Baby, I’m On Fire

I set myself on fire last week. Yes, literally.

This last 2wks i’ve been either slidey* or outright switched. I’ve required near constant supervision, lest i leave, or get up to other sorts of destructive behaviours. Unfortunately, after 5 or 6yrs of no interventions, the police and ambulance were called to determine if i was a danger to myself or others. Although it was determined i was definitely not a threat to others, i did a small stint in the hospital, where i received good care. The doctor offered (or perhaps urged, heh) that i stay longer for more assistance, but i was allowed to leave when it was clear i have family/friend/therapist support at home. He prescribed some medications to help ease my anxiety, and they’ve helped.

I saw my therapist and she always calms me. She helps me see my path more clearly and refocus, but unfortunately, she’s a real, live human, with other clients, a family and a life of her own, and thusly i cannot carry her with me wherever i go.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that this stage of my therapy involves learning to feel my feelings without dissociating. I’m not looking for perfection. I’m not looking for “integration” (i’m not even sure what that word means with regards to multiples), but i am looking for a higher level of day-to-day functionality, and a greater degree of healing.

To put it a little more clearly, when i was abused as a child, my brain severed the connections between my thoughts, my emotions, and my physical sensations, in order to survive trauma so great that i simply had no ability to understand, let alone process it. Without connection, without the means to apprehend what had happened/was happening to me, some of those thoughts and emotions, even some moments frozen in time in my mind, developed their own personalities, from flat and static, to a couple who’re more fully rounded than some people i’ve known. (That was snarky i know, but i’m leaving it, because it’s true. Pfft.)

Continuing on then, i leave the safety and support of my counsellor’s office, and step out into a world that is currently full of triggers. I’ve lived my life either not noticing, or quickly dissociating from these things. I had to, or i simply wouldn’t’ve been able to function at all. I would’ve been stuck in trauma-response, unable to work, to have relationships, to care for myself or others, in other words, to participate in what it means to be alive. I myself would’ve been frozen in time.
The gazelle that freezes when she sees the tiger.

The ability to dissociate not only saved my life growing up, it allowed me to be somewhat effective as an adult. However, as time passed i could see it was only minimally helpful, and in certain cases quite harmful. I wanted more from life, especially once i had children.

I learned to live my life as a multiple, the insight into how my brain works making my life easier and better than it had ever been before… Until a little over a year ago. I was living a reasonably happy and successful life, when i suddenly crashed. It wasn’t like my Thelma&Louise crashes of the past, thankfully. (I play both parts, just fyi.) But i wanted to party, which is something i don’t much care for now, and i felt that old childhood imperative that my abusers had programmed into me to GO HOME; a place that doesn’t exist anymore, and would be beyond dangerous for me if it did.

I had the sense to get my ass back into therapy. When i asked her what i was doing wrong, she said, “Not a thing. You are taking such good care of your brain that your body is now wanting that same care and attention.”
My body is tired of being numbed out and alone. It wants to rejoin my brain. It wants me to listen to it as diligently and lovingly as i did my brain.
And i want to. I know it’s the good and right thing to do for me, but it is a haaaard thing.
It is perhaps, the hardest thing i’ve done in my life, to date.

I stay in my body and feel my emotions and physical sensations, while knowing what i know — that i was repeatedly traumatised from birth, until my mother died when i was in my early 20s.

This was a difficult concept for me to grasp, so i can imagine that it may be for others, as well. I’ll provide an example to help explain:
One of my abusers would always jingle the change in his pocket. As an adult, i would often hear the sounds made by coins jingling together, and when i’d hear it i was bothered, unsettled somehow. But the memory of the man who did that was held by a part of me that i wasn’t personally connected to, and so the pain of what he did to me didn’t consciously affect me, it just left me with a vague sense of unease. The reason it upset me was kept from me by both the little girl bit that lives in my brain who remembered, and the part of my body that he had hurt, and while i’ve now connected to the girl who’s held that memory, i hadn’t yet connected to the pain that he’d caused in my body.

So now, today, when i hear change jingling, i remember the man and what he did, but i also feel the pain in my body: the terror making my heart beat faster, the violation of my genitals, the itch in my legs to run away. I don’t just remember, i feel it, and although this may not make sense, in a way it is for the first time.

This has been my life for the last few months. I’m triggered frequently, repeatedly, daily, and i sit with it and i remember and i feel it and i hang on for dear fucking life, until the connection has been made. My Bits N’ Pieces are being reconnected to my body and so am i.
I’ve lived my life playing dead so the bear won’t eat me, but the bear’s long gone and it’s time for me to rise up and join the living.

It’s terrifying, painful work, and i’m physically and psychically exhausted.

So last week, i get it in my head that i must purge the clutter in my house. I’m convinced that i’m drowning my entire family in hoard (i don’t come remotely close to such a diagnosis), and i’ve got to get it out of the house or everyone’s going to get sick and die. While my family’s been great at helping me with this (we’ve been slowly decluttering over the last few months), i had some angry, protective parts come out and start throwing out everything they could get their hands on, including some heavy items that i have no business lifting, given my current fibro flare and the osteopenia in my lumbar region.
Once their rage was spent, as is my system’s way, a little part came out to be a “good girl”, to try to assuage any hurt feelings the angry ones may have caused. She came out to help.

I was raised part urban, part rural, and i know how to use a burning barrel. It was my job as a kid to use it, and save us a trip or 3 to the dump.
But i didn’t know how to do that when i was 5.
She wanted to help, and there was some paper/cardboard trash that needed burning.
So she poured gasoline all over everything in the burning barrel and lit it with a little cigarette lighter.

I was slammed back into the face by her terror and pain and i heard the WOOF! as the fumes lit. I felt the fire kiss my face from my hairline to my top lip. The fire lingered a little longer on my right hand and danced about halfway to my elbow. It took a couple of seconds, no more, but it seemed longer. Every emotion was intensified by me having not been there before it happened.
Which has happened to me countless times, and it’s never not been scary.
To find myself in a completely different situation from the one i last remember, with no consciousness of the passage of time, where in fact it seems like 1 second one thing is happening, and the very next second i’m somewhere else entirely doing a completely unrelated thing… Well, i would imagine that would scare just about anyone.

I singed off a fair bit of my hairline, and most of my eyebrows and eyelashes. (Which i’ve spent time and money regrowing due to trichotillomania. /majoreyeroll) The tip of my nose got it pretty good, so i’ve referred to myself as Rudolph for the last week, heh. There’s a bit of scabbing on my upper lip, but not noticeable, i just feel it. It was my hand that got the worst of it, with significant blistering and lizardy feeling skin across my hand about a third of the way to my elbow, plus 2 second degree burns on my fingers, and a third degree on my thumb.
I’m sure we all realise this could have been much, much worse.

In this blog i share my day-to-days: adventures, misshaps, and ho-hums all, to help myself sort my shit out, to help foster understanding of those of us living with mental illness (like me), and those of us considered neuroatypical (also me). I also write to reach out to those like me, to let them know they aren’t alone, and to offer hope that they might too, find their way to a place of functionality and happiness that works for them.

My point with this post is quite specific, and of utmost importance for me to understand.

