Elephants, Snakes, and Bears

Anxiety.
I haz it.
I don’t have a diagnosis, but i could probably get one. I figure what i’ve already got on my plate as a diagnosed bipolar/multiple is enough. Long ago i decided that i was just gonna deal with how my brain works, and not get bogged down with labels.

One thing that helped me come to that decision was the mental health care system in my area. I’d only dealt with social workers, therapists, and church counselors until i catapulted into my first full blown mania in my 30s. Then i was in and out of psych wards and a mental hospital, and put under the care of psychologists and psychiatrists, various and sundry. What i experienced wasn’t particularly helpful or pleasant. The diagnoses and medications would change depending on what doc was in charge that day. I’ve been called borderline, schizophrenic, narcissistic, chronically depressed (but no mania), hypochondriacal, even antisocial (the most patently ridiculous of them all).

The other thing that cemented my decision to at least try some less conventional treatments was aaaall the freaking druuuugs, man.* I’ve been summarily yanked off of medications that one should be weaned from. I’ve been placed on meds that have dangerous interactions with other meds i was currently on. I’ve had doctors treat the diagnosis that they gave me, with medications that are clearly meant for another diagnosis. One psychiatrist had me on 6 different medications, 3 of which were only for treating the side effects caused by the other 3.
And he wanted to put me on a seventh.

I went from a psych ward to a mental hospital, only to have the doctor in charge there change my diagnosis (and of course my meds), and treat me with a therapy that is directly contraindicated for how my brain really works. If you’ve been in and out of the system too, you might be like me and now do a lot of reading and research and vetting sources. I’ve had to learn to advocate for myself – i was getting regularly psychically concussed from all the pingponging done by the pros in the field. I was sick and tired and getting crazier rather than better.

I went to my family doctor, and she agreed to help me get off the meds i was on and find someone else to help me. I was using up the shelf life of my organs for no good results. The next drug being pushed on me was one that is notoriously zombifying. Why would i take it if none of the 20 others i’d tried had helped me at all?

I found my current therapist (Ms T) during this period. She specialises in treating multiples. As none of the doctors would touch the DID diagnosis with a 10′ pole (some spent time and energy lecturing me on the terrible mistake it had been to put it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), and they hadn’t helped me manage living with Bipolar Disorder… Well, i was desperate, close to a more permanent sort of commitment to a care facility, and she would come to me at my house because i couldn’t leave it.
Kind of a no-brainer.

The DID controversy persists to this day. During the first few years of my work with Ms T, i still had to go to hospital for mental health care frequently. I knew the problems i was dealing with were a direct result of my dissociative issues, but i would only refer to being bipolar. I’d mentioned DID twice, and that’s all it took for me to learn not to bother. I could see their eyes glaze over and feel their emotional distancing.

All this to say, yeah, i’m anxiety-girl. It’s a bigger issue than dissociation right now. I’ve got a piano on my chest, and an elephant is bashing away at the keys with its trunk. Sometimes my heart feels like it’s being squeezed by an invisible hand, and sometimes it skips beats and feels as if it may tear out of my ribs, opening me up like poor old Kane on the Nostradamus. It can beat so fast it seems as if i must surely be having a heart attack. I can hear the blood rushing in my ears. My fingers get numb and tingly. I feel electric needles prickling at my breast, all the way through to the soft flesh near my shoulder blades.

I’m scared for my husband to go to work, and i’m scared for our once a week grocery trips. This Saturday, while i was waiting for him to catch up to me with the cart, i was gripped by an anxiety attack so bad i had to set my items down on the floor in front of at least a dozen people in line. I walked on rubbery legs to go sit on the grass at the far end of the parking lot, to run through my calming techniques for when i’m in the grips of it. He came and sat beside me, and asked What’s wrong?
I hissed at him and asked, What do you think?

Cluing in, he began running through all the reasons why i shouldn’t be worried, why it’ll all be okay. He’s done it before, bless his heart, and he might well do it again. The Copperhead living in my mouth struck before he could get on to statistics and Health Authority admonishments.

“ANXIETY IS NOT RATIONAL!!”
I asked him if he thought i wasn’t intelligent and informed. I asked him if he hadn’t been listening when we conversed on the subject of our current pandemic situation. I asked him if he remembered when i’ve told him that my anxiety doesn’t care about skepticism or experts or the scientific method or statistical data.
(I was snappish, but not verbally abusive, if you follow my blog and were wondering.)

