Dream Shifts

This post might only be for me, but i’m sharing it just in case. I’ll put it in a new category, labelled Dream Journal. It’s weird, but what’s new?

So, i guess i’m dream-journalling again:

Been struggling with insomnia, and when i can sleep, it’s either for 8, 10, 12hrs, which is uncharacteristic, or frustrated tossing about and cursing, punctuated by brief, unsatisfying dozes.

And always whatever sleep is filled with dreaming, and the days, with headaches. The headaches can be mild, like an ache in the base of my skull that spreads cloudy pain in a band around my forehead. An asteroid belt orbiting my brain. There are worse ones though, and they’ve been more frequent. The band tightens and makes my brain feel like it’s swelling inside my skull, there are screws of intensity at my temples. These days those are near-constant. I can feel my eyeballs, 2 hot stones that bounce around and make my sockets radiate ache.
Plus, my dreams are escalating.

After weeks of struggle, i’m thinking my dreams are telling me they have something to tell me. Maybe they’re trying to get my attention. Weird, not-my-usual sort of dreams have been happening. I’m remembering a lot more of them too, when for years, outside of maybe a dozen or so a year, they were like trying to grab wisps of smoke upon waking.

I spoke of my dreams just a few posts ago, in “Mindful Dreaming”, so this journal will only include mention of dreams or fragments of, that i’ve had since.

Dream #1:

– Husband and i are at the neighbours to pick up something i left the last time i was there. They are wealthy, hospitable people, and invite us to stay for a cool drink by their pool. Hubby obliges with the man of the house, poolside, and i proceed to the kitchen with the lady. She’s kind, petite, elegant, the epitome of gentility and graciousness. We speak as those who don’t know each other well, but like each other much. We bring a plate of snacks out to the men, whose number has grown to 3. I sit beside the one that’s mine, who’s got a 6-pack of beer at his feet, and is tucking into his second. Odd, because he rarely drinks, and when he does, it’s only a couple, enjoyed slowly.

I’m looking around at all the lovely things they have, so tastefully decorated and well-maintained. Then i’m talking to a few other women and we are no longer by the pool, we are in a gorgeous living room. It’s sunken, with deep pile white carpeting. There are banisters providing a broken border on 3 sides. One side provides entrance to a luxe dining area. There are tables laden with an incredible array of desserts, including what look like driftwood logs that have split open long ago and spilled their contents. But the logs are made of chocolate, and what spills out are dozens and dozens of the most delectable looking chocolates – a veritable chocolaterie. And there are exquisite tea cakes of every imagining, served on tiered plates made of fine china and gold. I make a note to GTF over there and get me some as soon as this person stops chattering at me.

One side of the room steps up and opens to a door leading to a hallway, which i know leads to other apartments like this one, although none of the rest have a pool, and this couple has the best apartment of all. (We don’t live there, we live in our own, much more humble home next door.) The door suddenly opens, and this guy comes in, looking like he just walked in from a retirement community in Florida. He’s very animated and blustery, and he emotes to the whole room about how he’s confessing that he’s the one who stole from Mister’s humidor. Further, he states that he’s not sorry, and proceeds to steal another box of cigars and runs back out, giggling gleefully. Mister laughs and says to the group of us, which has become more like a crowd, that he isn’t going to bother himself with that.
At which point, conversations and indulgences resume.

I then hear a voice coming from my right, and i cringe immediately because i know who it is. My mother is sitting in a chair above the sunken area, at one of the openings. I can’t remember exactly what she said, but i know it was bemoaning her life. I see she’s settling in to a speech: she sighs dramatically and stretches back. Her legs open, exposing her panties, and her gathered top comes undone, but she only pays it the barest attention. As she’s sighing deeply and fixing her soulful eyes on us, she makes a half-assed attempt to hold it up with her hand, but it falls open on one side, exposing her breast.
I said something like, This didn’t last long, and get up and head over to “handle” her. I’m burning with embarrassment.

Suddenly Missus gets my attention and hands me a beautiful piece of clothing. Taking it from her and turning it about in my hands i see it’s old fashioned type knickers, but the kind we wore in the 80s, that have a frilly sleeveless top attached. These aren’t ridiculous though, they’re perfectly stitched, frothy perfection. She tells me they’re a bit big for her and she thought that i might like them. I chuckle at her and say, A bit? and Thank you! Then she hands me a piece my own lingerie that i recognise immediately. I wondered aloud how the heck she found them, but that got lost as she handed me more lingerie, all in a rosegold satin pouch. I thought it contained one thing, but it was a complete matching outfit. Tasteful, well made, and obviously expensive. Then i saw there was another one, and another. Every time i finished looking at one, there would be another underneath it. They were all as exquisite and detailed as everything else, and i still remember many, incredibly minute details, which is odd for a dream, i think. I mark as of this writing, that while every outfit i saw was of a different colour: white, cream, gold and black, only one mostly white set, had any red, and that was merely a few stripes along with some black ones. There was nothing aggressively sexual – it was more like the wedding trousseau of a lady of some means.
I also mark that everything was a very average size, and i wasn’t worried about any of it fitting me, which has been the case for most of my life – whether asleep or awake.

I’m holding them up for the assemblage, and a beautiful woman who’s standing over a sofa filled with other ladies and talking animatedly with them, oohs and ahs, and comes for a closer look. It’s Reese Witherspoon, and she’s a dear friend of the lady of the house, and a minor one of mine.

I wake up.

Comments, Thoughts, Meanderings, Ponderings*:

– There is a quality in many of my dreams that particularly stands out in this one. I often have a tonne of backstory with both the people in interact with, and the places i go. I don’t know if it’s like that with other people, as i’ve never asked. In fact, i don’t think i’ve told anyone this before. There are long histories that are very clear and intricate, and well-known to me while dreaming, that mostly fade upon waking. Lately though, i’m starting to remember them, as i have here, although not quite as intense.

For instance, there are 2 trailer parks i’ve visited repeatedly: 1 is my own childhood home, but the other is an old, rundown, and vaguely sinister one with only a few, set far apart, with large, equally unkempt bits of land, where once were kept chickens, maybe rabbits, definitely sad, old dogs on chains in the hot sun. I’ve been there countless times, but never in my waking life.
Thankfully.
I don’t care to visit my childhood one at all, either.
Brains, huh?

– I think it’s obvious all the clothing is significant.

For one, the fact that i don’t fret about my size or the size of the clothes, which are obviously NOT plus-size, speaks volumes to me. It confirms that my image of myself IS changing. The last time i lost a lot of weight, i couldn’t see it. I still had what i now refer to as “fat eyes”. It’s like how i see other friends looking at pictures of themselves from years ago and saying God, i thought i was so fat back then, but i sure wish i was that weight now. Poor self-image, coupled with eating, food, and body/sex issues, made sure i basically couldn’t see myself realistically.
Screw lousy parents, and screw mean girls and bully boys, too.
Just sayin’.

For another, i think it’s significant that everything is tasteful and demure (as far as lingerie goes, heh) and beautifully made, and very expensive. Except the panties of mine that she found. They were more bold, say? Some might say bawdy. This lovely, sweet and elegant lady that everyone liked, was giving me something of hers, and then an incredibly generous gift of so much more. As i stated some time back in my piece about my husband’s and my relationship regarding intimacy (it wasn’t a big TMI, it was more vague references and euphemisms, also heh), we have stripped ourselves back to our beginnings, to figure out what we like/want, and don’t like/want; that includes as sexual beings. I won’t get too personal here, except to say i’m experiencing myself in a way expressed by those pretty, frilly, softly coloured, luxurious items.
I think it speaks both to who i am, and what i’m worth.

– Next, what about the barging in, rude dude?

About this, i have no clear inclination. I’ll have to marinate in all the questions i have for a bit. It’s like no one was put out by his loudness, or brashness, or confession, or his continued inappropriate behaviour. Well now, writing that out certainly gave me some ideas.
That’s why i’m doing this.
Is it me, and that no one minds my mental illness, my strange ways of behaving, my quirks and oddities?
I’m also reminded now that no one reacted to my mother at all.

– Let me tell you about my mother.

Just kidding. I’ve probably shared way too much for anyone’s level of comfortability or interest about my mother, but her appearance in this dream is significant, regardless.
It’s one of her rare appearances where she’s not the size she was when she died, around 500lbs. She was more of her size when i was 6 or 7, i’d guess around 170 or 180 (for 5’8″), which is not much over, in my opinion. She was younger and still had her looks. She was a pretty woman, before what was inside her began rotting her outsides.

She was removed from the rest of us.
She was above us.
She didn’t look at me or address me directly.

