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.

Deprogramming, Pt. II

I have only the vaguest recollection of my meeting with the man who tried to exorcise my “demonic possession”. I remember crawling the walls of my brain, completely freaked out by him. He and my counsellor did some initial praying, and then he read some passages from the bible. He began asking me who was in charge. He came at me like my head had been taken over by an army of demons, and he was looking to map out who were platoon leaders, and who was in charge of the platoon.
Seriously.

I remember sliding out of the face and someone else talking out of my mouth. It’s like a dream except i’m awake. I’m somewhat lucid, but entirely ineffectual. I slide further away from the front, and as i do, the voices and faces in front of me fade to blurs and murmurs. Someone in my system has taken over, maybe telling him what he wants to hear? Maybe stoic and resistant? I don’t know.
I just know i didn’t see him again.
I’ll just go ahead and use the word “blessing” here:
It was a blessing that i didn’t see him again.

Another bible-based treatment that i took at my counsellor’s behest was a course designed to break me free of demonic influence by reading about and being quizzed on how dangerous it was for me to have masturbated and fantasised while doing so, and how calamitous for me to have had sex outside of marriage, and how just plain awful it was for me to be queer. All chapters in the workbook were followed by extensive prayer, both one-on-one with her, and in the group of other church folk taking the course.
Lots and lots of hands-on prayer, replete with speaking in tongues and herky-jerky movements, laughing, and rivers of tears.
All the touching made me jump out the top of my head and go watch from an empty corner of the room.

These “treatments” did nothing but stir up my Peanut Gallery. The noise, the chatter intensified, activating parts that had been deeply harmed by churches my mother had attended when i was small. (I know this now, back then i was just sure i was going insane.) I was packing on the weight, eating for comfort, for emotional coma, for protection from all the laying on of hands. I drowned myself in food as i was drowning in guilt and shame. I began twitching and jerking during worship on Sundays. I thought i was finally being filled with the spirit, as so many around me in my church seemed to be. (Hindsight tells me, it was ticcing behaviours due to my system being triggered.) Instead of making me feel like the expressions i saw on the faces of those around me (bliss?), i was terrified and disgusted. I began skipping church, and the weekly group meetings we’d have in other member’s homes. I was uncharacteristically silent and withdrawn when i did attend. On a couple of occasions i was able to share that i was struggling, that i felt seriously shaken, mentally and emotionally, and i was deeply afraid.

This was met with perfunctory prayer, and hand-patting assurances that this was part of the journey, that my god had me and my situation well in hand. All would be revealed as i pushed on in faith. Plus, the conversion/aversion course i’d taken had assured me i’d been set free from demonic bonds, so my god could really start working in my life!
(What, he couldn’t/wouldn’t handle demons?)

I see now that i was devolving, as was my church. There’s no need to go into detail, suffice to say my church was part of a movement that had begun having some major leadership issues and was facing a crisis of money and membership. My counsellor was stripped of her position in the church in a public shaming session that destroyed my trust in those in authority there, and my attendance dropped drastically. I continued seeing her though, on and off, for a few years afterward, i think? My memory is spotty here, as i was starting down the road to apostasy, which caused a tumult inside. My sense of blasphemy had been informed by my mother, the denomination i’d been a part of had sharpened it to a razor’s edge.

My home and my partner provided the safety and support i needed to consider forbidden thoughts. My church was sick and dying, and my belief in a god along with it. I avoided the anxiety and stress by not going there anymore. I slipped into a dissociative state where faith and religion were concerned, instead turning my attention to the hundreds of pounds i’d gained while trying to rid myself of the psychic weight i carried. Gastric bypass followed, along with dramatic weight loss, and as some of you already know, serious mental illness.

The  constant tug-of-war going on had to stop. Between my church and my changing lifestyle, and the parts of my system that were deeply religious and those that were not, something had to give.
Church fell by the wayside, as bipolar mania crashed my beaches and swept me away.
The lock busted off the door that’d kept both me and my system relatively controlled. We poured out into the real world, flooding my home with madness and filling my family with frustration and fear.

Religion was lost at sea, god had washed up on the sand and needed someone to push the saltwater out of his lungs and breathe air into them. He took his last choking gasps while i partied at a cabana further up the strand. He died along with my faith.

That was my outside god and my outside church, though. I still practised another religion. The god that i’d blasphemously put before my man-made one. I still worshipped and obeyed a woman-made god. My mother-made god.
She had always been my highest authority.
Her words carried the most weight.
Bits of her personality had embedded themselves in other parts of my system. Her thoughts, beliefs, and opinions echoed down the halls of my brain. Her screaming invective flung spittle at my psychic skin, infecting me with her like a virus. Her rage that flew out of her like a hot wind blew over me and through me. It burned my skin while the fever cooked my guts.

I was filled with her sickness. I’ve spent 20+yrs battling her influence in my life. I cut her out, like a cancer. First, i removed the obvious tumours, but then i needed the chemo and radiation, too. And i use this analogy because my body reacted to the treatments like they were poison. For a long time i felt like i was sick and dying. Her programming had gone to my very marrow. These last dozen years or so have been spent studying my brain. Studying it and mapping it out like a geneticist with a genome. Working with my therapist to develop my own CRISPR. And now this last year and a half, i’ve been editing her out, and splicing in help and health.

I still doubt my diagnosis on the regular.
It’s the programming.

I’m a bad girl.
I’m a liar.
I’m a thief.
I’m lazy and full of excuses.
I’m the reason bad things happen.
I’m the reason you’re mad or sad or tired or broke or lonely or in trouble.
I’m a fraud, an imposter.
Deep down inside, i’m disgusting and filthy and wrong and evil, and if you really knew me, you’d hate me and leave me.

Though i don’t recall her saying so specifically, her personality is so present in my brain that i know how she’d respond to my DID diagnosis.
She’d bark out harsh laughter and snidely call Bullshit. She’d roll her eyes and talk about how hard my life was, her voice dripping with sarcasm. She’d launch into a heart-wrenching speech about how if anyone should be split apart into pieces it should be her. She’d (rerere)retell tear-jerking stories of her own awful childhood, her emotions rising, until she’d wound herself up so tightly she’d burst open with a caustic rant about how grateful i should be that i had her as a mother, and how she’d brought me home a great father, and given me great siblings – friends and protectors and supporters forever.

I could be her speechwriter and she wouldn’t change a single word.
Well, she would, just so i wouldn’t think i was all that. I’m already conceited enough. She’d sigh and say, I suppose this’ll have to do.

I’ve taken her with me everywhere i’ve gone. She’s had something to say about everything i’ve done and everyone i’ve known. Some think that knowing your shadow makes you a better person. A lot of therapy has been learning who i am and looking at all of it, so that i might address what’s not working and what’s harming me and make changes.
I know my shadow very well, because it’s my mother.

When a mental health professional would broach the subject of my dissociativeness, i would never go back.
A door inside me immediately slammed shut because i knew what she would think about it and i knew what she’d say. I knew what she would want me to do – expect me to do. I knew she’d punish me if i didn’t do it. She may be dead 30yrs, but she still survives in my brain. A ghost, a poltergeist tipping over lamps and smashing glasses and turning lights on and off in my head. She messes with my Bits N’ Pieces; terrifying some, shaming others, sometimes pretending to be a friend. Manipulating all of us. All of ME.