The man knows when to slow his roll, and he did. He became gentle and soft. He smiled, said he was sorry, and asked how he could help. I told him that i don’t always know, but i do know that telling me he’s here and he cares is probably going to be a good place to start.
I bristle if someone starts asking me if i’m doing any of the things they may have heard help cope with anxiety. And don’t try logic, because my anxiety doesn’t respond to logic. Tell me you’re willing to help if i ask, but let me ask. Let me ask for help running through the 5-4-3-2-1 method. Let me ask for help with my yogic breathing. Let me ask for you to hold me or only my hand or place yours in the small of my back. Don’t ask questions – just tell me you’re here, and then be silent and mindful and as calm as you can manage.

I’m not going to write about the thoughts and feelings i was wrestling with, because i know a lot of us are, and i know i don’t need to bring them to mind again. You’ve got your worries and i’ve got mine and we’re all under enough stress. Let’s not poke the bear, eh? It starts bellowing and then that elephant will roll in with its cursed piano.
We both have trunks, but mine isn’t my shnozz. It’s my brain and there are all kinds of toys, treasures, tools, and yes, tricks in there.

It doesn’t matter what anyone else calls those little tricks and trip-ups. This is me and this is how my brain works.
It’s as simple as that.
Heh.

I’m not going to diagnose anyone else’s brain stuffs.
I’m not going to tell anyone else how it looks when you’ve been given a mental health diagnosis.
But i am going to reiterate, in case anyone else struggling with anxiety and panic in these strange and stressful times can relate:

My anxiety is not rational.

Hang in there as best you can. I’m doing the same. It’s messy AF, but i’m getting the job done.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*I’m not antidrug. I’m 100% for taking medications when and where a doctor and their patient make the decision to do so. I wouldn’t hesitate to take a medication suggested by the health care professionals i have on my team now. They know me, they know my lifestyle, what i’m capable of, and what my goals are – and i trust them all.

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.

Chips

The current state of the world has me at my limit, anxiety-wise. I’ve cut off reading anyone’s social media, i don’t watch the news, and i’ve had to become selective about the art i consume.

In the interest of my own mental health, i’m going to post a funny (to me, at least) story.

Fed hubby, got his lunch made and sent him off to work. I returned to bed this morning, as my stress level is keeping me up. It seems as soon as i’m able to drop off, i launch into dreaming immediately, and wake from my brain trying to figure out how to cope with living in a pandemic. That pattern didn’t change, but i did get in 2, 20min naps. Better than nothing, i’ll take it.

Ate some breakfast and watched a couple of shows with my Kiddo, while my Brat snored softly on the couch. They’ve both been sent home from work, and i can tell they’re keeping an eye on me. Yes, i’m the mom, but they’re grown men and i don’t hide my process from them. After all the mistakes i’ve made with them, probably the best gift i can give them is watching me deal with shit, push through, and get better. I don’t lie to them or hide what i’m going through (although certain details would be inappropriate).

As is my way, i then get up to accomplish a few small goals that will help keep my self-esteem up. Most of my spoons are currently going to managing anxiousness. If i don’t give some care here, it would be likely for me to fall into depression or mania without realising. Neither are ever far enough away, so i’m vigilant.

One of the first things i do is make my bed. My Pomeranian doesn’t sleep in my bed at night, but sometimes i let him have naps with me. This morning he follows me into the bedroom and does a little circle at my feet, his signal that he’d like to be picked up. I put him on the bed while i make it – he’s not bothered at all. He sits and looks at me expectantly.

My tiny doggo is the most foodcentric dog EVER. No, really. He was in the hospital for bloat, a rarity for a guy his size, not once, but twice. We learned to soften his food because otherwise, he just swallows the kibble whole. We also learned to put a tennis ball in his dish to slow him down. Without the ball he’ll eat it so fast he’ll barf it back up. He’s trained not to mooch – except in the kitchen. He’s allowed to sit there while i prepare food, as long as he doesn’t get underfoot. He’ll sit there, absolutely still, for as long as it takes for me to drop something on the floor, or offer him a wee taste. On the bed though…

I keep a lot of snack foods in my bedroom, because i want them to last a while, and i have a son that’s an eating machine. Occasionally, when i’m fetching some treat for one of us, Roland will get a bit, too.
So he’s sitting there on the bed while i’m making it, trying to find the line between mooching outside the kitchen (NO), to boring his teeny eyeballs into my back like he does when i’m cooking.

One of the things i’ve learned to do to help me manage the way my brain works, is i talk to myself. Out loud. A LOT. Getting the thoughts out of my head helps keep them from getting rancid or poisonous, if you feel me. Writing is one thing, but i’ve got constant chatter going on up there, and i can’t always write.
So i talk. And i have conversations with my Bits N’ Pieces, sure, but i also act a little. I’m on the dramatic side, doncha know. Heh. So even random thoughts that don’t come from my system fall out of my face when i’m alone. (Well okay, i talk to myself even if my family is around. It’s just a great coping skill for me and i use it all the time.) I’ll adopt voices that have nothing to do with being a multiple. I’ve been aping people and doing voices since i was a child.
I started talking as Roland within days of getting him.

