It Can Wait

I’m eating birthday cake for breakfast. My babe braved the store to get me one, even though i told him not to bother. It’s triple layer, with chocolate and vanilla cake, mocha frosting and that cherry jam stuff between the layers, dark and white chocolate ganache, plus blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, AND some mocha chocolate leaves… So decadent. So yummy.

Because of my gastric bypass, this is my fourth go at it. I can only eat a small amount of something this rich at a time. One of the possible side effects of the surgery is called Dumping Syndrome. It occurs when food, especially sugar, moves too fast from the stomach to the duodenum—the first part of the small intestine—in the upper gastrointestinal tract. What follows when dumping happens is 20mins of heck if i’ve overeaten, or eaten too much dairy or meat. When it’s sugar though, it’s hell. It’s not great (and it’s not what it sounds like it is), but i’ll tell you what, it sure has helped me keep the size of my stomach to that of a lemon. I had my surgery nearly 20yrs ago, and i’ve seen many of my friends who had the surgery too, regain their weight. Some stretch their stomachs, and others do it by grazing all day. I could, and in fact did, regain some of my weight. Some by grazing, and some by boozing my way through a 2+yr mania. I’m happy to share that of the weight i put back on, i have a quarter left to lose.

NOTE: I don’t talk numbers much, because i don’t find it useful. Just know it’s a healthy weight. I’ll go back to my doctor when that happens, and we’ll figure out if that’s where i should be, or if less is required. (As people age, their weight requirement lowers.)

So yeah. Cake for brekkie. A bit left for lunch too, i should think.

**********

Since my country enforced self-isolation, i’ve been conducting all my therapy sessions over the phone. I don’t like video calls at all, i find them creepy. We talk every week now, because i’m in crisis. Not sure how long we can sustain it, what with work slowing down for my husband. Hopefully things will get better, sooner rather than later. Every 2wks wasn’t enough, my anxiety is critical, and i’m tits-deep in the hardest therapy i’ve ever done.

She checks in with how i’m feeling at the moment, and i tell her i was doing okay, but talking to her amps things up in my brain. She asks if i remember our last session, and i have to admit that i don’t. She said one of the Littles was talking to her, the one she calls Peanut. (My system is loathe to give their names, so i don’t know who was talking to her. I don’t suppose it matters, because i don’t share their names, either. Heh.) My Little was sharing how hurt and scared she was, when someone else popped into the face, told my therapist NO! and promptly hung up on her. Her calls back weren’t answered.

What followed were lost days. This pains me to write, but this place of mine is for truth. I don’t describe the sexual abuse. I keep back details of my adult life to protect friends and family. Plus, there are some bits that are simply private – they have no bearing on my story or my journey through mental illness (bipolar) and neuroatypicality* (DID).

I fairly ran down the rabbit hole this time. I don’t know how bad things got, but once i emerged i could barely lift my head. I see a broken wooden tv tray, my bedroom is a complete disaster, and when i hobble to the bathroom i immediately see that i’m covered in bruises. I also quickly discover that something’s wrong with the middle finger of my right hand. At this point, i’m gonna guess it’s broken, but the hospital will have to wait awhile. I don’t know how wise that is, but i do know there ain’t no way, no how, anybody’s gettin’ me to go there.

Once i began feeling a bit better, i made another decision.
When i come back to the face after losing time, i want to know what happened. I trust my husband with this task, but anyone else who interacted with me, as long as i consider them safe, is welcome to share their thoughts and feelings.

Not this time.

I’d know if i was violent with someone, or if i was verbally abusive. These are strictly out of bounds for me or my system. But still, something is wrong. I can feel it, simmering around up there in my cranium. I also sense that it’s more than i can handle at the moment. I check with my husband, and ask if it can wait. He smiles in the gentlest way, and says, Of course.
This both confirms my suspicions, and ups my anxiety. Greeeeat. /s
I trust him implicitly though, and know it will be okay.

What you don’t know won’t hurt you, is an old idiom that many a cranky commentator has had a crack at. Margaret Atwood, my second favourite author, once called it a “dubious maxim”. I see both sides of things. I’m the kind of person who always wants to know. I’m endlessly curious about everything. Over the years, i’ve pulled back my curiosity about other people. I prefer to let them decide what to tell me and and then let their behaviour tell me the rest. As for myself – i want to know EVERYTHING.

Just not right now.
This one’s gonna hurt.
I’m only a few days out of the hole.
I need to be stronger; to have a lot less on my plate before i try to digest whatever it is.

More on my phone-shrinking will follow soon… **

Love and Peace,
~H~

*I don’t consider my multiplicity to be an illness. My brain just processes information and social cues differently. I want to be clear that i don’t know if that fits according to the psychological community. I’m not on the autism spectrum. However, as it is a neologism, i’d like to submit my challenge that it does apply to me. I don’t believe the way i think is sick; merely different on a grand enough scale that i qualify for the term. I also know that bipolar is considered neuroatypical, and while it might be, i see it more as an illness.
Yeah, that might be ironic. Or is it?
I just gotta be me.

**I’m keeping things stripped down and as simple as possible right now. This could be a longer piece, but i’m chopping it into 2, so i can focus on my therapy homework. I talk about it in most of my recent pieces, if you’re curious and new to my blog.

1 Day in the Life of a Crazy Woman

Where i buy a turkey sandwich, but don’t eat it.

Last week i went to see my plastic surgeon. When you lose over 300lbs, you generally need some work done, and i did. I’ve had double brachioplasty, abdominoplasty, double mastopexy and breast implants. I began having tearing pain in 1 breast, and the beginnings of the same pain in the other. As my surgery was 15yrs ago, i went to see if the implants were the problem.
It was a dicey situation for me to walk into, loaded with potential triggers. I thought hard about it and tried my best to prepare. Being topless in front of someone who isn’t my husband, who’s looking at me critically and touching me… I knew it would be difficult, and i’d be dealing with a strong desire to dissociate.

It was hard, and then some. What i didn’t anticipate was that there was nothing wrong with my implants, which left waiting for a mammogram. Great. So something could be wrong with my boobs, like, my real boobs? Fantastic.
There was no way for me to not be alone after the appointment, so i’d invited myself over to my son’s house to visit my DIL and my grandchildren. I figured the bus might be another hurdle still, but doable. I got to their neighbourhood without a single hitch, and then shit happened, as shit do.

