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.

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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.

X-Rays and Asian Supermarkets

There are opportunities even in the most difficult moments.
~ Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai.

Yesterday was an adventure, and since i’m trying to write through this tough period rather than after, i’mma tell you about it.

I have myriad health concerns, mental and physical. There’s both nature and nurture involved in them, which i suspect is true for many of us. For me, the primary physical issue has quickly become my back. I was morbidly obese for many years, which i’d guess is a large part of the problem, if not all, but at this point, i don’t know. What i do know is that after i lost most of the excess, i could hear my back making some noise, but i thought it was normal for someone of a more average weight. Over the last, say 6mos or so, the cracking and popping has become much more frequent, and in the last 6wks, downright painful. I saw my doctor, who ordered a series of x-rays. I went to my local hospital for them yesterday.

The preamble to my adventure is significant. I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to be around people as i delve into this deeper level of therapy. Listening to my body, learning to read its signals, does not come naturally to me. I survived the abuse i suffered in childhood by turning off physical sensations and hiding in my brain. As an adult i’ve continued this practise, mostly due to a combination of not being fully conscious that i’ve been living this way, and being regularly triggered by the sorts of events and occurrences that happen to us all.

Attempting to stay present, and by that i mean not dissociate, and check in to my body’s reactions to what is going on around me is scary AF, and takes a great deal of energy. Even going through the checkout at a grocery store can be difficult. I’m known at every store i frequent (there’s one where i’m not, but it’s too bloody expensive, and i probably know people who work there too, anyway), and so i’m going to have to make some kind of small talk.

NOTE: Look, i know i don’t technically have to say anything, but beyond that, yeah, i kinda do. These are decent, hardworking people, who have their own lives going on at home, too. They may be in the weeds as well, but i don’t know about it because they’re in customer service, and so they put on a nice smile and ask how i’m doing. They may not actually give a crap, but i wouldn’t know that either because they’re damn good at their job. I don’t want to pass through that till without a single word. Even if i just tell them the truth and say that life stinks right now, i’m going to have some kind of verbal interaction with them. They see me every week. They perform a service for me very well. They’ve been unfailingly nice to me, and so that’s that – conversation is gonna happen.

Now comes the case where it’s not necessary. Heh.

My favourite grocery store is in the city, which is some distance from where i live. It’s my favourite because it’s an Asian supermarket, and because i’m not required to act the same way as i am in my small town offerings. Many of the customers speak broken English at best, and i am Amazon-sized and don’t speak their language at all, so small talk simply doesn’t happen very often. The cashiers don’t speak to me except to say Thank you! when they hand me my receipt. It’s fucking glorious.

I had an opportunity to go on Sunday, and it had been a couple of months, so there were things i needed that i can only get there, like the seaweed snacks we like for a reasonable price, and roasted soybean flour, and yellow rock sugar, and 2X spicy chicken volcano ramen. My husband and son had business in the city, so they dropped me off first, that i might take my time there, as is my wont. I love looking at all the different food choices, and i love trying new things, and i lovelovelove that i don’t have to talk to anyone – they don’t even expect me to say Excuse me, or Sorry! (although i still do – i’m Canadian, okay?)
I thought it would be the perfect venue for peopling and being present in my body, because it’s the least stressful.
But i have never been there on a weekend. On the weekend i am not the only non-Asian in the store. With my friendly face (it’sacursejustkiddingimostlylikeit) and my cart full of items that say i can cook more than ramen and pre-made bao buns, i’m getting approached. A lot. When a woman actually taps. me. on. my. shoulder. i’m done.

