Fly*

take me through it
and tell them
you held my hand
the trees sough
and the ground
breathes musky life
i put it on my tongue
because i want to know
and little worms
slide in like sugar
i slip, sigh, slide
through electric wet memories
generational mommas telling me
shh, child
shh, don’t touch
my path is through old trees
and i taste their fruit regardless of my fear
i might be poisoned
they smell so sweet
and i have been so empty
and hungry
spent with need
don’t take my shoes from me
i have places to go
let go of my hand
you are a weight
i’ll not carry
the sky is calling me
it billows
and roils
and beckons me up
up, up
on the wings of the poor
the world is a millstone
warm hay
and honeysuckle
it smells so sweet
i could die

*Mine, from 2012

Deprogramming, Pt. I

I was raised religious. I’m gonna say some stuff about that, and you may not agree. That’s fine. The majority of the world holds some sort of belief in the supernatural. I once did, and now i do not. It’s no big. As long as i’m not being preached at or proselytised, i have no problems listening to those around me talk about such things. But this is my blog, written by me, full of my thoughts, experiences, and opinions. I’ve chosen a path and am mapping my own route to get where i want to go.

I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I’m just talkin’ ’bout Life As Me.
I’ve been wrong thousands of times, and will be thousands more yet (at least, i’m hoping for the opportunity to be). If you think there’s a god/gods out there, i think you’re wrong. So? You think i’m wrong, too. Doesn’t bother me in the least. I might be wrong, and i could be convinced by enough good evidence.*

Now that’s out of the way, lemme get to it.
Like many people, like many female people, like many female people born into a religious family, like many female people born into an abusive, religious family, i wasn’t allowed to say No. My permission was never required – not if it affected me directly or indirectly, and not even if it involved the use of my own body. Growing up, it didn’t occur to me that i could say No, and i rarely said it. It occasionally popped out when i was in extreme distress. If i said it outside the house and family interactions, it was usually respected, if for no other reason than, if i was saying No, i was likely completely unhinged at that point. When i lost control it got weird for those around me: wild eyes, panicked voice, heaving chest, all my ticcing behaviours on display… Most would back off. On the exceedingly unusual occasion that i used it in my house and/or with my parents, i was beaten.

I had no rights, no autonomy. Along with not being allowed to use the word No, i was never permitted to question anything. I was raised to obey without a word. I couldn’t pull a face either, that’d earn me a slap or 2, for sure. This contributed to my being an insular person; i was hidden deep inside, any natural individuality was subverted, and i compartmentalised in order to survive. My traumas were so intense and ongoing, my compartmentalisation became so widespread, rigid, and rigorous, that i split apart inside my brain. I’ve been diagnosed with what is currently referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder.

As i’ve said before, i fought the diagnosis for years. I never went back to mental health professionals that even brought it up peripherally. Being around others who identified themselves as multiples made my skin crawl. I believed it was a real thing, but i thought most people were faking it.** I believed what i was raised to believe; what my parents and others in authority over me told me to believe. I was taught what to think, never how, (and in that, i think i have more company than just fellow abuse survivors).

I was punished for asking questions. I might get yelled at, shamed, or even beaten if i dared use the word “why”. To this day, if you want to see me get frustrated, then angry, and then shut down, just start asking me questions. I get nervous and irritated quickly. What was happening in my family had to be hidden. I was taught that nosy people were a threat. Others weren’t as smart and socially evolved as we were – they wouldn’t understand. They’d take me away and i’d have no one. I was such a handful, such a difficult child; no one would be able to tolerate me for long. It was always indirectly, subtly reinforced that i was a terribly misbehaved child, and not easy to love. I was lucky to have my amazing and long-suffering mother there to care for and love me. Without her i’d be completely alone.

She’d always let me watch old movies, because she liked them, but she banned me from watching All About Eve. I was an advanced reader, and had worked my way through her large collection of books by grade 6, but when she caught me reading Sybil, she lost her mind, took it away and hid it. I don’t remember her ever telling me it was bullshit, though. In fact, looking back with grown up eyes, i think she was obsessed with the subject. I think there may have been a time that she played around with the diagnosis for herself. She loved attention and struggled with her mental health, and i have some memories of some talks and programs that she brought me along to, where the way she was talking and the way she was treated by others there would fit her claiming some form of multiplicity.