K. So i’m making my bed, and he’s staring at me, but trying not to stare too hard, lest he get told to knock it off. He’s trying to stay still, but it’s hard when your mommy has a 70s disco waterbed, and is pulling the sheets and duvet into place. I’m talking in his voice (which is very cute i assure you) and saying stuff like:

Yeah, ah… i’m looking pretty cute today, huh Mom? But maybe, oh, i dunno, i think i might be looking a little on the skinny side… Are you sure i’m getting enough calories and the proper nutrients? With all this walking we’re doing now, i might be deficient. I mean –and i’m not complaining here– but you do go kinda fast. Lookit your legs, lookit my legs; you see what i’m sayin’? I see you have some chips over there on the shelf. Mm, salty and crispy deliciousness. You think maybe, uh, i could… ? Just a couple of the broken ones, you know, you won’t miss them. Top up my tank for the walk later, so i don’t slow you down. You really give ‘er out there, and i’m your fur person, ‘member? We’re best buds and lifelong pals – you help me, i help you, hey?
Hey, Mom?
Mommy?
Momma?
I love you, Mom.
Aren’t i cute?
Lookit my face, and these floofs.
I’m skin and bones under these floofs, Mom.
I think i might be dying.
Chips.

Then i respond, looking into his adorable little face as i’m smoothing out the duvet and puffing up the pillows and placing them just so.

Oh Roly, you’re very well fed, and you know it. Plus, where would you be without me to watch what you eat? We both know you’d wind up so round your toot widdow paws wouldn’t reach the floor. We’d have to roll you around to get you anywhere. Or maybe get one of those bags for bowling balls. Yes, i’d have to carry you around in a bowling ball bag, and people would ask me, Why is your bowling ball furry? And i’d say, That’s not a bowling ball, that’s my dog who ate too many chips!

And then a Little’s voice popped out of my face and said, Don’t listen to her, RolyPolyOly. You’re not fat and i’m gonna give you a chip.

And Roland’s face lit up, because he’s my fur person and he knows and loves me in all my iterations, and he recognised her voice, and he knows the word “chips”. He stood up on the bed and did a circle and wagged his tail.

So i said –to him and all of my selves–
This just got way too meta.

Maybe this is only funny to me, but i hope it brought a smile to your face while you’re enduring these strange and scary days.

Hang in there. This was the day before yesterday, and yesterday was a bit of a shitshow, so i may post about that. We’re already conversating about it.

*SNORT*

Okay, YES. He got chips.

Climbing Every Mountain

How about some random stuff  that’s mostly uplifting?

PHYSICAL

1) I’m well enough mentally to be back to walking outside. The doggos are happy about it. I’m trying not to push myself to walk too much or too quickly. I take it slow, and i’m managing not to kick myself when i think i might’nt’ve  done enough.

2) Still working on improving my sleep. I’ve been experimenting with edibles for over 6mos now. I don’t like being high, and i’m an ex-smoker, so smoking/vaping is out. I find a gummie at night helps me get more deep sleep, which is great, as fibromyalgia makes D-level sleep a serious issue. I also now use an Indica tincture sublingually. During the day, i’m finding a Sativa tincture seems to be helping me manage my anxiety. And once every couple of weeks, i’ll take a higher dose 1:1 (THC/CBD) gummie on a Saturday; enough to get a body stone where i’m actually pain-free for a few hours.
I’m a serious lightweight, so it doesn’t take much or cost a lot to help me.

3) Since i don’t celebrate Christmas and i don’t people a bunch, it’s not a huge surprise, but still… I lost weight in December! I’m at a 12yr low. I only weighed this once in my adult life, after i’d had gastric bypass surgery, and it didn’t last much more than 2yrs, as i became terribly sick with bipolar mania. Medication and poor lifestyle/choices, packed over 100lbs back on.

I still have a ways to go, but i’m not worried. This weight has come off slowly, and with the exception of a couple of benders where i gained booze weight, it’s stayed off. It’s taken decades of gathering information and learning who i am and how i work to find a healthy, flexible plan where i don’t feel deprived and can go anywhere and still eat.
Food, weight, and body image no longer control me. That is one hell of an accomplishment.

MENTAL

1) I’ve learned an interesting and helpful skill. Now that i have a better idea what i like/want and don’t like/want. Now that i’m not constantly trying to avoid pain and rejection through compulsive people-pleasing. Now that i’m setting healthy boundaries for myself and the people i interact with.