When i realised that some of what i thought were dreams were actually memories, i could hear her angry shrieks. When i started living my life as if it might be true that i’m a multiple, i could hear her derisive voice, nagging me, shaming me, cawing with laughter at how pathetic i was. When i found a therapist i could work with, i could feel her tight-lipped silence and her hot stare; i could hear her passive-aggression:

Fine, blame me.
Take the easy way out.
Lazy.
Liar.

Now that i’m working on connecting my brain and my body back together, i hear her more loudly than i have in some years. My therapist asks me to pay attention to what my body is trying to tell me, rather than what my brain is saying. We’re talking, and like the last couple of sessions prior, i find myself snarking at her and feeling frustrated, bitchy… angry. I don’t know why. She picks up on it, and draws my attention to my feet. The one pressed to the floor is going up and down on its toes, and the one crossed over my knee is swishing back and forth like a cat’s tail warns you a bite is coming. She suggests making the movements bigger, putting more energy into it, and then asks me how i feel about her suggestion. After some time and some deft handling on her part, i snarl at her that it feels stupid.
I sound like a teenager. I feel like a teenager. I AM a teenager.

I’ve slid out of the face and i know the rolled eyes and twisted mouth of the girl who’s currently hissing at her. I’m desperately embarrassed to be speaking to her in this way. She’s done nothing but help me. Frankly, i wouldn’t be this far along and doing this well without her. I’d still be looking for her or someone like her i think, because my kids anchor me to this earth, but i might well be locked up somewhere. I might be divorced. My sons might have cut me out of their lives. I might not have the joy of a daughter and grandchildren to make life indescribably beautiful.
Plus, i was taught never to talk sass to anyone in authority. It reflected poorly on my mother. It might make them ask questions, make them look a little more closely. People were only allowed to see what she wanted them to see. The more weight she gained, the more she became a shut-in, because her mask didn’t fit properly anymore and kept slipping. She’d still hear things, though. Teachers were great for earning me a few smacks or an outright beating. Family members. Her occasional, transient friendship…

I must also factor in what she taught me about psychology.
Distrust it and those who practise it.
Look down on it and those who practise it.
And finally, she didn’t tell me this, she showed me:
Give them what they want and impress them, learn everything they have to teach about it, and then go out into the world and use the fuck out of it against others to get what you want.

So, i’ve had bad experiences with psychology and mental health professionals.
Most of them have thought i was fine, or at least well on my way to handling my issues.
I thought most of them were idiots, so i didn’t open up.
They used buzzwords that triggered TF out of me and i’d shut down.
Anyone who started nosing around my dissociative aspects was immediately dismissed. I ran away from the ones who might have been able to help me.*

This means i sit there in her office, i sit with this person who has helped me save my life, this woman who has patiently and gently helped me learn about how my brain works, and sift through the wreckage inside me to find who i truly am. I sit there with her and i want to yell at her and i want to leave and i want to say 10 different things to her, but i can’t speak. I try to WILL myself to speak, but all that comes out most of the time are Yes, No, and more often than not, I don’t know.

It’s the programming.
I had to be a good girl to survive. I had to obey. I had to shut up. I had to agree with everything the adults said around me. I had to believe what they believed. I had to think as they thought. I had to have the same opinions. I had to literally sleep with the enemy in order to live. And no matter what i think on a low day, or what some of my parts believe, or what my mother would have told you – i WAS a good girl. I was the best little girl any mother could have ever had.

I look back, armed with information and real love, and this is how i do it. I confront these thoughts and feelings and i examine them with a critical eye. There is an incredibly delicate balance of allowing emotion and reining it in, because i must stay present to learn, to discern, to grasp, to absorb. I’m fighting some seriously ingrained behaviours, here. Or perhaps better put, i’m sitting in a chair, opposite a very good and cute little girl, in the office of my brain, and i’m helping her figure out that her mommy was the one that was bad, not her.
But man, she is so good and loving and loyal and true, that this news is not accepted easily. Her beliefs are dying a wretched death.

I see who i am and how my brain works, and i know that there are people who live inside my head, and they talk to me and sometimes they take care of me. And i know they aren’t real. I know they’re all me.

And i know the diagnosis is still controversial. But i also know that, regardless of who does or doesn’t believe or what label they put on it, my brain will still work this way, and i’m the one who has to deal with it. I must learn to live with it if i want to live – and i do. None of those headshrinkers can fix me/mend me/heal me – only i can do that.

And i hear my mother’s voice in my head telling me i’m full of shit and faking it, and her programming is so strong and so ingrained that i almost believe her.
I fucking want to believe her, do ya ken?
So i pull those thoughts, those voices out of my head and i share them out loud. I make them real, and then i see that they’re naked, just like that dumbfuck Emperor in the story. They’re walking around in my head like they’re all dressed for the Ball, but when i bring them outside they’ve got nothing on. Then they run from me, their influence over me gone. The spell, broken.
Slowly, i am waking from my mother’s thrall.

I tell my therapist i’m angry and i don’t know why. I’m crying and i don’t know why. I’m twitching and ticcing and i don’t know why. And she shushes me and tells me not to worry about the why of it right now. She asks me if i would be willing to just let my feet do what they want to do. Stretch up, stretch down. Flex. Bounce. She asks if she can provide her own foot for me to push against, and i ignore the eyerolling teenager inside me, and i shove my mother’s voice to the back of my brain, and i nod.

I put the bottom of my foot on the bottom of hers and she pushes against me, just a little, and i push back. After just a few seconds i’m pushing harder and she keeps her foot there, steady, letting me push her foot away a bit, and then pushing back into my foot -not much, not hard- just giving me room to push her foot away again. And then my foot is pumping against hers, and suddenly my leg starts shaking violently, and i look up at her, wide-eyed and say, What the fuck?!

She tells me it’s okay, it’s good, she says i’m discharging.
My foot that wanted to run, my leg that wanted to leave. To get me away from what was happening to me. The action that i always wanted to take when i was being harmed…
GETAWAYGETAWAYGETAWAYRUNRUNRUN
And i never could.
The memory of wanting so badly to escape and not being able to, trapped there for so long. So i let my foot and my leg do what it wants to do and it’s so weird, but it works for me. The anger is gone. The need to leave fades.
I felt what i felt while knowing what i know, and i made another connection between my brain and my body.

My therapist smiled at me, and she said, “This was very good work that you did today. This is the work and you’re doing it.”

Deprogramming.
Reconnecting.
Living.

Love and Peace to All,
And to All a Hearty “Hang in there!”
~H~

*Heavy emphasis on the word “might”. They probably could have helped a bit, but i’m going to say not much. If they started talking about MPD (what it was called back then), they’d often launch right into wanting to know names and speak to parts. In my case, not the way to go about it.

