To Be a Real Girl

WARNING: This piece contains discussion of suicidal ideation and a description of an attempt. However, this is a positive piece and i am not currently suicidal, nor am i experiencing ideations.

**********

More on Tuesday’s therapy sesh with the lovely and talented Ms T.
I shared with her that i’d fallen so low that i was experiencing some serious suicidal ideation, and i was deeply disappointed in myself for it. I haven’t dealt with those thoughts and feelings in any serious way for a solid number of years. Sure, there had been some brief moments, sometimes intense, but i saw them for what they were as they were happening. They held no power over me. I could see that they were a direct response to something i was going through at the time, or something that had triggered me. I knew how to weather it, and that it would likely pass quickly. It always did.

This time the thoughts and feelings persisted. It’s been a shadow in my head casting a pall over my heart. I’ve been thinking that my loved ones would be better off without me. That i take up too much space and use up too much of their time and energy. I’ve been feeling unworthy of their love and support and concern. I see how much of our family business is in fact, my business. When i’m manic, or my system is in a panic, i stir everyone up. When i’m depressed and drowning in sadness and remembered pain, i clutch at them to save me, but it seems like i just pull them down with me.
I used to be angry about that – thinking it was because as the keeper of the home and hearth, i set the tone. I would think, Dammit! Stay out of my process, you make me feel guilty for being where i’m at – go be where YOU’RE at. This spot here is mine and these feelings are mine and just… Just stop copying me!
(That’s my Littles talking there; i’m not generally that immature. Heh.)

Now i see it differently. I see my responsibility in it –i did before, too– but it’s got a sour taste to it. Before, the conclusion i came to was that it was only natural, that as the carer and nurturer of the family unit, i would set the tone for the household. It made perfect sense that my other family members would feel low when i was down, would be brittle when i was anxious, warm and smiley when i was happy, snarky and snappish when i was angry. We love each other and we’re deeply connected. I’m the life-bringer, the nourishment provider, the space-maintainer. It is only the way it could be, considering the way our family is structured. That perspective felt right and good. But the way i see it now was working through me like slow poison.

I see how i’m hurting the people i love most and it’s dragging me down into an abyss. And i’m currently fighting a mania. One might think there is no darkness in mania, but oh, there can be for me. When i’ve gone dark during a mania i’ve displayed the riskiest behaviours, put myself in the most danger. I’m like a hurricane at night. It’s a terrible place, where some of my parts are swallowed whole, and the automatic death puppets in me come out and begin eating everything in sight.
I’m disappointed in myself, sad and low, and that empty pit inside has opened back up. I tell her i’m ashamed that i’m at this place again, after all these years and all this work.

I’m reminded first that shame is my body’s signal that i’m wanting connection with another human. And it is so, as i learned from her a few months ago, anytime i’ve felt shame i’ve been able to easily trace it to that desire. I’ve been able to ask for connection from safe people, like my husband and children, and a friend or 2, and shame has disappeared as the connection is responded to and made.
But then she casually says that she’s not at all surprised that i’m struggling afresh with suicidal thoughts and feelings. I don’t understand, but i am paying close attention. And then she says, “This work you’re doing – you are giving the same attention and care to your body as you have to your brain, and the split off bits of you that live there.”

I almost lean into the phone. Yes. Tick, tick, tick…

“How do you think your body felt when all those terrible things were being done to it?”

I can hear my own sharp intake of breath. Yessss. CLICK.

I wanted to die. I felt so covered in filth i wished i could stop existing. I wished it so hard in fact, that i created a Land of the Dead inside my own brain, where i went and hid for the majority of my upbringing. When the worst of the abuse was finally over, one of the first things i did was take an overdose of the medication i took for epilepsy. When my Daddy was finally out of my life, and my mother moved to a little town where no one knew i’d once been for sale, i had some relief for the first time i could remember. I poked my head out from my safe graveyard, and i simply could not deal with any of it. My first impulse was to match my outside with my inside. To be dead. I remember swallowing dozens of those little white pills. I see myself like an automaton, hand to mouth, zombielike. Dead, but breathing. I was completely numb. I couldn’t feel my hands or my legs or my face, or anything else. The air around me was foggy and filled with invisible bees.
And then i see myself putting the glass in the sink, and the bottle back in the cupboard, and going to my room to read.

My mother had suspected i wasn’t taking my meds and had counted them the night before. She counted them again, not long after i’d taken them. She yelled at me while taking me to emergency, where they pumped my stomach and then filled me full of ipecac, just to be sure. It was the nicest thing she ever did for me, besides dying.*

I’ve been listening to my body for months and months now. The intention is to hear its story through physical sensations, and through that mend the broken connections between my brain and my body. The end goal is to be alive. To live my life conscious: thinking my thoughts and being aware of them in the moment, feeling my emotions and experiencing my physical sensations in real time, as they happen. I’ve always taken them all and stuffed them away in a box, to take them out and look upon them from a distance, disenchanted and uninvolved, completely divorced from any kinship, any simpatico.

It has been through thinking my thoughts and listening to the people that live in my brain that i’ve been able to begin to take my place as the head of my system and gather them all closer to me. To function as a more cohesive unit and bring some calm, quiet, and success to my day-to-day life.
It is now through experiencing my physical sensations that i hope to rejoin my body to my brain, and finally become a real, living girl!**

My body has been communicating some awful things to me. I’m reliving my abuse in a physical way. The things i became a multiple to escape, i’ve now invited back in to tell their stories. My jaw aches, my girl parts hurt, my legs twitch with the need to run, and so much more. But there’s yet more than i’ve felt and here it is now, and i see/feel so clearly. It’s sharp, this knowledge i have suddenly, my hands gripping the phone so tight it’s a wonder i didn’t push a wrong button and lose her. It makes my heart twinge in sympathy for myself –that poor child i was– all alone and in unbearable pain mentally, emotionally, physically.
My body wanted to die.

I don’t want to die today! I know and trust in the love and support of my husband and my sons. I believe them when they look deeply into me and tell me they understand, they love me and it’s all right. Shh, it’s okay. You’re doing great, you’ve come so far, you’re so much better.
This is my body telling me its story.
And suddenly i am free of it. I’m lighter, but not the floatiness of dissociation. It’s a burden that i’m laying down. I’ve unwound another ream of the bandages that have mummified me. I am being reborn, coming alive. Breathing out death and breathing in life, LIFE!

I tell Ms T of the revelation inside that her words have brought me. We share the wonder and beauty of the moment and then it’s time to end the call for another 2wks. Before she hangs up (i’m old, we used to hang up our phones, okay?) she tells me how proud she is of how hard i’ve worked and all i’ve accomplished. She reminds me that not a lot of people who’ve been through things like i’ve been through ever make it this far.
Without excuse or qualification i tell her Thank you.

And then she says, “For this next 2wks i’d like you to celebrate, really celebrate, what you’ve been able to do and how awesome you are.”

I barely rolled my eyes.

May Love and Peace Be Yours In Some Measure Today,
~H~

*Sorry for the brutality of that statement, but it is a true one.

