Fear Is The Mind Killer

Content Warning: This piece contains references to integration, which may be triggering for some.

When routine bites hard
And ambitions are low
When resentment rides high
And emotions won’t grow
And we’re changing our ways
Taking different roads

Love, love will tear us apart again
~Love Will Tear Us Apart, Evelyn Evelyn

This next part must come now, or it won’t. I’m committed to talking about my multiplicity – a lot here, maybe sometimes a little outside the protective bubble of the etherosphere where i dwell. (Did you see what i did there? I like it. Also, my use of qualifiers seems to be directly proportional to my difficulty with the subject matter. I’ll try to edit as many out as i can before i post, heh.)
In my prior entry, i wrote about how i hadn’t been paying enough attention to the people that live in my brain, and how once i did, i recognised that something was terribly wrong.

A little background before i get into what’s happened:

There are some multiples for whom success is integration, and others for whom that isn’t even on the table as a possibility. I fall into the latter camp. It felt, on a visceral level, like that would be akin to murdering the people who’d saved my life. I set about carving out a functional and satisfying life for all of us, which was no small task, and in fact took me nearly a decade to achieve. My system works from the agreement amongst us that i am the head, and i am in charge. There’s really no other way for this to work, because i have an intellectual understanding that my people aren’t actually real – they were created by me in order to help me survive my upbringing.

You may well ask, If you know they aren’t real, then how would integration be murder?
I’m not quite sure if i have a reasonable answer, but what i can say is that it’s the way i’ve learned to live with how my brain works. This involves a constant tinkering to find a workable balance between thoughts and feelings, between imagination and reality, and on finding a way to live in and be a part of the world as much as possible, while still honouring and protecting the parts of me that are broken and delicate and deserve to be shielded from any more pain or ugliness. In living my life as if they are real – i’m healing myself.

Multiples are no different from anyone else in that we must all find or create our own path, no one’s journey through life is exactly like anyone else’s. I’ve sought healing and happiness through examining what happened to me and learning as much as i can about how i coped, and what that might say about me as a person (and what it might not). I’ve been intensely self-focused for nearly 20yrs now, and as with most of us who get exceptional at anything, i’d been managing my people well for enough time that i’d become complacent.

When i finally turned my eyes and ears inward, i discovered that some of my people were missing. I asked after them and was mostly met with stony silence. A couple of them yelled things at me, but it was name calling, not information. Those that i know would help me were being hidden from me, and i had to listen to cursing and condemnation before any cooperation was going to happen. I’m not going to describe what happened in any more detail than that, as it’s private and it’s weird, and frankly i’m not sure i can paint a word picture that would make enough sense to either of us for me to bother.

They were gone, and no one wanted to talk about it.
When i think things, as a multiple, it is as if i’m talking to other people (sometimes at, because no one is listening, heh). Usually there’s at least one response, and occasionally it’s many. There can also be other conversations already happening, or what i “say” can spur some side conversation, in other words 2 or more of my people want to talk to each other about what i just said. There’s often murmurs that follow, where i can catch a snippet or 2, but it’s more like a sussuration unless i consciously focus on it. This time, i’m wondering where a few of my people are, i’m thinking that i don’t remember hearing from them recently, and it happens just like BOOM! in a moment:

I know they’re gone.
I’m struck by the terrible, thick, unnatural (as in NEVER happens) silence.
I’m at once overwhelmed by their feelings of fear, and my legs are watery and my head is floaty and i’m hit with a violent wave of nausea.

I don’t know how long i sat there, but i know i must have been acting weird, because suddenly i was aware that my dogs were at me, one was pawing my face, and the other was sitting at my feet, staring directly at me, which isn’t like her. At this point, i get up and go back about my day. This is the beginning of a couple of weeks spent in a highly dissociative state. I sort of forget about what happened, but i’m also aware of it, like a dark figure, always present at the edge of my peripheral vision. I’m easily startled at the best of times, but now i’m jumping out of my skin fairly regularly. And i’m losing time, nearly every day.