My wa is shattered, i’m dissociating. I can feel my face going numb and the edges of my vision blurring. I help her, and then my shopping is over. I can’t even walk down any more aisles, i just hit the checkout line, pay and get out. It’s when i walk out of the store and into the general mall area that my numbness breaks enough to tell me that i can’t carry my purchases much further. My back is making grinding noises and i’ve got to go sit down. I find the food court area and sit with my back to a makeshift wall, behind which an Asian man is selling mobile subscriptions, and a crotchety old white dude is pontificating on how he gets his for 30 bucks cheaper and would prove it if he could find his Blasted bill that’s in here somewhere, dang it! I don’t think the salesman understands him very well, and the old man leaves, exasperated. It’s enough of a distraction that i’m able to chuckle to myself, which grounds me and i’m able to fill out my body a little better. I flow back into the empty spaces and i can feel my feet on the floor. I’m still feeling sketchy though – i can see other people glancing sideways at me, which lets me know i’m probably ticcing a fair bit. I text the hubs to come get me.

Once i’m home and ensconced for the night, i start worrying about how in the actual frickety-frack i’m gonna go get these x-rays at my local hospital where i know the receptionist and i’m bound to run into others as i go through the intake that’s stationed right at Emerg. I barely sleep.

<insertBLARGHhere>

In the morning, the plan is for my husband to drive me to the gas station where he gets fuel for himself (COFFEE!) and his vehicle, and i’ll walk the rest of the way to the hospital. It’s a fair distance, but i love to walk, and have been itching to get back at it since i broke my ankle last November. My back should be fine, as it only starts making crunchy noises when i bend over or swivel my hips a lot.

I’ve barely gone 100yds before sciatic nerve pain starts shooting down both legs. My tenuous hold on my brain breaks immediately. I love walking, and so do my Bits N’ Pieces. I’ve used it as the foundation of my physical fitness, and a healthy way to cope with depression. It’s taken some work, because as a child i was programmed to return “home” at the first sign of trouble, and when i switch, the first thing i’m likely to do is hit the road walkin’, but i’ve found a way to make it fun and therapeutic for my whole system. To lose the walking when i’ve been waiting and hoping for months is crushing, and i start to cry…

I open my eyes and i’m no longer outside. I’m sitting in my girlfriend’s living room, and i’m still crying. Well, how about that, eh? I’m an old hand at pretending i’m fine. I’ve come back to the face many times when no one has had any idea that i was even gone. I mean, most people don’t know i’m a multiple, so for them, they may notice i’m behaving a bit strangely, but probably not even that. People are incredibly self-focused (no judgment here) and have no idea what i’m doing or going through, and don’t much care. And the healthier i get, the more i appreciate the ignorance of others. I’ve gone from this incredibly broken and dysfunctional person, who desperately wanted someone to notice and HELP ME! to a relatively normally functioning woman who’s grateful to be unnoticed. That being said, this girlfriend is my closest girlfriend, and she knows me and has seen me both in and out of the face. She’s chased me across the city, around the town we live in, saved me from frostbite, and pulled me from ditches. She’s seen me when it’s been very clear that i am not myself.

And so i tell her it’s me, and she smiles and reassures me that everything’s okay; that i’m okay and she’s okay and fills me in on what i’ve missed. (She picked me up for x-rays and then brought me to her house afterwards.) I cry a little more and then breathe into it, i breathe myself back into those pockets that are empty when i’m not there. The places no one can feel but me – my existential guts and girl parts. I settle in and the ache of fibromyalgia fills my neck, shoulders, arms, hands, and the pain radiating from my lumbar region floods down my buttocks and legs, the kind of back pain that makes a woman feel like she’s menstruating. Ah yes, this is the body i live in, it is home, and i know this place. It’s a fixer-upper, but it’s got hella potential and the renovations are coming along nicely.

My friend takes me home after gently caring for me and making sure i’m all right. Once there i think over the events of the last couple of days and take stock: what happened, how i felt, how i reacted, what did i do right, what could have been done better. I can see that things went fairly well overall, but they could have gone more smoothly had i had clearer communication with my partner, so i text him at work and schedule a talk session. I used to just pounce on the poor man when he came home. I’d be thinking about things for hours and just vomit all my thoughts and feelings about whatever all over him as he’s barely in the door. Heh. I’m far more able to consider him and his thoughts and feelings now, so i give him a heads up.

He picks me up and we go for a short drive, to a place where we have a lovely private view and can talk without interruption. I shared and he responded and shared things too, and i felt heard and understood. Then we went out for a spicy chicken sandwich. Home was quiet and uneventful, and i was able to fall asleep relatively easily.

