I have done a great deal of personal work in my life. I’ve had to if i wanted to survive in the real world on its terms. After escaping my abusers (both major and minor), and creating some space for myself to be able to breathe without having to fight for it, i had the unbridled temerity to want more than survival. I wanted to THRIVE.
I started out immersing myself in therapy. Individual, groups, programs, courses… I did it all, reader. I read the books and went to the lectures. I screamed and beat the ground with a bataka and cried in front of other people (that i didn’t know and often didn’t like much) and told them personal things. I spent many hours telling my life story to many MH pros. I invested what little money i had on them, and workbooks and pretty little journals and coloured pens that smelled like apples and grapes and chewing gum.
I have never not wanted to LIVE, even when i sought death.
It took years, but with a Bipolar diagnosis under my belt, i figured out that doing ALL TEH THINGS wasn’t going to work for me. I became a babystepper as a matter of necessity, and then i stuck with it because it suits my personality and produced the best, most long lasting results. And it fits my lifestyle, too. I like a slower pace. I enjoy excitement… for about an hour, and then i fall into overwhelm.
So i have been slowly, carefully, intentionally remaking myself in my own image while renovating and landscaping my surroundings. A long time ago i accepted that that was my life, and that any kind of big milestone was some ways off. I learned to focus on the work and let the results come when they may. I’ve been at this for years. There have been many breaks though, due to life requiring more of my attention. Loved ones need more of my time, or my mental health crashes or explodes, or the world wrests my faculties from what’s directly in front of me to something important that may have nothing much to do with me, but it needs me to care about it.
This last 18mos, the world didn’t take me away from my work – instead it shut down. It did so so completely that i was afforded an opportunity to work almost exclusively on myself, with very few “distractions.”*
I used the time, and despite continuing to work at my snail’s pace, i was able to accomplish a great deal. It’s not like i was going gangbusters or anything, but i was going steadily, and i had known i was close to something big even before the pandemic hit. I had known i was close to a “milestone” for some time. And recently, i hit it.
I feel different. I feel more grown, more capable, more present. The days seem longer and more tiring to get through. It all came over me slowly, like when you get at gardening first thing in the morning. You’re getting so much done and aren’t even aware of your body… until 11 o’clock rolls around and you look down and you’ve soaked through your shirt.
Oh hey, i’m cooking out here, i should get out of the sun and eat some lunch.
I have also become aware that things are piling up and i’m running out of spoons. It wasn’t a sudden thing, like in the past when i would be mostly dissociated and the problem would have to clobber me over the head before i paid it any mind. I have felt the weight of everything pulling me down and down, and my body asking me for rest.
But, you know, i’m still relatively new at this grownup stuff, so i stumbled.
We went into town 2 weekends ago, and for the first time in months and months, i went into a couple of stores to pick up some things we needed. I felt myself pulled down this aisle and that, browsing happily. I’ve missed it and was quickly engrossed. Unfortunately, i got separated from my husband. First i stayed put and waited for him to find me, but he didn’t. I began walking around the store very slowly, up and down each aisle, stopping at the end and casting my eye as far as i could see in each direction. I tried so hard not to panic. I thought of leaving the store and waiting outside, but my arms were laden with things i wanted, and i was suddenly aware of how it might look to all the other patrons if i put everything down and exited. My anxiety rose. I began sweating, and i could feel my eyes, big as saucers. My panic would be obvious, i thought. Everyone looked at me as i passed them and it was getting hard to breathe…
Next thing i know i’m looking at a handsome young man and he’s speaking to me but i can’t hear him. I look around me and my heart sinks.
I’m in an ambulance and he is a paramedic.
My head is full of voices chattering at me, and i can’t shut them up, and i see his lips moving but i’m fading again…
Then i’m back at home, sitting in my chair and my husband is beside me.
I know i took off. I know i was close to home when the ambulance and police found me.
I know my twin took over at some point and was able to change their minds about dragging me to the hospital and convinced them to let me go home.
I told my husband i didn’t want to talk about it yet.
I needed to process it on my terms and in my time. Fortunately, he is not a pushy guy.
My initial inclination was to crap all over myself for losing control and feel like a terrible person and a loser and worry about what i did and who saw and start kicking myself for upsetting my loved ones… But i stopped it immediately and shifted quite easily into a calm and somewhat unemotional review of the day.
This is who i am, and this is how my brain works. It’s neither good nor bad anymore – it simply IS. I understand why i switched. It makes sense why i switched. It happened, but i’m fine, and everyone else is fine, and this is my life. This is okay and i am OKAY. It is okay to be who i am and it is fine that i switched. It really, truly is fine. It’s me and how i work and sometimes it happens and if there’s any fallout afterwards, i’ll clean it up.
I’m not freaked out or drowning in shame. In fact, it was barely a blip on my radar. I’m here and i’m grown and i’m capable.
This is new. I’m heartened by how i handled things after it happened. It didn’t trip me up. I am not spiralling.
This last weekend i went into town and ran a couple of errands that involved going into a store. I was careful to know where my husband was and what he was doing at all times. Not obsessively or even nervously. Just knowing how i work and where i’m at and what could go wrong and taking proper, preemptive steps to avoid a repeat. New issues, new problems will definitely present themselves, and i will handle those as best i can. And hey, if one of them trips me up, i’ll just pick myself up and do whatever i need to to set things right.
I’m not all jangly and anticipating the worst.
I’m not waiting for the other shoe to drop, kind of because i know it will.
And that’s okay.
It just is.
And i don’t feel defeated – i feel powerful.
… if you love your garden, you don’t mind working in it, and waiting. Then in the proper season you will surely see it flourish.
~ Jerzy Kosiński, Being There
I hope you’re all doing as best you can.
Love and Peace,
* This is me silverlining the pandemic. I wish with my whole heart that it had not happened.
IMAGE: Annie Spratt
One tiny Hobbit against all the evil the world could muster. A sane being would have given up, but Samwise burned with a magnificent madness, a glowing obsession to surmount every obstacle, to find Frodo, destroy the Ring, and cleanse Middle Earth of its festering malignancy. He knew he would try again. Fail, perhaps. And try once more. A thousand, thousand times if need be, but he would not give up the quest.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
I wanted to give my readers more insight into how my brain works and with what i’m currently dealing. (There you go, a sentence that didn’t end in a preposition. I think it sounds weird, and prefer to end with with… Heh.) To that end, i took my phone and a notebook, and recorded audio, video, and/or jotted down everything that happened on a recent 24hr period of time.
At 5am the alarm goes off, and it’s time to get my husband fed and off to work with a lunch. As i swing my feet out onto the floor i check in with my brain. Is it quiet or busy up there, and if it’s busy, why? If there’s nothing going on that requires my immediate attention, i ground myself mentally for the day, while connecting with my system. I remind them that i am in charge, that i love them because they are me and i love me, and i reassure them that i’m going to do my very best to take good care of us today.
My husband always asks me how i slept, which provides an opportunity for me to think over the night:
Did i sleep okay?
How many times did i get up?
Did i take more meds? (I live with chronic pain, insomnia, RLS, plus other things that can rouse me and keep me up.)
Do i remember any dreams, because if i do, it’s generally wise for me to go over them, just to make sure my brain isn’t trying to bring my attention to something important.
I make the bed, get dressed, and wait for him to head in to work before i walk our dogs. I catch the basic world news headlines and the local weather, but only if i’m in a good place. If i’m tired or struggling in any way i avoid it. The hubs will inform me of anything i’d want to know. Sometimes i sit through it all – a couple hours worth. I’ve been working on handling triggers more calmly and functionally when i can. Nothing like politics and world events to set me off. If something hits too hard and i feel myself dissociating or getting more anxious than i can bear, i get up and do something else. I keep our house, so there’s always stuff that needs doing.