I was embarrassed, yes, but it wasn’t like in my childhood. The feeling i had was more like how one might feel when a sick relative who can’t help themselves does something. Like when i’ve been in full mania, walked up to random people, and asked them to score drugs for me. I wasn’t angry, either. She usually pisses me right off in my dreams of late – and i tell her so, which has been therapeutic as heck. But no, i was more resigned to the fact that my afternoon fun was over because i had to get her out of there and take care of her.
Weird.
Weirder still, but easier for me to ken, was the interference of the lady of the house.

Does the first mean that my rage and pain are finally dulling some? I mean, they have faded over years of therapy, but this new work i’m doing has brought the feelings back. It can feel fresh and intense at times. Am i letting go of things? Is my brain doing that, or my body, or both? And if it’s both, is it because i AM mending the connection between them? Something to ponder.

And further, who is the lady of the house?
That will require some time and more writing still, methinks.

Every single night
I endure the flight
Of little wings of white-flamed
Butterflies in my brain
… every single night’s alight with my brain
~ Fiona Apple, Every Single Night


*I’ve titled that as i did, because it’s what my therapist, the wonderful Ms T, asks me at the end of every session. Seems apropos.

 

 

Love Goggles

I think i’m having an epiphany.
Are you allowed to have those when you’re down a rabbit hole and swimming around in a bottle?

I don’t know, but my inclination is No. It’s not legitimate. You are in your cups and so you cannot trust any thought or feeling you have.

No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
~ Inigo Montoya

This has been the hardest year of my adult life. No, really. I went back to therapy, and BAM! my beloved Ms T tells me i’m looking for homeostasis, in other words, a return to what i was meant to be under ideal circumstances. The word some might use is integration, but for me it isn’t that. That word means an end to the split off parts of me that saved my life. They made a childhood full of torture, survivable. Yes, they make me (diagnosably) crazy and frustrated and put me in embarrassing situations and make messes i have to clean up. Yes, they drive me nuts (diagnosed). But they stepped in, when i was a child, and took unspeakable, excruciatingly painful, evil things so that i didn’t have to. I owe them a debt i can never fully repay. Yes, i know they are me. I don’t mean to sound arrogant or superior here, but in all my efforts to communicate my experiences, i’ve come to believe that no one can fully understand what it’s like to be a multiple unless you are one. (And thank you, for every bit that you do get, and/or at least extend yourself in the effort.)

Homeostasis means healthy, to me. My body and my mind working at peak capacity. So, my Bits N’ Pieces will still be a part of me, but no longer able to take over the face and cause difficulties. No more lost time. No more reflexive disappearing. I will still feel them and maybe even hear them in my brain, but they will just be for me. No one else will have to encounter them, or deal with them. I am not in danger anymore. I’m in a safe, good, healthy place. I want them to know and feel that, and i want to take good care of them, like my children (they are), for the rest of my life.

It’s a lot of work, and it’s constant. The choice to be present and feel my feelings, experience my physical sensations, and think my thoughts in real time, is all the time. It never ends. I’m always exhausted. I struggle with insomnia, but when i can sleep, i can sleep for 8,10,12hrs straight. I have to commit and recommit to what i’m doing every day, all day.

And then this pandemic hits.
It engages me on every level i’m working on. I’m trying to be a better, kinder, healthier human, and it challenges me at every point.
People not thinking what i think they should think.
People not doing what i think they should do.
Trying to escape from religious and tribalistic thinking confronts me at every turn.

A couple of posts ago i talked about seeing people through love-goggles. It’s been seeping into me ever since. As i do the work in front of me, i’m learning who i am as a person. Shucking off all the protective measures that are like reflex. This isn’t just about my system, it’s about every breath i’ve ever taken. I had to fight for my life from before i could walk or speak. This stuff is ingrained. It’s my skin. My armour is my skin, my breath, my heartbeat, my blood. Every minute of every day, for almost 2yrs now, i choose to let go. To trust. To believe. To aspire for better and actively work towards it. To see myself for who i am and acknowledge it to others.

And this pandemic, now. FFS.
It has neon-signed every issue i have. It has Sisyphused all my burdens. I’m in constant crisis.

I’ve found the blessing in it. I had to. I want to live, and more than that, i want as much quality of life as i can get. Yes, i dare it. I want more, and more, and better. And this is what i’ve learned from doing the work. There is more, and better, and i can have it.
But it requires great effort and intention.

So, the pandemic. Yes, it highlighted all my issues and exacerbated the stress i was already under. And i backslid into old ways of thinking and acting. I was angry –enraged, even– at everyone who wasn’t doing what i thought they should do. I lashed out, with provable justification, at everyone who wasn’t behaving correctly. And every time i did, i felt like a bag of shit. Then i’d chide myself, because i was clearly in the right, so i was doing/saying what people needed. I was being brave.
But i kept feeling awful about it. So awful.

But i’d written this piece about love-goggling, and i kept thinking about it. I kept thinking about my son who believes things that i know are dangerous and provably wrong. I kept thinking about my friends who are taking terrible risks that i would not take. I kept thinking about how, when my mental illness overtook me, how those friends were the ones that were there for me, in the flesh, to help me when i could not help myself.

I asked myself: Is my rage helping me, or anyone else?
Is the fact that i can prove my rage is justified making me feel any better?
Does my tsk-tsking and finger-shaking make me feel good?
The answers were No. No, and Only for a very short time.
And that is when my mind and heart turned to love-goggling.
How am i going to be in a good relationship with my son when he believes things that actively put his family and others in danger? Love goggles.
How am i going to live in a community that largely believes in and supports political viewpoints that i find abhorrent? Love goggles.
How am i going to engage with an online audience that seems consistently arrogant, cruel, judgmental, and tribalistic? Love goggles.

I may be a Pollyanna. I may be a Milquetoast.
Maybe.
But today i can live in my own skin and i can give a shit about everybody.
Every. single. body.
And that feels good and right to me.

The Drop

I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.
~ Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

After my dear Ms T (i talk about my therapist so much, let’s give her a name) checks in with my current state, she goes over how i was switched and hung up on her during our last phone session. She asks me who i thought it might be that swatted the Little who was talking to her away, and then yelled at her and hung up.
She doesn’t usually ask me who was in the face in my absence.

For one, i often have no idea, and for another, none of us are inclined to give their names. We do so exceedingly rarely, and it tends to be delivered with not a little hostility. Even when i’m talking with my husband, who knows them all, i’ll use their role/job, rather than their names. It makes something twist up inside me to use their proper names. Like guitar feedback – and not the cool Jesus-and-Mary-Chain kind. It’s more like when your 12yr old is jamming with his friends in your garage.

I tell her i don’t know.
She asks me if i’d be willing to share with her what popped into my head when she asked me. I told her, but no name, only her role. I won’t be sharing either here, but i will say she is the #1 in the system: most developed, most power, most functional… most like me.

What followed is a bit on the hazy side, which is what happens when Ms T hits on something close to someone in my system. What i mean is, i tend to stay on track with my therapy sessions unless someone else who lives in my brain is triggered. If that happens, i feel myself getting pulled back, and i know someone is trying to pass me along the way, to get in the face. It’s like in a scary movie when the woman finally realises it’s the person she’s with, that she’s trusted the most, that’s killing everyone. When the camera pulls back for a long and wide shot – who knows, maybe i’m even wearing the same expression of dawning horror. /jk

It’s one way to describe how it initially feels during all the levels of dissociation that occur for me, as a multiple. First, there’s the initial receding, and then the numb and floaty feeling that comes with basic dissociation. I’m in a dopey, dreamy state here. Then there’s what i call sliding, where i’m not quite switched, but parts of my system are in the face, and i’m watching what’s happening without being able to affect my own actions. It’s a little like being the new baby at a family gathering – i get tossed around a bit. A full switch is where i can feel a violent pull back. It’d be like if the ocean of space inside my brain where all of them manifest were a pregnant woman. I feel a hard tug, right where my baby’s joined to me. I can share this weird analogy because my first son shot out of me like a football. The doctors weren’t anticipating a first timer to be done in 4hrs, so they were on the other side of the room, talking.

My doc said, OMG, the baby’s head is crowning! and ran over to catch. She did, but the fact that the umbilical cord was wrapped around my son’s neck and shoulders might have helped. I felt a pull on the inside so hard and strange; i could almost hear the boi-yoi-YOING! sound. Like if we were joined by a bungee cord.
You’re welcome for that image.
I’m saying switching comes from the baby-feeding belly-tube of my momma-brain.
K, i’m done. RLY.
Heh.