Sometimes, no matter how much work i’ve done or how far i’ve come, shit’s gonna happen. I’m not a danger to others – for instance, if i’d been around children, angries and littles wouldn’t have come out that day, only protectors.
But sometimes, sometimes my brain is just gonna do what my brain’s gonna do.
I am who i am, and i’m finally starting to like me. Not just accept, not just love, but i’m growing attached to me. I’m rather fond of myself. I’d hang out with someone exactly like me.
Crazy, broken, occasionally completely dysfunctional me.**
Yes, i’m working hard AF to get to what i consider to be a higher level of function – i’m seeking more happiness and more usefulness and just, i don’t know, more presence and availability to the world around me and the beings sharing space with me in it.

BUT

I’m absolutely fine and right and good already.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*What i call a dissociative state where i’m some level of conscious of what’s happening to and around me, but i’m unable to affect my own actions and have little to no agency – it’s sort of like watching myself on tv.
**I know some of these descriptors don’t work for everyone, but they do for me.

Well, Ain’t That A Kick in the Head?

Mid-October 2016 is the last time i wrote about my physical pain at any length. It hasn’t gone away. In fact, it’s been steadily, yet thankfully slowly, building since back then. This new therapy has intensified my fibromyalgia pain, but it’s more than that. Sure, pain can be based in psychic trauma, and the stresses of day-to-day living can amp it up, but there’s more going on.

I’m just not dissociating as much.

I’ve done all this work and it’s brought me here. I know i refer to it in nearly every piece i write, but i’m not sorry for the repetition. It’s important, i think, to hammer it home for anyone reading my blog. It’s one of the most important things i want to get across. Not that this kind of thing takes a lot of work; this dealing with childhood abuse, and the way the brain and body copes with the devastation.

You already know that.

What i’m driving at is that it’s all work that we’re doing – this surviving it.
It’s all good work.

I hurt, and i had a dysfunctional and unsatisfying life and i wondered why.
I thought about it and i asked questions and took suggestions and tried things. And then i thought some more and i talked to people – professionals, friends, mentors, religious and lay folks, gurus, anybody… everybody. And then i thought some more. I pondered and i marinated, and i tried some more stuff and read books and went to lectures and joined groups and took courses, and i drew a smidge of wisdom from this and a pocketful of encouragement there and a wee cup of self-awareness from that, and i kept on going.
I picked up tiny jewels of truth here and there and i locked them up in a vault inside me, guarding them carefully, watching over them like treasure, like innocent babies who only had me to keep them safe.

All this movement, all this questing, all this work, all this surviving i did over the years, and yet i despaired a thousand times that i was getting nowhere, changing nothing, and learning little, fearing that i would be forever lost and broken and rudderless.

I kept looking back and seeing only the passage of time and my footprints.
Plus lots and lots of mess.
There were times i stopped. Sometimes frozen with fear, sometimes collapsed with exhaustion, sometimes consumed with rage, and many, many times weighed down to immobility by the cruel and crushing weight of my past.

But i learned to weather those tonic storms, to honour them, and as i’ve worked and persevered, i’ve drawn closer to the light.

There’s enough light now that i can look back and see, with emergent clarity, that nothing i did or did not do was in vain. All the mess was garbage that needed to be tossed: structures that needed to be torn down, toxic relationships that needed to be ended, hoarded memories that needed purging. The swamps filled with poison that i swam around in – it was poison that had washed out of ME, and i left it behind when i finally crawled out, cleansed. It was all good work.

Because i sought, because i wanted, because i tried, it all mattered.
Here, in this moment, i have both peace and confidence. I am, at last, at a place where i am no longer at the whim of unconscious and reflexive coping skills and protective actions that ceased being helpful long ago.
I am leaving behind my life in the land of the dead, and moving into the light, to live with the living. Yes, there are bits and pieces of me that are still afraid, but i’m not anymore.
I’m no longer stuck in a feedback loop, replaying the horrors of my past.

I’m in this current bit of business now because i want to be. I’ve done enough to manage and be okay, both for myself and my loved ones. But i want MORE. I want the next level, whatever it is that is more than just enough – and i suspect that is usefulness.

And to that end i am telling you, that i think, that as long as i keep seeking and wanting and trying, that nothing i have done or not done will be in vain.

**********

I was talking about physical pain. Right. Heh.

I was officially diagnosed with fibromyalgia in early ’98, after a car accident in August of the prior year. I tried many different treatments, all to little or no avail. I suffered tremendously – and then suddenly i didn’t. I mean, i still had pain, for sure, but it wasn’t like before. The intensity lessened and i was no longer consumed by it, every day, all day, where it even chased me into my dreams and i would moan and cry myself awake.

At first i thought it was a supplement i’d been given to try, but when that stuff was scientifically debunked, i stopped taking it and my symptoms did not intensify. I still had the occasional flareup, but my pain levels didn’t spike nearly as high as they had. I thought maybe i’d just become acclimated.
I watched other people with the diagnosis suffer far more, and i told myself i was fortunate to not’ve been afflicted as terribly as they.

This was shortly after my massive weight loss, the mania that followed, and the more conscious and chaotic experience of my multiplicity that quickly took hold of me whilst in that state.

It’s probably obvious where i’m going with this, but i’ll spell it out anyway.

As i’ve become sounder of mind and clearer of purpose, so has my pain become bigger and harder to ignore. I’ve tempered the voices in my head and adjusted their various volumes, only to have the confusion they brought replaced by so-called “fibro fog”, which happens when pain saps my energy and robs me of deep sleep.

I remember my doctor sending me to our city’s FMS specialist, for an official diagnosis. I don’t know if it’s still done this way, but one of the things he checked was my response to certain trigger points in my body. All but 2 of them were very tender.
The pain was terrific, sometimes all i knew. There were days i couldn’t move without tears. I gained a prodigious amount of weight. I slept my days away, yet never felt rested.

Then i had another baby and i needed to do better. So i had weight loss surgery, and well, i’ve already mentioned here what followed: thin begat bipolar mania begat dissociative chaos begat a parade of people who live in my brain coming out to experience life in the face and wreak not a small amount of havoc.
But my fibro had become easily manageable. I figured the weight loss had done it.

I spent years learning how my brain worked and how to coexist with my Bits N’ Pieces and live a decently functional life.
And i got there and thought i was done.
But i wasn’t satisfied after a while, and more than that, i became unsettled, my carefully constructed wa was rattled. I then did what i do — i thought about it and went looking for answers and for help finding them.
And what i found was that there was more work to do if i wanted, and i knew right away that i did.

This work involves being in my body and feeling my feelings -both emotions and physical sensations- while being present in my brain and listening to what it’s saying. My thoughts and my emotions and my sensations have been disconnected from each other since i was a baby enduring trauma.
I’m bringing myself back together, and the physical pain is a sign that it’s working.

Well, ain’t that a kick in the head?