I’m on the bus, heading up the hill, and i start feeling nauseated. I know this part of the city well, and i realise i’ve failed to anticipate the real trouble. I’ve spent countless hours in this area’s local park. Waiting for abusers to pick me up and abuse me.
The dissociation happens as soon as the realisation hits, and i can’t stop it.

My body wants to run back down the hill. Get away, go downtown. The library is a haven, and i wonder when it closes. Evening comes early on my side of the equator, so dusk has fallen, and is rapidly becoming nighttime. The air is thick with moisture, and the streetlights illuminate the fog, creating little clouds every 30m or so. I’m wearing knee-high suede boots, because they’re fashionable, and because i’ve only just lost enough weight that my calves can fit any. Yes, i wear them every chance i get, and no, they don’t keep my feet warm at all.

I know the house is only a couple of blocks away, so i should be able to find it. I head up another hill, off the main road, and into the maze of suburbia. In less than 2 blocks i’m scattered, anxiety has started squeezing my heart in its icy hand, and the fog surrounding me seeps into my brain. I find a map on my phone, but it’s too late. I look at it without understanding. I try to zero in on the street names, but i can’t focus. The names bounce around in my head, echoing off bone, passing through each other like string theory. I’m in a cold, foamy sea of yellow roads and names that start with “C”. I’m treading water but i can’t feel my feet and my legs are fast becoming numb…

I startle and quickly look up and around me.
I don’t know where i am.
My feet are blocks of ice and i have snotsicles.
I’ve lost time and wandered.

I call my daughter-in-law for directions, thinking her voice might ground me a bit, or at least force me into a more conscious state. I forget that she doesn’t drive either, and between the 2 of us, we’re not getting me there.
I’m fading in and out. I hear her voice in my ear and then it moves away from me.
My guts churn and my head feels floaty; it starts pounding mercilessly. It feels like my brain is swelling, filling the space like a balloon ready to burst. It presses down into my throat, pulsing, throbbing. My neck and the base of my skull feel like broken glass.

By the time she suggests my son come out to find me, hope is lost. I’ve taken that stumbling hitch-step from Anxiety Hill into Panicland. I feel an icy-hot rush flood my skin at the suggestion of seeing my son. I can’t allow him to see me like this.
I cannot allow my dear daughter or precious granddaughters to see me this way.

Trying to sound calm and blasé, knowing that i’m failing, i tell her i’m going to make my way to the strip mall on the main road. I can hear my scared Little voice quietly harmonising with my desperately false one, but i’m helpless to temper it. All i know is that i must get away from them. She and my son have seen far too much of my calamity as it is, and i committed myself long ago to testing their acceptance and forgiveness of me as little as possible.
I get off the phone and make my way to the string of shops below.

I know i’m close to mild frostbite, but i wander back and forth in front of the various businesses, unable to decide which one i should risk entering. I see a gas station, and think i could buy some gum and use the restroom to gather myself, but as i draw nearer i see it’s a kiosk. Damn.
I see a burger place decorated like a diner set back behind it, but as i walk towards it i see it’s take-away only. Blargh.
Heading back the way i came i see a Korean restaurant, which is a favourite cuisine, but there is 1 person sitting at a table, and that’s not enough to hide, so ixnay on the Ulgogi-bay.
The coffee shop i’d first come across has closed during my indecision. Fucksticks.
Subway sandwiches is open, and while it is cramped AF so not ideal, there are a handful of patrons inside, which might afford me some anonymity.

As i open the door to the restaurant, i close the door on myself.

I look up at blurred images of melting yellows and blacks. My feet are being jabbed with long needles, but instead of delivering anaesthetic it hits me like amyl nitrate – popping me into consciousness with a gasp of pain, immediately followed by panic.
I feel small and naked and my breath is getting away. There’s food and drink in front of me, and my phone is in my hand. Only a couple of my Bits N’ Pieces can use a cell phone, and they’re strictly helping parts, so when i check i see i’ve contacted Kurt.
That should help, but it doesn’t.
I’m too far along and it has me. Full anxiety attack. My chest feels expanded and tight, metallic. My heart is a bomb inside, and it’s going to blow. I need to manage this, but i can’t. I need help, but i can’t think.
I’m scurrying around inside my brain, bumping into thoughts and parts. My emotions jangling, like cymbals crashing, filling my ears, my eyes too wide, one set of fingernails biting into my palm, the other white-knuckling my phone.
My phone.
MY PHONE.

I have a group of friends that i met nearly 20yrs ago on a fansite/message board, and we’ve remained close long after the page’s demise. They’ve stuck with me through all my crazy, supported and encouraged me, held my hand when i was lost and held me up when i was so low i had to look up to see dirt.
We have our own texting group on the phone.
I reach out as sobs are bubbling up and ask if anyone’s there.

They are.
They hop on in response to my need, and proceed to talk me off the ledge.
Helpmehelpmehelpmeplease. I’m trying not to cry but i’m crying. I’m crying alone at a table in a Subway restaurant.
Look down, they say, Look down and no one will see.
It’sokayyou’reokayeverything’sgoingtobeokay. Okay?
Okay.
Can you see 5 things? I say Yes, and whisper them out.
Name 4 sensations, 3 sounds, 2 smells…
I keep my eyes down, and smash the iwonderiftheycanhearmewho’slookingatme that comes and almost derails me.
Do you know any breathing techniques?
Yes! I can 4-7-8.
My no-yoga ass 4-7-8s its little heart out.
Quietly.
In a little curvy Subway chair that cups my rump and thighs and attaches to the table and another chair in 1 big piece.
They continue to text me and say good and kind and right things until the door tinkles open and gives me my husband. His warm and gently smiling face washes over me like a beam of sun and his strong hand knits through my shaking one as he guides me through the watercolour people and into his work van. It’s warm and purring inside, dark and quiet and safe. Safe metal box. Safe space.

I breathe into my collapse. My grateful release of sobs. Panic stops its painful squeezing and my body discharges into the night.