Deprogramming, Pt. I

I was raised religious. I’m gonna say some stuff about that, and you may not agree. That’s fine. The majority of the world holds some sort of belief in the supernatural. I once did, and now i do not. It’s no big. As long as i’m not being preached at or proselytised, i have no problems listening to those around me talk about such things. But this is my blog, written by me, full of my thoughts, experiences, and opinions. I’ve chosen a path and am mapping my own route to get where i want to go.

I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I’m just talkin’ ’bout Life As Me.
I’ve been wrong thousands of times, and will be thousands more yet (at least, i’m hoping for the opportunity to be). If you think there’s a god/gods out there, i think you’re wrong. So? You think i’m wrong, too. Doesn’t bother me in the least. I might be wrong, and i could be convinced by enough good evidence.*

Now that’s out of the way, lemme get to it.
Like many people, like many female people, like many female people born into a religious family, like many female people born into an abusive, religious family, i wasn’t allowed to say No. My permission was never required – not if it affected me directly or indirectly, and not even if it involved the use of my own body. Growing up, it didn’t occur to me that i could say No, and i rarely said it. It occasionally popped out when i was in extreme distress. If i said it outside the house and family interactions, it was usually respected, if for no other reason than, if i was saying No, i was likely completely unhinged at that point. When i lost control it got weird for those around me: wild eyes, panicked voice, heaving chest, all my ticcing behaviours on display… Most would back off. On the exceedingly unusual occasion that i used it in my house and/or with my parents, i was beaten.

I had no rights, no autonomy. Along with not being allowed to use the word No, i was never permitted to question anything. I was raised to obey without a word. I couldn’t pull a face either, that’d earn me a slap or 2, for sure. This contributed to my being an insular person; i was hidden deep inside, any natural individuality was subverted, and i compartmentalised in order to survive. My traumas were so intense and ongoing, my compartmentalisation became so widespread, rigid, and rigorous, that i split apart inside my brain. I’ve been diagnosed with what is currently referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder.

As i’ve said before, i fought the diagnosis for years. I never went back to mental health professionals that even brought it up peripherally. Being around others who identified themselves as multiples made my skin crawl. I believed it was a real thing, but i thought most people were faking it.** I believed what i was raised to believe; what my parents and others in authority over me told me to believe. I was taught what to think, never how, (and in that, i think i have more company than just fellow abuse survivors).

I was punished for asking questions. I might get yelled at, shamed, or even beaten if i dared use the word “why”. To this day, if you want to see me get frustrated, then angry, and then shut down, just start asking me questions. I get nervous and irritated quickly. What was happening in my family had to be hidden. I was taught that nosy people were a threat. Others weren’t as smart and socially evolved as we were – they wouldn’t understand. They’d take me away and i’d have no one. I was such a handful, such a difficult child; no one would be able to tolerate me for long. It was always indirectly, subtly reinforced that i was a terribly misbehaved child, and not easy to love. I was lucky to have my amazing and long-suffering mother there to care for and love me. Without her i’d be completely alone.

She’d always let me watch old movies, because she liked them, but she banned me from watching All About Eve. I was an advanced reader, and had worked my way through her large collection of books by grade 6, but when she caught me reading Sybil, she lost her mind, took it away and hid it. I don’t remember her ever telling me it was bullshit, though. In fact, looking back with grown up eyes, i think she was obsessed with the subject. I think there may have been a time that she played around with the diagnosis for herself. She loved attention and struggled with her mental health, and i have some memories of some talks and programs that she brought me along to, where the way she was talking and the way she was treated by others there would fit her claiming some form of multiplicity.

When i finally got away from my mother, i knew i needed professional help, but it never occurred to me that i had a diagnosable, mental illness (or 2).*** I was just bad, not ill. My brain wasn’t sick, i was just a rotten person. I was a disobedient, selfish liar.
Ah yes… Liar.
You bet she drummed that one in to me as far back as i can remember.

She told me i was a compulsive liar until the day she wound up in the hospital where she died. Hey, i did lie. I lied a lot and i lied as easily as i breathed, but they were all rooted in her teaching me to do it, and modeling it for me so well. I lied to get out of trouble, e.g. denying eating something i wasn’t supposed to eat, which i ate because i was not fed properly. I lied to impress other kids, because my life sucked and i wanted them to like me and i wanted to be more like them. And the #1 reason i’d lie, was to cover for my parents. To hide the abuse that was going on in our home. The abuse that i was told wasn’t abuse but only what i deserved because i was so very, very bad.

My whole life growing up was a lie to the outside world, but that was one i didn’t know i was telling. I didn’t know i was abused until i was 21. I knew my mom hit me often, and sometimes beat the absolute crap outta me, but i knew i deserved it. I never thought that she was wrong or she shouldn’t have done it. She’d raised me to think i was a piece of shit and she was my gracious and merciful teacher and provider.

And church was invaluable in backing up everything she wanted me to believe.

She went through many periods where she didn’t attend church, but she made sure i always did. She’d arrange for other families to pick me up and drop me home, or insist i go with other children whose parents would make them invite me. She was highly intelligent, clever, an incredible manipulator, and deeply devious. She never sat me down and preached at me that i remember, but she did this thing that i didn’t recognise until i was a parent myself.

When i was still small, she hung out with younger, childless folks who were going for their degrees, and sometimes the older, established professors whose children were grown (she worked at universities and colleges as a secretary). If she wasn’t farming me out to someone (let’s just call it that for this piece), she’d bring me along. I was a perfectly behaved child out in public – i knew what would happen if i wasn’t. So i’d sit quietly and unobtrusively at parties and various get-togethers and even courses she was taking, and the people there would eventually start talking like i wasn’t there. They’d forgotten. I heard things no child that age should hear, and learned things no child should know. I was mentally sophisticated, and i suppose precocious (UGH), so i grasped the subjects being discussed relatively easily.
The thing she’d do to secure her control of me is she’d say things to other adults at these events, knowing full well that i was listening. That i was, in fact, all ears. She’d talk religiously and philosophically with these people, but she’d drop bits that i now think were meant for me.

This bit is difficult to convey. I’ve been thinking about how to make it understandable for the last couple of days. Say for instance, her friends were discussing Dr. Spock and his views on spanking children. She’d say something like, “Well, Dr. Spock must have some very well-behaved children. We aren’t all so lucky.”

That would be a message for me.
I hope that illustrates my point well enough.

When things were particularly rough at home, money was tighter than usual, or maybe she’d been beating me more frequently, she’d talk more about her own childhood. She’d tell me horror stories of being locked in the root cellar, or bathed in scalding hot water. And she’d share all her rape stories in lurid detail,**** starting when i was very young, say 5 or 6, maybe earlier, i don’t know.

The message there was she was the one who was abused, not me.

She never let up on the programming. Manipulation was her life’s work. She played me like Perlman played violin until the day she slipped into a coma.

All this to say that it has been a gargantuan effort on my part to get help for myself. I thought that i was the problem and i didn’t need any help for the first 20+yrs of my life. Once i knew i was a victim, and had experienced my lack of proper adult functionality in the real world, it didn’t get much easier. My mother had availed herself of every psychological tool, every method, every book, every well-respected researcher and public speaker, every self-help group… I’d been saturated in psychology most of my childhood. She used it to hone her skills, and i think it put a lot of people in her path that were easy for her to get something from. Money, attention, whatever.