It’s all coming back to me now. The pain, the insidiousness of it, the gaping maw of it. I see how it swallowed me whole back then, and i looked up hopelessly from the bottom of its belly as it slowly digested me.
This time ’round it’s different.
The pain is still incredible. I’ve woken to a painful throat from moaning in my sleep. Mornings are awful, the pain and the stiffness at times barely tolerable. I often wake as tired as i was when i fell asleep, or more. It’s advanced in severity over the years, quietly and unbeknownst to me. I can feel it seeping into the bones of my hands, like i’ve been in subzero temperatures with no gloves. I was recently diagnosed with osteopenia in my lumbar region, and i can feel the fibro ache radiating like an electric sun. I’m going in to see the doctor after a bunch of tests that were ordered because i’m now telling her about things i used to ignore, like chronic UTIs, like plummeting blood sugar, like maybe tennis elbow?

And friends, writing is a misery. I have little energy, and my brain is cloudy. I can’t find the words to formulate a cohesive sentence, and i get frustrated and tired out so quickly. Grrr. Argh.
But i’m learning too, and it’s not as hard as it once was. Because i’m in my body and feeling the pain, i can figure out where and how much i can push through it. I’m finding ways to still have the quality of life i desire, according to my current set of limitations. I’m being reasonable, and careful, and conscious. One of the most helpful things i’ve learned over the years is that small tweaks over time is what works best for me. Don’t push too hard or too fast, jumping in with both feet doesn’t tend to work well.

All the work i’ve done prior is coming into play. The small tweaks, the slow pace, the mindfulness, sharing my thoughts with a safe person, breathing, gentle self-talk, hygiene, and today, finishing a piece for my blog in spite of wicked pain. A piece that took many more days than i’d wish, but a thing that wouldn’t have been conceivable, let alone doable, all those years ago when fibromyalgia first made a meal out of me.

One more thing – i thought the urge to dissociate from this pain would be a constant battle, but amazingly, it’s not. Once again, i believe it’s all the work i’ve done that’s making this possible. I’ve been careful and diligent with the others who live with me in my brain. I’ve gotten to know them and addressed their concerns and met their needs as much as i’m able, thus winning their trust and earning their compliance and assistance. We’re as close to one mind as we’ve ever been, and so my desire has become theirs. My work, their work.

I’m not looking to suffer, i don’t think there’s anything redemptive or rewarding to be found in it, but it’s what some people do, every day. They learn to cope, to live, with suffering and pain, emotional and physical. They don’t leave their bodies, they don’t perform psychic surgery on themselves, they don’t play dead – they deal with it.

I want to be more like regular people, like normal people. Let me immediately follow that statement by saying a couple of things:

1) I don’t want to hear about What’s normal? Who’s normal?
While i grok the sentiment behind it, i know what i mean when i say that – to be just a little bit more like other people. You are of course, free to not want those things.
And,

2) I’m both mentally ill and neuroatypical, depending on your definitions, and while i’d love to ditch the Bipolar Disorder, that’s not how it works and i’m okay with that. Being a multiple is considered by some to be more neuroatypical than a disorder, and although i’m moving in a direction that some might call integration, i personally don’t see how my brain works in that regard as a “disorder”.
NOTE: I am not a professional, these are just the thoughts and feels of someone living with it, not someone who’s gone to school to understand and treat it.

I want to live as present a life as i can, including feeling pain, both physical and not.


Yeah, i’m still a bit crazy.
I like me this way.

IMAGE: Without Hope (1945), Frida Kahlo

Uh-Oh

The irrational in the human has something about it altogether repulsive and terrible, as we see in the maniac, the miser, the drunkard or the ape.
~ George Santayana

Now that i’ve mapped out how i was indoctrinated and gaslit into thinking i was a bitch my whole life, and how i figured out that that just ain’t so, on to the next…

Another scary thing sits on my horizon. She looks like some kind of ape or monkey. Sometimes she’s sitting there crosslegged, with a massive grin on her face, her teeth too many and too big, and sometimes she gets up and does a goofy dance – a shuffle and hitch, toe-to-heel thing. If you’ve seen that cartoon orangutan dancing GIF, you’re there.
She’s Mania, and she wants to come out and play.

I’m not just a multiple, i’m bipolar. I don’t generally use “DID”, because i don’t see being a multiple as a disorder. My experience being bipolar though, definitely warrants the term. A brief history:

I wasn’t diagnosed until around 2006, in my late 30s. That might seem odd, and well, it is, but so am i. Heh. Being as involved in self-knowledge and therapy as i am, i think i, and the medical professionals involved in my diagnosis, have figured out why it took so long.

Fat.
I’ve had disordered eating since birth, being regularly starved, bribed, placated, and rewarded with food. I hit chubby at around 8yrs old and worked my way up to morbidly obese after i got married at 30. Food was my antidepressant and anxiety medication, and the resultant fat was my protection from people and the world around me. Fat kept me warm and insulated from the chill of rejection, and it put a wall between me and sex and sexual attention.
More than that though, i think it kept my system in a drug-like stupor. It fed the starved bits and numbed those born of sexual trauma, and shushed the angry ones.
I used food as a drug to take the edge off of the intensity of my thoughts, my physical sensations, and my emotions. I self-thorazined with fat and sugar. I over-satiated myself into an emotional coma. Zombified.

Seeing Carnie Wilson have gastric bypass on the internet woke me from my slumber, poking me with the sharp stick of possibilities. I might not be stuck in my ever-growing wall of bloated flesh. I had a vague, Suzy Creamcheese notion that losing the weight would help me get rid of emotional baggage. I had no clue whatever that a literal maniac (n. A person who has an excessive enthusiasm or desire for something, n. A person who acts in a wildly irresponsible way) lie dormant inside, awakened and gradually set free, her prison bars dissolving as the fat melted away. A dancing baboon.

I lost the weight quickly, and thoroughly, hitting my first big goal within a year.* I’d joined a club with others who were also seeking surgery, and we stuck together as one by one, we grabbed for what we all hoped was the brass ring. It was, for me, and though food, eating, weight, and body image will likely always be something i must be conscious of and deal with, i’ve never struggled like i did before WLS, nor have i felt hopeless, nor experienced the extreme end of disordered eating since.

I saw other women losing the weight alongside me, and i watched their lives do a 180. From shy, quiet hermit-types, to bombastic thrill-seekers. From a wardrobe consisting of dark colours and drapey, flowing fabrics to body conscious, flesh-hugging outfits and vava-voom. Makeup and hair and nails all done. Strap on some high heels and get yourself to the club gurl, your look is on point!

It looked like a lot of fun.
To a woman who’d been overweight since elementary school – it looked liked redemption and revenge, too.

The attention came at me hard and fast once i hit my first weight loss milestone. Everyone was nicer, and people wanted to do things for me. People like attractive people, and i was closer to societal beauty standards than i’d been since i was 8. So i had doors held open and was let in quickly during traffic jams and everyone smiled at me, and men…
Men wanted to carry my packages, and men wanted my attention at stop lights, and when i strapped on those heels and went to the club, all the chairs around me were taken and all my drinks were free. Because men.

That’s heady stuff for someone who was as wounded by school as i was. I never had a boyfriend, nor any male-peers’ sexual attention, save the odd grope that occurred from time to time. Always when no one else was around (and always followed by shock and anger when they were rebuffed, thanks to my system). I’d known i had a traditionally attractive face, but since my weight gain around grade 2, the information came with a sad trombone playing at the end.

