Weights and Measures

Let proportion be found not only in numbers and measures, but also in sounds, weights, times, and positions, and what ever force there is.
~ Leonardo da Vinci

Anxiety is ever-present these days, but i’m learning ways to manage it and soften its intensity. On the weekend my sons and husband were home, so it lessened on its own, but Sunday afternoon it began amping back up, as i anticipated them returning to work. I have 1 son who works in a restaurant, and it’s so slow that he’s home until things change. I’m fine with that, and it’s also nice to have a pair of eyes on me at this time. Yes, sometimes my sons babysit me. I don’t know if it’s right or fair, but they’re both grown men. They have (admittedly too much) experience in dealing with my mental illness and multiplicity. I’m not abusive, i’m just not quite myself.

My husband and other son who lives here (i have one in his 30s with his own family) both have high risk jobs, and i’m twisted up every day they’re away from me. I’m 75% hermit anyway, so as i tell my friends, This is my jam, man. No biggie. The source of my stress are my loved ones who’re out there. I’m having trouble not obsessing about losing them.
But i haven’t done all this personal work to lose my shit now.
I’ve got a toolbox, and it’s chock-full.

First thing i did is i cut out most social media and all news.
I have apps for my social media that help me curate what i see, and i’ve unfollowed any of my friends that tend to post a lot of news and politics.
I’ve let my friends know i’m available for texts and PMs, and i post stuff on my own social media, to maintain contact.
My husband knows what news i’d want to hear and what i wouldn’t, so he keeps me informed.

Another thing i do is share everything that’s going on in my head. I pick an appropriate audience, but i spew. I do it all day. I call my husband, i talk to my boys, i have a group of trusted online friends that i check in with daily, and i blog. I’ve found over the years that sharing my thoughts and feelings is a good way for me to live my life in general. It is particularly helpful though, during painful and/or stressful times.

This current therapy that i’m doing has me dialing back my activity level. I’m trying to slow everything down so that i can focus in on my physical body. I’m trying to learn how to listen to its needs and wants, and its desire for comfort and care. By doing this, i hope to build a healthy connection between my thoughts, my emotions, and my physical sensations, which were separated from each other due to childhood abuse. This work is a priority, it would be difficult to stop it, and it takes most of my focus and energy every single day.

But, pandemic…

I can’t stop the anxiety, and after talking it through with my therapist, i think i can manage both.

So i’ve been checking in with myself every day. I don’t just blog, i write stuff every day that i don’t share. I journal, and i have written conversations with my system. It helps me to see the words, and to hear them, and to share them. I do it all. Multi-pronged approach to a multi-level problem. I’m a multifaceted multiple.
That might be redundant. Heh.

My new tweak today is to add a bit more structure. I’ve been giving myself some space to NOT accomplish everything i think i need to in order to be a good wife and mother. Sometimes i don’t cook. Sometimes i don’t shower. Sometimes the vacuuming or the laundry get left undone.
But my anxiousness is so big.
My heart keeps squeezing too tightly, and i get these zings through my chest that feel like electricity.
My reflex is to dissociate. To pull away from it all. To numb myself.
How do i stay present AND keep it together?

I’m adding back in some regimens/routines to see if it helps. It’s a way of checking out without checking out. I’m not dissociating, but i’m engaging in a chore that i’ve done so many times i could do it blindfolded, so it distances me a little, but not too much.
Does that make sense?
If it helps, it stays, if it doesn’t, whatever. I’ll just keep trying.
I twitch, i tweak, i try.

I’m doing all the other things that are tried and true in my life.
I eat healthy, but make room for indulgences.
I get outside, but i put the FitBit down until things are smaller and quieter.
I wear, use, and otherwise employ things that loved ones have given me. I’m wearing a shirt my BFF gave me. I’m cuddling a stuffie i got from a friend. I’m cooking with a spice sent to me by another.
I shnuggle our pets. I hug my kids. I have my husband in a death grip in our bed at night. I’m not very touchy, but he’s my person, my place, my centre, and as much of my body as can touch him as we lay together, is happening.
Poor guy. I’m going through menopause and we sleep in a disco waterbed that’s cranked to boiling… Sweat soup in the morning.*
Hey, it wouldn’t be my blog without some TMI, amirite?

I’m careful what i watch. I know what not to watch, because i know myself so well.
I take a few minutes in my room whenever i need to, to breathe, to connect with my body, to process whatever’s happened since the last time i sat there.
I sit and reinforce boundaries as they come up, and i say No. A LOT.

I don’t know what’s coming. I don’t know how bad things are going to get.
The truth though, is that i never have, and i never will.
I’m doing the best i can with what i have.
That elephant on my chest is okay. I know why he’s there. Plus, he’s super cute, and i mean, who doesn’t love elephants?
And maybe, i’ll find the feather that helps him fly.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*Y’all don’t even know how bad he has it. The waterbed is cranked because the heat helps with my fibromyalgia. I also deal regularly with insomnia, and i have a fan going for white noise, and also because menopause. So i make him all sweaty, and then i make him freezing cold.
Did i mention that i always have my window open, even if it’s blizzarding?
Yeah, he’s the best. I know it.

