Saying No & Expecting Better

I’m being myself and setting boundaries and it’s a trip, man. I’ve been doing it for a while, but my capacity for saying No and Stop that has been steadily increasing. In addition, my fear of being rejected, misunderstood, or purposely harmed has decreased. I’m at the point in my healing where i’m present, conscious, and mindful enough to feel strange and different. Like, brand spanking new, just out of the box. It’s quite the experience. I’ve been tackling some bigger problems that have been an issue for years, and most of those involve how i deal with other humans.

I’ve tolerated low-key abuse from a loved one for years, now. I’ve done so due to guilt over being crappy at relationships in general, and making awful mistakes in our relationship, specifically. They’ve seen me at my worst. I was dissociated to some degree most of the time in the beginning, and after that I was in and out of control; erratic is putting it mildly. I’ve let them down more times than i know or could count, and i’m to blame for some of the burdens they carry.

So when they called me names, i let it pass.
When they broke stuff, i reminded myself i’ve broken stuff, too.
When they invaded my personal space aggressively, i backed down.
When they invaded my personal space gently, i shut down.
When they broke promises or otherwise let me down, i overlooked it.
When they picked at me: corrected my language, questioned my beliefs, treated me as less than, called me out for behaviour they themselves were displaying…
I dissociated. I questioned my reality.
I became smaller and smaller.

Now i am stronger. I know myself better and see things more clearly. I’m present and mindful in most interactions with loved ones, so i’m not nearly as apt to accept another person’s version of events over my own. I understand there’s perspective and sides of a coin, which includes my perspective and my side. I’m beginning to know my worth and i no longer fold like a cheap suit, allowing someone power and control over me. EVEN LOVED ONES.

We’ve been dysfunctional since the beginning, but that was on me. Eventually things shifted as the nature of the relationship changed. I won’t accept abuse from anyone any longer. However, our ties are the kind that i will never sever. And because i’m older and wiser, i can take the lead (and frankly i should) on changing the way we treat each other. It’s not been an easy adjustment for either of us, but especially them. I’ve been sick and dysfunctional for most of their lifetime. This is just and right and good, but in a very real way it isn’t fair. Many of our interactions have been unfair to them.

But this is for the best – and that’s true for both of us.

I’m laying down firm boundaries:
– You cannot speak to me like that;
– You must contribute this, this, and this to our relationship;
– Destruction of property will not be tolerated;
– Aggression will be met with you being removed from my space.

It took some years to get here, because they deserved time to come around to the changes in me. Almost no one else gets that time, but they do, and trust me, they’ve earned it. The best thing i’ve done for them, and for our relationship, has been my commitment to myself. Let me be clear though – i utterly reject the belief that one must love oneself before being capable of loving anyone else. In my life it is provably not so. It was my love of them and others, that gave me the will and the strength to learn to love myself.

I couldn’t love myself as a child. I didn’t possess a child’s normal, natural selfishness. I was alive only for the consumption and pleasure of others. I remember thinking about my uncle when i was very small. I knew i was alive because of the feelings in my body when i thought of him. It was pure, joyful, beautiful, love. I know i loved others, but i was so dissociated all the time i rarely felt anything. I certainly loved my grandparents, and my long time babysitter, but i adored my uncle. If you’d asked me i would’ve said i loved my mother, of course. And the man that i called Daddy. But inside my body there were no feelings that would normally be associated with love. I felt a desperate ache; a pain, mixed with an imperative to please and placate. There was numbness, too. And a dark, sucking void of nothingness filled my bones instead of marrow.

It never occurred to me to love myself – i barely thought of myself. In some ways i was no more sentient than a sneezing sponge. No more than a houseplant that grows towards the window filled with sunlight. I was responding to external stimuli in an instinctual way.

Now i am a fully sentient being, one who is seeking homeostasis. That involves relationships with loved ones around me being healthy and respectful. There are things i want and don’t want in a relationship that are subjective, others are objective. This is a transitional period for everyone in a relationship with me. Everyone. From my husband, to my children, to my friends, to the people who provide me with services. It’s all changing.

For people who’ve been in my circle for a while, it can be startling, off-putting, frustrating, annoying, and very, very inconvenient. Most people fight change, especially when it requires them to change, as well. A shift in perspective, a rebalancing of power, different responses, attitudes, behaviours… I’ve been met with anger and pushback from some people. Others have seemed resentful, almost afraid, and those people have noticeably pulled away.

I can’t find it inside me to be sorry for a bit of it.
I have empathy for their struggle, but i’m not remotely tempted to blur any lines or change my path.
I will continue to draw lines in the sand, to put up curtains, fences, doors, too. I’ll flip the deadbolt on any door to anyone. I already have. Some doors are locked up for good, some i might open if there’s a knock.

I’m bringing a better, more genuine, and absolutely more functional version of myself to the relationship table. Anyone is free to think of me what they will, and stick with our relationship or walk away. I’ve already marked some that seem to prefer me more fucked up. I can’t know for sure what their reasons are for that, but some appear to thrive on drama, some are chronic rescuers, others surround themselves with those they can control. And some, as i wrote about a short while ago, just aren’t that into me.

This relationship is primary, and significant. I’m laying down boundaries but i’ll never walk away. This is in both our best interests. It’s dicey now, but i know it’ll get better. For them, for me, for us. This trip is worth its ticket price.

Enjoy the rest of your week, if you can.

Love and Peace,
~H~



IMAGE: Mick Haupt

My Love Affair W/Anger, Part II


WARNING: Brief reference to rape.

Poetry = Anger X Imagination
~ Sherman Alexie, One Stick Song


I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.

I was angry with my foe;
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
~ William Blake, Songs of Experience


Anger, Tessa thought, was satisfying in its own way, when you gave in to it. There was something gratifying about shouting in a blind rage until your words ran out.
~ Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel


**********

The flavour-of-the-month where therapy was concerned at that time, was the self-help monolith known as 12-step program. I tried any and all that might apply.