When i finally got away from my mother, i knew i needed professional help, but it never occurred to me that i had a diagnosable, mental illness (or 2).*** I was just bad, not ill. My brain wasn’t sick, i was just a rotten person. I was a disobedient, selfish liar.
Ah yes… Liar.
You bet she drummed that one in to me as far back as i can remember.

She told me i was a compulsive liar until the day she wound up in the hospital where she died. Hey, i did lie. I lied a lot and i lied as easily as i breathed, but they were all rooted in her teaching me to do it, and modeling it for me so well. I lied to get out of trouble, e.g. denying eating something i wasn’t supposed to eat, which i ate because i was not fed properly. I lied to impress other kids, because my life sucked and i wanted them to like me and i wanted to be more like them. And the #1 reason i’d lie, was to cover for my parents. To hide the abuse that was going on in our home. The abuse that i was told wasn’t abuse but only what i deserved because i was so very, very bad.

My whole life growing up was a lie to the outside world, but that was one i didn’t know i was telling. I didn’t know i was abused until i was 21. I knew my mom hit me often, and sometimes beat the absolute crap outta me, but i knew i deserved it. I never thought that she was wrong or she shouldn’t have done it. She’d raised me to think i was a piece of shit and she was my gracious and merciful teacher and provider.

And church was invaluable in backing up everything she wanted me to believe.

She went through many periods where she didn’t attend church, but she made sure i always did. She’d arrange for other families to pick me up and drop me home, or insist i go with other children whose parents would make them invite me. She was highly intelligent, clever, an incredible manipulator, and deeply devious. She never sat me down and preached at me that i remember, but she did this thing that i didn’t recognise until i was a parent myself.

When i was still small, she hung out with younger, childless folks who were going for their degrees, and sometimes the older, established professors whose children were grown (she worked at universities and colleges as a secretary). If she wasn’t farming me out to someone (let’s just call it that for this piece), she’d bring me along. I was a perfectly behaved child out in public – i knew what would happen if i wasn’t. So i’d sit quietly and unobtrusively at parties and various get-togethers and even courses she was taking, and the people there would eventually start talking like i wasn’t there. They’d forgotten. I heard things no child that age should hear, and learned things no child should know. I was mentally sophisticated, and i suppose precocious (UGH), so i grasped the subjects being discussed relatively easily.
The thing she’d do to secure her control of me is she’d say things to other adults at these events, knowing full well that i was listening. That i was, in fact, all ears. She’d talk religiously and philosophically with these people, but she’d drop bits that i now think were meant for me.

This bit is difficult to convey. I’ve been thinking about how to make it understandable for the last couple of days. Say for instance, her friends were discussing Dr. Spock and his views on spanking children. She’d say something like, “Well, Dr. Spock must have some very well-behaved children. We aren’t all so lucky.”

That would be a message for me.
I hope that illustrates my point well enough.

When things were particularly rough at home, money was tighter than usual, or maybe she’d been beating me more frequently, she’d talk more about her own childhood. She’d tell me horror stories of being locked in the root cellar, or bathed in scalding hot water. And she’d share all her rape stories in lurid detail,**** starting when i was very young, say 5 or 6, maybe earlier, i don’t know.

The message there was she was the one who was abused, not me.

She never let up on the programming. Manipulation was her life’s work. She played me like Perlman played violin until the day she slipped into a coma.

All this to say that it has been a gargantuan effort on my part to get help for myself. I thought that i was the problem and i didn’t need any help for the first 20+yrs of my life. Once i knew i was a victim, and had experienced my lack of proper adult functionality in the real world, it didn’t get much easier. My mother had availed herself of every psychological tool, every method, every book, every well-respected researcher and public speaker, every self-help group… I’d been saturated in psychology most of my childhood. She used it to hone her skills, and i think it put a lot of people in her path that were easy for her to get something from. Money, attention, whatever.