**I use the word “girl” without any cutesiness – i am not being coy. I may be in my 50s and technically a woman, but on the inside i’m a girl who is only now on the cusp of adulthood. It’s an accurate description, to my mind.

Pockets Full of Noes

As soon as i hear the words “you should… ” i’m out.

I remember an old nugget from 12-step that refers to “terminal uniqueness”, and while i understand what they’re getting at, i reject the concept. There literally cannot be another person exactly like me, as i’m not an identical twin, and human cloning isn’t a thing. And since we’re all gonna die… There you go. I’m terminally unique. So what?

I spent my upbringing plus some years after only doing what i was told, and then doing what i imagined other people would want me to do. At 21 i briefly rebelled by having a relationship with a woman for nearly 2yrs. When that ended in disaster and i immediately went out and got myself pregnant, i saw it as confirmation that my way was the wrong way, and i returned to being/doing what i thought was expected of me… Mostly.

Having a child seemed to give me an ability to stand up for things that had to do with him. I defied my family a number of times where he was concerned. I received a few phone calls whenever they discovered that i wasn’t raising him the way they thought i should. I bucked family traditions. Despite still being willingly tied to their toxic religion and having a boatload of hangups and twisted thinking due to its entanglements in my thinking and lifestyle, i did manage not to inflict some of the worst of it on my boys. They were raised with a healthy body image, and in a relatively sex positive household.

I went directly against some of my former religion’s most stridently applied dogma, as well. Once my obsessive and unhealthy relationship with my girlfriend ended, i made sure i only chose partners for whom my feelings were mild and manageable. I was looking for bed partners, for the most part, although i played at being engaged to please my family. When i stumbled across real romantic love for the first time, a friend confronted me with my hypocrisy. I was regularly attending church, and actively involved in anything they did outside of Sunday services. My friend, who was experimenting with a possible return to the faith, pointed out that i would be judged a fornicator by my own purported standards.
She was right, i was convicted, and i promptly asked my boyfriend to marry me.
(SPOILER: He said Yes, and we’re still together.)

Looking back, i can see how dissociation was at play, here. I’d been highly sexualised as a child, and some of my Bits N’ Pieces were created specifically to handle that. They remained a part of my system even after the abuse had stopped, and were definitely the impetus behind some of my sexual behaviours once i became an active adult, i.e. sexual by choice. I was a dutiful young woman, trying hard to be the model of what my religion expected of me. I studied its book, its dogma and tenets, deeply, and at length. I pondered and “meditated” (quotes because my multiplicity has made proper meditation impossible), and yes, prayed on all of it at length – both on my own and in groups led by my church.

I just… i don’t know. It wasn’t a willful or conscious decision. As soon as someone called me on it, i knew i was in the wrong and immediately took steps to set things right. Yet i’d been having sex since i was 21, and i was religious all along. My mind did what it does and glossed over whatever it didn’t want to know. I took my sex life and compartmentalised it, as i’ve been known to do on occasion. Heh.

Other things come to mind, too. Like when my stepfather would tell my son as he was ending a visit, “You take care of your mom now, y’hear?”

I would instantly respond that children don’t take care of adults, and i would reassure my son that it’s my job to take care of him. And that’s weird, because i didn’t talk back to him at that time. (I did some, to him and my mom as a teenager, and have no regrets. I wish i’d said more, but that horse galloped off years ago.)

I also wouldn’t allow anyone to coerce my children into hugs, or physical touch of any kind. Yet i had no touch boundaries of my own, with anyone – especially family. It was less than 10yrs ago that i realised i’m not a very touchy person. Even now, it’s so ingrained in me that i’ll initiate hugs when stressed/dissociated. But no one could touch my kids without their permission.*

And then there’s my extended family.
First though, i must confess. When my 2 older children were both under 5, i was close with my siblings. They’d spend lots of time with me at my house (i’m older than they are, and they have a different father). When i had my second boy, i launched into what i now know was a mild mania. I became obsessed with 12-step programs, and the friendships that i had as a result of that. I used my sibs as babysitters. Some of it was reasonable, like, when one of them was staying with me and not paying room/board. However, as i became more manic, i drifted away from “the program”, started frequenting bars, and began dating my first and only BadBoyBoyfriend (BBB).

He was trouble. My first relationship was a tumultuous one, filled with chaos, some violence, cheating, and general immaturity. I mean, we met at a halfway house, she was a violent alcoholic, and i’d been kicked out of my family because one of them tried to rape and asphyxiate me. We were fucked up kids and both of us acted that way. After that debacle, i only dated people to whom i wasn’t very attached.
Cue BBB. I was manic, and he was a handsome, charming ladies’ man. He pursued me, and i was dazzled. No guy like that had ever wanted me so brazenly. Hit me up for sex when no one else was around/available sure, but want me for a relationship? Aw, hell no. He was on parole for cocaine and beating up cops, and he was *ahem* very experienced, which was new for me. Hindsight makes it clear that i was a naive, overweight girl who’d spend money on him, and he was lonely and broke.

He took me on a number of kooky, fun adventures, and that’s when i really took advantage of my sister and brothers, using them as babysitters too often and for far too long. My heart and my bank account were flat busted when he was done with me, and i’d done irrevocable damage to my relationship with my sibs. Screwed blue and tattooed! as he’d have put it. But hey, i met my husband shortly after that, so it worked out for me in the end. (I’m now comfortably estranged from all extended family, save 1 precious cousin.)

All this buildup is to say that i had 1 more hard rule when it came to my children, a boundary that i didn’t set for myself until yeeeears later. When my sibs would be looking after my boys, they knew not to evereverEVER leave them alone with any other family members. Their secrets are sick and deep, and i knew it firsthand. It’s a long and sordid story why i was still involved with any of them, but we won’t be going there. They’re still alive, still sick AF (in my opinion), and i’m not going into personal crap that they might decide requires a response. The important part of it is that, even though i was still seeking their acceptance and approval, part of me knew they posed a potential threat to my boys, and so i protected them from situations where they might be vulnerable.

I don’t know why i’m writing about this today, or what specific point i’m trying to make, if any. My ability to compartmentalise is something that i’ve been looking at in depth recently, and i guess i just find it interesting.

All the times i said No once we got away from the man i called Daddy, and someone hit me up for sex.
All the times i sniffed out danger and got away. (I didn’t always, but i did often enough for me to feel compelled to examine it more closely.)
How i raised my boys with healthy boundaries, instinctively.
All the times i advocated for them against people i was taught to obey.
How i had no hesitation saying No for them, when i couldn’t for myself.
All the times i avoided the toxic kinds of romantic entanglements i so often saw others who’d been through childhood abuse get into.
How i had the sense to choose a good, kind, gentle, hardworking partner. I chose the absolute perfect person for me. After everything that’d been done to me; how they’d broken me, shattered me, mercilessly crushed me – how in the hell did i do that?!

I’ve come to see it as the gifts being a multiple gave me. The way my brain works enabled me to secrete parts of myself that my abusers must have been sure they’d destroyed.
My will.
My body autonomy.
My sense of self.
My ability to mother.
My desire for healthy attachments.
My freedom to choose.

