1 Day in the Life of a Crazy Woman

Where i buy a turkey sandwich, but don’t eat it.

Last week i went to see my plastic surgeon. When you lose over 300lbs, you generally need some work done, and i did. I’ve had double brachioplasty, abdominoplasty, double mastopexy and breast implants. I began having tearing pain in 1 breast, and the beginnings of the same pain in the other. As my surgery was 15yrs ago, i went to see if the implants were the problem.
It was a dicey situation for me to walk into, loaded with potential triggers. I thought hard about it and tried my best to prepare. Being topless in front of someone who isn’t my husband, who’s looking at me critically and touching me… I knew it would be difficult, and i’d be dealing with a strong desire to dissociate.

It was hard, and then some. What i didn’t anticipate was that there was nothing wrong with my implants, which left waiting for a mammogram. Great. So something could be wrong with my boobs, like, my real boobs? Fantastic.
There was no way for me to not be alone after the appointment, so i’d invited myself over to my son’s house to visit my DIL and my grandchildren. I figured the bus might be another hurdle still, but doable. I got to their neighbourhood without a single hitch, and then shit happened, as shit do.

I’m on the bus, heading up the hill, and i start feeling nauseated. I know this part of the city well, and i realise i’ve failed to anticipate the real trouble. I’ve spent countless hours in this area’s local park. Waiting for abusers to pick me up and abuse me.
The dissociation happens as soon as the realisation hits, and i can’t stop it.

My body wants to run back down the hill. Get away, go downtown. The library is a haven, and i wonder when it closes. Evening comes early on my side of the equator, so dusk has fallen, and is rapidly becoming nighttime. The air is thick with moisture, and the streetlights illuminate the fog, creating little clouds every 30m or so. I’m wearing knee-high suede boots, because they’re fashionable, and because i’ve only just lost enough weight that my calves can fit any. Yes, i wear them every chance i get, and no, they don’t keep my feet warm at all.

I know the house is only a couple of blocks away, so i should be able to find it. I head up another hill, off the main road, and into the maze of suburbia. In less than 2 blocks i’m scattered, anxiety has started squeezing my heart in its icy hand, and the fog surrounding me seeps into my brain. I find a map on my phone, but it’s too late. I look at it without understanding. I try to zero in on the street names, but i can’t focus. The names bounce around in my head, echoing off bone, passing through each other like string theory. I’m in a cold, foamy sea of yellow roads and names that start with “C”. I’m treading water but i can’t feel my feet and my legs are fast becoming numb…

I startle and quickly look up and around me.
I don’t know where i am.
My feet are blocks of ice and i have snotsicles.
I’ve lost time and wandered.

I call my daughter-in-law for directions, thinking her voice might ground me a bit, or at least force me into a more conscious state. I forget that she doesn’t drive either, and between the 2 of us, we’re not getting me there.
I’m fading in and out. I hear her voice in my ear and then it moves away from me.
My guts churn and my head feels floaty; it starts pounding mercilessly. It feels like my brain is swelling, filling the space like a balloon ready to burst. It presses down into my throat, pulsing, throbbing. My neck and the base of my skull feel like broken glass.

By the time she suggests my son come out to find me, hope is lost. I’ve taken that stumbling hitch-step from Anxiety Hill into Panicland. I feel an icy-hot rush flood my skin at the suggestion of seeing my son. I can’t allow him to see me like this.
I cannot allow my dear daughter or precious granddaughters to see me this way.

Trying to sound calm and blasĂ©, knowing that i’m failing, i tell her i’m going to make my way to the strip mall on the main road. I can hear my scared Little voice quietly harmonising with my desperately false one, but i’m helpless to temper it. All i know is that i must get away from them. She and my son have seen far too much of my calamity as it is, and i committed myself long ago to testing their acceptance and forgiveness of me as little as possible.
I get off the phone and make my way to the string of shops below.

I know i’m close to mild frostbite, but i wander back and forth in front of the various businesses, unable to decide which one i should risk entering. I see a gas station, and think i could buy some gum and use the restroom to gather myself, but as i draw nearer i see it’s a kiosk. Damn.
I see a burger place decorated like a diner set back behind it, but as i walk towards it i see it’s take-away only. Blargh.
Heading back the way i came i see a Korean restaurant, which is a favourite cuisine, but there is 1 person sitting at a table, and that’s not enough to hide, so ixnay on the Ulgogi-bay.
The coffee shop i’d first come across has closed during my indecision. Fucksticks.
Subway sandwiches is open, and while it is cramped AF so not ideal, there are a handful of patrons inside, which might afford me some anonymity.