My mother would pick me up from the babysitter’s after work. When she turned left off Northmount before 14th Street, i knew. Sometimes, a man would already be there, waiting. On many occasions though, she would just drop me off in the parking lot of the park, where i would wait.
Wait for a man who was coming to hurt me.
Winter and weekends were the worst.
Weekdays they were usually prompt, but weekends seemed at times to take hours, and our winters are very cold.
My babysitter was the next suburb over, and my grandparents, the one on the other side. A few times i panicked and tried to find them, wandering the streets up and down, looking for help and safety, but never finding it.
Those times my mother would find me, get me into the car, and hit me all the way home. I’d run straight to my room, hoping she was too tired for anything else besides denying me food.

As my husband drove me home i was an earthquake in my seat. My thighs quivered helplessly, my knees knocked together, my shoulders shook, my body heaved and my guts writhed, nausea snaking its way into my mouth. I sobbed and retched as my body discharged and discharged, until i went completely rigid. I arched up against the seatbelt, as if in the grips of a seizure, and then everything let go and i fell back, limp and exhausted.

The panic was gone, and with it went the fear and embarrassment, too. And i wasn’t just emotionally spent, i was calm. I felt noticeably lighter. I felt relief. I felt clearheaded.
As we drove the 50 or so minutes home, i looked back upon what’d happened and i didn’t see failure. I saw success – i felt successful. I was less amorphous in my body; my thoughts and sensations felt firm, solid, like they carried physical weight. My head and my limbs weren’t trying to rise and float away from me, i could feel where they attached to my neck and torso. I was a human being, individual, and contained in 1 whole piece.

All this trying, all this trytrytry, try more, try again, wait and try harder, try different, try her, him, this, that, them. This struggle. This work.
It’s all brought me here.
My brain is afraid and it runs and hides.
My body hurts and it curls up tight like a fist and tries to make the pain disappear.
But all this struggle, all this work, all this freaking TIME i’ve put in, to figure out where i’m broken and put myself back together has brought me here.

Today i have a kit full of tools and a phone full of support.
I still slide and switch and freak right the fuck out, but today i can figure out why. I dig around in my bag and pull out something that helps. There are dozens –yes, DOZENS– of people who will love me and help me through it. The crises that inevitably come are not beyond my ability to cope. I’m no longer left drowning in wreckage, wretched and lost in the aftermath.

This is life as me.
It’s changing and it’s good.
And that’s storytime for today.
Be well readers, friends.

Love and Peace to You All,
~H~

Toast

Hunger has always been more or less at my elbow when I played, but now I began to wake up at night to find hunger standing at my bedside, staring at me gauntly.
~ Richard Wright

As i was saying yesterday – i woke up. I had a couple of tough days that involved more peopling than i’m comfortable handling right now, and by “more”, i mean any. I lost a bit of time on the second day, but it wasn’t too bad. I had a friend come and help me, and then i talked to my husband about what happened, and my feelings about it, and how things might have gone better and could go better next time. Because there will be a next time.

I went to bed and sleep took me more quickly than it has in some weeks. I woke up a couple of hours later though, and i was hungry. I was more than hungry, actually – i was starving. I used the bathroom before i went to the kitchen, and i was so hungry my hands were shaking, like i had low blood sugar or something. I’m sitting on the toilet and i have to pee but i can’t, because i’m panicky and tense. So i reach over and turn on the sink faucet, and the sound of running water has the desired effect of intensifying my need to urinate to the point where it overcomes my clenching pelvic floor. As my muscles relax a little and i feel relief, i have enough clarity to recognise that i’m having an intense physical and emotional reaction to something.

If it was a dream, i don’t remember it, but i don’t think that’s what’s up. I feel small. I feel young. My little Bits are up and active and upset. They need comfort and reassurance that everything is okay. When it hurt me to walk that morning it was more than a physical pain, it was a distressing emotional loss. Walking is an important and valuable tool in my coping kit. I work off stress and worry and i find peace and equilibrium in walking. It’s a place for my system to communicate more efficiently and freely. When they’re in upheaval they want to walk, and i get self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment from walking, so it’s mutually beneficial. It can be nearly impossible to communicate with my system when it’s particularly busy. Walking is a distraction. Walking deescalates. Walking is the oil that gets the gears moving in synchrony. As long as i get to be in charge of where we go, it’s worked exceptionally well for all of us.

But when my back signalled us that it was in too much pain to walk, we all cried out in my brain at once. It was too much for me, and BLINK i was gone.

Grocery shopping the day before had sapped too much of my strength; i had no stores upon which to draw. There was too much peopling and too much anxiety and too little sleep and some unmet needs that hurt and scared me. It’s hard for me not to see those things as rejection, and it takes effort to process it correctly.

Concentrate. I am loved. I have a history of being loved here. Experience tells me that this is a misunderstanding. Shhh. It’s okay. I know this feels like pain and terror and fury all at once. Breathe. This feeling will pass and another will take its place. It’s never not happened that way. I can ride this through until i’m in another place where i can look back and i know i know i know that perspective will come. It always comes. Breathe. Hug the pillow close. Adjust the fan so it cools the sweat on my face. Shhh. It’s okay. This feeling will end and another will come and take its place.

And one did. I slept fitfully. I made it to the point of drop off, where my husband drove to work in the city and i was to walk the rest of the way to the hospital to get my tests. But when it immediately became clear that i couldn’t walk, i had nothing left inside me to deal with losing something that i hold so dear. That we all hold so dear. I’ve got to feel my feelings and listen to my body to get to the next level of healing, and this is what i get? My emotions are hurting me and my body is hurting me too, and now one of my favouritest-best coping tools is no longer in the box.
Too much, World.
Too fucking much.

So i’m on the road trying to walk to the hospital to get my x-rays but i can’t walk and we all cry out and BLINK i’m gone. When the day is over and i’m processing the events with my partner, i tell him of my unmet needs and the feelings i had about it and how it took all the spoons left in my drawer, so that i had none left when i was standing there on the road, barely able to walk. It’s why he received a call from crying children wanting to go home, and it’s why they tried to jump out of the vehicle later when he picked us up, full of frustration and exasperation for being late to work on an important day.
I’m not easy and he’s not perfect.
So a raised voice and cuss words are heard and they’re further rattled, and they bounce around and wail and whine in my head all day long. And now older, caretaker types are pissed off and stompstompstomping through my brain…

After discussion between he and i it’s all good, but i’m spent and jangly.
I fall asleep feeling fairly content, and then wake up suddenly, so hungry i can barely focus. Another moment of toilet-clarity (i’ve had a considerable number of them), i know it’s my wee ones who need feeding so badly. I wash my trembling hands and head to the kitchen. I know it’s going to be a frenzy, and i make a conscious choice to let it happen; to do my best to stay present and watch, perhaps to learn and to be a better help next time.
I’m in the kind of dissociative state where i’m still there, watching, but i cannot affect what i’m doing.
They want toast. They want toast and the lamb gravy from supper. I sit down in my living room with no lights on, and they eat it so fast i think i might accidentally bite my fingers. Once it’s all gone the frantic feelings fade, and i’m able to talk to them again.
Concentrate. Breathe. It’s okay. There’s more. There’s enough. You can eat whenever you want to eat, and you can have whatever you’d like. Wash your hands and face. Look in the mirror. Hi. Breathe. It’s okay. Go rest now.