The result for me was that i didn’t trust any of them. Frankly, i found most of them stupid (i’d been raised to look down my intellectual nose at anyone outside of my parents) and, big surprise here, easy to manipulate. I knew what they wanted to hear, and despite my inner derision, i wanted to be the best damn screwup they’d ever had sit in their office. I was programmed to want people to like me and to seek their approval. So i’d figure out what they wanted and give it to them, and they’d quickly determine that i was well on my way to mastering whatever issues i’d dumped on their desk. I used all the right buzzwords, and mixed it in with an appropriate demonstration of how smart i was, and i’d manipulate myself right out of any genuine help they might have offered me.

I’d talk myself out of their help, and go back out into the world, and things would still get chaotic and painful. I was still struggling. I still couldn’t manage to live life on life’s terms. And then i popped out a couple of kids and fell in love (yes, in that order), and i began searching for someone to help me in earnest. I’d returned to religion with the birth of my first child, and i found a counsellor to work with through my church, after the birth of my second. She had her master’s in social work and she was one of the kindest people i’d ever met. I had completely submitted to church authority, and i worked hard with her, always doing what she asked me and any homework she gave me. One day she sat me down and said she had been thinking she had a diagnosis for my particular issues, and had consulted with the psychologist who attended our church, who agreed.

She said it was her professional opinion that i had Multiple Personality Disorder. She reiterated that her colleague concurred. I’ve tried to remember what happened after that, but i can’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if i left, but i don’t think i did. With my mother gone, there was no greater authority in my life than their authority.
And i was raised to be obedient, above all things.

Great, so i had a diagnosis. The problem was, the treatment was bible-based. She took me to an old guy (BAD IDEA) who specialised in helping members map out their systems, so they could start praying over them and casting them out by name.

Because they were demons.
Of course.
I was demon-possessed.

**********

*Not here though. My blog isn’t for that.

**I’m not sure about that now. The important thing is that, even if they are, it’s none of my business.

***Okay, 3 or 4. Maybe 5, but that one’s relatively dormant, so i don’t count it. I’m kidding here, one might diagnose me with more than 2, but the 2 i deal with most can (kind of?) umbrella the rest, thereby cutting down on my stress and anxiety… So 2 shots of the hard stuff with a smartass chaser.

****I don’t know if her stories were true, as she lied practically every time she opened her mouth. To me, it doesn’t matter.

My Mother The Camera

This morning i woke from terrible dreams. Fortunately, i’d half expected them, and that softened the impact a little. I’m woken from a blood-filled moment by a jaunty tune, some elevator music wake up call. I swing my legs over the side of the bed, grab the phone and swipe it off. I hold my head and will myself to get up and begin the day. I feel slow and foggy and my heart aches over this morning’s tragic loss; love, hope, life, sleep are gone from me today.
I don’t pretend at home anymore and so my family asks when they see my face. They’re both kind and that’s good. I’m dragging my ass, that’s for sure.
They’re gone now and that’s also good.

Survey the damage. Pick up the fruit on the ground. Share what’s good, add sugar and put up the unripe. Make wine with the rest; i can get drunk later. And that will be good, too.

A few years ago i reconnected with my foster mother. She and her family had taken me in when my mom had a nervous breakdown. A mental collapse. Whatever.
Her family was everything a foster family should be: steady, solid, kind, normal, regular.
Of course they are more than all of those things, but those were the truly important things for me at the time. I think it was a duplex and i even remember the district and the name of the school i attended. He worked a regular job and he went there at the regular times, and she cooked normal meals at normal times, and their children all looked normal and did regular things. Of course they were, all of them, much more than that, but those were the truly important things for me at the time.