I tell people what’s going on with me, and it works. It helps me with grounding and being present, and it gives whomever i’m engaging with a chance to understand and offer sympathy/empathy. I’m strong enough now that, if they don’t respond optimally, that’s fine. If they do, all the better. But i treat myself and my system with care and respect, which is good for me. And i think i’m a good representative for people like me. Not multiples specifically, but as someone who lives with mental illness (Bipolar Disorder). I will sometimes make mention of being neuroatypical (DID), but rarely. I’m not looking for attention or controversy, and multiplicity can shift the focus from where i’d like it to be. I want the world to see that there are people dealing with serious mental health issues all around us, every day. We are rarely dangerous, the same as non-crazies. Sometimes our brain glitches, or we’re low on or missing a certain chemical, or we process information differently.
I’m not “normal” in the strictest sense, but i am insofar as everyone of us has issues in our lives to deal with. We all have burdens to bear. And we are all unique individuals.

I’m tearing down my walls* and building bridges.

2) I’m exercising my brain. My head has been stuffed so full of commentary from my system that i haven’t had much room for growth intellectually and creatively. These days i’ve removed enough clutter to clear a nice space where i’m putting reading and writing and stimulating conversation. I feel kinda blossomy.

*Thoughtfully and carefully, while still maintaining appropriate levels of safety and privacy.

PHYSICAL/MENTAL

1) I’m practising yogic breathing, the 4-7-8 method, every night at bedtime, and sometimes to deal with anxiety. It relaxes me, keeps me in my body, lowers my heart rate, and gives me an experience of self-care. The alarm bells and strident voices inside me quiet down. I derive power and determination and pride and healing and connection from this.

2) I’m taking more time with my appearance. It’s not the old way, where i’d obsess and viciously pick at myself as i compared my looks and my body to everyone else’s. It’s more about learning how to touch my face and my body without leaving. I still recede from my face (i sort of mentally slide to the back of my brain and watch from a distance), but it’s not as far. I still feel a bit floaty while touching my body below the neck, but i can now remember showering, i give myself a conscious look when i’m drying off, and i talk to myself some while i apply lotions and creams and serums, etc.
The self-loathing and disgust are fading. Actually fading.

3) I’m trying to address body memories. It’s hard, as i’ve been ignoring myself from the neck down for over 50yrs, but it’s becoming clear to me just how important this work is. I can feel change happening inside me, deep down. I have some confidence, some pride, some love for my physical self. I feel stronger. I feel like i fit in my skin more comfortably. I matter to myself in more than just a survival way.

I’ve been so numb/dead for so long, being more present in my body can be intense at times. When i get cold, i’m instantly freezing, and when i’m hungry, i’m starving.

When my genitals burn i soothe myself with incontinence pads i’ve sprinkled water on and keep in the freezer.
When my legs or feet are itching to walk/take off, i take my dogs for a walk, or if the compulsion is particularly strong (in other words, i might literally hit the highway and hitchhike), i get on the treadmill.
When my throat burns i have a hot drink or treat myself to a popsicle.
When my hands cramp up or feel like they’re being stabbed with an ice pick i rub them with lotion, or even put winter gloves on in the house.

4) I’ve set down some boundaries around the safety of my body, difficult ones, but they feel right and important. I’m not having as much trouble maintaining them as i thought i would. No more touch that makes me feel yucky or ugly or used. I’m treating my body like it’s beautiful and precious.
Which it is.

There are some massive changes on the horizon. Hard changes. Things i wouldn’t have chosen, things i’m scared of, but for the first time i think i just might get through it and not be miserable.

I share this for the same reasons i share anything – for myself, and for you.
This keeps me focused and committed, and greases my wheels a bit.
I hope this keeps you hanging on.
The journey is for life, at least it is for me. A lot of it is plodding along, investing the time and energy, sometimes for the hope that hope will come, sometimes just because i’m stubborn AF. My experience has taught me that moments will arrive, when i can look back and see how far i’ve come and be amazed and proud. I’ve climbed many mountains, and those peaks… Well, they’re indescribable i guess, but i get to sit a spell and drink in the view.
And those moments are worth everything.
Those moments fill me with joy and purpose and renewed strength and dedication to continue.
Climbing, ever climbing.

On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

 

 

Survival is the Ability to Swim in Strange Water*

The willow submits to the wind and prospers until one day it is many willows – a wall against the wind. ~Dune

I’m utterly broken. I have nothing left. This is going to be a complete fucking downer, so be warned.
I thought i could do this, but so far, i’m living in a shit show. I’ve been in the hospital a couple of times since i last posted. The first time they suggested a few days in the Bin, the next time a nice long stay at a dual diagnosis facility. But guess what, i’ve done all that before and none of it worked. I found what worked for me, and i still have it all in play and they’re still helping me – it’s just messy and ugly right now.
The police have been to my property twice now, so by my old metric i’m a total fuckup. Do i change my metric? I have no idea. Both times they’ve left after determining i know what’s happening to me and i’m handling it the best i can.
Am i, though?