Tomorrow i want to talk about my mother, and food. I touched on it on my old blog, the one where i disclosed my story, but there is so much more now. I know and i see so much more. It may be triggery stuff for some. For me, i think i might be a little excited to get it all out. I’m done hiding and i’m through with glossing over it.
My body has been trying to tell this story since forever.

No I will not lay down 
I will not live my life like a ghost in this town 
I am not lonely swear to God I’m just alone 
~ The Sound Of, Jann Arden

X-Rays and Asian Supermarkets

There are opportunities even in the most difficult moments.
~ Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai.

Yesterday was an adventure, and since i’m trying to write through this tough period rather than after, i’mma tell you about it.

I have myriad health concerns, mental and physical. There’s both nature and nurture involved in them, which i suspect is true for many of us. For me, the primary physical issue has quickly become my back. I was morbidly obese for many years, which i’d guess is a large part of the problem, if not all, but at this point, i don’t know. What i do know is that after i lost most of the excess, i could hear my back making some noise, but i thought it was normal for someone of a more average weight. Over the last, say 6mos or so, the cracking and popping has become much more frequent, and in the last 6wks, downright painful. I saw my doctor, who ordered a series of x-rays. I went to my local hospital for them yesterday.

The preamble to my adventure is significant. I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to be around people as i delve into this deeper level of therapy. Listening to my body, learning to read its signals, does not come naturally to me. I survived the abuse i suffered in childhood by turning off physical sensations and hiding in my brain. As an adult i’ve continued this practise, mostly due to a combination of not being fully conscious that i’ve been living this way, and being regularly triggered by the sorts of events and occurrences that happen to us all.

Attempting to stay present, and by that i mean not dissociate, and check in to my body’s reactions to what is going on around me is scary AF, and takes a great deal of energy. Even going through the checkout at a grocery store can be difficult. I’m known at every store i frequent (there’s one where i’m not, but it’s too bloody expensive, and i probably know people who work there too, anyway), and so i’m going to have to make some kind of small talk.

NOTE: Look, i know i don’t technically have to say anything, but beyond that, yeah, i kinda do. These are decent, hardworking people, who have their own lives going on at home, too. They may be in the weeds as well, but i don’t know about it because they’re in customer service, and so they put on a nice smile and ask how i’m doing. They may not actually give a crap, but i wouldn’t know that either because they’re damn good at their job. I don’t want to pass through that till without a single word. Even if i just tell them the truth and say that life stinks right now, i’m going to have some kind of verbal interaction with them. They see me every week. They perform a service for me very well. They’ve been unfailingly nice to me, and so that’s that – conversation is gonna happen.

Now comes the case where it’s not necessary. Heh.

My favourite grocery store is in the city, which is some distance from where i live. It’s my favourite because it’s an Asian supermarket, and because i’m not required to act the same way as i am in my small town offerings. Many of the customers speak broken English at best, and i am Amazon-sized and don’t speak their language at all, so small talk simply doesn’t happen very often. The cashiers don’t speak to me except to say Thank you! when they hand me my receipt. It’s fucking glorious.

I had an opportunity to go on Sunday, and it had been a couple of months, so there were things i needed that i can only get there, like the seaweed snacks we like for a reasonable price, and roasted soybean flour, and yellow rock sugar, and 2X spicy chicken volcano ramen. My husband and son had business in the city, so they dropped me off first, that i might take my time there, as is my wont. I love looking at all the different food choices, and i love trying new things, and i lovelovelove that i don’t have to talk to anyone – they don’t even expect me to say Excuse me, or Sorry! (although i still do – i’m Canadian, okay?)
I thought it would be the perfect venue for peopling and being present in my body, because it’s the least stressful.
But i have never been there on a weekend. On the weekend i am not the only non-Asian in the store. With my friendly face (it’sacursejustkiddingimostlylikeit) and my cart full of items that say i can cook more than ramen and pre-made bao buns, i’m getting approached. A lot. When a woman actually taps. me. on. my. shoulder. i’m done.

My wa is shattered, i’m dissociating. I can feel my face going numb and the edges of my vision blurring. I help her, and then my shopping is over. I can’t even walk down any more aisles, i just hit the checkout line, pay and get out. It’s when i walk out of the store and into the general mall area that my numbness breaks enough to tell me that i can’t carry my purchases much further. My back is making grinding noises and i’ve got to go sit down. I find the food court area and sit with my back to a makeshift wall, behind which an Asian man is selling mobile subscriptions, and a crotchety old white dude is pontificating on how he gets his for 30 bucks cheaper and would prove it if he could find his Blasted bill that’s in here somewhere, dang it! I don’t think the salesman understands him very well, and the old man leaves, exasperated. It’s enough of a distraction that i’m able to chuckle to myself, which grounds me and i’m able to fill out my body a little better. I flow back into the empty spaces and i can feel my feet on the floor. I’m still feeling sketchy though – i can see other people glancing sideways at me, which lets me know i’m probably ticcing a fair bit. I text the hubs to come get me.

Once i’m home and ensconced for the night, i start worrying about how in the actual frickety-frack i’m gonna go get these x-rays at my local hospital where i know the receptionist and i’m bound to run into others as i go through the intake that’s stationed right at Emerg. I barely sleep.

<insertBLARGHhere>

In the morning, the plan is for my husband to drive me to the gas station where he gets fuel for himself (COFFEE!) and his vehicle, and i’ll walk the rest of the way to the hospital. It’s a fair distance, but i love to walk, and have been itching to get back at it since i broke my ankle last November. My back should be fine, as it only starts making crunchy noises when i bend over or swivel my hips a lot.

