1 Day in the Life of a Crazy Woman

Where i buy a turkey sandwich, but don’t eat it.

Last week i went to see my plastic surgeon. When you lose over 300lbs, you generally need some work done, and i did. I’ve had double brachioplasty, abdominoplasty, double mastopexy and breast implants. I began having tearing pain in 1 breast, and the beginnings of the same pain in the other. As my surgery was 15yrs ago, i went to see if the implants were the problem.
It was a dicey situation for me to walk into, loaded with potential triggers. I thought hard about it and tried my best to prepare. Being topless in front of someone who isn’t my husband, who’s looking at me critically and touching me… I knew it would be difficult, and i’d be dealing with a strong desire to dissociate.

It was hard, and then some. What i didn’t anticipate was that there was nothing wrong with my implants, which left waiting for a mammogram. Great. So something could be wrong with my boobs, like, my real boobs? Fantastic.
There was no way for me to not be alone after the appointment, so i’d invited myself over to my son’s house to visit my DIL and my grandchildren. I figured the bus might be another hurdle still, but doable. I got to their neighbourhood without a single hitch, and then shit happened, as shit do.

I’m on the bus, heading up the hill, and i start feeling nauseated. I know this part of the city well, and i realise i’ve failed to anticipate the real trouble. I’ve spent countless hours in this area’s local park. Waiting for abusers to pick me up and abuse me.
The dissociation happens as soon as the realisation hits, and i can’t stop it.

My body wants to run back down the hill. Get away, go downtown. The library is a haven, and i wonder when it closes. Evening comes early on my side of the equator, so dusk has fallen, and is rapidly becoming nighttime. The air is thick with moisture, and the streetlights illuminate the fog, creating little clouds every 30m or so. I’m wearing knee-high suede boots, because they’re fashionable, and because i’ve only just lost enough weight that my calves can fit any. Yes, i wear them every chance i get, and no, they don’t keep my feet warm at all.

I know the house is only a couple of blocks away, so i should be able to find it. I head up another hill, off the main road, and into the maze of suburbia. In less than 2 blocks i’m scattered, anxiety has started squeezing my heart in its icy hand, and the fog surrounding me seeps into my brain. I find a map on my phone, but it’s too late. I look at it without understanding. I try to zero in on the street names, but i can’t focus. The names bounce around in my head, echoing off bone, passing through each other like string theory. I’m in a cold, foamy sea of yellow roads and names that start with “C”. I’m treading water but i can’t feel my feet and my legs are fast becoming numb…

I startle and quickly look up and around me.
I don’t know where i am.
My feet are blocks of ice and i have snotsicles.
I’ve lost time and wandered.

I call my daughter-in-law for directions, thinking her voice might ground me a bit, or at least force me into a more conscious state. I forget that she doesn’t drive either, and between the 2 of us, we’re not getting me there.
I’m fading in and out. I hear her voice in my ear and then it moves away from me.
My guts churn and my head feels floaty; it starts pounding mercilessly. It feels like my brain is swelling, filling the space like a balloon ready to burst. It presses down into my throat, pulsing, throbbing. My neck and the base of my skull feel like broken glass.

By the time she suggests my son come out to find me, hope is lost. I’ve taken that stumbling hitch-step from Anxiety Hill into Panicland. I feel an icy-hot rush flood my skin at the suggestion of seeing my son. I can’t allow him to see me like this.
I cannot allow my dear daughter or precious granddaughters to see me this way.

Trying to sound calm and blas√©, knowing that i’m failing, i tell her i’m going to make my way to the strip mall on the main road. I can hear my scared Little voice quietly harmonising with my desperately false one, but i’m helpless to temper it. All i know is that i must get away from them. She and my son have seen far too much of my calamity as it is, and i committed myself long ago to testing their acceptance and forgiveness of me as little as possible.
I get off the phone and make my way to the string of shops below.

I know i’m close to mild frostbite, but i wander back and forth in front of the various businesses, unable to decide which one i should risk entering. I see a gas station, and think i could buy some gum and use the restroom to gather myself, but as i draw nearer i see it’s a kiosk. Damn.
I see a burger place decorated like a diner set back behind it, but as i walk towards it i see it’s take-away only. Blargh.
Heading back the way i came i see a Korean restaurant, which is a favourite cuisine, but there is 1 person sitting at a table, and that’s not enough to hide, so ixnay on the Ulgogi-bay.
The coffee shop i’d first come across has closed during my indecision. Fucksticks.
Subway sandwiches is open, and while it is cramped AF so not ideal, there are a handful of patrons inside, which might afford me some anonymity.

As i open the door to the restaurant, i close the door on myself.

