To The Bone

CONTENT WARNING: This contains frank discussion of suicide and childhood sexual abuse. If you aren’t in a good place, i’d strongly recommend skipping this one. Have someone handy that you can talk to if this brings up stuff for you.

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The first time i thought about suicide i was 4.
The first time i tried it i was 9.
I’ve tried multiple times since – one time was right in front of my 2 youngest children.
I’ve been given ipecac, had my stomach pumped, and a shot that may have been Narcan (?) back in the day – i’m not sure about that one. I was even more fucked up than usual that time.
I’ve written dozens of notes to loved ones and torn them up. I’ve written fuck-yous to some of those who tortured me who still unfortunately draw breath.

None of those times did i truly want to die. Not once. What was happening to me is something the pros call “parasuicidal behaviour”, meaning, i didn’t actually want to commit suicide, i just didn’t know what else to do and i needed my current situation/emotional state to STOP.

I’m grateful that i never succeeded. In my years of struggle in various programs dealing with addictive behaviours, broken and abusive homes, and mental health issues, i’ve lost a great many people i knew to suicide. More than a dozen, easily. A couple of them were like sisters to me, and they broke my heart.

I wouldn’t do them the dishonour of speculating on their reasons for what they did – it was their life to do with as they wished. But i think, today, i understand the step beyond “para”. I’m bone tired. More tired than i’ve ever been in my life. I see that, while i’ve done the best i can, that it hasn’t been enough. I’ve failed my children and my husband and people in my past in such profound ways that i can feel my heart burning and dropping into my belly.

And now, today, this work i do is to “feel what i feel while knowing what i know”. I don’t mean to sound superior (although i know i do), but no one can possibly know how difficult, how awful this work is.
My childhood was wretched: filled with literal torture and near-constant pain. I’m not sure if the small moments of happiness and beauty made it easier or harder to bear. The loving babysitter who cared for me 5 days a week from 10mos old until i entered grade one; she is THE reason i didn’t swallow that bottle of poison when i was 4. I remember holding it in my hand, staring at myself in the mirror (i see now that the mirror was how i talked with the others in my brain back then) and saying, “If it gets too bad, i’ve got this.”

Back then, i severed the connections between my thoughts and emotions and sensations to survive the unsurvivable, and now, in my 50s, as i wade into this terrible work, i remain unconvinced that i can survive the reconnection. It feels as if i’m being torn apart, rather than put back together. My body is a misery to me. My genitals burn, and i keep going to the bathroom to check because it feels like my rectum is bleeding. My jaw feels like it’s going to crack, my throat aches, my head pounds like a giant is having a tantrum inside my brain. My ears won’t stop popping. I grind my teeth all day. It burns when i pee. My body feels battered and bruised everywhere. There isn’t an inch of me that doesn’t hurt. I can’t put anything in my mouth without gagging. There is no touch, no matter from whom it comes, that doesn’t make me flinch.
Dissociating would fix all that, and i want to so badly.

But my therapist says this is temporary, and she has never lied to me. Never not treated me with the utmost respect. Never touched or even approached me without my permission. (She sat on the couch on the other side of my living room for 2 fucking years before i’d even let her sit beside me.) She doesn’t mind telling me a thousand times, that she has no desire to hurt me, and she’s never pushed me to do anything i didn’t want to (made suggestions and let me fume and freak out and go home and think about them, yes). She even let me walk out of therapy thinking i was all “fixed”, when she knew damn well i wasn’t, but she didn’t tell me that, she honoured my process, even if that meant i never came back to her or got anymore therapy from anyone.

I trust her in a way that i trust no one else. No one. I’ve never trusted anyone like i trust her, and so i will sit with this agony and i will bear it. I will minister to pain that doesn’t really exist as if it’s real, and i will talk to the terrified little ones inside my brain as if they are my own children – because they are. They’ve always just wanted a Mommy who will hold them and rock them and say:
Shhh… It’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay. I’m going to take care of you.
Oh, it hurts down there? Let’s put you in a cool bath.
Your head feels like it’s splitting open? You poor thing. Does wrapping your head tightly in this scarf help?
Would you like to cuddle this teddy bear?
Would you like me to hold you and rock you to sleep?