Today i bristle at being told what to do. I can stubbornly stand my ground, even when it’s against people i love or those in positions i was taught to obey and not question. I say No often. I’ve drifted away from toxic people and toxic behaviours. I don’t answer the door when they knock. I’m no longer blindly obedient to anyone or anything. I make up my own mind; no one tells me what to think anymore. And woe to any and all who’d try to “should” me.

Perhaps i’m writing about this because i’m in the process of mending the severed connections between my thoughts, my feelings, and my sensations. Maybe this work is deepening and broadening my insight. I think that maybe, just maybe, i’m feeling not only compassion for myself, but some serious appreciation for how amazing i am. Hell, i might just be Queen Amazeballs of Crazy Island.

If so, i’mma need a crown.

Until next time, y’all hang in as best you can, and i promise i will, too.
Love and Peace,
~H~

I am bigger on the inside
But you have to come inside to see me…
We are so much bigger

Than another one can ever see
But

Trying is the point of life
So don’t stop trying
Promise me.
~ Amanda Palmer

*Unfortunately, while i did set some good protective barriers for my children, i did inflict a lot of religious crap on them. My church promoted homeschooling, so i did that until my oldest was 12 and my middle one was 8. I had NO business doing that. I was ill-equipped, to put it mildly. I lacked the education, the attention span, and the temperament, too. I was descending into mania, and the neglect was undeniable. They were basically not schooled at all.
This is not to say that homeschooling can’t be done well by someone else.

 

Toes In The Grass

The sadness i embrace is ever present
so very deep
It eeks from my bones and suffuses my flesh with its chill marrow
traveling the rivers of my body, bobbing along in my blood
Morose and resigned
stopping my heart over, and over again
I gasp in pain, wanting to run from it
to drown it in wine
I want to return to the Land of the Dead, where i’ve dwelt all my life
I’ve felt this sadness already, and the pain
But no
Not like this
That was all the voices crying out in my brain, wanting to be heard
to be seen, to be known
That was brain pain.

Now my body cries out from the acres of death where it dwells
No more to be a dead thing encased in living flesh
a golem from the past
I send out tendrils of warmth and light from the Upper Room
They float down the stairs and illuminate the spaces that were once flat blackness
a nice enough place
Needs a bit of work
The rooms are crumbling, although they’ve never been lived in
Like Chinese malls.

Too old to not yet have lived in this body
I was born in a riptide, barely keeping my head above the water
Mindlessly, mechanically,
moving my way through the rushing of the water
Fighting the current that never stopped
sucking at me
One day i grew strong
and broke free of my prison
Building a boat out of hope, i sailed the vast sea of my mind
I charted its waters until i grew bored
Letting the wind and the waves plot my course
I thought i’d found peace
But mystery beckoned me from the shores
The smell of the air promised fresh adventures
I jumped off the bow
and swam for the shore
Dolphin-slicing expertly through the currents.

I stand up on the beach and look round
The sand is not much warmer than the water
Perhaps the green i can see ahead is as warm as it looks
I walk slowly up towards it
When i crest the embankment i stop
My feet step into the grass
It’s warm, it’s wonderful, and i scrunch my toes into its
Toes
I have toes
I look down and see my feet
Feet!

And i gasp myself awake
Only not awake
Not dreaming
My window has crashed inward from the storm raging outside
I’ve been struck alive by a bolt of lightning
What was dead now lives
The tendrils of warm light coming down from the attic illuminate the first floor of my house
I’m sitting in an old chair that’s never entertained a guest
Life is pain, and i ache to find it so
I shudder with the power of the pain that fills me
The sobs that shake me
like water from a paintbrush
The light moves past me, fluttering and waving along
Curious to explore other rooms
Every step, every movement,
Every moment brings pain
But i follow
I follow the light.

Bring It!

So, i think shame is my driving emotion, and one of my core issues is rejection.

It isn’t hard to see how the 2 things would be intertwined in anyone’s life – they’re certainly tightly wound together in mine.
Last Friday night they slammed into each other and almost brought the house down. My Little Crooked House, the house of cards i’ve built around me to handle the state of the world at this moment, and perhaps, even my house. My brain is a house where a lot of people live, you see. I’m the landlord, the property manager, and the onsite handyman for all of it. I own a lot of real estate up here. Occasionally, i have found a bit of space that i don’t, but i’m a keen negotiator, and so far all my offers to buy have been accepted. I’m quite the land baron, doncha know. My offers were generous, and the rent, low.

I’m going to talk about sex today. My life as a sexual being was heavily impacted by my upbringing –i mean, duh!– but i don’t write about it specifically. One, it’s deeply personal, not just for me, but for a lot of people. Another reason is that, if i started talking about sex on my blog, it would likely change the tone here and take things in a different direction. That’s something i’m not currently interested in, nor am i properly equipped to deal with its attendant baggage and potential pitfalls. This piece is more about what i learned in a situation that involved sex. A lot of things in this piece might seem double entendre, but unless i make the joke, no innuendo is intended. I’m mostly talking about emotional intimacy, the sexual kind is merely the vehicle driving me to my destination, ya dig?

So don’t worry… Nothing any more TMI than usual.
Heh.

As an adult, i never gave much thought to getting married. I was busy surviving, and also enjoying having a personal space that wasn’t being constantly violated. I liked being on my own, and alone. It relaxed me a little. (As much as i’m ever “relaxed”. It is getting better, though. Work in progress and all that.) When i fell in love for the first time, parts of my personality came into play that lie mostly dormant. By that i mean, i was born to serve the needs of my mother, and i was raised to be a person to be used, worked, consumed.

I’m not well educated. I’m not great at research. And while psychology is a science, it isn’t a hard one. The psychiatrist who treated my bipolar disorder once said that it’s so soft, it’s mushy. This is to preface my thinking on this matter. I don’t know if it’s correct, i’m not at all sure it could stand up to scientific scrutiny or even be tested. I just think it’s a possibility, and it helps me deal with the wreckage that childhood abuse has caused in my life. All of this to say, i think 1 of the positives that came from being a multiple, is that i’m hella good at compartmentalisation. I think it enabled me to take aspects of my personality that i was born with, ones that i couldn’t display, and hide them away in little pockets of my brain. Qualities like confident, bold, brash, assured.

These qualities have popped up a few times over the years. They come out of nowhere and disappear again. When my mother’s relationship with the man i called Daddy ended, she moved away and i was no longer being passed around for a paycheque or as a party favour. My need for my system dropped drastically. Switching almost ceased entirely, although i still slid around on the daily. I remember people approaching me for sex. By that time, memories i had of being raped i thought were dreams, and details were murky. Sometimes i would be approached by local boys who assumed the fat girl would be grateful for their attention and just offer myself up. And sometimes, those who had enjoyed access to my body previously***, would come back for more. I rebuffed them all. It’s my guess that being a multiple enabled me to do that. I couldn’t say No before, but when we moved away, i could, and as soon as i was able to – i did. I stopped having those dreams-that-were-actually-memories for many years. They didn’t return until i was sexually assaulted again. And although i’ve been sexually assaulted a number of times as an adult, unlike when i was a child, i was in the face and fought each of them however i could.*

Wow, it’s like every paragraph is a preface for the next one. Is that how grownups write? Because i’m usually all over the place. You know, like i am right here. Heh.

