On the Corner of Responsibility and Consequence

Strong CW: Contains discussion of the abuse and neglect of my children, by me. References spankings and not being at home.

**********
Been hiding my scars in broad daylight bars
Behind laugh tracks on TV
If you can’t see the forest for the trees
Just burn it all down, and bring the ashes to me

You hear your mother screaming
You hear your daddy shout
You try to figure it out
You never figure it out
Your mother’s screaming
That you don’t deserve love
If you don’t deserve love
And if I don’t deserve love
Could we deserve?
Come down off your cross
And tell me!
~ Arcade Fire, We Don’t Deserve Love

I don’t wanna write this. My brain keeps reaching out and grabbing the words, stuffing them into little boxes and padlocking them closed. The people who live here with me are whining and weeping, clutching at me with greedy fingers – Don’t leave. The place i’m going is one where they can accompany me (they’re with me always and everywhere), but they won’t. This is a back alley neighbourhood, with only the occasional dusty patch of light. The shadows are full-throated and hungry. My precious Bits N’ Pieces will hover at the entrance and pule for my return.

It’s not like i want to visit this place, it’s that i must. I come here as infrequently as i can. Here i feel wretched and monstrous. Here i can sense my mother around every corner, i can fairly smell her stench in the air. There are rooms here where we live together, and pipe organs play funereal dirges. Everything is coated with oil and dust, like a poorly kept diner’s flat top hood.
I’m waxing poetic because i truly do not want to be in this place.
Oh, my heart.
Oh, my heart.

I’ve written of my children a number of times, careful to respect their privacy and mention them only as it pertains to my journey through mental illness and neuroatypicality (may not be a word – zero fux). Today i’m going to skate along the razor’s edge, and if i slice some off here and there, it’s as it must be.
Because if i don’t, my guilt will pulverise me and the cold depths of my sorrow will suck me down and hold me until i am nothing.

This is one of the things that i write about that seems to make people the most uncomfortable – my many and terrible failures as a parent. It scores right up there with the times i mention that i will never be completely healed or well. I’ve learned to dance around these issues, because i can feel the need of others to believe that it isn’t true. People hold on to these beliefs with respect to me, mostly because they love me, and i appreciate it. I can feel the warm and supportive place it’s coming from, and i decided to accept it and not press the issue. I also tread lightly and rarely because i’m trying to build and foster hope here on this blog, and i know many, if not most, find my stance on these issues counterintuitive.
I’m sorry if you find these beliefs of mine stressful.
Gently i will say that this is life as me, and this is how my brain works.
Your mileage will vary, and this blog has never been to tell you how to save your own life, only to give you some hope that you might be able to, because i am. I’m saving my own life, and these are my thoughts, opinions, and beliefs – this is my path, my road, my mountain, my ocean, my internal universe.

My children are all grown now, and i’m living in the days of the damage i’ve wrought, the price they’ve had to pay, and the consequences to them, to me, and to us.

I remember most of my first son’s early years. When he was somewhere between 6-9mos was the first time i heard 1 of my parts speak loudly, in a voice that was not mine, and seemed to come from outside me. I was changing his diaper when a voice in the kitchen told me something very specific about an abuse committed by my mother. And then there was the time when he was 5 and i slid to the back of my brain and watched as i hurt him. It was awful, and i watched helplessly, unable to stop it, and completely lacking understanding of what was happening. These 2 events might have been what finally opened me up to the possibility of being a multiple.

I remember some of my middle son’s early years. The first 4 were clear: i had a couple of solid friendships where we spent a lot of time together, and the religions (yes, 2) i was practising at the time were working somewhat. The problem with one was that it required a great deal of my time, and i left both boys with sitters too often, and for too long. And although i wasn’t abusive by some standards, the other required physical punishment, i.e. spankings, which i employed with some regularity. I deeply regret both things.

Then i fell in love, got married, and gave birth to my youngest son. To sum up, because i’ve written about this a LOT: falling in love scared the crap outta me, i dissociated, put on a tremendous amount of weight, had weight loss surgery, experienced my first obvious mania and was diagnosed bipolar.
It is one of the saddest truths of my life that i can’t recall much at all of his early years. Although i had abandoned religion entirely and stopped spanking my children, my neglect increased. Both older ones were struggling at school, and i was no support. I let the television babysit my one that was still at home, and eventually i was on some combination of pills and booze every day. As soon as their father came home from work i would leave until all hours.

I was receiving treatment for both multiplicity and bipolar disorder, but it wasn’t helping much. I was in and out of the Bin (of the Looney variety), in and out of detox, treatment facilities, and a handful of p-doc’s offices. My husband and i decided we needed to get out of the big city. My MIL took me in, and her gentle, quiet love helped calm me down for a time.
But the damage had been done.
My oldest son had become increasingly angry and refused to move with us. He emancipated himself and lived with relatives, eventually moving in with his girlfriend and having a child.
My middle boy continued to have big problems at school, and was paraded in front of many school counsellors and p-docs who threw a number of diagnoses at us. He got the worst of me. My oldest got some good stuff on the front end, and my youngest on the back. I was incredibly sick for the majority of my second son’s upbringing.
My youngest did well in school and was zero problem at home, but over a period of time he began manifesting his own serious issues, that have stalled his development into a fully functioning adult.