Baby Stepping

I’m doing the work, I’m baby-stepping, I’m not a slacker! Just look, I’m in really bad shape!
~ Bob Wiley, What About Bob? (1991)

When i’m in the weeds, you know, down the rabbit hole, neck deep in shit, whatever you wanna call it – i’m learning to make temporary changes to accommodate whatever it is i’m currently dealing with.

This body work has, at times, been all-consuming, as in, it’s all i can do, and i have nothing left for anything else. When that’s happened, i’ve built a circle of support around me to help get things done that must be done, like cooking and light housekeeping and pet care. There are times in between though, where i’m capable of doing a few things, but i’m still not able to function at the level i could when i wasn’t dealing with body memories and pain, and the panic and chaos that can cause.

I’m fortunate that i’ve been able to create the kind of life where i can just stop everything and focus on myself – i know not everyone can do that. It was hard work and i made some good life choices, but i know that for some people, what i’ve been able to achieve simply isn’t possible. That’s made me both proud of myself, and so grateful for the opportunities life’s thrown my way.

What my life looks like right now is not what it looked like a few months ago. There are days where my body’s so wracked with pain that i can barely get my ass out of bed to the bathroom or the couch. I’m not able to shower, cook, or clean house. Those are the times when loved ones step in to help with the basics. And no one minds if i’m unkempt and stinky for a couple of days. Most days though, i’m able to accomplish a few basic, maintenance-type activities, but it’s taken time, and a lot of experimentation to figure out what works best for me.

The key for me is baby steps. (If you’ve seen the movie What About Bob?, you may chuckle now – i am.) I drop anchor and take a look at what i can reasonably get done. I’m going to need to sail eventually, but can i proceed now, or are the conditions too dangerous, and my best bet is to wait. If it’s something i can navigate if i’m careful, then i’ll weigh anchor. I’m sailing. I’m sailing! I’m saaaailing!
Okay, done with the movie reference. Heh.

I get up in the morning with my husband at 5am, if i can, and i’ll make him breakfast. Sometimes all i can manage is cereal and juice for his meds, sometimes i can get a hot meal on the table. If i can get his breakfast together, his lunch is a cinch. All i need to do is make a sandwich. He’s not a picky guy, so whether it’s PB&J on white or turkey and swiss on rye w/lettuce and dijon, he’s satisfied. Everything else that goes in his lunchbox is prepackaged, so i just grab it and throw it in there.

Once that’s done, i can go back to bed if i want/need to. Sometimes i need to, because i haven’t slept well, or i’m in pain, or both. Sometimes i want to, because he watches the news in the morning and i don’t want to, or i just want to shnuggle up under the covers, or that’s all the peopling and activity i can handle for the moment. Some days i can stay up with him and see him off to work, which is nice for both of us.
Speaking of him watching the news…

I can’t handle it lately – at all. I’ve tried, because i like to be up on world events, but over these last few weeks any little bit that i take in has had a detrimental effect on my mental health. I get angry and anxious and i’m too easily triggered right now. So if i can stay up with him and see him off to work, i listen to music on my headphones and surf the web while sitting beside him. I trust him to tell me world events that he knows i would want to know. The last few days i got sucked back into the news due to COVID-19, and yesterday i realised that wasn’t good for me. I know what to do to best protect myself and i’m doing that, and there is nothing that i can reasonably do for what’s going on for people in the rest of the world. It may seem coldhearted, but it is self-preservation. I must cut the emotional baggage wherever possible; what’s happening is breaking my heart and i need all of my heart for myself at this time. Politics is an absolute NO, full stop. Take out “breaking my heart” and insert “scaring the shit outta me”. Again, i need my thoughts and emotions for myself, to get through this work. Selfish? Perhaps, but i know that once this work is done, i’ll be a far more functional and capable human, with a lot more to give. My well-being will increase the world’s well-being.
I don’t have many spoons in my drawer, and i’m going to need them all before this is done. The earth will continue to turn with or without me, and people will continue to do good or bad as they choose.

Bit of a side note here: A couple of years ago, i cut out entertainment industry gossip, talk shows, and fashion magazines. I’ve been amazed how much better i feel. I used to be envious of the rich and famous, and disgusted by their conspicuous consumption. I used to get pulled into the staged talk show “discussions”, get sucked into the belief that i must be an us or a them, and get swept along with the waves of outrage, rhetoric, and vitriol. Do i even need to say why i feel better now that i don’t read fashion mags or watch red carpet events? I’m gonna go with Hell no! and leave it at that.

If i’ve gone back to bed in the morning, and sometimes i do even after i’ve seen my husband off to work, i get up as soon as i can.
The rest of my day is fairly easy to describe. I do some something productive, and then i take at least as much time to rest and do something that’s not work. The productive things in the morning usually involve stuff like making my bed, tidying my room, personal hygiene, washing dishes from the night before (by the end of the day, i’m often too tired to do anything but scrape the dishes off and place them in the sink), cleaning the countertops, and even planning supper can use up some energy. I’m careful to only do 1 or 2 things at a time, and then i get to sit down and surf the net or watch some telly or read. In the afternoons, i’ll try to get at least 1 larger chore done, like vacuuming or sweeping, or cleaning a bathroom. There are times all i can do in the bathroom is a basic wipe down, other times i can do a proper scrubbing with cleaning products. Often the tub and tile are too much for me, so i just spray with the foam that’s supposed to do it for you – you know the one, right? Then i squeegee it off and that has to be good enough.