The result for me was that i didn’t trust any of them. Frankly, i found most of them stupid (i’d been raised to look down my intellectual nose at anyone outside of my parents) and, big surprise here, easy to manipulate. I knew what they wanted to hear, and despite my inner derision, i wanted to be the best damn screwup they’d ever had sit in their office. I was programmed to want people to like me and to seek their approval. So i’d figure out what they wanted and give it to them, and they’d quickly determine that i was well on my way to mastering whatever issues i’d dumped on their desk. I used all the right buzzwords, and mixed it in with an appropriate demonstration of how smart i was, and i’d manipulate myself right out of any genuine help they might have offered me.

I’d talk myself out of their help, and go back out into the world, and things would still get chaotic and painful. I was still struggling. I still couldn’t manage to live life on life’s terms. And then i popped out a couple of kids and fell in love (yes, in that order), and i began searching for someone to help me in earnest. I’d returned to religion with the birth of my first child, and i found a counsellor to work with through my church, after the birth of my second. She had her master’s in social work and she was one of the kindest people i’d ever met. I had completely submitted to church authority, and i worked hard with her, always doing what she asked me and any homework she gave me. One day she sat me down and said she had been thinking she had a diagnosis for my particular issues, and had consulted with the psychologist who attended our church, who agreed.

She said it was her professional opinion that i had Multiple Personality Disorder. She reiterated that her colleague concurred. I’ve tried to remember what happened after that, but i can’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if i left, but i don’t think i did. With my mother gone, there was no greater authority in my life than their authority.
And i was raised to be obedient, above all things.

Great, so i had a diagnosis. The problem was, the treatment was bible-based. She took me to an old guy (BAD IDEA) who specialised in helping members map out their systems, so they could start praying over them and casting them out by name.

Because they were demons.
Of course.
I was demon-possessed.

**********

*Not here though. My blog isn’t for that.

**I’m not sure about that now. The important thing is that, even if they are, it’s none of my business.

***Okay, 3 or 4. Maybe 5, but that one’s relatively dormant, so i don’t count it. I’m kidding here, one might diagnose me with more than 2, but the 2 i deal with most can (kind of?) umbrella the rest, thereby cutting down on my stress and anxiety… So 2 shots of the hard stuff with a smartass chaser.

****I don’t know if her stories were true, as she lied practically every time she opened her mouth. To me, it doesn’t matter.

I’m Listening

This was an intention statement that i made a year ago today.
I’m proud of my conduct and progress in this area, and i intend to continue.
To that end i share it even with those that i don’t personally know or interact with.

Happy Thursday.

**********

Dear People-that-i-personally-interact-with,

I wanna tell you something. I have a lot of thoughts about this and more than a few things to say about it, but i’m gonna keep this short (ish).

The reason i’ll be brief is because this stuff is super important for me regarding what kind of human i want to be, and also how i see the other humans in the world, but based on how my husband’s eyes have rolled up into his head a couple of times, i think i have a tendency to drone on and on about it. Pity the poor man when i’m trying to figure something out. Heh.

I was raised “right wing” but would currently be considered “left wing”.
I’ve decided that, with respect to interpersonal relationships, i don’t know what the hell those terms mean.

The recent political campaigns and elections i’ve seen in my province, in my country, and in my closest neighbouring nation, have all been contentious and divisive. I’ve seen so much fear and anger and hatred amongst people on both sides of the political spectrum and i get it.

I SO TOTALLY, TOTALLY GET IT.

You do you. Say your piece. Trim your friends list. Make your ultimatums. Draw your lines in the sand. Curate. Block. Plant your flag at the top of your hill and defend it against all comers.

I want you to know i believe in your right to do that, and i have no judgment about whether it’s good or bad, or you should or shouldn’t do it. It’s your life and you should live it as you choose and do what you think is right. I support you in this respect.

This is a belief and intention statement from me, about me.

I have thoughts and beliefs about things like religion, politics, sex, family, the law and law enforcement, the rights of other living beings, the environment, the planet, the universe, what’s right, what’s wrong, who’s right and who’s wrong… all of it. Just like you do, and i can guarandamntee that there’s not a single human with whom i completely agree with about everything out there. If there is, it’s because neither of us have the time or the inclination to discuss ALL OF THE THINGS, and our jaws are starting to lock up and we’ve got a headache from nodding so much.

What i believe is that there is room enough here for everyone, conditionally. Those conditions would include tolerance for differences of opinion and points of view, and a willingness to be wrong and to see things from another perspective. And the earth could stand a chance of being a truly transcendent place if everyone actively tried to understand everyone else.

Maybe that’s just me. Anyway…

Maybe it’s also just my perception that the divide between “sides” is getting wider and deeper. However, maybe there are others out there who’ve been watching it happen and are becoming more and more concerned for our future. And maybe, like me, you’ve also been wondering what in the name of all that’s good in the world, can little ole nobody me do about it?

This is not the part where i tell you. I can’t because i don’t know.
I think that most of us by now have gotten the message that we all have a voice and we all have something to say, but there is another piece of that message, a yang to its yin, that i believe has been lost.

If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Although that was initially intended as a philosophical thought experiment regarding observation and knowledge of reality, i can use it to illustrate the point that i’m trying to make, which is this: Have you really spoken if no one has listened to what it is that you said? Does it matter what you say if no one listens? If everyone’s clamouring to be heard, who is left to hear?

I’ve decided that i am. I’m left to listen, and listen i will.

Look, i get frustrated, too. I think everyone should think what i think because i’m clearly right.
But i read the same tones and hear the same inflections in the words of people espousing various beliefs that in my opinion go from nonsensical to repugnant. So then WTF? I used to go to snark pages to blow off some steam about how incredibly ignorant and stubborn some people can be, but i quickly found that i didn’t feel good about participating. Over the past few months i’ve found myself not going to those pages at all, not even just to read them, because i don’t even feel relief anymore. For me those groups are just echo chambers, and i think they gave me a false sense of security, and gave me an excuse not to think for myself, not do my due diligence, and close my ears to opposing opinions, beliefs, and points of view.

This does not mean i’m suddenly open to changing my mind about all or even any of my beliefs. I have good reasons for the things that i believe to be right and good, and i can back it up. What i’m saying is that i’ll listen, even if i disagree -and more than that- i’ll listen respectfully. I will tell you bluntly though, i may not find your beliefs or opinions worthy of any respect, but as long as you can have a civilised and relatively reasonable discussion with me, you will have my quiet attention.

I will try my best to understand where you’re coming from.
I will not patronise you, neither with my demeanor nor with my responses.
I may believe you to be dead wrong. I may even find what you’re saying to be morally reprehensible.
But i will hear you out. I will listen to you and try to understand where you’re coming from, unless or until you either become intolerably disrespectful or aggressive, or i perceive to my satisfaction that you’re being intentionally or otherwise wilfully ignorant, at which point i will end our interchange in as decent and quick a manner as i can manage.