This brings me back to that part in the beginning where i mentioned falling in love. Prior to him, i’d never been in love. My first relationship i thought i was in love, but once we broke up i quickly realised it was obsession. After her, i only chose partners that i wasn’t deeply attached to. I stumbled across him using a dating service. I’d never met anyone as kind and smart as he was. One day i looked at him and made up my mind i wanted him for good. We’ve been together ever since, coming up on 25yrs. Amd those pocket traits came in handy with all of my relationships, but especially with him.

Once i got him though, it triggered issues that created years of chaos and struggle for both of us. I wasn’t the only one with issues, and i wasn’t the only one who’d survived childhood trauma.

His story is not for me to tell, but i do have his permission to touch on this, and to write briefly that we’ve stumbled and faltered in our efforts to find our way to intimacy with each other, emotionally and otherwise. This last couple of years we’ve both gotten to a place where we wanted to focus more effort on us, as a couple. And as i’ve grown in this last round of therapy, i’ve been better able to share myself and give him more access to me as a friend, a lover, and a partner. So too, as i’m mending my mind/body connection, i’m learning who i am, and have been able to better define what i want and what i like –and here’s the big one– to ask for it.

I learned to be ashamed of my body, and as i moved through what happened to me and my system was fully functional again, i felt shame because who would want to be with crazy, gross me? I’d gained and lost hundreds of pounds, and my body showed it, and i was always going to be a bit of a cuckoobird. I told myself i’d tricked my poor husband into being with me. See there? I felt guilty, and then shame crept in because even though i’d convicted myself of bad actions, i still didn’t want to let him go and still craved deep connection with him.**

He’s had a bit of therapy, and then there’s me… Between us, we’ve been able to get some serious and significant work done, particularly over the last 6mos or so. We’re walking through all of this together, closer than we’ve ever been before, and in love again for the first time in, well, too long. Stupid, beautiful love. So some of those pocket traits aren’t so pockety anymore, and i boldly and somewhat brashly, asked for, ah, some. Nuff said here, right? I believed that asking out loud with my words might address some of the body shame i still carry, and maybe the shame that plagues me over going after him like a steamroller at our beginning.

I didn’t anticipate the anxiety. By afternoon i was tightly wound, and by the time he got home, i was fit to split. He was glad to see me, and was looking forward to later. (Oh god, the teenagers that live in my brain are cringing and eyerolling like mad, heh-heh-heh.) The brain chatter settled somewhat, and we had a nice supper and were watching some telly. And then… nothing. My husband works hard, long hours, and has extra duties as his boss sits in isolation, post-holiday. He sat on the couch and petered out. (Brain snorts ensue!) I, genius that i am, had a couple of cocktails in me to calm my jitters and hopefully shut the Peanut Gallery up. It worked until shame crept in… And then the shit hit the fan.

A shifting in my brain, a click. A spark of rage lit a fire in my belly. I knew i was in trouble but i was already fading, receding into the back side of my brain (M-O-O-N, that spells MOON!) and it was all i could do to get my ass to bed.
I recently retired my tongue as a sword, and so with a brief admonishment to my more laconic and caustic bits to mind their Ps and Qs, i went to sleep. When my husband came to bed, i started switching.

I woke up angry. Went to pee and my husband was sleeping on the couch. Weird, the bedroom door wasn’t locked, which is something my system sometimes does when they get mad at him. Great, is he mad at me, then? I decide to get something to eat and go back to my room and write. When he wakes, he comes in and asks me what’s wrong. I ask him to fill me in on what happened after i went to bed, which is when i learn i was switching. He also informs me that no one would engage him, because they said they weren’t allowed to talk to him. Well, something positive, at least. But i’m still angry, and i know i’m angry because i’m hurt, and i think shame is keeping my mouth closed, but NO! It isn’t! Shame is just an emotion that’s letting me know i’m craving connection with this man. It’s fear keeping my mouth shut. FEAR OF REJECTION.

In words still a bit on the terse side, i relate what caused me to go to bed early. He immediately apologises, and gently reminds me how tired he  is after work, but that his plans hadn’t changed. The brittleness inside me disappears, and i tell him my thoughts turned extreme, i began catastrophising, i could feel anger bubbling up and was becoming dissociated. I tell him i went to bed, rather than angry-walk. He says he understands, and as we stand to leave the bedroom (we have 2 children at home, so we try to keep our relationship stuffs there), he grasps my elbows, smiles (oh his smile makes me melt) at me, and makes sure we’re still on for later.
You betcher sweet bippy, baby.

Today, as i analyse and write about it, i see the rejection at play. In fact, it was the star of the show. Shame shone the light on my need for connection, but it was fear that was informing my actions. I was afraid he didn’t want me. I am afraid i don’t deserve him. I feel tremendous guilt over everything i’ve put him through, and shame points that out, as well. Because i still want him for my own, forspecial. And i don’t just want him to be mine, i want him to want me for his, too. I want these connections with him, and in the light of day, i know he does, because i can see it all over him, every day.

70s pop psychology had this concept someone called, “playing old tapes”, and in this case, i think it fits. Asking for what i wanted didn’t occur to me as a child; i’d have known better than to ask, anyway. Asking the other day triggered old home movies and old sad songs in my brain, of how i was only ever wanted for what i could do, or would allow – no one ever really wanted ME, specifically. The more the tapes played, the more i expected him to reject me. Who could want me? I’m afraid of losing him, even though more and more of me believes he’ll never leave me. I’ve lost so much, so many.

Fear of rejection and fear of loss and afraid to be alone, but afraid to be connected.

Shame tells me i need to connect, fear asks me, But what if he doesn’t want to connect with you? I’m not afraid of fear. I’ve dealt with it in all its forms and at all its intensities, the entirety of my life. I confront my fears, these days. I look it straight in the face and say, Yo! What’s up? I’m here to listen and learn from whatever it shines a light on.
Fear is just a feeling trying to tell me something – just like shame. So as i write this, i’m thinking that fear wasn’t keeping my mouth shut any more than shame was. It’s rejection, period, that kept my mouth closed. Fear was just blowing the whistle on it, which i think a subtle, but important, difference.
Being afraid never killed me, and neither has shame. I see them now as helpers, not harmers.

Bring ’em on, then. Whenever, wherever.
I’m ready.

Steep learning curve right now. Fear is reminding me that historically, i fall into a deep crevasse after that. But i’m already down the rabbit hole… Do i meet the Mad Hatter, or do i go full popsicle? Stop confusing me! Damn metaphors, being all contradictish.

Enjoy your Sunday, if you’re reading the day i post this.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*One of them required me to freeze, but i was fighting for the safety of the other woman in the car with me. It was the best course of action, as she was spared.