We live on a farm, and walking the dogs gives me 2 choices; to listen to music, or nature. There’s no rhyme or reason to the choice, however making it helps keep me mindful. Some mornings music helps muffle the chatter, some mornings i’m dragging my ass a bit and all the birdsong puts a skip in my step. There are times when a particular emotion is weighing heavily on me, and listening to the right music can help me emote. (Think “dance it out,” if you’re familiar with Grey’s Anatomy.) When i return home, the dogs are happy, and i have either earned a 20min nap, or i can cruise into my daily chores while coasting on self-esteem. I purposely give myself choices throughout the day, as it makes me check in with what’s going on in my brain. Without the gentle mental poke to do so, i can shift into a dissociative state, easily and often. It’s like sleepwalking through my day, and i’ve done it for the majority of my life. I don’t want to do it anymore.
NOTE: An interesting aside here, is that i’m having trouble tapping into my writing voice. The programming i received as a child was so intense, and being a multiple made me so good at everything they wanted from me. They wanted me malleable and obedient and above all, to keep my mouth shut about everything. They purposefully steered me away from asking questions. (I was regularly beaten for asking anything, even something as simple and innocent as, May i have a glass of milk, please?) My mother was a student of every new pop psychology craze, and became adept at prying into my thoughts to shape them to her will. I was only allowed to think what she wanted, and my survival depended on toeing her line. It wasn’t enough to do what she wanted me to do and say what she wanted me to say. I had to think what she wanted me to think – and think nothing else, besides. I had precisely zero privacy. I couldn’t even hide from her in my mind.
Except i could, and i did. I was a multiple, and unbeknownst even to me, i hid parts of myself that she would have destroyed had she been aware of their existence.
This level of sharing and this depth of introspection, go against all of her training. The parts of me that she and my other abusers actively created, are coming up against this post. I feel scattered and slow, like i’m walking in a fog and keep running into things and getting turned around… I’m having trouble finding my way. I might not be particularly cogent. Nevertheless, i will press on.
Thus begins a day that’s been years in the crafting. I work a bit, and then i don’t work a bit. Sounds simple and obvious, i realise, but sometimes i just have to get there on my own. I have to put my own super unique and slightly crazy spin on it. Okay, maybe that should be slightly unique and super crazy, but let me toot my own horn, will ya? This too is designed to keep me mindful; conscious, in the face and in control.
Where i’m at mentally, emotionally, and physically determines how long i work and how long i don’t. This keeps me checking in with myself all day, ideally. Lately i’ve been doing so well i’m not watching the clock, i’m just going by how i feel. But if things are tough, i keep track. It’s incredibly helpful. If depression is heavy on me, or anxiety has me nearly immobile, i even use a timer. Sometimes 10mins of work followed by a 50min break is the best i can do. Sometimes after 1 or 2 go-’rounds, i determine even that is too much – and that has to be fine. It has to be because, in my experience, not finding a realistically based sense of peace about my capabilities can push me into a downward spiral. It can also amp up my anxiety, and that can nudge me towards a mania. And the common thread through it all, whether too down or too up, is dissociation.
As Johnny Cash once did so melodically, i walk the line.
Although, my line is rather pitchy.
Think Neil Young.*
Writing this post has taken me a few days, due to some personal issues here at home. As i’ve stated before, this blog is about me only, and i’m careful not to share things that might have a negative impact on others in my circle. However, there will be rare occasions where i deem it necessary and appropriate to include some information that involves someone else.
I have a close association with someone who has debilitating anxiety issues, depression, and struggles with anger and aggression. It makes our relationship rocky and contentious. Over the last couple of days, things have bubbled up again, causing significant strife and stress. It’s been difficult, and has amplified my own anxiety, as well as anger and frustration. Over the course of the last couple of years, i’ve been learning to set firm boundaries with this person. It’s been an opportunity for me to care for and protect myself, rather than the feign/fawn/freeze responses that have been typical for me in the past.
This morning, after my walk and before i write, i was catching up on some emails and a bit of reading, which is part of my daily routine. I read something that grabbed me immediately. While it was about someone and something else entirely, i could see how i could apply it to my current situation with the person in question. It took me from tired and anxious, to refreshed and hopeful. I have fashioned my life in such a way for just this reason, and so many others, besides. It has taken years worth of trial and error, but it is finally, FINALLY! paying off. My job was to hang in there and keep trying. I knew it would bear good fruit( …eventually, usually, mostly), but it is a damn fine thing to be enjoying how right i was to believe it.
And this too is because i practise mindfulness, and am working towards being present and accounted for as often as possible.
Even as i’m writing this, i am taking breaks to do other things, including “nothings,” that are integral to my peace of mind and continued successes. I make myself something to eat, i clean something, i exercise, i do something artistic, i connect with someone, i make a joke, i organise some clutter, i wash myself, i watch some telly, i go outside and weed the garden, i stand in the wind and sing like Beyoncé (okay no, but i am feelin’ myself!), then laundry and doggy shnuggles… And so on and so forth.
And i am regularly checking in with my brain. I listen to my thoughts and reach out to my people in there: Is everybody all right? Anyone got somethin’ to say?
Somebody’s always got somethin’ to say, and i listen for a bit.
Because they are me, and i deserve to be heard, and being heard starts with ME, listening to ME, MYSELF, and I.**
Before i know it, it’s time to get supper on, and the day is nearly done. While i’m cooking i go over things, and if there’s something i didn’t accomplish that i’d wanted to, i ask myself if i can fit it in yet. If i can’t, i let it go. Maybe tomorrow. I’ll decide that in the morning, when i start all over again. The day is gonna do what it does, and people are gonna be who they are. The only thing that i can truly affect is myself: my thoughts, my actions, and my attitude. And to truly be effective, requires mindfulness on my part.
As i swing my legs into bed and settle down to welcome sleep, i rededicate myself to all of this, and i check in one last time. I touch those parts of me that are still somewhat separate, with thoughts of love and comfort, assuring them (ME) that i will be there for them (ME) to the best of my ability tomorrow, and hopefully always.
Perhaps one day i won’t need to reach out at all.
At one time or another we are all called to leave the safety of our homes, the certainty of what we know, the illusions of who we are. Not everyone will heed this call, of course. And those who do will risk losing themselves completely. But if we choose to ignore the invitation, we risk never knowing who we might have become. We risk dying without knowing what it is to live.
~ Thomas Lloyd Qualls, Painted Oxen
Love and Peace,
*For the record, i love his music. He consistently goes flat at the ends of his notes, though. When David Foster had him do a bunch of takes on his solo line on the Canadian charity single, Tears Are Not Enough, he finally said, “That’s my sound, man.”
It is, and it works. But he is pitchy AF.
**Beyoncé reference, for us fans.
IMAGE: Vitor Machado
It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo.
The ones that really mattered.
Full of darkness and danger they were,
and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end.
Because how could the end be happy.
How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened.
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.
Even darkness must pass.
~ The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
Yesterday felt like hitting a wall.
I feel like Samwise Gamgee when he says, “If I take one more step, I’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.”
Everything i’m doing feels like the first time i’ve ever done it. It’s a strange business i’m up to, here. My system is all still with me, still functional. I hear them and feel them in my brain, although their voices are quieter and there is a restlessness that’s missing. Normally, they flutter about like nervous birds, like anxious, insipid Victorian women in an Austen story. They’ve always got the vapours; mad as hops, they are. They’re scared and broken children trying to avoid rejection and pain. The floor is lava.
