Eggshells and Soliloquys

They had developed a new dimension to conversation. They ended every speech with the word hiro, which means: like i said. Thus each man took full responsibility for intruding into the inarticulate murmur of the spheres. To hiro they added the word koué, a cry of joy or distress, according to whether it was sung or howled. Thus they essayed to pierce the mysterious curtain which hangs between all talking men: at the end of every utterance a man stepped back, so to speak, and attempted to interpret his words to the listener, attempted to subvert the beguiling intellect with the noise of true emotion.
~ Leonard Cohen, Beautiful Losers (1966)

This is stream-of-consciousness. A bit of what it can be like inside my brain. I was thinking about how unconscious of my obsessive overthinking i used to be; how ever present my hypervigilance, how ingrained my desire to please.
I was also thinking that, with awareness i’m now able to change these things, or at least, i’ve been able to slow them down and lessen their intensity.

Baby steps.

**********

I scan your face, looking for signs. Fluidity of motion in the facial muscles, or is your face tense, set. Do you smile, and if so, does it reach your eyes. Do you smile too much – could it be forced. Do you scowl, frown, do the lines on your skin give any indication what you do more frequently. Do the corners of your mouth slant up or down. Hard elevens between your brows, deep parentheses around your mouth, arrowheads around your eyes. Are you animated or stoic.

I listen intently to your voice. Not so much your words, but your tone. What are we talking about and are you invested. Inflection, pitch, volume. A nervous swoop up. An imperious monotone. A frustrated dip.

I watch how you perform an activity or duty. Are your movements confident or tentative, careful, incautious, cocksure. Swift, slow, do you want me to go, or to stay and compliment.

I check out what you’re wearing and how you’re wearing it.
What style, if any. Are your clothes clean, should they be clean, do they fit properly, have you arranged them appropriately across your limbs and curves. Are things riding low or hitching up anywhere, and do you notice or care. Do you pick at your clothes, constantly smoothing and rearranging. Are you bothered by exposed flesh.
Do you look like you fit inside your skin.

Do you look at me when you’re talking, and if you do, what part of me are you looking at: do you stare directly into my eyes, do you stare at my mouth when i respond, do you scan my face as you speak and listen. Do your eyes dart about. Are you aware of what’s going on around us or are you focused on me. Is it an appropriate amount of focus, or too much. Are you distracted, are you just paying lip service? An arched brow. Pursed lips.

Add it all up. Does it match, make sense, or is it incongruous. What might that mean. Are you having a bad day, bad year, bad life. Maybe some recent, awful event. Some wonderful thing so you’ll be nice to me today. Do you want to talk to me or just anyone. Should i banter or nod silently.

Do we have friends in common, what do they think about you, and what do they think about me. Do you have family/friends accompanying you. Are they inching away. Are there children hanging off of you or around you. Are they of a certain age that will trigger a cacophony of voices. Will you notice my wince, my pained expression.

Did you get enough sleep. Are you rested.
Do you want something from me.
Do you like me.
Will you hurt me.
How long will this interchange last. How long should it last.

Lather, rinse.
Repeat on self this time.
Add in:

Do i look clean/nice today.
Am i making appropriate faces, do i look weird or appear awkward.
Am i too loud, talking too much, saying boring things, making bad jokes, being odd.
Trying too hard.
Am i making them uncomfortable; should i excuse myself.
OMG can i please excuse myself? Would that be rude, am i being rude.
Am i sweating, did i stutter, am i making sense, am i repeating myself, have i told them that before, should be saying this, am i talking too much. I should shut up now, right. Was i too personal, too detached, how does my smile look, am i smiling too much, do i look crazy.

Do they expect a hug, how long do we hug for, when can i break away, am i being standoffish, am i hurting their feelings, am i making them uncomfortable.

Lather, rinse.
Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, with added commentary from the Peanut Gallery.

She doesn’t really like you, remember at that thing when you did the thing.
She just frowned, she doesn’t like you.
Her eyes are darting around, she wants to get away, tell her you’ve somewhere you have to go.
She doesn’t like you, she’ll just be being polite, turn down that aisle and pretend you don’t see her.
She hugs, and we cannot be touched today, change direction now, get away.
Omg you look like shit today, you can’t go in there, you’ll see someone you know.
We can’t remember her name, how ignorant. You can’t talk to her, what if we have to use her name – we don’t know it and you’ll look ridiculous.

Text the man. Ask him to do the thing. We can’t go out. You can’t go out. Everyone will see how wrong/weird/bad/crazy you are. Let’s stay home. The man will do the thing, he’ll get the thing, he’ll fix the thing. Let’s stay home. Oh, i’m so tired, we’re all so tired, aren’t you tired? You’re tired. Let’s go lie down. Put on the telly. Lie on the couch. Text the man. Omg, don’t answer the phone. Close your eyes, we’re tired…

Remember that time when you did that dumb, embarrassing thing?
Wow, you should have gone out and got that stuff done today. Why do you have to be so screwed up. You should be over all this now. No one cares. The man and the kids have been through enough. You should be doing more stuff. What about that room downstairs and getting the cupboard doors back on and the painting and the quonset and the garage, and your skin is really starting to sag, and your thighs look like bellows but you’ll always have tree trunk legs and no man will ever be able to carry you in their arms like in the movies and your kids’ problems are because you’re so messed up and you tricked the man into marrying you and you should have way more friends at 52, but all your friends left you because you’re lazy and weird and full of crap.