I woke up though, and it brings me to something i’ve been wanting to explore a little deeper. If all goes well, i’ll post again tomorrow. I know this is long, and a bit plodding, with not much in the way of grand observations and stunning conclusions. However, i think it’s some of the most important stuff i can post, in that it relates the day-to-days of a regular life, lived by a regular person. I have a brain that works in a non-typical fashion, as so many of us do. Life happens, and i try to figure out how to have the best outcomes and get the most enjoyment and happiness that i can, all while also trying to be as useful and good a human as i can manage. This is slogging through the trenches stuff, and i’m doing it. Although your brain may work differently and you may require different coping skills and tweaks, i believe you have a chance to figure your shit out and enjoy a better quality of life, too. I want that for you, very much.

Love and Peace to All,
~H~

Friendship

I’ve developed a close friendship for the first time in many years. The kind of friend i check in with most days and hang out with every week.
She’s seen me switched, and had to deal with some of my shenanigans. It’s horribly embarrassing to me, but it’s also been good. She hasn’t walked away, and she hasn’t hurt me. I’ve lost some treasured friendships to bipolar disorder and multiplicity, and the way i coped was by keeping people at arm’s length, and hermitting in my Little Crooked House. I reached out to her for more friendship because i thought the cavalcade of crazy was pretty much over. Blargh.
She’s handled it better than anyone has, ever. Having a friend who accepts me exactly as i am is great, and having a friend who doesn’t treat me any differently after she’s seen my particular brand of cuckoo has been relaxing and healing and freeing. I’ve experienced the silent reaction (pretending the conversation never happened), the bullshit reaction (you are lying, that isn’t real), and the sideshow freak reaction (wow, how many alters do you have, what are their names, can i talk to one, what happened to make you that way).* Her reaction is relatively new. It’s a bit meh, and it’s nice.

Friendship has been a loaded issue my whole life. I’ve wanted connection, but the first half of my life i was running blind, and after that i pulled myself out of the race.
I’ve always been able to draw people in, i can make friends quickly and easily when i’m settled inside. Where i have trouble is building something deep and hanging on long term.

For the years since i accepted my diagnosis and began working on how to live with multiplicity, i’ve shouldered the blame for all my failed relationships.
I’m not easy to get to know.
It’s hard to get close to me.
I can be unreliable.
I’ve disappeared for weeks, even months, with no contact.
I can be histrionic and chaotic.
I can be emotionally unavailable, cold even.
I can be so focused on my own stuff, that i’m clueless about anyone else’s problems.

That’s not so much the case anymore, but back when i had a number of dear friends, those descriptors fit me rather well. I needed to know myself better in order to be able to function more effectively, and i studied it all, good, bad, or indifferent. I looked under every rock i found. It’s a tricky bit of business, trying to find the balance between being understandably broken because of how i was raised, and taking responsibility for the wreckage of my life. I wasn’t much of a success at life, beyond surviving. Don’t misunderstand me though, this is a balance thing, as i stated. I don’t believe in miracles, but the fact that i lived through my childhood and managed not to be a shitty human is as close to one as i’ve ever seen. I’m amazing, and i know it. I should either be far less functional and barely living, or a high-functioning, horrible person. But i’m not. I’m a likable, lovable woman who’s getting a little bit more awesome every day.

What i’m talking about here is an appropriate, adult level of personal responsibility.
And when it came to all the people i’ve lost, i took all the blame. I truly thought it was mine.

Recently, my new close girlfriend told me she’d been reading my blog, and bluntly stated that i’m too hard on myself. A couple of days later, someone who doesn’t know me but reads my blog offered up some similar commentary. I immediately bristled with my friend, but i noticed that i did, and so i went home and thought about it. By the time i received the second comment, i was more receptive, and more still when an online friend who’s known me for 15+yrs shared some lovely thoughts she had about my last piece. She also implied that i’m a harsh critic of my own work.