My home is in tatters. I finally stood up to being gaslit and controlled with aggression and non-physical violence on my person, though there was more than enough damage done to my house. It culminated 2 nights ago in fisticuffs with 2 loved ones and 2 doors being obliterated. I left the home because i couldn’t be involved in what was happening, but the violence followed me onto the road and i suddenly, just realised i’m done with it. I’ve been controlled by guilt, shame, and gaslighting for the last 3 or 4yrs, and i’ve had zero support with even acknowledging it, let alone support handling it.
Sometimes the people i love are assholes.
Sometimes the people i love fail me spectacularly.

I did the best i could to put off this work i have to do, but it couldn’t wait any longer – and now i couldn’t stop it if i wanted to. The thing is though, that i don’t want to and i won’t even try – not for any of them. So i’m trying to find another living situation, one where i can be safe and alone and focus on myself. It’s not going to be easy, but i can do it.
There may be a chance i can stay, but i’m not hopeful. Nothing’s changed in 4yrs, and me having the source of the violence removed from the property isn’t likely to change much.
He’ll be back, things will be back to how they were in less than 2mos, and i will be alone, with no protection.

I’m in constant, and intense physical pain, which i’m trying to soothe and treat as well as i can, because to be honest, most of it is not real. These are memories of things that happened to me when i child. Lozenges for my throat, Poise pads i keep in the freezer for my girl parts. I wrap myself tight in a sheet, i put pillows over my crotch area so no one can look, i wrap my head tightly in scarves when it throbs. I’m grinding my teeth again, so hard i need more Botox, which i’ll try to arrange this week, but it’ll be hard, because i can’t stand being around other people. Plus, having my face touched sends me instantly into a full-on anxiety attack.

I woke this morning with leaden legs, knees, arms. Head so heavy i could barely hold it up. I try to speak but the thoughts are slow, which make the words so much slower.
Can you tell by reading my blog i’m a fast talker? Because i am, even though i meander constantly down side roads and take detours. But today my tongue is slow, and my movements not unzombielike.
It’s depression. Depression is flowing through my veins. To think i was fighting a mania, just a few short weeks ago. My body screams in pain too, but at least now i know what the pain means and from whence it comes. I live with it every day, all day, trying to interact with friends i’ve made and people i know, and even though i can see – hell, EVERYONE/ANYONE can see i’m not doing well, yet it still drains me.

The stores i’d built up so carefully, with so much labour.
Waiting to unleash water upon the desert of Arrakis.

And then i had to have a loved one removed from my home, and i’m not sure there’s anything left of what i’d saved. I poured it over myself, trying to cool the hot parts and quench the thirst of the ones that live inside me and only know pain.

But the voices remain. Not just those of the ones i made to survive, but the ones they programmed into me to keep me their secrets safe.
When all seems lost – go home.
When people find out – go home.
And if you can’t get home, you must leave some other way.

I guess that’s why the doctors want to commit me and the police keep popping by to check on me. It’s all very kind of them, really.
I do not feel as if i can make it through this time. That i am thoroughly used up and finished.
But fear not, reader, for this is no goodbye piece.

I look back instead, at all the work i’ve done, all the times i’ve survived the unsurvivable, all the times i’ve pulled myself up out of the quagmire, and all the people who’ve stepped in to help me, too – to help me save my life.
And so i say to myself, this is just a feeling, and feelings have heretofore been transient in my life. If i give it long enough, if i can hang on long enough, i WILL feel something else.

It may suck a bucketful of maggots, but at least it’ll be something else.
And maybe the next feeling won’t suck.
Maybe it’ll be something full of light and hope.

I’m all over the place, and everywhere i look people want to put me in one of those sweaters with the extra long sleeves that tie up in the back.
But i am here, and i’m doing my veryveryVERY best to stay.
I promise.
Hang on to me a little, in your heart, will ya?
I’d really appreciate it.

Whether a thought is spoken or not it is a real thing and it has power.
~Tuek, Dune

With Love,
~H~
*Quote from, you guessed it, DUNE.

Sometimes I’m Just Wrong

As people with a history like mine often do, i’ve had severe dental phobia most of my life. To have to hang my mouth open and have someone poking around in there, sometimes causing me pain, can be a brutal trigger. As a child, my mother stopped caring about my dental health around the time she was committed; i was in grade one. The only time she’d bring me in was for an emergency, which happened occasionally. I wasn’t much for brushing, which resulted in a few abscesses and a couple of pulled teeth.