I immediately kenned what and who they were and when they took me out to supper that first night i called them Mom and Dad over Ponderosa steaks. I wanted them and their children and their life.
She sewed my clothes and curled my hair.
They had an organ and i learned to play a little, following along with the letters helpfully placed above the notes on the staff.
Their church was much better than Mom’s. They served torn bits of fresh, white bread and grape juice in tiny glasses that they passed around in polished silver communion trays.
The only time i was ever hit was a smack on the butt for smuggling the brand new Polaroid camera into the bathroom to take a picture, after i’d been specifically told No. I looked in the mirror, preparing to switch in anticipation of a beating…
I couldn’t see myself for the spots the flashbulb had left on my eyes.
It didn’t even hurt.
The children sneaked their Brussels sprouts onto my plate and i sat there at the table for hours, refusing to eat them.
It was all peacefully regular and wonderfully normal.

Once my mother got visitation it was all over, though.

They were the wrong church.
They thought they were better than her.
They forced me to call them Mom and Dad, which i let her believe, too afraid and ashamed for her to know it was my idea.
They were trying to have her parental rights severed.
They were trying to adopt me.
They were brainwashing me and trying to take me away from her.
You can’t believe them.
You can’t trust them.
They’re bad people.
They’ll take you away and you’ll never see me again.
They don’t love you.
You’ll never be their child.

I went Halloweening and i’d never been allowed to keep the candy before.
The children were upstairs in Mom and Dad’s bedroom for stories.
I sat on my bed and ate until i vomited all over the coverlet.
I wasn’t one of them; i didn’t belong there.
I had to go home.
I got a cold that wouldn’t get better. There were terrible tasting syrups but i could have a sip of water after.
My mother said that made the medicine useless. It had to taste bad or it wouldn’t work. They were doing it wrong and they were going to kill me. She said they gave me pneumonia.
On Christmas Eve a lady came to my foster family’s house and took me back to my mother.

My foster mom came to see me yesterday. She is one of fewer than a handful of people who’ve been invited to my home in the last 15+mos. She brought lunch and openly shared herself with me, and i heard what my life might have been like if i could have stayed; a regular, normal life, but Oh! so much more than just that.
I see the time i spent with her through my own eyes now, not my mother’s.

Last night i dreamt of betrayal and abandonment and drinking myself into oblivion in a house filled with death.

I’ll feel better tomorrow. Today i mourn.

I was an electrical storm on the bathroom floor, clutching the bowl
My blood was full of gags and other people’s diseases
My monstrous little memory had swallowed me whole
It was the year I officially became the bride of Jesus
~Magneto, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

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.

Tell Me Who You Are, And I’ll Believe You

“The real message is to accept your children,
and accept your friends,
and accept people for who they say that they are.”
~iO Tillet Wright

 The other day i found myself in a situation where i was able to see some good fruit come from a decision i made a while back.

 Some months ago, i decided to let people tell me who they are and what they think.
 What i mean is, i decided to stop trying to read people. No more guessing if they were being genuine or telling me the truth or representing themselves correctly.
 Through examining my life, and trying to be healthier and happier, one of the things i’ve learned is i can’t change anyone but myself. Over the years, i’ve been misjudged and misunderstood – i’m certain y’all have been as well. I’ve learned the hard lesson that i can’t make anyone think the way i want them to think about me. I can’t make anyone understand why i am the way i am and do the things i do.
 One day it occurred to me that the reverse is very likely also true.
 So i’ve stopped figuring people out.
 I was taught to read people, and i can usually do it fairly accurately – but so what?
My life isn’t constantly in danger anymore, so what does it benefit me to know that the smile i see on your face hides a seething hatred of me?

What good does it do either of us for me to notice the subtle, secret body language between you and someone i know damn well isn’t your spouse?

There’s a reason you’re playing your cards close to your chest, and it’s none of my business, or you would have told me.

There’s a reason you’re clearly lying and it’s none of my business, or you wouldn’t be lying to me.

And what about the times i’ve been wrong? People have been wrong about me, and i’ve been wrong about people. Not just a few times, either.

What good did it do me to know what you were really thinking or what you’re up to or who you really are behind closed doors?

Not much good at all. That smug feeling of superiority or having one over on you didn’t feel very good once i stopped caring so damn much about what YOU think of ME. In fact, it makes me feel like a shithead – and i think it SHOULD.