I’ve been pondering this for a week or 2 now, and i think it’s a valid criticism. I’m too critical of myself. (There’s a joke in there somewhere, but my current headache won’t let me find it. Pfft.) This is difficult for me to accept, as it runs contrary to my upbringing. I was the family scapegoat. I was bad, i was wrong, and i screwed it all up. My every move was scrutinised, and regularly and soundly criticised. I never met my mother’s expectations, nothing i did was good enough. There is constant chatter in my head from my Peanut Gallery, and someone is always picking at me: how i look, how i talk, how i cook, how i clean, how i write, how i mother, wife, friend… They sound like my mom.

I want to deal with this inner critic issue, but i have enough on my plate already. I do counter the voices quite often when the subject is how i look.

System: You look ridiculous in that outfit.
Me: I feel pretty, so it’s staying on.

I realise now that i don’t deal with the other stuff, though. I’ll try countering those voices where and when i can, but i won’t be pushing too hard right now. However, i do want to do one thing, it’s been percolating in my brain since that day in the car with my friend.

It’s not all my fault that i’ve lost the friends i’ve lost. Some of them naturally faded away, but a few were toxic to me in one way or another. The truth is they were shitty to me, and did me a favour by leaving. I was taught loyalty is all, and crappy treatment is to be expected. I didn’t see the behaviours until they were long gone, nevertheless i still saw the blame as mine.

But they used me, and i just loved them the best way i knew how, and when they weren’t getting enough from me to tolerate how sick i was getting, they left. I desperately needed help, and they left.

So there, i said it. I have a bowling ball in my belly and i feel like puking, but it’s out there. I may have sucked, but they also sucked.

There is my bit of growth for the day.
I’m not the bad guy, i’m the good guy. I also think i might be a pretty decent friend. It’s their loss, and they can kiss my pale, fallen ass.
Heh.

*I don’t particularly have a problem with any of these reactions. If it’s too much or you just don’t have the spoons to deal with my stuff, that’s okay, we can pretend i never said anything. I’m not lying, it is real, but i don’t blame you for thinking it’s a load of crap. I thought the same thing for most of my life. It’s cool to be curious, too. Feel free to ask me anything you’d like, just be aware that i might choose not to answer; some things i don’t share.

Schmozzle

I usually write after the bad stuff has happened, but recently, i’ve been trying to write through it, to open myself up a bit more. I write for me, and for anyone reading this that might find benefit… The days following my last post were decent, i could feel myself settling in to what’s coming in therapy – going deeper and tuning in to the story my body wants to tell me about my childhood. I got back into some regular activities and regimens: housework, hygiene, communicating with family and even a couple of friends. Normalcy, and with it, some peace.

Unfortunately, my physical health has taken a nosedive. I’m in full fibro flareup, which is bad enough, but i’ve got some new issues as well and they’re sapping what little energy i have to cope. I’ve been handling it the way my therapist has encouraged me to, by tuning in to my body and listening to what it’s telling me: i’m hungry feed me, i’m aching rest me, i’m upset soothe me… It’s that last one that i struggle so hard with, though. I got through this last crisis and returned to my schedule, not pushing too hard, but doing my best. If i was too tired, i might skip my nighttime skincare, and i only brushed my teeth perfunctorily, rather than my full 2 minutes, because it was making me retch and triggering me. When sexual activity came up, my body went completely numb, and i heard and honoured the NO.

These are good things and i’m proud to be accomplishing them, but my physical issues are getting so big i’m having trouble hanging on to even this amount of progress. I arranged to see the doctors i need to, but i’ve a week left to wait, and i don’t know where i’m going to find what i need to hang on until then.

Last night i was short-tempered and weepy, and today i hit a wall. I’m panicking about the wait. I’m worried that i can’t hold my system together and function properly until i see my therapist and my doctors. My pain level is too high, and my compulsion to take off and walk is almost too strong to resist. I don’t want to do this anymore.