I do these things, these ridiculous things, and they’re working. This fucking crazy-ass shit is working. It’s calming down the cacophony in my head, so that i can focus on my body. Which is super awesome because that means feeling the pain. Listening to what my body wants to tell me about what happened to it when i was little. It doesn’t have language, but it sure AF is talking to me, and i’m listening.

But i’m exhausted. I’m sososo tired. I’m sure i’ve never been this tired.
And life is still happening, all around me. The world had the nerve to keep turning. Problems still happening. Relationship problems. Money problems. Things breaking down and dogs getting sick. Family and friends who still need me. (Don’t get me wrong, they don’t expect much from me right now, they just need me, y’know?)

So i have brought this piece to the place where i tell you that i have considered not being here anymore. Every day, all day, this work feels like too much work. Every day, all day, i’m afraid i can’t do it, that i’ll fail.
I do not have a plan.
I’m not thinking about it obsessively.
I’m in therapy with the greatest therapist in the world (fight me), and i have good support.
My home is once again my safe place.
There’s no room in my life right now for anything but the pain, and the small shred of hope i have that it may end, and i may wind up with an even more normal*, functional life.

So Hi, this is how i’m doing today. You may have noticed i’m writing more. Writing through the bad, like i said i’d do. It’s helping more than i’d have thought it would.

Y’all take care of yourselves. Talk to someone trustworthy if this piece brought stuff up for you, okay? I’m still here, still hanging on. If i can, maybe you can too. I know i want you to.

It’s just a ride
And you’ve got the choice to get off anytime that you like
It’s just a ride
It’s just a ride
The alternative is nothingness
We might as well give it a try
~ The Ride, Amanda Palmer

Love and Peace,
~H~
*Comments like, “What is normal, really?” and “Nobody’s normal,” are NOT welcome here, plzkthx.

Survival is the Ability to Swim in Strange Water*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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

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.

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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.

Hang On

WARNING: This contains intense descriptions of a current state of anxiety and stress. Know that i am okay, and take care of you.

**********

We never left you
We never left you that day
We never left you
Even though we felt far away
~ Hang On, Amos Lee

I’m having trouble leaving the house again, lately. Being around people is scary. Sometimes it’s physically painful.

My anxiety level has been higher than i’ve ever felt outside of a mania. My heart beats so fast. I can feel my guts burning and pushing up into my chest, my throat, taking my breath. I’m barely sleeping because i’m certain i won’t wake up. I sleep maybe 20mins at a time, and i wake up alive, but i still fight the next sleep with the same overwhelming certainty i’m going to die.

I’m being tortured by obsessive thoughts. How i’ve accomplished nothing in life. How i’ve failed my children. How i’ve been a constant source of worry and concern for my husband. How i never went to college, or travelled, or had a career, or found a “passion”.
It’s been eating me alive.

When i’m dealing with my childhood trauma, hygiene can be difficult. I’m afraid to be in the bathroom, i’m triggered by the shower, the toilet, the smell of soap and toothpaste.
Last week i was either switched or too exhausted to cook, so my family ate a lot of take-away.
There was a massive blowup in my home around the issue of personal safety, and it had been a long time coming. I’m already so tired from this therapy i’m currently working through, that i had zero ability to handle it without switching. It’s not how i would have liked to handle it, but at last i feel heard and some important changes have been made.

I will continue to stand up and demand my safe space, if required to do so. Maybe i won’t ever have to again. Maybe if i do, the fallout won’t be a parade of switching. I have more than a small bit of hope.

This week i was able to cook, to clean my house and myself, but i couldn’t make it out the door for peopling.
So another phone appointment with my therapist.
<insertdeepsighhere>

At least i could do that much, so i’ll take it. And it bore good fruit.
She talks me through, not what’s happened this past week, or what i thought about it, but how my body felt when stuff was happening, and how my body felt as i was talking to her and thinking back on those events.
This is the work i’m doing. It’s constant, and sometimes it’s nothing short of terrifying and brutally painful.