I don’t know if this post will help anyone at all, but it is a glimpse into the thoughts and chatter that regularly occupy my brain. I’ve only become aware in the last few years that other people don’t experience constant words/thoughts/chatter/commentary the way i do. My brain is never silent, not for a single second when i’m awake and conscious, and even when i’m sleeping, if i’m dreaming, i’m think-talking the entire time in the background – sometimes it’s lucidly so, sometimes not.

Weird post i know, but that’s what you’re getting today.
Let’s try to have as good a week as we can, shall we?

~H~

The Elephant

WARNING: This contains some specific references to childhood sexual abuse and integration with regards to DID/MPD. Consider speaking with your p-doc or mental health go-to before proceeding. Take good care.

**********

I’ve been ruminating over what’s happening to me through this recent therapy.
I mean, of course i have – duh. What else does one do when one is getting their head shrunk?
I’m navel-gazing.

I’ve been in the hospital twice since getting back into therapy this last fall. Nothing as glamourous as being placed in a soft room wearing a sweater with extra long sleeves that tie up in the back.
Just detox.
Not at all pretty, with no romantic wash of the tortured poet.
Just a woman whose demons are so terrifying and whose memories so fantastically ugly that i’ve been hiding in the oblivion of alcohol.

Alcohol and drugs were used to keep me compliant as a child.
I won’t go into lurid detail, but
— Here, drink this —
** SMILE **

As an adult i didn’t have much use for it.
I mean, i could party, but i didn’t much care for the blotto, head-hanging-over-the-toilet, devastating hangover the next day, sort of drinking i saw in others.
I was the one who held your hair out of your face.
I was the one who made sure you got home.

Then came my devolution.
A sweet social worker in service to a crazy pastor at the cuckoo church i was attending was finally able to convince me of my multiplicity.
I fell in love with and married a beautiful atheist.
I freaked right the fuck out and promptly gained over 200lbs.
I had weight loss surgery and lost it all plus more.

And then i had my first bipolar mania, and i discovered booze.
Food and fat had been my medication and my protection, keeping the pain and the fear and the people who live with me in my brain at bay.
When that fell away, i felt completely exposed and vulnerable – but of course i lacked that insight at the time. All i knew was everyone thought i was beautiful and sexy and wanted to be close to me and give me things.
Mostly attention.
Sexual attention.

I was easily lured into working in the entertainment industry. I’d had some experience as a child and enjoyed some success. My mother’s abuse and neglect of me, coupled with her own dysfunction and envy/jealousy, made certain i never got very far with it. I’d get involved in something, get noticed, get offered opportunities, and she’d either put the kibosh on them straight away, or we’d be moving soon to escape creditors/social workers anyway.

But the problem was i wasn’t a child anymore, and my system hadn’t been more than minimally active for a long, long time.

I was quite unprepared to be struck with crippling stage fright. My job came to the rescue because it revolved around making sure people spent money on –yep, you guessed it– alcohol.
Guess what made my stage fright disappear?
Guess what made all the sexual attention i got tolerable, even enjoyable?
Guess what took away the fear of being exposed and vulnerable because i no longer took up as much space?

The booze and the mania swept me along for years. I practically abandoned my children and nearly destroyed my marriage. In a brief moment of clarity (sometimes referred to as a DUI), i realised i needed to get away from the place i lived and the industry i worked in.
The geographical change wasn’t the cure, but it made the disease more easily treatable.
This was the place where i finally found a mental health professional i could trust; i could work with her and figure my shit out and get my feet planted firmly on the ground and begin my slow, dogged plodding toward a decent level of function and some semblance of normalcy.

I got to a place where my body, my marriage, my children, and my home, were all in a manageable, reasonably healthy place. I was even handling my system. I was in the face most of the time. There was a bit of sliding around, but not much switching. I’m highly dissociative (naturally, heh), so i was always coping with that as best i could, but there was very little chaos.
Except for relationships outside my husband and children.

While learning to live as a multiple, i either lost or walked away from every friendship i had, and became completely estranged from any family.
Don’t misunderstand – that is not a bad thing. My life is better for it, but i did want some new friends.
The difficulty was i couldn’t do it.
I had absolutely zero experience with making friends. In the past, i’d just fallen into them, or the other person had pursued the friendship and i’d just gone along with it.
I barely knew who i was, let alone how to be myself and make a friend.

It was then i discovered yet another serious mental/emotional problem of mine – social anxiety.
I HAZ IT.
If i’m the engine of my train, i’m pulling plenty of cars, y’all. I carry passenger cars with a profusion of riders, but i’ve also got more than a few hoppers full of a combustible black rock called ANXIETY. It’s fueled nearly every social interaction i’ve ever had.
I’ve always found it difficult to people, but being a multiple at least made it less obvious to me. Being dissociative tamped down the nervousness and dampened the awkwardness.

And being morbidly obese gave me a doctor’s note excusing me from gym class, indefinitely.

When i found myself out and about in the world again, not just without the body armour of fat, but armed with the knowledge that i was my own army…
I was boots on the ground with no lieutenant and no orders.

Once again, alcohol made everything easier.
HA.
Until, of course, it didn’t.
I found a lot of drinking buddies, but no one knew me, and i didn’t know them. That’s certainly not their fault – all the booze did for me was make it easier to hide myself and therefore less scary to be around people. It gave me the illusion of friends.

Speaking frankly (why should i stop now, and also, my name is Shirley), i know folks who navigate that lifestyle well. They meet at the bar for a few drinks after work, sometimes they get loaded on the weekend, they have friends over for supper and they crack open a few beers or uncork some wine… They do these things with their genuine friends who truly know them and their relationships are strong and do not revolve around drinking.

