I Twitch, I Tweak, I Try

I flit, i fleetly fly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and Peace To All,
~H~

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

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

The Elephant

WARNING: This contains some specific references to childhood sexual abuse and integration with regards to DID/MPD. Consider speaking with your p-doc or mental health go-to before proceeding. Take good care.

**********

I’ve been ruminating over what’s happening to me through this recent therapy.
I mean, of course i have – duh. What else does one do when one is getting their head shrunk?
I’m navel-gazing.

I’ve been in the hospital twice since getting back into therapy this last fall. Nothing as glamourous as being placed in a soft room wearing a sweater with extra long sleeves that tie up in the back.
Just detox.
Not at all pretty, with no romantic wash of the tortured poet.
Just a woman whose demons are so terrifying and whose memories so fantastically ugly that i’ve been hiding in the oblivion of alcohol.

Alcohol and drugs were used to keep me compliant as a child.
I won’t go into lurid detail, but
— Here, drink this —
** SMILE **

As an adult i didn’t have much use for it.
I mean, i could party, but i didn’t much care for the blotto, head-hanging-over-the-toilet, devastating hangover the next day, sort of drinking i saw in others.
I was the one who held your hair out of your face.
I was the one who made sure you got home.

Then came my devolution.
A sweet social worker in service to a crazy pastor at the cuckoo church i was attending was finally able to convince me of my multiplicity.
I fell in love with and married a beautiful atheist.
I freaked right the fuck out and promptly gained over 200lbs.
I had weight loss surgery and lost it all plus more.

And then i had my first bipolar mania, and i discovered booze.
Food and fat had been my medication and my protection, keeping the pain and the fear and the people who live with me in my brain at bay.
When that fell away, i felt completely exposed and vulnerable – but of course i lacked that insight at the time. All i knew was everyone thought i was beautiful and sexy and wanted to be close to me and give me things.
Mostly attention.
Sexual attention.

I was easily lured into working in the entertainment industry. I’d had some experience as a child and enjoyed some success. My mother’s abuse and neglect of me, coupled with her own dysfunction and envy/jealousy, made certain i never got very far with it. I’d get involved in something, get noticed, get offered opportunities, and she’d either put the kibosh on them straight away, or we’d be moving soon to escape creditors/social workers anyway.

But the problem was i wasn’t a child anymore, and my system hadn’t been more than minimally active for a long, long time.

I was quite unprepared to be struck with crippling stage fright. My job came to the rescue because it revolved around making sure people spent money on –yep, you guessed it– alcohol.
Guess what made my stage fright disappear?
Guess what made all the sexual attention i got tolerable, even enjoyable?
Guess what took away the fear of being exposed and vulnerable because i no longer took up as much space?

The booze and the mania swept me along for years. I practically abandoned my children and nearly destroyed my marriage. In a brief moment of clarity (sometimes referred to as a DUI), i realised i needed to get away from the place i lived and the industry i worked in.
The geographical change wasn’t the cure, but it made the disease more easily treatable.
This was the place where i finally found a mental health professional i could trust; i could work with her and figure my shit out and get my feet planted firmly on the ground and begin my slow, dogged plodding toward a decent level of function and some semblance of normalcy.

I got to a place where my body, my marriage, my children, and my home, were all in a manageable, reasonably healthy place. I was even handling my system. I was in the face most of the time. There was a bit of sliding around, but not much switching. I’m highly dissociative (naturally, heh), so i was always coping with that as best i could, but there was very little chaos.
Except for relationships outside my husband and children.

While learning to live as a multiple, i either lost or walked away from every friendship i had, and became completely estranged from any family.
Don’t misunderstand – that is not a bad thing. My life is better for it, but i did want some new friends.
The difficulty was i couldn’t do it.
I had absolutely zero experience with making friends. In the past, i’d just fallen into them, or the other person had pursued the friendship and i’d just gone along with it.
I barely knew who i was, let alone how to be myself and make a friend.

It was then i discovered yet another serious mental/emotional problem of mine – social anxiety.
I HAZ IT.
If i’m the engine of my train, i’m pulling plenty of cars, y’all. I carry passenger cars with a profusion of riders, but i’ve also got more than a few hoppers full of a combustible black rock called ANXIETY. It’s fueled nearly every social interaction i’ve ever had.
I’ve always found it difficult to people, but being a multiple at least made it less obvious to me. Being dissociative tamped down the nervousness and dampened the awkwardness.

And being morbidly obese gave me a doctor’s note excusing me from gym class, indefinitely.