I’m trying to listen to my body, but i don’t know how. My body terrifies me, and today i’m not sure if i can bear what it wants to share with me. I’m feeling sorry for myself, i know, but goddamnit why do i have to have the mental AND the physical? Haven’t i been through enough?
I feel young and small and i’m stomping around in my head with balled up, chubby little fists, doing that pre-Kindergarten angry cry.
I feel angsty and awkward and my delicate, teenage heart cries crimson tears.
I feel emptiness gnawing inside, a yawning pit where i lay at the bottom and am slowly consumed by the ache of fear.
Any desire or inspiration i have to deal with all the brain stuff, is being steamrolled by all this motherchristing pain. It’s taken 3 1/2hrs to get this much bashed out, and my head is thumping so hard it feels like my skull might pop off.

There is something, though. Writing this has made me calmer. I had to settle down enough to gather together a few words that made sense. This isn’t dissociation either, which is what i’ve been trying to avoid. When things are this tumultuous in my thinking, and then the physical piles on, the temptation to hide in the insensate is strong. It beckons me with the safety of nothingness.

I want to stay present, so i practise mindfulness, which, lemme tell ya, ain’t a helluva lotta fun right now. There’s a whispering behind a door inside me, and it’s practically swelling in its frame with its desire to open for me. I can open that door, go through and disappear for a while. It’s not restful, because the rest of me is still conscious, and my Bits N’ Pieces use up more energy than i do. It’s not safe, because a number of them can, and ohmygod have, gotten me into some dangerous situations.

Behind that door lies nothing.

I step into a void where i stop existing, only to step back, more tired, and often with some kind of mess to clean up. Damaged relationships, sometimes property (although not for a loooong time), almost always my body. Then comes the shame and anxiety, which must be handled carefully. If i’m not careful i can push myself into another hard switch. If i don’t consciously deal with the feelings at all, a switch is likely. Switching is not what i want. I love my people and i’m grateful for their care and protection, but i’m ready, willing, and mostly able to take the reins and drive this wagon full time.

I suspect this is what the next few months are going to look like:

I can do this. It’s gonna be fine.

OMGWTFICANTDOTHETHINGBBQ!!!!

It’s okay. I can do the thing.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

**********

I held onto this over the weekend, because i wanted to make sure that posting it was what i wanted to do. I know it’s not much of anything, because i’m scattered, enough so that, i think, it’s obvious i’m not quite all here. I’ve lost my voice. Whatever it is that identifies my writing as mine has slipped a little. I’m unsettled; rudderless. I’m anxious AF.

I want to edit/rewrite/punchup the entire thing, but i think that’s the wrong way to go. Reading my other stuff and reading this, may give you some insight. This is rambly, it’s trying to say something, but it doesn’t get there. It lacks cohesion.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but i am also currently lacking cohesion.
I’m scattered, and not quite all here.

I know i’m going to get through this and be better when it’s done. I also know there will be times when i’ll doubt that and be afraid i’m going to fail. I know that sometimes the pain and fear will be so intense that i’ll want to stop.
I have learned from being in the weeds many times before, that it will be okay. I will be okay. I lived through the actual experiences, anything after that is at least bearable.

It’s like when i used to smoke marijuana and hashish. Over the years i became more and more paranoid, but i could always handle it, because i knew, based on experience, that the high would end, and the feelings of paranoia were drug-induced.

So, with that in mind i’m going to post this meandering piece of weirdness, because i think it helps illustrate how my brain works. I think it could be a bridge between moments of clarity. How do i get from panic to peace? My brain isn’t always full of pithy observations and poetic imagery. Heh. Sometimes it’s on the mouthbreather setting. I’m fumbling around in here, trying to find meaning, trying to find something solid to stand on…

I’m not having much luck folks, but i’m not overly concerned at this precise moment. I think that writing has been instrumental in getting me from where i was when i first began writing this around 60hrs ago, to here, just about to smack that “publish” button.

This is part of my process. I recognise this place; i’ve been here many times before.
I can do this.

Pithiness will follow.

Image: Convergence, Jackson Pollack

Naked Brain Bits

Yesterday was a bit of a downer, huh? I’m sorry about that, but i think, at least for now, it’s important to put up some of the pieces that come from other parts of my system.