I couldn’t manage my intense fear and crippling social anxiety without it – so i pulled away from everyone and hermitted in my Little Crooked House for years.
Not to hide. Not to avoid.
To do the work required to learn who i am and how to live as functionally as possible as more than one person occupying the same body. To hang out with and get to know my precious Bits N’ Pieces.
To know myself, so that when i was ready to return to real life social interactions, i would be able to stay present, in the face, in my body, and engage with people.
And who knows, maybe make a friend or 2.

I discovered i could socialise without drinking with no problem.
It was a transformative and cathartic experience.
I pursued a friendship with someone who is now my best friend.

So why have i needed hospital help to detox, twice in the last few months?

My childhood experiences taught me that using alcohol made scary situations not-scary.
This new round of therapy i’m in is all about feeling all the things that my abusers gave me alcohol and drugs to not feel.
The fear, the pain, the hopelessness, and awful, terrible aloneness that they visited upon me – over and over and over again, for years and years and years.

So now, while grownup me no longer needs or even wants the crutch of being chemically numbed, there are little scraps and wisps and snippets of lovely little creatures inside me, for whom that is all they know.

On the way to every appointment with my therapist, my throat starts to ache, i feel like i need to puke, to defecate, my genitals burn.
I sit in a chair in her office with my legs tucked up underneath me and a pillow clutched tightly against me, covering my girl parts – so i won’t run. So i can sit there with her and ride out the pain and the abject terror.

So that i might be more than just in control of the way my brain works.
So that i might be more than just the Captain of this ship of fools.
So that i might be more than just able to function in the world, on the world’s terms.

So that i might be 1 engine
1 retired soldier, a celebrated veteran of a war long over
1 beautiful tapestry with all the threads intricately and astoundingly woven together
1 song, with a thousand voices in perfect unison
Kintsugi
Not just to navigate the world, but to be a living, breathing, integral part of the world.

It’s excruciating work for me, let alone for children. These programmed, invaluable wee ones want their medication. Numbness. Oblivion.
And i have been overwhelmed and exhausted by this process and unable, and yes, often unwilling, to resist their demands.

Today i am detoxed and sober* and renewed.
Sometimes it takes me a long time to learn something, but by sticking with this process i believe i have arrived at a place of relatively calm acceptance of what i’m currently doing and what is coming.
I have gained purchase and am slowly inching towards my centre.

This is the unvarnished truth of it.
It’s enough for me. In fact, i don’t want it any other way, anymore.

Love and Peace Always,
~H~

*Respectfully, i’d ask that there be no 12-step commentary, plzkthx.

Toast

Hunger has always been more or less at my elbow when I played, but now I began to wake up at night to find hunger standing at my bedside, staring at me gauntly.
~ Richard Wright

As i was saying yesterday – i woke up. I had a couple of tough days that involved more peopling than i’m comfortable handling right now, and by “more”, i mean any. I lost a bit of time on the second day, but it wasn’t too bad. I had a friend come and help me, and then i talked to my husband about what happened, and my feelings about it, and how things might have gone better and could go better next time. Because there will be a next time.

I went to bed and sleep took me more quickly than it has in some weeks. I woke up a couple of hours later though, and i was hungry. I was more than hungry, actually – i was starving. I used the bathroom before i went to the kitchen, and i was so hungry my hands were shaking, like i had low blood sugar or something. I’m sitting on the toilet and i have to pee but i can’t, because i’m panicky and tense. So i reach over and turn on the sink faucet, and the sound of running water has the desired effect of intensifying my need to urinate to the point where it overcomes my clenching pelvic floor. As my muscles relax a little and i feel relief, i have enough clarity to recognise that i’m having an intense physical and emotional reaction to something.

If it was a dream, i don’t remember it, but i don’t think that’s what’s up. I feel small. I feel young. My little Bits are up and active and upset. They need comfort and reassurance that everything is okay. When it hurt me to walk that morning it was more than a physical pain, it was a distressing emotional loss. Walking is an important and valuable tool in my coping kit. I work off stress and worry and i find peace and equilibrium in walking. It’s a place for my system to communicate more efficiently and freely. When they’re in upheaval they want to walk, and i get self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment from walking, so it’s mutually beneficial. It can be nearly impossible to communicate with my system when it’s particularly busy. Walking is a distraction. Walking deescalates. Walking is the oil that gets the gears moving in synchrony. As long as i get to be in charge of where we go, it’s worked exceptionally well for all of us.

But when my back signalled us that it was in too much pain to walk, we all cried out in my brain at once. It was too much for me, and BLINK i was gone.

Grocery shopping the day before had sapped too much of my strength; i had no stores upon which to draw. There was too much peopling and too much anxiety and too little sleep and some unmet needs that hurt and scared me. It’s hard for me not to see those things as rejection, and it takes effort to process it correctly.

Concentrate. I am loved. I have a history of being loved here. Experience tells me that this is a misunderstanding. Shhh. It’s okay. I know this feels like pain and terror and fury all at once. Breathe. This feeling will pass and another will take its place. It’s never not happened that way. I can ride this through until i’m in another place where i can look back and i know i know i know that perspective will come. It always comes. Breathe. Hug the pillow close. Adjust the fan so it cools the sweat on my face. Shhh. It’s okay. This feeling will end and another will come and take its place.

And one did. I slept fitfully. I made it to the point of drop off, where my husband drove to work in the city and i was to walk the rest of the way to the hospital to get my tests. But when it immediately became clear that i couldn’t walk, i had nothing left inside me to deal with losing something that i hold so dear. That we all hold so dear. I’ve got to feel my feelings and listen to my body to get to the next level of healing, and this is what i get? My emotions are hurting me and my body is hurting me too, and now one of my favouritest-best coping tools is no longer in the box.
Too much, World.
Too fucking much.