As i open the door to the restaurant, i close the door on myself.

I look up at blurred images of melting yellows and blacks. My feet are being jabbed with long needles, but instead of delivering anaesthetic it hits me like amyl nitrate – popping me into consciousness with a gasp of pain, immediately followed by panic.
I feel small and naked and my breath is getting away. There’s food and drink in front of me, and my phone is in my hand. Only a couple of my Bits N’ Pieces can use a cell phone, and they’re strictly helping parts, so when i check i see i’ve contacted Kurt.
That should help, but it doesn’t.
I’m too far along and it has me. Full anxiety attack. My chest feels expanded and tight, metallic. My heart is a bomb inside, and it’s going to blow. I need to manage this, but i can’t. I need help, but i can’t think.
I’m scurrying around inside my brain, bumping into thoughts and parts. My emotions jangling, like cymbals crashing, filling my ears, my eyes too wide, one set of fingernails biting into my palm, the other white-knuckling my phone.
My phone.
MY PHONE.

I have a group of friends that i met nearly 20yrs ago on a fansite/message board, and we’ve remained close long after the page’s demise. They’ve stuck with me through all my crazy, supported and encouraged me, held my hand when i was lost and held me up when i was so low i had to look up to see dirt.
We have our own texting group on the phone.
I reach out as sobs are bubbling up and ask if anyone’s there.

They are.
They hop on in response to my need, and proceed to talk me off the ledge.
Helpmehelpmehelpmeplease. I’m trying not to cry but i’m crying. I’m crying alone at a table in a Subway restaurant.
Look down, they say, Look down and no one will see.
It’sokayyou’reokayeverything’sgoingtobeokay. Okay?
Okay.
Can you see 5 things? I say Yes, and whisper them out.
Name 4 sensations, 3 sounds, 2 smells…
I keep my eyes down, and smash the iwonderiftheycanhearmewho’slookingatme that comes and almost derails me.
Do you know any breathing techniques?
Yes! I can 4-7-8.
My no-yoga ass 4-7-8s its little heart out.
Quietly.
In a little curvy Subway chair that cups my rump and thighs and attaches to the table and another chair in 1 big piece.
They continue to text me and say good and kind and right things until the door tinkles open and gives me my husband. His warm and gently smiling face washes over me like a beam of sun and his strong hand knits through my shaking one as he guides me through the watercolour people and into his work van. It’s warm and purring inside, dark and quiet and safe. Safe metal box. Safe space.

I breathe into my collapse. My grateful release of sobs. Panic stops its painful squeezing and my body discharges into the night.

My mother would pick me up from the babysitter’s after work. When she turned left off Northmount before 14th Street, i knew. Sometimes, a man would already be there, waiting. On many occasions though, she would just drop me off in the parking lot of the park, where i would wait.
Wait for a man who was coming to hurt me.
Winter and weekends were the worst.
Weekdays they were usually prompt, but weekends seemed at times to take hours, and our winters are very cold.
My babysitter was the next suburb over, and my grandparents, the one on the other side. A few times i panicked and tried to find them, wandering the streets up and down, looking for help and safety, but never finding it.
Those times my mother would find me, get me into the car, and hit me all the way home. I’d run straight to my room, hoping she was too tired for anything else besides denying me food.

As my husband drove me home i was an earthquake in my seat. My thighs quivered helplessly, my knees knocked together, my shoulders shook, my body heaved and my guts writhed, nausea snaking its way into my mouth. I sobbed and retched as my body discharged and discharged, until i went completely rigid. I arched up against the seatbelt, as if in the grips of a seizure, and then everything let go and i fell back, limp and exhausted.

The panic was gone, and with it went the fear and embarrassment, too. And i wasn’t just emotionally spent, i was calm. I felt noticeably lighter. I felt relief. I felt clearheaded.
As we drove the 50 or so minutes home, i looked back upon what’d happened and i didn’t see failure. I saw success – i felt successful. I was less amorphous in my body; my thoughts and sensations felt firm, solid, like they carried physical weight. My head and my limbs weren’t trying to rise and float away from me, i could feel where they attached to my neck and torso. I was a human being, individual, and contained in 1 whole piece.