Once on my own i just dodged the dentist. I finally paid attention when i found an excellent family physician during my pregnancy with my second child. She urged me to attend to my teeth, which were becoming problematic.
I required many appointments to get my teeth cleaned and a number of fillings followed. Neither the hygienist nor the dentist seemed to realise or care about my severe anxiety, and i was shamed and lectured every visit, guaranteeing more avoidant behaviour. It wasn’t until i was well into therapy with my current counsellor that i finally dealt with my fear head-on.

I found a nice lady dentist who’d been doing it for decades, and i went to talk to her. No cleaning, just x-rays, and a chat about what i was looking at to get my teeth shipshape. I told her of my phobia. (No, really? Like my huge, watering eyes and clenched fists didn’t already announce it.) I indicated as delicately as i could that it was trauma-based. She was immediately receptive, kind and gentle in her response, and assured me that i wasn’t her only patient with these issues. She said she’d work with me, to help me overcome my anxiety as much as possible (at my pace), and to attain and maintain healthy teeth and gums.

I know a fair number of people who use sedation dentistry to handle this issue, but i wanted to at least try to do it without drugs of any kind. I prepared as best i could; going over what was going to happen in my head, looking at pictures i’d taken of the dentist’s office, and the chair that i’d be sitting in, the ceiling that i’d be looking at (they have tellies up there – how smart is that?), i thought of how i feel in a dentist’s chair, and went over the different methods i could use to cope:

– focused breathing,
– body mindfulness,
– reminding myself that the intensity of the feelings are a response to trauma that’s no longer happening,
– stopping the hygienist and asking for a break,
– stopping the hygienist and talking briefly about the feelings,
– stopping the hygienist and rescheduling,
– using an anti-anxiety med beforehand,
– sedation dentistry,
– maintain dental health as best i can on my own, do more therapy around the issue, and try again at a later date.

I was stiff as a board the first time i sat for a cleaning; eyes as big as saucers, hands and feet clenched hard enough to cramp. The hygienist had a soft, soothing voice, and she calmed my jangled nerves with banter about her children, a recent move, a holiday. Her demeanor was quiet and kind, and i knew she wasn’t going to hurt me. Cleaning my teeth properly would take a few visits, they’d already told me, but i never sensed any disapproval from her, and there was never the slightest hint of a tsk or a tut-tut in her voice.

Then it’s time for my dentist to do some fillings, some caps, and even a root canal, to preserve my teeth for as long as possible. Her voice is also soft (i think dentists may cultivate this voice – also smart) but her vibe is jovial, even goofy. Her assistant is sarcastic, with a deadpan delivery, and between the 2 of them, they provide a great service and a show besides, which distracted and delighted me so much that i came to look forward to seeing them. Not even kidding.

I settled in to regular maintenance, and then the recession hit. We had to let go of our dental insurance, and i didn’t want to stress our already squeaky budget, when i knew my teeth were in good shape, and i was now diligent and conscientious with care. We still had a son at home who required extensive orthodontic work, and so i stopped going for a couple of years. When our financial situation improved,  i went back, thinking there’d be no problem.

Oh, but there was.

I missed a number of appointments, for which i provided lame excuses, and i’d call after and reschedule with a self-deprecating chuckle. Six months later i did the same thing, i missed my first appointment and called, saying it had totally slipped my mind and i’d be there for sure next time. The receptionist fixed another time with me, but i noted something in her voice before we hung up – a hesitancy. I felt uneasy.

She called me mid-morning the next day.
She told me that they wanted very much to continue providing me with dental care, but in order for that to happen they were going to require the cost of the appointment up front. She explained that my dentist couldn’t continue losing money when i didn’t show up, that it wasn’t fair for her or anyone.
I bristled. Feelings flooded my body, and i reacted with offense.

“This feels like i’m being punished for being mentally ill,” i said.
“I’m going to have to discuss this with my husband and i’ll get back to you,” i said.

To my credit, before the end of the phone call, i knew she had me dead to rights. But shame is a massive trigger, and i was dissociated and edgy for the rest of the day. It took me a while to bring it up with my husband, but not too long, and he understood right away. I called the receptionist back within a day or 2, and told her i knew they had to do what they were doing. And then i paid them.

I was anxious about the cleaning. I thought about why. It wasn’t just being embarrassed – it was a few things. There’d been a break in my association with them, one where i wasn’t in therapy, and i hadn’t had to deal with some of the triggers that dentistry touches on. I was now back in therapy, and learning to stay in my body during times when i feel emotions and/or physical sensations that i don’t want to feel. I understood why i was dodging. I knew i was setting myself up to miss my dates with my dentist.
I was trying to avoid all the feelings.