For myself, i cannot see how i can do otherwise, and not be contributing to this increasingly wide, deep, and treacherous divide between recognisable and appreciable sides of any and all issues. I don’t know how good i’ll be at this, but wherever this place is that i’m starting at, it is my sincere promise that i’ll get better at it.
Listening.
Understanding.
Communicating respectfully.

Okay, so maybe you think this isn’t short or even ish. If you don’t believe it, just ask my husband, and be vigorously assured.

Have as good a day as you’re able.

Love and Peace,
~H~
P.S. Isn’t one expected to be dropping resolutions rather than adding more at this stage?

Thanks, I’ll Pass

I’m not celebrating Christmas this year. This will be the third year i’ve not done so. I’m certain about my decision and very comfortable with it, but i’m 100% open to returning to it at some point.

Christmas had become my personal microcosm. It was a vignette of how i once viewed life and the living of it. But as i was getting healthier mentally and emotionally, i could see that it was getting hard for me to continue my growth through the holiday season, or even maintain the status quo until it was over. It had become a frantic sketch of the overwhelmed wife and mother who is desperate to be Martha Stewart but only manages Lucy Ricardo. It was like looking at an old snapshot, with yellow seeping into all the colours and the edges curling up.
Quite a few things were happening for me back then. I realised that i was doing the backstroke in my ocean of despair, which was probably a sign that it was time to get out and dry off. I can’t tell you with absolute certainty that i needed to swim around for as long as i did, but i thought so, so that happened and there you have it. When i stepped out onto the shore i immediately felt the sun’s warmth. I realised the ocean had been cold and brackish, and i had turned blue and prune-skinned. My mourning clothes lay on the ground where i’d left them, but they proved scratchy and a poor fit, so i left them behind and walked on, keeping an eye peeled for something more appropriate for the walk and the weather.

I loved Christmas as a child for all the regular reasons, but mostly because my mother was almost always on her best behaviour. She loved the music, the decorations, the gifts of course, and Oh my! didn’t she love the food. When i was young she made a real effort to make things beautiful and festive, she gave care and thought to my gifts, and when she wanted to, my mom was a helluva fine cook. When she was happy, everyone was happy. She could be brilliant and charming and funny and dear. My grandparents, although they had become careful what and how much they gave her, were wonderfully generous with me, and to the best of my recollection, we spent all, or at least part, of every one of those Christmases with them until i was 7yrs old. Christmases slowly, but steadily declined after that.

The year i turned 8 she fell out with the man i believe to be my biological father and suffered a psychotic breakdown. She was committed, and i was removed from the home and placed in foster care. During that time my uncle was killed while on holiday, and my grandparents were devastated and never recovered. They were completely unable to handle my mother, and they gradually lost interest in seeing me (i’ll never know how much she had to do with that, but i suspect at least some). When she was released it took her some time to get me back, and interestingly enough for this piece, i was returned to her on Christmas Eve. The honeymoon period lasted a couple of weeks,  but by the time next Christmas rolled around she had taken an underage lover and moved us to a small town to hide her crime. She made him a father at 16. She was 34. I was 11.

She proceeded to have 3 more children in the next five years. The boy she stole from his family became a man, but had dropped out of school in grade ten to be with her, and she wouldn’t let him out of her sight long enough to get any education or training that could translate into enough income to care properly for all of us. She wouldn’t even permit him to put in the kind of overtime that might be parlayed into more money or a dogged climb up the ladder won by the sweat of his brow. Even if they liked him and gave him opportunities for advancement, people would eventually figure out that something was off about him, or his home life. Mom’s mask would eventually slip, the house and/or the children would be seen, and then suddenly he had a new job and we had to move, or the other way around.

Mother became less and less able to keep her mask in place, and she coped by isolating and eating. She became angrier, lazier, and fatter. The places we lived became more broken down and she filled them with dirty dishes and piles of unwashed laundry. The children were beaten when they weren’t ignored, and they responded by fighting constantly and destroying everything in the house that wasn’t already broken.
And every Christmas was a little worse than the one before it.

After she died and i had a child of my own, Christmas suddenly became important again. I wanted him to have the perfect ones i’d seen on tv, and i had those distant childhood memories to help me. Some of the people who live in my brain were a great help in this, and they derived happiness and healing from it as well. We all did. It’s probably worthwhile to mention that my son was born a week before Christmas, and i spent December 25th alone with him in a room at the YWCA, listening to Christmas music on the local radio station.  On his first birthday he set fire to the apartment we lived in, but it was professionally cleaned and ready for us by the 25th. Both of them were better than any Christmas i’d had since my grandparents.

I became the Christmas queen. I did it all: the decorating, cards, gifts, cooking, baking, entertaining. Capital E entertaining. Family, friends, friends that were like family… Anyone and everyone. And i was good at it. Maybe not Ina Garten-good, but i put on a mean Roseanne. Christmas was my favourite time of year. I felt happy and functional and almost normal.

In the years that followed i had another child, fell in love and got married, gained a tremendous amount of weight, had another child, had weight loss surgery, and then fell head first into the deep end of my first clinical mania. My childhood was catching up to me, becoming inescapable as i saw myself reflected in my children. My fears and flaws were magnified in the lens of a committed sexual relationship. My old wounds were still raw. Being a mom, being in love, and playing house had proved merely a Band-Aid. I felt like a failure and a fraud and the anguish became so unbearable that i couldn’t control my people. December became one long bender for me, but i still had to keep up appearances for everyone else.

How do you throw a fabulous holiday while you fall somewhere on the scale from tipsy to pass-out drunk? I had varying levels of success. It was never a write-off, but my mental health was lousy and my drinking to cope was obvious and my family is not stupid…

These last few years i’ve been doing markedly better. Don’t misunderstand me though, through all of it i was trying very hard not to be a mess, and i spent time, money, and most of my energy trying to figure my shit out. It just took a long time. You know, wearing mourning clothes and swimming in the ocean of despair and all that, heh. It took time and patience and a lot of work to get some damn traction in my life. Along the way i learned some things about myself that i didn’t know, like:

– I’m not religious;
– I’m much more of an introvert than an extrovert;
– I crave a simple, quiet life;
– I’m a terrible driver;
– I’m a helper and a giver and a lover.

I realised that putting on Christmas was not bringing me the excitement and the joy that it used to. My 2 oldest children were grown and gone, and our youngest was close to legal. The holidays are culturally enjoyable and edifying, but no longer hold any spiritual significance for me. We’ve been experiencing an economic recession where we live for the last few years, and the money could be better spent on other things. I wanted to curtail my drinking, and the holidays are a skating rink made from all the booze i’ve spilled on Christmases past.

So i put up a few decorations, we had a fancy supper and exchanged gifts. And it was pretty good.
The next year i broke my leg and couldn’t put up any decorations or even make supper. We decided to spend our money on a fancy spread in the city downtown, and then we went and saw Star Wars: TFA. There were a few gifts for the kids, but hubby and i didn’t exchange anything. We both liked it.
Last year i cooked and baked for our children and grandchildren, but that was it. Our youngest prefers us to take him shopping and spend the money on new clothes, which i love. Everyone was satisfied.
This year’s holiday season will include Star Wars, Chinese food, and feeding the entire family all day long until they can roll home on their own.