I was able to keep to my regular schedule, which is no small point of pride, for me. Yet i was filled with foreboding, and felt menaced by something or someone, although i knew that it was just the way my brain was manifesting what was going on in my system. I tried to cope by becoming more functional, i exercised more and was more careful with my diet, and i tackled more chores around the house. The results of that were all good, except it didn’t help with my inner turmoil much, and i knew that if i didn’t deal with what had happened soon, i’d find myself in some manufactured chaos.

One night i got royally pissed off at something, which got the ball rolling, or rather it got my tongue wagging. I told my husband that i thought some of my Bits N’ Pieces were gone. And then i think i cried for a long time.

You cry out in your sleep
All my failings exposed
There’s a taste in my mouth
As desperation takes hold
Just that something so good
Just can’t function no more

Love, love will tear us apart again
END OF PART TWO

Slip Sliding Away

Last weekend we had to venture into the city to pick up a few items that we can’t get anywhere else. We’d put it off as long as we could in the interest of my mental health, but we just couldn’t wait any longer. Holiday crowds make everything worse of course, but i think about these things before i even enter the store. I prepare myself. I tell myself things i already know, but it seems helpful to do it, so i do.

“H,” i say, “H, there’s gonna be a lotta people there today. They’re shopping for gifts. They’re looking for deals. They’re in their own little world and they don’t know you and they’re not thinking about you and they won’t. even. notice you.”

See right there? That’s why i talk it out with myself and say the obvious things. Because that last little part just popped out – and i hadn’t consciously thought of that. That last bit is a true thing and an important thing to me. I know right away that it helps. It’ll help me be less anxious and i’ll be more focused on my task and less nervous about my performance. Because it is a performance for me sometimes.

I worry about whether my crazy is showing.

Do i appear nervous?
Am i sweating?
Do my eyes betray me? Like, are they darting around as if i’m walking through the bad part of town, or maybe i just look like a deer caught in the headlights?

And if i have to talk to somebody it gets more worrisome still.

Am i saying normal stuff?
Am i talking more than i should?
Omg, am i chattering away saying inane and/or personal things?
My voice is going higher and higher, isn’t it?
Why am i laughing?
I’m laughing at nothing, that’s not funny, no one else is laughing and i’m making everyone around me uncomfortable aren’t i?

It’s not all anxiety-driven. Over the last few years it’s also because i’m taking a long, hard look at what i think and why i think it, with one purpose being to take control of my brain as much as i can. As someone who lives with serious and often debilitating mental illness, i cannot have any decent quality of life if i live it unconsciously. Happiness, functionality and usefulness lies in knowing and managing my brain.

So last Sunday i go over what i’m facing once more, just before i enter the store. I’ve got my list, which i always have when i go shopping, because it gives me a sense of security, and if anxiety begins to become a problem, it can help me maintain my composure by keeping me focused, plus get me out of there with the things i went in there for in the first place. A successful shopping trip in spite of anxiety issues makes it that much easier to deal with the next time it happens – which it most likely will.

Once in i move fast. I walk as quickly as i can, and i dart in and out of the flow of people, kind of like one of those jerkwad drivers on the road, but hopefully minus the jerkwad quality. I signal when i turn, i.e. “Excuse me, sir,” and “Pardon me ma’am,” and i don’t lay on the horn, i.e. sigh loudly or roll my eyes, if i get stuck behind a bunch of slowpokes. Heh.

I know the store very well, and so i go to the right aisles for the things i need and avoid the aisles that have nothing that’s on my list. My husband knows i need to do things this way, and never minds if i zip ahead and he briefly loses sight of me. He’s easygoing and supportive. (Yes, i know how fortunate i am.) I’m done in 15 minutes. When it’s our turn with the cashier, i leave to use the restroom. It’s a great way to avoid unnecessary people contact for me. I never have money, debit, or credit (What, are you crazy, too?!) on me unless i’m on my own and i have to, so i don’t need to be involved.