All this trying, all this trytrytry, try more, try again, wait and try harder, try different, try her, him, this, that, them. This struggle. This work.
It’s all brought me here.
My brain is afraid and it runs and hides.
My body hurts and it curls up tight like a fist and tries to make the pain disappear.
But all this struggle, all this work, all this freaking TIME i’ve put in, to figure out where i’m broken and put myself back together has brought me here.

Today i have a kit full of tools and a phone full of support.
I still slide and switch and freak right the fuck out, but today i can figure out why. I dig around in my bag and pull out something that helps. There are dozens –yes, DOZENS– of people who will love me and help me through it. The crises that inevitably come are not beyond my ability to cope. I’m no longer left drowning in wreckage, wretched and lost in the aftermath.

This is life as me.
It’s changing and it’s good.
And that’s storytime for today.
Be well readers, friends.

Love and Peace to You All,
~H~

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.

Deprogramming, Pt. I

I was raised religious. I’m gonna say some stuff about that, and you may not agree. That’s fine. The majority of the world holds some sort of belief in the supernatural. I once did, and now i do not. It’s no big. As long as i’m not being preached at or proselytised, i have no problems listening to those around me talk about such things. But this is my blog, written by me, full of my thoughts, experiences, and opinions. I’ve chosen a path and am mapping my own route to get where i want to go.

I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I’m just talkin’ ’bout Life As Me.
I’ve been wrong thousands of times, and will be thousands more yet (at least, i’m hoping for the opportunity to be). If you think there’s a god/gods out there, i think you’re wrong. So? You think i’m wrong, too. Doesn’t bother me in the least. I might be wrong, and i could be convinced by enough good evidence.*

Now that’s out of the way, lemme get to it.
Like many people, like many female people, like many female people born into a religious family, like many female people born into an abusive, religious family, i wasn’t allowed to say No. My permission was never required – not if it affected me directly or indirectly, and not even if it involved the use of my own body. Growing up, it didn’t occur to me that i could say No, and i rarely said it. It occasionally popped out when i was in extreme distress. If i said it outside the house and family interactions, it was usually respected, if for no other reason than, if i was saying No, i was likely completely unhinged at that point. When i lost control it got weird for those around me: wild eyes, panicked voice, heaving chest, all my ticcing behaviours on display… Most would back off. On the exceedingly unusual occasion that i used it in my house and/or with my parents, i was beaten.

I had no rights, no autonomy. Along with not being allowed to use the word No, i was never permitted to question anything. I was raised to obey without a word. I couldn’t pull a face either, that’d earn me a slap or 2, for sure. This contributed to my being an insular person; i was hidden deep inside, any natural individuality was subverted, and i compartmentalised in order to survive. My traumas were so intense and ongoing, my compartmentalisation became so widespread, rigid, and rigorous, that i split apart inside my brain. I’ve been diagnosed with what is currently referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder.

As i’ve said before, i fought the diagnosis for years. I never went back to mental health professionals that even brought it up peripherally. Being around others who identified themselves as multiples made my skin crawl. I believed it was a real thing, but i thought most people were faking it.** I believed what i was raised to believe; what my parents and others in authority over me told me to believe. I was taught what to think, never how, (and in that, i think i have more company than just fellow abuse survivors).

I was punished for asking questions. I might get yelled at, shamed, or even beaten if i dared use the word “why”. To this day, if you want to see me get frustrated, then angry, and then shut down, just start asking me questions. I get nervous and irritated quickly. What was happening in my family had to be hidden. I was taught that nosy people were a threat. Others weren’t as smart and socially evolved as we were – they wouldn’t understand. They’d take me away and i’d have no one. I was such a handful, such a difficult child; no one would be able to tolerate me for long. It was always indirectly, subtly reinforced that i was a terribly misbehaved child, and not easy to love. I was lucky to have my amazing and long-suffering mother there to care for and love me. Without her i’d be completely alone.