So i’m on the road trying to walk to the hospital to get my x-rays but i can’t walk and we all cry out and BLINK i’m gone. When the day is over and i’m processing the events with my partner, i tell him of my unmet needs and the feelings i had about it and how it took all the spoons left in my drawer, so that i had none left when i was standing there on the road, barely able to walk. It’s why he received a call from crying children wanting to go home, and it’s why they tried to jump out of the vehicle later when he picked us up, full of frustration and exasperation for being late to work on an important day.
I’m not easy and he’s not perfect.
So a raised voice and cuss words are heard and they’re further rattled, and they bounce around and wail and whine in my head all day long. And now older, caretaker types are pissed off and stompstompstomping through my brain…

After discussion between he and i it’s all good, but i’m spent and jangly.
I fall asleep feeling fairly content, and then wake up suddenly, so hungry i can barely focus. Another moment of toilet-clarity (i’ve had a considerable number of them), i know it’s my wee ones who need feeding so badly. I wash my trembling hands and head to the kitchen. I know it’s going to be a frenzy, and i make a conscious choice to let it happen; to do my best to stay present and watch, perhaps to learn and to be a better help next time.
I’m in the kind of dissociative state where i’m still there, watching, but i cannot affect what i’m doing.
They want toast. They want toast and the lamb gravy from supper. I sit down in my living room with no lights on, and they eat it so fast i think i might accidentally bite my fingers. Once it’s all gone the frantic feelings fade, and i’m able to talk to them again.
Concentrate. Breathe. It’s okay. There’s more. There’s enough. You can eat whenever you want to eat, and you can have whatever you’d like. Wash your hands and face. Look in the mirror. Hi. Breathe. It’s okay. Go rest now.

Tomorrow i want to talk about my mother, and food. I touched on it on my old blog, the one where i disclosed my story, but there is so much more now. I know and i see so much more. It may be triggery stuff for some. For me, i think i might be a little excited to get it all out. I’m done hiding and i’m through with glossing over it.
My body has been trying to tell this story since forever.

No I will not lay down 
I will not live my life like a ghost in this town 
I am not lonely swear to God I’m just alone 
~ The Sound Of, Jann Arden

Hush Little Baby

Baby mine, don’t you cry
Baby mine, dry your eyes
Rest your head close to my heart

Never to part, baby of mine

~ Baby of Mine, Dumbo(1941)

 

I mentioned a while back that i’m not good at self-soothing. It’s not a mystery why. A baby needs physical touch and affection in order to connect with the world outside of itself. Touch is also part of what teaches them they are individuals, once they begin to see themselves as separate from their primary caregiver.

What do we do with babies when they cry? We soothe them of course, primarily with touch. What might happen then, when a baby is assaulted? I’ll tell you what happened in my case — disconnection. My brain was unable to process what was happening, so it severed the connections between thought, emotion, and sensation. I had some traumatic experiences that made no sense without coming to terrible and devastating conclusions that i lacked any sophistication to reach. I was constantly in danger from the person i depended on to meet my most basic needs: water, food, shelter. I disconnected so often and for so long, that some of my thoughts, my emotions, and my sensations, began developing their own rudimentary personalities.

I made parts that were frozen and felt no pain. I made parts that ate the anger and kept it hidden. And i made parts that aligned themselves with my abusers; those that believed what was happening was normal, some that knew i was a bad girl and deserved punishment, and others that believed my mother was wonderful, and everything she did, by association. Then, when i got older, i began making parts to function in the world around me: parts that performed more normally for grandparents, playmates, teachers, caregivers, and always, parts for my ever-widening circle of abuse.

What happened when i had an unmet need, was my brain would provide a part that could cope. For instance, if i wasn’t being fed, i had a part my mother had taught to panhandle and shoplift for her, so i might use that part if i was alone in the house or could otherwise get away. When i was being abused there were any number of parts, depending on what type of abuse, and who was doling it out. Outside of the home and other abusers, i still felt a great deal of fear and anxiety. I was trying to fit in but i felt separate; i wanted love, acceptance, help… But it only ever came in rare, and small amounts.

Over time, my brain behaved like a well-oiled machine, and the end result was my feelings were never attended to in the way a child needs most — by soothing and care.

This has everything to do with my toilet-epiphany to which i referred in my last post.
I’ll expound on that in the next couple of days, but i’m ending this one here.
I’m trying to keep my posts a bit shorter for the time being, so that i might have the energy to write through what’s currently happening, to take the time and care i require to heal from recent days, and prepare for those to come.

Thank you for being here, it helps.
Take care the best you can, and i will, too.

Love and Peace to All,
~H~

Mind Your Pace

Let us explore it together. Each man hides a secret pain. It must be exposed and reckoned with. It must be dragged from the darkness and forced* into the light. Share your pain. Share your pain with me, and gain strength from the sharing.
~ Sybok, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

I figured out that i needed to be back in therapy.
Great. Go me.
There’s not as much sarcasm there as you might imagine. I’ve become conscious/present/mindful enough that i knew something was up before things got seriously problematic.

So I return to my therapist and I find out that i’m an onion, just like everybody else on the planet; I have layers. Whoopee. (Now that was sarcastic.) This is the next level, deeper healing, my body and my brain trying to get back to where it’s supposed to be. I’m cold, so i shiver, i’m hot so i sweat, i’m hungry i eat, i’m tired i sleep, i’m upset, so i soothe.
Except that last one i’m not so good at.