With hygiene, again, i do what i can. I like to use an electric toothbrush, do the full 2mins, floss, but sometimes all i can do is scrub the fur off with a regular toothbrush and call it done. I have a very intensive skin care regime for morning and night, but if all i can manage is to wipe my face with a warm cloth and slap on a dab of cream, then Yay for me. Some days the shower is too much energy and some days it’s too much of a trigger, so then i just do a quick gas station wipe down of the pits and the bits. If i can’t even do that, i put on clean underwear, and use extra pit-stick. If i’m that low energy, chances are i’m not leaving the house anyway, and my people love me even when i reek.

Fresh air is good for me, and i love to walk, so i’ll try to get out for a bit. Some days i’ll get in a solid hour w/the dogs too, sometimes i just walk down the road to meet my husband as he comes home from work, and there are days it’s a triumph if i can stand on the front steps and do some yogic breathing for 10mins.
I listen to my inner thoughts, i pay attention to my body and try to minister to its needs. I do what i can and i take lots of breaks in between.

As you can probably imagine, sometimes supper is at the table, with something i’ve made myself, but there have been many times recently, when my husband’s brought take-away and we sit in front of the telly and eat crap.
I have to let that go and be okay with it.

Just for the record, some days writing is my reward, and sometimes it is my chore. And too many times for my liking, lately it’s been too much to even try, and even trying i’ve found my well dry.
I have to let that go, too.

I know this post may be a bit mundane and boring, but i wanted to share it anyway. I want for readers to see my process, to see how i figure things out, to see how my brain works. There are plenty of gurus and self-help books out there, full of advice on how to manage one’s life, and some of it is pretty good. All it ever did for me was make me feel pressured and judged if i didn’t do it or didn’t do it right, or did it and it didn’t work. It mostly just caused me more stress and anxiety, but i did collect enough information from all of it that helped me to carve out my own way to do things.
And that’s why i’m sharing this today –not to tell anyone how to do it– only to show that i’ve done it, and i”m doing it, and i’m learning more and tweaking my routines and getting better results, and having more of the kind of life i want for myself.
I share this to extend hope that if i can, maybe you can, too.

Hang in there. Do what you can. Try not to worry about the rest.

Love and Peace,
~H~

Dancing Elephants

Even 10 years ago i would have told you that anxiety wasn’t that much of an issue for me.

HAAAA-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA
*gaspsforair*
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

I think being a multiple hid it from me, because i’d just dissociate/slide/switch to cope when the feeling came up. As i learned more about myself and my system, i became more conscious of my thoughts and emotions, and more aware of my physical body and my “presence” in it. I discovered that –ZOUNDS!– anxiety is a huge issue for me. It slows down my personal progress, it limits my opportunities, it stifles my creativity, it thins my skin, it uses spoons that would be far better used elsewhere.

Fuck anxiety, man.

Over the last few years i’ve intentionally endeavoured to cut as much of this heartache-y bullshit stress out of my life as i can. I thought this morning that i might share with you a list of things i’ve done to hike this old piano off of my chest.

Let me be very clear here: This is not a step-by-step. This is my list, based on who i am and how i work. This is a personal list, specific to me. I share this list to share my process, which is a big part of what i do on this blog, and to stand as evidence that it can be done. Some of what i do or don’t do to reduce/remove anxiety might have precisely the opposite affect on you. You have your own past, your own personality, your own burdens, your own path. You do you, Boo. I am. here. for it. 100%

Things I Have Done To Reduce Anxiety

1) Stopped watching talk shows,
lifestyle programs,
nighttime news,
anything to do with celebrities:
This is a big one for a few reasons. Talk shows triggered envy, lifestyle programs triggered guilt, and nighttime news supported catastrophising. I also figured out that learning more about the celebrities/artists i like, jeopardised my enjoyment of them/their art. I’m all for killing your heroes, but sometimes not listening to them chat is enough;

2) Put down fashion, gossip, and lifestyle magazines:
See above for reasons. The lifestyle and celebrity gossip rags were easy to put down, the fashion died a little harder. It’s not just that i wished i was slim and beautiful and young and glamourous like the models, it’s also that fashion is art, to me. I’ve discovered that, like sports, i can love the thing itself, and shun the machine that surrounds it;

3) No shopping alone, not even online:
Too many choices causes me to freeze up. If there were two ice cream shops, and one was 100 flavours and one was 3, i would go to the store with three. If i went to the store with 100, i’d stand there for an hour, hemming and hawing, stress over which would be the best flavour, and either pick one and regret it, wondering if i shouldn’t have picked a different one instead –OR– i’d get completely overwhelmed and end up picking one i could have gotten in 5 minutes at the other store.

If i shop alone, a version of this happens every time. This is why i limit the amount of time i spend in a store, and don’t even enter certain stores, like Sephora, for instance, because there’s just too many choices. I wind up walking out with nothing, and so stressed i could cry. When i shop online i’ve either got my husband or a kid beside me, or i shop where they let me narrow my search (and boy oh boy, do i narrow).

4) Walk my doggos every day:
Dogs and exercise are great relievers of stress. E’erybody know dat.