She’d always let me watch old movies, because she liked them, but she banned me from watching All About Eve. I was an advanced reader, and had worked my way through her large collection of books by grade 6, but when she caught me reading Sybil, she lost her mind, took it away and hid it. I don’t remember her ever telling me it was bullshit, though. In fact, looking back with grown up eyes, i think she was obsessed with the subject. I think there may have been a time that she played around with the diagnosis for herself. She loved attention and struggled with her mental health, and i have some memories of some talks and programs that she brought me along to, where the way she was talking and the way she was treated by others there would fit her claiming some form of multiplicity.

When i finally got away from my mother, i knew i needed professional help, but it never occurred to me that i had a diagnosable, mental illness (or 2).*** I was just bad, not ill. My brain wasn’t sick, i was just a rotten person. I was a disobedient, selfish liar.
Ah yes… Liar.
You bet she drummed that one in to me as far back as i can remember.

She told me i was a compulsive liar until the day she wound up in the hospital where she died. Hey, i did lie. I lied a lot and i lied as easily as i breathed, but they were all rooted in her teaching me to do it, and modeling it for me so well. I lied to get out of trouble, e.g. denying eating something i wasn’t supposed to eat, which i ate because i was not fed properly. I lied to impress other kids, because my life sucked and i wanted them to like me and i wanted to be more like them. And the #1 reason i’d lie, was to cover for my parents. To hide the abuse that was going on in our home. The abuse that i was told wasn’t abuse but only what i deserved because i was so very, very bad.

My whole life growing up was a lie to the outside world, but that was one i didn’t know i was telling. I didn’t know i was abused until i was 21. I knew my mom hit me often, and sometimes beat the absolute crap outta me, but i knew i deserved it. I never thought that she was wrong or she shouldn’t have done it. She’d raised me to think i was a piece of shit and she was my gracious and merciful teacher and provider.

And church was invaluable in backing up everything she wanted me to believe.

She went through many periods where she didn’t attend church, but she made sure i always did. She’d arrange for other families to pick me up and drop me home, or insist i go with other children whose parents would make them invite me. She was highly intelligent, clever, an incredible manipulator, and deeply devious. She never sat me down and preached at me that i remember, but she did this thing that i didn’t recognise until i was a parent myself.

When i was still small, she hung out with younger, childless folks who were going for their degrees, and sometimes the older, established professors whose children were grown (she worked at universities and colleges as a secretary). If she wasn’t farming me out to someone (let’s just call it that for this piece), she’d bring me along. I was a perfectly behaved child out in public – i knew what would happen if i wasn’t. So i’d sit quietly and unobtrusively at parties and various get-togethers and even courses she was taking, and the people there would eventually start talking like i wasn’t there. They’d forgotten. I heard things no child that age should hear, and learned things no child should know. I was mentally sophisticated, and i suppose precocious (UGH), so i grasped the subjects being discussed relatively easily.
The thing she’d do to secure her control of me is she’d say things to other adults at these events, knowing full well that i was listening. That i was, in fact, all ears. She’d talk religiously and philosophically with these people, but she’d drop bits that i now think were meant for me.

This bit is difficult to convey. I’ve been thinking about how to make it understandable for the last couple of days. Say for instance, her friends were discussing Dr. Spock and his views on spanking children. She’d say something like, “Well, Dr. Spock must have some very well-behaved children. We aren’t all so lucky.”

That would be a message for me.
I hope that illustrates my point well enough.

When things were particularly rough at home, money was tighter than usual, or maybe she’d been beating me more frequently, she’d talk more about her own childhood. She’d tell me horror stories of being locked in the root cellar, or bathed in scalding hot water. And she’d share all her rape stories in lurid detail,**** starting when i was very young, say 5 or 6, maybe earlier, i don’t know.

The message there was she was the one who was abused, not me.

She never let up on the programming. Manipulation was her life’s work. She played me like Perlman played violin until the day she slipped into a coma.

All this to say that it has been a gargantuan effort on my part to get help for myself. I thought that i was the problem and i didn’t need any help for the first 20+yrs of my life. Once i knew i was a victim, and had experienced my lack of proper adult functionality in the real world, it didn’t get much easier. My mother had availed herself of every psychological tool, every method, every book, every well-respected researcher and public speaker, every self-help group… I’d been saturated in psychology most of my childhood. She used it to hone her skills, and i think it put a lot of people in her path that were easy for her to get something from. Money, attention, whatever.