Back to my hazy recollection of my therapist and i discussing who flicked the wee one away and took her place.
I’ve been working on cutting down on the amount of time between her questions and my answers. There’s pressure to keep my mouth shut from many directions, but i have enough power to push up against it harder than before, i think. Like the football player in training pushing that sled just a little further each time.
I have a leftover impression of pressing myself to speak the answer as soon as i have it.
I’m not a fan of speaking without thought. It’s been my personal experience (so, not necessarily yours) that that can lead to a lack of proper skepticism. I’ve also seen the practise used overwhelmingly by those to whom i’d never go for help/healing.
I’m referring to practitioners of pop psychology (subjective), and to the religious (objective), and i mean no offense.
This is just life as me, making the best choices i can based on who i am, my life experiences, and what i want.
Your mileage will vary.

Having some trouble getting to my point today.
There’s a bit of a kerfuffle going on in this old noggin since that session 4days ago.
I’ll stop writing cute analogies, and just write what i know. It’ll be choppy, without my typical smooth transitions.
You may snort here.

This part of my system we talked about is basically my Number One. She’s task-driven, intimidating, sarcastic, grouchy, gruff and take charge. She’s the most protective over me, and when pushed, her words are nothing short of caustic. As i’ve written about though, she and i have both retired our ninjamouth ways. Still, i would have described her as one tough customer.

And then Ms T asks if it’s occurred to me that she’s probably somewhere around 6yrs old.
I remember it feeling a bit like looking down at a glass floor when you’re standing in a tower. It felt like i was going to slide back further (fall), but i didn’t.
I looked down and i saw HER, and i saw that she is a child.
And then it was like a drop tower at an amusement park.
I saw that they are all children, regardless of the age they affect.
They were all born when i was very small; how could they be anything but? They’re reflections of whatever age they claim to be; merely a manifestation of what i thought a rebellious teenager or provocative twentysomething or kind uncle or hardworking mother would be like.

I’m the only real grownup who lives in my brain.
All of the rest of me are children.

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.

Happy Sunday,
~H~

In My Cups

I’ve been avoiding writing about this for years. Over the last year or so though, i’ve mentioned it in a somewhat ancillary fashion. I think i’ve been testing the waters. If i’m going to share how my brain works and how i pursue the life i want, while juggling my particular set of issues, however, i would be remiss if i didn’t address it. It would be a lie by omission, and i do try to avoid those, here on my blog.

My addictive nature, and how that’s manifested in my life in general, and in my journey through mental illness and being neuroatypical particularly.

<insertdeepsighhere>

This will be a rough one for me.
I was raised to keep things hidden.
It was modeled for me that one doesn’t acknowledge one’s flaws, let alone talk about them. If one did, then various religions were the answer.

What i have learned though, is that people know anyway. Despite our best efforts, if we hang around with people for either long enough, or at the right moments – they’ll figure it out. (Not the biggest reason i became a hermit, but not a small one, either.) They may not know exactly what it is, but they’ll smell it on us. Something not quite right. Something’s gone off, and it’s rotting away inside.

For addiction, i have both nature and nurture. My mother ate her way up so high there was no scale at the time to weigh her. We’ve figured out ways in our current society to do so, but we’ve had to, because so many are afflicted with the problem. When my mom was super-morbidly obese, she was the fattest person anyone had ever seen in real life, everywhere we went. She’d always held food over me as a reward, and withheld it from me as punishment, and also due to neglect.

So i learned to comfort myself with food. I used it to numb out pain. It was a drug that filled me with a false and fleeting happiness. After a long and checkered history, i’ve learned enough about myself and nutrition to have found a way to handle my food issues.
Oh, but i have addictive behaviours, plural, and my relationship with food, eating, weight, and body image are well-documented in this blog already.

Food wasn’t the only thing that was used to control me as a child.
When you want her to like you, you start out with ice cream and candy.
When you want her to relax and lie still, you use alcohol and pills.

Abusers used pills, i was on pills to control my epilepsy, and when i was diagnosed with fibromyalgia as an adult, more pills. That was when i began using the non-prescription codeine to help me cope with the constant pain. By the time i was diagnosed bipolar, i was going through a 250 count bottle of the stuff in less than a week. At one point, i was on 6 different medications at the same time to try and regulate me, and oh, did i mention that i’d started drinking?

For years drinking wasn’t a problem. Then i had weight loss surgery, lost over 300lbs, and slammed into my first full blown mania. The weight loss got me lots of sexual attention and a job in the entertainment industry. More social interactions with me as the centre of everything than i’d had to deal with since my school and church years in plays and vocal performances. I was dealing with no impulse control and sexual and social anxiety through the roof. I didn’t want to eat because i was thin and i loved the way people were treating me… I worked mostly in bars, so i drank.

Between booze and the male gaze, my mania became so severe i lost my job. Mania didn’t just amp me up, either. Between it, the weight loss, and problematic drinking, my DID became a cyclone. And then came the years of psych wards, detox facilities, recovery centres, an actual mental hospital, and LOTS of religion.

As i’ve written before, none of it worked. Eventually, as my husband desperately searched for help for me, he found the therapist i’ve been working with ever since. I long ago laid down the pill-popping, but unfortunately, the drinking behaviours remain. Not the partying all the time kind of drinking, which is good. But when i fall down the rabbit hole – i drink. And there are many parts of my system who will naturally gravitate towards alcohol, because it’s familiar. It wasn’t just that it was a part of our regular life.
It’s that it helped, you see.

It’s easier to slide and switch around with alcohol. It greases the wheels, so to speak. And when, in that first real mania, my system decided to properly introduce themselves to me AND return to full duty, so too, did they return to alcohol. I could go without drinking for long periods of time, but then i would switch, and find myself drunk when i was back in the face. Or viciously hungover.

Sometimes in therapy, we touch on something and i know i’m going to drink over it. If i (specifically speaking) didn’t get some, i knew the issue was enough for me to switch, and then they’d just go get it anyway. There were times when someone or something would trigger me HARD, and i knew what was coming. Life would do what life does, and often become too much for me, and i’d fall down the rabbit hole. Crawling out always involves detoxing from a binge. I had to figure out a way to get, and maintain, some kind of control.

My therapist doesn’t really deal with addiction or bipolar stuffs, even. She focuses on my system, and helping me learn how to listen, address my issues, and build the kind of life i want. Problematic use of drugs, alcohol, food, sex, etc. is, let’s say rampant, with multiples. She deals with cause, rather than effects. When i first started seeing her, she would come to my house, because i couldn’t leave it. I’d have a mickey of something stuffed beside me on the couch, because i’d have needed a couple of nips to even be able to let her in the door, and i knew that after she left i’d have a couple more.

The more work i’ve done in therapy the better it’s gotten. I even stopped therapy for a few years because i thought i was done. When i found out i wasn’t, old behaviours began kicking in, like, i can’t control the face as well as i was, and this body work makes everyone want a drink.
Everyone.

I knew i had to figure out a new way to handle things during this time. I’m not going back to square 1. I know i won’t either, because my problem solving skills are rather fantastic. One of the first things i did is i stopped hiding the problem. My husband and my kids already knew, so be honest. Why have this undercurrent of tenseness for my boys, where i act like it’s not happening and they act like they don’t know that it is? Why make my husband complicit in the lie? These things aren’t healthy and they erode the trust and poison the relationships that i have with them, that i’ve worked so freaking hard to build.

Removing the hiddenness immediately calmed my impulsivity. My sons both accepted the behaviour and said it was okay. They understood, and both relayed to me that they’ve seen nothing but improvements in the way i’ve lived my life since my brain fell apart.

Hm. Maybe there’s something here for me to learn.

I told my BFF, and since the beginning of our friendship (it’s a couple of years old, now), she’s been nothing but supportive. I’ve never lied to her, and as our friendship’s grown and trust has built, i’ve let her in like i have never, ever let a friend in before. I can call her up and say, “I’m either gonna have a drink or 2, or i’m hittin’ the highway,” and she will come babysit me until my husband gets home.* I don’t bother hiding from her, because i know i don’t need to.

I’m seeing a pattern here…

I’m down the rabbit hole, right now. At first, i got drunk and stayed that way for a few days. The therapy i’m doing, plus this pandemic situation the world is in, summarily tossed me down there by the seat of my pants.
Down you go H, no choice.
But my kids kept loving me and telling me it was okay.
And my husband did things that he knows will maintain my connection to him.

Ah. I know where this is going.