You have such a pretty face /wahwahwaaaahh
<insertsighandlookofpityhere>

or

You’d be hot if you weren’t fat. /pickupline (No, i’m not joking.)
I could pity-fuck you. You know, if you want…

I’d never been pursued, so when men stopped in their tracks and stared at me or whistled when i walked by – it was a thrill. That hurt, angry schoolgirl inside me felt vindicated.
And then i got offered a job in the entertainment business and i took it, and the performer that had been stifled by parental interference and fat felt like a star.
I felt beautiful and sexy and wanted and i was the centre of attention. Any fear that came up or parts that were triggered as a result of it all was dulled, muted by alcohol, or handled by parts that were made for men who wanted sex from me. Parts that acted sexually sophisticated, or childishly naive, depending on what seemed to be required.
I was 10ft tall and bulletproof.
I was a dancing baboon.
I was manic AF.

What followed was a rather epic, and painfully pathetic disaster. I was spending all my time and money on myself, and my children and my husband suffered for it. I was in and out of The Bin, medications, detox, therapy, and facilities for long term care for crazies and boozers, too.

I was disordered, that’s for damn sure.

A geographical cure followed, which helped some. Then finding a therapist i clicked with helped ever so much more. Oh, and maybe regaining about a third of the weight i’d lost played a part, too. Which brings me to today, and that grinning primate. I figure i’ve lost about half of what i’d put back on, and that, coupled with this new work i’m doing, has been making me feel a bit giddy.

I’m pleased with myself – proud, even. The 2 manias i’ve experienced since being diagnosed were long and intense. Cleaning up the wreckage afterwards taught me a lot; i know how mania feels. It’s like the first time i ate raw onions. I hated them, and they made me retch, so i avoided them as much as possible over the years. But even though i rarely ate them, i sure knew when one had snuck its way into my salad or sandwich.

I remember mania, and i can taste it in my brain-salad.
Here’s the thing: i don’t hate raw onions as much as i once did. My guts don’t heave at the once dreaded crisp bite and strong smell. Sometimes, i don’t even ask for them to be left out, and sometimes i even add them to something i know i’m going to be eating. I’m wondering: do i search through my brain and pick out all the crunchy, stinky chunks of mania, or do i chew and swallow?

I don’t know, and i won’t be seeing my therapist until next week, because therapy is expensive and i was seeing her every week but now i’m feeling better about the whole process and more in control of what’s happening so i thought i’d be fine with biweekly.
Heh.
Fuck?

Oh, oobee doo
I wanna be like you
I wanna walk like you
Talk like you, too
You’ll see it’s true
An ape like me
Can learn to be human too
~ I Wanna Be Like You, Robert and Richard Sherman

*I won’t be talking numbers, because that’s dangerous territory for me. It triggers a comparison response, that in turn brings up perfectionism, that can shred my self-esteem as quickly as i can get fast food delivered.

Still Not A Bitch

PART III

Lately i’ve been thinking on the reactions to this person that i’m becoming. I’ll tell you flat out and straight up that i’m incredibly self-focused. It’s not that i don’t care about others – i’m chock full of sympathy and fairly bleeding empathy. I believe that turning an intense and unflinching eye inward is how i not only saved my life, but made myself into a decent and functional human. My mother intended for me to be someone quite different than who i am today. To put it mildly, she wanted me as slave labour, as a receptacle for her rage, to worship her as a deity (you think i’m kidding… ) and as an ever-flowing fountain of unconditional love for her and her alone.

The best gift i got from her other than my life, was her early death. It might have been my only chance to escape her conscious and deliberate indoctrination of me. I’m not sure i would have had the insight, the will, or the strength to free myself from her iron grip. When she died, while i was immediately emancipated from serving her, i was still left with a personality and behaviours that had been designed to ally myself with selfish manipulators who mostly took and rarely gave. I was a slave without a master.

My system didn’t just save me from the horrors of my childhood, they kept me from bad relationships, and some potentially awful friendships. I still managed to make best friends with 2 of the kind of people i’ve described above, though. Not deadly like my mother, but toxic AF. They both did me the favour of ending our friendship, which i’m grateful for today. (More commentary on that later.) Some of my more developed and powerful parts would exert their influence in other areas. For instance, i avoided roommate situations, preferring to live alone. I could perform the sex act, although it was mostly other parts in control when it was happening – or i was heavily medicated with alcohol and/or other drugs.  What i couldn’t do was commit. I never thought about marriage or children. I became pregnant due to unsafe sex practises, and was engaged for a time because i was asked and i was very religious and thought it was expected. It was my system that made the decisions to keep the baby and ditch the dude (to be clear, he wasn’t the father).

When i accepted that i was bipolar and a multiple (years after these events), my level of function plummeted. I practically abandoned my children and nearly destroyed my marriage (a different, way more suitable dude). On the plus side my crap friends ditched me and i became estranged from what was left of my family. I had no one to pretend for, anymore. All that was left was my husband, my children, and a couple of excellent professional health care providers – one medical, and one therapeutic.

Everything inside me fell apart. Some fully sentient creatures (by the broadest definition), some feelings and memories that had developed their own personalities, and then all the other things that make up a person, like: my good qualities, my flaws, my skills, how i coped (besides being crazy), my hopes for the future (mostly for my loved ones, and for my relationships with them – i never really had much in the way of life goals or aspirations – too busy just surviving, i think).
Everything that made me who i was became detached and scattered about. I’ve spent the last dozen years or so trying to put myself back together. I’ve spent it trying to become the captain of this ship of fools. Learning to read the stars. Making repairs. Trying to fix the goddamned rudder.

I started out with a blueprint, but somewhere along the way i decided it wasn’t mine. I decided on a major overhaul. I decided i would be the architect and i would have precisely the ship i wanted.

I didn’t know enough about myself to know how to rebuild me, let alone how to REMAKE me, but i didn’t do this much work at this much cost for this much time not to have exactly what i want.

I started out with only the vaguest ideas, mostly based on not wanting to be in pain or stuck in chaos or hurting those i loved anymore. But somewhere along the way i discovered that there was more to life than that, and i wanted some of it. I discovered that i was a capable and talented architect. I discovered that i already had almost everything i needed to build the ship of my dreams. I discovered good and hopeful dreams inside me. And i discovered that i knew how to get, or at least could figure out how to get, anything i didn’t already have, in order to be shipshape.

Some of the changes i’ve made have upset those around me, and a lot of those people are now gone. Mostly it was their choice, and it happened before i realised what i was doing or how it was affecting them. And all the leaving hurt. Often, it hurt so much i would fall into a deep depression or act out in some way that caused chaos. But i kept doing the work, the remodeling and the cleaning up after, and now? It still stings a bit occasionally, but less and less all the time. Now i know i have choices, too.

Some of those toxic people have tried to contact me. Sick, passive-aggressive bullshit that’s so obvious to me now. And those parts of me that my mother built so carefully, those parts that think that people who love me abuse me because i’m bad and i deserve it? Those parts that think abuse IS love? I’m gathering them to me and showing them what love really is – by keeping the bad people away. By helping them form alliances and friendships with protectors in my system, including me.