I’ve barely gone 100yds before sciatic nerve pain starts shooting down both legs. My tenuous hold on my brain breaks immediately. I love walking, and so do my Bits N’ Pieces. I’ve used it as the foundation of my physical fitness, and a healthy way to cope with depression. It’s taken some work, because as a child i was programmed to return “home” at the first sign of trouble, and when i switch, the first thing i’m likely to do is hit the road walkin’, but i’ve found a way to make it fun and therapeutic for my whole system. To lose the walking when i’ve been waiting and hoping for months is crushing, and i start to cry…

I open my eyes and i’m no longer outside. I’m sitting in my girlfriend’s living room, and i’m still crying. Well, how about that, eh? I’m an old hand at pretending i’m fine. I’ve come back to the face many times when no one has had any idea that i was even gone. I mean, most people don’t know i’m a multiple, so for them, they may notice i’m behaving a bit strangely, but probably not even that. People are incredibly self-focused (no judgment here) and have no idea what i’m doing or going through, and don’t much care. And the healthier i get, the more i appreciate the ignorance of others. I’ve gone from this incredibly broken and dysfunctional person, who desperately wanted someone to notice and HELP ME! to a relatively normally functioning woman who’s grateful to be unnoticed. That being said, this girlfriend is my closest girlfriend, and she knows me and has seen me both in and out of the face. She’s chased me across the city, around the town we live in, saved me from frostbite, and pulled me from ditches. She’s seen me when it’s been very clear that i am not myself.

And so i tell her it’s me, and she smiles and reassures me that everything’s okay; that i’m okay and she’s okay and fills me in on what i’ve missed. (She picked me up for x-rays and then brought me to her house afterwards.) I cry a little more and then breathe into it, i breathe myself back into those pockets that are empty when i’m not there. The places no one can feel but me – my existential guts and girl parts. I settle in and the ache of fibromyalgia fills my neck, shoulders, arms, hands, and the pain radiating from my lumbar region floods down my buttocks and legs, the kind of back pain that makes a woman feel like she’s menstruating. Ah yes, this is the body i live in, it is home, and i know this place. It’s a fixer-upper, but it’s got hella potential and the renovations are coming along nicely.

My friend takes me home after gently caring for me and making sure i’m all right. Once there i think over the events of the last couple of days and take stock: what happened, how i felt, how i reacted, what did i do right, what could have been done better. I can see that things went fairly well overall, but they could have gone more smoothly had i had clearer communication with my partner, so i text him at work and schedule a talk session. I used to just pounce on the poor man when he came home. I’d be thinking about things for hours and just vomit all my thoughts and feelings about whatever all over him as he’s barely in the door. Heh. I’m far more able to consider him and his thoughts and feelings now, so i give him a heads up.

He picks me up and we go for a short drive, to a place where we have a lovely private view and can talk without interruption. I shared and he responded and shared things too, and i felt heard and understood. Then we went out for a spicy chicken sandwich. Home was quiet and uneventful, and i was able to fall asleep relatively easily.

I woke up though, and it brings me to something i’ve been wanting to explore a little deeper. If all goes well, i’ll post again tomorrow. I know this is long, and a bit plodding, with not much in the way of grand observations and stunning conclusions. However, i think it’s some of the most important stuff i can post, in that it relates the day-to-days of a regular life, lived by a regular person. I have a brain that works in a non-typical fashion, as so many of us do. Life happens, and i try to figure out how to have the best outcomes and get the most enjoyment and happiness that i can, all while also trying to be as useful and good a human as i can manage. This is slogging through the trenches stuff, and i’m doing it. Although your brain may work differently and you may require different coping skills and tweaks, i believe you have a chance to figure your shit out and enjoy a better quality of life, too. I want that for you, very much.

Love and Peace to All,
~H~

Naked Brain Bits

Yesterday was a bit of a downer, huh? I’m sorry about that, but i think, at least for now, it’s important to put up some of the pieces that come from other parts of my system.

Ugh, i hate how that looks on the screen, but there it is. To refer to them in a more specific way than to say i’m a multiple, exposes me and leaves me vulnerable to attack. Up until a couple of years ago, i kept my diagnosis to myself. Everyone knew i’m bipolar, and that felt like enough. It gave people a reason that i act the way i do, but it spared me the sideshow freaky part, and the potential for disbelief. It’s a controversial diagnosis out there in the real world, and it was hard enough for me to accept it, so while i don’t blame folks for having their “Really, Sybill?” moments, i can ill afford the emotional cost to help anyone else get there.

This is where the portrayal of multiples has done so much damage.
Also, Fuck you, Shyamalan. And a hearty Fuck you to Criminal Minds and aaaall the Law&Orders. Fuck you very much.

A quick aside here though: I think it’s worth it to point out that my diagnosis has been received much more easily by your average non-professional than by those working in the vast and boggy field of mental health care. My GP is the greatest doctor that ever GP’ed, i’d not trade her for a bucket of gold. Seriously. But i learned after the second or third time i brought it up, not to talk to her about it. She looked like she’d rather mop a slaughterhouse floor. Hell, her face looked like she WAS mopping one. And my psychiatrist who handled my Bipolar Disorder interrupted me to say, not a bit brusquely, that he didn’t know a thing about that, and had no intention or desire to educate himself in that area. My therapist who treats me has encountered that attitude with many psychologists and psychiatrists.
Real doctors don’t read that chapter of the DSM-V.

For regular folks it’s mostly been a mixture of “Okay, if you say so,” with a shrug, to, “Wow, really? That’s weird and kinda cool.”* Those ones usually come back later with questions, which is always fine with me. I may choose not to answer, and i definitely don’t perform, but i welcome questions.
I am very okay with anyone giving a shit.

Not so quick an aside, i guess. Heh.

Back to being naked. The figurative kind.
You don’t need to know this, but i’m telling you anyway: I’m always clothed, unless i’m showering or sexing. The simple and pure joy of nudity is another thing that sexual abuse stole from me, and it’s one of the things i’d like to take back.

