I’m Not A Bitch, Pt. I

I’m not a bitch.
I’m changing though, and that can be hard for people who’ve known you a long time, i think. It can be difficult for my partner, my children, my close friends.
I developed a truckload of traits to survive my childhood and cope with the trauma and dysfunction it’s caused in my life.
Even after it had stopped, my brain and my body kept living as if trauma was still occurring, or was just around the next corner.
I discarded some parts of my personality for the same reason.

I’ve gotten to know my system fairly well, and yes, they’re all me, but some of these quirks and qualities are no longer necessary. Well, not currently required.

I don’t see this as integration.
This is a first class vacation for some stressed little Bits.
This is the Rolex/beach house retirement for some exhausted parental types.
This war is long over, and it’s time to clean the weaponry and put it in its pristine arsenal, where i’m the only person who has access.
No one’s leaving and nothing is being tossed.

I know who i was and i know who i am. Now i’m on to the part where i figure out/decide who i want to be. I’m poring over it all, scrutinising everyone, and we’re building me together, fresh and new, from the toes up.
No one left behind. Everyone has a say. Everyone gets to feel.
And to that end, some things have been happening in my personal life that’ve triggered some voices with some things to say, some feelings and thoughts to express.

I hesitated with this piece. I didn’t sleep well last night due to some in-home upheaval, so when this stuff started pouring out on the page, i pulled back. Body vibrating. Hands shaking. Guts churning.
Do i let anger out? Resentment? Bitterness? Indignation? FURY?
What if i scare someone?
What if i come off as a bitch?

My therapist has spent these last months gently convincing me that these feelings need to be felt if i want to move on to some reward-rich, next level healing.
And why wouldn’t i want that?
My childhood didn’t kill me, and all i did to live with it, handle it, bury it, dig it back up, look at it, hear it, feel it, cope with it, heal it, hasn’t ended me either.
So bring it on. Lay it on me. Let’s do this.

**********

Today i’m not terrified.
Today i’m pissed off. I’ve been scared and felt vulnerable these last few months but made it through with no serious wreckage to clean up around me, and i can handle this anger just as well. I neither need nor want to pull my world down around me. I have no wish to torpedo any relationships – i’ve already eliminated all the toxic ones. I have one seriously problematic relationship right now, one that has perhaps triggered this anger (i’m not sure though, because this emotion was going to come up and require processing, regardless of my interactions with anyone in my current circle), but it isn’t toxic.
I think it’s probably normal AF to have ups and downs with loved ones – to have to work through difficulties and navigate some rough patches.

And while i am experiencing some dissociation, that’s just who i am, and i’m aware of it and i think i’m handling it fairly well. I’m not leaving the face and hiding from the conflict. I’m here, i’m in it, i’m the one feeling it and deciding what to do about what’s happening.

This is an emotional purge – a spring cleaning of some brain-clutter.
I’m fine, and the person i’m in conflict with is safe.
I don’t break people, and i don’t even break stuff anymore.

**********

I was taught to do as i was told and never complain.
I was taught that other people’s feelings were more important than mine.
I was taught that grownups, those having jobs with authority over fellow citizens, and males were my superiors.
I was taught that i was property.
I was taught that i was responsible for the “negative” feelings of others.

I learned that if those to whom i belonged or was beholden were in a good mood i was less likely to experience physical pain.
I learned that if these same people liked me i usually received better treatment overall.
I learned that if i could hide, or at least be quiet and blend in, i could sometimes avoid being targeted for abuse.
I learned that if i “absorbed” those emotions of them with power and authority over me, that the abuse might stop for a time, and i’d occasionally be rewarded.

I learned all these things long before i set foot in a school.
Fortunately?
Because school, which should have been a break from the Hell i lived at home, quickly became just another torture chamber.

