Watch Me

Yes, i’m in the weeds. Bipolar depression is the absolute shits. The thing is, though, i’ve been here before, and i basically know what to do. I have experience with what this is like. I’ve been experiencing active suicidal ideation, but don’t let that scare you too much. And while i haven’t had a plan for a long time, and the fact that i have one now is concerning, i’ve told the appropriate people and taken the proper steps. This is learning to live as well as i’m able with this wacky noggin of mine.

I’m done with that subject and on to something better.

**********

Audre Lorde said,

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

I am developing a vision of who i am and what i want. The first half of that has been coming along nicely for some years, but that last part has been tough to even imagine.

I needed the safety of my marriage and trust in my therapist before i could clear away enough of the wreckage of my past to see what was on the horizon. For most of my life i’ve been hypervigilant, functioning in survival mode. My brain was stuck in my childhood, and my body thought it was dead. It took years before i could think of anything i wanted to do beyond surviving. My desires only went as far as “not to be fucked up.”

At this point in my healing i finally do have dreams and plans for the future, but i have trouble bringing them to fruition. My first success came a couple of years ago. I decided that i was going to take the bus to the mountains, stay in a hotel by myself, and meet a couple i’ve been friends with online for years.

It was a big challenge. I’m so dissociative i have trouble with things like planning trips and setting itineraries. I’m easily distressed, and when that happens, my system can get activated and things can get FUBAR, fast. I also get lost very easily, which triggers such a high level of anxiety that i will run away from whatever and with whoever i’d made plans.

The trip was a resounding success. I was able to do everything i’d planned to do. The meeting was fulfilling and joyful, with a minimum of dissociation. I got lost in the airport looking for the shuttle desk where i was supposed to be picked up, which triggered me, but that was at the end of the trip. I could go home and care for my upset rather than having to hide it away inside myself until after i’d met my friends. That would’ve curdled my milk, you know?

I plan to go to my old home town for a week by myself to write. I think i can make it happen before the end of the year. For spring of next year, i’m going on a tropical vacation. I know where. And i’m hustling hard for enough money to do both, plus get myself a couple of things i’ve been after for some time. They’re expensive, but i’ll be working at it until i can get what i want.

To accomplish my goals, i’ve had to redefine and reshape my role in my marriage.

I made a mistake in my relationship, and it’s cost me, and probably him, too. When i fell apart so badly that i had to pull away from everyone except my husband, sons, and therapist, i may have given up too much. I surrendered all my responsibilities except cooking, cleaning, and basic mothering, and dumped the rest of it in my husband’s lap. I thought that was what i had to do, but now i wish i’d done it differently.

He paid all the bills and made all the decisions. I tried to keep myself and the house together and did the best i could to mother our kids, but beyond that, all responsibilities were his. I even stopped driving. I was so consumed with my own problems that i didn’t see that he had issues, too. He’s reliable and responsible but he’s not without flaws and limitations. There were areas i might have been more helpful and a better partner.

For instance, by the time i emerged from years-long, intensive therapy, i had no idea what our financial situation was. I didn’t know what bills he paid, how much they were, how much was in our bank account, or what our credit looked like. I had decided that i wasn’t good with money and didn’t know nuthin’ ’bout budgets or saving money. And that’s total bullshit.

When i’m manic i need someone else to handle the money — that’s just common sense. But at other times, i can be quite good to have around when it comes to spending, saving, and paying bills. Before i met my husband, i made a small inheritance last for five years while i stayed home and raised two kids. If i could do it again, i would have gone to school, but i was enmeshed in a religion that told me i had to stay home to be a good mom. I made it work by investing the money and paying myself a small monthly stipend, draining my inheritance as slowly as possible.

I bought used or gratefully accepted hand-me-downs and any charity i was offered. I clipped coupons. I didn’t splurge on anything. And i paid my bills on time. I’m not a materialistic person. I don’t care about labels or what the Joneses have. I’d grown up in such poverty that i felt like i was livin’ large in my little low-rent apartment where everyone who lived there was my friend. I cooked, cleaned, and entertained my kids on a shoestring, but it never felt like we went without.

I have emerged from years of uninvolvement to find us in what i consider to be an untenable situation financially. I’m not happy with our debt load or the handling of our finances. That’s on me as much as it is on my husband, and i own that. But i’m ready to shoulder more responsibility in our relationship… And i’m coming up against some attitude and push-back.