**See the previous few posts for what i’ve been learning about shame in my life.

***Added after posting: I didn’t know at the time that these people had raped me in the past. All i knew was they were trying to be sexual with me, and i wasn’t having it. It was only when i dove into an ocean full of crazy that started around 2006, did i realise they’d abused me with impunity in the past. Some of them brushed it off and made light of the interaction. Others were right pissed off and pushed harder and/or came at me over and over again. I don’t know if all of them knew i’m a multiple, but i know some did.

In My Cups

I’ve been avoiding writing about this for years. Over the last year or so though, i’ve mentioned it in a somewhat ancillary fashion. I think i’ve been testing the waters. If i’m going to share how my brain works and how i pursue the life i want, while juggling my particular set of issues, however, i would be remiss if i didn’t address it. It would be a lie by omission, and i do try to avoid those, here on my blog.

My addictive nature, and how that’s manifested in my life in general, and in my journey through mental illness and being neuroatypical particularly.

<insertdeepsighhere>

This will be a rough one for me.
I was raised to keep things hidden.
It was modeled for me that one doesn’t acknowledge one’s flaws, let alone talk about them. If one did, then various religions were the answer.

What i have learned though, is that people know anyway. Despite our best efforts, if we hang around with people for either long enough, or at the right moments – they’ll figure it out. (Not the biggest reason i became a hermit, but not a small one, either.) They may not know exactly what it is, but they’ll smell it on us. Something not quite right. Something’s gone off, and it’s rotting away inside.

For addiction, i have both nature and nurture. My mother ate her way up so high there was no scale at the time to weigh her. We’ve figured out ways in our current society to do so, but we’ve had to, because so many are afflicted with the problem. When my mom was super-morbidly obese, she was the fattest person anyone had ever seen in real life, everywhere we went. She’d always held food over me as a reward, and withheld it from me as punishment, and also due to neglect.

So i learned to comfort myself with food. I used it to numb out pain. It was a drug that filled me with a false and fleeting happiness. After a long and checkered history, i’ve learned enough about myself and nutrition to have found a way to handle my food issues.
Oh, but i have addictive behaviours, plural, and my relationship with food, eating, weight, and body image are well-documented in this blog already.

Food wasn’t the only thing that was used to control me as a child.
When you want her to like you, you start out with ice cream and candy.
When you want her to relax and lie still, you use alcohol and pills.

Abusers used pills, i was on pills to control my epilepsy, and when i was diagnosed with fibromyalgia as an adult, more pills. That was when i began using the non-prescription codeine to help me cope with the constant pain. By the time i was diagnosed bipolar, i was going through a 250 count bottle of the stuff in less than a week. At one point, i was on 6 different medications at the same time to try and regulate me, and oh, did i mention that i’d started drinking?

For years drinking wasn’t a problem. Then i had weight loss surgery, lost over 300lbs, and slammed into my first full blown mania. The weight loss got me lots of sexual attention and a job in the entertainment industry. More social interactions with me as the centre of everything than i’d had to deal with since my school and church years in plays and vocal performances. I was dealing with no impulse control and sexual and social anxiety through the roof. I didn’t want to eat because i was thin and i loved the way people were treating me… I worked mostly in bars, so i drank.

Between booze and the male gaze, my mania became so severe i lost my job. Mania didn’t just amp me up, either. Between it, the weight loss, and problematic drinking, my DID became a cyclone. And then came the years of psych wards, detox facilities, recovery centres, an actual mental hospital, and LOTS of religion.

As i’ve written before, none of it worked. Eventually, as my husband desperately searched for help for me, he found the therapist i’ve been working with ever since. I long ago laid down the pill-popping, but unfortunately, the drinking behaviours remain. Not the partying all the time kind of drinking, which is good. But when i fall down the rabbit hole – i drink. And there are many parts of my system who will naturally gravitate towards alcohol, because it’s familiar. It wasn’t just that it was a part of our regular life.
It’s that it helped, you see.

It’s easier to slide and switch around with alcohol. It greases the wheels, so to speak. And when, in that first real mania, my system decided to properly introduce themselves to me AND return to full duty, so too, did they return to alcohol. I could go without drinking for long periods of time, but then i would switch, and find myself drunk when i was back in the face. Or viciously hungover.

Sometimes in therapy, we touch on something and i know i’m going to drink over it. If i (specifically speaking) didn’t get some, i knew the issue was enough for me to switch, and then they’d just go get it anyway. There were times when someone or something would trigger me HARD, and i knew what was coming. Life would do what life does, and often become too much for me, and i’d fall down the rabbit hole. Crawling out always involves detoxing from a binge. I had to figure out a way to get, and maintain, some kind of control.

My therapist doesn’t really deal with addiction or bipolar stuffs, even. She focuses on my system, and helping me learn how to listen, address my issues, and build the kind of life i want. Problematic use of drugs, alcohol, food, sex, etc. is, let’s say rampant, with multiples. She deals with cause, rather than effects. When i first started seeing her, she would come to my house, because i couldn’t leave it. I’d have a mickey of something stuffed beside me on the couch, because i’d have needed a couple of nips to even be able to let her in the door, and i knew that after she left i’d have a couple more.

The more work i’ve done in therapy the better it’s gotten. I even stopped therapy for a few years because i thought i was done. When i found out i wasn’t, old behaviours began kicking in, like, i can’t control the face as well as i was, and this body work makes everyone want a drink.
Everyone.

I knew i had to figure out a new way to handle things during this time. I’m not going back to square 1. I know i won’t either, because my problem solving skills are rather fantastic. One of the first things i did is i stopped hiding the problem. My husband and my kids already knew, so be honest. Why have this undercurrent of tenseness for my boys, where i act like it’s not happening and they act like they don’t know that it is? Why make my husband complicit in the lie? These things aren’t healthy and they erode the trust and poison the relationships that i have with them, that i’ve worked so freaking hard to build.

Removing the hiddenness immediately calmed my impulsivity. My sons both accepted the behaviour and said it was okay. They understood, and both relayed to me that they’ve seen nothing but improvements in the way i’ve lived my life since my brain fell apart.

Hm. Maybe there’s something here for me to learn.

I told my BFF, and since the beginning of our friendship (it’s a couple of years old, now), she’s been nothing but supportive. I’ve never lied to her, and as our friendship’s grown and trust has built, i’ve let her in like i have never, ever let a friend in before. I can call her up and say, “I’m either gonna have a drink or 2, or i’m hittin’ the highway,” and she will come babysit me until my husband gets home.* I don’t bother hiding from her, because i know i don’t need to.

I’m seeing a pattern here…

I’m down the rabbit hole, right now. At first, i got drunk and stayed that way for a few days. The therapy i’m doing, plus this pandemic situation the world is in, summarily tossed me down there by the seat of my pants.
Down you go H, no choice.
But my kids kept loving me and telling me it was okay.
And my husband did things that he knows will maintain my connection to him.

Ah. I know where this is going.