I come out drying my hands, expecting to be G-ing TFO immediately.

NOPE.

Our membership is due for renewal.

Frickety frackety frell.

I’m going to do my best to describe what happened next, but please understand that i’ve tried before, and i’m never quite satisfied with my attempts. So there you go.

My mom was always complimented on how well behaved i was. And you’d best believe that’s a true statement. If it was possible, you could ask any person in the service industry who’s ever provided me a service and i’ll bet not a single, solitary one of them would ever tell you that i had ever been anything but respectful, grateful, and exceedingly polite. I was raised to be that way. When i was a child it was never in question, any kind of disobedience resulted in punishment, and those punishments regularly crossed the line into abuse. As an adult though, it’s just my nature. I AM a respectful and polite person who genuinely appreciates the person who’s providing me a service.

So my husband is handling the renewal, when the friendly cashier goes that extra mile and makes conversation with my husband’s wife. Which is me. So, all the old programming kicks in, immediately superseding any inclination i may have had to give a short reply and then excuse myself. I don’t even have a chance to consider alternatives – i just shift into automatic and i’m off. I’m being friendly, jovial even. I’m making her smile and she’s laughing and i’m smiling and suddenly it happens…

As i mentioned, it’s hard to describe but the closest i’ve been able to come is to liken it to a scene from the movie Poltergeist. (I’m referring to the 1982 original, not the heinous 2015 remake. By the way, how is that even a remake?) After the medium Tangina declares the house “clean”, it isn’t long before the mother Diane realises that isn’t the case at all. Her children are quickly locked behind their bedroom door and she fights the poltergeists to get to them. Finally arriving back at the bedroom door, a terrifying beast corporealises and roars at her to keep away, and then the hallway elongates to an impossible length, setting her at one end and her imprisoned children at the other.

Try to imagine what it might be like, to be Jobeth Williams’ character when the hallway lengthens. To see the door within the reach of your hand, when abruptly you are somehow transported or sucked backward to some point much farther away from the door than where you’d started. You experience a sense of vertigo and are almost queasy, and the things around you do seem somehow surreal, nightmarish even.

This is the closest i’ve been able to come to describe the sort of dissociation that i call “sliding”.

The situation with the lady in charge of renewing our membership caused me to slide:

  • i’ve been vulnerable since my recent life-changing event,
  • i don’t want to be around people,
  • i’m hypervigilant and oversensitive,
  • my fibro is bad, so my pain level is high and i’m not sleeping properly,
  • my mental illness has been triggered hard so my sense of reality isn’t reliable.

I hear voices talking, but i can’t make out what they’re saying. They’re muffled, like they’re coming from the next room or something. Or maybe like a radio station a couple of numbers off. Yeah, maybe more like that, because the voices are getting clearer, as if dialing closer to the exact frequency from which the station is broadcasting. And as i begin to understand the words, the fog around me seeps away and i realise the words are coming out of my mouth, and i’m in a public place, having a friendly conversation with a complete stranger.

The smiles and light chuckling that follows gives me a moment to say to my husband, “I’m going to go get some air.” He knows right away what i mean, thank goodness, and so i go wait for him by the door. I watch the people walking to and from their vehicles in the parking lot, and i use the glass between us and my back to those inside the store as protection, both literally and figuratively.

They don’t know me.
No one noticed a thing.
No one is looking at me.
No one here knows me except the one person i’ve allowed.
I’m okay and he’ll take me home and all will be well.

My goal is to dissociate as little as possible. I know why i slid, and it’s understandable and there was no damage done and it’s okay.

Next time when i prepare myself to shop, i will remind myself of this time; to be prepared for things to happen that i haven’t anticipated and am therefore unprepared.

Well, i got a small snorfle outta myself relaying this incident to you.
I guess i’m doing all right.

Love and Peace to All,

~H~