Curb Appeal

When i was crying in therapy yesterday, my therapist asked if i wanted the weighted blanket. Instant Nope! because i hate that thing. Then she asked if she could come closer and help me feel better. To maybe put her hands on my bouncing knees. No thank you, because touch is too much. Then she helps me find something i can do to honour and respect how my body is reacting. It doesn’t matter how small, she says. All i can muster is 1 foot, up on its heel – a sign. My body is saying Stay away.

I know i’m not saying stay away to her. I know i’m saying it to people who’re long gone from my life. She stands in their stead for me, knowing how much i need to say No, and I don’t want that, and You can’t do that, and Don’t touch me.

My foot, saying Do not come closer. Stay back.
My knees, bouncing. Let’s get the fuck outta here.
My eyes, always glancing between the window and the door. Avoiding her gaze. But it’s not her read i’m trying to hide from. It’s other prying eyes. Eyes that looked into mine and read me to use me better. My mother, reading every book, attending all the conferences, learning how to get more of what she wanted from people through subtle manipulations. People wanted to open up to her. They wanted to give her what she wanted.

I always opened up to her and gave her what she wanted.
Even my brain was hers to poke around in.
She purposely made some of the parts that live here with me.

So i look away from my therapist and calm myself by looking at the door i can rush out of, or if worse comes to worst, there’s always the window.
She doesn’t take this personally. She lets me set fear-based boundaries because it’s symbolic. It’s healing and empowering for me to say No! and set limits, even unreasonable ones.
Don’t touch me.
Don’t talk to me.
Don’t look at me.

This is the beginning of learning to soothe and comfort and care for myself. And this may be the hardest thing i ever do. (Yeah i know i keep saying that, but JFC, if you could “Strange Days” my current experience you’d understand – this shit keeps amping up!)

I was born to be a receptacle for pain, frustration, rage, sickness, filth.
I was taught it was my job.
I was also taught that i deserved it.

My therapist looks at me with care, her eyes are watery.
She says, “I could wind up and smack you across the face as hard as i could, and you would probably be able to handle that more easily than my offer of kindness and care.”
She asks me questions about how i’m feeling, and all i can come up with is a head shake and an I don’t know. But that’s not quite right. I have thoughts and feelings all jumbled up inside me, and words want to come out, but there’s so many i can’t isolate any one thing in order to make sense. It would just be a big, soupy spew.
So i demure, frustrated, and full of vitriolic froth.

This is my life right now. It’s therapy. It’s my absolute #1 priority. I mete out my spoons, Scrooge-like, becoming more miserly with each passing week.
I cannot care about this right now; i need my spoons for therapy.
I cannot share space with this person right now; i need my spoons for therapy.
I cannot deal with this situation right now; i need my spoons for therapy.

This is gonna have to wait.
YOU are gonna have to wait.
I NEED MY SPOONS FOR THERAPY.

I’m curating my life like i learned to curate my social media exposure.
I won’t be making any new friends or any big decisions (hell, even small decisions).
If there’s something not working in my relationships or my daily routines, it’s all getting stuffed in a junk drawer for now because i’m constantly exhausted and stressed dealing with this stuff and there is no room for anyone else’s feelings or issues or problems.*

There’s a baby in my brain. She’s in a frilly bassinet and i have someone that watches over her. Other parts are allowed to go and visit her, but only if they’re in a good place – or at least good enough not to cause trouble. I’m sorry to say she’s not alive, but she is beautiful, and perfectly preserved. Behind her is a vault, where i keep the toxic waste. I thought that was the best place to keep it, locked to all but me. I’ve been gathering it over the years – slurping it up into tanks in my hazmat suit. Hiding it behind metres of steel and locks only i can open. It’s the stuff that killed me as a baby, and poisoned the rest of us. I thought it would stay there, safe and untouched, forever.

But now i know it’s got to go. And i know how to do it, too.
I made a door at the back of the vault. It opens like a big metal one in a scifi show. There’s an episode of Star Trek: TNG, where the ship accidentally travels beyond space and time, “Where No One Has Gone Before”. Beyond my back door lies this place. It will swallow the tanks and they’ll no longer be capable of bringing harm to anyone. They’ll be timeless, formless – existing and yet, not.
I’m preparing to dump them overboard.