This kind of vulnerability, this level of exposure, is scary for me. I’ve set the stage for it, by sharing all the things that i have already, and i fully consent, and i’m cleverly using soft candlelight, but i’m still baring some bits that i usually keep to myself. There are very few people that i discuss being multiple with in real life. My husband and my children. 2 lovely girlfriends in the town where i live. The interwebs are a bit different. Obviously, i have my blog here, and i share that, and i have a very dear group of friends that i met on a fan site over 15yrs ago, with whom i’m much more forthcoming about being multiple, but that’s been it. And i don’t go back and make an announcement that i was switched when i wrote that or someone else did that thing there. I’ll say, I’ve been in a mood today, or hint at it and say, I’m not quite myself today, or if it’s getting out of hand, i’ll just state that i’m taking a break from social media, ttyl.

This is a whole. nutha. level.
I’m saying that someone in my system bashed that out on my phone in the van yesterday. In my husband’s work van while he was in someone’s house, cleaning up from a renovation that his company did. He’d picked me up somewhere in the city because i’d switched and gotten lost, or gotten lost and switched (i’m not clear on that yet, and may never be).
Therapy is getting more difficult every time i go. My husband drops me off and quite often i have a friend that picks me up and takes me home. She’s wonderful, and i’m super-fortunate to have her in my life. Yesterday though, she had an appointment, so i’d planned to bus it to where she was at. It’s no small point of pride for me that I’ve become rather adept at using public transit. Getting lost has always been a huuuuge trigger, and for years i couldn’t handle the stress of buses or trains on my own. I’d immediately get all floaty in my brain, which is a sign that i’m sliding and i’m ripe for a switch. It’s like an aura before a migraine. I worked to conquer that trigger last year, and i’d been traipsing around the city with no problems for months, so it didn’t even occur to me that it might be a problem for me now.
Lemme tell ya, it was a bloody problem.
(I’m going to move on now, but as i’m proofreading and editing I can see that this reads unfinished. This is all i have, though. Therapy was hard, i left the office, and suddenly i’m in the van with my husband. We’re parked on our little country road, and i’m drinking an alcoholic beverage and crying. Sometimes, i’ll get a bit more information about the blank space as time passes, but i often won’t.)

I’m all in my feelings these days, and not always great at handling them. Cue my precious Bits N’ Pieces, with varying levels of happy-to-help! one level being not happy at all. I should have seen it coming with the trouble i was having using the transit app to plan my trip. It wasn’t going smoothly, and i was getting frustrated and foggy-brained even before my appointment. I’ll try not to make that mistake again. It was all there, down to the concerned look on my husband’s face as he dropped me off. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d seen trouble on the horizon.

Wow. I’m flitting about from flower to flower in this piece, eh? I think people with ADHD might relate to this part of how my brain works. When my system gets riled up there’s more and louder conversations going on, and my attention is pulled to THIS ONE! that used a trigger word, and THAT ONE! that’s yelling, and OH! someone’s crying…

So. That thing from yesterday that wasn’t poetry, but sure as hell wasn’t prose. I didn’t write that. I have no memory of it, although i am the one who put it up on my blog. Because she had something to say and she deserves to be heard.
Naked brain bits.
I haz them.

* People don’t actually say those things. I’m putting words to their expressions for illustrative purposes.

IMAGE: The Brain, by Naked Human Bodies

The Box

WARNING: If you are a multiple, this piece contains references to integration. Take care of yourself and your system. I also refer indirectly to childhood abuse, both physical and sexual. Think about it before proceeding. Talk to your p-doc or whomever is your mental health professional go-to.

**********

Paul Atreides:
What’s in the box?

Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam:
Pain.

~ Frank Herbert, Dune

The silence has been frightening. It’s still not quiet in my brain – it never is unless i’m sleeping or unconscious. What i mean is that certain people who live in my brain aren’t talking anymore. It took a while to identify what the problem was, but i knew something wasn’t right because i began having trouble sleeping and i was dreaming more than usual. At first, my whole system feared they were dead, and wondered if everyone was going to die. I couldn’t sleep at all without nightmares, and even booze provided little escape. (I sure tried for a few weeks, though. Blargh.) I was losing time and feeling that old pull to “go home”, which is a place that doesn’t exist, and would be dangerous for me if it did.

I had the sense to get back into therapy, where the first thing i learned was that they weren’t dead, that none of us were going to die – that it’s impossible for any of my precious Bits N’ Pieces to die. They’re resting, or hiding even, and that’s okay by me. I came to understand that, contrary to what i’d assumed when i walked away from therapy — all cocksure and pleased with myself — i wasn’t done. I learned that maybe my brain and my body are healing so well that i’m evolving to a higher level of function that i’d thought was possible for me. I am currently, carefully, gently, quietly, considering the possibility that a lot of my voices may go silent. That there may be room inside my skull for nothingness. The pulse of blood and the throb of tissue, and soft, warm, blankety silence wrapped around space, thick, with no echoes.
Some call it integration, but i prefer my therapist’s term: homeostasis.
The instinctual tendency of the body to seek a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements.
When i’m cold i shiver. When i’m hot i sweat.
I shattered into pieces to survive the unsurvivable. I broke things into pieces that i could not process in order to live. I kept things away from each other so i didn’t die or go insane. I had a mom who fed and clothed me and told me i was smart and pretty, and i kept her for me, and then i chipped off a chunk of myself and made her handle the woman who beat me, and another who went for rides with strangers, and another who cleaned up and made dinner, and another who spent weekends with daddies and uncles.

I’m Humpty Dumpty. And the King’s horses and his men, too.
I’m the pieces in a quest movie. You know how it goes, they finally get all the pieces together in the right order, and then a glowy light flows through it all and some magical, glorious shit happens?
You know, except for the glorious part. I’m not feeling glorious.
I do feel the shit part, though.

So yeah, Sunday. Sunday i wake, sleep deprived as fuck, grumpy and snarky and in full fibro flareup, with my psychic skin about as thin as a gnat’s wing. I try to keep it to myself, because i know what’s going on with me and why, and it’s certainly no one’s fault that i live with…
But people are annoying, and no one more so than family. And they are in my space, breathing and being flawed creatures. I’m trying and i know they are too, but something happens with someone and i blink right out of existence.