(NOTE: It’s going to be clear that i have some negative opinions regarding this organisation and their methods. It is my own opinion based on personal experience. My thoughts about their politics and the data that’s been gathered over the years regarding its efficacy have no place here. If you have been helped by them, i’m only glad. If they’re an integral part of your life and being successful, i say keep that shit up. If you are currently seeking help from them, i sincerely wish you well.)

I started with looking for help with my issues with food. I branched out to others, looking for some kind of group vibe that suited me. What i found there was religion. Over and over again i felt forced into a mold that didn’t fit. I’d pour myself in, only to feel contained and suffocated. The freedom proclaimed by others eluded me, despite my best efforts. I took every suggestion and worked every step, thoroughly and repeatedly. It did help me clean some of the clutter out of my brain, enough so that after some years, i could see that there were parts of my brain that were closed doors to me. I felt incomplete. I knew i wasn’t done. The completion of the steps did not bring me the things it seemed to bring others. I was unsatisfied and frustrated and disillusioned.

The longer my mother’s death afforded me no contact with her, the safer it became for my true self to poke its head out from the darkest recesses of my brain and have a look around.
Religion, to put it as mildly as possible, does not suit me.

I worked 12-step programs, i went to group therapy (so many groups), and pursued individual counselling with a half dozen different people over a half dozen years. It all helped some, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t going anywhere near my dissociative nature, or the reasons for it. Any time any of the therapy or therapists came close to it, i became disgusted and moved on to the next thing.

My deep-seated and untapped anger had resulted in abuse towards my child, and wrought a cold distance between me and other people. I wish i hadn’t hurt my son, but at least i knew i was hurting him. I knew i needed to be a better parent, and i sought help. I took parenting classes from any place that offered them, and i associated with women that seemed to me to be good moms. I hung out with them and aped their actions. It helped some, but not enough. I loved him so much it hurt my heart, but there was something missing in the way i connected with him.

I’d received feedback from many people that i was a closed system. They said i was only knowable to a point, and then the door was shut and they couldn’t get it open. That wasn’t at all what i wanted, but i couldn’t seem to open the door, either. I wanted friends; i craved connection with others. I felt hidden and would try to open up, but that was always followed by abject terror and horror at what i’d done. I’d often become repulsed by the person i’d shared with, and recoil from the friendship, avoiding further association. I knew i wrecked relationships and hurt people.
Again, i sought help.

In both cases the assistance and guidance i was able to find only helped so much.
I was unconsciously resistant to anything that came too close to my multiplicity, and the reason that i was a multiple. The mere suggestion from any mental health care professional that i might be highly dissociative was met with instant, actual physical revulsion, and if they dared utter the words “multiple personality disorder,” i bolted and never returned.

Slowly though, all the therapy helped, even just a visit or 3, even a counsellor that was ill-equipped to handle my mountain of issues and torrential past (frankly, that was most of them). The one thing it consistently did, THEY ALL consistently did, was help me redirect my anger towards its true source: my childhood, my upbringing, and specifically, my mother. My resistance to the idea that my mother was an abuser was powerful, but years and distance had loosened her grip on me.

The night my stepfather tried to suffocate me because i wasn’t easy to rape i cried out for her help. She left me to tend to him that night, and dropped me at a shelter 2 days later. She used my siblings as bait to get me to drop the charges against him. At her deathbed she accepted my sobbed out apologies for being a bad daughter, but never offered her own for being a terrible mother.
Her death freed me, although i didn’t know it until much later.
Some internal barriers fell, and the truth began seeping in.
When i was ready, vulnerable and filled with a need to know and understand, those moments came back to me. I caught a glimpse of the beast under her moribund facade, and rage was born in me.

A couple of years after her death, a perfect storm of events sent me spiralling:

– I accepted the DID diagnosis;
– I got married;
– I lost a LOT of weight;
– I had a long and intense mania.

When the mania finally released its grip, i was in terrible shape, both mentally and physically. All the anger that had been simmering inside me came bubbling up, throwing everything into chaos. I didn’t know what to do with all of it. There was so much it overwhelmed and consumed me. It pulled me into its arms and danced with all my parts. They all rose up and partnered with it, spinning across the floor of my mind, whirling and dipping to a tremulous treble and a pounding bass. The rage thrummed through my blood and suffused my flesh. I was hot and red with it. I was in its thrall.

It was forbidden love, and we’d all fallen hard. It was exhilarating and intoxicating. It was a whirlwind romance and i was filled with power and a dire beauty. I was wearing the red shoes, and i danced and i danced and i danced.


More to come yet…

On To The Next (Processing)

Relationships are hard. Parenting is hard. Parenting a grown person is… also hard. I don’t think i’ve ever felt like i knew what i was doing with my kids. I affected a confidence i didn’t feel around others, and parroted the party line of the religion i belonged to. Within the constraints of my church and while still closely associated with family, i thought i was doing a decent job – a good job, even. However, when the progression of my mental problems and the deepening of my primary relationship began stripping me down to bare bones, i started questioning everything. For the first half dozen years as a mom i was functional, but mostly unemotional, save the couple of times i lost control with my oldest and abused him while in a rage. The details are private. He knows i’m available both for showing up for therapy and paying for it, but so far he hasn’t taken me up on my offer. Says he forgives me and seems to want it left in the past. I’m the type (obviously – i mean, if you’ve read even 2 of my blog posts you know) who wants to look at and understand everything, plus fix it all. Make it all better. Make ME feel better. Assuage my guilt.

To be fair to me, it’s also because i’m a decent human who has been rightfully convicted of my own wrongdoings, and genuinely wants to clean up my messes and make any amends possible, wherever possible. Heal the world? I’m in.
But the last couple of years i’ve learned that i was trying to force a fix on my grown children.
This last year i’ve focused on letting go and letting them be. They get to be who they are, think what they think, and feel what they feel.
Whether they forgive me or not isn’t even my business, unless they choose to make it so.

It’s the same with how they remember the past and my parenting and how they process that, which includes not processing it at all. Which includes not wanting much or even anything to do with me. Which in turn has included a lot of tears and feeling sorry for myself and moping around about it – but i think i’m through the worst of that. I just get hit with the odd wave of sadness and regret. Like today. Mania makes me ripe for emotional indulgences. I see that, and so i’m writing about it to help me cope.