I have 1 son that wants nothing to do with me, 1 that purposely hurts me, and 1 that cannot currently function in the world on life’s terms. One has serious addiction issues, and 2 have mental illness diagnoses. All 3 are closed doors when it comes to getting to know them. They all have thick walls around them, they all wrestle with rage. They trust few, seldom, and not very much. They’re highly critical of others and hardest of all on themselves. One functions in the world by shutting everything down, one by wearing a mask, and one simply doesn’t.

And this is my responsibility. This is my doing.
Yes, i was abused. Yes, i’m seriously mentally ill.
But whether or not it’s my fault (it is), and whether or not i meant to (i didn’t), doesn’t change the way my parenting affected them.
I’ve communicated to them in every way i can think of, how sorry i am.
I’ve made it abundantly clear that i’m available for anything that they might want to say to me. I’ll show up and pay for every appointment. I will never offer an excuse.
I live every day working on myself, not just for my own benefit, but for theirs.
As none of them have taken me up on my offer of therapy, it is the only amends i can give them.
Trying to force them to tell me off and get angry at me would be for me, not for them. I have to respect how they choose to live their lives and handle their childhood.
I want to fix it, so badly, but i cannot without an invitation, and even then…

One son who has a successful life and happy family without me.
One son whose life is going straight off the rails.
One son who is okay as long as he doesn’t have to interact with the rest of the world.

I’m not good at balance, but i damn sure work at it all the time. I do not know where balance is, here. How much to carry and what to lay down. I know some of it is mine, but not all. I know there comes a time when, regardless of who did what, the responsibility for what comes next lies with the individual. I know what it’s like to be dealt a shitty hand, and i’m beyond convinced, convicted, and contrite that i was their dealer.
I don’t know where the line is, between doing the best i could, and my best not being nearly enough.

I mourn my broken relationships with them, and i mourn the lack of opportunity to make it better in some way. I see my mother’s hand in this, and my daddy’s, and my stepfather’s, but if i only cut them so much slack for their actions, i must also hold myself accountable.
This is treacherous territory.
I will continue to do the work in front of me; to live and learn and try always to be a better human. For me, of course. For my husband, absolutely. For the betterment of the human community, ideally.
For my children, because it is the least of what they’re due from me.

Put your money on me
If you think I’m losing you, you must be crazy
All your money on me
I’m never gonna let you go, even when it’s easy
Put your money on me
Or tuck me into bed, and wake me when I’m dead
I know that you gotta be free
But I’m never gonna let it go

All my presents are broken before they’re open
And the promises, the second they’re spoken
I know I’ve been different
My skin keeps shedding
~ Arcade Fire, Put Your Money On Me

Here’s to a better tomorrow, with hope that i’ll feel a bit less heavy inside.
Love and Peace to All,
~H~

 

Updates From the Back 40

Totally random.
Some’re gonna be ranty, and some of ’em mushy, maybe. I’m just gonna start typing, and see where my fingers take me.
Off i go, then.

**********

So much selfishness and stupidity around me. I’ve made some hard decisions about who and what i’ll tolerate, and it ain’t many or much anymore. As my partner’s and my life might be riding on the choices and decisions i make, i’m finding the capacity for cold calculation and the ability to act swiftly, and even brutally. As all my children are grown, my priority is simple – me and my man. I have a small circle around me that is my next priority, as in, my children, grandchildren, and a few dear friends. I’m also a secular humanist, so i’m fully invested in being the best human i can be, and want the best for the earth and all its inhabitants.

I don’t have any leftover energy to have conversations with those with a history of doubling down or fondness for conspiracy theories. Even if i love you, you’re over there, far away from me, at least until there’s a vaccine, and i’ll probably wait until certain organisations declare the pandemic over.

I’m learning how to be the parent of grown children. I’ve never been meddlesome in their adult lives, but when 2 of them are still at home it can be hard to suss what’s my business and what’s not. Where do i still have authority and what’s simply not my call? I think i’m doing remarkably well. There are times when i’ve got to let them go, even when it might mean they fall, and land, HARD. They get to decide how much involvement they want from me, if any. I’ve made terrible mistakes with my boys, and they get to think what they think about it. They get to have their feelings and they get to react to it how they will. They can shut me out, they can shut down over it all, they can call me out. I’m here for their processes –far away and not talking about it if that’s what they want– but i’ll always be on the periphery. I’m as prepared as i can be for whatever they’d care to throw at me, to accept the responsibility where it’s appropriate, to shut up and listen when required. For now i wait, my amends currently come in the form of working towards being as functional and mentally/emotionally stable as i can get. To show them that no matter what crap your parents visited upon you, there is hope of getting out from under it and having the life you want.

After over 20yrs, i can feel myself finally, finally, finally settling into my marriage. I’ve tested it, i’ve tested him, and i’ve run away. I’ve pulled him close and then pushed him away, over and over. I’ve wrestled with physical and emotional intimacy. We’ve had some dicey years, but they feel over, at least for now. I don’t feel the need to protect myself so much anymore. There’s a deep and abiding trust that’s grown into a level of comfort i haven’t experienced before. I still have a wall, but i’ve built a door into it, and he has a key. When something bad happens, when my emotions or my brain start spiraling, i go to him for connection. He’s my soft place to fall, my water when my well has run dry. I think i’m moving from want/wish/hope to actually believing he won’t purposely cause me harm or leave me. That’s kinda big, for me.