Wow, writing about that took me away for a solid 20 minutes. Interesting. My mind slid from the screen and the keyboard, and turned inward. I went up and sat with them for a spell. We were all quiet. My thoughts were soft and mild. I don’t know if this will make any kind of sense to any reader, but i’m bound to try and the descriptions sit well with me. It was like a silent palaver over what i’m about to write. I believe i have the stamp of approval. Heh.
I don’t pay much attention to other people who are multiples. My childhood programming is maybe too strong, yet. I have a visceral disgust reaction and i immediately distrust them. It was clever of my primary abusers to instill that in me, as it kept me isolated and away from information that might have helped me get away from them.
I share that to preface that i don’t actually know much about how other people with a DID diagnosis experience their multiplicity. If it’s like what is portrayed in movies and television, then we won’t have much to commiserate over. I suspect that it’s not, though. I’ve read a number of articles written by people like me objecting to the existing tropes one finds in media.
I’m no serial killer. I do have a violent part in my system, but they just break things – not people.
Despite blogging a lot about being a multiple, i’m very private about some of the details. It’s like, i’ll have you over for lunch, but we won’t be eating in the bathroom, you know? Some things aren’t for sharing. I’ve also kept some things to myself because my system is fear-based. My precious Bits N’ Pieces don’t trust anyone but me, and that took years of hard work and patience. I didn’t write about some stuff because it would have been seen as a betrayal. I needed to prove myself worthy to be the caregiver for this passel of messed up mutants.
Again, that’s a preamble, to this: From what i’ve gathered about other multiples, i am somewhat different. While i do experience hard switches (that’s where i’m not aware of what’s happening or what has happened, once i’m back in control), i’ve never not been aware of the people that live in my brain… I’d assumed that that was how everyone’s brain worked.
The constant chatter and commentary, the different voices, each voice having its own “feel” and some sort of mental picture attached to it… I’ve referred to them as my Peanut Gallery since i was a very small child.
Only i didn’t understand that they were split off parts of me.
I didn’t know that they held information that i did not have.
They knew things i didn’t.
Once i (finally!) began considering the possibility that i had Multiple Personality Disorder (what DID was called at the time), i learned that my brain functioned in some different ways from most. I was shocked to learn that people experience moments when their brain is silent. And my Peanut Gallery is a lot more fleshed out and separate than the voices most people hear in their heads. Plus, mine aren’t the voices of people i know or have known. I asked tonnes of questions about others’ thoughts and inner commentary, and the more they talked the more clear it was that i was different.
Between speaking with non-multiples, and my limited experience with others like me, it would seem i’m unique in some ways. I’d have to wade into association with other multiples to test it though, and i’m definitely not interested in that – at least for the time being. (Yes, my reaction to other multiples really is that strong. It’s something i still don’t have much control over.)
From what i’ve gathered the lines are more thickly drawn, the boundaries more tangible. For them there’s more switching (loss of time) and less sliding (what i call being somewhat aware, but not in control). Most multiples seem not to share thought-space with their alters, whereas mine are accessible to me almost all the time. I can put out feelers, mentally speaking, and find them up there, hanging out in a part of my brain-aether. I can have conversations with most of them, although i had to work at that with quite a few. Some i can only feel at certain times, some i’ve never heard, i only feel. Some won’t speak to me, and some won’t speak to anyone, and some don’t speak at all. Yet there is a coexistence between us, and a sharing of thought-space and the passage of time that i haven’t heard shared from others with DID. It could be a common trait, i don’t know.
I’m not integrated, not by the current definition used in the field.*
At first i railed against integration. It was anathema to me. I saw it as murder.
Now, i just don’t think it’s the right word, as the meaning doesn’t entirely fit.
All of this is nebulous and esoteric though, and that’s okay with me.
It has to be, because so little is known. Studies are hard to set up and not many meet the standards set by their fellow research psychologists and psychiatrists. And some of those don’t stand up to rigorous examination.
I don’t know if much of what i think or what i’ve done or how i’ve coped could stand up to proper scientific scrutiny, so i move forward based on results. It’s the best i’ve got.
All of this to get back to my original point. (Sorry, i’m scattered today.)
I’m experiencing life with the lowest level of dissociation, ever. It’s strange. I have an emotion and my first reaction is panic, because it feels intense. Say my husband does something i find irritating. The irritation floods my upper body: my face squinches up, and my arms and fingers feel warm and tingly; i’m literally wringing my hands. My chest feels a weight settle on it, and my heart feels as if an anxious hand is squeezing it like a stress ball. My inclination is to make some snappish comment at my husband – when i feel panicky i react like a stray dog that’s been cornered, i.e. i bark and i might bite.
If i’m present enough to realise what’s happening, i consciously note it, and then remind myself of what i’m currently going through. This is a process, and i can move through this feeling without being prickly. Can i let it go? Do i want to, or would i feel better if i addressed it? Then i tap into appropriate coping and communication skills accordingly. Sometimes i react before i’m fully present and in a mindful state. Then i apologise, process what happened, and make amends if necessary.
Maybe i’m watching a true crime documentary and someone has lost a loved one. Man, i thought i cared before… These days it’s not uncommon for me to actually shed tears. Empathy courses through me and again, i feel panicky. It’s during times like this that depression and pessimism can slide in and colour everything i see and inform every thought i have. When this happens i talk to myself gently, as one would to a child, because that’s exactly what i’m dealing with – the kids that live in my brain are relating to the violence and loss and pain in the (true) story, and it’s my job to hold their hand and talk them through it. And when they’ve (i’ve) calmed some, i tell them (me) that it’s not for us to take all that on. That’s someone else’s life and story and it’s for them and their support system and their familial/cultural/societal/political circles and structures to handle the tragedy and its aftermath. I’m bearing witness but it is not my job to fix it. I cannot mete out justice, and it’s neither possible nor appropriate for me to absorb their pain.
Just a couple of examples, but hopefully i’ve given some idea of what my days are like.
It all feels like a lot, yet i’m not overwhelmed. I feel settled inside, somehow. I understand that this is a part of the process. This is a part of my path that i must walk through to get where i want to go – and it makes perfect sense to me and i’m okay with it. I’m handling life in real time, somewhat clumsily, but that will change as i become more accustomed to this new level of consciousness and functionality.
Samwise took that step; away from familiarity, away from family, away from everything he’d ever known. He stepped away from the cozening touch of the everyday, and became part of a grand adventure that, if not for him, could have brought about the end of everything good and right in the world.
A new day will come, and when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. I know now folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something. That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.
~ The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
I don’t know what the heck this post is, or if it’ll help anyone, but it seemed determined to come out of me… And so there you have it.
Life is weird, and so am i.
Love and Peace,
*Integration is a tricky subject for me. I’m working on a post about it, but it’s not ready. For now, this is all i have to share.
IMAGE: Stefano Marinelli
The sweetness that comes with remembrance of youth was never mine
Instead a tree overladen with bitter fruit
bowed to the ground and scattered about with rotten flesh
To taste of it is to be spirited away to Nowhere, Neverwhere
My body flows through with its potent poison
numb and heavy and dully moving for no reason save because
Twisted roots bequeathing its sick mythologies
filling me up with wrongness and setting my feet on the wrong path
Oh, but where i walked there grew green things
My calloused feet yet kissed the earth and warm things drew close
to drink in my beauty and rest awhile in my light
They whispered secrets before they flew and i marked where they went
A simple song of a little wild thing, sung in fairytale keys
She turns her bright chubby face towards the horizon
Her upturned nose as dear as her tremulous voice
She stops when i stumble and beckons me on to the glow in the distance
~ Mine, September 29, 2020
*Sat on this one for a long while. Couldn’t make myself trash it, but couldn’t get myself to post it, either. Poetry is a loaded subject for me to begin with, although not for reasons of my past in a direct way (indirectly, everything is), but when any writings pop up in my drafts folder that aren’t from me specifically, i struggle. This one makes me cringe. Frankly, i hate it. I think i know who wrote it, and she’s 8, and i find connection with the younger parts difficult. I decided to post it because i’ve been trying to connect with them, to shed the disgust that came on me due to what was done to me, not who and where i was age-wise at the time it was done. I can see the distinction intellectually, but to live with it as truth and function on the daily from that understanding is quite another thing.