Ugh, i hate how that looks on the screen, but there it is. To refer to them in a more specific way than to say i’m a multiple, exposes me and leaves me vulnerable to attack. Up until a couple of years ago, i kept my diagnosis to myself. Everyone knew i’m bipolar, and that felt like enough. It gave people a reason that i act the way i do, but it spared me the sideshow freaky part, and the potential for disbelief. It’s a controversial diagnosis out there in the real world, and it was hard enough for me to accept it, so while i don’t blame folks for having their “Really, Sybill?” moments, i can ill afford the emotional cost to help anyone else get there.

This is where the portrayal of multiples has done so much damage.
Also, Fuck you, Shyamalan. And a hearty Fuck you to Criminal Minds and aaaall the Law&Orders. Fuck you very much.

A quick aside here though: I think it’s worth it to point out that my diagnosis has been received much more easily by your average non-professional than by those working in the vast and boggy field of mental health care. My GP is the greatest doctor that ever GP’ed, i’d not trade her for a bucket of gold. Seriously. But i learned after the second or third time i brought it up, not to talk to her about it. She looked like she’d rather mop a slaughterhouse floor. Hell, her face looked like she WAS mopping one. And my psychiatrist who handled my Bipolar Disorder interrupted me to say, not a bit brusquely, that he didn’t know a thing about that, and had no intention or desire to educate himself in that area. My therapist who treats me has encountered that attitude with many psychologists and psychiatrists.
Real doctors don’t read that chapter of the DSM-V.

For regular folks it’s mostly been a mixture of “Okay, if you say so,” with a shrug, to, “Wow, really? That’s weird and kinda cool.”* Those ones usually come back later with questions, which is always fine with me. I may choose not to answer, and i definitely don’t perform, but i welcome questions.
I am very okay with anyone giving a shit.

Not so quick an aside, i guess. Heh.

Back to being naked. The figurative kind.
You don’t need to know this, but i’m telling you anyway: I’m always clothed, unless i’m showering or sexing. The simple and pure joy of nudity is another thing that sexual abuse stole from me, and it’s one of the things i’d like to take back.

This kind of vulnerability, this level of exposure, is scary for me. I’ve set the stage for it, by sharing all the things that i have already, and i fully consent, and i’m cleverly using soft candlelight, but i’m still baring some bits that i usually keep to myself. There are very few people that i discuss being multiple with in real life. My husband and my children. 2 lovely girlfriends in the town where i live. The interwebs are a bit different. Obviously, i have my blog here, and i share that, and i have a very dear group of friends that i met on a fan site over 15yrs ago, with whom i’m much more forthcoming about being multiple, but that’s been it. And i don’t go back and make an announcement that i was switched when i wrote that or someone else did that thing there. I’ll say, I’ve been in a mood today, or hint at it and say, I’m not quite myself today, or if it’s getting out of hand, i’ll just state that i’m taking a break from social media, ttyl.

This is a whole. nutha. level.
I’m saying that someone in my system bashed that out on my phone in the van yesterday. In my husband’s work van while he was in someone’s house, cleaning up from a renovation that his company did. He’d picked me up somewhere in the city because i’d switched and gotten lost, or gotten lost and switched (i’m not clear on that yet, and may never be).
Therapy is getting more difficult every time i go. My husband drops me off and quite often i have a friend that picks me up and takes me home. She’s wonderful, and i’m super-fortunate to have her in my life. Yesterday though, she had an appointment, so i’d planned to bus it to where she was at. It’s no small point of pride for me that I’ve become rather adept at using public transit. Getting lost has always been a huuuuge trigger, and for years i couldn’t handle the stress of buses or trains on my own. I’d immediately get all floaty in my brain, which is a sign that i’m sliding and i’m ripe for a switch. It’s like an aura before a migraine. I worked to conquer that trigger last year, and i’d been traipsing around the city with no problems for months, so it didn’t even occur to me that it might be a problem for me now.
Lemme tell ya, it was a bloody problem.
(I’m going to move on now, but as i’m proofreading and editing I can see that this reads unfinished. This is all i have, though. Therapy was hard, i left the office, and suddenly i’m in the van with my husband. We’re parked on our little country road, and i’m drinking an alcoholic beverage and crying. Sometimes, i’ll get a bit more information about the blank space as time passes, but i often won’t.)