I’m also becoming more and more accepting of how my brain works. Instead of trying to force myself into some form of person that i think i should be, i’m doing the work to figure out who i am underneath all the fear and anger and pain that i’ve carried throughout my life. I live with serious, multiple mental illness diagnoses on top of any nature and nurture regarding my personality and personhood. A lot of the common wisdom doesn’t fit me and doesn’t sit well with me. As i reach inward with love, as i experience forgiveness and acceptance from me to me, i let go of the urge to be who i think others want and/or expect me to be. This is me and this is how my brain works and this is how i feel about stuff and this is my life and no one else’s.

I’m creating the life i want around me because at last i’m able to name what it is and what it’s not. I’m not trying to force myself into another person’s vision of a good life. As i forge a relationship with myself i’m able to connect to my own unique and specific desires, hopes, and yes, dreams. Mending the broken connections between my brain and my body has given me insight and strength. For many years i’ve moved at a snail’s pace. I’ve stopped, gone backwards, tried to rush forward and fallen flat on my face. I’ve tripped and fallen down countless rabbit holes. I’ve been in the weeds and in the shit. And all of that still happens, but i get on to the next thing so much more quickly. My step is getting lighter, but firmer and faster, too. As one who has suffered some long and intense manias, i’ll likely always have to monitor and occasionally rein in the rate at which i progress, but relatively speaking, i see a day when i’m crushing it on the regular.

Defining myself is enabling me to ask for more of what i want from appropriate sources. I’m also growing my ability to say No to whomever i wish and whatever i choose. This doesn’t make me unreasonable nor has it turned me into a diva. This makes my life more productive and brings depth and authenticity to my relationships. My words are fewer but carry more weight. My actions are intentional and add value. I don’t hide my flaws and foibles, but neither do i  wallow in them or present them as an excuse or a get-out-of-jail-free card. I acknowledge, make amends where necessary, pick my ass up and get back to business.

I don’t hate my body anymore.
I’m gonna type that again, because it is a MASSIVE, AMAZING accomplishment.
I don’t hate my body anymore.
I’ve always known my face is pretty, but i’ve always been at loggerheads with my body. I saw it as a traitor. I gained weight when i was around 7 or 8, and i’ve never lost it, completely. As i’ve shared many times before, i became morbidly obese after my marriage, and eventually had weight loss surgery. I got to within 15 or 20lbs of my goal, but unfortunately between my marriage and the male gaze i was triggered and experiencing my first intense and extreme mania. That caused a significant amount of weight gain – about a third of what i’d lost. That was in 2007 and i’ve been struggling to get it back off ever since. Turns out therapy was the missing piece of my lifestyle puzzle where my relationship with food and body image were concerned. Over the last couple of years particularly, i’ve hit my stride. I let go of time and goal-setting. I changed one small thing about the way that i ate, and did that thing until it became a part of my life, and then i changed another. The progress was slow, but it didn’t bother me, because my focus was on a lifestyle change and my physical health – my lifelong experience taught me that the other would come along with it, naturally.
And it has.

That’s incredible already, but the truly tremendous, fantastically freeing thing is i don’t despise my body anymore. I’ve lost and gained, and i’m in my 50s, so frankly, there’s some damage, some wear and tear, you know? But i know why i look the way i do, and i’ve apportioned the responsibility for it. It sits squarely on the ashes of my dead mother, and rests on the heads of every stinking asshole in my childhood who ever laid their hands on me. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to manage, to fix, to hide, to figure it out. It just took time, some healing in my emotions and thoughts, and the right information. I can look at myself naked, and not even think a mean thing. I can wear clothes and not constantly pick at them and smooth things out and pull them down. I wear what i want. I look how i like me to look.
I like fashion, but only as an art form. I’ve discarded the hate machine that surrounds it. I’m slowly developing my own sense of style. It becomes more defined and recognisable as i recognise and define myself.

And i no longer seek  or accept sexual attention from all and any sources.
As i heal what was broken sexually inside me i know where to go and where not to.
I can ask for what i want.
I can say No.
I don’t flirt with anything that’s breathing.
I’m no longer inappropriately sexual or bawdy – i know the proper times and places and people. I don’t place myself in dangerous situations with dangerous people, all for validation and approval.
I see what i bring to the table. I know where and when and to whom i’ll serve it.
That’s some freaking alchemy, lemme tell ya.

So there it is, today’s blog offering. A strange kind of positivity, and not as mushy as i thought i might get. I see myself in this, standing with my feet set firmly and wide apart. My fists are planted on my hips and i’m laughing, deep in my belly, toothily, like the star of a lumberjack musical.

A smart, sexy one.

No, no one in my dressing room after the show, thanks.

More soon.

Love and Peace to All,
~H~

Suffer the Little Children

Alternate title: Jesus, Do You Smell That?

Content warning: Some references to childhood sexual abuse.