*There are exceptions, for instance my kids, or if someone isn’t asking for too much from me and i want to give them some. “Want to” being the important part. Drama is the onion on my pizza right now – and i pick that shit off, man.

**********

I was getting groceries yesterday, and a lovely woman i know commented on my appearance, and asked me how i’ve accomplished my weight loss. I told her, “I changed one thing about the way i eat, and i did that one thing until it became a part of me. And then i changed one more small thing and did it again.”

And that is exactly how i’ve been chipping away at the 100lbs i’ve been struggling with since around 2009.
Yes, 10yrs. Yo-yo-ing the same 30lbs or so, over and over, with diets and food plans and shakes and pills.
But that entire time, i was learning things. About myself, about food, and about how i used food and how i relate to food, and how all of that is affected and shaped by who i am as a person and the trauma i endured growing up.

So while it may have looked like i was stagnating in my 100lbs-overweightness, i was absolutely not. I was tearing myself down to my foundations and building myself back up: Better. Stronger. Faster. (Like Steve Austin, except i’m Jamie Sommers.)
Yes, it’s taken years. That’s okay with me, because i know that i’ll never be obese, morbidly obese, or knocking on the door of super morbidly obese, ever again. My weight might still fluctuate on occasion, but i have infrangible confidence in my ability to handle it, should a problem arise.

As i’ve moved through therapy and learned about who i am and how i work, i’ve been able to tweak what i eat and how i eat. I no longer become despondent when something doesn’t work. I just try something else. I know that i’m in this for the long haul and i can trust myself to stick with it, and everything… Well, everything is gonna be okay – or at least some version of okay that i can live with while working towards a better okay. Or –what the hell– why not try for better than okay?

Then it hit me. I’ve done the exact same thing with my mental health.
It’s been 15yrs of looking my diagnoses full in the face and working on living with my abusive childhood, all to achieve a better quality of life. I’ve lost treasured relationships and i’ve abandoned even more.
I’ve been judged, whether unfairly or justly, to be too fucked up to associate with by many. I started out being devastated by this, but eventually i learned it was their right, and kind of not my business.
Then i thought i could avoid this by starting each new friendship with a serious, candid warning about how i can be a lot, so honest, open communication is helpful…
Sometimes that’s worked and sometimes it hasn’t.

I must’ve seemed like a freakshow that derailed a train.
Well, i know i did, as some people were kind enough to tell me so. /s
Ah, thanks?

I wasn’t any of that, though.
I was tearing myself down to my foundation so that i could build myself back up with better materials, in a style that suited me. Me. Not them. ME.
I was a bit of a fixer-upper, yes. And the renos have taken a loooooooong time, yes.
But i’m no money pit.
And no, i’m not on the market. I do the odd showing, but most people will just have to admire me from a distance. I’m private property.

I’ve been tweaking myself like i’ve been tweaking my diet and my lifestyle and my relationships. I’m just finally starting to reflect on the outside, all the work i’ve been doing on the inside.

So there.
Neener.
And also, How about that, eh?

Happy Monday.
Love and Peace,
~H~

I’m Not A Bitch, Pt. IV

Warning: Contains some indirect references to integration, and refers to child rape and trafficking. This is a positive piece, but make sure you have good support in place.

**********

So, as i was saying… I’m not a bitch.

But i’ve been told i was one, and called one, ever since i can remember. My mother often exclaimed, “Oh, you little bitch!” when i failed to live up to her expectations, which were unrealistic, unreasonable, and very often unattainable, for my entire childhood. To give you an idea of how high they were, i could cook an entire roast beef dinner when i was 4yrs old.

One time when i was 6, i came home from school and realised i’d forgotten to thaw the liver i was supposed to be preparing for supper, and so i put it in the oven. I didn’t know the plastic container it was in would melt as well, so when the intense chemical smell hit me, i yanked open the oven door and tried to pull out the container, which was stuck to the rack, but managed to drip onto my wrist – a scar that’s visible today.
Her response when she got home from work was, “You stupid bitch!” plus the obligatory beating.