But mostly, when i look back at it, it’s like a feeling of malaise, with the occasional intense bout of vomiting and diarrhea. Quite the image, i know, but it’s accurate.
What i mean is, i feel like shit all the time right now, but the times when i feel so sick i might die don’t last for very long at all.

If i can ground myself even the teensiest little bit with that knowledge, that belief, that experience (because that is how it has indeed always been), then i can maybe, just maybe — stay present in the moment and tune in to my body and just hang on.

–HANGTHEFUCKON–

I also had what feels like an epiphany, and boyohboy did i ever need one.
While talking to her, i suddenly realised that i’ve done all this work before, i just did it with regards to how my brain works.

Now i’m doing the same work, but with my body.
She said, Honey, you are in pain because you’ve done all the work that had to come before you could get here.

I’ve seen myself as a disembodied head when i was able to see myself at all.
Completely disconnected from my body. Nothing from the neck down.
My body exists in the land of the dead. It went there when i was a baby.
It hid from pain, from suffering, from unmet needs.

I’ve done the hard work with my brain, and it’s ready to dwell in the land of the living.
Now it’s my body’s turn. It wants to join with my brain and be alive, too.
But first i’ve got to do this work.

I must feel what it feels while knowing what i now know.

I can hang on for that.
I so fucking can.

We never failed you
Even though we might have felt that way
We never left you
Hurt to see you in so much pain
So hang on, hang on
Hang on, hang on
Hang on, hang on
When morning comes you won’t be here alone
~ Amos Lee

Love and Peace To You All,
HANG IN THERE.

~H~

Toast

Hunger has always been more or less at my elbow when I played, but now I began to wake up at night to find hunger standing at my bedside, staring at me gauntly.
~ Richard Wright

As i was saying yesterday – i woke up. I had a couple of tough days that involved more peopling than i’m comfortable handling right now, and by “more”, i mean any. I lost a bit of time on the second day, but it wasn’t too bad. I had a friend come and help me, and then i talked to my husband about what happened, and my feelings about it, and how things might have gone better and could go better next time. Because there will be a next time.

I went to bed and sleep took me more quickly than it has in some weeks. I woke up a couple of hours later though, and i was hungry. I was more than hungry, actually – i was starving. I used the bathroom before i went to the kitchen, and i was so hungry my hands were shaking, like i had low blood sugar or something. I’m sitting on the toilet and i have to pee but i can’t, because i’m panicky and tense. So i reach over and turn on the sink faucet, and the sound of running water has the desired effect of intensifying my need to urinate to the point where it overcomes my clenching pelvic floor. As my muscles relax a little and i feel relief, i have enough clarity to recognise that i’m having an intense physical and emotional reaction to something.

If it was a dream, i don’t remember it, but i don’t think that’s what’s up. I feel small. I feel young. My little Bits are up and active and upset. They need comfort and reassurance that everything is okay. When it hurt me to walk that morning it was more than a physical pain, it was a distressing emotional loss. Walking is an important and valuable tool in my coping kit. I work off stress and worry and i find peace and equilibrium in walking. It’s a place for my system to communicate more efficiently and freely. When they’re in upheaval they want to walk, and i get self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment from walking, so it’s mutually beneficial. It can be nearly impossible to communicate with my system when it’s particularly busy. Walking is a distraction. Walking deescalates. Walking is the oil that gets the gears moving in synchrony. As long as i get to be in charge of where we go, it’s worked exceptionally well for all of us.

But when my back signalled us that it was in too much pain to walk, we all cried out in my brain at once. It was too much for me, and BLINK i was gone.

Grocery shopping the day before had sapped too much of my strength; i had no stores upon which to draw. There was too much peopling and too much anxiety and too little sleep and some unmet needs that hurt and scared me. It’s hard for me not to see those things as rejection, and it takes effort to process it correctly.