When i found myself out and about in the world again, not just without the body armour of fat, but armed with the knowledge that i was my own army…
I was boots on the ground with no lieutenant and no orders.

Once again, alcohol made everything easier.
HA.
Until, of course, it didn’t.
I found a lot of drinking buddies, but no one knew me, and i didn’t know them. That’s certainly not their fault – all the booze did for me was make it easier to hide myself and therefore less scary to be around people. It gave me the illusion of friends.

Speaking frankly (why should i stop now, and also, my name is Shirley), i know folks who navigate that lifestyle well. They meet at the bar for a few drinks after work, sometimes they get loaded on the weekend, they have friends over for supper and they crack open a few beers or uncork some wine… They do these things with their genuine friends who truly know them and their relationships are strong and do not revolve around drinking.

I couldn’t manage my intense fear and crippling social anxiety without it – so i pulled away from everyone and hermitted in my Little Crooked House for years.
Not to hide. Not to avoid.
To do the work required to learn who i am and how to live as functionally as possible as more than one person occupying the same body. To hang out with and get to know my precious Bits N’ Pieces.
To know myself, so that when i was ready to return to real life social interactions, i would be able to stay present, in the face, in my body, and engage with people.
And who knows, maybe make a friend or 2.

I discovered i could socialise without drinking with no problem.
It was a transformative and cathartic experience.
I pursued a friendship with someone who is now my best friend.

So why have i needed hospital help to detox, twice in the last few months?

My childhood experiences taught me that using alcohol made scary situations not-scary.
This new round of therapy i’m in is all about feeling all the things that my abusers gave me alcohol and drugs to not feel.
The fear, the pain, the hopelessness, and awful, terrible aloneness that they visited upon me – over and over and over again, for years and years and years.

So now, while grownup me no longer needs or even wants the crutch of being chemically numbed, there are little scraps and wisps and snippets of lovely little creatures inside me, for whom that is all they know.

On the way to every appointment with my therapist, my throat starts to ache, i feel like i need to puke, to defecate, my genitals burn.
I sit in a chair in her office with my legs tucked up underneath me and a pillow clutched tightly against me, covering my girl parts – so i won’t run. So i can sit there with her and ride out the pain and the abject terror.

So that i might be more than just in control of the way my brain works.
So that i might be more than just the Captain of this ship of fools.
So that i might be more than just able to function in the world, on the world’s terms.

So that i might be 1 engine
1 retired soldier, a celebrated veteran of a war long over
1 beautiful tapestry with all the threads intricately and astoundingly woven together
1 song, with a thousand voices in perfect unison
Kintsugi
Not just to navigate the world, but to be a living, breathing, integral part of the world.

It’s excruciating work for me, let alone for children. These programmed, invaluable wee ones want their medication. Numbness. Oblivion.
And i have been overwhelmed and exhausted by this process and unable, and yes, often unwilling, to resist their demands.

Today i am detoxed and sober* and renewed.
Sometimes it takes me a long time to learn something, but by sticking with this process i believe i have arrived at a place of relatively calm acceptance of what i’m currently doing and what is coming.
I have gained purchase and am slowly inching towards my centre.

This is the unvarnished truth of it.
It’s enough for me. In fact, i don’t want it any other way, anymore.

Love and Peace Always,
~H~

*Respectfully, i’d ask that there be no 12-step commentary, plzkthx.

Schmozzle

I usually write after the bad stuff has happened, but recently, i’ve been trying to write through it, to open myself up a bit more. I write for me, and for anyone reading this that might find benefit… The days following my last post were decent, i could feel myself settling in to what’s coming in therapy – going deeper and tuning in to the story my body wants to tell me about my childhood. I got back into some regular activities and regimens: housework, hygiene, communicating with family and even a couple of friends. Normalcy, and with it, some peace.

Unfortunately, my physical health has taken a nosedive. I’m in full fibro flareup, which is bad enough, but i’ve got some new issues as well and they’re sapping what little energy i have to cope. I’ve been handling it the way my therapist has encouraged me to, by tuning in to my body and listening to what it’s telling me: i’m hungry feed me, i’m aching rest me, i’m upset soothe me… It’s that last one that i struggle so hard with, though. I got through this last crisis and returned to my schedule, not pushing too hard, but doing my best. If i was too tired, i might skip my nighttime skincare, and i only brushed my teeth perfunctorily, rather than my full 2 minutes, because it was making me retch and triggering me. When sexual activity came up, my body went completely numb, and i heard and honoured the NO.