When i would ask for money to participate in a school activity, i was often called a selfish bitch. I only thought of myself, she’s needed new work clothes for years, all i care about is going to the stupid zoo/museum/farm/play, do i think money grows on trees?

And on the rare day when i completely lost my mind and dared to question or correct her, she’d slap or backhand me and call me some form of smartass/smart aleck/smart-mouth, attached to the ubiquitous “bitch”.

I learned that asking for anything, complaining about anything, and questioning anything were all bad and dangerous, but more than that –  they meant i was a bitch. Once i’d learned that lesson anyone could control my behaviour by indicating to me in some way that i was being a bitch. I let toxic people become close friends and allowed toxic family members to maintain contact with me. And i let them all have control over my life decisions and manipulate me into behaving the way they wanted.

Some told me i was the black sheep.
Some reminded me i was only half related to them.
Some pointed out i was only attached by marriage.
Some informed me i was a drama queen.
Some called me a liar.
Some said i was faking.
Some simply acted as if i didn’t exist.
Most treated me like i was the problem.

If you’ve read enough of my blog, you may well wonder how this fits with a self-professed “good girl”.
It is simply one of the gifts of being a multiple. I have many facets to my personality. Some, i’m now discovering, are intrinsically me. Some are aspects i took on in order to please and find relative safety. I have some parts of me that i created to be for me – parts that were on my side 100% of the time. These parts would occasionally come out and get me something that i wanted to have or be someone that i wished i could be, but could not.

They could tell people off. In fact, they could lay a verbal smackdown that left some folks practically punch drunk. They were capable of the silent treatment, a certain stubbornness that wouldn’t allow me to grovel or beg family for anything.  And they were able to keep the wrong kind of intimate relationships out of my life, almost entirely.
When the first person i seriously wanted to be with physically was a girl, they got her for me, in spite of all my religious upbringing, and my mother’s vicious homophobia.

It took them a while to gain power. I’m not sure when they were made/created/born, and if they were around when i was being regularly sexually abused, i’m not aware of it. However, once my mother stopped trafficking me, they grew in influence inside my brain.
They mouthed off to my mother, and stole food from her for us – and took the beating that always followed.
They told opportunistic boys No, when those creeps figured the fat girl would be only too happy to give them sex because i was getting a little attention.
When it was men, they got me the fuck outta there. And there were men.
Of course there were.

They built a wall of protection around me. Once the raping stopped, they began laying bricks. Occasionally someone would get through a hole in my defenses, and they’d brick it up right quick. They drew lines in the sand of me that no one could cross. No one. Kept my need for love and acceptance and understanding and compassion in check. Managed my levels. Made sure no one could sneak in and eat the fruit of the 1 little tree that had survived the violent plunder of my garden.

Pull out this brick, she needs some sun.
Shit, someone’s coming, put it back!
Shhh…

Then i met someone i wanted more than i’d ever wanted anyone — more than the girl all those years ago. I had relationships by pure accident. I wanted companionship, i occasionally wanted sex, but mostly i craved normalcy, and being in a relationship was what society and religion seemed to be telling me i needed to have in order to get that.
But no one ever got passed that brick wall. If the relationship fizzled or fell flat, i was fine in a day or 2, tops.
Then i found myself dating an excellent human, and i took down the bricks, crossed my own line to go over to him, and i pulled him close to me and haven’t let go for going on 24yrs. I found my person, my soft place to fall.
And i fell.

I’d been trying, before i met him. I tried my best sometimes, even. Like when a family member attempted rape, like when my mother died, like when my first son was born. But between not finding the right kind of help with the right person, and running from any hint of a DID diagnosis, i was just spinning my wheels. I couldn’t find any traction. I’d get exhausted and quit for a while, only trying again when crisis would hit.