So i don’t do it anymore, and my life is a lot less stressful. It turns out some of the drama in my life was created by lil ole me. Heh. I’ve already got enough things to deal with, without creating any extra trouble.

I ask myself one question, though:

Could it hurt me to take them at their word and be wrong?

For instance, if a mechanic promises me he’s been working on my brakes all day and they’re perfect, but i get the distinct impression he’s lying due to his shifty eyes and the smell of whiskey – i’m going to address the potential lie because i have to drive home in that vehicle he was supposedly working on. I could get pretty hurt all right.

And hey, if you’ve got bruises again, and you tell me you ran into a door AGAIN, i may question you about that – because you’re my friend and if you’re in trouble and i don’t ask or offer help, that would hurt, too.

Other than that – i take you at face value.
You tell me what you want me to know about you.
I will believe what you tell me, unless i have an important reason not to. Still i won’t jump to conclusions without asking you.
You get to keep your private business private.
Like if i irritate the fuck out of you.
Or if you smile and make small talk to my face, and gossip about me when i’m not around.
I’m not close with very many people, so chances are you don’t owe me any personal stuff at all.
If i am close with you, i was never super nosy, but i’m even less so now. I want to know whatever you want to tell me, and that’s all.

I won’t take it personally if you keep something private and i find out later.

You tell me who you are, how you’re feeling, and what you’re thinking. I won’t be trying to second guess you. Even if i get the strong feeling that you’re lying to me, i’m gonna let it go.

I’ve been doing it for quite a while now, and it feels good and right.

Less drama, more peace. I like you better now, and hopefully it’ll be reciprocated.

If not – that’s your business, not mine.

Love and Peace,
~H~

Closing the Door On Excuses

This morning (05/30/16) while writing i think i came to understand (maybe the biggest) part of why i still felt desperately alone, even though i had found some understanding and approval and love in my life.

It’s because i wasn’t being myself. I mean, not fully. That was partly because i’m only now getting to know myself well, but also because i hid a lot of the bits i deemed unlikeable or unacceptable. So i kept myself under wraps. And when some of the odder stuff would leak out in drips and drabs i would be mortified, and either pull the hermit act, or avoid the people who’d seen me like that for as long as possible – forever being my preference.

Being as much myself as i’m able to be on a day-to-day basis has been as liberating as you might expect. With each little risk taken -each situation where i choose to act or react in the way i’m inclined to, rather than the way i think i should- i gain confidence and self-esteem in equal measure. Sometimes the reaction i get from others is what i’ve been trained to avoid. Maybe there’ll be an awkward silence, or uncomfortable laughter… It makes me pretty twitchy, but i’m slowly learning to ride it through. My priority is being genuine as often as possible. Those times often bear greater reward, because i made it through a social situation that was less than ideal, as myself… And here i am. Alive. It may have stung a bit, you know, if they weren’t pickin’ up what i was throwin’ down, but it didn’t end me. They didn’t slay me. I’m not left sittin’ in the gutter eatin’ worms, yum yum.

Another thing that requires some attention is the difficulty i had even writing the prior piece at all. I had to drag it out – force myself to write it. At first i thought it was a discipline problem, but since posting it, i have more insight.

I’m closing doors behind me and it’s scary.

I knew it was time to pick myself up, dust myself off, and set my feet to walkin’. It’s like i’d only just begun on my path when i got blindsided. Like i was on a little bike with training wheels, and the person that should have been behind me, watching with a mixture of fear and pride, instead got into their truck and ran me over. I got up and wandered around, dazed and in shock, but eventually my injuries became too much for me to continue. I sat there in the road for a long time, just nursing my wounds and resting. I may have even had a bit of a tantrum, where i threw myself in the ditch and rolled around in the mud and felt sorry for myself.

But i’m okay to resume the journey. I’ve been walking for a while now, but i haven’t gone far. How far do you think you’d get on your weekend hike in the mountains, if you kept looking behind you every couple of minutes? Yeah. So if i really want to put in some clicks (that’s kilometres, for you Luddites), i’ve gotta let go of the fear that i’m gonna get in another accident. The time between backward glances has gotten longer, and i’m not even nervously focused on the horizon. The path itself is lovely and interesting, and begs to be enjoyed.