I’m settling in to this process a bit more every day. I don’t know how long it will take for me to forge a connection between my brain and my body, but i’m committed to and invested in it, even if i’m never quite done. I’m connecting parts slowly, a bit at a time, and i’m doing well resisting the urge to tackle it all, hard and head-on. When the Peanut Gallery pipes up with some judgey shit about how i should be further along than i am, i have plenty of examples of how terribly awry things can go when i push too hard. However, during my therapy sesh yesterday i realised there is an area where i could be doing a tad more, and i’m balking.

I try every day, all day, to stay present in my body and feel what’s happening to me physically; my aim is to dissociate as little as possible. I hold on to the face through the regular day-to-day sensations, like brushing my teeth, which can be triggery AF, and i’m hanging on through some awful body memory stuff, like phantom burning in my genital area. While i’m going through these intense body sensations, my Bits N’ Pieces are having various reactions to what’s going on, just like i am. I’m learning to care for the body memory stuff with warm drinks, blankets, binding, writing, and even talking about it with my hubs, but i’m hanging back when it comes to directly engaging my system and asking them what kind of care/comfort they’d like while dealing with this stuff.

Mutiplicity can be difficult to explain, and this is one of those areas that, no matter how i put it, it still seems inadequate; the words don’t communicate my reality sufficiently. Yes, i hear voices in my head. I know they’re all me, and yet they’re a little bit not me. Maybe think of it like we tend to think of things as natural or not natural: maple syrup gets the natural label, but Aunt Jemima doesn’t. They’re both made of ingredients that come from our world (some additives are man-made, sure, but it’s not like we folded space and travelled to another universe for the elements needed to make them), yet one doesn’t seem as raw or earthy – it’s not as much a part of the innate order of things. Unnatural? Not quite natural?

So it is with my system. I know the people that live in my brain, that chatter at me all day long and even into my dreamlife, that saved me when i was little and now help shoulder the minefield that is being a human living in a developed nation after severe trauma, by carrying my burdens, secreting my pain, and sometimes taking control of my body when i’m overwhelmed… Are all iterations of me – various versions of who i needed to be or thought i had to be in order to survive.
Yet they are not me.
There were walls between us for many years, borders that none of us would cross. They would not because they exist to care for/protect me, and i couldn’t because i hadn’t the knowledge or the space safe enough to do so. To step into the light and see my system – my big brain machine humming along, gears inside gears, turning alongside gears inside gears. A terrifically complicated and intricate psychic arrangement of snippets and gobs of personality. Actors that only exist between the green room and the stage. When i finally saw my face as a lit theatre and gained access to their dressing rooms, well, you know that not every actor whose work you like is a person you’d want to hang out with after the show, right?

Some of my people are not a good time. I might even say most of them aren’t, a lot of the time. I love them in a way that is only for them – not like i love my husband, my children, my friends. Not like food, or music, or art, or animals, or sunshine, or a cool glass of water, or my husband’s kiss. Not even like the characters in my favourite books. They’re more than these things, and less, too. Yet they’re closer to me than absolutely anyone else – no one, nothing else could get so close. They’re my saviours who occasionally get me into some serious scrapes. They’re my best friends and my champions. And they’re also my children who’re always getting into something and the only reason i don’t strangle them is they’re underdeveloped toddlers who can’t help it.

They remember awful things, sometimes as clearly as if they happened yesterday, sometimes as if they are happening now, in this moment, all the time. And i know i’m currently writing about feeling the physical sensations that go along with certain memories that’ve been locked away in certain parts of my body, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t also carry some physical pain. They feel the aching jaw, the bruises, the cuts, the headache like my skull is going to turn to dust, the swelling, the bleeding, the burning – all of it. It’s my hope that this work i’m doing will help them be free from pain. Perhaps even, that they can return to me as i return myself to homeostasis. They’ve told me their stories, now it’s my body’s turn. I see this as a housecleaning. I’m shining a light on all the dark places, removing all traces of black mould. But this house is currently serving as a temporary MASH unit, filled with sick and wounded soldiers. I have medicines and tonics and pills for them, and i have cleaners and disinfectants, tools and talent for cleaning a filthy home…
But the body has triggered my system, and i haven’t asked them if they want anything from me to help them bear it all.

Back when i was first learning to listen and relate to the other people who live with me in my brain, it was a gross and disgusting ordeal. Once i acknowledged that some of my dreams were actually memories, it was like trying to live a normal life in a locked room filled with decomposing bodies. I felt like i was coated in filth – it slicked my skin and filled up my nostrils and sat in the bottom of my belly like an angry, acid python, constantly twisting and spilling over itself. I stank of evil, life stank of rot. I was surrounded by horror, sex and death roiling and foaming together like a cannibal’s cauldron. It was the closest to giving up that i’ve ever come, i almost lost myself in the viscous fluid of memory, losing form and definition and nearly dissolving into hopelessness and endless nothing.

As i write this i’ve suddenly seen that i’m parenting my Bits like i parented my real life children. From a fucking distance. Afraid to touch, to engage, to connect. I didn’t know how with my sons, but i do now. I learned because i saw how much harm it had done to me not to have it from my parents. I’ve been learning and practising since then because i believe it’s not too late to give it to them unless they tell me so. And i would keep trying even if they told me it was too late and would never be enough, because i believe it’s my responsibility as a parent, and because i experience that doing so helps and heals me, too.