5) Keep To-Do lists loose, and rarely on paper:
If i write down a list, it becomes too important and too rigid.* If it’s in my head, it’s easier for me to make amendments when and where appropriate, and not kick myself if it all doesn’t get done;

6) Share all anxiety-producing thoughts with a safe person:
Truth is, i share most of my thoughts with a safe person. The negative or stress-producing ones so that they don’t get a chance to get bigger and badder, but even the positive, happyhappy stuffs. I want to remember the good ones, and sharing the words is like planting them as seeds and giving them a chance to grow and bear good fruit;

7) See my GP every 3mos:
I have both mental and physical health issues that are important to monitor. Also, i can be obsessive, and have a tendency to imagine worst case scenarious. Oh yeah, and i’m terrified of dying. I don’t think i qualify as a hypochondriac, but i can take a pimple and WebMD it into cancer in about 3mins flat. I always bring a list to my doctor appointments, so she can address all my causes for concern, and i never lie to her or hide things from her;

8) Biweekly therapy:
‘Nuff said;

9) Stopped weighing myself:
The number on the scale has only ever caused me anxiety, even when i think it’s a good number. I keep track based on how my clothes fit, and how i look in the mirror after a shower, naked. I get weighed every 3mos at my doctor’s office. I don’t look at the number, and the nurse doesn’t tell me, she only tells my doctor;

10) Become particular about who i hang out with:
I love people, but always find it somewhat stressful, and sometimes even painful to be around them. I only have so much energy and a few spoons a day, so i’ve had to get selective. Basing it on this reasoning also relieved some anxiety, because this is about me and for my wellbeing. Sometimes the reason isn’t personal, and sometimes it IS;

11) Watch telly less – read more:
I was a latchkey kid, so the television was regularly my only companion. My whole adult life i’ve switched on the tv in the morning, and not turned it off until i go to bed at night. I didn’t always watch it, but i liked the background noise. These last few months the tv’s barely on during the day. Television was a great distraction for my system when things got busy and/or stressful up in my brain. These days i’m learning to listen to what’s going on, rather than trying to tune it all out. And the quiet is actually kinda nice;

12) One hit of caffeine in the morning only, if home all day:
I like some to get me going, but after that first mug of black tea, i switch to herbal ones. I struggle with sleep and anxiety, and too much caffeine only amplifies those issues. If i’m out and about in the city or visiting with friends, i do allow myself to indulge, though. And i feel fine about that;

13) Limit socialisation:
I don’t want to cut it out entirely (although sometimes i NEED to do that), but i’m easily overwhelmed and human interaction can bleed my energy dry in a matter of hours. I’m talking about people i choose to be social with, here;

14) BLOG:
Yeah. Dumping thoughts is important for my wellbeing. I may have said this once or twice before. Heh;

15) Take stock of the day with hubby each evening:
More thought-dumping sure, but also helps to keep me on track, gives me a chance to problem-solve, and affords opportunities for encouragement, support, and human connection. Invaluable for managing my most typical anxieties;

16) Take breaks between tasks, and/or limit amount of time spent on tasks:
All that happens when i push too hard and get a whole bunch of shit done is i feel like it wasn’t enough and i need to beat my last score the next day, if that makes sense. Respite gives me a chance for checking in and self-talk, too.
e.g. I did the dishes, yay! Now i can play online Scrabble for half an hour, then maybe i’ll scrub the toilets… Ah, w00t?

17) Reduce house-clutter:
The less i have to take care of besides myself and my dog – the better;

18) Set time to obsess:
I struggle with obsessive thinking. To date, i haven’t found a way to eliminate it. In the past i would kick myself over not being able to control it. Now, i work within my capabilities. So maybe i can’t quit obsessing, but i can give myself a half hour to gnaw it like a dog on a bone. I have something to do to distract me when the time to obsess is over. It can be very hard to stop, so i’ll schedule an obsess-sesh say, right before i meet a friend for coffee;

19) Use 4-7-8 breathing method:
While i do simple yoga, i’m a nonbeliever and i just like this particular method of breathing. It calms me, it brings my focus down into my body and relieves that heavy, squinchy feeling in my chest that anxiety brings. It’s occasionally helped me get to sleep, too. Not magic, but still awesome;

20) Reduce volume:
When things are quieter on the outside of me, things are often quieter on the inside of me;

21) Walk away from toxic associations:
I’m just gonna say it. Family. I walked away from family (and not a few friends). To be fair, i think i could be pretty toxic myself, when i was around them;

22) Be conscious, be cautious when sharing opinions:
I was raised with a finely tuned sense of tribalism. I also learned that being considered 1 of the gang made me far less likely to be hurt. I’d figure out what the group dynamic and their values were, and promptly reflect them. When i broke free of that programming, i wanted to tell everyone what i thought about everything, all the time. I’ve got that t-shirt now, thanks. I don’t require anyone’s agreement or approval of my opinions because, well, they’re opinions. I share my opinions with safe and loved people. I’m supportive of those who want to stand up and shout theirs from the rooftops, and i’m also supportive of those like me, who want to go far away from the rooftops;

23) Stay home:
Socialising takes a lot out of me; too much, right now;

24) Shnuggle pets:
For those who love and have pets, explanations are unnecessary;

25) Consume comedy (shows, books, podcasts, conversations):
There’s nothing quite like laughter, to give that elephant sitting on my chest a chance to get up and do some pirouettes, maybe even grand jet├ęs!