These emotions are almost worse than the fear and pain from my childhood. That stuff isn’t my fault. My feelings here can be traced to my failures as a mother. Sure, there are mitigating circumstances: childhood abuse and mental illness. But that doesn’t change the fact that my sons were my responsibility, and there were many times when i didn’t meet basic standards of care.

Today, i’m not sure i truly know any of them, but i know that i want to, very badly. It’s a test of how much i’ve learned, of how grown up i actually am at this point, to wait quietly and calmly in the wings for a moment that i have no right to expect to come. I’m reaping what i’ve sown, which in this case, really sucks. (I’ve sown lots of good stuff too, but that’s not what this post today is about.) Today i’m struggling with one particular relationship. I don’t know where the lines are here. Where is my responsibility and where is his? How much do i tolerate? I’m shutting down and avoiding him and our issues, which is creating a shit environment around us. I’m still not great at setting boundaries – i tend towards all or none. I had the sense to talk it over with a friend of mine and i feel better about things, but just as i was relating that to her last night i experienced more of the same issue. The details are private. This blog is about me and my problems, not anyone i’m in a close relationship with. For that i go to my therapist, my husband (if it’s not about him), my BFF (if it’s not about her), and my treasured, internet group (it’s never about them).*

So, yesterday sucked, and today ain’t lookin’ much better. I’ll do the best i can. I checked in with my online friends and got some hugs and support. I’m blogging about what’s going on. I’m handling my continuing physical issues, and hope to have answers and relief soon. My primary relationship is solid. I’ve trimmed even further back on casual friendships and associations. I have an old piece called, “Tell Me Who You Are, And I’ll Believe You,” which i’m living out in a deeper way. I’ve kept some in my circle because i don’t like conflict and they’re nice to me, but the truth is they aren’t very good people when i take a hard look at their actions and how they treat others that aren’t me. It won’t matter to them, even if they notice (they won’t). I know a big announcement isn’t required, and i won’t be making one. My geriatric years aren’t far off, and i just don’t want to waste time with associations with cruddy humans.

I’ve danced around it, so let me be plain-speaking: For years i collected “friends” as a way of coping with my lonely and abusive upbringing. I thought it would be a wall of protection, i thought it would validate me, that it would prove to those that hurt me in the past that they were wrong, and that it would save me from future hurts. At the end of this practise, i saw that it had done none of those things. I saw that i’d been wildly indiscriminate in my choices in friends. I learned that a certain level of judgment is necessary when i’m deciding whom to have be a part of my life. And if i use “Based On Results,” (a couple of blog posts back), and “Tell Me Who You Are… ” as my units of measurement, there were a lot of people in my life that shouldn’t be. They aren’t now. They’ll probably never realise it, and i see that as good fortune.

In summation, today i am melancholy and full of regrets. I can, will, and am handling it. Today will be what it will be, and i’ll get through it as well as i can. I will take care of myself, my home, and my loved ones where i’m able. I will let go of what i can’t manage and try to be gentle where it’s good to be, and give myself a little push here and there where it’s okay to do so. It’s likely that i’ll make a mistake or 2. I’ll acknowledge it, do what i can if it can be put right, and move on. On to the next.

Bought the land, tore the motherfuckin’ house down
Bought the car, tore the motherfuckin’ roof off
Ride clean, I don’t never take th’shoes off
~ On To The Next One, Jay-Z (Swizz Beatz)

Happy Friday, and Here’s to a Good Weekend,
Love and Peace,
~H~

*Not to say i talk about these people behind their backs. I do to a certain extent, but only to process: to figure out what’s going on so i can properly address the issue; with them if it’s required/important. I handle things better if i can take a step back and get someone else’s eyes on the situation before i proceed.

IMAGE: Avinash Kumar

Blind Date

Twenty-five years ago today i went on a blind date. We weren’t set up, we found each other. Back in those days, we didn’t have internet dating, but you could find someone by dialing various phone numbers that hosted dating “profiles”, done by recording your voice.

Yes, i’ve told this story dozens of times, and i’m telling it again. It’s one of the best things about getting old.

Although i’d had a number of relationships of a sort, and even been engaged, i’d never been in love. Obsessed? Yeah, once. Regular bedmate that i found tolerable to hang out with for dinners and such? A couple of times. Infatuated? One time – the last guy before the blind date guy. He was a bad boy type, and my first and only experience with such. He was handsome and charming and funny, with a predilection for older women who’d pay for his addictions and tolerate his constant cheating. He’d done jail and prison time. I was the first relationship he had with someone his own age. I met his family and they were obviously surprised. I had a little money, and when that was gone, it wasn’t a month before he was, too.

I cried and felt heartsick for a day or 2, but it didn’t hurt that much – i knew who i’d been messin’ around with. I put down the ice cream and called up a local telephone personals number and got back to dating. I recorded my own little advert, but i quickly discovered a problem. Guys were mostly looking for hookups, and i didn’t work that way. Yes, i had relationships that were primarily sexual, but i had to like you as a person first. Not too much like, because i didn’t want anyone to cohabitate with me. Try to tell me how to live my life or raise my kids, and i’ll yank your tongue out through your nostril. (Not really, i just thought it sounded funny. Also, my church could tell me how to raise my kids and i never questioned them. So i guess, if i was sleeping with you, you had to STFU? Weird because, according to my religion i was fornicating, and that conveniently never occurred to me. Anyway, sorry, sidetracked – back to my story.)

The other problem is my voice. As a multiple, it can shift around and sound all sorts of different ways. Due to some of what i went through that caused me to split off into my Bits N’ Pieces, i tended to have a high, very girlish voice around strangers generally, and men particularly. So, i was attracting lots of pervy types. We’d go out for coffee, or a walk in the park, and they’d say it went great but they’d never call back. It only took a few before i knew it was because they were looking for sex, and i hadn’t put out. I decided to yank my ad, and choose for myself instead of waiting to be chosen. It suited me better anyway. (Okay, brief aside again: it’s interesting/peculiar that i was taught to be so subservient to others, and yet, once i ditched my first relationship, which was sick and abusive, i, albeit unconsciously, always assumed the power position. I know now that it doesn’t have to be that way, but back then i didn’t.)