So this time, my Angries didn’t come out and get belligerent. My highly sexualised parts didn’t come forward and demand more and more booze, until i was blacked out and became a parade of damaged Bits N’ Pieces that are very low functioning and can be quite troublesome (to put it mildly). In fact, i was able to slow down and even sober up for my therapy the other day. I’d been fine for a few days.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
~Tao Te Ching

I was ready when i first met my therapist. She taught me a great many things and then i left, thinking i had moved on. It was not so. I simply wasn’t ready for the next lesson. I humbly returned when i realised the truth, and i’ve been learning ever since. These lessons are more painful than the previous ones, and yet, tired as i am, i see myself listening more readily and learning faster. Now it’s more like, When the student is ready, the lesson will come.

Two weeks ago i connected to my therapist in a way i’ve never connected to another human being ever. I shared grief and pain with her, not with words, but with sounds of suffering that i’ve kept buried deep, deep down inside me, at my most broken place. And i let her hold me through it – something i have never allowed before, in the dozen or more years we’ve been working together to help me.

CONNECTION. A mother’s love in her arms around me, in her voice as she soothed me, in her tears as she cried for me.

I strongly suspect that the other day on the phone with her, i learned my most important lesson yet. I told her that shame is my driving emotion. The one that controls me at every step. Every thought, every action is somewhat shame-driven. She responded that shame isn’t bad; shame is just an emotion, a feeling. She said it’s the body’s response to the human need for connection to another human.
I believe i was ready for this lesson.

Yesterday, i was chatting with my husband after supper, and it just came up out of me. I said, “I think shame is the reason i drink – the reason we all drink.** I think what i really want is to be connected to myself, to be alive so that i can truly connect to another person. To you, to our children, to my friends… ”

I was ashamed to want connection, too. The messages that i internalised as a child were that i was filthy and disgusting and not worthy.
But all the work i’ve done has been slowly taking down this deadly razor-wire that my mother and my upbringing built around me.
It’s going to take more work, but i’m going to listen to what shame is trying to tell me, and i’m going to keep disarming the landmines around me. I will be fully alive and interactive with other human beings. I will be living.

As for the booze, i don’t know. It’s just a symptom, as destructive as it can be, and i live with multiplicity, which means i cannot (at least as of yet) always control what i’m going to do. And that’s okay, today. Sometimes i drink to cope. But it’s nothing at all like it was, and i believe with my whole heart, that it’s possible that someday it won’t be a problem at all. Today i’m neither hungover, nor am i drunk. Tomorrow may be something different.

But i’ll handle it.

I have no wise pronouncements to make on addictive behaviours. I have no solutions save the one i’m working out for myself. I won’t be bashing any of the other ways to handle such issues, because i don’t find it helpful or productive. This is me, and my way only. I share for my own continued healing and growth, but also to maybe give others hope that they can find their own way, too.

Just hang on. It’s the place where i started all this, and it’s where i return as often as needed.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*For those who are new to my blog, i run when i’m stressed or triggered. We live on a farm, and i’ll hit the highway and hitchhike into the city, where i am in immediate danger due to switching. I haven’t hitchhiked in a few years now, but i’ll still angry walk for many kilometres, in any weather, and have been in fairly desperate need of rescue a few times, just due to that.

**We means me and all my parts. My system.

Cottage Cheese and Chocolate Granola

Yesterday’s blog post was about my therapy session a few hours before (over the phone), which ended up being about shame.
What my therapist said, was that feeling shame was my body’s response to the need for human connection. It rocked my world and i’ve been thinking about it off and on for the last day.
I was up at 5am, getting hubby’s breakfast and lunch made, when i asked him if he’d like some cottage cheese and toast. He said Sure, that’d be nice for a change!
So, i’m dishing it up and i see there isn’t as much left as i thought. I instantly felt shame for 2 reasons. One, because he was looking forward to it, but also because of last night.
I thought good therapy and being sober would equal a decent night’s sleep. Nope.
I barely slept a wink. I’ve dealt with insomnia and sleep issues my entire life. From childhood night terrors, to being unable to reach the restorative, D-level of sleep due to fibromyalgia, to all the chronic sleep issues that can come along with Bipolar Disorder and DID.I usually have good sleep hygiene, but i’ve let it slip a little as my daily allotment of spoons has dwindled. I tried the 4-7-8 yogic breathing. I tried a body check-in, with tensing and relaxing each muscle group. Nothing worked, so finally i got up, as my frustration and anxiety were too high to sleep at that point. I would have been restless, and might disturb my husband.When i went to play a game on my notebook i noticed i was hungry. I’m dealing with a new development in the way i handle stress. For the first time in my life i don’t eat to cope, in fact, i lose my appetite. Yesterday i didn’t eat much, and last night i had a very small meal with not much protein.
So of course, i had a small dish of cottage cheese.
I didn’t know how low we were because i did it by the moonlight coming in from the window.

The shame was intense.
As i mentioned it wasn’t just that he was expecting some, it was that i had eaten it.
Let’s start with how my mother used food as both punishment and reward. I was starved so regularly that i couldn’t stop myself from sneaking food if it was available – even knowing if i got caught i’d be dressed down verbally and beaten, and probably be starved again.
How about being the fat kid in every class from grade 2 to 12? (Yes, it’s possible to be overweight AND be starved and/or poorly nourished.) I won’t go into all the messages i internalised from that experience, but every one of them was shame-based.

It felt like an onslaught.
I didn’t respond immediately. It can be a gift of being dissociative that i often get some time to realise and process before i react. Also because i’ve done a metric eff tonne of therapy.
I problem solved and included a bowl of chocolate granola (a rare treat) to make up his calorie/protein needs.

I walked into the living room, where he was having his first coffee and watching the news. As soon as i saw his face i knew exactly what i needed.
I said, “Hey, i gave you some chocolate granola too, because there wasn’t as much cottage cheese left as i thought.”

Thumbs up.
“Cool!”

I walked back into the kitchen to pack his lunch, and it was obvious i felt different.
The shame was gone.
I felt intense shame because i needed to connect with my husband and know that it was okay that there was less cottage cheese. It wasn’t a big deal, his reaction told me so. I felt my connection to him. I felt him wanting to be connected to me. Shame says, My work is done here, i’m going home!

How’s that for instant results?
<insertgrinhere>

Love and Peace,
~H~

They Exist

Down on your knees
Begging us please
Praying that we don’t exist
~ We Exist, Arcade Fire

I’m not going to use proper paragraph structure here (i mean, as proper as i ever get, because i’m no English major), because i want to highlight the process.

Therapy sesh by phone today, of course. After checking each other’s health and ability to handle self-isolation (verdict: i’m a legit hermit, she’s currently the guru on the mountaintop), i opened with a request. I asked her to help me work through the possibility of putting this therapy on hold while my anxiety level is at Defcon4.

She answers that she is here for me, and to help me figure out how to have the life i want. She reiterates that she has no agenda, no opinion on what my life should look like. She’s told me this dozens of times before, but i need to hear it often, and it calms me like it always has.

I tell her i don’t think i have enough to handle both things; i was stretched too thin already. She asks me what is it about the therapy i’m doing at home that’s causing me to think about stopping for a while.
At first i say it’s because it’s too much to do both and i can’t stop a pandemic, so the therapy has got to go.
I go on to add that my level of function is very low, and my anxiety so high that i’m close to panic all the time.

She asks me how i’ve been caring for my body’s needs.
“When you ask your body what would help it feel safe, what’s the first thing that pops into your head?”

This always takes a minute. When consulting my system or my body, i always have to wade through the chatter, and consciously connect my brain to my physical body. My natural state is one of detachment from the body, which is not natural at all. I do a quick settling in: awareness of breathing, of where my body is touching other things, e.g. feet on floor, butt in chair, etc.

She gives me time for this, because she knows, and after about 3 I don’t knows, i get to,
“Well, i’ve been hiding in my room most mornings.”

She says, “Okay, good. Do that, then.”

I immediately come back with, “But i’m just lying in bed playing games and reading like a lump. Sometimes i’m here till noon.”

She tells me that’s okay. My instant and intense response tells me it’s not. I tell her how ashamed i am that i’m so low functioning and i don’t want to face my loved ones. I tell her even when i get up, i often stay in my pajamas and just watch telly and play games all day. Sometimes i can get supper on the table, sometimes i can shower, but there are days i can’t. Too many days for my liking.

She reminds me that healing from trauma is intensive and exhausting work. She says, “I know how hard this work is for you, because i know how badly you were hurt.”

“Can’t i just dissociate through this; just slide and switch until it’s over?”

“Of course you can. Is that what you want to do?”

“Well, no, but i’m tired of my life falling apart around me while i’m down the rabbit hole. AGAIN.”