IMAGE: qi bin
Then he flew away in flames
Did the False False Fly
From the lovely little child on the road
‘Twas the devil in disguise
Was the False False Fly’
Said the lovely little child on the road
~ Jane Siberry, False False Fly
It’s been suggested on probably dozens of occasions, by dozens of people who care about me, that i cut myself a break – that i’m too hard, too critical, too immovable on the subject of my own culpability. There are areas where they’re wrong, there are places from which those comments come that speak more of their care for me than any truth to what they’re saying, but still… I know that moderation is something that i must always work on, and that it’s in balance i’ve found the most peace and possibility for more and better.
In my therapy session today, Ms T touched on it, as well. She pointed out and reinforced how far i’ve come, how much progress i’ve made. It is a hard thing to hold inside me for any length of time. As i sit in front of this screen and bring these things to mind, i can see it, i know it, i feel it. However, once i step away from the keyboard and back into my world and its day-to-days, it slips from my mind and drips between my fingers. My palms are stained in blood red judgment and my mind is filled with the voices of those that would condemn me – both those i made and those made by others. And i’m haunted by the voices of those long gone; my mother mostly, dead 30yrs now, but also those who are only dead to my life: siblings, stepfamily, peers, church associates… All those save her have faded until i can barely hear them any more, and even then only occasionally. Her voice can still do battle with some of my most potent parts, or join with others that she and her gang of super-bastards created in me. Ms T thinks it’s the last gasp of the invaders, and my own creations are stepping forward in confidence and safety – or at least making a solid, though tentative attempt.
This process has caused some parts of me to revolt a bit, sliding back into old behaviours as i sit with the terror they imbue. I’m as patient as i can be with these parts/children of mine that live in my brain and clutter it up with their own personalities and accompanying issues. Today i think it’s a good thing i split myself up into more manageable pieces, because i have a barge load of issues. My mother threw me into a roiling, angry ocean with no life preserver. If i’d not been able to parse it out, i’d have sunk like a stone. I’d have either died literally, or the part of me that remembers who i am and carries the blueprint for putting me back together would have been forever lost.
I survived, but more than that, while i might struggle with what most find to be a less-than-average level of function (myself included), i am sort of incredible in very recognisable ways.
I’m not a super-bastard, like my mother and her cronies intended.
I’m not even a shitty person. Sure, i can, have, and will do shitty things sometimes, but i’m a good, decent, kind person. I still love humanity, too. They couldn’t take any of that from me. My nurture, particularly for the first 8yrs of my life, was diametrically opposed to my nature. I won’t speak to the scientific debate of such, one, because i’m not sufficiently educated, and 2, because this blog isn’t for that. While i work every day at being a critical thinker, being a multiple lands me in some contentious psychological territory. The way my brain works is strange and not yet well mapped out. So i’ve made a conscious and willful decision to lay those concerns down and just work with what i’ve got. All i know is what my brain does and how life looks for me; how i handle life and process it all.
Some time ago, i posted a piece called I Am Amazing, which i’d completely forgotten until i started trying to write this. So… I’ve already done the work. I know the truth of it – i’m just not connected to it.
This is life as me and this is why i blog.
I’m at least average intelligence. Ah, i think so, anyway (the older i get and the more i learn, the less i’m sure of that, though). I’ve been working on the problem of my fuckedupness for my entire adult life, and over the years i’ve accumulated a not-insignificant quantity of information in the field of psychology and mental illness. It’s very lay person in nature, lacking in history and the hard science bits to be sure, but i have a fairly good grasp of the soft science of it – at least until you enter the field of neuroscience (which is fascinating, and i have learned some from Ms T). But despite everything i know about myself, how i work, and how to figure out and deal with my shit – i can and do still get it twisted.
The best solution i’ve found is getting it all out, either talking, blogging, or often, both. I just reread that piece (I Am Amazing) and it’s exactly what i’ve been trying to do for the last few days. I’d sit down at the keyboard, bash away a bit, backspace it all, curse like a sailor, slap the Notebook closed, and go do something else. But the words were already there, and posted. I can see how far i’ve come when i give it a writer’s distance. In other words, i’m dissociated from it – i lack connection to the information. I can think it, but i don’t feel it. I am only now, in my 50s and after a dozen years of (excellent) therapy, moving away from my overriding belief about myself: If anyone knew the real me, they’d see how terrible i am, and leave me, angry and disgusted with what they saw.
I’ve wanted to believe that’s not true for many years now. I’ve leaned hard on the opinions of those i trust so i don’t break under the weight and pressure of looking at my past and my inner workings. Over the last year or so i’ve actually come to believe that it’s possible that i’m not awful, that i might be decent, kind – even lovable and perhaps worthwhile (there is a soupçon of sarcasm in that, but not nearly enough). But still i am lacking connection. There’s a space between what my mind can perceive and what i can tolerate feeling inside my body:
– acceptance and approval from others;
– acceptance and approval from myself;
– belief that i am enough;
– belief that i am worthy of the good in life;
– love from others;
– love of myself.
I was treated like a thing, like property growing up, yet even though i got away, i’ve continued to live my life like i’m spoilt. Forever ruined. Full of poison; ugly and rotten inside. I’ve never gotten away from it.
I think all this work is getting me to this crux. Do i let myself free fall into this? Do i trust that my parachute is functional and will bear me down to solid ground, where i’ll walk away and live as a new being in a new land? Because man, lemme tell you, i will be different and the world will be different, too. To live my life free of these toxic beliefs about myself would change no less than everything.
I have to talk about this, not just write. This is the thing, the problem, the monkey on my back, the cross i bear. Can i mend this broken connection, can i live out what i’m learning, can i feel what i feel while knowing what i know? Can i feel all the pain and betrayal and isolation of the past while knowing it wasn’t my fault and i’m still a good/nice/decent/kind person, that i’m not bad/gross/foul/despoiled? Can i believe that it broke me but didn’t destroy me? Do i have the inner and outer supports in place that i might risk that step out of the airplane?
Fuck if i know.
I’m pretty sure i’m gonna go for it. Soon. There is only so much babystepping i can do before i’m at the edge and it all comes down to a moment. I’ve been a doomsday prepper for my own life. Time for trust. Me, my partner, my therapist, my friends. Time to test the hypothesis. Am i going to live out I Am Amazing? Can i? Am i? There is a preponderance of evidence to suggest that these good things are true and these bad things are not. If i’m to be the critical thinker i’m striving so hard to be, mustn’t i now let go of old superstitions that were brainwashed and beaten into me, and wrong, harmful concepts that i embraced in order to survive my abusers? I already know intellectually that the abuse is over and i’m safe, and everything i’ve learned since i got away from them has taught me that they were liars, users, perverted opportunists, who took my need for love and care, and forged it into a weapon to use against me. The thing of it is that, even once i was free of them, the weapon passed to my hand and i continued the woundings, bloodletting because that’s what i was taught. No one’s asking or expecting me to martyr myself anymore. Those who would are either dead or out of my life. There is no cause, no god to die for. It’s well past time to lay the weapon down.