Those sick and dangerous people who wove a false narrative. That told me not to tell the truth. That told me not to be angry or sad. That expected me to act like everything was okay and no one is bad (except me) and no one is hurting and everything is great because Jesus and the Cross. Those people that never, not one of them, not one, single time, said sorry to me for anything they did to me, ever.

My ship is a sailboat: small, sleek, mostly slow and just soaking up the sun, but fast as fuck when she wants to be.
Underneath, my ship is also a submarine, full of sailors who love the life, and we’re slowly building a yacht.
(This is almost more allegory than analogy, because the way they treated me is a moral issue.)

My mother made me a tugboat and she used me constantly, with no decent or regular maintenance. I was already in terrible disrepair when she died, but it didn’t stop the rest of ’em from having me haul their shit around. None of them believed there was an invisible submarine underneath. I’ll bet if they saw me, they’d still see an old tugboat, too.

Well, they won’t get more’n a glimpse, and no Ahoy! cuz i’ll trim the sails and hightail it outta there, lickety split. They can just stay on the shore, danglin’ their feet in putrid water and tellin’ each other how fine the day is.

If these parts don’t seem quite connected, stay tuned. Heh.

I’m Not A Bitch, Pt. II

Growing up with very few safe spaces contributed greatly to my hypervigilance, my distrust of others, my obsessive need to be liked and accepted, and my extreme emotional reaction to anything that looked remotely like rejection.

Once i left home i had a few roommate situations, which i eventually learned were not for me. I preferred being alone, and when my first son was less than 6mos old, i moved in to my first apartment on my own. I didn’t live with anyone else until i met the man i married, years later. Having my own place, my own space, helped change me in many positive ways. I began to relax a little, internally. I wasn’t so tense physically, i wasn’t so busy mentally, and i wasn’t as close to meltdown emotionally.

I had a place to decompress after a day of peopling. I had somewhere to escape when i felt overwhelmed. I could figure out how to be a grownup and a mother privately, without other pairs of eyes always on me, and to my mind, constantly judging me. I had a safe space where no one hurt me, no one blamed me, no one wiped their unwanted emotions off onto me or made me carry their past baggage. It allowed me to be more who i genuinely am, albeit still unconsciously.

I rarely had people over. It was me and my kid, and i loved it.

Associations with friends and family would be done in their homes, or parks, playgrounds, restaurants, malls, wherever – as long as it wasn’t my place. The only people besides my son that i regularly wanted in my space were my siblings.
I took the occasional lover, but they weren’t permitted to come around until my kid was asleep, and they had to leave before breakfast.

This home base allowed me to grow as a person. I made closer friendships, and began allowing others more access to where i lived. I still couldn’t figure out how to be in an intimate sexual relationship, although i tried. I ended up hurting a few young men, and eventually found myself pregnant again.
The recovery home that had helped me years before, offered me a nice, cheap apartment in a great neighbourhood that also housed other women who’d been through the program, but could still benefit from the financial and emotional support they offered. They also hooked me up with free counselling, and access to other programs to help me continue to try to deal with my childhood trauma, and to figure out how to be a decent single mom to 2 wee boys.

In this 4-plex, i made the most intimate friendships i’d ever had. We visited each other daily, and everybody was always welcome in everyone else’s apartment. It was a busy little commune, and it was the happiest i’d ever been in my life. It taught me that there were good, kind, SAFE people in the world who wouldn’t hurt me – who just wanted to be my friend and love me. We did practically everything together, and we were first on the scene when any one of us were struggling or in need.
Without them and their friendship, i’m not sure how much longer it would have taken me to be able to trust anyone enough to have a serious romantic relationship, if ever.

We all eventually moved out of our safe little “halfway house” – they got a place together, and i got a place which was soon filled with the man i’m over 20yrs married to today. They both approved of him, and i trusted their judgment even more than mine then, because the guy before was a hard lesson in why one shouldn’t date bad boys.

They’re both gone now, and i wish i’d had this insight sooner and been able to share it with them. My gratitude is boundless, and my grief, ever-deep. As we drifted away from each other (the reasons were quite serious then, but now seem so unimportant), we all fell apart, tired and winnowed huskless. Trying so hard to figure out who we were, what we had to offer, and move past the constant pain, sorrow, and dysfunction that had resulted from our childhood traumas.
I ache so to be the only one still here.
I’m swollen with the need to speak with them, to say Thank you! and to touch them, to hold them close and feel the heat of their skin, to clutch their hands in mine and to cry and laugh and talk too loud with them.

None of us knew how to be a good friend. We were all closed in on ourselves, curled tightly around our wounded cores. Trying to find love, acceptance, understanding, belonging… Somewhere. Anywhere. We all knew how our families expected us to behave, and we knew how we should act when we were out and about, around other people. However, it took a great deal from each of us to do so, and we all needed long lengths of solitude to rest and recover from each encounter with the world outside our slapdash treehouses.

We’d hibernate in our dark, chilly caves, padding ourselves with the protection of food and eating, the escape offered by reading and movies. We were the only people who could fairly easily enter each others’ sanctuaries, with the least amount of effort to engage, the most genuine kind of engagement, and the lowest level of fallout after our encounters. We tried to talk to each other about things that mattered, we sifted through old boxes of memories together, and even peaked into the occasional old attic trunk, whose lock had been bashed off by our ham-handed counsellors*.

We tried to relate to one another. We tried hard to be friends to each other. And none of us were particularly good at it, but we’d laugh at ourselves and keep trying. The stories i could tell of our adventures. Late night rescues from addictive behaviours. Hospital visits. Life skills classes and religious retreats. Police. Lousy boyfriends. Falling in love. Christmases and birthdays and cooking and cleaning each other’s homes when we got too low to do it by ourselves.
In each other’s spaces, we learned there were people who could come in and not take away from us. Someone who would add to us, and not deplete our resources. They brought warmth to my chill and pulled back the curtains on my dim, grey spaces, letting light in. The sun of their smiles. The safety of their understanding and respect when they didn’t touch me. The depth of their love when they delicately asked if they could…

It was all unconscious, then. I was so dissociated. I lacked the diagnosis, the knowledge i needed to knit it all together, a key insight that would finally be a flashlight into the dark places inside me, the places where other people hid.
Little people, big people, young, old, broken bits and fully fleshed out persons.

Perhaps it was finally having real and true friends who’d been through things i’d been through and were trying to “get over” them as i was, that helped me put that last piece of the puzzle in the right place.
I know they gave me my first taste of what it was like to not be alone.

I wasn’t the only fucked up person.
I wasn’t the only person who didn’t act “normal”.
I wasn’t the only one to feel weird, different, odd, other, strange, outside.

And i can see now that we probably unconsciously supported each other in creating a safe space around ourselves, as individuals, a place where no one could approach unless we wanted them to come closer.
And i can see now how wounded and broken we all still were; we didn’t have the right tools yet, and hadn’t all the information we’d require. So we still let in the wrong people – ones who crossed the line and then broke the circle – who penetrated our barriers and broke down our defenses.
And i can see now, them being overcome. By the past, by people, and finally, by life.