Concentrate. I am loved. I have a history of being loved here. Experience tells me that this is a misunderstanding. Shhh. It’s okay. I know this feels like pain and terror and fury all at once. Breathe. This feeling will pass and another will take its place. It’s never not happened that way. I can ride this through until i’m in another place where i can look back and i know i know i know that perspective will come. It always comes. Breathe. Hug the pillow close. Adjust the fan so it cools the sweat on my face. Shhh. It’s okay. This feeling will end and another will come and take its place.

And one did. I slept fitfully. I made it to the point of drop off, where my husband drove to work in the city and i was to walk the rest of the way to the hospital to get my tests. But when it immediately became clear that i couldn’t walk, i had nothing left inside me to deal with losing something that i hold so dear. That we all hold so dear. I’ve got to feel my feelings and listen to my body to get to the next level of healing, and this is what i get? My emotions are hurting me and my body is hurting me too, and now one of my favouritest-best coping tools is no longer in the box.
Too much, World.
Too fucking much.

So i’m on the road trying to walk to the hospital to get my x-rays but i can’t walk and we all cry out and BLINK i’m gone. When the day is over and i’m processing the events with my partner, i tell him of my unmet needs and the feelings i had about it and how it took all the spoons left in my drawer, so that i had none left when i was standing there on the road, barely able to walk. It’s why he received a call from crying children wanting to go home, and it’s why they tried to jump out of the vehicle later when he picked us up, full of frustration and exasperation for being late to work on an important day.
I’m not easy and he’s not perfect.
So a raised voice and cuss words are heard and they’re further rattled, and they bounce around and wail and whine in my head all day long. And now older, caretaker types are pissed off and stompstompstomping through my brain…

After discussion between he and i it’s all good, but i’m spent and jangly.
I fall asleep feeling fairly content, and then wake up suddenly, so hungry i can barely focus. Another moment of toilet-clarity (i’ve had a considerable number of them), i know it’s my wee ones who need feeding so badly. I wash my trembling hands and head to the kitchen. I know it’s going to be a frenzy, and i make a conscious choice to let it happen; to do my best to stay present and watch, perhaps to learn and to be a better help next time.
I’m in the kind of dissociative state where i’m still there, watching, but i cannot affect what i’m doing.
They want toast. They want toast and the lamb gravy from supper. I sit down in my living room with no lights on, and they eat it so fast i think i might accidentally bite my fingers. Once it’s all gone the frantic feelings fade, and i’m able to talk to them again.
Concentrate. Breathe. It’s okay. There’s more. There’s enough. You can eat whenever you want to eat, and you can have whatever you’d like. Wash your hands and face. Look in the mirror. Hi. Breathe. It’s okay. Go rest now.

Tomorrow i want to talk about my mother, and food. I touched on it on my old blog, the one where i disclosed my story, but there is so much more now. I know and i see so much more. It may be triggery stuff for some. For me, i think i might be a little excited to get it all out. I’m done hiding and i’m through with glossing over it.
My body has been trying to tell this story since forever.

No I will not lay down 
I will not live my life like a ghost in this town 
I am not lonely swear to God I’m just alone 
~ The Sound Of, Jann Arden

X-Rays and Asian Supermarkets

There are opportunities even in the most difficult moments.
~ Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai.

Yesterday was an adventure, and since i’m trying to write through this tough period rather than after, i’mma tell you about it.

I have myriad health concerns, mental and physical. There’s both nature and nurture involved in them, which i suspect is true for many of us. For me, the primary physical issue has quickly become my back. I was morbidly obese for many years, which i’d guess is a large part of the problem, if not all, but at this point, i don’t know. What i do know is that after i lost most of the excess, i could hear my back making some noise, but i thought it was normal for someone of a more average weight. Over the last, say 6mos or so, the cracking and popping has become much more frequent, and in the last 6wks, downright painful. I saw my doctor, who ordered a series of x-rays. I went to my local hospital for them yesterday.