It’s not a slippery slide from one part of me to another. It’s not like when i recede into the background and watch someone else standing in front of me. It’s not like when i’m suddenly slapped in a jail cell and i’m watching myself on a tv screen and  can’t reach the dial to change the channel (i’m that old, okay?). It’s a hard switch, when i disappear in an instant, like i’ve ceased to exist.
And unfortunately, it was just as hard coming back.
Suddenly, i’m looking up at my husband, and he’s got this smile on his face that i’m very familiar with – it’s the one he uses on young parts of me, when they’re afraid.
I feel myself lurch, once, twice, 3 times. It’s like when you’re going to sleep and you feel like you’re falling and your body jerks you back awake. I’m on my ass on the dirty gravel shoulder of a snowy back road. Our van is behind him, and a friend of mine stands to his right. He’s talking and she’s talking, but i don’t understand for a while. My brain is sizzling with synapses, trying to figure out what is required of me in this moment:

– an apology? (almost certainly),
– an excuse? (i might throw a generic one to see if it hits the target),
– can i safely ask a question?

Sometimes it’s not safe to ask, because i’m not with safe people. My husband’s dealt with this hundreds of times, so i trot out the old familiar, “What did i do?”
It’s a cut-to-the-chase question. I can tell i’ve been gone for some time, and my system has been handling things, and we both have a lot of experience with this, so let’s start dealing with whatever has happened.

I’m in my pajamas, with a very thin housecoat (funny story: it’s a hospital gown from one of many visits), with my winter coat over top, and i’m wearing my husband’s work boots. I’m covered in dirt, and leaves, and there’s sticks in my hair.
I know i’ve been out for some time, because i’m cold in my bones and my skin feels numb. My clothes are soaked through on the ass end, and it would seem i’ve been hiding in a ditch. He says he’s been looking for me for hours, and she says i’d been texting but had stopped. Even with warm clean clothes, hot tea, and a raging fire, it takes hours and hours before i’m warm. I need to cry, but i can’t; parts of me fight it hard. I eat because my body is starving, hubby gets take-away because i’m not functional, and he asks if i like it and i say it’s good, but i can’t taste a thing.

I’m numb and yet everything hurts and my brain buzzes like it’s full of old tv snow… And i still can’t fucking sleep.

This is writing through the hard parts. I don’t usually write until after the rough stuff passes. I want to look back and analyse, it feels safer. It’s easier to do when the feelings have faded. Word paintings with muted washes of watercolours. Instead i have this jumble of splotches, like a wannabe Pollock that’s just a weird bore. Trying too hard to be something.

It’s okay, though. I’m not mad, or even disappointed. I don’t need to tie it all up in a pretty bow with some pithy observations and sign off with forced optimism.
I can be pithy later (betcher sweet bippy), and i know from experience that the sun’s gone shine, cuz that’s what the sun do.

This is a process, and it’s never been easy. There’s no need to think it’ll be any other way now. I can do hard, hell, getting here has been so close to impossible i can smell the devil’s breath and feel the heat on the back of my neck. If it’s gotta be ugly and painful, so be it. I’ve come too far now to stop. I should literally be dead, many times over. There ain’t nothing so scary that i can’t live through lookin’ at it.

I’m scared, but it’s not the fear of a child: nameless, faceless, squeezing all the breath out of me with icy claws. It’s a fear of the unknown, but one i believe i’m prepared to face, and before which i stand, resolute. Come what may. I’ve said it many times since i read it in junior high, when the young prince that spoke them, first grabbed my heart and spirited it away in adventure and joy and wonder:

Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

~Frank Herbert, Dune

I’m going to be putting my hand in the box very soon now. I think i’m as ready as i can be.

~H~
(Yes, this one is even more dramatic than usual – you’ve seen the name i go by, right?)

 

To Past Or Not To Past


To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?
~To Be Or Not To Be, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 1

Some people journal a lot. I suppose i could be considered one of those people, but with me it was sporadic. I’d pick it up for a few months or a year or so, but eventually i’d drop it. Consistency is not one of the hallmarks of my life.
Some people regularly look back over their journals to see what they’ve learned and how far they’ve come.
I should not do that – at least not now. Perhaps never.

One of my sons asked me for a recipe yesterday. I knew i had it posted online somewhere, so i set about finding it for him. While i did find it, i stumbled across some other things. I also found journal entries and posted social media rants. My brain, which has been full of background mumblings lately, fairly exploded a la Scanners (1981 Canadian horror film from David Cronenberg).
Yesterday was an absolute shit of a day.

What i see when i look back at old journal entries depresses and scares the hell outta me.
It’s the same thing, over and over:
I know i’m not right, somehow.
I’m doing the things i’ve been told are good to do, and i’m seeing some progress.
I think i’m finally on my way and i’m hopeful for the future.

It’s the same fears, the same struggles, the same words on the page.
What if this is just the same thing again? What if i’m still screwed? What if i’ve always been just blowing smoke up my own ass? What if i’m full of it, and i’ll always be full of it, and i’ve just convinced myself over the years that i’m not? What if i’m just pathetic and deluded?

Oh, and then there was the other thing.
Social media.
Fuck.
I’ve been so angry.
So bloody angry.
And the drama. The dramatic pronouncements and the histrionic outcries.
“This is the most important thing i’ve ever written.”
I read that yesterday, and it most certainly was not. It was childish, was what it was.
It read like a prepubescent diary entry.
And here’s the thing – i am just SO embarrassed. All of the rants and the diatribes that i put on my social media. So much anger. Hostile towards everyone, save a very, very few.

Hang on. I’m having trouble pulling out thoughts and putting them down with any kind of logical flow. It’s all tumbling around in my head, with the occasional geyser out my mouth/fingers. It’s so hard to rein in my bits and pieces when i’m like this.
There are some things that i may not be able to convey well, unless i first provide a basic understanding of how my brain works with regards to my Peanut Gallery.
I really, really don’t want to do that.
It’s taken forever for me to even use the word dissociative.
I use a euphemism for my alters, and using that word makes me cringe. Alters. *shudder*
I’ll share what i will, but you may still be nonplussed. Please know that i’m sorry and i’m doing the best that i can.

I don’t know where to begin. When my head gets full like this i either go to sleep, use drugs, or switch. I don’t want to do any of those things anymore, but this is bloody hard. It feels like too much, it’s too real and too fucking personal. Who wants to know all this shit anyway? Blargh. I can feel the separation starting. It’s like i’m pulling away from the rest of what’s going on in my head. Distancing myself from the mass of crawling thoughts and emotions. Dissociating. I can’t allow that to happen though, because most of the last few years has been dissociative writing, and i want that to stop. Maybe not for always, but definitely for now.