To navigate, all you need to know is, you pressed 3 on the phone to advance to the next ad. None of them were appealing, and every one of them started with, “Hello, ladies… ”
3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3… Ugh. So much ugh. And then i heard this guy’s voice, and he didn’t say Hello ladies. He said he’d been focusing on his work for a number of years, and decided he was ready to make some room in his life for someone special. He said he thought he had a heart of gold, and said, If you think you do too, leave me a message. I listened to it half a dozen times, not just for what he said, but because he had the kind of deep, deep voice that makes me weak in the knees.
I left a message.
I have no idea what i said.
I didn’t think i had a heart of gold either, but i wanted someone who did.

He called me and we talked. And talked. He didn’t try to arrange a meeting immediately. He seemed to be genuinely trying to get to know me. It was around 2wks before we met, and i agreed to dinner and a movie. He picked me up in his work truck, wearing a silk shirt and a skinny tie. Big, horn-rimmed glasses and long hair in a ponytail. For someone as dissociated as i can get around strangers and potential boyfriends, i remember quite a few things about it. I remember thinking Uh-oh, because he was my type. I didn’t date my type, because i wanted the power position. I didn’t want my feelings hurt, so i chose to date men that could leave me the next day and i wouldn’t care much. I also remember not being nervous around him, which was most unusual. I was constantly picking at myself and scrutinising every word i spoke and everything i did around others. But i wasn’t like that around him from the beginning. We ate, saw a movie, and then went out for a drink and a snack.

We saw each other frequently after that. He’d take me out for a drive, take me to the park, take me out to eat. I didn’t think much about sex, i was making a friend. I found him so interesting and i was comfortable around him.
I wasn’t comfortable around anyone –even my closest friends– and i had a couple of them at that time. I was hypervigilant. But with him, i didn’t fret or freak out. I could just BE.
And Yes, i’ve said this 100+X, but it bears repeating because it was and still is, the sweetest and most lovely thing…

We were 6 dates in before he even held my hand.

I had been used as a sexual thing since before i could speak, and when i finally got out on my own, i saw potential partners from a mostly sexual POV. I wanted sex, but i didn’t want attachment. I didn’t know what attachment was – i had no experience with it. I wanted what i thought of as a “boyfriend”. A title and a function that had nothing to do with emotions or bonding.

But then he went and treated me like a person and not a thing to be used. He spoke to me like i was interesting and he treated me like an equal. He didn’t try to get me into bed – he tried to get to know me. He showed me kindness, generosity, and RESPECT.

And then one day, after he had taken me for a drive, to see the view from a part of our city that i’d never seen, he held out his hand, and lay it down, open, on the seat between us. He said, Put your hand here.
I said, Huh?
He said, Give me your hand.
I put my left hand down on his open, up-ended right one.
He knitted his fingers through mine and squeezed, and then he asked me, How does that feel?
I could feel my face flaming hot red, and i stuttered out, G-good.
He said, Yeah.

When he dropped me back home that night, he escorted me to my door and hugged me for the first time. I wished he would kiss me, but he didn’t. He took his time with everything, like i was worth it. By the time he had me over to cook me dinner, i was hooked. When he answered the door fresh out of the shower, and his hair was down for the first time, i was done in.

This is all sweet and romantic, it really is, but let me tell you, it’s more than that. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I could tell so many more stories, but today is about our first date. The kindness and gentleness and respect for me as a person, that utterly disarmed every protection i had. They were all unconscious and based in dissociation; i didn’t know i had them. All i knew was that i felt good, i felt safe, when i was with him. I felt like i was pretty and smart and funny – i felt like all the things i’d ever wanted to be when he looked at me, when he listened to me. I felt like i was enough.

He’s been nothing short of a superhero.
He couldn’t save me. No one can but me.
But he gave me the first safe place i’d ever been in, and gave me the time to figure out how to save myself. And as you can probably imagine, someone with a history like mine, with diagnoses like mine, requires heroism. Sacrifice, patience, commitment, gentleness, and unbelievable inner strength.
He is the best human i’ve ever known, and 25yrs later my estimation of him has only grown. I hope we get at least 25 more.
It might take me that long to get my poop in a pile.
Heh.

My little fairy tale that became real life.

Peace and Love,
~H~

Bring It!

So, i think shame is my driving emotion, and one of my core issues is rejection.

It isn’t hard to see how the 2 things would be intertwined in anyone’s life – they’re certainly tightly wound together in mine.
Last Friday night they slammed into each other and almost brought the house down. My Little Crooked House, the house of cards i’ve built around me to handle the state of the world at this moment, and perhaps, even my house. My brain is a house where a lot of people live, you see. I’m the landlord, the property manager, and the onsite handyman for all of it. I own a lot of real estate up here. Occasionally, i have found a bit of space that i don’t, but i’m a keen negotiator, and so far all my offers to buy have been accepted. I’m quite the land baron, doncha know. My offers were generous, and the rent, low.

I’m going to talk about sex today. My life as a sexual being was heavily impacted by my upbringing –i mean, duh!– but i don’t write about it specifically. One, it’s deeply personal, not just for me, but for a lot of people. Another reason is that, if i started talking about sex on my blog, it would likely change the tone here and take things in a different direction. That’s something i’m not currently interested in, nor am i properly equipped to deal with its attendant baggage and potential pitfalls. This piece is more about what i learned in a situation that involved sex. A lot of things in this piece might seem double entendre, but unless i make the joke, no innuendo is intended. I’m mostly talking about emotional intimacy, the sexual kind is merely the vehicle driving me to my destination, ya dig?

So don’t worry… Nothing any more TMI than usual.
Heh.