The preamble to my adventure is significant. I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to be around people as i delve into this deeper level of therapy. Listening to my body, learning to read its signals, does not come naturally to me. I survived the abuse i suffered in childhood by turning off physical sensations and hiding in my brain. As an adult i’ve continued this practise, mostly due to a combination of not being fully conscious that i’ve been living this way, and being regularly triggered by the sorts of events and occurrences that happen to us all.

Attempting to stay present, and by that i mean not dissociate, and check in to my body’s reactions to what is going on around me is scary AF, and takes a great deal of energy. Even going through the checkout at a grocery store can be difficult. I’m known at every store i frequent (there’s one where i’m not, but it’s too bloody expensive, and i probably know people who work there too, anyway), and so i’m going to have to make some kind of small talk.

NOTE: Look, i know i don’t technically have to say anything, but beyond that, yeah, i kinda do. These are decent, hardworking people, who have their own lives going on at home, too. They may be in the weeds as well, but i don’t know about it because they’re in customer service, and so they put on a nice smile and ask how i’m doing. They may not actually give a crap, but i wouldn’t know that either because they’re damn good at their job. I don’t want to pass through that till without a single word. Even if i just tell them the truth and say that life stinks right now, i’m going to have some kind of verbal interaction with them. They see me every week. They perform a service for me very well. They’ve been unfailingly nice to me, and so that’s that – conversation is gonna happen.

Now comes the case where it’s not necessary. Heh.

My favourite grocery store is in the city, which is some distance from where i live. It’s my favourite because it’s an Asian supermarket, and because i’m not required to act the same way as i am in my small town offerings. Many of the customers speak broken English at best, and i am Amazon-sized and don’t speak their language at all, so small talk simply doesn’t happen very often. The cashiers don’t speak to me except to say Thank you! when they hand me my receipt. It’s fucking glorious.

I had an opportunity to go on Sunday, and it had been a couple of months, so there were things i needed that i can only get there, like the seaweed snacks we like for a reasonable price, and roasted soybean flour, and yellow rock sugar, and 2X spicy chicken volcano ramen. My husband and son had business in the city, so they dropped me off first, that i might take my time there, as is my wont. I love looking at all the different food choices, and i love trying new things, and i lovelovelove that i don’t have to talk to anyone – they don’t even expect me to say Excuse me, or Sorry! (although i still do – i’m Canadian, okay?)
I thought it would be the perfect venue for peopling and being present in my body, because it’s the least stressful.
But i have never been there on a weekend. On the weekend i am not the only non-Asian in the store. With my friendly face (it’sacursejustkiddingimostlylikeit) and my cart full of items that say i can cook more than ramen and pre-made bao buns, i’m getting approached. A lot. When a woman actually taps. me. on. my. shoulder. i’m done.

My wa is shattered, i’m dissociating. I can feel my face going numb and the edges of my vision blurring. I help her, and then my shopping is over. I can’t even walk down any more aisles, i just hit the checkout line, pay and get out. It’s when i walk out of the store and into the general mall area that my numbness breaks enough to tell me that i can’t carry my purchases much further. My back is making grinding noises and i’ve got to go sit down. I find the food court area and sit with my back to a makeshift wall, behind which an Asian man is selling mobile subscriptions, and a crotchety old white dude is pontificating on how he gets his for 30 bucks cheaper and would prove it if he could find his Blasted bill that’s in here somewhere, dang it! I don’t think the salesman understands him very well, and the old man leaves, exasperated. It’s enough of a distraction that i’m able to chuckle to myself, which grounds me and i’m able to fill out my body a little better. I flow back into the empty spaces and i can feel my feet on the floor. I’m still feeling sketchy though – i can see other people glancing sideways at me, which lets me know i’m probably ticcing a fair bit. I text the hubs to come get me.

Once i’m home and ensconced for the night, i start worrying about how in the actual frickety-frack i’m gonna go get these x-rays at my local hospital where i know the receptionist and i’m bound to run into others as i go through the intake that’s stationed right at Emerg. I barely sleep.