When i fell in love with him and started building a life with him is when my work began in earnest, and although mental illness and the way my brain works has tripped me up hard here and there, i’ve never not picked myself up and gotten back at it as soon as i was able.
And as building a life with him created safe space around us, i set to rebuilding myself. As per my own specs.

I’ve put in a tremendous amount of work, i’ve suffered setbacks aplenty, and i’ve despaired at length. I’ve lost and/or eliminated a great many people. I’ve stripped myself down to the absolute barest of necessities: air, water, food, shelter, love. HIM. And at one point i was prepared to continue without him, if need be.*
Many times i’ve looked behind me and only seen wreckage, but ever so slowly, as i turned back, tightened my focus on the path directly in front of me and set my shoulder to the wheel, i found my perspective broadened. Each time i turned back i saw less of what i’ve lost and more how far i’ve come – what i’ve gained.

It was tough for me last year, when i thought i’d done all the therapy, and was so dang functional and fine, only to have my body pipe up and ask, then beg, then INSIST that there was more work to do, and it was deeper and more painful than that which came before. I panicked when i saw what i was looking at: to bring together my thoughts and my emotions, that have existed separate from each other since i was a baby.
To feel what i feel while knowing what i know. At the same time.

The last few months have been filled with terror. I lost sleep, i slid into fibro agony, my system worked up into a chaotic froth, bringing with it a constant headache, loosening my hard-won grip over who could be in the face and when – losing control, losing time, that old, internal imperative built into me to GO HOME. A place that no longer exists, and only held suffering and misery when it did. Between the hard switches and the drinking i was doing to cope, it was beginning to look like a stay in The Bin was in my very near future.

But the time and the work i’ve invested in myself and my quality of life have begun to pay off. Panic and terror are not fun to feel, but they don’t actually last for long. These are states of feeling that are intense, and they tend to burn brightly, but fizzle or at least fade relatively quickly. I know from my past that i can ride these feelings through, and they haven’t killed me. And they’ve had a chance to more times than i can count.
My therapist says that no one ever died from feeling their feelings, but they have from not feeling them. I don’t know if that’s true for everyone, but i can see it blazing bright in my own life. Feeling this stuff won’t kill me, i have that repeated experience to have at least a small amount of trust in. And if doing this chunk of work can bring me an even higher level of function and more opportunities for happiness, helpfulness, and success than i was enjoying back when everything went for shit last year (and my therapist –in whom i also have some not-insignificant trust in– assures me it will), then i’m not just in, honey i’m ALL in.

Now, finally, this is the part where i tie it all together.

Becoming a multiple is what i did to survive my childhood. My system has saved me countless times from losing my life or my mind. Dissociating from what was happening around me was the best i could do, but once the trauma had ended, it became more and more of an impediment to experiencing life on life’s terms, and inhibited me from building the life and the relationships i wanted. It all came to a head and burst when i fell in love and got married. I knew, both from intuition and from every single experience i had with him, that i could trust him, and he would support me as i fell completely apart and put myself back together again. And he did. He has. He will.

I’ve figured out how my brain works, and i’ve gotten to know everyone that lives in there, formed relationships with them that work, and helped them get along with each other. I’ve studied the people around me, the people who left me, the people i left and the ones i let go, and my relationships with them. I’m at peace with it all, and though my current circle is small, it’s tight and strong and healthy and there’s room for more if i so choose. My requirements for relationship are appropriate and well thought out, and i know what i bring to the table.

Clearing a spot for me to do this next-level therapy has not been easy. I had a home safety issue that i’d been avoiding, because i wasn’t getting the help that i’d repeatedly asked for to deal with the problem. I had to get that squared away. Then i had to simplify and streamline my day-to-day routine, because my energy was limited, and my current therapy needed to be my priority. And i also had to ask people in my circle for understanding, for patience, for help. I had to take a hard look at what others were asking of me, prioritise, and say No to people. Dearest loved ones, even. No, i can’t do that, and No, i won’t do that anymore, like ever. I put up some walls and drew some lines in the sand, and when they weren’t respected, i raised my voice and pumped my fists until i was heard. I require this, and that, and ohbtw, that must stop immediately.