I tell her i feel too heavy to move, and then quickly correct myself. I feel frozen, like i can’t move.
One of the ways i survived my childhood was the freeze response. My head separated from my body and i had no emotions (brain) and no sensations (body). It was like feigning death until the immediate threat was over.
My most common response to anything stressful these days is fleeing, but i still regularly experience what’s called tonic immobility. My body will shut down and i can’t move.

We go over what it is that i’m doing in therapy right now. I’m reconnecting my brain to my body. I’m learning to feel what i feel while knowing what i know. I’m turning my attention from my brain to my body, which carries (in some strange way i don’t exactly grasp) memories of the traumas i endured while my mother raised me. If i’m feeling sexually vulnerable or otherwise exposed, i put a pillow in my lap. When my throat aches and jaw feels broken i eat a popsicle. Sometimes i massage it with my fingers if i can handle touch.

While we’re discussing this, she brings up how difficult this work is for me to do, because i never received proper care. If i wasn’t being outright abused, any appearance of care from my abusers usually turned out to be selfishly driven and booby-trapped. Like a hug that turned into a fondle. I unraveled the lies they told me. Now i must dismantle… Dismantle what?**

I said, “I think i just wanted to stop the therapy because i’m ashamed that i’m such a mess. I think shame is my driving emotion.”

“H, shame is the body’s response to a lack of connection. It’s the body asking for connection. When we are connected to ourselves and to another, the body’s need has been heard and met and shame goes away.”

Yeah, go ahead and read it again. I asked her to repeat it a couple of times.

If i was connected to my body, and my body was hurt, i’d deal with the hurt myself, and get help from someone else if i needed it. I couldn’t as a child. There was no help. So i did what children do – disconnect and then blame themselves.
I’m a master of finding my fault in everything that goes wrong.
Heck, i’ll find fault and pick at myself when things go well.
In context this makes sense, but it’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

She asked me if i’d ever experienced connection that deep with another person, the last session when she held me as i made noises that sounded like pure agony being pulled from the centre of my personhood.

“Nope. Not ever.”

“Stay in bed until noon. Wear your jammies all day. Play games and watch funny things and tell the guys to make their own supper. Cover yourself with a blanket. Surround yourself with pillows. Cuddle your dog. Eat salad AND candy. Hide. Protect. Check in to your body and give it care and safety. Give your body back the dignity that was taken from it by listening and providing care. Then shame will just go away because its work is done.

Emotions are never wrong. They’re too primitive to be anything but what they are. Feelings have no agenda, no faults or flaws, no plans for the future, no thoughts or personal agency. They just are.”*

Wanna know how much shame governs my life?
I’m ashamed of being so filled with shame.
As of today, i’m not anymore. Oh, i still carry a boatload of shame, that’s gonna take more work yet, but now i think i understand why.
And it makes sense to me.
And i am not ashamed of that at all.

I’m going to keep plugging along. It’s good that i’ve dialed things back and i’m not doing much. This is what my body is asking for.
I’m exhausted beyond words, but i can continue.
Part of me was looking for a good excuse to stop this work, even for a couple of weeks.
Because as much as it’s good for me to do it, and the results are what i’m looking for…

It hurts like fuck and i feel like shit most of the time.
Shame is my body’s response to the unmet need for connection.
Shame will be on board for some time yet.
I’ve received the message, and i’ll listen and give care, and return my body’s dignity, until i don’t feel shame anymore.

I don’t want to dwell too much on the COVID-19 pandemic, but i have a brief story to share.

I have a dark and twisty sense of humour, and it’s an integral part of my personality. A cornerstone of my ability to survive, even. Lately though, i haven’t found any of the current jokes going around about the virus, or people’s fear, or self-isolation funny at all.

I don’t begrudge anyone their jokes, but they amped up my anxiety, and added to my sadness, pulling me into an empathetic state for which i simply lack the spoons.

Last night i joked to my husband, “I can’t lose my marbles. The last place on earth i’d want to be right now is a locked down institution.”

When i relayed this to my therapist, as evidence that i am still progressing and working through things (more for myself than her – she clearly knows), she laughed.

“I can’t go crazy cuz the last place i’d wanna be right now is the psych ward. That’s funny.”

Babystepping away over here, folks. Carrying a lot of feelings/emotions along with me, and they can all stay as long as they need.
They just are, after all. They exist. We exist.

But I’d lose my heart
If I turned away from you
Daddy don’t turn away
You know that I’m so scared
But will you watch us drown?
You know we’re going nowhere
We know we’re young
And no shit we’re confused
But will you watch us drown?
What are you so afraid to lose?

*This is my best recollection, not her exact words.

**Perhaps i’m done dismantling. Maybe only mantling remains?
Heh.

Waking From the Dream

The body cannot live without the mind.
~ Morpheus, The Matrix

I know it’s been a while, and i want to apologise, but i’m not going to.
I want to offer all my valid and compelling and sympathy-inducing reasons for not posting an entry in what i consider to be far too long, but the truth is somewhat perfunctory – although not intended to be dismissive or glib.

I couldn’t write.
I’ve had so little energy left over after dealing with this current therapy i’m in, that it would have been depleting myself unnecessarily. I’ve been working so frelling hard to stay present and hang on and feel my feelings and keep my house in some kind of order and maintain some kind of connection with the people i love that live in my house and not drink myself and starve myself into another hospital stay and take care of my Bits N’ Pieces.

Over the last few weeks i’ve been secretly and seriously concerned that i wouldn’t be able to do this work. And worse, in the back of my mind the thought was growing big enough to become belief, that i’m irretrievably busted up and irredeemable and impossibly histrionic and tiresome to all that know me. A terrible, sickening, sinking feeling that i will only ever be a burden to those who love me – and that everyone would be vastly better off if i weren’t here to suck the energy out of any space i occupy.

I’m under my own thrall.
I drank the Koolaid that i made.
I bought my own bullshit.
This work is silly and selfish and i should just get over it and move on, already.

And why would anyone except a sick and self-involved attention whore choose to feel this awful for such an extended period of time?
What about the people around me who need me, and who’ve invested time and energy and emotion to help me not be this fucked up?
MEMEMEMEME. It’s all, always about me.

All this work i’ve done over all these years and what has it got me?
I’ve whittled my circle down to a very few people, and i try their patience and commitment nearly daily. And i’m still white-knuckling and skin-of-my-teething it.
Instead of being a shining example of how therapy can make your life better, i fear what i’ve become is the poster child for Fuck it. Bury it. Don’t talk about it. Pretend it didn’t happen.
Just bloody get on with the business of living.

Except i’ve tried and i can’t. It’s as pointless to try to stop what’s happening as it was to try writing as recently as yesterday.

This is what i currently have to work with.
This is the pile of lima beans on my plate.
I eat it, or i’ll starve, and as crazy as it might sound after the preceding paragraphs filled with angst and vitriol…

I don’t want to die.
I remain unconvinced that my level of function as a regular human will ever even be considered average, but…
Whatever sort of life i can carve out for myself, i still really, REALLY want it.

No one seems comfortable leaving me unsupervised right now, and although i feel guilty about it, i think they’re right and i’m seriously grateful for the care.
A new thing i’ve learned to do over the last few months is call or text my therapist when things are particularly bad. I haven’t done that before (i don’t think – and if i have it’s been once in a blue moon). I think it was last year when i found out that her other clients contact her when they’re struggling or in trouble…
I was quite shocked. I was taught people like her are important, and i’m not, so unless she’s on the clock and i’m paying her for her time, it hadn’t occurred to me that i could have contact with her outside of the office.
I’m not supposed to bother people.
I mean, Who the fuck do you think you are, H? (If you guess that’s my mom’s voice, you get an internet cupcake.)

I’ve even -actually, truly, for realsies- asked my BFF to come over and hang out with me when i’m a wreck, i smell because it’s been days since i’ve showered, and my house isn’t doing much better.
This is a change on a very deep level, i think.
I wasn’t allowed to ask for help, because that would imply i needed help, and that would reflect poorly on my parents. I aligned myself with my abusers so well, that for most of my life it never occurred to me that i needed any. If there was a problem, it was my fault, whatever it was, and it was up to me to fix it. Over the years i’ve had friends and family help me out, but i didn’t ask, and i certainly didn’t feel worthy. I felt embarrassed and beholden.

I’ve called and texted my therapist when i’m switched and in a panic.
And she’s responded.
Like i fucking matter, or something.
“I see you, I know you, I understand you, your truest self is still intact. I am not leaving you or going away. You deserve all the patience, tolerance, and dignity… I know you don’t feel well. You can’t be okay, because you were hurt and these injuries are not your fault. It was sad and brutally scary… but this did not define you. These injuries need to be finally cared for and loved – regardless of what happened. They need love as all humans do! I will not leave you and you did nothing wrong.”