I had a couple of excellent teachers, and i had a couple of absolute crap ones. Mostly though, they were mediocre and clueless. Maybe some were willfully ignorant, but i’m hesitant to apply the label because my mom could put on a good show when properly motivated. I was bright, i had a sunny disposition and an animated personality. So, even if i was clearly poor and my hygiene needed work and i never achieved the grades every teacher probably knew i was capable of, and my mother was hard to reach and the fattest person anyone had ever seen in real life – that wasn’t necessarily a red flag…

Right?

My tone is sarcastic and i’m testy this morning, i admit it. I’ve given a great deal of thought to if and where my teachers bear responsibility for the treatment i endured in school, and i don’t find them culpable. I told my favourite teacher in high school that i was in a bad situation at home, and he acted as if i hadn’t said a word – shocking and revolting a complete abandonment of his fucking mandate sure, but i’d already moved out and was living with friends, so what was there left for him to do? Besides, we functioned in an atmosphere where one of my fellow students favourite teachers gave precedent to the popular kids, and flirted outrageously with all of them that were female. No one seemed to be disturbed by it at all. (He was one of the crappiest teachers i ever had. He thought he was funny and charming, but even in my dissociated state, i found him a repulsive creep.)

I can’t fault them for not protecting me from bullying, either. I tried never to let any student see that they hurt me, so what was there for the teachers to see/hear? I would insult myself first, or laugh along with them, or ignore, or sometimes (i know now) someone else in my system would handle things.
With their big, obnoxious mouth. Heh.
Which only ever caused more bullying, but my life was so filled with stress, i don’t blame anyone who lives here in my brain with me for needing to vent. Those occasional blurts may well have kept me from exploding. Or imploding.
Or whatever – i’m here and i’m alive and i’ll take it, with thanks to my beloved Peanut Gallery. Wah wah wah wah.

At least i never got the shit kicked out of me like i did if i beaked off at home. It was an exceedingly rare occurrence for me to get mouthy with my mother, but it did happen.
Maybe i never pushed any of the bullies too far, or maybe being Amazon-sized was off putting. (Or maybe bullies are actually pathetic cowards. Hm.) I guess i’m saying it’s possible that teachers didn’t see how awfully some of the other kids treated me.

It’s possible.

Everything i’d been taught/learned at home worked both for and against me at school.
I managed not to be the most picked on, or least popular kid in my grade (every time but one – and that, thankfully, only lasted half of 1 school year*), but i think i might have had it easier if i’d stood up for myself, even one time.
I didn’t stand up for myself, though. It didn’t occur to me.
In fact, i thought everything those horrid kids said to me was true, and it was appropriate to pick on me, because i was fat, and i was weird, and dirty and poor and whatever other label they ascribed to me.

I’m moving on from the teachers. On to the students. I’ll be brief, but i’m going to be brutal and blunt:

The ones who picked on me were jerks.
I have 1 friend today who confesses he was a bully in school, and he is one of the kindest and best people i know. Due to him and also the kind of human i am, i’m going to say that it’s possible that some of those kids grew up to not be jerks.
But i don’t think it’s likely.
(One of the meanest girls i’ve ever known immediately resorted to calling me names when i stood up to her as a grown woman.)
I hope they did change though, of course, because my heart breaks for the selfish, cruel, and clueless generations they might inflict on other hurting and lonely children. I know how hard it is to survive that, and i know not everyone does.

From school i could move on to shitty former friends and estranged family, but i’m not going to. One, i’ve processed former friendships well and moved on, and two, i don’t discuss family, because that might look like an invitation to them to come back and have an opinion about me and my life.
And they aren’t getting one.
Besides, they weren’t where these parts were focused. I’m listening, but more importantly, i’m feeling these thoughts and these memories. The fear, the hopelessness, and the terrible aloneness and otherness and wrongness that these crappy human beings visited upon me, Monday to Friday, for a solid 10 1/2 motherfucking years.