26) Ask, “Is this any of my business?” regularly:
Cuts down on brain clutter, and keeps me from stressing over what other people think and do. You be you and i be me;

27) Say “I’m sorry” less:
This is mostly concerning my upbringing. As the scapegoat, i was the reason shit went south. I’m always apologising, and i know it drives my loved ones bonkers. I’m learning that most of the time when i say sorry it’s unconscious, reflexive programming. I don’t have to apologise for who i am. Any apologies still remaining from my past will be dealt with as they present themselves. I’m not in constant danger of being harmed anymore, like i was when i was a child. Offering unnecessary sorries just brings up old wounds and reinforces the lies my mother told me about myself in order to control me;

28) Say “I don’t know” more:
Same original motivators as above. Not knowing things as a child left me more open to harm, so i tried to know everything. And my family was the very model of knowitallishness. I don’t have to protect myself that way anymore. Plus, it’s annoying AF, and nobody likes a smarty-pants;

29) Be more physically affectionate with husband and children:
Touch is difficult for me. While it’s been a relief to put no-touch boundaries up, i’m a human animal who does better in life with some physical connection. My husband and children are safe. I reinforce that i’m safe and they won’t hurt me, when i touch them. I experience love and healthy attachment. It calms me, grounds me, makes me feel more normal, strengthens bonds and heals old hurts;

30) Strictly limit and curate social media exposure:
Do i need to go into how anxiety-producing social media can be? If you’re reading my blog, probably not. You already know;

31) Don’t compare myself to others:
A biiiig one, and one that’s proven hard to master. Different nature, different nurture, different choices, different paths. It makes for different people, H. Duh. I do sometimes use others as a general metric, but only to keep myself honest and on track. An example would be when i thought i might be overreacting to a certain person’s behaviour. I compared my reactions to those of other people around him, and quickly figured out NOPE.

One more time for the people in the back:

This is my list. There’s more, and i’ll probably make alterations, additions and subtractions to this list over time.
My point is, anxiety is awful and takes energy i need for other stuff that feels better, or at least yields good fruit. Anxiety produces nothing for me but pain, poor choices, and more anxiety.

And what you think about this post and my list is entirely your business. Heh.

Try to enjoy your weekend, if you can. I will too.

*Wait a second, is this irony?

Curb Appeal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**********

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Monday.
Love and Peace,
~H~

Water of Life

CW: Contains indirect references to childhood sexual abuse. This one is heavy for me – emotional. It may be for you, too. Take good care.

**********

Heavy hearts, like heavy clouds in the sky, are best relieved by the letting of a little water.
~ Christopher Morley

So i made it to my therapist’s office today. And i started crying as soon as i saw her.
In the parking lot.
Crying.
Fuck.*

Tears are difficult for me. There is, as with just about every fucking thing in my life, a push and a pull with tears. As an infant, i know that i would have cried. I know from gathering as much information as i could from people who would talk to me about her honestly, that she wasn’t a terribly attentive mother. Unless family or someone she wanted something from was around, and then she was perfect and doting. But her mask would slip occasionally with those she called friend. She’d leave me cry in my crib for too long, saying i needed to cry it out or i’d be spoiled. Claimed i was colicky and would drown me in gripe water (which contained alcohol back in the day), and push baby Aspirin. Based on behaviours i do remember from a young age, i imagine the ignoring of my needs went for longer when no one was around to see.

When she’d spank me or hit me, sometimes she’d stop when i cried, and sometimes she’d go harder. If i cried for something other than beatings, say, disappointment or sadness or fear, she’d berate and humiliate me. I was a big baby and needed to toughen up. She’d accuse me of crocodile tears. I remember her telling other people when they’d show concern, “Don’t believe it. She’s faking. She’s an amazing little actress.”

She groomed me for predators from infancy, so i’m going to assume there were some tears involved there. And the people she gave me to were the hardest, when it came to shedding tears. Some of them would hurt me worse if i cried. Some would complain to my mother and then she’d beat me. And some needed me to cry, which became a problem when sometime around 3 or 4, my tears dried up. She took me to the doctor about it, i think, but i don’t remember what he said.

I do remember what caused my tears to flow again. I was around 12 or 13. I’ll tell that story another time, because this subject matter is already heavy enough.

I’ll share another interesting tidbit about me and tears, though. For my whole life, since my tears stopped flowing and through their adolescent return, you couldn’t tell i’d been crying when it was over. No matter how long i’d cried –i could, and did, bawl my little eyes out sometimes– all i had to do was wipe my eyes and blow my nose, and no one knew.

Sometime during this recent bout of therapy, that’s changed. I’ve never been asked, “Have you been crying?” until a couple of months ago. My face gets blotchy, my eyes and nose get red… It’s like my body is giving up all its ghosts. I’m no longer carved from alabaster. I’m becoming a living, breathing, crying being. Filled with snot, apparently. Buckets of snot.

I’m coming to life and i’m mourning my dead. The tears water me. They wash off my grave clothes. They cleanse me of the filth that coats me that was never mine. I’m pink and warm underneath. Red and blue and purple and golden light! I pulse and sparkle as life flows into dead limbs. I’m sitting in my cemetery, surrounded by beautiful dead things, and as i water the barren sand it becomes fecund. Living things are sprouting up around me. Pretty things. Green things. Life from death. Beauty from shit.