Well, this went in a direction i wasn’t expecting. Just life as a highly dissociative human seeking homeostasis and happiness, yee haw.
Stay tuned. I’m never boring – so i’ve got that going for me.*
I’ve struggled harder than usual with this post. Discovering i’d done the work a while back was a shock. You’d think i’d be used to losing time, and of course i am, but it’s still a psychic slap in the face. Fading, sliding, and switching is not fun. It’s not cool. It’s not like the tropes you see in tv and movies (don’t even get me started… that’s a post full of hurt and rage, and i’m not about that right now). It’s jarring and frightening and disrupting. It steals memories from me and puts distance between me and those i love. It saved my life a long time ago, but now it is a roadblock to me having the life i want.
I already did the work and i didn’t remember.
I slept on this before deciding whether or not to post it. Much of what i write, especially lately, doesn’t make the cut. I’ve been trying to write when i’m in a dissociative state, to maybe get a better handle on things. Understand more. Gain more control. But it’s not fit to read. It doesn’t add to what this blog is, basically because it’s meandering, rambley, often ranty, and occasionally unsettling. I’ve been bashing away at this post for an entire week, which is unlike me. Once i know what i’m writing about, things generally flow. When i struggle this hard, i’ve taken it as a sign that i’m not ready for the subject matter, or i’m off base with the whole concept. I leave them in my drafts for a while, for consideration, but i’ve always ended up trashing them.
I’m not sure if this post will make any sense to anyone but me. I can see that i’m trying to connect with myself. I’m reaching out for my own hand, searching inside myself for pathways home. In a way, i dispersed myself inside my own brain, where i dwelt in foreign lands until i could return safely. This work is to gather all my bits together and be more cohesive, more functional, more useful, more involved with the world and engaged with its other inhabitants. I don’t think it will ever be what some professionals call “integration,” but i hope to emerge from the fog that i’ve been in my entire life. I hope to embrace the things that i wrote in I Am Amazing; to bring it home to live with me like my system and my physical body.
I’ll close with a quote from the inimitable Bukowski:
Poetry says too much in too short a time; prose says too little and takes too long.
If you made it this far, thank you.
If you got anything out of it, all the better.
Try to be as good as you can to yourself this week, and i will do the same.
Love and Peace,
*My hubs and kid might disagree. Heh.
IMAGE: Timothy Eberly
Warning: Discussion of body reaction to heavy drinking, including detoxification. Includes body function talk, e.g. toileting, vomiting, and menstruation.
NOTE: This is merely a description of what i go through getting off the sauce. Do NOT do this. It isn’t a step-by-step method. Detoxification from alcohol/drugs should be done under a doctor’s or other accredited professional’s care, at a hospital or other detox facility. I’ve gone to the ER for IV fluids and other care on numerous occasions, and wouldn’t hesitate to go again.
In the past, over time, i’ve learned to share about when i fall. It started out as vague references couched in romantic metaphors, and has progressed to full disclosure about what falling can mean in my life. Among other things, it can mean i lose control to a full switch for a significant period of time. It can mean i engage in any number of destructive behaviours. These have involved things like hitchhiking into the city (i live on a farm more than 30mins away), partying and its ubiquitous drug and alcohol use, which can and has resulted in stays in the “psych ward”, and the involvement of law enforcement. As i’ve improved, the higher risk stuff has disappeared, but taking off, and drug and alcohol* use, can still occur.
Lately, therapy + world events = my anxiety being at a near fever pitch, which means i can experience a hard switch that i cannot control. Well, that’s somewhat redundant, because i can’t control a switch at all. Therapy has me so vulnerable, that i can lose the face before the end of a session. Even long after, i remain raw and easily triggered. My Bits N’ Pieces are either terrified and totally flipping out, or i’ve done enough work that they’re beginning to feel safe in my environment and are asserting themselves a bit more. Understand that i’m not saying it’s one or the other – i’m saying it’s both, it just depends on which part we’re dealing with. They’re not a fun time right now. Everyone is stirred up and i’m losing my grip.
I’m fine for a week or 2, and then BAM, the next thing i know i have a raging hangover and must figure out what the damage is. They crawl into a bottle for a number of reasons: it was used in abuse scenarios, it made social interaction easier in my late teens, and it made consensual sexual encounters as a young adult tolerable. During all those times drinking was not a problem. It became a problem when i first became fully manic in my late 30s. It seemed like that’s when the levee broke, and everything and everyone came flooding out. I’d begun drinking heavily when the mania first started, while i worked a job that had me mostly in various bars. It progressed to the point where i lost my job, lost my oldest son to emancipation, was forcibly committed on more than one occasion, in a detox facility twice, in long term rehab once, and spent a few weeks in an actual mental hospital. At that time, i was completely at the mercy of my system and the mania. They conspired to break me, utterly.
Years and lots of stories that i’ve already told later (like this one, but it’d be hard to read everything, and this is relevant), i’m doing far better than probably most people thought i would. But after a few years of being out of therapy and thinking i was fine, i found out there was more work to do, and that it was the hardest work. It’s exacerbated drinking behaviours, as i once again struggle to manage and control the people who live in my brain. These people who’d all been born by the time i was 10, most of whom masquerade as being older than that.
I’ve been finally, and fully honest about that here, but i haven’t said much about the part where i crawl out of the hole i’d fallen into. I haven’t because it’s ugly, and very, very embarrassing. However, one should know all of it that i can tell. You should have the clearest picture of how dark and far down i’ve been, and how hard i still struggle today. In the truth lies hope, and i know well and surely that it is hope that i offer here. It’s all i have to give the world, and after so many years of contributing little, my love of humanity compels me to do what i can, until i can do more, and then do that, too. I assure you that i aim to.
So we are on to the ugly bits now. This may be full of TMI for some, so a second warning here.
The first thing to know is, while my system is out and very active during a bender, i am not. It’s like blackout drinking, except i wasn’t even there to get to the blackout stage in the first place. The second thing to know/understand, is that they can drink a LOT. My husband and son have both related to me how this can look. They’re dealing with 1 particular part who is clearly drunk; stumbling, slurred speech, etc., and then i’ll switch to another part and will immediately present as sober; the prior symptoms being gone, and i’m speaking and moving without difficulty. They can hand off to each other like this for days, but when my body has had enough and begins to become the primary, unavoidable concern, here is the third thing to know: the little buggers always ditch the party, and leave me holding the bag.
I know immediately something’s been going on upon waking. Sometimes waking is the regular kind, sometimes it’s being slammed back into the face by a part that doesn’t want to handle what’s going on for me, physically. I’ll have a raging headache and my guts will feel like they’ve been the ball in a game of rugby. I’ve the physical certainty that “we’re done here”, coupled with the mental experience of my system hiding in my brain. I hear whispers and soft crying – they know we can’t go any further. There’ve also been occasions where i’m thrust back in the primary position because they’ve gotten me into some trouble they’re either afraid to deal with, or think i’m the only one who can, say, an argument, destruction of property**, or damage to the body**.
I know what’s coming, and brace myself – although there’s nothing to be done but survive the process.
Despite the already terrible state of withdrawal beginning, i usually still feel that buzzy-numbness of being drunk. I know i can’t take anything for my symptoms yet, lest i fall asleep/pass out while my breathing and heart rate drop too low. It’s not that acetominophen raises one’s heart rate, it’s that i can become comfortable enough to fall asleep. (See: My Fear of Dying, coming soon!) If i’m not in bed, i go there.