<insertBLARGHhere>

In the morning, the plan is for my husband to drive me to the gas station where he gets fuel for himself (COFFEE!) and his vehicle, and i’ll walk the rest of the way to the hospital. It’s a fair distance, but i love to walk, and have been itching to get back at it since i broke my ankle last November. My back should be fine, as it only starts making crunchy noises when i bend over or swivel my hips a lot.

I’ve barely gone 100yds before sciatic nerve pain starts shooting down both legs. My tenuous hold on my brain breaks immediately. I love walking, and so do my Bits N’ Pieces. I’ve used it as the foundation of my physical fitness, and a healthy way to cope with depression. It’s taken some work, because as a child i was programmed to return “home” at the first sign of trouble, and when i switch, the first thing i’m likely to do is hit the road walkin’, but i’ve found a way to make it fun and therapeutic for my whole system. To lose the walking when i’ve been waiting and hoping for months is crushing, and i start to cry…

I open my eyes and i’m no longer outside. I’m sitting in my girlfriend’s living room, and i’m still crying. Well, how about that, eh? I’m an old hand at pretending i’m fine. I’ve come back to the face many times when no one has had any idea that i was even gone. I mean, most people don’t know i’m a multiple, so for them, they may notice i’m behaving a bit strangely, but probably not even that. People are incredibly self-focused (no judgment here) and have no idea what i’m doing or going through, and don’t much care. And the healthier i get, the more i appreciate the ignorance of others. I’ve gone from this incredibly broken and dysfunctional person, who desperately wanted someone to notice and HELP ME! to a relatively normally functioning woman who’s grateful to be unnoticed. That being said, this girlfriend is my closest girlfriend, and she knows me and has seen me both in and out of the face. She’s chased me across the city, around the town we live in, saved me from frostbite, and pulled me from ditches. She’s seen me when it’s been very clear that i am not myself.

And so i tell her it’s me, and she smiles and reassures me that everything’s okay; that i’m okay and she’s okay and fills me in on what i’ve missed. (She picked me up for x-rays and then brought me to her house afterwards.) I cry a little more and then breathe into it, i breathe myself back into those pockets that are empty when i’m not there. The places no one can feel but me – my existential guts and girl parts. I settle in and the ache of fibromyalgia fills my neck, shoulders, arms, hands, and the pain radiating from my lumbar region floods down my buttocks and legs, the kind of back pain that makes a woman feel like she’s menstruating. Ah yes, this is the body i live in, it is home, and i know this place. It’s a fixer-upper, but it’s got hella potential and the renovations are coming along nicely.

My friend takes me home after gently caring for me and making sure i’m all right. Once there i think over the events of the last couple of days and take stock: what happened, how i felt, how i reacted, what did i do right, what could have been done better. I can see that things went fairly well overall, but they could have gone more smoothly had i had clearer communication with my partner, so i text him at work and schedule a talk session. I used to just pounce on the poor man when he came home. I’d be thinking about things for hours and just vomit all my thoughts and feelings about whatever all over him as he’s barely in the door. Heh. I’m far more able to consider him and his thoughts and feelings now, so i give him a heads up.

He picks me up and we go for a short drive, to a place where we have a lovely private view and can talk without interruption. I shared and he responded and shared things too, and i felt heard and understood. Then we went out for a spicy chicken sandwich. Home was quiet and uneventful, and i was able to fall asleep relatively easily.

I woke up though, and it brings me to something i’ve been wanting to explore a little deeper. If all goes well, i’ll post again tomorrow. I know this is long, and a bit plodding, with not much in the way of grand observations and stunning conclusions. However, i think it’s some of the most important stuff i can post, in that it relates the day-to-days of a regular life, lived by a regular person. I have a brain that works in a non-typical fashion, as so many of us do. Life happens, and i try to figure out how to have the best outcomes and get the most enjoyment and happiness that i can, all while also trying to be as useful and good a human as i can manage. This is slogging through the trenches stuff, and i’m doing it. Although your brain may work differently and you may require different coping skills and tweaks, i believe you have a chance to figure your shit out and enjoy a better quality of life, too. I want that for you, very much.

Love and Peace to All,
~H~