The result for me was that i didn’t trust any of them. Frankly, i found most of them stupid (i’d been raised to look down my intellectual nose at anyone outside of my parents) and, big surprise here, easy to manipulate. I knew what they wanted to hear, and despite my inner derision, i wanted to be the best damn screwup they’d ever had sit in their office. I was programmed to want people to like me and to seek their approval. So i’d figure out what they wanted and give it to them, and they’d quickly determine that i was well on my way to mastering whatever issues i’d dumped on their desk. I used all the right buzzwords, and mixed it in with an appropriate demonstration of how smart i was, and i’d manipulate myself right out of any genuine help they might have offered me.

I’d talk myself out of their help, and go back out into the world, and things would still get chaotic and painful. I was still struggling. I still couldn’t manage to live life on life’s terms. And then i popped out a couple of kids and fell in love (yes, in that order), and i began searching for someone to help me in earnest. I’d returned to religion with the birth of my first child, and i found a counsellor to work with through my church, after the birth of my second. She had her master’s in social work and she was one of the kindest people i’d ever met. I had completely submitted to church authority, and i worked hard with her, always doing what she asked me and any homework she gave me. One day she sat me down and said she had been thinking she had a diagnosis for my particular issues, and had consulted with the psychologist who attended our church, who agreed.

She said it was her professional opinion that i had Multiple Personality Disorder. She reiterated that her colleague concurred. I’ve tried to remember what happened after that, but i can’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if i left, but i don’t think i did. With my mother gone, there was no greater authority in my life than their authority.
And i was raised to be obedient, above all things.

Great, so i had a diagnosis. The problem was, the treatment was bible-based. She took me to an old guy (BAD IDEA) who specialised in helping members map out their systems, so they could start praying over them and casting them out by name.

Because they were demons.
Of course.
I was demon-possessed.

**********

*Not here though. My blog isn’t for that.

**I’m not sure about that now. The important thing is that, even if they are, it’s none of my business.

***Okay, 3 or 4. Maybe 5, but that one’s relatively dormant, so i don’t count it. I’m kidding here, one might diagnose me with more than 2, but the 2 i deal with most can (kind of?) umbrella the rest, thereby cutting down on my stress and anxiety… So 2 shots of the hard stuff with a smartass chaser.

****I don’t know if her stories were true, as she lied practically every time she opened her mouth. To me, it doesn’t matter.

Imagination

Writing through the bad.

It struck me as maybe an important and helpful thing i could do.
I think i’m right about that – i think.
I fully intend to get to the other side of this, this current pile of crap i’m slogging around in, but sweet, smilin’ Buddha on a bicycle i didn’t know it was gonna be like this.

I’ve worked so hard to get control of myself  – to harness the power of this brain and channel it for good. My therapist says all multiples have a mutant superpower, and as soon as she said what it was i felt it in my bones.

IMAGINATION.
<insertSpongebobmemehere>

My brain is a place that’s hard to describe, even i don’t quite understand.
Years ago, my therapist asked me if i could make a place for one of my people to live. She prefers to be alone. She loves to read and listen to dark music. She’s obsessed with the supernatural and loves the forest.
I immediately made a cabin in the woods for her, a few miles away from the mansion where everyone else lives.
I do not know how to explain that these places exist inside my head. I can see them right now. Outrageously weird and stupid, right? I know.
My imagination is a mutant superpower.

I can make myself sick.
If i were to tell myself i have a terrible headache, one will manifest in a matter of minutes. And i’m not faking it. I’m feeling the pain in my head. I currently have a headache, heh. It’s a doozy.

I’ve had this thumper for months now.
Ever since i returned to therapy.
My head throbs and my legs itch to walk. To go home. To get away from people.

My head hurts. It’s so full. So many people are talking and i know this is my imagination at work. I know these people that live in my brain aren’t real. I know that my brain did an amazing thing to get me through my childhood. It separated my thoughts, my emotions, and my sensations from each other, so that i could survive what was happening to me. And these disconnected thoughts and experiences floated around in my head for so long they became something almost tangible…

My mutant brain had no trouble ascribing identities to them.
These weird and disembodied, precious Bits N’ Pieces.
I know they aren’t real.
Some of them even know it, too.