I showed up on time, and prepared. I knew i was going to feel awkward and embarrassed, which was normal and appropriate to feel, because i’d done them wrong. I hadn’t meant to, and i knew that. I knew they would all be gracious and kind, as they had always been, and they were. When the cleaning was done, my dentist was there at reception, and she gently asked me, “Do you understand that we had to do what we did?”

I told her that i did, and i told them all that i was sorry. I told them that it hadn’t occurred to me that i was costing her money, or inconveniencing anyone – but it should have, and i was ashamed about it.

She said, “You know, we just wouldn’t have had you back if we didn’t like you so much, eh?” And i could see that that was true.

I could also see that, while i’d fucked up, i’d also done some things right.

I’d been honest about my mental illness and my fears and anxieties from the jump.
I’d carefully built relationship with them, so much so that when i started behaving poorly, they tolerated that behaviour for as long as they could – perhaps longer than they should have done, and only for my benefit.
And when they finally called me out, i accepted responsibility for my actions.
Yes, for the briefest of moments -the space of a phone call- i reacted badly, but i knew almost immediately that i was in the wrong, and why, and that i could and would put it right and it was going to be okay.

I got caught doing something shitty, and i reacted by trying to avoid taking the blame. To assuage my chagrin by haughtily providing an excuse.

I’m not bad – i’m sick!

While that is true in a way, it’s neither appropriate nor is it helpful to apply that in this instance. After i hung up the phone i felt it right away – i was convicted in my heart by a jury of me. I’ve identified myself to these people as someone who lives with serious, multiple diagnosis mental illness. I’ve done so first for my benefit, but also for others like me. I want to bring awareness and exposure to those around us, in service to us and apart from that, who have little or no experience with us (or knowledge that they’re having such – because they certainly are, am i right?), and by so doing, help pave a way for fellow neuroatypicals and those living with mental illness to do the same. To see that it can be done, and perhaps they might do it, too.

I feel the weight of that responsibility. It’s a good weight, one i’ve willingly and purposefully shouldered, and it’s a right thing and a steadying force in my life. It gives meaning and provides balance and even serendipity. I would not so inadequately, so boorishly represent a community that has my love so easily, and needs help and understanding so desperately.

The love and life that i’ve found there made my path clear, and set my shoulders squarely towards it.
Yes, part of the reason why i behaved the way i did was the way i was raised and the way my brain responded to try and save me, to help me cope and to perhaps spare me some of the worst of it, that i might survive. And survive i did – and in these last years, even more and better.
Yes, there are reasons -childhood causations- for my behaviour, but in the end, today, right now, at this moment, i am as free and autonomous and aware as i can possibly be, and i am happy and grateful and relieved indeed, to be solely responsible for my choices and actions.

And sometimes i’m just wrong. And i was.
I accepted the consequences, which were fair, and no one abused me and i didn’t die.

I can hardly wait to screw up again.
Heh.

The Garden and the Gate

WARNING: Contains specific references to childhood neglect, physical assault, sexual assault, and incest. This piece is a bit brutal and a bit odd. Be certain you’re in a good place and/or have good support before proceeding.

Note: I’m very vague regarding the current situation i’m dealing with, in order to protect myself and my loved ones. Stuff can and does happen between me and people i care about. One of the most effective ways for me to maintain a decent grip on my mental/emotional health is to talk and write about my life. This current therapy i’m in makes it even more important to be diligent in cleaning the clutter out of my head. I must listen to what my system has to say and be mindful of their thoughts, feelings, and needs.

While i am the one who’s written this piece, i’ve done so in a highly dissociated state. I wasn’t completely switched (i.e. i didn’t lose time), but there were a few particular Bits N’ Pieces that dictated the more vague, analogy-driven parts at the end. It’s like, if my brain was a starship, the inside of my forehead feels like the bridge right now. I’m Data at the helm, and Captain Picard, Commander Riker, and Counsellor Troi are discussing where to go, what course to plot, and at what warp speed to travel. (Okay, i’m not Data. I’m very emotional today. I’m Wesley, which is fine, because i love Wesley. So there.)

**********

I was brought into the world for a selfish purpose. My mother wanted someone to love her, which is not unreasonable in and of itself, but her definition of love was twisted and sick. She expected me, from infancy, to fill all her needs.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she often failed to meet my most basic needs, like food, clean diapers, protection from harm, soothing, medication/care when sick, vaccinations, play times, clothing that was clean, and proper according to the weather, and warm human contact.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she slapped me, punched me, kicked me, pulled my hair out, pushed me down flights of stairs, bashed my face into walls, doors, cupboards, stove tops, twisted my arm, pinched me, bit me, bent my fingers backwards, threw things at me, broke things on me, even if she choked and suffocated me, sometimes to unconsciousness.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she sent me out on the street to beg for money. Even if she sent me to the store to steal food. Even if she rented out my body for favours and gifts and cash.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she used me as a receptacle for every feeling she couldn’t/wouldn’t express in a healthy way: fear, shame, guilt, and angerangeranger RAAAAGE. Even if i was her vessel into which she poured an endless stream of poison/venom/bile/shit.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she spoke to me like i was a grownup since i remember comprehending speech. Even when she talked to me like I was her counsellor/confessor/best friend. Even when she had me touch her like I was her husband.