Okay, enough analogy. (I do so love them, although i know i can go on a bit.)

(05/31/16) There’s more to it, this firm decision to move forward, and it’s not terribly flattering, but it is the truth. To control my mouth, and to take full responsibility for what comes out of it, involves letting go of anything that may be an excuse. At this point, there would be times when to blame my past or my mental illness for saying something hurtful, crass, or just generally shitty, would be an excuse. I now enjoy some decent control over myself and my words. I have more self-awareness and insight into why i am the way i am and have done the things i’ve done. I know where i am and where i’d like to go, in terms of the sort of person i want to be.

I’m now capable of more and must hold myself to a higher standard. It’s one of those areas where keen attention to balance is required of me, because i’m still mentally ill, and likely will always be so. But if i use my past and my resulting brokenness to excuse myself for something i could have done/handled better, that will keep me tied to an insidious disingenuousness that could sabotage all my hard work. I would be moving away from the human i want to be, and closer to that which i was raised to be – which is anathema to me.

It’s funny, really. When i was young i loved being sick. My mother would at least not bother me, and sometimes she was even kind – especially if it warranted a hospital visit, because then she got a lot of attention, too. Poor widowed wretch and her sick/injured child. (She wasn’t a widow of course, but that’s a story for another time, maybe.) I was hospitalised quite a bit too, and that was pure heaven. I loved being in the hospital so much. I was clean and regularly fed well; i got treats and presents and everyone was nice to me! I got good attention -and what’s more- i got sympathy.

I was waiting for someone to see my suffering and save me. Knowing this has only come with age and contemplation, naturally. Heh. But no one ever came, and it was up to me to save myself. I would tell schoolmates fantastic and terrible stories about my life, and when i would get caught or confronted over the obvious bullshittery, i’d wonder why i told so many lies. Obvious now, but not to a child, or even to a traumatised adult. I was searching for an explanation for why i wasn’t right, and nothing in my life was right, and i was sad and aching inside all the time.

Getting diagnosed as clinically cuckoo was almost a dream come true. That little broken girl inside me got all the validation and sympathy she’d so desperately craved. Over the years i’ve become more and more forthcoming about my mental illness, so i know people have cut me some slack here and there, when my behaviour has been less than exemplary. For example, when i’m manic i can be obnoxious and draining, both mentally and physically. And when i’m depressed, i can be alternately explosively angry or completely withdrawn and utterly unavailable. When i’m dissociative… Well, anything’s possible. When i’m experiencing clinical anxiety, it unsettles everyone around me.

I needed all that sympathy. I needed people to be horrified by my upbringing. And i really, really needed people to so kindly and generously put aside their reflex reactions to my various odd and unpleasant behaviours and say, “That’s okay, H. We know you’ve been through a lot and you’re broken inside.” That stuff was positively crucial to my healing. But i know the time has come for me to let the fallback position go. It’s time to know i’m dealing with mania and bite back the overshare. It’s time to recognise i’m depressed and get out in the world and do stuff anyway. It’s time to deal with my anxiety in healthier ways than drinking 3 doubles in an hour, or coming home and pulling out my eyebrows and eyelashes.

Sometimes things will still get away from me or otherwise be beyond my control. I want the people in relationship with me to be able to trust me. If my dysfunctional behaviours don’t improve and my accountability for my own actions doesn’t increase, then i’m not being who i want to be. Don’t get me wrong, everyone with mental illness has their own journey with their own obstacles. We all must set our own bars and your bar may be at a different level than my bar. If i’m capable of a higher level of function than you are, it does not make me better. I believe in a continuum (ie. your abuse may have been more severe, my mental illness may be more serious, etc.), but i don’t for a minute think it dictates worthiness. Pfft. I just know that if i’m well enough to pick up my pace on this path i’m walking, why would i suddenly want to do it with crutches? They would be an impediment to my progress.

