocabulary and i’ve never been arrested or lived on the street, so… What’s your problem?

With such narrow definitions, it’s a wonder anyone gets any, let alone enough help, but some of us do.
If you have stuff inside you that needs work, i want you to see that i’m doing it, and so maybe you can, too.
If you need help with that work (and who doesn’t?), i want you to see that i found some (FINALLY!), and so maybe you can take heart and keep trying until you find that good fit: that person, that place, that program, that system -whatever it is- that clicks with you and helps you get your feet underneath you and walking forward. Or running, swimming, flying – however it works for you to figure your shit out and get through it. Whatever gets you moving towards something that you’ve always wanted for yourself.

I did it and i’m still doing it.
I should be either dead, or locked up, or completely non-functional, or just a shitty, awful human. I am none of those things.

Every time i blog it’s for me first, because it’s been very effective.
But it’s for you, second – because i want you to hang in there. I want you to find help, answers, love, success, happiness. All of it.
I wish i could do more, but i’m a lot of work, and this is what i can manage.
So far, anyway.

I’m pluggin’ away. It’s what works for me. I go through some tough, scary shit, but i just keep plodding along, learning about myself and how i work and doing the work that’s in front of me.

Then there are moments, beautiful, transformative, life-affirming moments, where i can see, not only how far i’ve come, but the depth and the breadth and the weight of what i’ve been able to achieve. It may not look like much to the rest of the world, but that no longer matters to me. What i’ve been able to do with my brain, my body, my life, is incredible and amazing. TO ME.

I hope that i can inspire others to just hang in there and keep trying. Stop and rest and feel how hard it is when you need to, you deserve that, but as soon as you can muster, try some more.

Love and Peace and So Much Thanks,
~H~

Image: Reclining Nude (c1887), George Hendrik Breitner

Like Swimming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and Peace,

~H~

Tuesday’s Tidbit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I write.

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