And i did, with my whole heart and mind and body. I loved her; she was my world. She was the best mom ever. And no one ever loved a child like my mom loved me. She’d had such a terrible childhood, i knew. She regaled me with stories* in lurid detail, stories that i might have identified with if she’d not already consciously, purposefully, carefully, and skillfully, helped me split apart and compartmentalise my brain.

How wonderful, how fortunate, how blessed i was to have such a special mother. So unique, so highly evolved, so triumphant over the evil that had surrounded her. So decent, so kind, so good.

She told me what to think, what to do, what to feel, whom to like and dislike.
I obeyed, i followed, i acquiesced, i surrendered, i died. I died over and over again, cutting off little bits of myself and shoving them into some black void inside me. Junk drawers and overstuffed closets and garbage bins inside my brain, and yes, i see now, inside my body too. Chunks of unacceptable personality tossed onto a compost heap and rotting, decomposing into some rich pile of shit that started talking to me when i was alone and in silence. Monsters morphing behind those closet doors, mostly muppet-like, but not all. Some terrifying and filled with rage and capable of destroying anything and anyone. Clawing at the door and rattling the knob, roaring to be set free, seeking apocalypse – annihilation.

I knew not to speak about how it was between us when the 2 of us were alone and behind closed doors, but not because it was bad or shameful or wrong. I knew how she treated me was special and we were highly evolved and incredibly intelligent and meant for a purpose. I knew the rest of the world was meaningless, and other people were dumb and stupid and incapable of understanding our ways.
I was indoctrinated, brainwashed, and Stockholmed. Fully. Completely. Utterly.

In the years since i first fell in love, accepted my multiplicity, got fat, got thin, got mania, got apostated, and lost or walked away from all friends and relatives, i’ve come to realise and own and carve out a reasonably functional and happy life from this washed up driftwood – to chip out a recognisable figure from this implacable slab of marble, this obdurate pile of refuse, this intransigent fabric.

It’s been the hardest work I’ve ever done; i’ve sweated and toiled and ached beyond measure to create and feed and grow this garden of mine, and it has yielded the most beautiful fruit.
Yes, i’m asserting that i’m amazing and colourful and worth a great deal. My fruit is too rare and precious to ever be put on sale, or for my location to be marked as a destination, though. One must be invited here, and my fruit is by offer only, although free to whom i would give it.

Another weird post, i know. It protects me and those i would shelter to be so arcane.
I’m HistrionicaButterfly, and i’m multifaceted AF, and sometimes it pleases and soothes me to be poetic and mysterious.
Today i’m being so because i’m sad and scared.
Someone i love is causing me a great deal of heartsickness and vexation.

I have a dragon who lives in my brain and he’s like an angel with a sword in that he oversees and protects all my lands and watches the gate.
I might have to banish someone i love, and my heart feels so laden and heavy and burdened. It feels as if it’s sinking into a yawning pit of emptiness that lies behind my heart. The ache reaches out of the muscle and into my bones; my sternum, my ribs, my scapulae.

This is not what i was born to be, or how i was raised to behave.
To tolerate is not even a consideration, and yet i’ve considered, and i’ve called it by that name. I’ve extended myself in grace that i was assured i never possessed.
I’m preparing to put my loved one out of this garden that i’d tended so long for my mother. This garden that was never hers and was always mine.
No matter how loved or how once welcome, you cannot dig up my flowers, my plants, or my trees. You cannot shit in my garden, and you can’t pick or partake of my fruit without permission.

I’m prepared to send my Dragon-Angel to swoop down upon this once-welcome visitor –to be swooped up by the talons and be deposited on the other side of my gate– to be guarded against as one might an interloper. I’m prepared to harden my heart until such time as they return with hat in hand, to humbly ask for reentrance.

No one, no matter how much I love them, will ever be allowed to abuse me again, and i will fight anyone for my safe space, no matter who they are or what they mean to me.

I have hope that all will be well, and in not too much time.
Nevertheless, i’m as prepared as i can be to say No and bar them from the safety and beauty of the space that i’ve built inside me and around me.

Y’all Take Care,
Love and Peace,
~H~

*Some that i’ve been able to verify, some that i’ve been able to debunk, some that i’ll never know for sure.

Image: Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Thomas Cole (1828)