This year i knew i was doing well enough that i could do the Christmas thing if i wanted to… But i just didn’t. The other 2 years of not celebrating Christmas weren’t super-conscious choices. Hubby and i discussed it a little from the mental health and financial standpoint, but we didn’t go much deeper than that.
This year i went deep. I gave it a lot of thought. I was my own 3 ghosts and took myself to all the places and looked at all the Christmases and contemplated what could be.
And i still love Christmas. I’m no Scrooge, humbugging all over other people’s holidays. The decorating is gorgeous and the music is fun and festive – it’s just not in my house right now. Even though there’s no religious meaning for me anymore, Christmas remains very significant from a cultural perspective. I like the generosity and the parties and the FOOOOD! but i’m really enjoying the freedom and power i feel in saying No, i’m not buying anything. I don’t feel guilty or less than or left out by refusing to do so, either. In fact, the rebel in me is revelling in telling corporate North America and conspicuous consumption to shove it up their Black Friday.

I see a very real possibility, even likelihood, that i’ll return to some of the things i used to do during Christmas, like decorating and music and parties. For now though, this feels so good and so right. It’s not often that i have no doubts about a big decision, but i have zero regarding this one. If and when i do return to marking the occasion, it will be on my terms, and in my way. There’ll be no more trying to fix what was wrong with the Christmases of my youth, and i won’t need to put a pretty bow or a star on top of a pile of unresolved issues.
Whatever you do or don’t do for the holidays, i hope it’s a minimum of stuff you don’t want, with a maximum of what you do.

I’ll be here on the other side of all of it, no matter what.

Love and Peace to All-a Y’all,
~H~

Tubthumping

Youda thunk ida gone done and learned by now.
And yet… NOPE.
I’m a big Nopey McNoperson in this regard, every. single. year.
I get blindsided by Easter/Birthday season.
I forget how hard it is for me. I forget how the way my brain works is going to kick into high gear and my Bits N’ Pieces are gonna need a lot of care and attention.

Birthdays are much less a big deal now that i’ve hit 50. It’s been that way since i hit 40, really. I’ve never much cared about the number insofar as how OLD i am or how old i look, or how much time i have left. None of that. As i stated in my blog entry right before this one, it’s the lack of accomplishment and the low level of functionality that trips me up. However, that’s only been since i’ve been functional enough to critically assess my levels of anything. Heh.

Birthdays, however, have always been an issue.
We were so poor at times, that there was no money to celebrate.
My mother was often incredibly stressed out on any holiday or for any celebrations, the brunt of which i often bore.
More than once i was sick on my birthday. I was mostly left to fend for myself whenever i was ill. To be fair, if she didn’t work we didn’t eat, and her parenting “style” left me incredibly independent anyway. At 4yrs old, for instance, she would often leave me on weekends. I’d wake on Saturday morning and she wouldn’t be home, so i’d watch cartoons until noon or so, longer if there was a Stooges or Abbott and Costello movie after, and then i’d go outside to play for a couple of hours, making sure to come back inside in time to put the roast in the oven and peel the potatoes for supper, as per the instructions she’d left on a note for me. Yes, FOUR.
So if i was sick, i’d just watch telly and occasionally vomit in a bowl. Or if Mom was watching telly i’d be in my room reading, and occasionally vomit in a bowl.

More than a couple of times i would be sick on my birthday. Stress made me vulnerable i think. There were some family members who could swoop in and make birthdays wonderful, but that wasn’t every time. One year, 2 Auntie type women that i adored were coming to celebrate. I think it was my 6th, and i got the Mumps. Not only was i severely sick and feverish, i endured my mother’s fury because the party had to be cancelled. She beat me more than once before i recovered.
Then there were the birthdays where i was put in my best dress and she’d do my hair like for a picture. A man i didn’t know or already knew i didn’t like would be invited… And that is all i’ll say about that.

I won’t say much about the Easter season things, either. Just that there was conflicting indoctrination going on. During that time i was under constant stress to act one way at Mommy’s church, and another way at Daddy’s. I was almost constantly switching from one part of me to another, depending on what was being required. Everyone had one face at one church and a completely different one at another. Everyone close to me was volatile and mercurial. The rituals, the purported inescapable supernaturalism, the drama, the surrealism, the abuse, both subtle and overt, the sick and hungry practitioners, the fakery, the fucking circus… It twisted my brain into so many knots so tight they frayed, and some split entirely, requiring new knots to keep them together.
Do you see?

Every year since i began seriously dealing with my past and trying my hardestfreakingbest to manage the way my brain works and enjoy a better quality of life i have been 2X4’d in the head by this bloody season. (There was no punctuation in that sentence because i said it all in one breath.)
So yeah, i got coldcocked – again.

This is the part where i do what i have been practising to do when i get into a mental jam like i am. Where i assess the damage, look for the positives, and make any changes or alterations necessary to handling it better next time.
I’m happy to tell you it hasn’t been that bad.
The voices in my head rose from their characteristic background mumble to a constant, reverberating rumble – but there was no roar.
I lost the face more than a few times, and i even found myself walking on the road a couple of times – but none of my people did anything damaging or even particularly inappropriate, and i didn’t hitchhike into the city and lose myself for hours or days to high-risk behaviours.
I drank a bit too much – but not enough to make myself shake, puke, or wish i was dead. And it wasn’t every day, all day.
I’ve been wicked-depressed – but not suicidal. No ideations, no plans.
I haven’t picked any fights with my husband and there has been no drama of any kind with any other person.

I guess i kinda knew it was coming. Not consciously enough to avoid gettin’ bonked on the head, but once i got back on my feet, i wasn’t utterly gobsmacked that it had happened. I’ve been able to look around and get my bearings and say, Yeah, it makes sense for me to be here.
I’ve been able to communicate to my Peanut Gallery that it’s okay, but some things were less okay than others and let’s work on those things… I’ve been able to negotiate some internal deals that i think will really pay off in the future.

There was no drama.
There is no debt.
No rides in police cars and no trips to the hospital.
No crushing booze/drug hangovers.
Communication amongst me and my people has actually improved.
My husband and son are impressed and proud of me.

I didn’t even turn to food.
Yesterday i tried on the jeans i use to track my weight loss progress.
They fit fine and i wore them out to supper.

Don’t get me wrong, this has not been an easy couple of weeks. The way my brain works has been incredibly difficult to manage lately, but this is my life, and this may always be my life to some extent or another. I have found a way that works for me – a way to manifest long-term changes that have lasting positive effects, and contribute to a happier and more functional life.

Tubthumping is defined as expressing opinions in a loud or dramatic way:
I will not stop, no matter what.
Every time i fall and get back up, that statement becomes more true.I get knocked down, but I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
~Tubthumping, Chumbawumba

Have a happy day if you’re able. If not, try again tomorrow and know that i’m cheering for you and i want that for you.

Love and Peace to All,
~H~

Pick My Brain

I already knew i was dissociative by the time that inside wall came down, although it took years and many therapists of many colours to get me to accept it.