Yeah, you better believe she’s awesome.

The last time i saw her, i cried in a way i’ve never cried in my life. It’s very private and delicate for me right now, but i will say that these terrible sounds of anguish came out of me that i’ve rarely heard come out of any human, and certainly not myself. And she held me and she cried with me. She cried FOR me. She dried my tears and she held me and I LET HER.
She’s invested over 12yrs in this journey with me, and it’s the first time i’ve ever let her touch me, except in the most benign of ways. And i wasn’t afraid for 1 single second that she was going to hurt me or leave me – and i’m always afraid the people i let in will hurt me and leave me.

My body holds the memories of every beating and every rape. It holds the empty ache of unmet needs for healthy, loving touch.
Allowing myself to feel these things and stay present in the moment is, without question, the most terrifying and painful thing i’ve ever done.
I’m making progress, but it is slow and difficult, and i haven’t the words to describe to you how frightening.

I’m tired and raw and scared all. the. time.
I know i’m not the only one out there who has been through these things as a child. And i know i’m not the only one who endured them from the very people who should have loved me the most.
I know you’re there. I see you. Hang on, please. There is a piece of you, deep inside, that is still intact and it wants to fill you with its light and love. I don’t know what your path will be. I don’t know if you should or can do it the way i’m doing it, but what i am coming to believe is, that beautiful, perfect, immutable little part inside you, does know. Try to listen to that part, be kind to that part, let that part love you and tell you what it knows.

I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.
~ Morpheus, The Matrix

Love and Peace to You, Always,
~H~

Anger Is A Mythical Beast

It can be tough for me to figure out what’s going on, but it’s important that i do. If i feel a bit off, i make it a priority, because things can go for shit before i know it. As a multiple, i think it’s at least partly due to my propensity for compartmentalisation and dissociation. Being able to do those things can be helpful – in the right situation and to the proper degree, but first i want to become aware of when i’m doing it (or wanting to do it) and why. If left unchecked, it can and has wreaked havoc in my life.

These last months have been filled with this work. I’m doing my best to stay present in my body and be in control of the face.*

As i’ve said before (and will say again because it’s the biggest thing in my life right now), it is hard, exhausting work. I’m tired and on edge all the time. It’s draining every reserve, and i mete out my daily allotment of spoons with consideration and care.

I’m angry. Like, every shade of anger on the spectrum is lit up and vibrating inside me. I’m everything from mildly ticked, to mad as a wet hen, to fuck-it-i’m-nuking-the-world. It’s been swimming around for some time, occasionally breaking the surface for air like some emotional Ogopogo. I’ve been catching brief glimpses in my psychic peripherals, and the other day something happened where i caught a clear view of it in action.

I had an encounter with someone from my past who wasn’t kind to me, and i found myself glad they weren’t doing well. Gleeful, even.
I made a joke about it with a friend, but my guts were already churning.

**********

So, i’m sitting here in my husband’s van, waiting for my therapy appointment. My regular ride fell through, and i advertised on social media for some help but none came. Then hubby says, You’re not doing well, i have a slow day at work tomorrow, so come in with me and we’ll see what we can make happen.

It’s probably for the best. I have a hair trigger ATM. Everyone is annoying. I feel people like an intrusion. My longtime online buddies are an exception, but only barely. Everyone else, including the very dear man i married, are varying levels of irritating. I feel attacked, but no one’s attacking me.

After my episode of Schadenfreude, i was at a friend’s house. The experience was simmering inside me, and i was feeling worse and worse about it.
That’s not me, that’s not who i am.
That was so mean, and ugly, too.
I feel mean and ugly.
Am i mean and ugly?

The answer is easily No. It’s a normal human reaction i think, to be momentarily glad that someone who hurt you is having a bad time. And i was immediately offput by my own reaction. I processed it and was thinking i could let it go and move on, when a knock brought my friend some visitors. I opened the door for them and BAM!
I was in trouble.

I could see them, but from an unrealistic distance. I was sliding away, and whoever was in the face was staring at them with hot, marble eyes. I resented them immediately. I didn’t want them there. Why? They’ve done nothing to me. One of them was an innocent child. Fortunately, i still had enough presence of mind to wrest control away from the protector who was in the face, and mellow my voice and countenance. But i could feel myself slipping, and knew i had to get away.
I quickly grabbed all my shit and got out of there. I knew i was acting strangely, so i was out the door in seconds, with only the most perfunctory of goodbyes. It was the best i could do; i could feel the rage coming up. The kind of destructive anger that unleashes my tongue to flay everyone around me to ribbons.
My mother had an acid tongue and i learned well.
I can destroy with a look, and my words have wrought untold damage over the course of my life. I’ve cut down swathes of people and relationships over the years.
It was a petty, shallow sort of anger i was feeling inside, like a tantrum.
I got TF out before i could do any harm.

Since then i’ve kept mostly away from people. I need to process this with my therapist.
Why am i so freaking choked?!

**********

Hubby came back to the van for a quick snack, and we discussed getting me to my appointment. I was able to process a bit with him while he munched away on cheese strings and meat sticks
Am i angry because it’s better then being sad?
Maybe it’s because i’m afraid of the pain that yet lies before me.
It’s a vast, roiling sea. I may drown in it.
No, really. That is a possibility.
I’m fairly sure i’ll make it through, but i’ll likely go under a couple of times.

Maybe it’s preferable to just stand on the beach and shake my fists at the water.

I was sitting here, waiting for more words to type, thinking about what’s ahead of me. I was thinking of the pain, but then it occurred to me that i’m already moving through the pain. My body is manifesting the physical sensations of my childhood. The ones i blocked and otherwise dissociated from: countless rapes and endless beatings.
So that’s not it.

Now i think i have it – or a bit of it anyway.
It’s not the physical pain i’m terrified of. Like my therapist said, she could slap me across the face and i’d be able to handle it better than a hug.
No, it’s not that. It’s hard and it’s awful, but pain is the bully i’ve lived with my whole life – this process has just taken me deeper.

What about what comes after?
What’s underneath my ripped girl parts and swollen throat?
I know.
A different kind of pain.
Unmet needs.
Betrayal.

I’m going to feel the rejection and aloneness of my childhood. It was a bleak and terrible landscape where the sun cast no warmth and daytime was a lie.
I’m going to grieve, to mourn.

Gah, i don’t know what to do with this information. I’ve done so much work on myself that i’m getting to know who i genuinely am underneath all the coping mechanisms and fear. I’ve seen other people compartmentalise and put away potentially disabling life events and go on to live a relatively happy and successful life. I think that’s a viable way to handle things, and i know i could do it.
But that’s not who i am as a person. I want something else –not better than the one who locks it away forever– just different. More in alignment with my personality.
Me, i’m a person who’s gotta look at it. I want to know, and as much as i or anyone is able, to understand.

I was blocked from knowing by my upbringing. All i knew was what my abusers told me. It was all i believed. My obedience was so ingrained and unconscious that my intelligence may well have atrophied – my intellect very nearly starved to death. Once i began to wriggle free, there was no going back for me. Even a small taste of freedom whet my appetite for more. My mother’s bloody fingerprints are all over me, inside and out, shallow and deep. It’s not the way for everyone who survives trauma, but a thorough and intense forensic examination is my way.
Yes, i’m self-focused. Willfully so.
I submit that it has, and will continue to make me a better and more useful person.
No longer used, but useful. A human who contributes to the betterment of humankind, and the earth we inhabit.

**********

I’ve left my husband and walked to my appointment. He’ll be by to pick me up later. It was a lovely walk through a part of the city that’s interesting and pretty and well-known to me. It’s also wonderfully trigger-free. I’ve got my footing, a little. It helps. I can already feel my gaze softening and my body unclenching. I see better where i am and where i’m headed.
I’m going to check in with my pocket people, and devour a few more chapters of my current book.

Processing…

**********

Oh shit. Today was not what i expected. I have some plans for the weekend (i people sometimes now – on purpose!), but i’ll try to fit some writing in.
I wanna get it while it’s fresh.

Have as good a weekend as you can. If it’s crap or otherwise out of your control, hang in there.
Love and Peace,
~H~

*”In the face” and variations thereof, is the phrase i use to describe who is currently controlling me and my system.

I Twitch, I Tweak, I Try

I flit, i fleetly fly.