But here’s the thing. All i have is my own experience to go by.
I may be a brain in a jar, but i have no evidence of that — what i have is experience, and what i experience is other people living inside my brain. Most of them live in a mansion surrounded by a moat. One lives in a cabin. One stomps around the forest like a sasquatch.

And you’d better believe i have a dragon.
When you’ve got these mutant superpowers, of fucking course you get yourself a dragon.

This is the most exposed and vulnerable i’ve been since i disclosed my story all those years ago. I’m sharing this because, what happened to me as a child made me so dysfunctional that i haven’t been able to accomplish much of anything that looks like success by the world’s current metric. This is all i have to give. I made it through and i’m here and i’m a fairly decent human and i’m learning and growing and getting better every single day.

My head is throbbing and bursting with voices. They leak out my ears and spill down my body like a bloody waterfall. Blood in the water.
I survived what happened to me because i became a multiple.
My head is bleeding thoughts because i’m not supposed to talk about this. I was programmed for secrecy. I love my system, but they’re shouting at me SHUT UP! NO! YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED! PRIVATE!

I’m walking around waiting for the beating because i’m not allowed to tell.
I’m a guitar string stretched too tight. Every muscle in my body is on hyper-alert. There’s a terror inside me that they’re going to take me away from my mom.
She’s been dead for nearly 30yrs.

This is writing through the bad. I’ve just gotta get this shit out; if it stays in my brain it rots, putrifies, poisons me. My brain is too dangerous a neighbourhood to walk through on my own. I am holding your hand, reader, so tight.
So many shadows and wisps and slivers of people inside my brain, yet i’ve always felt so alone.

This is reaching out into the dark for a hand – any hand. Anybody.
I know this will be okay. I know i will be okay. I already survived the worst of it – i can be all naked and weird and vomity. One foot in front of the other. One word and then the next.

Thanks for reading. You have no idea how much it means to me.

Drips and Drabs

I’m not doing very well.
I know i committed to writing through the bad, but i’m not sure that’s a good idea at this point. I can devolve so quickly, like i think i am, now. I don’t think this helps anyone, except maybe me.
If you continue reading, be very clear that I live with serious, multiple diagnosis mental illness, and i’m not doing well right now. You may be triggered by the tone of my writing here. That can be good/helpful if you have a solid support system, but it can be problematic/downright dangerous if you don’t. You’re probably already juggling enough. Get some help before you go any further with this post. It’ll still be here when you’re better prepared.

I have a great support system. So while i’m in an awful emotional place right now, it’s safe for me to feel and think the way I am right now, because I have trustworthy people and protected spaces around me, at this very moment. They cover me, and offer acceptance and understanding.

This is all i can write for now. Just know that things could, and probably will, get rough. The last time i was this vulnerable, i shut down my blog and pretended like it never happened, that i hadn’t shown my soft underbelly to anyone who cared to pay attention.

I’ve been on a bender, and i’ve upset my son, and i’m stressing out my husband. I haven’t been able to cook for a week, and i’m fairly sure i smell bad. Today i made hamburger soup in my Instant Pot, and i’m going to ask my husband to help me shower off my booze and sweat stench, because the bathtub is the scariest place in my house. So today is a success. Maybe i can achieve just a little bit more tomorrow. I have a dear friend who is going to babysit me at her house with cheesy movies. Maybe i can even make supper again. Gotta love my pressure cooker.

I’m not going to be sharing details of what happened to me. It’s awful and private, and it’s not what i made this place for. I made it to share with you that you can overcome terrible things. To share how quirky and weird my brain is, and to share how hard it’s been for me to figure out how to be alive and functional while being a victim of long term, traumatic abuse that split my brain apart into fragments – but i did it, and i’m going to keep doing it. And if i can, maybe you can too.

I will try my hardest to write some more tomorrow. It ain’t gonna be anything spectacular, in fact it’s gonna be maudlin and histrionic and very, very young, because that’s how i feel right now. Very young and very small.
And a bit smelly.

Mind Your Pace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pardon me, but fuck, fuckety-fuck.

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

Well.
<insert Maximus Profanitatum here>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

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

La Vie Dramatique

I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more
~ C. S. Lewis

My relationship with pain is as interesting as anyone’s, i guess. Maybe a bit more complicated?