So i’ve had to do an end-run. I’m in my 50s, and i’m done waiting for some things. I have to bear the responsibility for some of how things currently are, and i am. However, i’m going to get what i want, with or without help. Without help is fine — i’m hustling, i’m working, i’m striving. And if i’ve gotta come up against someone who’s standing between me and what i want, it doesn’t matter who it is or how i feel about them; i’m gonna do what i’ve gotta do. I am living in the second half of my life, and time waits for no one.

I’ve been a certain type of way for most of my life. Apologetic. Walker on eggshells. Terrified of rejection. Trying to be who other people tell me i should be. NO MORE. I might still feel that way sometimes, but it will no longer keep me from pursuing my vision. And a vacation is only the beginning. It’s not just about STUFF i want; it’s about things i want to DO. Things that will make the world a better place for me having lived in it.

I’m going after what i want. I’m pushing for it, and all those messages i got from abusive caregivers and well-meaning societal robots aren’t going to stop me. And anyone who has trouble adjusting to this new me can step aside. I did all that other work so i could do this work — so i could do something useful and help others instead of only trying not to die.

I want to write to help people, but i think i can help in other ways, too. My vision isn’t fully fleshed out, but i know where i’m at, and i’m clear on my next few steps.

This depression is slowing me down, but it won’t stop me. I have smaller plans to accommodate my current mental state. Plans for August that are doable, goals that are reasonable and reachable.
Watch me.
Help me or get out of my way.

I want to apologise for my tone in this piece so badly. I’ve lost the battle a little to even be writing this part, i think. But it’s babysteps, and i’m doing pretty well, all things considered. Being strong and firm and matter-of-fact is new for me. It’s hard to write these things, harder still to say them, and hardest of all to speak them to a loved one.

I am though, and i’m going to keep on with it.
Watch me.
Help me or get out of my way.

Y’all take care of yourselves as best you can, and i’ll do the same.

Hang in there.

Love and Peace,
~H~

To Be a Real Girl

WARNING: This piece contains discussion of suicidal ideation and a description of an attempt. However, this is a positive piece and i am not currently suicidal, nor am i experiencing ideations.

**********

More on Tuesday’s therapy sesh with the lovely and talented Ms T.
I shared with her that i’d fallen so low that i was experiencing some serious suicidal ideation, and i was deeply disappointed in myself for it. I haven’t dealt with those thoughts and feelings in any serious way for a solid number of years. Sure, there had been some brief moments, sometimes intense, but i saw them for what they were as they were happening. They held no power over me. I could see that they were a direct response to something i was going through at the time, or something that had triggered me. I knew how to weather it, and that it would likely pass quickly. It always did.

This time the thoughts and feelings persisted. It’s been a shadow in my head casting a pall over my heart. I’ve been thinking that my loved ones would be better off without me. That i take up too much space and use up too much of their time and energy. I’ve been feeling unworthy of their love and support and concern. I see how much of our family business is in fact, my business. When i’m manic, or my system is in a panic, i stir everyone up. When i’m depressed and drowning in sadness and remembered pain, i clutch at them to save me, but it seems like i just pull them down with me.
I used to be angry about that – thinking it was because as the keeper of the home and hearth, i set the tone. I would think, Dammit! Stay out of my process, you make me feel guilty for being where i’m at – go be where YOU’RE at. This spot here is mine and these feelings are mine and just… Just stop copying me!
(That’s my Littles talking there; i’m not generally that immature. Heh.)

Now i see it differently. I see my responsibility in it –i did before, too– but it’s got a sour taste to it. Before, the conclusion i came to was that it was only natural, that as the carer and nurturer of the family unit, i would set the tone for the household. It made perfect sense that my other family members would feel low when i was down, would be brittle when i was anxious, warm and smiley when i was happy, snarky and snappish when i was angry. We love each other and we’re deeply connected. I’m the life-bringer, the nourishment provider, the space-maintainer. It is only the way it could be, considering the way our family is structured. That perspective felt right and good. But the way i see it now was working through me like slow poison.

I see how i’m hurting the people i love most and it’s dragging me down into an abyss. And i’m currently fighting a mania. One might think there is no darkness in mania, but oh, there can be for me. When i’ve gone dark during a mania i’ve displayed the riskiest behaviours, put myself in the most danger. I’m like a hurricane at night. It’s a terrible place, where some of my parts are swallowed whole, and the automatic death puppets in me come out and begin eating everything in sight.
I’m disappointed in myself, sad and low, and that empty pit inside has opened back up. I tell her i’m ashamed that i’m at this place again, after all these years and all this work.