Yes, parenting my children with connection, engaging with them emotionally and physically – that’s what my brain-babies need/want, as well. Of course they do. I know that, it’s just that the feelings they carry, the stories the snapshots the motherfucking scary movie franchise…
Bah. The last time i got up close and personal with it all it was years before i felt clean again. It was years of barely being in the face because i couldn’t take the slime and the stench.
But comparing them to my boys helps.
Writing helps.
Therapy helps.
Hubby helps.
Truth helps.

They’re broken off bits of me, and they need me to wash them, bind up their wounds, and soothe them, just as i’ve done for myself, the primary me. If they were real live children, covered in blood and shit and filth, smelling like sex and rot, i wouldn’t hesitate for a second to gather them to me and minister to their needs.
These children are all me; why is it so hard to give myself what i would give to any other human in my position?
I was taught that i only existed to be poured out for the consumption of others, but i know now that that was a wicked, selfish lie told me by evil people.
Knowing where i come from and who i am is good, but it’s not enough. I have wounds that need washing and stitches and bandaging, breaks that need mending, and aches that need warmth.

This piece may not make much sense, i’m not sure. This is so close to my core that i don’t think i’m able to edit/proofread this with a critical eye. If you’ve made it this far, i thank you. Writing this made me want to throw up most of the way, but here and now, at this sentence, i feel recommitted and more fiercely dedicated than ever. If someone hurt a child the way i was hurt, if someone hurt my children the way i was hurt, i would ruin the world to make things better for them.

Yes, it’s a contradictory statement. It’s hyperbolic. It paints a picture and conveys the intensity of my conviction.

So, i guess i’m heading into the trenches.
This could get…

<insertwhateverwordcametoyourmindasitprobablyapplies>

Take Care and Try a Little Tenderness,
I will, too.

~H~

Sledgehammer, Part One

WARNING: This piece is about my relationship with my mother, and includes references to both physical and non-physical forms of sexual abuse, including rape.

Let me tell you about my mother.”
~Leon

I don’t really know what happened to my mother. She told so many stories that cannot now be verified, and i’ve caught so many of her lies, that i cannot paint her picture with much detail.

Abstract expressionism it is, then.

My mother was born out of wedlock in 1945, to an young Canadian nurse and a British RAF officer.* She was adopted out to a first generation Canadian couple in southern Alberta. They’d lost their first child, a son, within weeks of his birth, to measles, and my grandmother was unable to bear more children. They adopted her first, and then later, a boy. This was during a time when many people believed that adopted children had “bad blood”, because they’d been born to loose, sinful women.

They were raised in a place where nearly everyone, including their relatives practised a particular faith, a faith my mother’s family decidedly did not. The bullying in school was constant, and terrible. The teachers were all of the same faith, and the bullies were never reprimanded. Her brother though, as a boy and a baseball star, avoided most of the school bullying, and all of the suspicions of adopted children being tainted at home. He had replaced the son my grandparents had lost. Mother was an unfortunately necessary step to getting their precious boy – girls were less desirable than boys, but a girl could get your foot in the door, you see.

She must have at least sensed from the very beginning that she wasn’t wanted. When she was raped by one of my grandfather’s ranch hands, their response must have settled the matter. The man had threatened to kill her brother if she told, but she was hemorrhaging so badly it could not be hidden. She wasn’t taken to a hospital, a local doctor came to the ranch to see to her privately. The man wasn’t accused, arrested, charged, or punished, he was merely fired. She was 5yrs old.*

She got pregnant at 15, and was sent to a home for unwed mothers in the US where she was forced to give her baby up for adoption.* Following the surrender, she attended school away from home, to help keep her secret shame safe from the rest of the town and area. The girls at her school being as purely vicious as they were, i don’t imagine she minded at all.

At 22yrs old, she got pregnant again.
This is the point in her life where i enter, and now there are too many asterisks to even bother using them.

~~~~~~~~~~

-she got pregnant by a married man,
-she was raped by a married man,
-she got pregnant by a man of another faith whose parents would have disowned him,
-she got pregnant by a man who left to fight in Vietnam and was captured in country…

She went again to the States to the same home for unwed mothers, but this time she rebelled. She left and got a job and her own apartment, where 8mos into her pregnancy she was the victim of a break and enter and a violent rape.

~~~~~~~~~~

She fled the US for home, only to go into labour on her way, requiring her to make an unscheduled stop in Vancouver, where i born.

I won’t be going into what happened the first 7 or 8yrs of my life. It’s a story that doesn’t need to be told again. What i mean is, i can tell you a bit about my mom by way of explaining the terrible fear i always carry of becoming like her, without putting myself through the unnecessary pain of recounting the most painful years of my life. The years that fractured my brain into the little pieces that i am now trying so hard to manage and love and maybe even heal…

What i will say about those years is this: Afterwards, i believe that she suffered a crisis of conscience over what she’d done, and she didn’t manage the crisis well. I think she fell into a deep depression. I think she tried to fix what she’d done by having other children and parenting them better than she had me. And when she wasn’t able to (she was better to them in some ways and worse in others), she set upon years of self hatred and vain attempts to excuse her behaviour. Finally, it is my opinion that she eventually gave up and gave in to what she had become, and spent her final years reflecting more and more on the outside, what she was on the inside. Filthy. Bloated. Foul.