Which is all very lovely and poetic (and still true), but in the meantime – i cry. I want to cry all the time, and i cry just about every day.
People, i am not a fucking cryer. I get choked up over art and suchlike. Verklempt. Sometimes my eyes will fill up with tears, but they generally remain unshed. I can cry for other people, too. If a friend/loved one is suffering, i cry. But that place where one sobs until there is nothing but hitching breaths and hiccoughing? That place where one connects with one’s own pain and suffering? Almost never. And until my first round of effective headshrinking with my current therapist, if it did happen it wasn’t really for me. I didn’t cry over what happened to me, what was DONE TO ME.

Now i am.
I’ll be attending to some task, speaking with someone, reading something unconnected, sitting on the goddamned toilet – and the tears will suddenly come. They spill out and pour down my cheeks, hot and salty. My heart aches and my belly clenches. I weep. I mourn. And i know this is only the beginning. I know there is an ocean of tears inside me yet. A torrent waiting to be unleashed.
I’m going to let them come.

I’ve marinated in self-pity before, and i fucking deserved to. But this isn’t that.
I’m transporting myself back to my childhood, to bear witness to the crimes committed against me. I look upon that innocent little baby, toddler, child, adolescent, teen, and yes, young woman. I watch what happened to her. I listen, and i feel.
And then i mourn. I weep for her suffering. I ache with her needs. I lament her violation, and i grieve her death. She died over and over again, scavenged bits of flesh and blood from the corpse and made a new thing. A zombie. A golem. A robot. A doll.

The water flows and there’s no bottom to this well inside me.

And i thought it was hard to cry. To release my white knuckle control and cry. To stop dissociating from the grief and cry. To feel the pain of past abuse in my body today, and cry. But it is not the hardest thing. Not by a fucking long shot.
Why does a baby cry?
Hunger, thirst, pain, fear… Unmet needs.
What do we do when a baby cries?
Figure out which one it is and meet the need.
Sometimes though, we meet all the needs and the baby still cries. What do we do then?
We soothe them. We hush, we hold, we comfort, cuddle, softly sing. Blankets, stuffies, low lighting. We whisper words of love, vows of protection. We promise that everything is going to be okay.

And now, here we are at the hardest thing.

I’ll try to post about it in the next couple of days.
Until then, try to have as good a weekend as you can.
I will, too.
Do they still make tissues with lotion?

Love and Peace,
~H~

*If cuss words aren’t your thing, you might wanna pass on this piece. I mean, i often let 1 or 2 into my writing, because i write in my RL voice. What you’re reading is how i talk. Yeah, i’m pedantic and histrionic and show-offy with my admirable vocab. I’ve also been known to swear like a trucker made a baby with a sailor, and it was born with an itch it can’t scratch and a 2′ wide yapper.
This post is feelin’ like it needs to be full of swears.

Suffer the Little Children

Alternate title: Jesus, Do You Smell That?

Content warning: Some references to childhood sexual abuse.

I’m settling in to this process a bit more every day. I don’t know how long it will take for me to forge a connection between my brain and my body, but i’m committed to and invested in it, even if i’m never quite done. I’m connecting parts slowly, a bit at a time, and i’m doing well resisting the urge to tackle it all, hard and head-on. When the Peanut Gallery pipes up with some judgey shit about how i should be further along than i am, i have plenty of examples of how terribly awry things can go when i push too hard. However, during my therapy sesh yesterday i realised there is an area where i could be doing a tad more, and i’m balking.

I try every day, all day, to stay present in my body and feel what’s happening to me physically; my aim is to dissociate as little as possible. I hold on to the face through the regular day-to-day sensations, like brushing my teeth, which can be triggery AF, and i’m hanging on through some awful body memory stuff, like phantom burning in my genital area. While i’m going through these intense body sensations, my Bits N’ Pieces are having various reactions to what’s going on, just like i am. I’m learning to care for the body memory stuff with warm drinks, blankets, binding, writing, and even talking about it with my hubs, but i’m hanging back when it comes to directly engaging my system and asking them what kind of care/comfort they’d like while dealing with this stuff.

Mutiplicity can be difficult to explain, and this is one of those areas that, no matter how i put it, it still seems inadequate; the words don’t communicate my reality sufficiently. Yes, i hear voices in my head. I know they’re all me, and yet they’re a little bit not me. Maybe think of it like we tend to think of things as natural or not natural: maple syrup gets the natural label, but Aunt Jemima doesn’t. They’re both made of ingredients that come from our world (some additives are man-made, sure, but it’s not like we folded space and travelled to another universe for the elements needed to make them), yet one doesn’t seem as raw or earthy – it’s not as much a part of the innate order of things. Unnatural? Not quite natural?

So it is with my system. I know the people that live in my brain, that chatter at me all day long and even into my dreamlife, that saved me when i was little and now help shoulder the minefield that is being a human living in a developed nation after severe trauma, by carrying my burdens, secreting my pain, and sometimes taking control of my body when i’m overwhelmed… Are all iterations of me – various versions of who i needed to be or thought i had to be in order to survive.
Yet they are not me.
There were walls between us for many years, borders that none of us would cross. They would not because they exist to care for/protect me, and i couldn’t because i hadn’t the knowledge or the space safe enough to do so. To step into the light and see my system – my big brain machine humming along, gears inside gears, turning alongside gears inside gears. A terrifically complicated and intricate psychic arrangement of snippets and gobs of personality. Actors that only exist between the green room and the stage. When i finally saw my face as a lit theatre and gained access to their dressing rooms, well, you know that not every actor whose work you like is a person you’d want to hang out with after the show, right?