I built this safe space for me to live and be and work. And if you’re not on board with that, either you go, or i will. Whatever. I’ll build another place to be safe. I’ve seen a light coming from somewhere just over this next peak, something bright and beautiful.
I think it’s me. Or maybe it’s a mirror.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with mirrors my entire life. I’ve always hated looking into them. I have to be careful not to look into my own eyes. I can glance quickly, but if it’s more than a second or 2, i dissociate. I pull back – retreat inside myself. I’m suddenly further away from the mirror. Quite a number of my Bits N’ Pieces love to look in the mirror, though. They’re curious. What do *I* look like? When i first began getting to know them and stopped fighting all the switching, some of them had a field day. Makeup, clothes, the mirror, and hundreds of selfies. As i’ve brokered a mostly peaceful coexistence with them, i’ve lost a lot of the fear and loathing i had for the mirror, but it can still be a trigger when i’m low or tired or already sliding around a bit.

Yes… I think it’s a mirror. I think i might meet the person i’m creating inside that mirror, and i’ll bet when i turn around i’ll see who i once was – all of them. I think the work i’m doing right now is a pretty huge fucking deal.

Something has happened over the last month and some, and i think it’s empowerment.

I’m moving into all the spaces inside my brain and my body – i’m filling myself up with ME. Sharing space with my system and moving into the cold and barren places, letting in the light. I am the light.

I’m not afraid.
I’m not afraid to piss anyone off.
I’m not afraid that someone i love won’t like who i’m becoming.
I’m not afraid that people won’t “get it”.
I’m not afraid to lose someone i love to this process.
I’m not afraid to be alone.

I’m not a bitch for focusing on myself.
I’m not a bitch for needing or even just wanting things, and i’m not being a bitch by asking for them, or going out and getting them myself.
I’m not a bitch for creating a safe space, and defending it against all who threaten it.
I’m not a bitch for demanding to be heard and respected in my own home.
I’m not a bitch for saying NO.
I’m not a bitch for calling out abusive behaviour.
I’m not a bitch for refusing to take anyone’s shit.
I’m not a bitch for not taking on other people’s burdens.
I’m not a bitch because i’m tall, and strong, and smart, and pretty, and funny, and wise… I’m not a bitch because i take up more room than someone wants me to, and i’m not a bitch if i intimidate the absolute fuck out of anyone.

This is my road.
Move or i’ll move you.

~H~
*Hey, every relationship goes through rough patches, if they stay together long enough. It shone a light on both our flaws and made us painfully aware of our personal baggage that we’d brought with us. But that’s a story for another time.

 

Still Not A Bitch

PART III

Lately i’ve been thinking on the reactions to this person that i’m becoming. I’ll tell you flat out and straight up that i’m incredibly self-focused. It’s not that i don’t care about others – i’m chock full of sympathy and fairly bleeding empathy. I believe that turning an intense and unflinching eye inward is how i not only saved my life, but made myself into a decent and functional human. My mother intended for me to be someone quite different than who i am today. To put it mildly, she wanted me as slave labour, as a receptacle for her rage, to worship her as a deity (you think i’m kidding… ) and as an ever-flowing fountain of unconditional love for her and her alone.

The best gift i got from her other than my life, was her early death. It might have been my only chance to escape her conscious and deliberate indoctrination of me. I’m not sure i would have had the insight, the will, or the strength to free myself from her iron grip. When she died, while i was immediately emancipated from serving her, i was still left with a personality and behaviours that had been designed to ally myself with selfish manipulators who mostly took and rarely gave. I was a slave without a master.

My system didn’t just save me from the horrors of my childhood, they kept me from bad relationships, and some potentially awful friendships. I still managed to make best friends with 2 of the kind of people i’ve described above, though. Not deadly like my mother, but toxic AF. They both did me the favour of ending our friendship, which i’m grateful for today. (More commentary on that later.) Some of my more developed and powerful parts would exert their influence in other areas. For instance, i avoided roommate situations, preferring to live alone. I could perform the sex act, although it was mostly other parts in control when it was happening – or i was heavily medicated with alcohol and/or other drugs.  What i couldn’t do was commit. I never thought about marriage or children. I became pregnant due to unsafe sex practises, and was engaged for a time because i was asked and i was very religious and thought it was expected. It was my system that made the decisions to keep the baby and ditch the dude (to be clear, he wasn’t the father).