Anytime i’m upset, my system is ready to do its thing. Now, i’ve spent the last few years practising being the head of my inner household, and that’s involved taking the lead as well and as often as i can when i experience anger or fear. It wasn’t easy. Dissociating is something i’ve done since before i could speak, and it’s nearly as reflexive as breathing. I had to learn what triggered it (no problem there – EVERYTHING!) and identify symptoms that sliding was occurring or a switch likely to happen.
Mindfulness. Mindfulness has been absolutely necessary in this process.

For any who aren’t familiar, Google states that mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” It’s the least pop-psychology, airy-fairy explanation i’ve found. It’s simple and practical, which often works best for me. My imagination is already over 9000, so something uncomplicated and workable can temper my inner chaos quite nicely.
Learning to turn my awareness inward, and listen to what my body is trying to tell me that it needs is going to increase the degree to which i can function in the world.
I seek fulfillment. I want deeper and more meaningful relationships, with reciprocity. I hope to bring more and better to humanity’s table.

It’s been a bit tricky to find the calm and dispassionate observer inside myself, without switching to a disconnected part of me that i made long ago to perform that function. A desensitised transmogrification i have, because i lacked the ability to stay and do it myself, save under the most benign of circumstances. I could pause and take stock if something physical was going on for me, like a cold, or something gastrointestinal, and i wasn’t too bad at it when my children needed that from me, but beyond that, i don’t think i was in the face for that stuff. Even a small amount of stress and anxiety could mean distance, for me. I might become a numb outlier, frozen in the periphery, watching only, affecting nothing.

I started mindfulness with my therapist, here in my Little Crooked House. At first, i couldn’t even close my eyes, and she had to sit on the far side of the room from me. We began with easy observations, like whether i’m warm or cold, am i hungry, do i have a headache today, how’s my fibro pain… I could feel the calm flowing in just from an easy, surface check-in. I’ve always found these psychological exercises difficult – i can become snarky and eye-rollish. I feel extremely uncomfortable because my mother was into every new therapy that came around, and she expected me to perform for whatever group she was trying to fit into at the time. She wasn’t using these tools to deal with her issues and make a better life for us, she used the people in these groups for attention, for pity, for money. She also had a deep disdain for the practitioners of these various methods. I picked up that scorn and still struggle with it, every time my counsellor brings up something new.
Besides, it never did anything for my mother except make her more dangerous, so my reflex response is usually to cringe and call bullshit.

The breakthrough came in the shower. The bathroom is the most triggery room in the house for me, and i’ve had to fight to develop decent, regular hygiene. It’s not just a reminder of abuse, but also of its aftermath. And there are always mirrors, which are a delicate business. I always dissociate to some extent when i look in one. Touching my face, touching my body, toileting, all these daily activities that occur in the bathroom are minefields for me even when i’m doing well.

One day i’d had enough of feeling scared and repulsed every time i shower. I decided to use what i was learning in therapy. I felt the warm water on my skin. I felt my feet touching the bottom of the tub. I could smell soap. I looked at the shower curtain that i’d bought at the store because the colour calmed me. I reminded myself that i’m not a child anymore, and the people who hurt me in the bathroom are either dead or no longer in my life. My husband wouldn’t allow any of them to get near me. I’m big now and able to defend myself. I like being clean and smelling nice, because it makes me feel normal and capable and strong and grown up.

It worked. I can stay in the shower for longer than 10mins now. I can take hot showers if i want to, and talk myself through it if i get freaked out. I don’t even lock the door anymore. A few years of bathroom mindfulness later and i can stand naked in front of the mirror after showering and do my skincare regimen. I still recede a little to wash my face and do my makeup – but i don’t have to leave anymore and let someone else do it. I never thought i’d be able to use the bathroom like a regular person.

Mindfulness is an effective coping skill whenever i use it, but i still need lots of practise. I’ve brought it into my eating habits with great success. I ask myself if i’m hungry and check in with my body. If i don’t feel it physically, i try not to eat. (I will occasionally allow myself to soothe with food, but it’s rare.) I also try to eat at the table, especially when i’m alone, so i’m conscious of how much i’m eating. It’s also easier to catch myself if i’m gobbling it down. Then i remember that i’m no longer a child going through extreme poverty, nor am i being punished or rewarded with food. I’m a grown woman who has a full refrigerator and a stocked pantry. My mother’s dead and can never starve me again.

Social situations are where i still struggle to use mindfulness. It’s difficult to stop myself from shifting to automatic when i’m around people, but when i do the benefits are amazing and deeply impactful. Some friends actually ask if they can touch me now, and although i’ve come far enough along that i’m mostly okay with physical contact, being asked my permission heals broken parts of me on the deepest level. It gives my system a sense of safety they’ve never had, but desperately wanted. I’ve got a long ways to go, but peopling productively and successfully will require no less than my lifetime i reckon, so i’m reconciled to the work. I love people, and the better i get at being around them, the easier it will be to show them how much.

I brought up mindfulness because i believe it’s part of the reason i lost time on Thursday. The thing about it that’s perhaps the hardest part for me, is that it requires me not to be numb (freeze). I’ve got to find that sweet spot where i’m fully present in my body, but not being swept away by my emotions or overwhelmed by physical sensations, where fight/flight can kick in. I must venture out from the graveyard where my brain hides, and be manifest among the living. To not only see but to be seen.

This will take time and effort, which i knew, but there was a piece missing. My therapist had been gently trying to show me, week after week, but i kept missing her point.
I’ve done all this work over the years, all this incredibly hard work. And it took maximum effort and total commitment. It was arduous, but i did it assiduously. Some of it was nothing short of brutal. I can do time and effort.