As an adult, i never gave much thought to getting married. I was busy surviving, and also enjoying having a personal space that wasn’t being constantly violated. I liked being on my own, and alone. It relaxed me a little. (As much as i’m ever “relaxed”. It is getting better, though. Work in progress and all that.) When i fell in love for the first time, parts of my personality came into play that lie mostly dormant. By that i mean, i was born to serve the needs of my mother, and i was raised to be a person to be used, worked, consumed.

I’m not well educated. I’m not great at research. And while psychology is a science, it isn’t a hard one. The psychiatrist who treated my bipolar disorder once said that it’s so soft, it’s mushy. This is to preface my thinking on this matter. I don’t know if it’s correct, i’m not at all sure it could stand up to scientific scrutiny or even be tested. I just think it’s a possibility, and it helps me deal with the wreckage that childhood abuse has caused in my life. All of this to say, i think 1 of the positives that came from being a multiple, is that i’m hella good at compartmentalisation. I think it enabled me to take aspects of my personality that i was born with, ones that i couldn’t display, and hide them away in little pockets of my brain. Qualities like confident, bold, brash, assured.

These qualities have popped up a few times over the years. They come out of nowhere and disappear again. When my mother’s relationship with the man i called Daddy ended, she moved away and i was no longer being passed around for a paycheque or as a party favour. My need for my system dropped drastically. Switching almost ceased entirely, although i still slid around on the daily. I remember people approaching me for sex. By that time, memories i had of being raped i thought were dreams, and details were murky. Sometimes i would be approached by local boys who assumed the fat girl would be grateful for their attention and just offer myself up. And sometimes, those who had enjoyed access to my body previously***, would come back for more. I rebuffed them all. It’s my guess that being a multiple enabled me to do that. I couldn’t say No before, but when we moved away, i could, and as soon as i was able to – i did. I stopped having those dreams-that-were-actually-memories for many years. They didn’t return until i was sexually assaulted again. And although i’ve been sexually assaulted a number of times as an adult, unlike when i was a child, i was in the face and fought each of them however i could.*

Wow, it’s like every paragraph is a preface for the next one. Is that how grownups write? Because i’m usually all over the place. You know, like i am right here. Heh.

This brings me back to that part in the beginning where i mentioned falling in love. Prior to him, i’d never been in love. My first relationship i thought i was in love, but once we broke up i quickly realised it was obsession. After her, i only chose partners that i wasn’t deeply attached to. I stumbled across him using a dating service. I’d never met anyone as kind and smart as he was. One day i looked at him and made up my mind i wanted him for good. We’ve been together ever since, coming up on 25yrs. Amd those pocket traits came in handy with all of my relationships, but especially with him.

Once i got him though, it triggered issues that created years of chaos and struggle for both of us. I wasn’t the only one with issues, and i wasn’t the only one who’d survived childhood trauma.

His story is not for me to tell, but i do have his permission to touch on this, and to write briefly that we’ve stumbled and faltered in our efforts to find our way to intimacy with each other, emotionally and otherwise. This last couple of years we’ve both gotten to a place where we wanted to focus more effort on us, as a couple. And as i’ve grown in this last round of therapy, i’ve been better able to share myself and give him more access to me as a friend, a lover, and a partner. So too, as i’m mending my mind/body connection, i’m learning who i am, and have been able to better define what i want and what i like –and here’s the big one– to ask for it.

I learned to be ashamed of my body, and as i moved through what happened to me and my system was fully functional again, i felt shame because who would want to be with crazy, gross me? I’d gained and lost hundreds of pounds, and my body showed it, and i was always going to be a bit of a cuckoobird. I told myself i’d tricked my poor husband into being with me. See there? I felt guilty, and then shame crept in because even though i’d convicted myself of bad actions, i still didn’t want to let him go and still craved deep connection with him.**

He’s had a bit of therapy, and then there’s me… Between us, we’ve been able to get some serious and significant work done, particularly over the last 6mos or so. We’re walking through all of this together, closer than we’ve ever been before, and in love again for the first time in, well, too long. Stupid, beautiful love. So some of those pocket traits aren’t so pockety anymore, and i boldly and somewhat brashly, asked for, ah, some. Nuff said here, right? I believed that asking out loud with my words might address some of the body shame i still carry, and maybe the shame that plagues me over going after him like a steamroller at our beginning.

I didn’t anticipate the anxiety. By afternoon i was tightly wound, and by the time he got home, i was fit to split. He was glad to see me, and was looking forward to later. (Oh god, the teenagers that live in my brain are cringing and eyerolling like mad, heh-heh-heh.) The brain chatter settled somewhat, and we had a nice supper and were watching some telly. And then… nothing. My husband works hard, long hours, and has extra duties as his boss sits in isolation, post-holiday. He sat on the couch and petered out. (Brain snorts ensue!) I, genius that i am, had a couple of cocktails in me to calm my jitters and hopefully shut the Peanut Gallery up. It worked until shame crept in… And then the shit hit the fan.

A shifting in my brain, a click. A spark of rage lit a fire in my belly. I knew i was in trouble but i was already fading, receding into the back side of my brain (M-O-O-N, that spells MOON!) and it was all i could do to get my ass to bed.
I recently retired my tongue as a sword, and so with a brief admonishment to my more laconic and caustic bits to mind their Ps and Qs, i went to sleep. When my husband came to bed, i started switching.

I woke up angry. Went to pee and my husband was sleeping on the couch. Weird, the bedroom door wasn’t locked, which is something my system sometimes does when they get mad at him. Great, is he mad at me, then? I decide to get something to eat and go back to my room and write. When he wakes, he comes in and asks me what’s wrong. I ask him to fill me in on what happened after i went to bed, which is when i learn i was switching. He also informs me that no one would engage him, because they said they weren’t allowed to talk to him. Well, something positive, at least. But i’m still angry, and i know i’m angry because i’m hurt, and i think shame is keeping my mouth closed, but NO! It isn’t! Shame is just an emotion that’s letting me know i’m craving connection with this man. It’s fear keeping my mouth shut. FEAR OF REJECTION.