My mother got into some strange things with some strange people when she settled down in the big city to raise me. I will almost certainly never know the exact progression of things, but i do know she liked hanging out with intellectuals. I’m not sure if she met them first through the university, or through her curious foray into the 70s therapy scene. She was into encounter groups, EST, primal screaming, hypnotherapy… a lot of body work and group work, which were all the rage at that time. As i’ve stated before, in my opinion she only used what she learned in an attempt to manipulate others more effectively, hone and perfect the face she showed the world, and feed her insatiable need for more emotional upheaval and drama.

The reason i mention this is because, through her exposure to those current therapies, i somehow became involved. The thrill must have been worth the risk, or something else i couldn’t know or haven’t considered must have been in play, because putting me in situations with professionals where i could possibly disclose what was happening to me both inside and outside the home could have caused her significant problems, to say the least. I will say though, she was a single mother, and while the time declared her loose, almost no one back then would have believed a woman capable of sexual abuse. Certainly not of a child, and absolutely not of her own child.

So i have memories of therapy and counsellors from a fairly early age. Maybe it was particularly savvy of her to expose me to that world early. Maybe she anticipated teachers making calls about an odd little girl who may be suffering abuse at home. Regardless, the school counsellors and social workers who were occasionally called in never got a damned thing out of me. (Called in very occasionally i might add, to which i ask myself to this day, Was i really that good, or were they that bad? I wanted very badly to be rescued, but i had no idea from what – i think that should have been part of their job.) I remember being handed pillows and being told to punch them. I remember one guy with his face right. inside. my personal bubble, telling me around 20 times, “It’s okay to cry, you know. You can cry.” Idiot. I remember lying on the floor with adults all around me, each one with a hand on a part of my body and they’re all saying things, but i can’t understand them. This memory i recall like i’m watching it on television. The others i related i see the ineffective and not a little bit ridiculous counsellors sitting across from me. Proper perspective. That last memory i can see myself in the middle of that circle of big bodies and reaching arms and it is as if it’s happening to someone who just looks like me. They were freaking touching me and so i couldn’t be there. I left but someone stayed to observe from a safe distance.

Proper perspective.

It wasn’t until the halfway house that anyone suggested i might be dissociative. My in-house counsellor was a nun who’d taken some courses. She was a good, kind woman and i learned a lot from her. After i’d moved out and moved on, i did come back for visits, and at one point came back to them for more counselling. This time i was quickly moved from my nun to a professional social worker who was working towards her degree in psychology. She began talking about dissociation and asking questions about my memories and time and attempting hypnosis. I’d always wanted to be hypnotised and i tried very hard but i was never able to let go. I gave up years ago, but to this day i have never been hypnotised, so i don’t know about that largely circulated idea that dissociatives are the easiest people to hypnotise. Maybe i’m the exception that proves the rule? I had a friend from that home who had seen the same person. She’d been diagnosed MPD and she’d stopped seeing her just as i had, because she felt the woman was playing with her brain.

I kept looking for the right person to help me, but every bloody one after that would suggest i was highly dissociative and ask if i’d heard of MPD. I would never go back after that. I began seeing a registered social worker through the church i was involved in, and after many months of intensive counselling she gently suggested that i was dissociative. She said she knew how i felt about that, but she’d consulted with psychologists who specialised in what clinicians now called DID, and that they agreed with her diagnosis.

Although i eventually left that church, and then her, and then religion altogether, i did know i had some interesting stuff going on inside my skull. The problem was i had a terrible opinion of therapy and therapists. They’d never helped me except for two, and they were both religious and i was now decidedly not. It’s taken years for me to realise that what they did for me is love me unconditionally and validate me, what i thought and what i felt. That we no longer share the same belief in the supernatural changes that not a whit.

Ah. I’m now returning to my original point, which i began in Inside Out, and that is that when i went from a top weight of 465lbs to 155lbs, my walls came tumbling down – and they weren’t just physical ones. The wall inside my brain between me and the others who lived up there came down too.
And just to make things interesting-er, i experienced my first full-blown mania.
It was two and a half years of fully loaded 18 wheeler heading downhill with no brakes.

MORE TOMORROW? PROBABLY.

Sledgehammer, Part One

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

Let me tell you about my mother.”
~Leon

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

Abstract expressionism it is, then.