It is her final years that have most imprinted upon me this fear i have inside.
I watched her descent into utter depravity. As parts of me can move forward or recede as required, as parts of me can emotionlessly record events i have watched her slow free fall into a bottomless pit of what i can only describe as uncleanness.

I watched the house get dirtier and dirtier, until there were used dishes covered in molding food all over the house, including the floors, and yes, even the bathtub, where they were also covered with stinking scummy water, like the ones that filled every sink.

I watched my siblings get dirtier and dirtier, until their eyes, which looked unnaturally large against the pulled masks of their starving faces, seemed to fairly glow. I watched them climb through piles of unwashed laundry that were stacked higher than they themselves stood, looking to find the least filthy item to wear to school.

And i watched my mother. I watched her take food out of her children’s mouths to fill her own gargantuan appetite. I watched her swell from an incredibly beautiful woman who would be called “thick” today, to a mass of heavy, unwashed flesh that topped out somewhere over 600lbs. I watched her stop caring about what she wore, until she simply wore nothing at all. Moving from room to room completely naked. When someone came to the door i had to beg her to drape a blanket over herself. And i was privy to her abandonment of all attempts at personal hygiene, until her stench would fill the room so pungently, that i would involuntarily heave.

I tried to help stem the tide of garbage and odour and clutter and spoiled food, but i was living a life almost completely dissociated from what was going on around me. My room was a sty, too. I would be beaten for it regularly, and it would be clean for a while, but it wasn’t long before it looked much as it had at my last beating. My environment was a reflection of what was going on inside me, just as it was with my mother. I was also terrified of cleaning the house. If i did so under her watchful eye, i’d get criticised, screamed at, and beaten. If i tried to get a bunch of cleaning done when she wasn’t around, i almost never did it right, and she’d beat me when she got home. She even told me once, after my best friend and i had come home for a visit to an empty home full of trash that one had to actually wade through in places, and spent over a day cleaning, that she would have preferred i’d done nothing.

(To this day i hate cleaning the house when other people are around, it makes me terribly anxious and i avoid it as much as possible.)

After i left home, nothing really changed except that my portion of abuse was redistributed among my siblings. I know she beat them until the day she was in the car accident that would eventually kill her. I know that some religious folks who’d been trying to help her went to her home while she was in hospital, to clean it up in anticipation of her return and were pretty grossed out by what they found. I know that i visited her in hospital and begged her forgiveness for all the trouble i’d been to her and she magnanimously forgave me. I know that she seemed to be recovering, but because of her massive girth and doctors’ relative inexperience with the super morbidly obese back then, they missed a small tear in her cecum, which leaked slowly into her guts for nearly 6wks following the accident, causing her to die from multiple organ failure due to sepsis.

And i know it was years before i even began to unravel, examine, and otherwise dissect the relationship i’d had with my mother. I’ve spent years and tears and not a little money in an attempt to learn the extent of the damage she wrought in my life, and to find ways to counteract it all. For a very long time all i could do was stem the flow. I was like her, thinking i was getting better and then i’d find another source of infection that was keeping me sick. And like in our literal lives, sometimes the antibiotic wouldn’t work, or it would stop working, and i’d have to search for something else – something stronger, or something else altogether.

END PART ONE

*Maybe. I cannot verify this as fact, but i have included it because, after years of study and contemplation, i accept that it is probably true.

Where Metaphors Collide

Something is happening to me in my life and i’m very afraid to talk about it. I am afraid because it will make it all more real. By sharing it here, with even the couple of readers that i have, i will be giving these new thoughts and feelings fertile soil in which to grow.

I think i’m changing direction. Somewhat subtly, because i’ve been headed in that general direction, but i’m being drawn more strongly towards something. I’ve been heading towards something like a true north, but i seem to be experiencing some declination. Oh, little magnet-me. I’m afraid. I’m afraid because this rubber-meets-the-road thing i’ve been giving so much blog time to, has tricked me. This concept that invited my brain to entertain it.

Hey there H’s Brain, nice to see you and won’t you come on in and have yourself a seat?
Have a hot cuppa and oh, i’ve made us some nice bikkies… I heard you have a weakness for homemade shortbread. I fear they don’t measure up to yours, you have a reputation, but won’t you try them anyway and tell me honestly what you think? We can talk about anything you wish… Dear, you look starved for conversation.

<insertherwarmsmileandwinkhere>

I am desperate for conversation. I’ve wanted for a good jaw for a long time. Miss RMR read me well and set me up perfectly. I talked. And i talked. I talked about what she meant to me, and i yakked about many other things, both various and sundry.
She listened raptly, the atmosphere was so welcoming and it invited me to take a load off. And take one off i did. In fact, i took off many. I pontificated about how glorious it was to be so functional, so present and in charge of not just myself, but my Peanut Gallery. I marveled at how well i was handling it all.
Oh, how i did go on.
Yes, the seas had gotten quite rough, hadn’t they? But i had held the deck with some sturdy legs had i not? Lookit me!
Oh i fairly crowed like the Top Castle himself.