I’m reminded first that shame is my body’s signal that i’m wanting connection with another human. And it is so, as i learned from her a few months ago, anytime i’ve felt shame i’ve been able to easily trace it to that desire. I’ve been able to ask for connection from safe people, like my husband and children, and a friend or 2, and shame has disappeared as the connection is responded to and made.
But then she casually says that she’s not at all surprised that i’m struggling afresh with suicidal thoughts and feelings. I don’t understand, but i am paying close attention. And then she says, “This work you’re doing – you are giving the same attention and care to your body as you have to your brain, and the split off bits of you that live there.”

I almost lean into the phone. Yes. Tick, tick, tick…

“How do you think your body felt when all those terrible things were being done to it?”

I can hear my own sharp intake of breath. Yessss. CLICK.

I wanted to die. I felt so covered in filth i wished i could stop existing. I wished it so hard in fact, that i created a Land of the Dead inside my own brain, where i went and hid for the majority of my upbringing. When the worst of the abuse was finally over, one of the first things i did was take an overdose of the medication i took for epilepsy. When my Daddy was finally out of my life, and my mother moved to a little town where no one knew i’d once been for sale, i had some relief for the first time i could remember. I poked my head out from my safe graveyard, and i simply could not deal with any of it. My first impulse was to match my outside with my inside. To be dead. I remember swallowing dozens of those little white pills. I see myself like an automaton, hand to mouth, zombielike. Dead, but breathing. I was completely numb. I couldn’t feel my hands or my legs or my face, or anything else. The air around me was foggy and filled with invisible bees.
And then i see myself putting the glass in the sink, and the bottle back in the cupboard, and going to my room to read.

My mother had suspected i wasn’t taking my meds and had counted them the night before. She counted them again, not long after i’d taken them. She yelled at me while taking me to emergency, where they pumped my stomach and then filled me full of ipecac, just to be sure. It was the nicest thing she ever did for me, besides dying.*

I’ve been listening to my body for months and months now. The intention is to hear its story through physical sensations, and through that mend the broken connections between my brain and my body. The end goal is to be alive. To live my life conscious: thinking my thoughts and being aware of them in the moment, feeling my emotions and experiencing my physical sensations in real time, as they happen. I’ve always taken them all and stuffed them away in a box, to take them out and look upon them from a distance, disenchanted and uninvolved, completely divorced from any kinship, any simpatico.

It has been through thinking my thoughts and listening to the people that live in my brain that i’ve been able to begin to take my place as the head of my system and gather them all closer to me. To function as a more cohesive unit and bring some calm, quiet, and success to my day-to-day life.
It is now through experiencing my physical sensations that i hope to rejoin my body to my brain, and finally become a real, living girl!**

My body has been communicating some awful things to me. I’m reliving my abuse in a physical way. The things i became a multiple to escape, i’ve now invited back in to tell their stories. My jaw aches, my girl parts hurt, my legs twitch with the need to run, and so much more. But there’s yet more than i’ve felt and here it is now, and i see/feel so clearly. It’s sharp, this knowledge i have suddenly, my hands gripping the phone so tight it’s a wonder i didn’t push a wrong button and lose her. It makes my heart twinge in sympathy for myself –that poor child i was– all alone and in unbearable pain mentally, emotionally, physically.
My body wanted to die.

I don’t want to die today! I know and trust in the love and support of my husband and my sons. I believe them when they look deeply into me and tell me they understand, they love me and it’s all right. Shh, it’s okay. You’re doing great, you’ve come so far, you’re so much better.
This is my body telling me its story.
And suddenly i am free of it. I’m lighter, but not the floatiness of dissociation. It’s a burden that i’m laying down. I’ve unwound another ream of the bandages that have mummified me. I am being reborn, coming alive. Breathing out death and breathing in life, LIFE!

I tell Ms T of the revelation inside that her words have brought me. We share the wonder and beauty of the moment and then it’s time to end the call for another 2wks. Before she hangs up (i’m old, we used to hang up our phones, okay?) she tells me how proud she is of how hard i’ve worked and all i’ve accomplished. She reminds me that not a lot of people who’ve been through things like i’ve been through ever make it this far.
Without excuse or qualification i tell her Thank you.

And then she says, “For this next 2wks i’d like you to celebrate, really celebrate, what you’ve been able to do and how awesome you are.”

I barely rolled my eyes.

May Love and Peace Be Yours In Some Measure Today,
~H~

*Sorry for the brutality of that statement, but it is a true one.

**I use the word “girl” without any cutesiness – i am not being coy. I may be in my 50s and technically a woman, but on the inside i’m a girl who is only now on the cusp of adulthood. It’s an accurate description, to my mind.