There, my headache will increase, and then will come the worst –and it won’t leave me for days– nausea. I learned from a doctor years ago, that i likely carry a genetic trait for severe nausea. I’m inclined to believe him. Like one of my sons once remarked, “For someone who hates puking as much as you do, you sure do it a lot.”
In this case i won’t be puking though, and the truth is i almost never do, technically speaking. I retch. Almost nothing will ever come out of me, due to a history of childhood abuse and bingeing/purging. In other words, vomiting during abuse resulted in more abuse, and one of the ways the abuse manifested in later years was to eat until i was physically sick to my stomach.
So the retching has begun, which takes my kicked and punched entrails, and wrings them like a wet dishrag, repeatedly. At some point my heart rate will begin to rise, and so i take some acetominophen and diphenhydramine. The latter never works to suppress the nausea, but it can aid in getting me some sleep. I try because that will soon become impossible. I sleep as much as i can before my body begins removing the poison i’ve put into it. When that happens, i’ll be pissing razor blades and shit for around 12hrs. All while retching my guts into a nearly paralysed state. So i sip as much water as i can – once my guts shut down, there will be no food or water for anywhere from 12hrs, to a full day (for water, food can go longer).
Now i’m sweating: i soak my clothes and the sheets and anyone close to me, i.e. my husband and my dog. I’m alternately hot and then cold. There is no comfortable position; i shift from laying positions, to semi-sitting ones. My back aches and my head feels like it’s being crushed, the base of my skull as if it’s being ground to powder. I feel like i’m going through a rough period, literally. Back when i did menstruate, one could start. I feel as if i’m being filled with cement that’s slowly hardening, except when i must use the washroom, which is frequently. Then, my legs have trouble supporting me and getting me there. Urination has ended but the other isn’t done with me yet. I’m becoming severely dehydrated, with scratchy eyeballs, an itchy, sticky throat, and numb hands and feet. I get random stabbing pains that feel electric.
I want to sleep, but now anxiety manifests in the form of fear of death. I’m gripped by it. I know it’s a part of the process, and that i’m still here so far, but i also know that i’ve repeatedly taxed my body way past what is reasonable or healthy. Now there is no laying, only sitting up as straight as i can. I try to distract myself with mindless games and videos online. Every muscle cries out, my organs feel like stones. My brain feels as if it may explode; the band across my forehead so tight my skull may crack. If it’s daytime, i see movement out of the corners of my eyes. If it’s nighttime, i see figures in the blackness of the room, and behind my eyelids. There are whispery, skittish breaths across my flesh.
These are not full-on DTs, but i would guess they’re similar, if not a precursor.
No food, no water, no sleep, only anxiety and pain. Time passes with excruciating slowness and i sit with it, knowing i deserve it all (i know i do and i don’t, this is just my mindset at the time). My thoughts are drawn inexorably towards all my failures and shortcomings. I’m coated in a foul slick of hopelessness. I feel heavy with despair and shame. At some point my legs start working better, and my body scrapes me out and gets rid of everything. I now notice how very badly i need a shower, but i still can’t stand for long enough to get it done. No, not even 5mins with a bar of soap.
I take acetominophen where i dare, but now it hurts my insides, so only 1 at a time. Two caplets burns (stomach acid) like heck, so i stagger them. Diphenhydramine is not an option. I’m afraid if i go to sleep, i won’t wake up.
After 24hrs, things are usually improving a little, and i begin to drink a bit of water.
The final stages:
– everything tastes like crap, even water;
– thickly chapped lips;
– canker sores on my tongue.
The headache lasts for at least a week.
The nausea comes and goes.
I want to eat compulsively.
At least 1 or 2 days of insomnia.
Three days to 1 week to get back to normal energy/functioning levels.
I’ve only been struggling with this since i started back at therapy 2yrs ago. It’s frightening, dangerous behaviour and i know it. I’ve been working hard for my betterment #1, but also because i know that at my age, my body can’t tolerate much of this, or for long. I’ve stopped every self-destructive habit i’ve ever had, and this one will be no different. I’m no longer abusive, nor do i put others in harm’s way. There’s a process by which my brain figures stuff out. For a long time there had to be general consensus to lay something down or stop it. Now it comes down to me – if i say it’s done, it’s bloody done.
The realisation that the impetus is on me has been a sobering one, in this case especially.
<go ahead and snort – i did>
Yes, i realise there are people, places, and programs out there designed to help this specific problem. I have worked them and sought the receipt of their promises as hard as i sought those offered by religion. If i am, as some claim, “terminally unique”, it will not be from lack of trying or a desire to let go. I am a woman with a particular set of skills that make it difficult to function with the rest of the world on its terms, but i am doing my damnedest.
While there has been a disconcerting return to some undesireable actions while i flop around trying to find my legs out of this psychic primordial ooze, it hasn’t all been about a loss of control. I think some of it comes from trusting myself and freeing myself from the shame that’s followed me for my whole life, like Pigpen’s cloud in the Peanuts comic strip. When i learn something in therapy (like when i learned shame is my body asking for human connection), there comes a time when the rubber meets the road. This may be one of those times, i’m not sure. I am sure i’ll do my best, and if i fall down another hole, no matter what is entailed, i’ll crawl out again.
I watch myself from the inside and from the outside. I provide constant inner commentary on my own life. I see the thing that i was and am, and am becoming. And i have much to say about it all. Maybe it’s worth sharing, but perhaps not. Then i think of that stupid, wonderful starfish, and i know that >>i<< am the starfish. And i am the one who tosses the starfish. I am also the beach and the ocean, and the one who asks why any of it matters.
So i write about drinking to excess and retching and piss and shit and blood and tears.
I write it all out to live.
I write it all out because it seems to be helping.
I write it all out because i must.
And i have a lot ot say about that, too.
So, while i am indeed sorry for the TMI, it was starting to feel like i was hiding/avoiding, so i blogged it. Life as me and all that.
I’m an innocent victim of a blinded alley
And I’m tired of all these soldiers here
No one speaks English, and every thing’s broken
And my Stacy’s are soaking wet
~Tom Waits, Tom Traubert’s Blues
Have as good a weekend as you’re able, and so will i.
Love and Peace,
P.S. The 2 dreams i was going to write about won’t be happening… I waited too long and now they’re gone but for wee snippets. Ah well, lesson learned.
*I know alcohol is a drug, but find the distinction an important one.
** With the exception of a few weeks ago, these haven’t happened in many years.
IMAGE: Melodie Wasser
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 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,
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
Trying is the point of life
So don’t stop trying
~ 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.
When you can’t take it anymore
Why not forget the past
And off you run
No more tears, no more mistakes
Why don’t you just check out your bags and run?
~ Run Baby Run, Amanda Lear
I’m hard-wired to run.
My mother would move us every year or 2, without fail – sooner if folks started becoming suspicious, or the authorities came poking around home or school. The abusers that surrounded me also programmed me to return home at the first sign of danger. /irony
Paedophiles love a multiple, but that’s a different story, and one too dark for me to tell today. Once i left home, i never stayed in one place for very long, maybe, 3-6mos, tops. I never thought anything of it, it was just the way i lived. I’d get antsy and the urge to go somewhere else was never far from me. Memory fades some with age of course, but even now i can think of 32 places i’ve lived in my 53yrs.
I had some decent therapy under my belt when i had my first child, and so i had the insight to promise myself that i’d stay in one place for 1yr minimum for his sake. And one year was the best i could manage. That is, until i moved in with the man who’d become my husband. We lived in our city’s ‘Hood in the same house for 10yrs, and we’ve been out here on our beloved Little Crooked House on the Prairie for 12, now.
But still… I deal with the urge to run on a regular basis.