In words still a bit on the terse side, i relate what caused me to go to bed early. He immediately apologises, and gently reminds me how tired he  is after work, but that his plans hadn’t changed. The brittleness inside me disappears, and i tell him my thoughts turned extreme, i began catastrophising, i could feel anger bubbling up and was becoming dissociated. I tell him i went to bed, rather than angry-walk. He says he understands, and as we stand to leave the bedroom (we have 2 children at home, so we try to keep our relationship stuffs there), he grasps my elbows, smiles (oh his smile makes me melt) at me, and makes sure we’re still on for later.
You betcher sweet bippy, baby.

Today, as i analyse and write about it, i see the rejection at play. In fact, it was the star of the show. Shame shone the light on my need for connection, but it was fear that was informing my actions. I was afraid he didn’t want me. I am afraid i don’t deserve him. I feel tremendous guilt over everything i’ve put him through, and shame points that out, as well. Because i still want him for my own, forspecial. And i don’t just want him to be mine, i want him to want me for his, too. I want these connections with him, and in the light of day, i know he does, because i can see it all over him, every day.

70s pop psychology had this concept someone called, “playing old tapes”, and in this case, i think it fits. Asking for what i wanted didn’t occur to me as a child; i’d have known better than to ask, anyway. Asking the other day triggered old home movies and old sad songs in my brain, of how i was only ever wanted for what i could do, or would allow – no one ever really wanted ME, specifically. The more the tapes played, the more i expected him to reject me. Who could want me? I’m afraid of losing him, even though more and more of me believes he’ll never leave me. I’ve lost so much, so many.

Fear of rejection and fear of loss and afraid to be alone, but afraid to be connected.

Shame tells me i need to connect, fear asks me, But what if he doesn’t want to connect with you? I’m not afraid of fear. I’ve dealt with it in all its forms and at all its intensities, the entirety of my life. I confront my fears, these days. I look it straight in the face and say, Yo! What’s up? I’m here to listen and learn from whatever it shines a light on.
Fear is just a feeling trying to tell me something – just like shame. So as i write this, i’m thinking that fear wasn’t keeping my mouth shut any more than shame was. It’s rejection, period, that kept my mouth closed. Fear was just blowing the whistle on it, which i think a subtle, but important, difference.
Being afraid never killed me, and neither has shame. I see them now as helpers, not harmers.

Bring ’em on, then. Whenever, wherever.
I’m ready.

Steep learning curve right now. Fear is reminding me that historically, i fall into a deep crevasse after that. But i’m already down the rabbit hole… Do i meet the Mad Hatter, or do i go full popsicle? Stop confusing me! Damn metaphors, being all contradictish.

Enjoy your Sunday, if you’re reading the day i post this.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*One of them required me to freeze, but i was fighting for the safety of the other woman in the car with me. It was the best course of action, as she was spared.

**See the previous few posts for what i’ve been learning about shame in my life.

***Added after posting: I didn’t know at the time that these people had raped me in the past. All i knew was they were trying to be sexual with me, and i wasn’t having it. It was only when i dove into an ocean full of crazy that started around 2006, did i realise they’d abused me with impunity in the past. Some of them brushed it off and made light of the interaction. Others were right pissed off and pushed harder and/or came at me over and over again. I don’t know if all of them knew i’m a multiple, but i know some did.

Waking From the Dream

The body cannot live without the mind.
~ Morpheus, The Matrix

I know it’s been a while, and i want to apologise, but i’m not going to.
I want to offer all my valid and compelling and sympathy-inducing reasons for not posting an entry in what i consider to be far too long, but the truth is somewhat perfunctory – although not intended to be dismissive or glib.

I couldn’t write.
I’ve had so little energy left over after dealing with this current therapy i’m in, that it would have been depleting myself unnecessarily. I’ve been working so frelling hard to stay present and hang on and feel my feelings and keep my house in some kind of order and maintain some kind of connection with the people i love that live in my house and not drink myself and starve myself into another hospital stay and take care of my Bits N’ Pieces.

Over the last few weeks i’ve been secretly and seriously concerned that i wouldn’t be able to do this work. And worse, in the back of my mind the thought was growing big enough to become belief, that i’m irretrievably busted up and irredeemable and impossibly histrionic and tiresome to all that know me. A terrible, sickening, sinking feeling that i will only ever be a burden to those who love me – and that everyone would be vastly better off if i weren’t here to suck the energy out of any space i occupy.

I’m under my own thrall.
I drank the Koolaid that i made.
I bought my own bullshit.
This work is silly and selfish and i should just get over it and move on, already.

And why would anyone except a sick and self-involved attention whore choose to feel this awful for such an extended period of time?
What about the people around me who need me, and who’ve invested time and energy and emotion to help me not be this fucked up?
MEMEMEMEME. It’s all, always about me.

All this work i’ve done over all these years and what has it got me?
I’ve whittled my circle down to a very few people, and i try their patience and commitment nearly daily. And i’m still white-knuckling and skin-of-my-teething it.
Instead of being a shining example of how therapy can make your life better, i fear what i’ve become is the poster child for Fuck it. Bury it. Don’t talk about it. Pretend it didn’t happen.
Just bloody get on with the business of living.

Except i’ve tried and i can’t. It’s as pointless to try to stop what’s happening as it was to try writing as recently as yesterday.

This is what i currently have to work with.
This is the pile of lima beans on my plate.
I eat it, or i’ll starve, and as crazy as it might sound after the preceding paragraphs filled with angst and vitriol…

I don’t want to die.
I remain unconvinced that my level of function as a regular human will ever even be considered average, but…
Whatever sort of life i can carve out for myself, i still really, REALLY want it.

No one seems comfortable leaving me unsupervised right now, and although i feel guilty about it, i think they’re right and i’m seriously grateful for the care.
A new thing i’ve learned to do over the last few months is call or text my therapist when things are particularly bad. I haven’t done that before (i don’t think – and if i have it’s been once in a blue moon). I think it was last year when i found out that her other clients contact her when they’re struggling or in trouble…
I was quite shocked. I was taught people like her are important, and i’m not, so unless she’s on the clock and i’m paying her for her time, it hadn’t occurred to me that i could have contact with her outside of the office.
I’m not supposed to bother people.
I mean, Who the fuck do you think you are, H? (If you guess that’s my mom’s voice, you get an internet cupcake.)