So i came into this a little puffed up. I have accomplished a lot, and i figured that i was so experienced at this kind of inner work, that i was gonna power through it and just get it done. My childhood was hellish and i survived. I live with a bunch of other people in my brain and i make it work. I got this.
My body seeks homeostasis, so i must establish a baseline? Okay, lemme jus’ go back to my therapist for a few sessions, she’ll tell me what i have to do, i’ll do it – boom. Done.

I’m having trouble writing some transitional sentences to get you to the point i’m trying to make. I think my difficulty is a reflection of where i’m at with this bit of information. The knowledge that i can’t push or power through this next bit of treatment. This foul chunk of reality that i must chew and swallow if i want my dessert. It chased me right out of my own damn face.
I have to be mindful while i go through the traumatic events of my childhood. I must meet my Bits N’ Pieces where they’re at, join hands with them, and feel what they feel while knowing what i know. Mindfulness can’t be done quickly. Mindfulness is methodical. I can’t just take a quick dip in this slough. I can’t just burn rubber and rip through the neighbourhood.

Pardon me, but fuck, fuckety-fuck.

Back around 10yrs ago, i barfed up my story for my husband, and a few blog buddies. I shut that blog down tight shortly thereafter and i don’t discuss it with my husband unless i absolutely have to, which up until a few months ago, wasn’t very often. And one of my favourite things about my therapist, was that she never asked me to tell my story.

Well.
<insert Maximus Profanitatum here>

Everything inside me was created to hide the truth. I was hardwired never to speak about it, to denydenydeny. I dealt with that by mastering the way my brain works.
The leader of my pack.
The Wah-wah-wah teacher of my own Peanut Gallery.
I am Queen Face of Cuckoo Island.
But the first rule of Fight Club applies. (Yeah, i don’t care for the trope, but it was an excellent movie, and i saw it before i found my anger about it.)

I’ve become close with my system. With some i’m parental, with some i’m the boss, but i’m friends with them all, and i love every one: deeply, emphatically, and unconditionally. They’ve taught me how to love myself, because of course, they are me. Yet i loved them as a separate entity first. I looked at it like, they lived in my brain, but they weren’t a part or product of my brain. (Having mutant-level imagination made these concepts easy for me to grasp, but i think you’ll get the gist.) The time came where i’d learned enough about them and had enough conscious awareness as a multiple, that these partitions in my mind melted away, and i had a psychological experience of them as part of me and my brain.

That experience has made my life richer and finer by far, but the abuse is not discussed, per se. There are little bits that are trapped in a moment, and those that are not much more than emotion, but i gently care for them, and conversation about what or why they are hasn’t seemed necessary. Until now. And i understand why this process can’t be rushed and must be mindful. They are delicate creatures, and they’ve been through more than enough already. They need me to hold their hand while they tell their story, and so i will.

I know now why a good therapist had to let me walk away, knowing that i probably wasn’t done yet. Because it must all be my choice:

– how to live with how my brain works,
– how involved with other humans i want to be,
– how much real world function would i like to have,
– what is healing?
– what is successful?
– what is fulfilling/fulfilled?

And the most important thing of all is that it must be on my time. None of this can ever be forced* – not by her, not even by me. She said it a couple of weeks ago and it’s reverberated in my head ever since. She said that she would never, ever try to force us to do anything we didn’t want to do. She said that forcing is abuse, and we were forced, over and over, and that needs to not happen again.
This means that i have no idea how long this process will take, but it ain’t gonna be done anytime soon.

I love Star Trek, and i’ve seen all the movies (don’t even talk to me about the reboots, as they don’t count in my world). Since i accepted that i must move through this process slowly and meaningfully, i keep thinking about The Final Frontier. I see myself as Sybok, moving amongst these strange aliens and offering to share their pain.

It is through maudlin sentimentality, dark humour, and cheesy movies, that i will survive.

Stay tuned.

*It’s a great quote, and fits, except for his use of force. Sybok was a bit off, and he was wrong about god, so i think it still works for me. Heh.

Sleeping Women and Pockets Full of Tears

Work finally begins when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it badly.
~ Alain de Botton

Today was an exercise in doing what i know can work, if I can just bloody do it. My lack of proper sleep is making daily functioning progressively more difficult:

– I’m getting nervous and overwrought, and having trouble regulating the intensity of my emotions. I can zerotosixty in seconds, without being aware that my foot was on the pedal;

– My internal world commands more of my attention than i’d like, and more easily, too. Talk amongst the Peanut Gallery is leaking out, in public places, in front of other people. Someone will be looking at me quizzically, or ask me to repeat myself, when i had no idea i’d said anything;

– I don’t have the energy required to do all or even a lot of the things that help keep depression and mania at bay, like walking the dogs and keeping the house shipshape. I’m exhausted when i wake up, and each morning a bit more so.

I’m functioning at a bare minimum right now, and i worry how much worse it will get before it gets better.
I go back to basics, though. I know to cut back until things are manageable. If the house and i don’t stink, and my family gets fed and has clean clothes – it’s enough. One day i can spend some time with a friend. One day i can give myself a pedicure. One day i make a nice dessert to follow supper.