<insertmyresignedsighhere>

Tricky wench.
She reeled me in like a big fat old fish that’s always been able to slip the hook before.
Before now, anyway.
Once i was done, done talking, done exhausting every last word out of my apparently full-to-bursting bag of wind, so through with words coming out of my face i must have resembled a closed bellows, she began to speak.

And now i fear i am caught. Reeled in. Flopping on the deck. Fallen out of the Crow’s Nest. I’m in her web and she is rolling me carefully up in her strong and sticky silk…

Yeah, sorry. I like metaphors. I promise i’m done for now.
I think if i make it poetic it will be easier. Prettier. Less terrifying.
We’ll see, i guess. I’ll let you know.

What i’m trying to say is that this concept i have of the rubber and the road has gotten bigger. I saw it as a representation of all the work i’d done to get myself well – to pull myself out of the swamp of anxiety and pity and despair and mourning and pain and rage that i’d been slogging around in and get on dry land. And further, i saw it as that point when a strong wind hits, threatening to blow me backwards, back into the filthy bog and its ever-present miasma.

(Oops. Metaphor again. Sorry.)

Anyway, i see now it wasn’t just about getting functional. I see now that “getting well” isn’t just about not acting crazy, and it’s not only about being functional. Learning to live a happy and productive life while living with this brain has suddenly become MORE than just those things. The definition has become bigger, and broader, and more detailed, and if you’ll pardon me for just a moment…

Holy motherfuckingfucketyfuck.

I’ve been feeling this way for a while. Feeling like what i’ve accomplished is not enough, or rather, no longer enough. It’s no longer enough that i haven’t been committed in over 2yrs, and it’s no longer sufficient that my house and my body are clean, and it’s not enough that my children forgive me for my past transgressions and neglect and lack of presentness in their lives.
It’s not enough.
Wellness is now requiring MORE. And not just MORE, Wellness has made it clear through her spokesperson, Miss RMR, that if i do not do MORE, i risk losing what i now possess.
(Yeah, metaphor. Sue me. Iamwhatiam. Heh.)

I will spare you more cursing, just consider it implicit.

I am afraid i will fail. Utterly and spectacularly. I am terrified that i won’t be able to produce any greater or more impressive accomplishments than those which i have already achieved.

I am sososo very scared that i will be consumed by fear and laziness.
I am sick at the thought that i am doomed to be my mother’s daughter.

More on this later, but for now, i wish everyone

Love and Peace,
Always,
~H~

Recommit and Revisit

I haven’t been able to write much lately. When depression comes knockin’, i tend to get very angry. I’ve done a lot of screaming and yelling, ranting and raving, and general grumbling and griping besides. And while i needed to do those things, i’m convinced the time for that is mostly done. I want to focus more on the positives; turn my attention to things that are good and well and right with me and with the world. I’ll fix my attention on things i can change for the better, and concern myself with things that matter. I have neither the time nor the energy for pettiness.

I’ve only just begun growing up. I’ve been too broken to be functional and too stuck in the past to mature. There’s been hard work and preparation that has led me to this time in my life, and intend to push continually forward, no matter how slowly, for as long as i’m able. To that end, i’m going to write more often, but i’m including a caveat. It’s for my peace of mind, and also removes my biggest excuse for not writing more often.

 

Some of it is probably -no, certainly- gonna suck. Like unwashed donkey balls kinda suck.

So there, i’ve got that shocking admission out of the way. Now i have no excuses.

**********

I’ve had a couple of friends ask me for that piece i wrote about parenting and forgiveness for Facebook almost a year ago. I think it’s good enough to hopefully offset all the agonised whining that i’m about to begrudge my readers in the coming weeks.

 

P.S. Children Are Always Worth the Effort

 