I look up at blurred images of melting yellows and blacks. My feet are being jabbed with long needles, but instead of delivering anaesthetic it hits me like amyl nitrate – popping me into consciousness with a gasp of pain, immediately followed by panic.
I feel small and naked and my breath is getting away. There’s food and drink in front of me, and my phone is in my hand. Only a couple of my Bits N’ Pieces can use a cell phone, and they’re strictly helping parts, so when i check i see i’ve contacted Kurt.
That should help, but it doesn’t.
I’m too far along and it has me. Full anxiety attack. My chest feels expanded and tight, metallic. My heart is a bomb inside, and it’s going to blow. I need to manage this, but i can’t. I need help, but i can’t think.
I’m scurrying around inside my brain, bumping into thoughts and parts. My emotions jangling, like cymbals crashing, filling my ears, my eyes too wide, one set of fingernails biting into my palm, the other white-knuckling my phone.
My phone.
MY PHONE.

I have a group of friends that i met nearly 20yrs ago on a fansite/message board, and we’ve remained close long after the page’s demise. They’ve stuck with me through all my crazy, supported and encouraged me, held my hand when i was lost and held me up when i was so low i had to look up to see dirt.
We have our own texting group on the phone.
I reach out as sobs are bubbling up and ask if anyone’s there.

They are.
They hop on in response to my need, and proceed to talk me off the ledge.
Helpmehelpmehelpmeplease. I’m trying not to cry but i’m crying. I’m crying alone at a table in a Subway restaurant.
Look down, they say, Look down and no one will see.
It’sokayyou’reokayeverything’sgoingtobeokay. Okay?
Okay.
Can you see 5 things? I say Yes, and whisper them out.
Name 4 sensations, 3 sounds, 2 smells…
I keep my eyes down, and smash the iwonderiftheycanhearmewho’slookingatme that comes and almost derails me.
Do you know any breathing techniques?
Yes! I can 4-7-8.
My no-yoga ass 4-7-8s its little heart out.
Quietly.
In a little curvy Subway chair that cups my rump and thighs and attaches to the table and another chair in 1 big piece.
They continue to text me and say good and kind and right things until the door tinkles open and gives me my husband. His warm and gently smiling face washes over me like a beam of sun and his strong hand knits through my shaking one as he guides me through the watercolour people and into his work van. It’s warm and purring inside, dark and quiet and safe. Safe metal box. Safe space.

I breathe into my collapse. My grateful release of sobs. Panic stops its painful squeezing and my body discharges into the night.

My mother would pick me up from the babysitter’s after work. When she turned left off Northmount before 14th Street, i knew. Sometimes, a man would already be there, waiting. On many occasions though, she would just drop me off in the parking lot of the park, where i would wait.
Wait for a man who was coming to hurt me.
Winter and weekends were the worst.
Weekdays they were usually prompt, but weekends seemed at times to take hours, and our winters are very cold.
My babysitter was the next suburb over, and my grandparents, the one on the other side. A few times i panicked and tried to find them, wandering the streets up and down, looking for help and safety, but never finding it.
Those times my mother would find me, get me into the car, and hit me all the way home. I’d run straight to my room, hoping she was too tired for anything else besides denying me food.

As my husband drove me home i was an earthquake in my seat. My thighs quivered helplessly, my knees knocked together, my shoulders shook, my body heaved and my guts writhed, nausea snaking its way into my mouth. I sobbed and retched as my body discharged and discharged, until i went completely rigid. I arched up against the seatbelt, as if in the grips of a seizure, and then everything let go and i fell back, limp and exhausted.

The panic was gone, and with it went the fear and embarrassment, too. And i wasn’t just emotionally spent, i was calm. I felt noticeably lighter. I felt relief. I felt clearheaded.
As we drove the 50 or so minutes home, i looked back upon what’d happened and i didn’t see failure. I saw success – i felt successful. I was less amorphous in my body; my thoughts and sensations felt firm, solid, like they carried physical weight. My head and my limbs weren’t trying to rise and float away from me, i could feel where they attached to my neck and torso. I was a human being, individual, and contained in 1 whole piece.

All this trying, all this trytrytry, try more, try again, wait and try harder, try different, try her, him, this, that, them. This struggle. This work.
It’s all brought me here.
My brain is afraid and it runs and hides.
My body hurts and it curls up tight like a fist and tries to make the pain disappear.
But all this struggle, all this work, all this freaking TIME i’ve put in, to figure out where i’m broken and put myself back together has brought me here.

Today i have a kit full of tools and a phone full of support.
I still slide and switch and freak right the fuck out, but today i can figure out why. I dig around in my bag and pull out something that helps. There are dozens –yes, DOZENS– of people who will love me and help me through it. The crises that inevitably come are not beyond my ability to cope. I’m no longer left drowning in wreckage, wretched and lost in the aftermath.

This is life as me.
It’s changing and it’s good.
And that’s storytime for today.
Be well readers, friends.

Love and Peace to You All,
~H~

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