Some of my people are not a good time. I might even say most of them aren’t, a lot of the time. I love them in a way that is only for them – not like i love my husband, my children, my friends. Not like food, or music, or art, or animals, or sunshine, or a cool glass of water, or my husband’s kiss. Not even like the characters in my favourite books. They’re more than these things, and less, too. Yet they’re closer to me than absolutely anyone else – no one, nothing else could get so close. They’re my saviours who occasionally get me into some serious scrapes. They’re my best friends and my champions. And they’re also my children who’re always getting into something and the only reason i don’t strangle them is they’re underdeveloped toddlers who can’t help it.

They remember awful things, sometimes as clearly as if they happened yesterday, sometimes as if they are happening now, in this moment, all the time. And i know i’m currently writing about feeling the physical sensations that go along with certain memories that’ve been locked away in certain parts of my body, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t also carry some physical pain. They feel the aching jaw, the bruises, the cuts, the headache like my skull is going to turn to dust, the swelling, the bleeding, the burning – all of it. It’s my hope that this work i’m doing will help them be free from pain. Perhaps even, that they can return to me as i return myself to homeostasis. They’ve told me their stories, now it’s my body’s turn. I see this as a housecleaning. I’m shining a light on all the dark places, removing all traces of black mould. But this house is currently serving as a temporary MASH unit, filled with sick and wounded soldiers. I have medicines and tonics and pills for them, and i have cleaners and disinfectants, tools and talent for cleaning a filthy home…
But the body has triggered my system, and i haven’t asked them if they want anything from me to help them bear it all.

Back when i was first learning to listen and relate to the other people who live with me in my brain, it was a gross and disgusting ordeal. Once i acknowledged that some of my dreams were actually memories, it was like trying to live a normal life in a locked room filled with decomposing bodies. I felt like i was coated in filth – it slicked my skin and filled up my nostrils and sat in the bottom of my belly like an angry, acid python, constantly twisting and spilling over itself. I stank of evil, life stank of rot. I was surrounded by horror, sex and death roiling and foaming together like a cannibal’s cauldron. It was the closest to giving up that i’ve ever come, i almost lost myself in the viscous fluid of memory, losing form and definition and nearly dissolving into hopelessness and endless nothing.

As i write this i’ve suddenly seen that i’m parenting my Bits like i parented my real life children. From a fucking distance. Afraid to touch, to engage, to connect. I didn’t know how with my sons, but i do now. I learned because i saw how much harm it had done to me not to have it from my parents. I’ve been learning and practising since then because i believe it’s not too late to give it to them unless they tell me so. And i would keep trying even if they told me it was too late and would never be enough, because i believe it’s my responsibility as a parent, and because i experience that doing so helps and heals me, too.

Yes, parenting my children with connection, engaging with them emotionally and physically – that’s what my brain-babies need/want, as well. Of course they do. I know that, it’s just that the feelings they carry, the stories the snapshots the motherfucking scary movie franchise…
Bah. The last time i got up close and personal with it all it was years before i felt clean again. It was years of barely being in the face because i couldn’t take the slime and the stench.
But comparing them to my boys helps.
Writing helps.
Therapy helps.
Hubby helps.
Truth helps.

They’re broken off bits of me, and they need me to wash them, bind up their wounds, and soothe them, just as i’ve done for myself, the primary me. If they were real live children, covered in blood and shit and filth, smelling like sex and rot, i wouldn’t hesitate for a second to gather them to me and minister to their needs.
These children are all me; why is it so hard to give myself what i would give to any other human in my position?
I was taught that i only existed to be poured out for the consumption of others, but i know now that that was a wicked, selfish lie told me by evil people.
Knowing where i come from and who i am is good, but it’s not enough. I have wounds that need washing and stitches and bandaging, breaks that need mending, and aches that need warmth.

This piece may not make much sense, i’m not sure. This is so close to my core that i don’t think i’m able to edit/proofread this with a critical eye. If you’ve made it this far, i thank you. Writing this made me want to throw up most of the way, but here and now, at this sentence, i feel recommitted and more fiercely dedicated than ever. If someone hurt a child the way i was hurt, if someone hurt my children the way i was hurt, i would ruin the world to make things better for them.

Yes, it’s a contradictory statement. It’s hyperbolic. It paints a picture and conveys the intensity of my conviction.

So, i guess i’m heading into the trenches.
This could get…

<insertwhateverwordcametoyourmindasitprobablyapplies>

Take Care and Try a Little Tenderness,
I will, too.

~H~

To The Bone

CONTENT WARNING: This contains frank discussion of suicide and childhood sexual abuse. If you aren’t in a good place, i’d strongly recommend skipping this one. Have someone handy that you can talk to if this brings up stuff for you.

**********
**********
**********

The first time i thought about suicide i was 4.
The first time i tried it i was 9.
I’ve tried multiple times since – one time was right in front of my 2 youngest children.
I’ve been given ipecac, had my stomach pumped, and a shot that may have been Narcan (?) back in the day – i’m not sure about that one. I was even more fucked up than usual that time.
I’ve written dozens of notes to loved ones and torn them up. I’ve written fuck-yous to some of those who tortured me who still unfortunately draw breath.