The therapy i’m in, coupled with our current pandemic, has kicked it up to daily, and sometimes many times a day.
My childhood taught me that some shit is always gonna come down the pike where you gotta skedaddle. You smell trouble brewing, you GTFO ASAP. We always left things behind, too. When we moved we generally had to move fast, say, to evade creditors or avoid Social Services. Other times it was due to local gossip – whispers about the huge woman with the husband that looked like a teenager (he was), or the children that didn’t seem to be properly cared for (we weren’t). There were also occasions when my mother would tank a friendship so badly, that she’d move us out of anger, shame, owed money or apologies… She was the queen of the geographical cure.
I learned not to get attached to things, e.g. clothing, stuffies, pictures, various knickknacks and tchotchkes (isn’t that a wonderful word?), bedding, dishes. Even books could be left behind. (Yes, i’m as aghast as you.) Even some lovely things of my grandparents’ that she inherited upon their deaths. That carried into my adulthood. Although i didn’t leave things behind when i moved out –i left places empty and clean– i manifested my mother’s example in a particular way.*
I didn’t decorate my space.
I didn’t put up pictures or paint or have a decorating style. Bric-à-brac was minimal. And i lived frugally, so i’d take whatever furniture, dishes, bedding, and suchlike that i could get. I’m one of those people that has trouble resisting something if it’s free. Number one, i keep my money for something else. The #2 (hahaha – yes i still laugh at poop jokes) that was quietly hovering in the background, was that if i needed to run, i wouldn’t feel as guilty for leaving things behind because i hadn’t spent money on them.
When we lived in the city and were expecting our third child, i tried to decorate. I watched HGTV all day, every day, and became obsessed with painting techniques and decorating. I started, but i couldn’t finish. I seriously couldn’t. I painted the room, did a cool texture thingy with plastic bags and primer, and started putting up a teddybear border close to the ceiling. I thought i stopped because i was pregnant and tired, which i was, but also negative crap like i was fat and useless and talentless. (Honestly, those teddybears were rather awful. Heh.)
I believe now that it’s tied directly to my reticence to set down roots.
Lest they be torn mercilessly from the ground, you know?
No, says my mind.
No, you never know.
What’s HOME, Precioussss?
I didn’t know, and i distrusted the concept, though i saw it modeled well many times outside of my childhood hellhouse.
My husband and i moved me and our 2 younger boys out of our blue-grey house with the red metal roof, on a relatively quiet street, smack in the middle of the ‘Hood. I was at the peak of my first big mania, working in the entertainment industry. I was partying 5 days a week, engaging in high risk behaviours, and day-drinking while neglecting my children. It would take some time to sell the house and deal with our furious 15yr old who refused to move with us who was trying to figure out how to emancipate himself (and understandably, rightly so). He stayed in the city and we went to live with Mum on the farm. (His mom, but she took me on as her own. She was the sweetest person i’ve ever known.)
It was the right thing to do. I calmed down measurably. I kept my drinking to the weekends when hubs would come and visit. I spent quiet days eating toast and drinking tea with Mum, sleeping, and… And what, i don’t actually don’t know. I was a cavalcade of people taking their place in my face and having their way with my thoughts and body. She accepted it all with gentleness and grace. She mothered my Bits N’ Pieces, and never spoke of it. When i brought it up to her years later, she told me she hardly noticed and every part of me was nice to her and she liked them all.
(Pardon me, friends, while i have a wee cry that she’s gone now, and i miss her so much in this moment.)
That’s a little better. Sister Jeannine was correct when she told me, over-and-goddamn-over, that tears are cleansing and healing. I would roll my eyes at her and she would laugh at me were she still with us.
Ah me, loss is such a bitch.
Sec. Gotta blow my nose.
Anyhoo, the man-thingy made it out to us 6mos later and we moved into the Little Crooked House across the road from Mum. The day my mania hit its apex i had been drinking (i’d returned to it once out of my mother-in-law’s house). I’ve written about what happened at length, and am happy to leave it done. I bring it up to say on that day i tore up our house. I broke things and threw things and did a significant amount of damage.
I’ve been crawling my way out of chaos and dysfunction since then.
Mr. Man works 12-14hrs a day, 6 days a week to support our family.
I turned my attention to raising my children while figuring out my brain and my past, as best i could.
Our house sat damaged; clean but unadorned. We took some of the money we made on the sale of the house and bought new furniture for the first time. I thought i was a post-modernist, minimalist. Ha. Turns out my taste runs to the somewhat masculine, my-living-room-looks-like-a-study, style. Huh. Okie doke. I found myself eyeing a large picture at the local hardware store. It was damaged, and i looked at it every time we went. For months it sat there, not selling, and finally offered the manager a price below what they were asking and he said Sold! We took it home and placed it above our fireplace.
It was my first picture.
Over my years of therapy with my best and current Ms T, i’ve picked up a wall clock and a few tchotchkes. Friends have kindly given me some of that LiveLoveLaugh kinda stuff that i see in other people’s homes. My boys made things at school that i proudly displayed on tables and shelves, and clinging to my refrigerator with magnets. I was almost like a normal, regular mommy. I’ve picked up a lot of mirrors over the years, and Mr. Man has hung a few here and there. (HGTV taught me it makes small spaces look bigger. They were right.)
About a year ago i was shopping at Ikea with my bestie. I’d been back in therapy for a while and was feeling better but worse, as one tends to do when one is doing the therapy thing, i think. Then i saw it. A large, unframed print of a Klimt painting. I love Klimt. No, i adore Klimt. It was one of my favourites, it was on sale. I thought about buying it, walked away, then made myself go back and grab it. I bought it quickly, with as little thought as possible, because i knew that’s what it would take for me to get it home. I also had my husband hang it that evening for the same reason. Progress, w00t!
Still and all, the damage i’d done all those years ago, stayed. The divots and scrapes and holes hung like stark pictures of my pain and failure; coloured in violence and shame. He works so hard i hadn’t the heart to ask him to help me fix it. Plus, i felt i deserved to be reminded of how horrible i can be, how sick and out of control. Bad H. A finger pointed and waggling, poking me hard in the chest. My reaping.
He’s still working enough (so grateful), but his hours are cut and he’s getting some weekends off. Entire weekends, holy crap. He turns to me and asks if i’d like to fix up the bathroom. My eyes well up and i’m nodding as he’s talking about plaster and drywall and paint. He brings home an epic whack of swatches (he works in construction) and i get to choose! He fixes the massive chunk he cut out of the wall when we had a leak, and when i come back to see how things are progressing, i see he’s been patching and sanding outside the bathroom. He’s erasing the damage of my past actions.
Well, i’m a bit of a crybaby today.
Cleeeeansing, heeeealing, H.
Oh look, tears can act as lube for my eyerolling. There’s no click as i look at the back of my brain. Heh.
Work like this has taken me a long, loooong time, but i’m here, i’m doing it, and i’m HOME. We have plans for more paint, and yes, more pictures on the walls. If this madness continues, there may even be curtains, folks!
I’m on my way
Just set me free
Home sweet home…
~ Motley Crue, Home Sweet Home
Y’all hang in there now, y’hear?
Love and Peace,
*My mother also left things behind because she was slovenly and lazy, and hadn’t a shred of gratitude for anything she had, ever.
IMAGE: The Kiss, Gustav Klimt (1907/08)
The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.
~ Sigmund Freud
What? Not everything he said was shite. Even a broken clock and all that, amirite?