I haven’t been in this much pain in a long while. I said it yesterday and i’ll say it again – it’s because i have to bear it myself. One reason why i splintered into smaller pieces was to cope with pain. It was to keep my thinking separate from my physical and emotional experiences of such. When i first split, i lacked the sophistication required to process what was happening to me. Hell, i’m not sure i can even now, but that’s where i endeavour to go and what i intend to find out.
I will go to the place where i feel what i felt, armed with what i know. I will attempt to have the experience of both of these things at the same time, in hopes of bringing more healing to my entire system, and more functionality to me, the primary face holder.

So this is an opportunity to prepare for it. And a sign that it’s already begun.

***** A Brief Aside *****

Listen, i know how dramatic i am right now. All things considered, i think i’m doing fairly well with regards to self-awareness, staying present, and being mindful.
I know myself, and making things all soap opera helps me deal. I was raised to downplay, deny, and forget anything bad that happened to me. Even minor stuff was met with admonitions that i was making a mountain out of a molehill and crying crocodile tears. Oh, and the ubiquitous, “You think YOU have it bad? Well… ”

Sharing my story like a tele novella is a personal acknowledgment that what i went through was, in fact, horrific. And perhaps more importantly, it’s standing up to those who silenced me and would still if they could.
I also think that, if my upbringing had been even a little bit better, i’d have made my living as an artist of some kind. I was heading down that road in spite of all the crap thrown at me, including my mother’s active sabotage. So it’s kinda who i am anyway. (I chose my blog name for reasons, cantcha see?)

If i can put a few poetic flourishes on this material, if i can turn it into art, i can live with what happened to me.
If these weird, quirky, tragic, and yes, histrionic little word pieces can enlighten, enrich, or dare i hope, assist, other humans in their own quests for health and happiness?
Then maybe i can do more of living than the surviving it part.

**********

I created Bits N’ Pieces to cope with trauma, and once i knew i’d done so, i quickly learned that dissociation could be helpful, useful, and occasionally preferable.
I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 1995. Finding community to help me learn to live with it, showed me some who suffered so terribly they were bedridden, some dependent on pain medication, some driven to the deepest depths of depression. While i knew i was in a great deal of pain, i observed this from a distance. When i began working with multiplicity as the diagnosis for the way my brain works, i realised that i’d been dissociating from the pain.
Which was just peachy as far as i was concerned.
I always knew i had a high pain tolerance, but now i knew why.

I learned that, like most ailments, the fibro was exacerbated by stress. Fear and anxiety caused a noticeable uptick in pain and sleeplessness, but i think i simply adjusted my level of dissociation to handle it.
I dialed it up a notch or 2.

I am not doing that right now.

DJ-who-sounds-like-a-car-salesman: Hey Listeners, don’t touch that dial! We have more fatigue and achiness comin’ up after this brief message from our sponsor.

Car-salesman-who-sounds-like-a-DJ: Looking to get an upgrade? Drive off our lot in style with one of our luxury sedans!

I could get approved, but i couldn’t keep up with the payments. I may need to take a leave of absence from work, so i’ve gotta drive this one until the wheels fall off. Heh.

What i mean is, i’ve got to feel this physical pain because i’ve got to feel the psychic pain that’s coming, and it’s very possible it could take me out of life for a while. I’m not a danger to myself, i have no urges to harm nor any ideations. I just have a limited amount of energy and i may need it all.

So today i can barely move. The bone-grinding ache has crept into my wrists, my hands, up into my face, and this afternoon it moved into my lower back and the front of my thighs. My headache throbs incessantly. I want to sleep, but the anxiety, the head and body aches, plus the UTI, have all kept me from getting more than a couple of hours at a time. And there is no sleep without dreams, dreams where the pain always finds me and although i’m lucid, i don’t wake myself because, Why bother? I stay in the dream and i clean other people’s messes and i care for other people’s children. Various family members pop in and out, looking at me with contempt and condemnation and i’m drowning in shame and embarrassment. My head feels like it’s cracking open and my whole body throbs and my waterworks are freezing.

Maybe emerg again tonight, and more therapy fun tomorrow.

Whee?
(There’s a pun there.)