I’m feeling good today. Started writing this last night and it made for a dream-filled (crappy) sleep, but as i finish it, i reckon my sleep tonight will be more restful. Whoever you are, thanks for reading, and i’m glad you’re here. Love and peace to you.

Oral Hygiene

My mouth used to get me in so much trouble. It’s funny though, because i never said the things that most needed saying. You know, like, Help me, or Someone get me outta here.

Nah. I told a couple of friends in high school. They probably half didn’t believe me and half didn’t want to hear it even if it was true. They couldn’t have done anything about it, and besides, i only had to make it through high school and i’d be free. Told my favourite teacher, my last year. We were working on something together and i blurted out the reason i’d left home, was working full time and living with my best friend. My confession was followed by one of the most excruciatingly painful silences i’ve ever endured. And then we resumed our work as if i hadn’t spoken at all.

It had to be obvious that i wasn’t quite right. I mean, the students all knew it – every one of them. In every class in every grade in every school i ever attended. My clothes and my lack of participation in any activity that required money made it clear that my family was about as poor as it gets in my country. I think my mouth may have overshadowed everything else. I was loud and obnoxious with students, which made me an even easier and more frequent target than i would have been had i just been fat and poor. And as is the case with so many abused children, i lied. A LOT. I exaggerated every detail or just flat out told a total bullshit story. It was all for attention, and of course it worked, but not the way i wanted.

I’m sure i frustrated the teachers, some to the point where they’d call in my parents for a meeting. Maybe they were even sizing up my parents, looking for signs that they might be the problem. I don’t know if anyone even picked up on my situation, let alone cared. To be fair, my parents were highly intelligent people who could make you believe just about anything… for a while. And when the mask finally slipped and people started asking questions, we simply moved.

I remember one time i was going home on the bus, and i realised the kids were laughing and whispering and making faces at me because my hygiene was terrible. (Super embarrassing, but true.) I made up the most ridiculous lie. Like in the history of lies it was the one that wouldn’t even fool your little sister when she was 4 and you told her chocolate milk came from brown cows.

I didn’t tell them my clothes were always dirty because my mother rarely did laundry, and if i tried to do it myself i’d sometimes get beaten for doing it wrong. I also didn’t tell them that a lifetime of sexual abuse had made me hate my body so much i could barely stand to touch myself. The bathroom was also a place where i was extremely vulnerable. I was terrified to be naked at all, and baths and showers were done in a panic, and not with any regularity.
I didn’t consciously know the truth, so i couldn’t have told them why i smelled like an old boot filled with cheese. I just knew i was gross and bad and i had to make it someone else’s fault so they didn’t hate me.

I tried to be anyone but myself, and i used words to try to be funny, cool, smart, even tragic (oh, the irony), but i only ever came off as strange and awkward and annoying. I tried too hard and it made the decent kids uncomfortable while the bullies could barely contain their glee. I was scorned by crappy humans and pitied by the rest. Still, i just kept talking. I lacked the self-awareness to manage what i said. I blurted, i leaked, i was a constant stream of words. My mouth was the bleed valve that eased the persistent pressure in my head. I tried so hard to be interesting, but they either disliked me or wanted to like me, but i made it difficult.

I carried that into my adulthood, and it has only been in the last year that i’ve been learning to rein in my mouth. Not to stifle things that i want or need to say, but to check my intent and to consider the cost. Balance is tough for me, but i try to check myself just enough. I used to obsess over everything i said as an adult. I’d rehearse it in my head a bunch of times before i said the thing i wanted to say. But that was different because my intention was wrong. I was seeking approval, acceptance, and affection at any price. Now my intention is to be genuinely myself.

I’ve spent this last year not saying much of anything. I’ve been around other people a few times, but there was still not enough control, so this last 6 months i’ve not been around very many people except my family. I don’t know if i’ll ever be much of a social person again, but i’m weirdly unconcerned. I’m learning who i am and how to be myself. The only place i feel truly safe is my home, and the only people i fully trust is my family. It’s sort of like dress rehearsals for a show that may never open.

Happy Tuesday,
~H~