I’m dealing with a current relationship that reminds me of needing to be liked by a loved one in order to avoid being hurt, and whose treatment of me brings back all that pain from school.
I’m not cool.
I say dumb stuff.
I talk too much.
I’m weird.
I’m wrong.
I’m awkward.
I’m too big – i take up too much space.
Nothing i do is good enough.
I’m defective.
I’m not welcome. GO AWAY

*Fuck that school, fuck those lousy teachers, and above all, fuck those incredibly cruel and arrogant piece-of-shit students that are probably every bit as stupid and petty and shallow as they were when i attended their crappy school in their crappy town.
You’re the most popular kids in a school of less than 300?
Wow. What an accomplishment.
Generations of your family have grown up and raised their families there?
So amaze. You managed to live out status quo.
Very greatness. Such awards.

Thanks for adding to the burdens of an already battered and broken child. I’ll bet your kids would be proud of you. Heck, i’ll bet they’re just like you, you big, important fish in a tiny little pond.
Go you. Cue the marching band.

**********

I have more to say about my current situation, and what i’m learning about myself and who i want to be, and i want to share some super positive and exciting things that are coming about as a result of this absolute shit situation, but that’s enough for today.

The parts inside me that have held these feelings deserve for this piece to stand on its own. Writing it made me angry for them, which helped me be properly angry for myself.
Which helped them tap into their anger – their entirely, wholly justified anger at terrible treatment from terrible people.
I’m going to think about it today, and i’m going to listen to and feel what’s going on inside of my body (below the neck) as a result of thinking about this stuff.

Cleaning out my closets and junk drawers. Bringing all my muppet-monsters out to play.
My toys, my room, my house.

My weekend is here, and i’m going to do my best to rest and enjoy.
Thank you for being here and witnessing my process – you’re helping me create myself and my life.
Love and Peace,
~H~

Closing the Door On Excuses

This morning (05/30/16) while writing i think i came to understand (maybe the biggest) part of why i still felt desperately alone, even though i had found some understanding and approval and love in my life.

It’s because i wasn’t being myself. I mean, not fully. That was partly because i’m only now getting to know myself well, but also because i hid a lot of the bits i deemed unlikeable or unacceptable. So i kept myself under wraps. And when some of the odder stuff would leak out in drips and drabs i would be mortified, and either pull the hermit act, or avoid the people who’d seen me like that for as long as possible – forever being my preference.

Being as much myself as i’m able to be on a day-to-day basis has been as liberating as you might expect. With each little risk taken -each situation where i choose to act or react in the way i’m inclined to, rather than the way i think i should- i gain confidence and self-esteem in equal measure. Sometimes the reaction i get from others is what i’ve been trained to avoid. Maybe there’ll be an awkward silence, or uncomfortable laughter… It makes me pretty twitchy, but i’m slowly learning to ride it through. My priority is being genuine as often as possible. Those times often bear greater reward, because i made it through a social situation that was less than ideal, as myself… And here i am. Alive. It may have stung a bit, you know, if they weren’t pickin’ up what i was throwin’ down, but it didn’t end me. They didn’t slay me. I’m not left sittin’ in the gutter eatin’ worms, yum yum.

Another thing that requires some attention is the difficulty i had even writing the prior piece at all. I had to drag it out – force myself to write it. At first i thought it was a discipline problem, but since posting it, i have more insight.

I’m closing doors behind me and it’s scary.

I knew it was time to pick myself up, dust myself off, and set my feet to walkin’. It’s like i’d only just begun on my path when i got blindsided. Like i was on a little bike with training wheels, and the person that should have been behind me, watching with a mixture of fear and pride, instead got into their truck and ran me over. I got up and wandered around, dazed and in shock, but eventually my injuries became too much for me to continue. I sat there in the road for a long time, just nursing my wounds and resting. I may have even had a bit of a tantrum, where i threw myself in the ditch and rolled around in the mud and felt sorry for myself.