It’s breaking me, but it’s girding me, too.
I was so closed off from how deep my feelings were for them, because it was scary, dangerous, to feel so much. I see now, both absolute shit reasons and self-preservation reasons for my pulling away.
I could wax poetic about why they aren’t here now, but i’ve learned too much to do something so selfish and grandiose.
I don’t know why they aren’t here anymore and i am, still.
I do know that i wish they were, with all my heart.
I also feel a deep regret that things went the way they did, but i know i did my best, and i don’t in any way blame myself for their absence.
I believe now that they were the best friends i’ve ever had, until i met my husband.

There wasn’t much light in our lives when we found each other. I’m so grateful that they grabbed on to me and pulled me close, and then let me run away, and come close again. Over and over. Accepting me for who i was, letting whatever i could give be enough, and never being angry over what i could not.

I know now that they taught me so much that i needed to know in order to be where i am right now, today. They were there, helping me lay my foundation for friendship. They helped me know how, when i knew enough and was ready, to build strong walls around me, and what kind of door to put in, and that a good security system was necessary and smart and right… They taught me, with their lives, that it’s okay to be careful, vigilant even, to whom i give entry and to whom i do not.
I have a safe space today, and they’re part of my blueprint.

Their friendship, their personal struggles, and their lives are forged into my armour and their memory stands at my battlements, as i fight for my safe space today. And i am fighting and will always fight, against any and all comers.

I’ll fight to protect this, my safe space, my motherfucking castle. Most don’t even get across my moat, but i’ve found over the years that sometimes, even those i’d once welcomed in must be put out. I’ve pulled up the drawbridge on many, and you bet i’ve tossed some over the wall and pushed them from the turrets.

I’m the queen of my castle.

*We’d met each other through a home for women in crisis, run by the religious. Understand that, while i’m most grateful for all those religious women did for me, and they did a LOT (fed me, clothed me, taught me how to cook and keep a house, and address my past), they did it according to their religious beliefs, which included bible-based therapy. Also know that i cannot and would not speak for my friends with regards to the guidance and advice we received from them. I’m referring to myself specifically and only when i say it was just mildly helpful, and in some cases, although i have no doubt they loved me and wanted so much to help me, was actually quite harmful.

I’m Not A Bitch, Pt. I

I’m not a bitch.
I’m changing though, and that can be hard for people who’ve known you a long time, i think. It can be difficult for my partner, my children, my close friends.
I developed a truckload of traits to survive my childhood and cope with the trauma and dysfunction it’s caused in my life.
Even after it had stopped, my brain and my body kept living as if trauma was still occurring, or was just around the next corner.
I discarded some parts of my personality for the same reason.

I’ve gotten to know my system fairly well, and yes, they’re all me, but some of these quirks and qualities are no longer necessary. Well, not currently required.

I don’t see this as integration.
This is a first class vacation for some stressed little Bits.
This is the Rolex/beach house retirement for some exhausted parental types.
This war is long over, and it’s time to clean the weaponry and put it in its pristine arsenal, where i’m the only person who has access.
No one’s leaving and nothing is being tossed.

I know who i was and i know who i am. Now i’m on to the part where i figure out/decide who i want to be. I’m poring over it all, scrutinising everyone, and we’re building me together, fresh and new, from the toes up.
No one left behind. Everyone has a say. Everyone gets to feel.
And to that end, some things have been happening in my personal life that’ve triggered some voices with some things to say, some feelings and thoughts to express.

I hesitated with this piece. I didn’t sleep well last night due to some in-home upheaval, so when this stuff started pouring out on the page, i pulled back. Body vibrating. Hands shaking. Guts churning.
Do i let anger out? Resentment? Bitterness? Indignation? FURY?
What if i scare someone?
What if i come off as a bitch?

My therapist has spent these last months gently convincing me that these feelings need to be felt if i want to move on to some reward-rich, next level healing.
And why wouldn’t i want that?
My childhood didn’t kill me, and all i did to live with it, handle it, bury it, dig it back up, look at it, hear it, feel it, cope with it, heal it, hasn’t ended me either.
So bring it on. Lay it on me. Let’s do this.

**********

Today i’m not terrified.
Today i’m pissed off. I’ve been scared and felt vulnerable these last few months but made it through with no serious wreckage to clean up around me, and i can handle this anger just as well. I neither need nor want to pull my world down around me. I have no wish to torpedo any relationships – i’ve already eliminated all the toxic ones. I have one seriously problematic relationship right now, one that has perhaps triggered this anger (i’m not sure though, because this emotion was going to come up and require processing, regardless of my interactions with anyone in my current circle), but it isn’t toxic.
I think it’s probably normal AF to have ups and downs with loved ones – to have to work through difficulties and navigate some rough patches.

And while i am experiencing some dissociation, that’s just who i am, and i’m aware of it and i think i’m handling it fairly well. I’m not leaving the face and hiding from the conflict. I’m here, i’m in it, i’m the one feeling it and deciding what to do about what’s happening.

This is an emotional purge – a spring cleaning of some brain-clutter.
I’m fine, and the person i’m in conflict with is safe.
I don’t break people, and i don’t even break stuff anymore.

**********

I was taught to do as i was told and never complain.
I was taught that other people’s feelings were more important than mine.
I was taught that grownups, those having jobs with authority over fellow citizens, and males were my superiors.
I was taught that i was property.
I was taught that i was responsible for the “negative” feelings of others.

I learned that if those to whom i belonged or was beholden were in a good mood i was less likely to experience physical pain.
I learned that if these same people liked me i usually received better treatment overall.
I learned that if i could hide, or at least be quiet and blend in, i could sometimes avoid being targeted for abuse.
I learned that if i “absorbed” those emotions of them with power and authority over me, that the abuse might stop for a time, and i’d occasionally be rewarded.

I learned all these things long before i set foot in a school.
Fortunately?
Because school, which should have been a break from the Hell i lived at home, quickly became just another torture chamber.

I had a couple of excellent teachers, and i had a couple of absolute crap ones. Mostly though, they were mediocre and clueless. Maybe some were willfully ignorant, but i’m hesitant to apply the label because my mom could put on a good show when properly motivated. I was bright, i had a sunny disposition and an animated personality. So, even if i was clearly poor and my hygiene needed work and i never achieved the grades every teacher probably knew i was capable of, and my mother was hard to reach and the fattest person anyone had ever seen in real life – that wasn’t necessarily a red flag…

Right?

My tone is sarcastic and i’m testy this morning, i admit it. I’ve given a great deal of thought to if and where my teachers bear responsibility for the treatment i endured in school, and i don’t find them culpable. I told my favourite teacher in high school that i was in a bad situation at home, and he acted as if i hadn’t said a word – shocking and revolting a complete abandonment of his fucking mandate sure, but i’d already moved out and was living with friends, so what was there left for him to do? Besides, we functioned in an atmosphere where one of my fellow students favourite teachers gave precedent to the popular kids, and flirted outrageously with all of them that were female. No one seemed to be disturbed by it at all. (He was one of the crappiest teachers i ever had. He thought he was funny and charming, but even in my dissociated state, i found him a repulsive creep.)