I’ve even -actually, truly, for realsies- asked my BFF to come over and hang out with me when i’m a wreck, i smell because it’s been days since i’ve showered, and my house isn’t doing much better.
This is a change on a very deep level, i think.
I wasn’t allowed to ask for help, because that would imply i needed help, and that would reflect poorly on my parents. I aligned myself with my abusers so well, that for most of my life it never occurred to me that i needed any. If there was a problem, it was my fault, whatever it was, and it was up to me to fix it. Over the years i’ve had friends and family help me out, but i didn’t ask, and i certainly didn’t feel worthy. I felt embarrassed and beholden.

I’ve called and texted my therapist when i’m switched and in a panic.
And she’s responded.
Like i fucking matter, or something.
“I see you, I know you, I understand you, your truest self is still intact. I am not leaving you or going away. You deserve all the patience, tolerance, and dignity… I know you don’t feel well. You can’t be okay, because you were hurt and these injuries are not your fault. It was sad and brutally scary… but this did not define you. These injuries need to be finally cared for and loved – regardless of what happened. They need love as all humans do! I will not leave you and you did nothing wrong.”

Yeah, you better believe she’s awesome.

The last time i saw her, i cried in a way i’ve never cried in my life. It’s very private and delicate for me right now, but i will say that these terrible sounds of anguish came out of me that i’ve rarely heard come out of any human, and certainly not myself. And she held me and she cried with me. She cried FOR me. She dried my tears and she held me and I LET HER.
She’s invested over 12yrs in this journey with me, and it’s the first time i’ve ever let her touch me, except in the most benign of ways. And i wasn’t afraid for 1 single second that she was going to hurt me or leave me – and i’m always afraid the people i let in will hurt me and leave me.

My body holds the memories of every beating and every rape. It holds the empty ache of unmet needs for healthy, loving touch.
Allowing myself to feel these things and stay present in the moment is, without question, the most terrifying and painful thing i’ve ever done.
I’m making progress, but it is slow and difficult, and i haven’t the words to describe to you how frightening.

I’m tired and raw and scared all. the. time.
I know i’m not the only one out there who has been through these things as a child. And i know i’m not the only one who endured them from the very people who should have loved me the most.
I know you’re there. I see you. Hang on, please. There is a piece of you, deep inside, that is still intact and it wants to fill you with its light and love. I don’t know what your path will be. I don’t know if you should or can do it the way i’m doing it, but what i am coming to believe is, that beautiful, perfect, immutable little part inside you, does know. Try to listen to that part, be kind to that part, let that part love you and tell you what it knows.

I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.
~ Morpheus, The Matrix

Love and Peace to You, Always,
~H~

Untitled

This is not my garden,
i’ve tarried here too long
I cannot keep it,
it does not rise to my touch

This is not my garden,
its fruit does not sustain me
The taste is bland and unripened,
the sun too rare

This is not my garden,
nothing here will grow
No verdance, no smell beckons me,
It’s time for me to go

This is not my garden…
It never was

Image: Gardens of the Dying Light, by QueenOfRohan

The Gift of Estrangement

Hello.

Sleep left me hanging around 3:30 this morning*, so here i am.
I did the few dishes left in the sink from last night while i brewed some freshly ground beans in my French press – because fancy! I thought i’d treat myself to peanut butter ice cream for breakfast, but i haven’t got the taste for it. It’s sitting beside me, melted, so i guess i’m tossing it when i get up next.

I’m so fucking tired. Like, all the time. Staying present takes so much focus and commitment, it takes all my energy. Even when i do nothing, i’m tired. I wish i could go back to bed, but i know how that’ll go, and my husband doesn’t get many opportunities to sleep in, so i won’t subject him to my frustrated restlessness.

I don’t speak about family that’s living. That’s because if i did, they might get the idea that they can contribute some thoughts or opinions, some counter arguments, to my own. I’m comfortably estranged from them, and have no desire to go and mend any fences or let go any bygones.
Today though.
Today, how do i not think of family?
Perhaps i wouldn’t if i still celebrated this infernal holiday, but i don’t. My day would be busy with celebratory activities, and i’d be too busy to think. Wonder. Ponder.
But as it stands, my children are grown, i’m an atheist and the conspicuous consumption and crass commercialism all turn me off. I don’t feel the need to tear down other people’s enjoyment and celebration, but this is my blog, so it seems okay to me to put it here.

This is the third year we haven’t decorated, exchanged presents, had a huge meal, watched holiday programming or listened to festive music. I’m more convinced each year that it was a wise and self-loving decision. It’s too much for me.
My expectations, my perceived expectations of others, the money spent, all the obligations, the places i must go, the people i must see, and i must bring tasty things. The heightened danger on the road because of the office party tipsies and the revelling chronic drunks, and no one is paying attention to their driving or the road because their minds are filled up with ALL THE THINGS. So many brittle smiles and everyone looks like they’re desperately in need of a decent night’s sleep.
And if i heard Santa Baby one more time i was gonna drop my packages on the department store floor and just start screaming…

I know it’s not that way for everyone.
It was that way for me.
My blog, my experiences, and my thoughts about them.
I’m happy for anyone who enjoys this season.
I enjoy it, too.
Now.

I’ve found that one of the most effective ways to limit, or better control my stress and anxiety levels, is to eliminate the things causing them to rise. Maybe as i get healthier and more functional, i can bring some things back. I Hallowe’ened with my BFF this year, for the first time in 5 or so years, and it went okay. Perhaps one day i’ll Christmas again. I leave room to grow and to change and to become capable of handling more if i want to. For now, i have this, and it suits me well.

