Bleeding the Valve

Living a dissociated life, one where my thoughts and actions/reactions were dictated by and crafted for my long dead mother, not only made for some bluntly applied and obtusely processed understanding of myself as a person, but also not a small amount of naiveté regarding anyone i cared about. What i mean is, multiplicity aside, i was so focused on who i’d been raised to be that i didn’t, couldn’t in fact, see who i actually was. The messages i’d received from my mother and other various abusers had full control of my perceptions, rendering me intellectually and emotionally blind to how i presented to the world around me.

I remember confessing to one of my teachers in grade 11, that he was my favourite. His reply caught me completely off guard. He said, “Really, H? Honestly, i can’t tell with you. Half the time i think you hate my guts.” I was gobsmacked. I adored him – how could he not know? How could he possibly think i hated him?

I obsessed over this exchange for weeks. I look back at this time and see that i was capable of deep introspection, i just didn’t need to because i’d been raised to parrot my abuser’s beliefs and opinions about life, the universe, and everything. That included my personality, my character, and my nature. I wasn’t supposed to know or examine myself. I wasn’t allowed to ask any philosophical questions. I was created to serve, and that meant toeing the party line. In this particular case, i couldn’t not ponder it and try to figure out what had happened and what he meant. My mother’s brainwashing worked for other people in other situations. She’d programmed me to fall apart, take the blame, and bend over backwards to fix whatever the problem was, when something came up with her. This unconscious practise bled into all relationships with anyone i cared about.

What i came up with was an awareness of how sarcastic i was in my daily interactions with everyone, and how other people might not always “get it,” and even if they did, they might not like/appreciate it. I saw that my sarcasm frequently drifted into the domain of “caustic.” I was deeply ashamed and immediately endeavoured to control my mouth better. My mother had informed me many times that i was obnoxious, and this interchange with my beloved teacher confirmed her pronouncements – especially when it came to what kind of person i was. She knew me better than i knew myself. I couldn’t hide anything from her.

You may now cough-mutter the word bullshit into your cupped hand.
Or heck, just say it flat out.
Truth is she told me whatever would keep me quiescent and malleable.
Thoroughly believing that i was an awful person that only she could love accomplished her ends nicely.

Today i’m still having to spend extra time and effort to figure out where the truth lies with regards to who i am as a person, and how i’m presenting to the world around me. I’ve had to work my hardest to understand and employ the difference between humility and humiliation. Seeing many times in my past when i was various levels of asshole with other people, many of whom i loved dearly, has been most humbling. I’ve had to yank myself out of the muddy moon-pie of moping and brooding over how terrible i was, over and over and over again. There was a payoff for me in marinating in my crappy behaviours, and it all led back to my mother.

She’d rant and rail at me over what a bad child i was, and sometimes i’d deny it, but i’d always come around to her opinions and admit to whatever she’d accused me of. Whether or not i’d done the thing or was what she accused me of being never mattered at the end. I would eventually break down and tell her whatever she wanted to hear. If she didn’t take me to her bosom and grant me her forgiveness, she’d at least dangle the possibility of it and stop yelling and lecturing me. There was a rush, a release, in her forgiveness. It was an old, bare bone tossed to a starving dog. Even if she just quit talking and sent me away, it felt like the relief that flooded me when the hitting stopped. I could stop cowering and take a breath.

NOTE: Man, this level of mania is making it mighty difficult to organise my thoughts into something cogent. I took a couple of hours for self care and light housekeeping. My thinking is less jumbled and i don’t feel quite so scattered.

I bring up the past to show where i’ve come from and to demonstrate how things work in my brain as a result. This is how i processed information i received from others; in short: if anything goes wrong, it must be my fault. I’ll add that there were times social cues sailed way over my head and i simply didn’t know that things had gone wrong. At other times i was certain i’d screwed up in some way, only to find out later that i had not. Being a multiple who was dissociated at the best of times did not make me great at reading people, with a part of my system always at the ready to properly handle any and all situations. Nope. Sometimes it helped, sometimes it hindered. Sometimes it all exploded in my face and i wasn’t even aware anything had happened that required my attention.
I’ve come to think i’m as much of a mixed bag as most of us.

Today i am living in bipolar mania. The therapy i’ve been through, with it’s attendant homework, deep thought, and intensive study, has allowed me to know myself, and through that, to view my presentation to others more accurately. Mania today means i’m extremely irritable and highly emotional. It means i’m emotive, and most of the people and situations around me cause me an intense and disproportionate amount of emotional response. Today i am coping by blogging, remaining sober, maintaining contact with healthy people, and heavily curtailing my intake of news and social media.
I’m also purging some restless, angsty thoughts and feelings via some rants about politics and current events. Everything has the potential to rile me up, so i’m dumping the things that i can, as quickly as i can, so that i save my energy for the important stuff. My circle of friends know about my particular set of challenges, and have a long and storied experience of my “cycle,” as it were. They’ll stick around for my histrionics and bluster if they can, or come back later once the storm clouds have cleared up a bit.

Today has been a rough day, quite honestly. I have some issues with some people i care for very much. I’m making some adjustments to how i live, and with whom i associate and to what level, in order to prepare for what may be coming. I know i can’t make any big decisions at the moment, because mania, but i can tweak things a bit to ease emotional intensity and lighten the mental burdens i’ve been carrying. I hope these changes will help bring about more of what i want in life. I guess we’ll see.
Well, I’LL see, and then i’ll blab (blog) about it. Maybe. Okay, probably. Hopefully?