When i accepted that i was bipolar and a multiple (years after these events), my level of function plummeted. I practically abandoned my children and nearly destroyed my marriage (a different, way more suitable dude). On the plus side my crap friends ditched me and i became estranged from what was left of my family. I had no one to pretend for, anymore. All that was left was my husband, my children, and a couple of excellent professional health care providers – one medical, and one therapeutic.

Everything inside me fell apart. Some fully sentient creatures (by the broadest definition), some feelings and memories that had developed their own personalities, and then all the other things that make up a person, like: my good qualities, my flaws, my skills, how i coped (besides being crazy), my hopes for the future (mostly for my loved ones, and for my relationships with them – i never really had much in the way of life goals or aspirations – too busy just surviving, i think).
Everything that made me who i was became detached and scattered about. I’ve spent the last dozen years or so trying to put myself back together. I’ve spent it trying to become the captain of this ship of fools. Learning to read the stars. Making repairs. Trying to fix the goddamned rudder.

I started out with a blueprint, but somewhere along the way i decided it wasn’t mine. I decided on a major overhaul. I decided i would be the architect and i would have precisely the ship i wanted.

I didn’t know enough about myself to know how to rebuild me, let alone how to REMAKE me, but i didn’t do this much work at this much cost for this much time not to have exactly what i want.

I started out with only the vaguest ideas, mostly based on not wanting to be in pain or stuck in chaos or hurting those i loved anymore. But somewhere along the way i discovered that there was more to life than that, and i wanted some of it. I discovered that i was a capable and talented architect. I discovered that i already had almost everything i needed to build the ship of my dreams. I discovered good and hopeful dreams inside me. And i discovered that i knew how to get, or at least could figure out how to get, anything i didn’t already have, in order to be shipshape.

Some of the changes i’ve made have upset those around me, and a lot of those people are now gone. Mostly it was their choice, and it happened before i realised what i was doing or how it was affecting them. And all the leaving hurt. Often, it hurt so much i would fall into a deep depression or act out in some way that caused chaos. But i kept doing the work, the remodeling and the cleaning up after, and now? It still stings a bit occasionally, but less and less all the time. Now i know i have choices, too.

Some of those toxic people have tried to contact me. Sick, passive-aggressive bullshit that’s so obvious to me now. And those parts of me that my mother built so carefully, those parts that think that people who love me abuse me because i’m bad and i deserve it? Those parts that think abuse IS love? I’m gathering them to me and showing them what love really is – by keeping the bad people away. By helping them form alliances and friendships with protectors in my system, including me.

Those sick and dangerous people who wove a false narrative. That told me not to tell the truth. That told me not to be angry or sad. That expected me to act like everything was okay and no one is bad (except me) and no one is hurting and everything is great because Jesus and the Cross. Those people that never, not one of them, not one, single time, said sorry to me for anything they did to me, ever.

My ship is a sailboat: small, sleek, mostly slow and just soaking up the sun, but fast as fuck when she wants to be.
Underneath, my ship is also a submarine, full of sailors who love the life, and we’re slowly building a yacht.
(This is almost more allegory than analogy, because the way they treated me is a moral issue.)

My mother made me a tugboat and she used me constantly, with no decent or regular maintenance. I was already in terrible disrepair when she died, but it didn’t stop the rest of ’em from having me haul their shit around. None of them believed there was an invisible submarine underneath. I’ll bet if they saw me, they’d still see an old tugboat, too.

Well, they won’t get more’n a glimpse, and no Ahoy! cuz i’ll trim the sails and hightail it outta there, lickety split. They can just stay on the shore, danglin’ their feet in putrid water and tellin’ each other how fine the day is.

If these parts don’t seem quite connected, stay tuned. Heh.