So this time, my Angries didn’t come out and get belligerent. My highly sexualised parts didn’t come forward and demand more and more booze, until i was blacked out and became a parade of damaged Bits N’ Pieces that are very low functioning and can be quite troublesome (to put it mildly). In fact, i was able to slow down and even sober up for my therapy the other day. I’d been fine for a few days.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
~Tao Te Ching

I was ready when i first met my therapist. She taught me a great many things and then i left, thinking i had moved on. It was not so. I simply wasn’t ready for the next lesson. I humbly returned when i realised the truth, and i’ve been learning ever since. These lessons are more painful than the previous ones, and yet, tired as i am, i see myself listening more readily and learning faster. Now it’s more like, When the student is ready, the lesson will come.

Two weeks ago i connected to my therapist in a way i’ve never connected to another human being ever. I shared grief and pain with her, not with words, but with sounds of suffering that i’ve kept buried deep, deep down inside me, at my most broken place. And i let her hold me through it – something i have never allowed before, in the dozen or more years we’ve been working together to help me.

CONNECTION. A mother’s love in her arms around me, in her voice as she soothed me, in her tears as she cried for me.

I strongly suspect that the other day on the phone with her, i learned my most important lesson yet. I told her that shame is my driving emotion. The one that controls me at every step. Every thought, every action is somewhat shame-driven. She responded that shame isn’t bad; shame is just an emotion, a feeling. She said it’s the body’s response to the human need for connection to another human.
I believe i was ready for this lesson.

Yesterday, i was chatting with my husband after supper, and it just came up out of me. I said, “I think shame is the reason i drink – the reason we all drink.** I think what i really want is to be connected to myself, to be alive so that i can truly connect to another person. To you, to our children, to my friends… ”

I was ashamed to want connection, too. The messages that i internalised as a child were that i was filthy and disgusting and not worthy.
But all the work i’ve done has been slowly taking down this deadly razor-wire that my mother and my upbringing built around me.
It’s going to take more work, but i’m going to listen to what shame is trying to tell me, and i’m going to keep disarming the landmines around me. I will be fully alive and interactive with other human beings. I will be living.

As for the booze, i don’t know. It’s just a symptom, as destructive as it can be, and i live with multiplicity, which means i cannot (at least as of yet) always control what i’m going to do. And that’s okay, today. Sometimes i drink to cope. But it’s nothing at all like it was, and i believe with my whole heart, that it’s possible that someday it won’t be a problem at all. Today i’m neither hungover, nor am i drunk. Tomorrow may be something different.

But i’ll handle it.

I have no wise pronouncements to make on addictive behaviours. I have no solutions save the one i’m working out for myself. I won’t be bashing any of the other ways to handle such issues, because i don’t find it helpful or productive. This is me, and my way only. I share for my own continued healing and growth, but also to maybe give others hope that they can find their own way, too.

Just hang on. It’s the place where i started all this, and it’s where i return as often as needed.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*For those who are new to my blog, i run when i’m stressed or triggered. We live on a farm, and i’ll hit the highway and hitchhike into the city, where i am in immediate danger due to switching. I haven’t hitchhiked in a few years now, but i’ll still angry walk for many kilometres, in any weather, and have been in fairly desperate need of rescue a few times, just due to that.

**We means me and all my parts. My system.

They Exist

Down on your knees
Begging us please
Praying that we don’t exist
~ We Exist, Arcade Fire

I’m not going to use proper paragraph structure here (i mean, as proper as i ever get, because i’m no English major), because i want to highlight the process.

Therapy sesh by phone today, of course. After checking each other’s health and ability to handle self-isolation (verdict: i’m a legit hermit, she’s currently the guru on the mountaintop), i opened with a request. I asked her to help me work through the possibility of putting this therapy on hold while my anxiety level is at Defcon4.

She answers that she is here for me, and to help me figure out how to have the life i want. She reiterates that she has no agenda, no opinion on what my life should look like. She’s told me this dozens of times before, but i need to hear it often, and it calms me like it always has.

I tell her i don’t think i have enough to handle both things; i was stretched too thin already. She asks me what is it about the therapy i’m doing at home that’s causing me to think about stopping for a while.
At first i say it’s because it’s too much to do both and i can’t stop a pandemic, so the therapy has got to go.
I go on to add that my level of function is very low, and my anxiety so high that i’m close to panic all the time.

She asks me how i’ve been caring for my body’s needs.
“When you ask your body what would help it feel safe, what’s the first thing that pops into your head?”

This always takes a minute. When consulting my system or my body, i always have to wade through the chatter, and consciously connect my brain to my physical body. My natural state is one of detachment from the body, which is not natural at all. I do a quick settling in: awareness of breathing, of where my body is touching other things, e.g. feet on floor, butt in chair, etc.

She gives me time for this, because she knows, and after about 3 I don’t knows, i get to,
“Well, i’ve been hiding in my room most mornings.”

She says, “Okay, good. Do that, then.”

I immediately come back with, “But i’m just lying in bed playing games and reading like a lump. Sometimes i’m here till noon.”

She tells me that’s okay. My instant and intense response tells me it’s not. I tell her how ashamed i am that i’m so low functioning and i don’t want to face my loved ones. I tell her even when i get up, i often stay in my pajamas and just watch telly and play games all day. Sometimes i can get supper on the table, sometimes i can shower, but there are days i can’t. Too many days for my liking.

She reminds me that healing from trauma is intensive and exhausting work. She says, “I know how hard this work is for you, because i know how badly you were hurt.”

“Can’t i just dissociate through this; just slide and switch until it’s over?”

“Of course you can. Is that what you want to do?”

“Well, no, but i’m tired of my life falling apart around me while i’m down the rabbit hole. AGAIN.”

I tell her i feel too heavy to move, and then quickly correct myself. I feel frozen, like i can’t move.
One of the ways i survived my childhood was the freeze response. My head separated from my body and i had no emotions (brain) and no sensations (body). It was like feigning death until the immediate threat was over.
My most common response to anything stressful these days is fleeing, but i still regularly experience what’s called tonic immobility. My body will shut down and i can’t move.

We go over what it is that i’m doing in therapy right now. I’m reconnecting my brain to my body. I’m learning to feel what i feel while knowing what i know. I’m turning my attention from my brain to my body, which carries (in some strange way i don’t exactly grasp) memories of the traumas i endured while my mother raised me. If i’m feeling sexually vulnerable or otherwise exposed, i put a pillow in my lap. When my throat aches and jaw feels broken i eat a popsicle. Sometimes i massage it with my fingers if i can handle touch.

While we’re discussing this, she brings up how difficult this work is for me to do, because i never received proper care. If i wasn’t being outright abused, any appearance of care from my abusers usually turned out to be selfishly driven and booby-trapped. Like a hug that turned into a fondle. I unraveled the lies they told me. Now i must dismantle… Dismantle what?**

I said, “I think i just wanted to stop the therapy because i’m ashamed that i’m such a mess. I think shame is my driving emotion.”

“H, shame is the body’s response to a lack of connection. It’s the body asking for connection. When we are connected to ourselves and to another, the body’s need has been heard and met and shame goes away.”

Yeah, go ahead and read it again. I asked her to repeat it a couple of times.