I didn’t so much make a decision to cut my family out of my life as i decided i wasn’t going to work at it anymore. I was tired of being told what i could and couldn’t do. I was tired of the gossip and backstabbing. Most of all i was tired of all the fakery. Going to family gatherings and pretending that there weren’t sick and dangerous people there. People who’d done serious damage to me. People who’d gravely harmed me. Pretending i was one of them because i wanted so badly to belong to someone. To be claimed by someone. And then pretending i didn’t see and feel what was really happening behind the facades. It was clear i wasn’t one of them. I was merely a religious feather in their ridiculously large caps.
(For reference, watch Carlin’s bit on the religious and their hats.)

It took years to figure it all out, like it sometimes does for me. As i increased the distance i saw more and more clearly. I pulled away because i was beginning to listen to what my system was saying, and i was trying to pay attention to emotions and respond with something other than dissociation. I felt anxious and depressed and exhausted after family associations. I felt like i wasn’t good enough. I felt unloved. I felt hurt and lonely and left out.

So the pulling away was a direct response to the symptoms. It took some time before i started a full examination of my family situation. I sought the cause of my malaise.
I was right. I wasn’t one of them – never was.

I think when i was young it was different, because there was hope i could still be molded into someone more acceptable. However, as i grew into adulthood, i became too different. I strayed too far from the fold. Maybe i was too much like my mother? I don’t know. Beyond our looks and intelligence level, i don’t see that i have much in common with her. I can be scary when i’m pissed off, like her, but i never got pissed off at them. I was only ever scared of losing them – of not being accepted. I was terrified they’d reject me, as i was taught so well to be.

I’d be invited to big celebrations, like the holidays, or the head of the family’s birthday. If i wanted to get together for lunch or shopping or a cup of tea and some connection, i had to make the call. They seemed to enjoy those kinds of things like i did, i just wasn’t on their call list. I’d hear about all the casual get-togethers they’d enjoyed with each other at big holiday celebrations. I’d see pictures and hear funny stories that i wasn’t invited to be a part of. The chatter at the supper table let me know they were always in contact with each other.

Maybe i was a trophy? A sign of how well they lived their religion. Their holiday oblation.
Look how generous and forgiving and pious we are, to have this orphan, this urchin, this weird, loud, awkward woman in our midst. See how we treat her like family when she’s clearly not one of us.

Their smiles looked like grimaces.
Their children avoided me like i had a communicable disease.
But i bashed about these gatherings like a moth on a light bulb, completely unaware. Spastic AF. Trying so hard to be liked and loved, accepted and wanted. I think the truth is i was merely tolerated. I was their charity case. I was the pat on their back that reassured them that they’re good people. (Spoiler: They’re not.)

Just dodged a bullet. I was 2 deep and into my third example of how they’re not good people. That’s an invitation. They aren’t welcome here, and i have nothing to prove. I get to feel and think whatever i want about them, even if i’m wrong. And it’s not like i talk shit about them. I don’t talk about them much at all, except to my therapist or my husband if something comes up for me, like a bad memory or a nightmare.
They’re fake and sick and toxic to me. To me.
Anyone else’s opinion is their right to have and not my business. All i know for sure is that i felt noticeably better about myself and the world when i stopped associating with them, and that’s increased over time.
When i let go and stopped begging for love and chasing them for belonging, it was one of the quickest lessons i’ve learned. The relief was immediate, and the pain of separation, not that bad.

It was last year around this time when a family member sent me a gift. It was a card with the Footprints poem thingy on it, and instead of signing with the name that i’ve called them since i was 11, they signed it with their proper, “Christian” name.
Message received. It was passive-aggressive, hypocritical, petty, and mean-spirited.
I’m genuinely grateful, because it helped me stop looking back and wishing. It showed me who i was dealing with, and confirmed that i’d done the best thing for me.

I’ve spent today with my husband, one of my children, 2 doggos, 1 kitty cat, and my BFF.
It’s been calm and low-key and relaxing. We only listened to one holiday tune, and it was totally perverted. There has been laughter and junk food. I haven’t felt for one single second like i have to be anyone other than myself. I haven’t felt like i’m not enough or i’ve done anything wrong. (Except i burnt the breakfast sausages on one side, and i told my brain that no one would care – and no one did.) We played games, and drank coffee, tea, and ginger ale with cranberry juice in it, because again – FANCY! One son spent the day crafting and making jokes, one son went to work and made double time and a half, woohoo! There were naps, and i had time and space to write. There was music and chatter and hugs.

I think today i’ve written the final chapter on my association with a group of people that aren’t my people. They don’t need to like, love, agree with, or understand me. I never needed anything from them, and now i don’t want anything, either. Here today, i see that i’ve triumphed over not just one family’s lies, but two. All their threats and emotional blackmail, all their cozening ways – none of it stuck. One side of my family died, and it felt so good, a part of me wondered if it wouldn’t feel just as good to be rid of the other side.

It did.
It does.

If you’re reading this and you have tumultuous, painful, difficult relationships with your family, i’m truly sorry for you. What i’ve written here is for me and about me. If you’ve made the decision to suck it up and remain connected to them, i don’t condemn you. I don’t think you’re weak or dumb. I support you in your process, in doing what you think best. Your journey is yours. I hope you have safe people that you can talk to about it; people that you trust who will tell you the truth and support you while you try to navigate the minefield of familial relationships.

The best thing for me was to let go and walk away.
I don’t know what the best thing is for you. If you’ve gotta slap a smile on your face and act like you’re enjoying yourself, then maybe you could do something you enjoy with someone you love after. You know, to wash the stink off you and recharge your batteries.
Hear me though, when i say that there’s no shame in trying something else when what you’re currently doing isn’t working.

All i did initially was to take some time away, because i couldn’t think straight when i was around them. So many of my actions and responses were pure reflex. I’d act instinctually. I found quiet and safety away, and once there, i felt so much better that i never wanted to go back. They don’t miss me and i don’t miss them.
Your mileage may vary.
Do what you want, do what you will.
But if i’m any indication, there aren’t as many MUSTs as we’ve been raised and trained to think there are.
I’m not lonely and i’m not dead.
In fact, i’m quite happy sometimes, and if i keep dropping deadweight like this, i think there’s at least an outside chance i might fly.

Enjoy Your Holiday If You Can,
~H~
*Yesterday, Christmas morning.

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.