I can’t fault them for not protecting me from bullying, either. I tried never to let any student see that they hurt me, so what was there for the teachers to see/hear? I would insult myself first, or laugh along with them, or ignore, or sometimes (i know now) someone else in my system would handle things.
With their big, obnoxious mouth. Heh.
Which only ever caused more bullying, but my life was so filled with stress, i don’t blame anyone who lives here in my brain with me for needing to vent. Those occasional blurts may well have kept me from exploding. Or imploding.
Or whatever – i’m here and i’m alive and i’ll take it, with thanks to my beloved Peanut Gallery. Wah wah wah wah.

At least i never got the shit kicked out of me like i did if i beaked off at home. It was an exceedingly rare occurrence for me to get mouthy with my mother, but it did happen.
Maybe i never pushed any of the bullies too far, or maybe being Amazon-sized was off putting. (Or maybe bullies are actually pathetic cowards. Hm.) I guess i’m saying it’s possible that teachers didn’t see how awfully some of the other kids treated me.

It’s possible.

Everything i’d been taught/learned at home worked both for and against me at school.
I managed not to be the most picked on, or least popular kid in my grade (every time but one – and that, thankfully, only lasted half of 1 school year*), but i think i might have had it easier if i’d stood up for myself, even one time.
I didn’t stand up for myself, though. It didn’t occur to me.
In fact, i thought everything those horrid kids said to me was true, and it was appropriate to pick on me, because i was fat, and i was weird, and dirty and poor and whatever other label they ascribed to me.

I’m moving on from the teachers. On to the students. I’ll be brief, but i’m going to be brutal and blunt:

The ones who picked on me were jerks.
I have 1 friend today who confesses he was a bully in school, and he is one of the kindest and best people i know. Due to him and also the kind of human i am, i’m going to say that it’s possible that some of those kids grew up to not be jerks.
But i don’t think it’s likely.
(One of the meanest girls i’ve ever known immediately resorted to calling me names when i stood up to her as a grown woman.)
I hope they did change though, of course, because my heart breaks for the selfish, cruel, and clueless generations they might inflict on other hurting and lonely children. I know how hard it is to survive that, and i know not everyone does.

From school i could move on to shitty former friends and estranged family, but i’m not going to. One, i’ve processed former friendships well and moved on, and two, i don’t discuss family, because that might look like an invitation to them to come back and have an opinion about me and my life.
And they aren’t getting one.
Besides, they weren’t where these parts were focused. I’m listening, but more importantly, i’m feeling these thoughts and these memories. The fear, the hopelessness, and the terrible aloneness and otherness and wrongness that these crappy human beings visited upon me, Monday to Friday, for a solid 10 1/2 motherfucking years.

I’m dealing with a current relationship that reminds me of needing to be liked by a loved one in order to avoid being hurt, and whose treatment of me brings back all that pain from school.
I’m not cool.
I say dumb stuff.
I talk too much.
I’m weird.
I’m wrong.
I’m awkward.
I’m too big – i take up too much space.
Nothing i do is good enough.
I’m defective.
I’m not welcome. GO AWAY

*Fuck that school, fuck those lousy teachers, and above all, fuck those incredibly cruel and arrogant piece-of-shit students that are probably every bit as stupid and petty and shallow as they were when i attended their crappy school in their crappy town.
You’re the most popular kids in a school of less than 300?
Wow. What an accomplishment.
Generations of your family have grown up and raised their families there?
So amaze. You managed to live out status quo.
Very greatness. Such awards.

Thanks for adding to the burdens of an already battered and broken child. I’ll bet your kids would be proud of you. Heck, i’ll bet they’re just like you, you big, important fish in a tiny little pond.
Go you. Cue the marching band.

**********

I have more to say about my current situation, and what i’m learning about myself and who i want to be, and i want to share some super positive and exciting things that are coming about as a result of this absolute shit situation, but that’s enough for today.

The parts inside me that have held these feelings deserve for this piece to stand on its own. Writing it made me angry for them, which helped me be properly angry for myself.
Which helped them tap into their anger – their entirely, wholly justified anger at terrible treatment from terrible people.
I’m going to think about it today, and i’m going to listen to and feel what’s going on inside of my body (below the neck) as a result of thinking about this stuff.

Cleaning out my closets and junk drawers. Bringing all my muppet-monsters out to play.
My toys, my room, my house.

My weekend is here, and i’m going to do my best to rest and enjoy.
Thank you for being here and witnessing my process – you’re helping me create myself and my life.
Love and Peace,
~H~

Chocolate Potatoes

Warning: This is a story from my childhood. It’s been on my mind because, as i learn to listen to what my body wants to tell me about my past, i had a sudden realisation of why i’ve had occasional stabs of “phantom pain”, on the inside of my left thigh, right close to my genitals. I’m safe now. She’s long dead and her abuse ended with her. It’s just a story now, one that helps me understand and move on.

**********

“Here, go to Red Rooster and get me a bag of potatoes.”

In Red Deer, Alberta, in 1974, Red Roosters are a chain of convenience stores, like a 7-Eleven or a Mac’s Milk. She presses a couple of paper bills into my hand and sends me off.

We live in a low-cost housing complex just off Gaetz Avenue, the main road through the city that connects everyone to anywhere they might wish to go. Some of the units are red, and some are that awful 70s olive green. This is our Canadian version of an inner city ghetto though (read: run down and dirty, but not at all dangerous), so the colours are washed out and drab. Still, i’d prefer the red to our 4yr-old’s-runny-nose green.

It’s spring, but being Alberta it’s still very cold, and being Red Deer, sitting in a valley, there’s still plenty of snow. I stuff my feet into boots that were too small in November, (Good god, girl! I can’t afford to buy new things for you every month – will you just slow down already? Maybe if you didn’t eat like a pig you wouldn’t be so big!) and head out to the store, which isn’t even 5 minutes away by addlebrained 7yr old girls’ timing. Convenience stores, with their obscene markups for the privilege of such, are always close to clusters of the poor.

I pass some younger children playing in the yard of a red unit along the way. They wave excitedly and say Hi! and i respond in kind. Children my own age have already pushed me out of their circles – they know something’s not right with me. I’m poor, yes, but some of them are too. That’s not the problem. There’s a wrongness deep inside me and they can smell it, like a herd of horses will shun a sick one. It’s the stink of the urine in their case, in mine it’s probably the words that come out of my mouth.

“Your daughter is one of the smartest children i’ve ever taught, but she has no friends. She doesn’t know how to play; she just stands on the playground and watches, or tries to tell the other children what to do.”

The younger kids in my neighbourhood don’t mind. I’m bossy, but i’m nice, and i let them play in my yard and play with my toys, and sometimes i perform for them, which they love. They’ll sit on the grass in the summertime and i’ll do a puppet show from inside the house. Our front window has no screen, so opening it is like pulling back a glass curtain, leaving me a couple of feet of stage.
Mother has an old record player and a stack of 45s and 78s that i’ll throw on and do animated lip syncs for them. They’re delighted by my performances and it’s my only source of joy. Their favourite is when i do Little Red Riding Hood, by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.

After a quick exchange of hullos, i hurry off to the store. Mother brooks no dawdlers.

I walk in and the door has a bell that dutifully announces my entrance, just like in the movies. Stamping the slush off my boots on the front mat, i survey the area around the till.