I’ve written about my dreams a number of times (nice and vague, cuz i can’t be arsed to check), and the time has come ’round again. My dreaming life has generally been full and often intense. I was treated for night terrors when i was around 5/6, and i still remember the worst of them in stark detail. Knowing what i know now, it’s easy to see what my brain was trying to puzzle out, as my sexual abuse began before i could speak, and was frequent until i was around 6. Then it slowed down some until my mother’s on-and-off relationship with the man i called Daddy fell apart for good when i was around 8, at which point it became sporadic.
Once the regular sexual abuse stopped, my switching behaviour also slowed down dramatically, and my dreams toned down, too. I started puberty far later than average, but when i did, i was once again dealing with sexual abuse, and it’s my belief that the dual stress is what led to a return of brutal and disturbing dreams. The dreams persisted until i left home at 18, returning as i came back home briefly, and again faced sexual and physical assault. They’d come and go as i was triggered, or trying some new therapy. To this day they occasionally plague me; a red flag for which i’ve become grateful.
When i finally entertained the possibility that i was a multiple, and began the long journey of figuring out the who, what, where, and whens of my childhood, studying my dreams extensively, helped. It was there that i realised that i needn’t recover any memories – they were all there every night in my dreams. Their subject matter, the way they played out as i slept, how i felt the next morning looking back on them… I couldn’t know these things and survive my environment, so my brain disguised them as dreams; keeping them safe until i was able to process their content.
Home movies i’d hidden in my attic.
Confirmation that i wasn’t crazy without cause.
Once i knew what they truly were, they became a part of my daily experience of myself as a person, and the dreaming of these memories stopped.
I kept dreaming, though. My brain is marvelous, and takes as good care of me as it can. It still communicates to me as i sleep, dancing and singing for me, lovely and terrible. My dreams reflect where i’m at mentally and emotionally. They can alert me to the stuff that’s going on behind the scenes that may require my attention. Dreams are a great processing tool for my brain to help me figure my shit out. It keeps on grinding away at various problems while i’m recharging my body’s batteries.
I don’t hold with anyone else analysing my dreams for me. I can usually figure out my own dreams, thanks. (This is one of the places where Dr. Freud needs to back TF up.) I’ve done enough inner work to know myself, and so it’s usually obvious what my dreams are saying to me. On the rare occasion that i wake up nonplussed, i have a method for interpretation that works well. A nun taught it to me years ago when i was in a halfway house run by the RCC. I write out the dream in first person, then i read through it and underline any words that jump out at me. I then take the underlined words and give them a personal definition, one by one. Once that’s done i’ve usually found some clarity.
Over the course of my life my dreams have been highly thematic. When i was very young i dreamed of a house filled with death, being pursued by a faceless evil thing, and being covered in bugs. The bug dreams were so terrifying that bugs became a lifelong phobia, so intensely so that even thinking i might have seen a bug could trigger a petit mal seizure (now commonly referred to as an absence seizure).* My dreams during adolescence and young adulthood were mostly about getting lost, and becoming separated from loved ones. The worst though, were the ones that mixed sex and death. Those were guaranteed to be followed by 1 or more sleepless nights, depending on severity.**
The last 15yrs or so, my dreams are generally about 1 of 2 things: It’s either the getting lost/losing loved ones dreams, or cleaning house/taking care of children. That second one might sound innocuous, but i assure you that it’s not. They’re the most emotionally draining dreams i’ve ever had (which, admittedly, could be due in part to the fact that i’m not as dissociative as i used to be). I’m in someone else’s house –before my happy estrangement from my parents’ families– and it’s messy, so i start tidying up. Instead of things getting better, i keep discovering more and more clutter, and eventually there’s filth everywhere i look and nothing i do seems to lessen it. Anyone else in the house with me is either oblivious or uncaring. These dreams can involve children. I start out caring for babies and toddlers, and am quickly bogged down with cleaning them and cleaning the house.
I’m not much for kids, to be frank. I love mine, i love my grandchildren. It’s not that i don’t like kids, although i used to think that’s what it was. It’s that being around children is one big triggerfest for me; i spend my time with them bracing for the next unintentional potshot. When i’m actively working with my system to improve my life and level of daily functionality, it’s worse.
In my dreams though, i love all of them. I’m happy to take care of them, even when they’re crying or covered in crap and needing a bath or generally running wild and misbehaving. I’m filled with love and i can feel how invested i am in their care. If there are other people in the house, they never help with the kids – i’m on my own. Sometimes i lose track of them and i’m running around the house frantically, trying to find them. In my dreams, once i lose someone i never find them again. Sometimes they grow bigger as i’m caring for them, which is fine, but other times they morph into something not quite human, and those are the worst dreams. No matter what the children are doing, anyone around me that’s adult gives precisely zero fux.
These dreams may not be nightmarish, but they’re exhausting. I wake from these feeling like i haven’t slept at all. I’m wrung out emotionally, mentally, physically.
And knowing myself like i do, it wasn’t hard to understand why i was having such dreams, and why they’d affect me in such a way.
The doctor who treated my Night Terrors as a child taught me a skill that instantly became invaluable, one that’s saved me countless times since. He taught me all about lucid dreaming. He told me how to figure out if i was dreaming or awake, which is what led to my realisation that some of my dreams were actually memories. He showed me how to wake myself up. Ms T (my therapist) says that a multiple’s mutant superpower is her imagination, and i think she’s correct. Everything that doctor taught me i understood with little to no explanation. When he told me i could fly away from the bad things in my dreams, i did it the very next time a night terror gripped me; i flew away and woke myself up. The ability to recognise that i’m dreaming ebbs and flows according to how i’m doing mental health wise, but once i know i’m in a dream, at the very least i can pull myself out of it. Sometimes the best i can do is pull myself into another dream, but at least i got out of the one i was trying to get away from.
And lately my ability has drastically increased.
I’ve been doing and saying things that i never have before, and some of it isn’t even a lucid choice i’m making. I see it as confirmation that this work i’m doing is taking root, it’s becoming a part of me and how my brain works.
I AM HEALING.
Some cool dream stuff i’ve been doing lately:
I’ve stood up for myself to people who were treating me badly.
I’ve told my mom NO, and even told her off a few times. My mom! /mouth agape
I found my way back when i got lost in a mall. (Once i’m lost i’ve always stayed lost, wandering in maze-like places, never getting back to the place i wanted to be.)
And the children… I’m not losing them, they’re not getting dirtier or changing into something scary/gross. They stay with me and we have a good time. I’m suffused with love for them. Knowing i’m dreaming changes it not a whit.
Estranged/dead family members still pop into my dreams, but they don’t ruin me. Nothing they do goes unanswered. (I’ve always just taken it – in real life and in dreams.)
I know this piece is a bit off the beaten path, even for me, but the way i see things, this is a big deal. My dream life has always been a huge part of who i am, and i find this change significant. It makes me feel good about the work i’ve done, and emboldens me to continue.
My dreams steadfastly refuse to forget what happened to me.
My dreams assure me that i’m not crazy for no reason.
My dreams keep telling me when there’s something terribly wrong, and t’isn’t me or my fault.
My precious, precious, marvelous, fantastical brain. I love it so.
Yes, it’s weird how i treat it like it’s my best friend and not quite me.
It’s weird and accurate.
Maybe one day i’ll be able to explain that, but for now, my brain art (dreams) is telling me i’m helping and all of me is feeling better.
They say that dreams are only real as long as they last. Couldn’t you say the same thing about life?
~ Waking Life (2001)
This freaky, overthinking weirdo wishes you the best of everything.
Hang in there.
Love and Peace,
*I was epileptic as a child; it’s now considered dormant.
**I’m not including the memories that came to me as dreams.
PICTURED: “Having a moment” in the movie, Waking Life.
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.
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,
*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.