I’m all in my feelings these days, and not always great at handling them. Cue my precious Bits N’ Pieces, with varying levels of happy-to-help! one level being not happy at all. I should have seen it coming with the trouble i was having using the transit app to plan my trip. It wasn’t going smoothly, and i was getting frustrated and foggy-brained even before my appointment. I’ll try not to make that mistake again. It was all there, down to the concerned look on my husband’s face as he dropped me off. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d seen trouble on the horizon.

Wow. I’m flitting about from flower to flower in this piece, eh? I think people with ADHD might relate to this part of how my brain works. When my system gets riled up there’s more and louder conversations going on, and my attention is pulled to THIS ONE! that used a trigger word, and THAT ONE! that’s yelling, and OH! someone’s crying…

So. That thing from yesterday that wasn’t poetry, but sure as hell wasn’t prose. I didn’t write that. I have no memory of it, although i am the one who put it up on my blog. Because she had something to say and she deserves to be heard.
Naked brain bits.
I haz them.

* People don’t actually say those things. I’m putting words to their expressions for illustrative purposes.

IMAGE: The Brain, by Naked Human Bodies

The Box

WARNING: If you are a multiple, this piece contains references to integration. Take care of yourself and your system. I also refer indirectly to childhood abuse, both physical and sexual. Think about it before proceeding. Talk to your p-doc or whomever is your mental health professional go-to.

**********

Paul Atreides:
What’s in the box?

Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam:
Pain.

~ Frank Herbert, Dune

The silence has been frightening. It’s still not quiet in my brain – it never is unless i’m sleeping or unconscious. What i mean is that certain people who live in my brain aren’t talking anymore. It took a while to identify what the problem was, but i knew something wasn’t right because i began having trouble sleeping and i was dreaming more than usual. At first, my whole system feared they were dead, and wondered if everyone was going to die. I couldn’t sleep at all without nightmares, and even booze provided little escape. (I sure tried for a few weeks, though. Blargh.) I was losing time and feeling that old pull to “go home”, which is a place that doesn’t exist, and would be dangerous for me if it did.

I had the sense to get back into therapy, where the first thing i learned was that they weren’t dead, that none of us were going to die – that it’s impossible for any of my precious Bits N’ Pieces to die. They’re resting, or hiding even, and that’s okay by me. I came to understand that, contrary to what i’d assumed when i walked away from therapy — all cocksure and pleased with myself — i wasn’t done. I learned that maybe my brain and my body are healing so well that i’m evolving to a higher level of function that i’d thought was possible for me. I am currently, carefully, gently, quietly, considering the possibility that a lot of my voices may go silent. That there may be room inside my skull for nothingness. The pulse of blood and the throb of tissue, and soft, warm, blankety silence wrapped around space, thick, with no echoes.
Some call it integration, but i prefer my therapist’s term: homeostasis.
The instinctual tendency of the body to seek a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements.
When i’m cold i shiver. When i’m hot i sweat.
I shattered into pieces to survive the unsurvivable. I broke things into pieces that i could not process in order to live. I kept things away from each other so i didn’t die or go insane. I had a mom who fed and clothed me and told me i was smart and pretty, and i kept her for me, and then i chipped off a chunk of myself and made her handle the woman who beat me, and another who went for rides with strangers, and another who cleaned up and made dinner, and another who spent weekends with daddies and uncles.

I’m Humpty Dumpty. And the King’s horses and his men, too.
I’m the pieces in a quest movie. You know how it goes, they finally get all the pieces together in the right order, and then a glowy light flows through it all and some magical, glorious shit happens?
You know, except for the glorious part. I’m not feeling glorious.
I do feel the shit part, though.