These are good things and i’m proud to be accomplishing them, but my physical issues are getting so big i’m having trouble hanging on to even this amount of progress. I arranged to see the doctors i need to, but i’ve a week left to wait, and i don’t know where i’m going to find what i need to hang on until then.

Last night i was short-tempered and weepy, and today i hit a wall. I’m panicking about the wait. I’m worried that i can’t hold my system together and function properly until i see my therapist and my doctors. My pain level is too high, and my compulsion to take off and walk is almost too strong to resist. I don’t want to do this anymore.

I’m trying to listen to my body, but i don’t know how. My body terrifies me, and today i’m not sure if i can bear what it wants to share with me. I’m feeling sorry for myself, i know, but goddamnit why do i have to have the mental AND the physical? Haven’t i been through enough?
I feel young and small and i’m stomping around in my head with balled up, chubby little fists, doing that pre-Kindergarten angry cry.
I feel angsty and awkward and my delicate, teenage heart cries crimson tears.
I feel emptiness gnawing inside, a yawning pit where i lay at the bottom and am slowly consumed by the ache of fear.
Any desire or inspiration i have to deal with all the brain stuff, is being steamrolled by all this motherchristing pain. It’s taken 3 1/2hrs to get this much bashed out, and my head is thumping so hard it feels like my skull might pop off.

There is something, though. Writing this has made me calmer. I had to settle down enough to gather together a few words that made sense. This isn’t dissociation either, which is what i’ve been trying to avoid. When things are this tumultuous in my thinking, and then the physical piles on, the temptation to hide in the insensate is strong. It beckons me with the safety of nothingness.

I want to stay present, so i practise mindfulness, which, lemme tell ya, ain’t a helluva lotta fun right now. There’s a whispering behind a door inside me, and it’s practically swelling in its frame with its desire to open for me. I can open that door, go through and disappear for a while. It’s not restful, because the rest of me is still conscious, and my Bits N’ Pieces use up more energy than i do. It’s not safe, because a number of them can, and ohmygod have, gotten me into some dangerous situations.

Behind that door lies nothing.

I step into a void where i stop existing, only to step back, more tired, and often with some kind of mess to clean up. Damaged relationships, sometimes property (although not for a loooong time), almost always my body. Then comes the shame and anxiety, which must be handled carefully. If i’m not careful i can push myself into another hard switch. If i don’t consciously deal with the feelings at all, a switch is likely. Switching is not what i want. I love my people and i’m grateful for their care and protection, but i’m ready, willing, and mostly able to take the reins and drive this wagon full time.

I suspect this is what the next few months are going to look like:

I can do this. It’s gonna be fine.

OMGWTFICANTDOTHETHINGBBQ!!!!

It’s okay. I can do the thing.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

**********

I held onto this over the weekend, because i wanted to make sure that posting it was what i wanted to do. I know it’s not much of anything, because i’m scattered, enough so that, i think, it’s obvious i’m not quite all here. I’ve lost my voice. Whatever it is that identifies my writing as mine has slipped a little. I’m unsettled; rudderless. I’m anxious AF.

I want to edit/rewrite/punchup the entire thing, but i think that’s the wrong way to go. Reading my other stuff and reading this, may give you some insight. This is rambly, it’s trying to say something, but it doesn’t get there. It lacks cohesion.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but i am also currently lacking cohesion.
I’m scattered, and not quite all here.

I know i’m going to get through this and be better when it’s done. I also know there will be times when i’ll doubt that and be afraid i’m going to fail. I know that sometimes the pain and fear will be so intense that i’ll want to stop.
I have learned from being in the weeds many times before, that it will be okay. I will be okay. I lived through the actual experiences, anything after that is at least bearable.

It’s like when i used to smoke marijuana and hashish. Over the years i became more and more paranoid, but i could always handle it, because i knew, based on experience, that the high would end, and the feelings of paranoia were drug-induced.

So, with that in mind i’m going to post this meandering piece of weirdness, because i think it helps illustrate how my brain works. I think it could be a bridge between moments of clarity. How do i get from panic to peace? My brain isn’t always full of pithy observations and poetic imagery. Heh. Sometimes it’s on the mouthbreather setting. I’m fumbling around in here, trying to find meaning, trying to find something solid to stand on…

I’m not having much luck folks, but i’m not overly concerned at this precise moment. I think that writing has been instrumental in getting me from where i was when i first began writing this around 60hrs ago, to here, just about to smack that “publish” button.

This is part of my process. I recognise this place; i’ve been here many times before.
I can do this.

Pithiness will follow.

Image: Convergence, Jackson Pollack