It’s where all the chocolate is kept.

Rows and rows of it and Oh! so many different kinds. I see them advertised in magazines, on billboards, and between Saturday morning cartoons on the telly. They’re all right here, though. Lined up like candy soldiers, perfectly faced. I can smell them. I can smell the chocolate, and my stomach reacts enthusiastically.
It’s been a long time since i last ate anything.

When i came home from school the day before i was starving. I’d had a bowl of puffed wheat for breakfast, but we were out of sugar and there was only powdered milk. By the time i got home at around 4pm i would have eaten nearly anything. The fridge was empty, as was usually the way it stood. A monolith of hope, containing cold emptiness and the odd packet of ketchup from some fast food meal of which i’d almost certainly not partaken.

That day though, while rummaging through the cupboards i’d found half a sleeve of saltines, in the bowels of a shelf full of old herbs and dusty spice jars. I arranged them carefully on a plate and squirted a bit of the ketchup packets on each. I was then struck by pure genius and added a dollop of mustard as well, and finished them with a splash of Worcestershire sauce. I tried to make my fancy appetizers last as long as i could, but i was so hungry and they were so delicious.
There’d been nothing since.

My gut managed to cry out and cramp up at the same time, as the smell of convenience foods –CHOCOLATE!– filled my nose. I walked up to the till and hungrily perused all the choices. Were there dozens? I stared so long the man behind the counter finally asked me, “You gonna buy somethin’?”

Sweet Marie. My favourite.
He rang through the purchase and i handed him my crumpled bills. He only took 1 and he gave me back change, so i picked out another one and bought it, too. Rolos. Definitely a close second.

With 1 dollar and a few cents left, i stood over by the comics and ate the Rolos, barely finishing one before i popped the next into my mouth. They were fresh. The chocolate was soft and the caramel filling was too, and it oozed onto my tongue, but still had a bit of chew. Perfect. The cashier eyed me and warned, “You can’t touch those comics now, you’re eating candy!”

I stepped back and made sure he saw i was only looking at the titles. I had enough to buy a Hot Stuff or a Richie Rich or a Casper, or Wendy or Little Dot…

That’s when i saw the potatoes.
Bags of potatoes all stacked on top of each other.
I was supposed to buy potatoes.

“You gonna buy one of them comics, or not?”

He startled me, and the terrible realisation of what was waiting for me at home hit all at once, and i started peeing in my pants. Literally. I was mortified and i couldn’t stop it and the cashier was glowering at me and i tried to make it outside, but i only got as far as the mat in front of the door, where i stood, frozen, and emptied my bladder.

I don’t know if he knew. I don’t remember leaving the store.

I was walking home and the cold air froze the wet legs of my pants and made them stiff and chafe against my skin. I remember my friend coming to take my hand and walk me home. She said it was okay, she was brave and she’d talk to Mom and explain about how there were no potatoes and so we bought her a Sweet Marie instead. Her favourite.
I watched her lie to my Mom for me, and hold out the candy.

I watched my Mom’s face turn scary, so i quickly looked away and down and saw she was still wearing her fancy winter boots she used for work. They had pointy-toes.
I watched her kick my friend in the crotch with those pointy-toed boots.
I saw her kick my friend so hard that she stumbled back against the wall.
I didn’t see what happened to the chocolate.
I know i didn’t see any supper that night, but i could smell it – wafting up the stairs from the kitchen. Sneaking under the door to fill my nose as the chocolate had such a short time before.

Maybe tomorrow after school my friend would come again and help me look for some more crackers.

Imagination

Writing through the bad.

It struck me as maybe an important and helpful thing i could do.
I think i’m right about that – i think.
I fully intend to get to the other side of this, this current pile of crap i’m slogging around in, but sweet, smilin’ Buddha on a bicycle i didn’t know it was gonna be like this.

I’ve worked so hard to get control of myself  – to harness the power of this brain and channel it for good. My therapist says all multiples have a mutant superpower, and as soon as she said what it was i felt it in my bones.

IMAGINATION.
<insertSpongebobmemehere>

My brain is a place that’s hard to describe, even i don’t quite understand.
Years ago, my therapist asked me if i could make a place for one of my people to live. She prefers to be alone. She loves to read and listen to dark music. She’s obsessed with the supernatural and loves the forest.
I immediately made a cabin in the woods for her, a few miles away from the mansion where everyone else lives.
I do not know how to explain that these places exist inside my head. I can see them right now. Outrageously weird and stupid, right? I know.
My imagination is a mutant superpower.

I can make myself sick.
If i were to tell myself i have a terrible headache, one will manifest in a matter of minutes. And i’m not faking it. I’m feeling the pain in my head. I currently have a headache, heh. It’s a doozy.

I’ve had this thumper for months now.
Ever since i returned to therapy.
My head throbs and my legs itch to walk. To go home. To get away from people.

My head hurts. It’s so full. So many people are talking and i know this is my imagination at work. I know these people that live in my brain aren’t real. I know that my brain did an amazing thing to get me through my childhood. It separated my thoughts, my emotions, and my sensations from each other, so that i could survive what was happening to me. And these disconnected thoughts and experiences floated around in my head for so long they became something almost tangible…

My mutant brain had no trouble ascribing identities to them.
These weird and disembodied, precious Bits N’ Pieces.
I know they aren’t real.
Some of them even know it, too.

But here’s the thing. All i have is my own experience to go by.
I may be a brain in a jar, but i have no evidence of that — what i have is experience, and what i experience is other people living inside my brain. Most of them live in a mansion surrounded by a moat. One lives in a cabin. One stomps around the forest like a sasquatch.

And you’d better believe i have a dragon.
When you’ve got these mutant superpowers, of fucking course you get yourself a dragon.

This is the most exposed and vulnerable i’ve been since i disclosed my story all those years ago. I’m sharing this because, what happened to me as a child made me so dysfunctional that i haven’t been able to accomplish much of anything that looks like success by the world’s current metric. This is all i have to give. I made it through and i’m here and i’m a fairly decent human and i’m learning and growing and getting better every single day.

My head is throbbing and bursting with voices. They leak out my ears and spill down my body like a bloody waterfall. Blood in the water.
I survived what happened to me because i became a multiple.
My head is bleeding thoughts because i’m not supposed to talk about this. I was programmed for secrecy. I love my system, but they’re shouting at me SHUT UP! NO! YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED! PRIVATE!

I’m walking around waiting for the beating because i’m not allowed to tell.
I’m a guitar string stretched too tight. Every muscle in my body is on hyper-alert. There’s a terror inside me that they’re going to take me away from my mom.
She’s been dead for nearly 30yrs.

This is writing through the bad. I’ve just gotta get this shit out; if it stays in my brain it rots, putrifies, poisons me. My brain is too dangerous a neighbourhood to walk through on my own. I am holding your hand, reader, so tight.
So many shadows and wisps and slivers of people inside my brain, yet i’ve always felt so alone.

This is reaching out into the dark for a hand – any hand. Anybody.
I know this will be okay. I know i will be okay. I already survived the worst of it – i can be all naked and weird and vomity. One foot in front of the other. One word and then the next.

Thanks for reading. You have no idea how much it means to me.