So yeah, Sunday. Sunday i wake, sleep deprived as fuck, grumpy and snarky and in full fibro flareup, with my psychic skin about as thin as a gnat’s wing. I try to keep it to myself, because i know what’s going on with me and why, and it’s certainly no one’s fault that i live with…
But people are annoying, and no one more so than family. And they are in my space, breathing and being flawed creatures. I’m trying and i know they are too, but something happens with someone and i blink right out of existence.

It’s not a slippery slide from one part of me to another. It’s not like when i recede into the background and watch someone else standing in front of me. It’s not like when i’m suddenly slapped in a jail cell and i’m watching myself on a tv screen and  can’t reach the dial to change the channel (i’m that old, okay?). It’s a hard switch, when i disappear in an instant, like i’ve ceased to exist.
And unfortunately, it was just as hard coming back.
Suddenly, i’m looking up at my husband, and he’s got this smile on his face that i’m very familiar with – it’s the one he uses on young parts of me, when they’re afraid.
I feel myself lurch, once, twice, 3 times. It’s like when you’re going to sleep and you feel like you’re falling and your body jerks you back awake. I’m on my ass on the dirty gravel shoulder of a snowy back road. Our van is behind him, and a friend of mine stands to his right. He’s talking and she’s talking, but i don’t understand for a while. My brain is sizzling with synapses, trying to figure out what is required of me in this moment:

– an apology? (almost certainly),
– an excuse? (i might throw a generic one to see if it hits the target),
– can i safely ask a question?

Sometimes it’s not safe to ask, because i’m not with safe people. My husband’s dealt with this hundreds of times, so i trot out the old familiar, “What did i do?”
It’s a cut-to-the-chase question. I can tell i’ve been gone for some time, and my system has been handling things, and we both have a lot of experience with this, so let’s start dealing with whatever has happened.

I’m in my pajamas, with a very thin housecoat (funny story: it’s a hospital gown from one of many visits), with my winter coat over top, and i’m wearing my husband’s work boots. I’m covered in dirt, and leaves, and there’s sticks in my hair.
I know i’ve been out for some time, because i’m cold in my bones and my skin feels numb. My clothes are soaked through on the ass end, and it would seem i’ve been hiding in a ditch. He says he’s been looking for me for hours, and she says i’d been texting but had stopped. Even with warm clean clothes, hot tea, and a raging fire, it takes hours and hours before i’m warm. I need to cry, but i can’t; parts of me fight it hard. I eat because my body is starving, hubby gets take-away because i’m not functional, and he asks if i like it and i say it’s good, but i can’t taste a thing.

I’m numb and yet everything hurts and my brain buzzes like it’s full of old tv snow… And i still can’t fucking sleep.

This is writing through the hard parts. I don’t usually write until after the rough stuff passes. I want to look back and analyse, it feels safer. It’s easier to do when the feelings have faded. Word paintings with muted washes of watercolours. Instead i have this jumble of splotches, like a wannabe Pollock that’s just a weird bore. Trying too hard to be something.

It’s okay, though. I’m not mad, or even disappointed. I don’t need to tie it all up in a pretty bow with some pithy observations and sign off with forced optimism.
I can be pithy later (betcher sweet bippy), and i know from experience that the sun’s gone shine, cuz that’s what the sun do.

This is a process, and it’s never been easy. There’s no need to think it’ll be any other way now. I can do hard, hell, getting here has been so close to impossible i can smell the devil’s breath and feel the heat on the back of my neck. If it’s gotta be ugly and painful, so be it. I’ve come too far now to stop. I should literally be dead, many times over. There ain’t nothing so scary that i can’t live through lookin’ at it.

I’m scared, but it’s not the fear of a child: nameless, faceless, squeezing all the breath out of me with icy claws. It’s a fear of the unknown, but one i believe i’m prepared to face, and before which i stand, resolute. Come what may. I’ve said it many times since i read it in junior high, when the young prince that spoke them, first grabbed my heart and spirited it away in adventure and joy and wonder:

Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

~Frank Herbert, Dune

I’m going to be putting my hand in the box very soon now. I think i’m as ready as i can be.

~H~
(Yes, this one is even more dramatic than usual – you’ve seen the name i go by, right?)