It’s taken me a while to figure out just how to talk about this subject. Sometimes words just spill out of my brain and onto the keyboard, and it’s a good thing. Sometimes though, they need to tumble around up there for a while, maybe to soften the edges of some of the words. Marinate them to make them a little less chewy, and more tender. It’s called discernment i think, and i appear to finally be getting some, lo these long years.
It’s about your kids. Well, it’s about my kids really, but it could be about your kids. There is no part of one’s life that is more precious, more intimate, and therefore no more potentially dangerous story to tell. That’s the reason for, and the benefit of the thinky time i took. You’ll hopefully get the gist of it, without deeply personal details that serve no purpose. I want to demonstrate that one can walk the line between being an open book and maintaining one’s privacy. You can help others with your experiences, but you needn’t expose your soft underbelly, thereby leaving yourself completely vulnerable to those who would harm you and/or those you love.
A lot of build up for not much to say, heh.
I have a lot of opinions about children and parenting, as anyone who knows me at all can easily imagine, seeing as i have opinions on nearly everything. I’m happy to tell you about them, even if you may not always be so keen to hear them. My philosophy with regard to parenting is unformed and nebulous, insofar as it is constantly evolving, and difficult to communicate due to its infuriating ambiguity. Well that, as well as being tethered to the deepest and most personal emotions one might ever feel.
I have failed my children. In ways. In spectacular and terrible ways. That i’ve failed as a mother has been drilled into me since i had my first child. Single, poor and uneducated, i set out to try and make everything right. I joined a church and i went back to school and i made friends with appropriate people. I got down to the business of being the kind of mother the community i’d surrounded myself with told me i should be. I took to it and did very well, but it didn’t fully take root, i guess, because 4yrs later i’d done it again. Another child and still alone. I was more financially stable and somewhat more educated, but still obviously flawed and in need of something. I listened to what i was told by the “appropriate” people around me and took all of the suggestions, but i soon found that i couldn’t maintain the level of what the world around me called success even half as long as i had with my first child.
I stumbled across a good guy and had the sense to keep him, even though those appropriate people wouldn’t put their stamp of approval on our relationship. I was becoming disillusioned with all of them and all of their suggestions. I never blamed them, though. It never occurred to me that what worked for them just wasn’t for me. I turned it all on myself: i was wrong, bad, flawed, weak… I was missing something. I just wasn’t doing it right, or i wasn’t doing it hard enough. Even having a third child the generally approved way didn’t help. I was circling the drain, and nothing could stop me. No successes, no amount of living the life i was taught to believe was the good and right life was helping. And my brokenness finally claimed me and i fell into a terrible blackness where i was lost to everyone. The proper life and the proper people and my perfect husband and my children’s need of me, could not pull me out of it.
I could not help but surrender to the process. I lost my oldest child and my family either fell away or i pushed them out and closed the door. My mental illnesses finally had me in an inescapable stranglehold, and i was sometimes barely a wife and mother and sometimes not either, not even a little. My children watched as i swam around in the sludge, my childhood catching up to me. It picked me up in its merciless jaws and shook me like an angry bear. They saw me completely incapable of mothering them properly. If it hadn’t been for one good parent in the mix, i may very well have lost them to the system.
I was eventually able to start digging myself out of all the muck i’d been mired in for years. Yep, years. And after all the dysfunction my kids had seen, the only thing i had to offer them was a front row ticket to that show, as well. They’ve seen me stumble, they’ve seen me fall flat on my face, and they’ve even seen me purposely jump right outta the boat and go swimming in the sewage again. But they also saw me pick myself back up and keep trying. And the time in between stumbles has gotten longer, and the damage has been less. I don’t hide the struggle from them. What would be the point? Kids know. I try to keep certain things from them that wouldn’t edify them and would likely only confuse or complicate things more than they are already, but truthfully friends… They’ve seen more and know more than they should. I’m not proud of that at all. And i’m not trying to tell you that it’s okay, because it isn’t. It’s not okay that i’ve screwed up royally, and they have paid the price. But i’m telling you that i’ve done it, and i know absolutely that i’m not alone.
I’m telling you that it’s not over. Not for you, not for your children – not even for your relationship with them. Children are the most amazing humans on the planet. They deserve to live in a perfect world with the best of everything and always be happy and never be hurt. But you and i know that will never happen. Not to one single baby born on this earth, if they live past an hour or so. So most of us parents try to do the best job we can and mitigate the damage. That can be particularly difficult when WE do the damage. But let me tell you something i’ve learned for me and it may be true for you, too.
It’s way harder for me than it is for them. I must admit my fault. Wholly, without reservation and with absolutely no excuses. I can never, ever say, “I’m sorry, but… ” I can’t offer an explanation of any kind, unless it’s asked for, and even then i must keep it simple – no victim stories and no hyperbole. And it must always return in the end, to what i did or failed to do. And that it is all on me. And my action/inaction is my responsibility alone.
Then comes work. Hard work. I must demonstrate -without fanfare- by my behaviour and by my behaviour alone, that i am sorry, and i’m going to be/do better. Because they’re watching me. They’re watching to see if i meant what i said. They want to know if they can trust me. They also want to know what to do when they screw up. They need me to show them how to make proper amends to someone that they’ve harmed or hurt in some way. I must show them i’m truly sorry and the only way to do that is through my behaviour.
As i’ve done these things, i’ve learned some wonderful stuff. Like, your children don’t want to harbour any ill feelings towards you. They want to forgive you, and if they can’t right away, they want to let it go. They need to, and it’s a burden they shouldn’t be carrying. And if they aren’t ready yet to let it go, they at least want to give you a chance. Even if they say they don’t. They’ll be watching you, to see if you live your life every day as if they had given you a chance. Even if the road you’ve walked with your child is particularly long and rough and you have done some terrible things… Even if they say they’re done with you and have cut you out like a tumour… You still MUST live every day as if their forgiveness is possible – because even if it avails you nothing personally, you will be healing them on some level, and you owe that to them. Every single day. You do not owe them perfection, but you do owe them effort. They are worth every effort.
My children have forgiven me for my mistakes, and to have their love and a good relationship with them would be worth much more time and much more effort than it actually took. There is no time for you to wallow in guilt and self-pity. Your children want to love you. Your children want to forgive you. Your children want to admire you and brag about you and be in relationship with you. It doesn’t take much, really. I’ve discovered that the relative ease with which i prove myself to them, fills me with a happiness and gratitude that enables me to demand more from myself; to strive for better. As a parent, certainly, but also as a wife and a friend and a member of my local community and even a citizen of the world.
Kinda mushy and dramatic, i know. But that’s me sometimes. Especially when i talk about my kids. It may be that i should never have been a parent, but it is the thing that i’m the most glad and proud and fulfilled in being.
Love and Peace,
~H~