I don’t know how to accept kindness and care.
It may be the hardest thing i ever learn to do.
I’ve been so focused on other things that seemed so much bigger for so long, but this work of reconnecting my brain to my body, requires it. My body is sharing its memories as my brain did before. My brain needed me to listen, and i did. I separated memories from dreams, i sat quietly and heard the chatter, the tearful whispers and the bellows of rage from the people who live in my head. And i responded with words that assured them they had my attention. I reassured them, over and over, that i wanted to, and was capable of, setting everything to rights. I asked for some trust and some time to get it all sorted: them, me, our past, our future. To help even the quietest, the most wounded, the angriest, the most dangerous – all of them. Us. Me.

They gave me what i asked for, and i got pretty dang functional.
I thought i was done.
Now i know differently. I know because i couldn’t maintain that level of function. It eeked away from me, and i cut back on those things that i’d recently added to my life when it seemed i could handle it. The volunteering, the community work, the extra socialising… And then i noticed there were some familiar voices missing in my head. I couldn’t hear them and i couldn’t find them. Some of my Bits N’ Pieces wailed that they were dead. Old urges crept back in.

I got my ass back in therapy, and learned that i was not done, rather i was ready for the next phase of healing.
My body was asking me for the same attention that i’d given my brain.
My scattered, shattered brain had given me words, thoughts, pictures that helped me understand myself and my past better, and in return i gave those who dwelt there safety and stability.
Now my body wanted to give me sensations. It wanted me to turn my attention to its many deep wounds. It wanted to share information via physical feelings. And just like my brain, it wanted my help to put things right.
Homeostasis.
Which means i must psychically bind and stitch this battered body with kindness and care. I must provide gentleness and softness and soothe all these areas of my body that exist below my neck. These places that carry such pain, pain so terrible that my little girl body could not feel it and live. And i must stay present and aware and in the face while i do it. No floating, no fleeing, no freezing, no fighting, no dying. As i listened to the words spoken by my system, and was mentally slashed and stabbed with each proffered story filled with terror and hopelessness, so must i receive the body’s tangible communications.

Aching jaw, bruised throat, burning sex, and my muscles ache to my bones, which feel as if they’ve been ground against each other. I feel stiff and puffy, so much so i search my body for signs of the symptoms, but there are none.
Can this possibly be real, or is it the suggestibility from my childhood and my powerful imagination manifesting in my flesh? I truly don’t know. What i do know is that after decades of searching, the therapist who’s (overwhelmingly – like, no contest) helped me the most suggested ways to address the tumult in my head, and they seemed to help. Usually, a lot. Given that, i’m going to entertain her recommendations. If they don’t work, i know she’ll help me find some other way.
But i don’t think it’ll come to that. Even rolling my eyes so hard i get a headache, and only grudgingly doing the work brings about immediate relief.
It may be that i stumbled across someone whose particular brand of crazy merely jibes with my own. Whatever. Based on results, i’m going to keep working with her.

I don’t doubt that i might have achieved this much self-awareness and functionality without her, but i do think it less likely that someone could reach me in the place where i’m the most broken and twisted. She’s invested years of patience, literally meeting me where i was at (my home, because i so often couldn’t leave it), and letting me set the pace (interminable). She dug deep into her education, training, and experience, to communicate to me in language i could understand. Gentle, slow, flexible, slow, kind and with much care, and ever so slow. With no agenda, no plan for me, no measure of success save my own.

Her cure for my traumatised brain was thought.
Her cure for my traumatised body is touch. Safe, care-full touch. Mothering. Nurturing.
Not some weirdo EST encounter type touch. Not some self-help Omega type cradling bullcrap.*
If i want to run, she has me pump my legs to discharge the energy. If my genitals start to numb out, she has me place a pillow firmly in my lap, thereby providing a protective barrier. If my jaw aches i can gently cup it in my hands, and rub it with my thumbs. If my anxiety is a piano on my chest playing cold music on keys made of ice, a weighted blanket is a warm hug when i can’t bear to be touched by a person – even myself. Yes, i can’t even wrap my own arms around me.**

I don’t know how to accept kindness and care.
I was born to be a fountain of unconditional love for my mother, to be a receptacle for her rage, to be a slave to her needs, and to worship her as my god.
She was miserly and capricious with her affection, and i received it all as a blessing bestowed upon me for which i was not worthy.
She mercifully raised me and graciously stooped to love me.
She let me know every day, in ways both overt and insidious, that i was bad, incorrigible, weak, irredeemable.
I was her faithful and penitent acolyte, mortifying myself to gain her forgiveness for my sinful mind and filthy heart.

Intellectually, i’ve rejected her and her parenting.
I’ve dealt with the thoughts and beliefs she planted in my head. Being a parent helped me a great deal. I could ask myself if i would say the things she said to me to my own children, teach the things she taught to mine – i could connect to the answers because i was connected to my children in a way i’d never been to anyone else.
I’ve watched the traumatic events of my childhood like a movie, like a dream that isn’t a dream, and i can see that i was an innocent, a naif. I see that she was sick, and profoundly immoral. I would destroy the world rather than allow that to be done to my children. I would destroy myself at the merest inkling of such terrible urges inside me.

Yet i’ve struggled to be soft and gentle and kind to the person i see in the mirror, at any given moment/day/year of my life. The programming began at birth. The grooming, the preparation for what was to come, the job training. It’s all down so deep, it’s so entrenched, i don’t know if i can dig it all out. I don’t think i’ve gotten to the root yet.
If i replay a memory of past abuse and i watch it dispassionately, in a dissociated state, i can look at that little girl and feel rage and pity and sadness. But when i try to connect with the little girl that lives inside me that was present for that abuse, i can’t. I’m filled with disgust and revulsion. Yes, and worse, a thinly veiled anger. At a sweet and beautiful little girl who endured harm, for me. At a terrified, innocent child who just wanted food and drink, shelter, protection, and love.

I can feel for her, until the moment that connection is made and she is me. Then i recoil in antipathy. I put her away in the farthest reaches of my brain, in a nursery/day room area with all the other littles – the ones most in need of the person and mother that i am today. I keep them from me because they make me feel filthy and disgusting and bad.
I know the truth and have an appropriate response for anyone else. And i know it intellectually for myself. But when i’m fully present and in the face, i cannot seem to extend myself TO myself. Not in grace, or mercy, or gentleness.
I love myself and my system.
But i can’t seem to sit with myself in a soft, quiet space, and be kind, comforting, soothing, nurturing. I can’t provide gentle, motherly care.

This place i’m going, it’s the place where i had to align myself with my abuser or i would die. I had to believe what she told me. I had to be who she said i was. It’s down so deep, it’s back at the beginning. It’s at the start of everything. I’m going to try to get down there, and i’m going to try to dig it out of me. But i’m truly afraid it will kill me. Not intellectually, although i do believe this has the potential to mess me up enough that i require psychiatric care. I’m afraid in my body. My chest and my guts are heavy with dread. My limbs are numb and my girl parts are ice. I’m filled with foreboding, with a sense of doom.

I think this body work i’m doing is both the key to my success, and my biggest stumbling block. Touch is difficult for me. I get anxious about it and have trouble with boundaries, but i’m working it out. The hardest touch to take is my own. It twists me up inside, and i don’t think i see the whole picture yet, as to why that is. I get so freaked out by my own touch that i often dissociate while doing my skincare or makeup, and i’m a numbed-out robot in the shower. Years after my personal hygiene had drastically improved, i still wasn’t pleased with my feminine smell. I’d change my underwear multiple times a day, but i still seemed somewhat unwashed to myself. It took more therapy to understand, and then one day in the shower i realised i barely paid any attention to that area, including wiping my labia and vulva dry after urinating. The slight, lingering odour disappeared immediately. I can’t hug myself when i’m cold, either. I just squinch myself up as tight as i can, but wrapping my arms around myself makes me feel creepy.

I have to conquer this issue to continue reconnecting my mind with my body, and i want to. Doing the work elicits the most skin-crawly feelings i’ve had outside of sexual abuse. Today, as i’m typing this, i wonder if it’s not a defense mechanism. A lot of living things keep unwanted touch away by provoking disgust.
Hm. Something to ponder.
I will push through it, as i have with everything else. I will feel it, i will learn what it has to teach me, and then on to the next.
I’m not sure what sort of shape i’ll be in when it’s done, but i’ll handle that, too.

I’ll use whatever tool that works, to keep me upright and moving towards the person i am/want to be, living the life i’ve envisioned. Today i’m doing it because
THAT BITCH DOESN’T WIN
Maybe one day soon, i’ll be motivated to continue because i’m holding all my littles close and they need me.

To feel good about myself, to my very marrow… Now that’s worth ALL the squick.