But i’m okay to resume the journey. I’ve been walking for a while now, but i haven’t gone far. How far do you think you’d get on your weekend hike in the mountains, if you kept looking behind you every couple of minutes? Yeah. So if i really want to put in some clicks (that’s kilometres, for you Luddites), i’ve gotta let go of the fear that i’m gonna get in another accident. The time between backward glances has gotten longer, and i’m not even nervously focused on the horizon. The path itself is lovely and interesting, and begs to be enjoyed.

Okay, enough analogy. (I do so love them, although i know i can go on a bit.)

(05/31/16) There’s more to it, this firm decision to move forward, and it’s not terribly flattering, but it is the truth. To control my mouth, and to take full responsibility for what comes out of it, involves letting go of anything that may be an excuse. At this point, there would be times when to blame my past or my mental illness for saying something hurtful, crass, or just generally shitty, would be an excuse. I now enjoy some decent control over myself and my words. I have more self-awareness and insight into why i am the way i am and have done the things i’ve done. I know where i am and where i’d like to go, in terms of the sort of person i want to be.

I’m now capable of more and must hold myself to a higher standard. It’s one of those areas where keen attention to balance is required of me, because i’m still mentally ill, and likely will always be so. But if i use my past and my resulting brokenness to excuse myself for something i could have done/handled better, that will keep me tied to an insidious disingenuousness that could sabotage all my hard work. I would be moving away from the human i want to be, and closer to that which i was raised to be – which is anathema to me.

It’s funny, really. When i was young i loved being sick. My mother would at least not bother me, and sometimes she was even kind – especially if it warranted a hospital visit, because then she got a lot of attention, too. Poor widowed wretch and her sick/injured child. (She wasn’t a widow of course, but that’s a story for another time, maybe.) I was hospitalised quite a bit too, and that was pure heaven. I loved being in the hospital so much. I was clean and regularly fed well; i got treats and presents and everyone was nice to me! I got good attention -and what’s more- i got sympathy.

I was waiting for someone to see my suffering and save me. Knowing this has only come with age and contemplation, naturally. Heh. But no one ever came, and it was up to me to save myself. I would tell schoolmates fantastic and terrible stories about my life, and when i would get caught or confronted over the obvious bullshittery, i’d wonder why i told so many lies. Obvious now, but not to a child, or even to a traumatised adult. I was searching for an explanation for why i wasn’t right, and nothing in my life was right, and i was sad and aching inside all the time.

Getting diagnosed as clinically cuckoo was almost a dream come true. That little broken girl inside me got all the validation and sympathy she’d so desperately craved. Over the years i’ve become more and more forthcoming about my mental illness, so i know people have cut me some slack here and there, when my behaviour has been less than exemplary. For example, when i’m manic i can be obnoxious and draining, both mentally and physically. And when i’m depressed, i can be alternately explosively angry or completely withdrawn and utterly unavailable. When i’m dissociative… Well, anything’s possible. When i’m experiencing clinical anxiety, it unsettles everyone around me.

I needed all that sympathy. I needed people to be horrified by my upbringing. And i really, really needed people to so kindly and generously put aside their reflex reactions to my various odd and unpleasant behaviours and say, “That’s okay, H. We know you’ve been through a lot and you’re broken inside.” That stuff was positively crucial to my healing. But i know the time has come for me to let the fallback position go. It’s time to know i’m dealing with mania and bite back the overshare. It’s time to recognise i’m depressed and get out in the world and do stuff anyway. It’s time to deal with my anxiety in healthier ways than drinking 3 doubles in an hour, or coming home and pulling out my eyebrows and eyelashes.