Try to have as good a week as you can.
I’ve not much hope for myself to that end, but i’ll invest my efforts, regardless.

Love and Peace,
~H~

IMAGE: Robert Anasch



Perspective

Last weekend, hubs and i were doing our once a week stocking up on essentials. When i saw him, my heart sank. Anxiety jumped on my chest and began twisted my guts with both hands. No mask. Little girl with him – no mask. He’s skimming closely behind other shoppers, laughing and speaking loudly. Rage knocks on my door and asks if i want to come out to play.

I can’t, i tell it, we’re social distancing, remember?
Ha.

As someone living with serious mental illness, i have an established, daily routine of checking in with my thoughts and emotions, in order to manage the way my brain works and maintain a decent level of functionality. The COVID pandemic, and its intense politicisation, has amped up my anxiety so high that, for a while there i was practically paralysed. Unable to take a step or even a breath due to the 800lb gorilla in the room. BUT, i’ve been working at the problem for months, addressing my thoughts and making small adjustments in the hopes of managing a little better, functioning at a higher level, and finding a way to help those around me.

This post is not going to be preachy. I don’t tell people how to think, or behave, or live. This blog is for sharing how i figure stuff out and create more of the life i want. I share for my own benefit, and out of care and concern for my fellow humans. I share so readers know that it can be done; this is not a guide to how.

The first thing i do is shift my perspective a little. Whether or not it’s true, i tell myself that he’s probably a decent enough guy, and he’s doing what he thinks is right. I remind myself that we’re all dealing with more stress than usual, and that it can be tough to figure out who’s correct and/or telling the truth – especially if you’re like me, and weren’t taught critical thinking skills. He’s got his adorable little daughter with him, nattering excitedly and flitting around his legs like a bird. A parking lot seagull with a french fry. I smile at the imagery, and my chest expands and my guts loosen. I head in to pick up groceries, almost breathing naturally.

But like i said – i don’t know him, and he might not be a decent person. He might, in fact, be an ass, but in this case it doesn’t matter. He’s leaving, so i don’t have to interact with him. I don’t have anyone along with me that might require a different response, like kids that know the girl from school, or someone with whom he’s friends. The way i choose to see him and his behaviour is for me, and is a reflection of who i am and want to be as a person. I want to be kind and good and helpful. That, and also to like myself and feel comfortable in my skin. I don’t like myself as much when i’m snide and sarcastic* and snarky. And even if i knew him personally to be a jerk, i would still be letting go of his actions, just in a different way. In any of the scenarios i can quickly play through in my mind, engaging him seems a losing battle, one that costs spoons i can’t spare. He might be a good person, and unless/until i know otherwise, the possibility is enough.

I’m a terrible arguer for one thing. I was raised with a mother who brooked no questions or even discussions around any issue she considered settled. She knew everything and was right about it all. She was my model for how to respond to others, and so i was a cantankerous contrarian outside the home. I argued hard and unfairly. I played a dirty game, full of straw men and ad hominems and gish gallops (yes, i’ve been learning about logical fallacies, and how i’ve been guilty of all of them). I didn’t know any different, but still, i was a shrill and strident know-it-all whenever i felt my beliefs were being questioned or threatened.

I’m not equipped or experienced in the art of fruitful discussions, especially those had amongst folks of differing beliefs who hold strong opinions. The older i get, the healthier and smarter, and i’m being convinced that changing people’s minds isn’t in my wheelhouse. I’m truly enjoying being quieter and keeping to myself. I like extending grace to others to be who they are. I like that people feel welcome and safe around me now, that they can relax and not fear judgment. I’m learning when and where to ask questions, and i’m seeing that the best and most helpful thing i can do for others right now is to be quietly and firmly myself. There are so many voices out there –more cacophony than choir– and it can be nigh impossible to separate out just one to give one’s attention.

In an age where studies indicate a fair number of people reflexively “double down” on what they think is true, and see outside viewpoints as a threat and those who hold them as worthy of derision, i see a niche for me with those who seek internal balance while building external bridges. I think that, in these small, quiet spaces, i might be able to help some. Maybe. Hopefully.

These days i prefer to listen quietly, or better yet, to read these chats/discussions/debates/arguments from the safety and solitude of my Little Crooked House. That way i’m relieved of my social anxieties and personality quirks and mental illness oddities, and i can just absorb it all and then mull it over at my leisure. (Which is immediately and obsessively, but hey, progress not perfection, eh? Heh.)

So yeah, that’s my post for today. It’s not much, but it’s something. A glimpse into how i handle something that we all deal with, and that’s perspective. How do i see the world, and is that how i want to see the world, and further, is that how the world IS? Are there ways that i can reasonably and safely shift my focus, my thoughts, my attitudes, that might lessen my mental/emotional load? I believe there are, and some of the things i’ve done seem to be working/helping. Here’s 1 small example with my typical meandering and wacky explanation. I’m trying to be entertaining and insightful while being true to who i know myself to be.

If i’m to get any blogging done, i’m going to have to relax into what i’m able to produce given my present set of circumstances, namely, that i’m in the worst fibro flareup i can remember in recent years. The pain is intense and constant and diffuse, which causes mental fog, the result of which is i’m having great difficulty remembering words, constructing sentences, and generally making any goddamn sense at all.

Bear with me.
Peace and Love,
~H~

* You’ll pry my sarcasm from my cold, dead hands. I used to be flat out caustic with my use of it, however, i’ve matured and developed discernment regarding when to use it and with whom.

IMAGE: Egor Myznik