Love and Peace To All,
~H~

*For those new to my story, i have issues with psychology (especially of the “pop” variety), and mental health care professionals. My mother jumped on every bandwagon they rode into town, and used it all to become a more efficient and successful manipulator/abuser.

**It might seem contradictory that i can’t touch my face, but i can. It’s levels of dissociation, and they’re dependent on how deep the trigger goes, and how many spoons i have to cope that day. Anything involving my hands on myself, especially around my face, is particularly difficult. Many times i don’t have what it takes to soothe my jaw, or my burning eyes in their aching sockets, or my stiff neck.

Seriously

WARNING: References to suicidal thoughts.

**********

Love and boundaries. FML.

I was raised to have none.
All the better to enslave you, traffic you, and just generally abuse you, my dear.
~ My mother the wolf

Whatever people wanted to do to me, i generally let them. Sex stuff was strictly controlled by my system, which saved me from sexual abuse by peers, but adults could get away with anything, and school-aged kids could humiliate and torture me at will. I did nothing. I never fought back. I would try to avoid, to stay away, but once some bully had me cornered, they could say or do whatever they wanted, as long as sex wasn’t involved. Somewhat strange, is that i was never beaten up physically at school, or after, although i was often followed and threatened and hurt by harsh words. I think my size (Amazon) was intimidating.

Over the years i’ve learned to stand up for myself. Despite the years of screaming and yelling that came from other parts of me, i myself am not violent. When my system was basically unleashed on the world around me due to a severe bipolar mania, i broke a lot of shit. Dishes, glasses, i kicked holes in doors and slammed them off their hinges. I threw things at walls, and one time i threw a chair through a front window. And even worse, there were times during this first, years-long bout of madness, where my people would confuse my partner for a past abuser. I couldn’t control them, and he didn’t know how to handle me switched, so there were times when he pushed for communication too hard, got in too close, and they would scratch and bite at him, and even pull out his hair.
I’m fortunate he stuck with me through that.
He would have been well within his rights to have me arrested and charged.
He saw me as sick and forgave my physical acting out.

It wasn’t long after i was first in therapy with the person i’m working with again now, that i was able to regain control of myself enough to stop the violence. It’s been a decade since i fought him off like a wet cat, and at least a half dozen since i’ve broken or otherwise destroyed anything (although i can still occasionally slam the shit out of a door).

The world’s current system of criminal justice, levied against my childhood abusers would have been nice. I’m in my 50s now though, and my primary abuser is long dead, some of the others that i have names for are either dead or dying, and there were many whose names i cannot recall, if i ever knew them in the first place. I’ve never thought about revenge towards them. Not even my mother. Oh, i’ve reimagined what i might say to her as she lay dying in her hospital bed, only days from the coma that would cradle her to her death.

I had my girlfriend drive me when i went to visit her. I’ve always been a crappy driver.* I’ve got too much going on in my brain to pay proper attention i think, and even back then i knew i was too emotional to get behind the wheel and not have an accident. This time i asked her to take me to see my mom because i’d made her a cassette with music on it (yes, i’m mix-tape years old) and wanted to talk to her. The song list was gross. It bore witness to me years later of how sick and twisted my relationship with her was, as it was filled with love songs, e.g. Without You, by Badfinger.

“I can’t live, if living is without you… “

And i begged her to love me with T’Pau’s Heart and Soul. Yeesh.

I went to her room and she graciously received me (/s), and i gave her my little gift, and then proceeded to apologise for being such a bad daughter. I told her how her accident made me realise how lucky i was to have her for a mom, and how desperately sorry i was for all the difficulties she’d had because of me.
Seriously.

She raised her arms up off the bed and spread them open to either side of her, splaying her fingers wide. She shrugged and nodded and with lips slightly pursed, she magnanimously (/s!) forgave me. I wept with gratitude.
Seriously.
Of course she didn’t say sorry back.

(My mother said sorry to me once in my life. I was 3 or 4 and i said “Fuck” while playing with my dolls. She slapped me across the face so hard i fell off my chair and later couldn’t see out of one eye. She did a lot worse things than that both before and after though, so i don’t know what moved her that day.)

At least she died a week or so later.
Of sepsis.
She rotted from the inside out.
Damn right it’s poetic.

Raised with no boundaries and to take the blame for everything.
I come from a country that’s made gentle fun of for saying Sorry a lot. Take my cultural influences and my upbringing, and i’ve said sorry countless times. Every day, multiple times a day. My first response to so very many situations and happenings is, Sorry! I know that sometimes i drive my husband and sons batty with my constant apologising. It’s not just, Sorry, i oversalted the soup.
It’s, Sorry you have a headache (because i’m annoying and needy and do stupid shit).
And, Sorry kids, i know between the nature and the nurture i’ve completely fucked up your lives forever.
When we used to watch team sports on television and our team was losing, i’d say sorry and leave the room because i felt like it was my fault.
Seriously.

After years of counselling i’ve been able to tone it down quite a bit, but a new close friendship i have has made it clear i have a ways to go. She’s told me a number of times to stop saying sorry for things that aren’t my responsibility, have nothing to do with me, or were due to circumstances i couldn’t have helped. She lets me see the love and the frustration on her face when she says it, too. So i know i still have a problem.

I know now that i have an overblown, highly developed sense of blame, and i’ve been working hard over the years to temper it. To be honest though, i struggle. I’ve hermitted a great deal over the last number of years, because i’m just not well enough or together enough yet to do a lot of peopling. It’s too complicated and too fraught with emotion for me. It takes so much effort and energy to be present and conscious and stay in the face while being around others. Now i do it in small chunks, almost always with just 1 or 2 people. If it’s a group, i don’t last more than 3hrs, except for a wedding i went to this summer where i lasted just over 4 – but i was switched for the last hour and some, so yeah, 3 hours, tops.

I put my personal growth in this area to the test a few months ago, when i stopped taking the blame for a loved one’s problems, and removed them from my safe place. It was incredibly difficult, it took years of poor treatment for me to do it, but it was an empowering experience. I now know i can say Stop, and No, to a loved one, and i’m not bad and i won’t die.
The problem is, that was just a dress rehearsal for what i’m facing today.

Today i say Stop, and No, and draw a boundary around myself that’s been decades coming. It’s a big deal, the biggest, and i might pay dearly for it. The cost may very well be losing the relationship. I have to do this though, or there’s a good chance i won’t make it through the therapy i’m currently in. I’m afraid i’ll just stop it and walk away. I’m afraid i’ll get sick and locked up. I’m afraid i’ll get overwhelmed, lose control, and end the relationship myself, in an unhealthy way. I’m afraid i’ll fold in on myself, and those soft, suicidal whispers i’ve been hearing lately will get louder and start suggesting a plan**…

Right now as i’m writing, i’m reminding myself that this person’s reaction to my boundary will be their own. I cannot control it, and more importantly, i won’t even try. They get to think what they think about it. They get to think whatever they wish about me, and whether what i’m doing is right or wrong. They get to question my motives and even come up with an answer that i think is incorrect. They get to misunderstand and get as hurt and/or angry as they want to get.
I’ve written down what i want to say, because i know my Bits N’ Pieces are going to be active and talkative in my brain, so i’ve made sure i don’t miss anything that i think is important. I want to chicken out and not do this, but i can’t. This ache in my belly will consume me, and i’ll lose myself for who knows how long? I want to send the words by text or email, because it’s going to be brutal for me -i’ll probably cry my face off while reading it out loud- but this relationship deserves a face-to-face.
I
I
I
I deserve a face-to-face.
Seriously.

I know this is a little vague, but as i’ve embraced a more rational and critical method of thinking, i’ve learned that i’m the kind of person who prefers the unvarnished truth. You don’t need to sugarcoat it, and you can be as blunt as you’d like. I would just rather know what’s real and what’s not. I want to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible – even if it hurts and changes my worldview or drastically alters my circumstances.

Maybe i’ll write about that sometime soon.

Sorry this is a bit of a downer for the holiday, but it’s the truth.
Sorry.
Heh.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*I quit driving a long time ago, don’t worry.

**I’m doing all the things i know to do when i have suicidal thoughts. There is no current plan, but i’ve stepped up the frequency of my therapy appointments, and i’ll be sharing this uptick in invasive thoughts with her this week. I’m maintaining my house and my personal hygiene, but eating and sleeping are difficult. My BFF is spending the day with me tomorrow, and that will put a spoon or 2 back in my drawer for later. My thoughts do not determine my actions so much as my conscious awareness of them facilitates better choices and decisions. I’m not at the place where a higher level of care is required. I assure you that if it was, i’d go get it.