Sometimes things will still get away from me or otherwise be beyond my control. I want the people in relationship with me to be able to trust me. If my dysfunctional behaviours don’t improve and my accountability for my own actions doesn’t increase, then i’m not being who i want to be. Don’t get me wrong, everyone with mental illness has their own journey with their own obstacles. We all must set our own bars and your bar may be at a different level than my bar. If i’m capable of a higher level of function than you are, it does not make me better. I believe in a continuum (ie. your abuse may have been more severe, my mental illness may be more serious, etc.), but i don’t for a minute think it dictates worthiness. Pfft. I just know that if i’m well enough to pick up my pace on this path i’m walking, why would i suddenly want to do it with crutches? They would be an impediment to my progress.

I’m feeling good today. Started writing this last night and it made for a dream-filled (crappy) sleep, but as i finish it, i reckon my sleep tonight will be more restful. Whoever you are, thanks for reading, and i’m glad you’re here. Love and peace to you.

The Mystical Power of the Ninja Mouth*

*The title is firmly tongue-in-cheek, fellow nerds, so don’t go full Sheldon on me.

Ninja
noun
a person skilled in ninjutsu.

  1. informal – a person who excels in a particular skill or activity

 

I used to bristle when people would make any reference, no matter how remote, to me being a chatterbox. I still kinda do, but it’s slowly getting better. It wasn’t all that difficult to figure out why i’m sensitive about it – i just had to intentionally wonder for a while. It’s amazing how much stuff gets clearer when i do such an odd thing, eh?

I was a child made for a purpose. I had roles to play and there were scripts to follow, but none of them involved any lines about what was actually happening to me. That was never spoken about, except in the vaguest of terms. They used my nature, my personality, my love of communication, for their own personal gain, but forced me to subjugate all those qualities in any case where it may have been a benefit to me, personally. So i could talk, and in fact i had to talk, but only about the things they wanted, and in the way they desired. There were also periods of strictly enforced silence. I had to speak a certain way in certain situations; sometimes meek, hyper-feminine and unctuous, sometimes precocious and worldly. The times i had to keep my mouth shut were easiest, because i didn’t have to go too far inside myself to get away.

However, when everything you’re told to do flies in the face of every instinct you have, and you’re required to say nothing when you need to scream, it fucks you up, and even the best facade will develop some cracks. Those cracks were mostly obvious at school, with fellow students. I blurted a lot. I would say such strange things at such inappropriate times that i was regularly called a spazz. Or i would say something that was so obviously intended to fit in with the cool kids. They’d roll their eyes at me, swatting me like the social mosquito that i was. I was a know-it-all in elementary school during class, but the bullies and the popular kids (who often fit both categories) had pretty much crushed my love of class time, much like they’d squashed any social aspirations i’d held, by the time i hit high school.

Once i graduated and got away from home and school, i tried so hard to make friends. I ached for a place to fit in, but i talked too much and bathed too seldom. Heh. When i got a chance to talk with someone and perhaps begin a friendship, i came on too strong. I was that guy that approaches you in the bar and you wouldn’t date him for anything because you can smell the desperation coming off of him in noxious waves. I must have made one helluva double whammy. I would try too hard to impress; i wanted to be likeable, charming, smart, funny… All of it, all at once.

It took years of practise before i was able to dial it back enough to make some decent friends. Even then i wasn’t any good at sustained intimacy and commitment, whether sexual or platonic. Over time i became very good at acquiring friends, but terrible at keeping them. The closer they got, the more obvious it became that i was chatty, but not talkative. And the few i really talked to would leave. One that i loved and trusted very much even told me that i was full of shit. I didn’t tell anyone anything for years after that one.

I haven’t known what to do about my mouth. Do i talk more, or less? To whom? About what, when? I don’t trust my own judgment because when i finally disclosed my story, my closest girlfriend called me a liar and ended our friendship. I was pretty sure i knew how to have better, longer lasting friendships, but only by being someone else. It’s hard to be genuine when you’re still chipping away at the marble, not entirely sure what the figure will look like when you’re finished. So i just withdrew. I don’t want to be someone i’m not anymore, and i don’t quite know how to be me yet, so i went away. I went back to Start with a brand new playing piece and 200 bucks.
END of PART I

 

Oral Hygiene

My mouth used to get me in so much trouble. It’s funny though, because i never said the things that most needed saying. You know, like, Help me, or Someone get me outta here.