What i wanted when i first started this blog was to help myself stay in control of the way my brain works, and motivate and inspire myself to keep improving. I was depressed over what i saw as wasted years, and so i also thought sharing my life might help someone else. That’s all.
Well, maybe one thing i knew i did not want. I didn’t want to be the subject of morbid fascination. One need only think of how many television shows and movies have used multiple personalities as a cheap plot device to get an idea where i’m coming from. I want to find healing through being understood and find purpose through helping others, but i have no desire to be a sideshow attraction. (Much respect to those over the years who have done so, however.)
I never want this to be some kind of bizarre soap opera with the entire cast being played by me. I don’t want to be a train wreck that you can’t look away from, and besides, some people are just trying to get somewhere else and they have no time for a traffic jam.

Which sort of brings me to the next thing that bothered me while i was looking through my notes yesterday. I am deeply and profoundly embarrassed. I was so obviously dysfunctional for so long. Gah. Like, hermitting is easier since yesterday – and honey, it wasn’t hard. I never want to go out again. I only looked through a few things, but they were enough. After that i thought about the pictures there are; so much evidence of all my antics, and i think, This is a pretty nice rock i live under, i could stay here forever and not be sorry about it.
I’m ashamed that i’m only a couple of years out from acting the perfect fool. The obnoxious try-hard that fancies herself the centre of attention when she’s really just tolerated and pitied. Ugh. A woman who, from her late 30s to late 40s, acted more of a teenager than her own children.

This is where i start to cry as i type, because this is very, very personal. And frustrating, because i don’t know that i’ll be able to communicate well enough for anyone to understand. There are a lot of voices in my head wanting to be heard on this matter, and they’re all trusting me to get this part right.

When i finally accepted my diagnosis i made a decision to stop trying to control everything (it wasn’t working anyway), and to allow myself to fall apart. I don’t think i could have stopped it if i’d tried, looking back. I was entering my first full-on mania, which hit me like a tornado in a trailer park. I had no idea what i was in for. My past had come out in little drips and drabs, but not the whole story all at once, and there were many things that i’d never told anyone. It took a while, but i told my husband all of it. Plus, i disclosed to some friends on a personal blog i kept for a few years. I haven’t spoken much about it since then. The details, i mean. I can refer to some things in a general way, but i don’t go back to specific incidents and i try not to focus on details. I see no positive reason for reliving my abuse any further.

But that’s now. What happened then was i devolved. My level of function went way down at home, and mania took me out of the house, along with a bunch of people who’d been cooped up in my brain for too long. And they wanted to get out and get some fresh air and exercise. What they did was nearly destroy the half decent life i’d managed to build.

I’m ashamed, but what good does the shame do me, or anyone i love for that matter? If it’s a stepping stone to sincere regret and a genuine attempt at amends, fine. I’m already there, though. I have been living my amends for some time. The shame i carry now can do actual harm to people i care about. My people. The parts of me that are me and yet not me. I don’t want to hurt them with my shame and embarrassment. They saved my life so very many times. They took the abuse at home, they took the bullying at school, they handled the nighttime activities, they covered for me when i was too traumatised or triggered to function. Without them i would either be permanently committed, or dead – whether by my own hand or an abuser’s. They’ve done their job and they did it well; i’m here and i’m better than i’ve ever been and now it’s my job to take care of them.

On an intellectual level, i know all the things i need to know in order to get through this.
Reading those things i posted though… I’m gonna be 50 in a couple of months and the lack of maturity i’ve displayed is mortifying. And i know a more mature person would not be so impacted. I should be calmed and comforted by the truth, that i was doing the best i could with the tools and the information i had available to me at the time, rather than wanting to take to my bed with a case of the vapours.

Let me tell you something, writing stuff down and sharing it can have some unintended effects. For the writer and for the reader. I can take the edge off of the evil and the ugliness by writing about it. For me it can seem like it’s okay, or at least less terrible because now it’s prose – it is attractively arranged sentences with flowery descriptors, creating a pretty turn of phrase. And for the reader? Well i don’t know how you’re reacting of course, but i know how i’ve reacted to similar pieces like these, and i also have some feedback on what i’ve written from people i know personally. Therefore i feel confident that some who read this may come away from my blog thinking i’m doing so very well. That i’ve really got my poop in a pile, or my ducks in a row, or whatever.

Let’s neither of us allow ourselves to be fooled, shall we?
I am only now starting to function on a level that can sustain a healthy lifestyle, including relationships. Barely.
I’m talking about things like cooking meals, keeping house, and doing laundry.
Things like showering and brushing my teeth.
Eating a balanced diet and exercising.
Taking my dogs for a long walk every day.
Going through dozens of boxes filled with goodness knows what and organising my space.
Not drinking or drugging to cope with people, feelings, thoughts or memories.
STAYING PRESENT, IN THE FACE ALL DAY.

There is a trail of wreckage behind me. The last 10yrs i’ve ended every significant relationship i’d managed to maintain or tolerate except my husband and my children. I’m amazed that my children have forgiven me for scarcely being present. I’ve been utterly unable to forge new friendships that cross the line into comfortable intimacy. The only friendships i have that are still strong are with an online community of people that i wouldn’t have allowed that close to me had i known them in real life, and maybe they wouldn’t have minded.

I needed to lose these last 10yrs. I maybe could have found another way, but i’d already tried a lot of different things. All i need for proof is my journals. Yes, the journals i shouldn’t be looking at, but they sit in my drawer bearing paper witness to many attempts by me to figure my shit out and get well. It took what it took, i did what i did, and here i am. But the more clarity and presence of mind i gain the more i realise how much of these last years is either blurry or blank. Booze, drugs, and a constantly rotating cast of players that are all me have made it so.

I should be further along in my personal development as a human being, but i’m here.
I should have been raised in a safe and loving environment, but i wasn’t.
So to answer my own question: I past-ed, but am not currently past-ing.
It is what it is.

I don’t know what the hell the point was to all this, but apparently it needed to come out.
How this hodge-podge could help anyone besides me, well – i can’t imagine, but here it is, regardless. If you read this, you’re a champ. Thanks.

Love and Peace,
~H~