I’m trying to make writing as close to a must as i can, without making me hate it like i hate mopping floors or talking on the phone. You know, an unavoidable drudgery. I’ll tell you what though, this piece is like pulling teeth and i don’t like how it’s coming together (or not – it’s not coming together for me). I don’t want to post it, but i will.
I’m not here to blow you away with how great my writing skills are.
As you can clearly see by that last sentence, they are not great.
What i have to offer, indeed, what i very much want to blow you away with, as it were, is how alike we are, you and i.
How you struggle, and i struggle. How you feel alone in it and you worry that no one will understand. Maybe you’ve tried to share about your struggles and the responses were not what you’d hoped, wanted, or needed. Maybe, like me, you’ve bought the books and attended the seminars and planted your ass in so many fruitless chairs, spending money and energy that you could ill afford.
And they’re all telling you how to do the thing to arrive at the place.

And maybe you’re like me and you don’t know if that’s the thing you need or the place you want to go, but what you’ve got and where you’re at ain’t it -you fucking know that- so you listen and you try and you hope…

I appreciate, so much, that most of those working in the mental health field seem to truly want to help. Their enthusiasm and sincerity seem legit, and nearly every person/place/thing i went to for help had something i could take away with me and use, but it was never quite right. Not alltheway right anyway – a little bit right, here and there. Little treats and treasures that i secreted in my pockets as i edged out the door.

It all helped me to know myself better:
I like this. I don’t like that.
I want this. I don’t want that.
This speaks to me. This sounds like the teacher in the Peanuts cartoon.
I can work with this person. I’d rather chew someone else’s gum than work with this one.

Knowing myself, plus finding a professional i can work with, has been the basic recipe for my success so far.
I have no idea what will work for you, but after all the searching for help and answers that i’ve done over the decades, i think i have something to offer that may help someone (YOU?) to figure some things out – maybe get one step closer.

I offer a glimpse into how my brain works. What i think about what’s happened to me, what i think about my childhood and what i survived, and how i got through it. My thoughts about being bipolar, being multiple, and much more important than that – my thought processes as a person living with these particular challenges. I’ll share what i think about the people who hurt me and those who’ve helped – how i process their impact and how i package it all up and decide what shelf to keep it on.

I’m hoping you’ll see bits of yourself in me, not so that you can do what i did, but so you know that it can be done. I’m sharing my insides so you can see that i’m fucked up and flawed, and some of it was done to me, and some of it i did to myself. I’m probably more screwed up than you in some ways, and less than in others, but we’re both varying degrees of messy in various areas.
And i know full well that a lot of this mess ain’t mine, but if i don’t clean it up, no one will.

I think my brain is a hoarder of the highest order. It keeps everything – nothing is ever thrown out. NOT EVER. It’s all here, and it was piled from floor to ceiling. Some rooms were so full i couldn’t get into them. There was trash everywhere, but i couldn’t just shovel it all into a bin and have it hauled away, because there were precious, vital things strewn about in the clutter and disarray. My brain cannot be cured of its hoarding, and it cannot cope alone. I’m the homeowner and i couldn’t turf this beautiful, troubled creature out into the street. Instead i came and helped, as it agonised over every scrap of paper and broken bit of pottery. What to keep, what to toss, and what to give away. I brought in professional organisers as it allowed, and we went go through each room and put it to rights, starting at the front door and working our way to the basement, which desperately needed some repairs to the foundation. We’ve progressed to the attic, and it’s time get started, but we both hesitate. I’m tired and my brain is scared. That’s where it keeps the feelings.

Which brings me to yesterday morning.
Because it’s taken me a day and a half to write this blasted thing.
Between the dreaming, the lack of restful sleep, and the anticipation and trepidation of what’s coming in therapy, it’s a sign and a wonder that i can put pants on and string together an intelligible sentence.

So yeah, yesterday i had to take Kiddo to the doctor, and because i no longer drive, and i couldn’t find someone free to help us out, we had to hitch a ride into the city with my husband, and then we had to find something to do until he was done for the day and could drive us home. Which means there would be people and i must do the peopling.

I woke at 5, bone tired and in a sour mood. I tried to keep it to myself, but it was taxing, and my anxiety level was rising as the hour of his appointment approached.
A little higher getting my coat and boots on.
A little higher on the highway heading in.
A little higher entering the city limits.

By the time my husband drops us off at the doctor’s office, i’m stretched so tight my face hurts, and i’m inexplicably furious at him – so much so i walk into the building without a kiss, because i know i’m irrational and i’m pretty sure i’d bark at him if i got close enough. My son can see the strain and he’s quiet and gentle with me, checking himself in and then sitting down without talking like we usually would. He looks at his phone and gives me space until his name is called.

Hubby texts and i’m anxious and still a bit miffed, so i’m terse in my replies. He tolerates me because he knows what it’s about. I’m cranky, not abusive. Kiddo is done and i don’t want to leave, because then it’s the bus and people, and then the library and more people, and then lunch at some restaurant full of people. And i know they’re not looking at me, but sharing space with them makes me feel vulnerable and exposed. My switching tics have returned recently, and i’ve even started vocalising some of the chatter that goes on in my head. Little blurts of other voices. After years of effort spent trying to marshal my inner forces, to win the trust and respect of my battle-worn soldiers, they’re a bit excitable and i fear they may break ranks.

I’m texting with a friend, trying to remain calm, but not having much luck. I can feel myself slipping and tell my husband. My son wants to get food before we take the bus downtown, and i’m starting to twitch and i want to scream -actually fucking scream- and i start mixing up who i’m texting with and my friend sends a ???
My husband texts again and has arranged with his boss to take 2hrs off and get me home. Which you’d think would be great news and a relief and holyfrackisitever! so why is my body shuddering and my face getting all squinchy like i’m gonna goddamn cry?