Nah. I told a couple of friends in high school. They probably half didn’t believe me and half didn’t want to hear it even if it was true. They couldn’t have done anything about it, and besides, i only had to make it through high school and i’d be free. Told my favourite teacher, my last year. We were working on something together and i blurted out the reason i’d left home, was working full time and living with my best friend. My confession was followed by one of the most excruciatingly painful silences i’ve ever endured. And then we resumed our work as if i hadn’t spoken at all.

It had to be obvious that i wasn’t quite right. I mean, the students all knew it – every one of them. In every class in every grade in every school i ever attended. My clothes and my lack of participation in any activity that required money made it clear that my family was about as poor as it gets in my country. I think my mouth may have overshadowed everything else. I was loud and obnoxious with students, which made me an even easier and more frequent target than i would have been had i just been fat and poor. And as is the case with so many abused children, i lied. A LOT. I exaggerated every detail or just flat out told a total bullshit story. It was all for attention, and of course it worked, but not the way i wanted.

I’m sure i frustrated the teachers, some to the point where they’d call in my parents for a meeting. Maybe they were even sizing up my parents, looking for signs that they might be the problem. I don’t know if anyone even picked up on my situation, let alone cared. To be fair, my parents were highly intelligent people who could make you believe just about anything… for a while. And when the mask finally slipped and people started asking questions, we simply moved.

I remember one time i was going home on the bus, and i realised the kids were laughing and whispering and making faces at me because my hygiene was terrible. (Super embarrassing, but true.) I made up the most ridiculous lie. Like in the history of lies it was the one that wouldn’t even fool your little sister when she was 4 and you told her chocolate milk came from brown cows.

I didn’t tell them my clothes were always dirty because my mother rarely did laundry, and if i tried to do it myself i’d sometimes get beaten for doing it wrong. I also didn’t tell them that a lifetime of sexual abuse had made me hate my body so much i could barely stand to touch myself. The bathroom was also a place where i was extremely vulnerable. I was terrified to be naked at all, and baths and showers were done in a panic, and not with any regularity.
I didn’t consciously know the truth, so i couldn’t have told them why i smelled like an old boot filled with cheese. I just knew i was gross and bad and i had to make it someone else’s fault so they didn’t hate me.

I tried to be anyone but myself, and i used words to try to be funny, cool, smart, even tragic (oh, the irony), but i only ever came off as strange and awkward and annoying. I tried too hard and it made the decent kids uncomfortable while the bullies could barely contain their glee. I was scorned by crappy humans and pitied by the rest. Still, i just kept talking. I lacked the self-awareness to manage what i said. I blurted, i leaked, i was a constant stream of words. My mouth was the bleed valve that eased the persistent pressure in my head. I tried so hard to be interesting, but they either disliked me or wanted to like me, but i made it difficult.

I carried that into my adulthood, and it has only been in the last year that i’ve been learning to rein in my mouth. Not to stifle things that i want or need to say, but to check my intent and to consider the cost. Balance is tough for me, but i try to check myself just enough. I used to obsess over everything i said as an adult. I’d rehearse it in my head a bunch of times before i said the thing i wanted to say. But that was different because my intention was wrong. I was seeking approval, acceptance, and affection at any price. Now my intention is to be genuinely myself.

I’ve spent this last year not saying much of anything. I’ve been around other people a few times, but there was still not enough control, so this last 6 months i’ve not been around very many people except my family. I don’t know if i’ll ever be much of a social person again, but i’m weirdly unconcerned. I’m learning who i am and how to be myself. The only place i feel truly safe is my home, and the only people i fully trust is my family. It’s sort of like dress rehearsals for a show that may never open.

Happy Tuesday,
~H~