If i was connected to my body, and my body was hurt, i’d deal with the hurt myself, and get help from someone else if i needed it. I couldn’t as a child. There was no help. So i did what children do – disconnect and then blame themselves.
I’m a master of finding my fault in everything that goes wrong.
Heck, i’ll find fault and pick at myself when things go well.
In context this makes sense, but it’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

She asked me if i’d ever experienced connection that deep with another person, the last session when she held me as i made noises that sounded like pure agony being pulled from the centre of my personhood.

“Nope. Not ever.”

“Stay in bed until noon. Wear your jammies all day. Play games and watch funny things and tell the guys to make their own supper. Cover yourself with a blanket. Surround yourself with pillows. Cuddle your dog. Eat salad AND candy. Hide. Protect. Check in to your body and give it care and safety. Give your body back the dignity that was taken from it by listening and providing care. Then shame will just go away because its work is done.

Emotions are never wrong. They’re too primitive to be anything but what they are. Feelings have no agenda, no faults or flaws, no plans for the future, no thoughts or personal agency. They just are.”*

Wanna know how much shame governs my life?
I’m ashamed of being so filled with shame.
As of today, i’m not anymore. Oh, i still carry a boatload of shame, that’s gonna take more work yet, but now i think i understand why.
And it makes sense to me.
And i am not ashamed of that at all.

I’m going to keep plugging along. It’s good that i’ve dialed things back and i’m not doing much. This is what my body is asking for.
I’m exhausted beyond words, but i can continue.
Part of me was looking for a good excuse to stop this work, even for a couple of weeks.
Because as much as it’s good for me to do it, and the results are what i’m looking for…

It hurts like fuck and i feel like shit most of the time.
Shame is my body’s response to the unmet need for connection.
Shame will be on board for some time yet.
I’ve received the message, and i’ll listen and give care, and return my body’s dignity, until i don’t feel shame anymore.

I don’t want to dwell too much on the COVID-19 pandemic, but i have a brief story to share.

I have a dark and twisty sense of humour, and it’s an integral part of my personality. A cornerstone of my ability to survive, even. Lately though, i haven’t found any of the current jokes going around about the virus, or people’s fear, or self-isolation funny at all.

I don’t begrudge anyone their jokes, but they amped up my anxiety, and added to my sadness, pulling me into an empathetic state for which i simply lack the spoons.

Last night i joked to my husband, “I can’t lose my marbles. The last place on earth i’d want to be right now is a locked down institution.”

When i relayed this to my therapist, as evidence that i am still progressing and working through things (more for myself than her – she clearly knows), she laughed.

“I can’t go crazy cuz the last place i’d wanna be right now is the psych ward. That’s funny.”

Babystepping away over here, folks. Carrying a lot of feelings/emotions along with me, and they can all stay as long as they need.
They just are, after all. They exist. We exist.

But I’d lose my heart
If I turned away from you
Daddy don’t turn away
You know that I’m so scared
But will you watch us drown?
You know we’re going nowhere
We know we’re young
And no shit we’re confused
But will you watch us drown?
What are you so afraid to lose?

*This is my best recollection, not her exact words.

**Perhaps i’m done dismantling. Maybe only mantling remains?
Heh.

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~

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

 

 

I Twitch, I Tweak, I Try

I flit, i fleetly fly.

I don’t know how to accept kindness and care.
It may be the hardest thing i ever learn to do.
I’ve been so focused on other things that seemed so much bigger for so long, but this work of reconnecting my brain to my body, requires it. My body is sharing its memories as my brain did before. My brain needed me to listen, and i did. I separated memories from dreams, i sat quietly and heard the chatter, the tearful whispers and the bellows of rage from the people who live in my head. And i responded with words that assured them they had my attention. I reassured them, over and over, that i wanted to, and was capable of, setting everything to rights. I asked for some trust and some time to get it all sorted: them, me, our past, our future. To help even the quietest, the most wounded, the angriest, the most dangerous – all of them. Us. Me.

They gave me what i asked for, and i got pretty dang functional.
I thought i was done.
Now i know differently. I know because i couldn’t maintain that level of function. It eeked away from me, and i cut back on those things that i’d recently added to my life when it seemed i could handle it. The volunteering, the community work, the extra socialising… And then i noticed there were some familiar voices missing in my head. I couldn’t hear them and i couldn’t find them. Some of my Bits N’ Pieces wailed that they were dead. Old urges crept back in.

I got my ass back in therapy, and learned that i was not done, rather i was ready for the next phase of healing.
My body was asking me for the same attention that i’d given my brain.
My scattered, shattered brain had given me words, thoughts, pictures that helped me understand myself and my past better, and in return i gave those who dwelt there safety and stability.
Now my body wanted to give me sensations. It wanted me to turn my attention to its many deep wounds. It wanted to share information via physical feelings. And just like my brain, it wanted my help to put things right.
Homeostasis.
Which means i must psychically bind and stitch this battered body with kindness and care. I must provide gentleness and softness and soothe all these areas of my body that exist below my neck. These places that carry such pain, pain so terrible that my little girl body could not feel it and live. And i must stay present and aware and in the face while i do it. No floating, no fleeing, no freezing, no fighting, no dying. As i listened to the words spoken by my system, and was mentally slashed and stabbed with each proffered story filled with terror and hopelessness, so must i receive the body’s tangible communications.

Aching jaw, bruised throat, burning sex, and my muscles ache to my bones, which feel as if they’ve been ground against each other. I feel stiff and puffy, so much so i search my body for signs of the symptoms, but there are none.
Can this possibly be real, or is it the suggestibility from my childhood and my powerful imagination manifesting in my flesh? I truly don’t know. What i do know is that after decades of searching, the therapist who’s (overwhelmingly – like, no contest) helped me the most suggested ways to address the tumult in my head, and they seemed to help. Usually, a lot. Given that, i’m going to entertain her recommendations. If they don’t work, i know she’ll help me find some other way.
But i don’t think it’ll come to that. Even rolling my eyes so hard i get a headache, and only grudgingly doing the work brings about immediate relief.
It may be that i stumbled across someone whose particular brand of crazy merely jibes with my own. Whatever. Based on results, i’m going to keep working with her.

I don’t doubt that i might have achieved this much self-awareness and functionality without her, but i do think it less likely that someone could reach me in the place where i’m the most broken and twisted. She’s invested years of patience, literally meeting me where i was at (my home, because i so often couldn’t leave it), and letting me set the pace (interminable). She dug deep into her education, training, and experience, to communicate to me in language i could understand. Gentle, slow, flexible, slow, kind and with much care, and ever so slow. With no agenda, no plan for me, no measure of success save my own.