I don’t cry. I get choked up sometimes, but i don’t cry. I can tear up over other people’s lifestuffs – i’m an empathetic person. And if i’m going to actually cry about something in my life, you’d better believe that happens by myself around 90% of the time – the other 10% is with my husband and i’ve likely been drinking…

My son wraps his arms around my shoulders and pulls me to him and says it’s okay, that everything is going to be all right. My face is wet and i’m getting snotty and i can feel my most trusted alter coming through to take care of things, because i’m crying in a public place and people are looking at me and this cannot continue, and i can’t stop it.

She helped me until i could come back. I don’t know what made it so that i could, probably just getting back home and taking some time, but things were okay, as we all knew they would be: my husband, my son, my friend on the phone, and i knew, and even most of my system. I know why i can’t sleep and why i’m dreaming so much, just like i know that i will get through this chunk of therapy and be a happier, more effective and functional human when it’s done. We’re going up to the attic, my brain and i, and we’re going to take those feelings out of their boxes, and we’re going to hold them until we know where they go.

I put my tears away until i got home, when i emptied all my pockets out on this page for you. Take care of yourself as best you can and i’ll do the same.

~H~

Image: Die Jungfrau (1913), Gustav Klimt

I Need People, Ain’t I Lucky

On the evening of November 8th, i pulled the plug on the news. My anxiety flew right off the charts and i knew i had to take a break. I’m a Canadian, so my country has very close ties with the US, and personally speaking, some of my favourite people in the world live there. But since it isn’t my country it wasn’t my decision to make, i can’t change what happened, and it would be grandiose of me to think i could. It is an unhealthy and unhelpful way of thinking that i’m taking great pains to keep out of my precious head.

So i shut ‘er down.
I’m an adept skimmer, so social media wouldn’t pose a problem (i did take a short break, even from FB), and other than that, i just stopped watching the news. No big. Sometimes avoidance can be very wise, and it most certainly was in this particular case. To refer to a well known prayer, i accepted the things i couldn’t change and got about the business of the things i could.

When i returned to social media my eyes easily rolled past certain key words, articles from known political sources, and obvious imagery (the colour orange was not part of my personal rainbow for a few weeks, lemme tell ya). I enjoyed kitties and puppies and children and those 1-minute videos for how to make delicious food that i really shouldn’t eat very often. A certain image though, began appearing often enough on my feed that it penetrated my consciousness, and one day while watching the news last week (i still PVR so i can skip past any news about the new American president) i saw the image again – turns out it’s a graphic for this big dealio they’re calling the Women’s March on Washington. It was a local piece and they said there would be a march in my city.

Then this thing happened. This thing that i’ve come to know as confirmation that all the work i’ve done on myself, the mental and emotional roots are strong and set deep, and my tree is bearing good fruit.

I suddenly knew i was gonna go.
I was gonna leave my Crooked Little House and i was gonna go people.
I was gonna go WOMEN, and i have grown to loveloveloooove womening.

As i’ve learned more about who i am and what i think about things, i’ve been able to embrace my sex more warmly and tightly than i ever thought possible. My initial and primary abuser was female, and that can confuse relationships with same sex people. The fact that i’m bisexual complicated things more. My sexual identity has been hard-won, but no more so than any of the rest of who i am.

Now i know why i couldn’t quite be a tomboy or a froo-froo girly girl. I was trying to fit somewhere so that i might be safe, but they were only disguises. I didn’t know that i had never seen myself naked, and the reason nothing fit quite right is because i never took the last outfit off, i just slipped on another one over top. (I hope that metaphor makes sense – in my mind it’s pretty spiffy. Heh.)

So i’ve gone from a definition of women born of a religious upbringing, where i learned we were weak and inferior to men, to an egalitarian one that sprang naturally from my freshly naked loins. (SPIFFY!) Now i see women as just people. I dig men, like, a LOT (i’m very committed to and in love with the one i married), but i seek women for deep connection. I genuinely and profoundly feel like, “Yes, i belong here. This feels good and right,” when i am among women.

So yeah, i knew i was gonna go, and i knew exactly with whom. I contacted her right away and sure enough, she was going, and Yes of course! i could come along. She is an incredibly special person to me, and one day i’ll tell you about her, but for now, just know that i am s-m-r-t SMART, and she was the perfect person to be by my side on my first foray back into the scary world of interacting with other humans on the physical plane.

We marched together and it was invigorating.
I spoke to other women and not only was it fine, i didn’t obsess over every word and action afterwards.
I participated (clapping, shouting, laughing, booing, etc.) and i didn’t feel fake or even floaty.* I was surrounded by over 3,000 other feminists of all genders, gender identities, personalities, worldviews, creeds, politics – binary and non, intersectionality everywhere.

And i remained myself. I didn’t try to fit in with any group, i didn’t alter my speech or physicality according to where i was or with whom, and i wasn’t paranoid, self-conscious, or even afraid. My Peanut Gallery was relatively quiet, and i didn’t have to fight to stay in the face (maintain control of my system, for those of you who haven’t read the post immediately preceding this one).

When i withdrew from people over a year ago, it was for the express purpose of figuring out how to be my genuine self and maintain control of the way my brain works while in social situations.
But i wondered if i could really get there.
I feared that i might never again leave the safety and sanctity of my Little Crooked House.
I seriously considered that i just might not be able to conquer all of my coping mechanisms, so deeply ingrained and reflexive are they. Well reader, i’m telling you that i got there.

I came, i saw, i conquered.
In other words, i left my house, i hung out with real live humans, and i peopled.
I AM FREAKING VICTORIOUS.

Love, Peace, and Power to the People,

~H~

*Floaty is how i describe the feeling i get sometimes when i’m overwhelmed and about to either slide or switch.