None of those times did i truly want to die. Not once. What was happening to me is something the pros call “parasuicidal behaviour”, meaning, i didn’t actually want to commit suicide, i just didn’t know what else to do and i needed my current situation/emotional state to STOP.

I’m grateful that i never succeeded. In my years of struggle in various programs dealing with addictive behaviours, broken and abusive homes, and mental health issues, i’ve lost a great many people i knew to suicide. More than a dozen, easily. A couple of them were like sisters to me, and they broke my heart.

I wouldn’t do them the dishonour of speculating on their reasons for what they did – it was their life to do with as they wished. But i think, today, i understand the step beyond “para”. I’m bone tired. More tired than i’ve ever been in my life. I see that, while i’ve done the best i can, that it hasn’t been enough. I’ve failed my children and my husband and people in my past in such profound ways that i can feel my heart burning and dropping into my belly.

And now, today, this work i do is to “feel what i feel while knowing what i know”. I don’t mean to sound superior (although i know i do), but no one can possibly know how difficult, how awful this work is.
My childhood was wretched: filled with literal torture and near-constant pain. I’m not sure if the small moments of happiness and beauty made it easier or harder to bear. The loving babysitter who cared for me 5 days a week from 10mos old until i entered grade one; she is THE reason i didn’t swallow that bottle of poison when i was 4. I remember holding it in my hand, staring at myself in the mirror (i see now that the mirror was how i talked with the others in my brain back then) and saying, “If it gets too bad, i’ve got this.”

Back then, i severed the connections between my thoughts and emotions and sensations to survive the unsurvivable, and now, in my 50s, as i wade into this terrible work, i remain unconvinced that i can survive the reconnection. It feels as if i’m being torn apart, rather than put back together. My body is a misery to me. My genitals burn, and i keep going to the bathroom to check because it feels like my rectum is bleeding. My jaw feels like it’s going to crack, my throat aches, my head pounds like a giant is having a tantrum inside my brain. My ears won’t stop popping. I grind my teeth all day. It burns when i pee. My body feels battered and bruised everywhere. There isn’t an inch of me that doesn’t hurt. I can’t put anything in my mouth without gagging. There is no touch, no matter from whom it comes, that doesn’t make me flinch.
Dissociating would fix all that, and i want to so badly.

But my therapist says this is temporary, and she has never lied to me. Never not treated me with the utmost respect. Never touched or even approached me without my permission. (She sat on the couch on the other side of my living room for 2 fucking years before i’d even let her sit beside me.) She doesn’t mind telling me a thousand times, that she has no desire to hurt me, and she’s never pushed me to do anything i didn’t want to (made suggestions and let me fume and freak out and go home and think about them, yes). She even let me walk out of therapy thinking i was all “fixed”, when she knew damn well i wasn’t, but she didn’t tell me that, she honoured my process, even if that meant i never came back to her or got anymore therapy from anyone.

I trust her in a way that i trust no one else. No one. I’ve never trusted anyone like i trust her, and so i will sit with this agony and i will bear it. I will minister to pain that doesn’t really exist as if it’s real, and i will talk to the terrified little ones inside my brain as if they are my own children – because they are. They’ve always just wanted a Mommy who will hold them and rock them and say:
Shhh… It’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay. I’m going to take care of you.
Oh, it hurts down there? Let’s put you in a cool bath.
Your head feels like it’s splitting open? You poor thing. Does wrapping your head tightly in this scarf help?
Would you like to cuddle this teddy bear?
Would you like me to hold you and rock you to sleep?

I do these things, these ridiculous things, and they’re working. This fucking crazy-ass shit is working. It’s calming down the cacophony in my head, so that i can focus on my body. Which is super awesome because that means feeling the pain. Listening to what my body wants to tell me about what happened to it when i was little. It doesn’t have language, but it sure AF is talking to me, and i’m listening.

But i’m exhausted. I’m sososo tired. I’m sure i’ve never been this tired.
And life is still happening, all around me. The world had the nerve to keep turning. Problems still happening. Relationship problems. Money problems. Things breaking down and dogs getting sick. Family and friends who still need me. (Don’t get me wrong, they don’t expect much from me right now, they just need me, y’know?)

So i have brought this piece to the place where i tell you that i have considered not being here anymore. Every day, all day, this work feels like too much work. Every day, all day, i’m afraid i can’t do it, that i’ll fail.
I do not have a plan.
I’m not thinking about it obsessively.
I’m in therapy with the greatest therapist in the world (fight me), and i have good support.
My home is once again my safe place.
There’s no room in my life right now for anything but the pain, and the small shred of hope i have that it may end, and i may wind up with an even more normal*, functional life.

So Hi, this is how i’m doing today. You may have noticed i’m writing more. Writing through the bad, like i said i’d do. It’s helping more than i’d have thought it would.

Y’all take care of yourselves. Talk to someone trustworthy if this piece brought stuff up for you, okay? I’m still here, still hanging on. If i can, maybe you can too. I know i want you to.

It’s just a ride
And you’ve got the choice to get off anytime that you like
It’s just a ride
It’s just a ride
The alternative is nothingness
We might as well give it a try
~ The Ride, Amanda Palmer

Love and Peace,
~H~
*Comments like, “What is normal, really?” and “Nobody’s normal,” are NOT welcome here, plzkthx.