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~~~~~~~

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

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

~~~~~~~~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END PART ONE

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

Aftermath

 

“States are crumbling
Walls are rising high again
It’s no place for the faint-hearted
But my heart is strong
Because now I know where I belong
It’s you and I against the world
We are free”
~Muse, Aftermath

I thought i was fighting my depression. I emerged from my last round with Mania, with my glove that delivered the knockout punch held high, only for that smug bastard Depression to step into the squared circle and call me out. I had no choice but i was already so tired that i just kept pulling him in for the clinch. That SOB easily slipped my hold and clocked me with a combination.

Sucka.

The mass shooting in Orlando was at least a standing 8 count. I was dazed initially, but now i’m pissed. Depression likes it when i’m angry because it makes me vulnerable. And when i feel vulnerable i go somewhere alone and curl up in ball and try to stop my thoughts from eating me alive. Stay away from me when i’m like that because i will lash out at anyone, for no reason other than unfortunate proximity. This isn’t a fair fight. There isn’t even a referee.

**********

I don’t really talk about my sexuality at all. There was just so much inside that needed to come out and be subjected to endless scrutiny. Heh. I didn’t start to really know myself until well into my marriage, so a firm (le hahaha) definition of my sexuality came through the process of my middle-aged self-discovery. Sure, the feelings were always there, but i was raised religious. Severely sexually abused and religious. So everything was all twisted up inside and i had to undo a lot of knots and clip a lot of loose threads to reveal the original weave.

Currently, and to the best of my understanding, i’m a married, monogamous bisexual. My first preteen fumblings were with a girl, my first consensual sexual experience was with a girl, my first relationship was with a girl. I thought all of that was wrong and shameful, and so i hid it. I was well into my twenties before i realised i wasn’t obsessing over certain females because i wanted to look like them, rather that i wanted to be with them. I had no serious relationships with men until my husband. I’ll tell you bluntly that, although i tried to play at it a couple of times, i just used men for sex. I sought women for connection.  I never thought about marriage. I wasn’t driven to be in an intimate relationship with anyone, regardless of their sex. I found it difficult enough to be present for my sons. I had a couple of close girlfriends, but there was zero attraction. Meeting my husband changed everything, of course.

Once i finally had my very own person, i felt safe for the first time in my life. I began to think for myself. I began moving away from people and things that hurt me. I started making up my own mind about things, which included the big three: religion, politics, and sex. Once i had religion squared away, it was glaringly obvious that i’m bisexual. It wasn’t anything that required therapy or prayer. I’m capable of an intimate sexual relationship with a man or a woman. For that matter, i’d include trans, intersexed, and gender fluids on my list of possible partners as well.

As i stated previously though, i’m currently monogamous, and intend to remain so, if everything goes as planned. And because of my situation, most people don’t realise i’m queer. I’m not regularly subjected to hate, whether casual or targeted. As a woman i can relate to always being at least slightly afraid for my physical/sexual safety when i leave my own home, but i’m a cisfemale married to a cismale. No one gives us a second look when we hold hands or openly flirt with each other.  But make no mistake, i’m queer, and the terrible events on June 12 in Orlando felt like a jackboot on my neck.

I was raised to hate myself for myriad reasons, but the hatred i was taught to have for the LGBTQIA community slipped another in there; a silent destroyer. I kicked that lying motherfucker to the curb many years ago, but there are scars of course.

~Like the time i had just left my dead mother’s side as she lay in her hospital bed, only to be pulled aside by a family member and be told my mother had been deeply concerned for my soul, as the whole family was, because they feared i was dating a female. Was i aware i was going to hell?

~Or all the times i was “encouraged” to confess all my homosexual encounters so that i might be prayed over in tongues with much wailing and gnashing of teeth and funky chicken dancing all designed to break the evil “soul ties” i’d created, and banish all the demons that i’d invited in with my abominable behaviours.

~Or the time i lost a treasured friend because after a year of intensely close friendship, she found out my first relationship was with a woman.

~How about the fact that some of my most important relationships would become tenuous if i was too “out”?

As with all of us who aren’t heterosexual, living in a heteronormative world, i have more examples, but not as many as those of you who clearly present as lesbian, gay, trans, or otherwise queer. I’m absolutely gutted for you – for all of us. I’m trying to channel my anger appropriately, but it’s very difficult. I want to aim it at the places that hurt me the most, but it’s probably not productive. At least, it’s not when i’m this busted up inside. Let me make it clear though – i HATE religion, particularly the one i was raised in, but i see all of them as harmful and intrinsically evil. Let me also make it clear that i do not see most of its practitioners that way, but if i was the king of the world…

Anyway…

“From this moment
From this moment
You will never be alone
We’re bound together
Now and forever
The loneliness has gone”

I will continue to fight this blasted depression, and i will win. But i want you to know that i’m sorry for my complacency, unconscious and unintentional as it was.  I will do my clumsy, goofy best to take a more active role in the community. You are not alone.

I’M HERE. I’M QUEER. GET USED TO IT.

~H~

The Mystical Power of the Ninja Mouth – PT. II

From Wikipedia:

A ninja or shinobi was a covert agent or mercenary in feudal Japan. The functions of the ninja included espionage, sabotage, infiltration, assassination and guerrilla warfare.

It could be said that i was taught all these skills. I was told i was born for a reason, and that it was very important that i do what i was told. I learned to sit quietly in a room full of people and report back on everything i heard. I knew how to read adults; to assess their personality and to anticipate their needs. It was important that people liked me. My mother was always very keen to know everyone’s business, and i could be helpful, entertaining, or practically invisible. I adapted quickly to my surroundings, sometimes standing out and sometimes blending in.

The people break has been very relaxing. I’ve gotten to where i’m aware of all the machinations going on in my head, all the time. It’s exhausting. Leaving the house to accomplish daily activities and running into someone i know takes great effort. What’s their name? (If i’m currently either extremely up or down, it can be hard to recall, and if i first heard their name while in one of those states, well, i’m not likely to remember.) What was our last encounter like? Is the smile on their face genuine? Did i do something wrong last time? Are they secretly upset with me? Do they even really like me? Can they tell i’m freaking out? Is it okay to end the interaction now, or would that be rude? Am i talking too much and they want to get away from me? Am i sweating? Does my smile look insane?

Those social anxiety questions aren’t all that’s happening, either. I’ve got the Peanut Gallery yakking in my head the entire time as well. A constant running commentary from voices i’ve acquired over the years. Judging my appearance, rating my interaction with the people i encounter. Giving me advice on everything. Criticising me, criticising them, worrying about how the exchange is going and trying to anticipate what could happen. Doing quick run-throughs of things i could/should be saying. I’m almost always on edge in social situations.

It wasn’t always this bad. It’s been a process. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get this twisted up in knots. Of course this is what’s been going on in my brain during social interactions for most of my life, but i wasn’t conscious of it. I’m the poster child of hypervigilance, but i’m also highly dissociative. I’m the clueless cherry on top of the survival sundae. I wasn’t so much into fight or flight… i was frozen. Like, suspended animation. Sort of floating around, but always in the same state. I was the unexamined life. And even when i finally began trying to figure myself out, it was within the boundaries of what my religion would allow. I was bound by their strict definitions and held back by the death grip they had on my perceptions of life, the universe, and everything.

Once i’d finally extricated myself from religion’s grasp, i started making some real headway. It wasn’t demons or sin or soul ties, it was mental illness. I didn’t need any gods or prayers or sacrifices or appeals or supplications or confessions or loving corrections. I’m just mentally ill. When i found the right person to work with, things started clicking relatively quickly. She explained the science behind how my brain worked, pointing me in the direction of books and studies that were more about the hard science of the brain, and less the mushy quagmire of psychology. That was when i began to be aware of everything that was going on in my head. Learning that my brain doesn’t work like most people’s, and some i may have been born with, but some was certainly the result of my upbringing. And while some of the damage done is likely irreversible, learning as much as i can about every aspect of my handicap could help me live a more functional and satisfying life. With a serious commitment and careful development of a healthy work ethic, i might be both happy and useful.

Some of the things i’ve learned about myself haven’t been pleasant. I was taught to manipulate from very early on. I learned these skills both from and for my mother, and i developed my own tricks to secure my personal safety. I’m incredibly adept. I can fit in with any group of people you put me in. I will quickly align myself with the group dynamic and reflect their identity. I’ll talk like them, look like them, and even appear to think like them. It sounds terribly disingenuous, and of course it was, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t consciously done, and my intention was never malicious. I was just trying to survive. My internal air raid siren started going off before i could speak. I didn’t even hear it anymore, so i didn’t know it was still wailing. My brain and my body were always tense, waiting for the next attack. I didn’t know the war was over and i could turn off the alarms. And although i’ve shut down that internal keening, i’m still learning how to stand down. I need regular reminders that the war is over. I can lay my weapons down.

I now track all the thoughts and voices in my head, and as i stated earlier, it is exhausting. For a long time after i admitted what had happened to me growing up, i was at their whim. They took all my time and attention. I’ve put my past to bed though, and i’m on to the business of day-to-day living. It’s taken me a while to see that i needed a break from peopling. Even the simplest encounters, like buying groceries, can prove overwhelming for me sometimes. And as far as friends go – i prefer short encounters with no more than a couple of people. It’s easier to maintain awareness of what’s going on in my noggin in smaller groups. Like, two or three. With every added person i become more anxious, and my thoughts start racing. I can lose track and slip into automatic so easily. I don’t want that anymore. I want to be as genuinely myself as i can reasonably and safely be, when in relationships with other humans. I want to have strong, healthy boundaries. I’m not a beaten dog wandering around with my tail between my legs, hoping someone will pet me. I’m a rescue who went to a great home, where all my needs are well met, and i get all the attention and affection that i require. Now, if i could just hang out at the park with all the other dogs occasionally, without running off yelping because someone comes over for a sniff. Heh.

 

END of PART II