Her cure for my traumatised brain was thought.
Her cure for my traumatised body is touch. Safe, care-full touch. Mothering. Nurturing.
Not some weirdo EST encounter type touch. Not some self-help Omega type cradling bullcrap.*
If i want to run, she has me pump my legs to discharge the energy. If my genitals start to numb out, she has me place a pillow firmly in my lap, thereby providing a protective barrier. If my jaw aches i can gently cup it in my hands, and rub it with my thumbs. If my anxiety is a piano on my chest playing cold music on keys made of ice, a weighted blanket is a warm hug when i can’t bear to be touched by a person – even myself. Yes, i can’t even wrap my own arms around me.**

I don’t know how to accept kindness and care.
I was born to be a fountain of unconditional love for my mother, to be a receptacle for her rage, to be a slave to her needs, and to worship her as my god.
She was miserly and capricious with her affection, and i received it all as a blessing bestowed upon me for which i was not worthy.
She mercifully raised me and graciously stooped to love me.
She let me know every day, in ways both overt and insidious, that i was bad, incorrigible, weak, irredeemable.
I was her faithful and penitent acolyte, mortifying myself to gain her forgiveness for my sinful mind and filthy heart.

Intellectually, i’ve rejected her and her parenting.
I’ve dealt with the thoughts and beliefs she planted in my head. Being a parent helped me a great deal. I could ask myself if i would say the things she said to me to my own children, teach the things she taught to mine – i could connect to the answers because i was connected to my children in a way i’d never been to anyone else.
I’ve watched the traumatic events of my childhood like a movie, like a dream that isn’t a dream, and i can see that i was an innocent, a naif. I see that she was sick, and profoundly immoral. I would destroy the world rather than allow that to be done to my children. I would destroy myself at the merest inkling of such terrible urges inside me.

Yet i’ve struggled to be soft and gentle and kind to the person i see in the mirror, at any given moment/day/year of my life. The programming began at birth. The grooming, the preparation for what was to come, the job training. It’s all down so deep, it’s so entrenched, i don’t know if i can dig it all out. I don’t think i’ve gotten to the root yet.
If i replay a memory of past abuse and i watch it dispassionately, in a dissociated state, i can look at that little girl and feel rage and pity and sadness. But when i try to connect with the little girl that lives inside me that was present for that abuse, i can’t. I’m filled with disgust and revulsion. Yes, and worse, a thinly veiled anger. At a sweet and beautiful little girl who endured harm, for me. At a terrified, innocent child who just wanted food and drink, shelter, protection, and love.

I can feel for her, until the moment that connection is made and she is me. Then i recoil in antipathy. I put her away in the farthest reaches of my brain, in a nursery/day room area with all the other littles – the ones most in need of the person and mother that i am today. I keep them from me because they make me feel filthy and disgusting and bad.
I know the truth and have an appropriate response for anyone else. And i know it intellectually for myself. But when i’m fully present and in the face, i cannot seem to extend myself TO myself. Not in grace, or mercy, or gentleness.
I love myself and my system.
But i can’t seem to sit with myself in a soft, quiet space, and be kind, comforting, soothing, nurturing. I can’t provide gentle, motherly care.

This place i’m going, it’s the place where i had to align myself with my abuser or i would die. I had to believe what she told me. I had to be who she said i was. It’s down so deep, it’s back at the beginning. It’s at the start of everything. I’m going to try to get down there, and i’m going to try to dig it out of me. But i’m truly afraid it will kill me. Not intellectually, although i do believe this has the potential to mess me up enough that i require psychiatric care. I’m afraid in my body. My chest and my guts are heavy with dread. My limbs are numb and my girl parts are ice. I’m filled with foreboding, with a sense of doom.

I think this body work i’m doing is both the key to my success, and my biggest stumbling block. Touch is difficult for me. I get anxious about it and have trouble with boundaries, but i’m working it out. The hardest touch to take is my own. It twists me up inside, and i don’t think i see the whole picture yet, as to why that is. I get so freaked out by my own touch that i often dissociate while doing my skincare or makeup, and i’m a numbed-out robot in the shower. Years after my personal hygiene had drastically improved, i still wasn’t pleased with my feminine smell. I’d change my underwear multiple times a day, but i still seemed somewhat unwashed to myself. It took more therapy to understand, and then one day in the shower i realised i barely paid any attention to that area, including wiping my labia and vulva dry after urinating. The slight, lingering odour disappeared immediately. I can’t hug myself when i’m cold, either. I just squinch myself up as tight as i can, but wrapping my arms around myself makes me feel creepy.

I have to conquer this issue to continue reconnecting my mind with my body, and i want to. Doing the work elicits the most skin-crawly feelings i’ve had outside of sexual abuse. Today, as i’m typing this, i wonder if it’s not a defense mechanism. A lot of living things keep unwanted touch away by provoking disgust.
Hm. Something to ponder.
I will push through it, as i have with everything else. I will feel it, i will learn what it has to teach me, and then on to the next.
I’m not sure what sort of shape i’ll be in when it’s done, but i’ll handle that, too.

I’ll use whatever tool that works, to keep me upright and moving towards the person i am/want to be, living the life i’ve envisioned. Today i’m doing it because
THAT BITCH DOESN’T WIN
Maybe one day soon, i’ll be motivated to continue because i’m holding all my littles close and they need me.

To feel good about myself, to my very marrow… Now that’s worth ALL the squick.

Love and Peace To All,
~H~

*For those new to my story, i have issues with psychology (especially of the “pop” variety), and mental health care professionals. My mother jumped on every bandwagon they rode into town, and used it all to become a more efficient and successful manipulator/abuser.

**It might seem contradictory that i can’t touch my face, but i can. It’s levels of dissociation, and they’re dependent on how deep the trigger goes, and how many spoons i have to cope that day. Anything involving my hands on myself, especially around my face, is particularly difficult. Many times i don’t have what it takes to soothe my jaw, or my burning eyes in their aching sockets, or my stiff neck.

Low

Today i’m low
Oh, i’m so low
I can pretend i’m not, but can i not pretend?
Dear Ms. Therapist, i am trying
I thought i had it rough, but now i know i didn’t – not really
My brain can do this amazing thing where it takes me out of the shit and fills my face with someone else
I float
I float up here and watch some actressrobotclone do me for the masses
If it’s too much to watch, the door in my belly bids me come
It locks onto me like a tractor beam and pulls me in and slams behind me
I am nothingness
Was it all that bad if i wasn’t even there for it?
I inch my way slowly past the beckoning door, pressed flat against the far wall
I take the stairs down into my guts
It reeks down here. Like the smell of their fear that i could never scrub off me
Afraid of a little girl
The air tastes like salt and metal, like his hands when he pressed them over my nose and mouth
Shh, be quiet, shut up, stop fighting me!
Why do i have to come down here with these old ghosts?
I cleverly escaped their filthy clutches – why should i return?
They paw at me, and they stink
I don’t need anything down here
I look up and see my heart, beating blackly, shivering with pain
Reaching up, i place my hand firmly on it, the muscle quivers like a horse’s flank after a race
I pet my poor heart until it slows
It stops twitching and warms beneath my fingers
Stop running Dear One, i whisper
The race is done
We won a long time ago
I’m going back up the stairs now
Still tired and low, and this didn’t change me
There’s a light at the top that bids me come
Going carefully up over slime covered stone
I look down and say I’ll be back and that’s funny
The bilge water needs to be pumped out
My shoes are soaked and my feet, ice
I’ll bring salt when next i come, to dry up the fine, slick crust
I wave from the last step, and hope it doesn’t take me as long to clean the basement as it did the attic