Baby, I’m On Fire

I set myself on fire last week. Yes, literally.

This last 2wks i’ve been either slidey* or outright switched. I’ve required near constant supervision, lest i leave, or get up to other sorts of destructive behaviours. Unfortunately, after 5 or 6yrs of no interventions, the police and ambulance were called to determine if i was a danger to myself or others. Although it was determined i was definitely not a threat to others, i did a small stint in the hospital, where i received good care. The doctor offered (or perhaps urged, heh) that i stay longer for more assistance, but i was allowed to leave when it was clear i have family/friend/therapist support at home. He prescribed some medications to help ease my anxiety, and they’ve helped.

I saw my therapist and she always calms me. She helps me see my path more clearly and refocus, but unfortunately, she’s a real, live human, with other clients, a family and a life of her own, and thusly i cannot carry her with me wherever i go.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that this stage of my therapy involves learning to feel my feelings without dissociating. I’m not looking for perfection. I’m not looking for “integration” (i’m not even sure what that word means with regards to multiples), but i am looking for a higher level of day-to-day functionality, and a greater degree of healing.

To put it a little more clearly, when i was abused as a child, my brain severed the connections between my thoughts, my emotions, and my physical sensations, in order to survive trauma so great that i simply had no ability to understand, let alone process it. Without connection, without the means to apprehend what had happened/was happening to me, some of those thoughts and emotions, even some moments frozen in time in my mind, developed their own personalities, from flat and static, to a couple who’re more fully rounded than some people i’ve known. (That was snarky i know, but i’m leaving it, because it’s true. Pfft.)

Continuing on then, i leave the safety and support of my counsellor’s office, and step out into a world that is currently full of triggers. I’ve lived my life either not noticing, or quickly dissociating from these things. I had to, or i simply wouldn’t’ve been able to function at all. I would’ve been stuck in trauma-response, unable to work, to have relationships, to care for myself or others, in other words, to participate in what it means to be alive. I myself would’ve been frozen in time.
The gazelle that freezes when she sees the tiger.

The ability to dissociate not only saved my life growing up, it allowed me to be somewhat effective as an adult. However, as time passed i could see it was only minimally helpful, and in certain cases quite harmful. I wanted more from life, especially once i had children.

I learned to live my life as a multiple, the insight into how my brain works making my life easier and better than it had ever been before… Until a little over a year ago. I was living a reasonably happy and successful life, when i suddenly crashed. It wasn’t like my Thelma&Louise crashes of the past, thankfully. (I play both parts, just fyi.) But i wanted to party, which is something i don’t much care for now, and i felt that old childhood imperative that my abusers had programmed into me to GO HOME; a place that doesn’t exist anymore, and would be beyond dangerous for me if it did.

I had the sense to get my ass back into therapy. When i asked her what i was doing wrong, she said, “Not a thing. You are taking such good care of your brain that your body is now wanting that same care and attention.”
My body is tired of being numbed out and alone. It wants to rejoin my brain. It wants me to listen to it as diligently and lovingly as i did my brain.
And i want to. I know it’s the good and right thing to do for me, but it is a haaaard thing.
It is perhaps, the hardest thing i’ve done in my life, to date.

I stay in my body and feel my emotions and physical sensations, while knowing what i know — that i was repeatedly traumatised from birth, until my mother died when i was in my early 20s.

This was a difficult concept for me to grasp, so i can imagine that it may be for others, as well. I’ll provide an example to help explain:
One of my abusers would always jingle the change in his pocket. As an adult, i would often hear the sounds made by coins jingling together, and when i’d hear it i was bothered, unsettled somehow. But the memory of the man who did that was held by a part of me that i wasn’t personally connected to, and so the pain of what he did to me didn’t consciously affect me, it just left me with a vague sense of unease. The reason it upset me was kept from me by both the little girl bit that lives in my brain who remembered, and the part of my body that he had hurt, and while i’ve now connected to the girl who’s held that memory, i hadn’t yet connected to the pain that he’d caused in my body.

So now, today, when i hear change jingling, i remember the man and what he did, but i also feel the pain in my body: the terror making my heart beat faster, the violation of my genitals, the itch in my legs to run away. I don’t just remember, i feel it, and although this may not make sense, in a way it is for the first time.

This has been my life for the last few months. I’m triggered frequently, repeatedly, daily, and i sit with it and i remember and i feel it and i hang on for dear fucking life, until the connection has been made. My Bits N’ Pieces are being reconnected to my body and so am i.
I’ve lived my life playing dead so the bear won’t eat me, but the bear’s long gone and it’s time for me to rise up and join the living.

It’s terrifying, painful work, and i’m physically and psychically exhausted.

So last week, i get it in my head that i must purge the clutter in my house. I’m convinced that i’m drowning my entire family in hoard (i don’t come remotely close to such a diagnosis), and i’ve got to get it out of the house or everyone’s going to get sick and die. While my family’s been great at helping me with this (we’ve been slowly decluttering over the last few months), i had some angry, protective parts come out and start throwing out everything they could get their hands on, including some heavy items that i have no business lifting, given my current fibro flare and the osteopenia in my lumbar region.
Once their rage was spent, as is my system’s way, a little part came out to be a “good girl”, to try to assuage any hurt feelings the angry ones may have caused. She came out to help.

I was raised part urban, part rural, and i know how to use a burning barrel. It was my job as a kid to use it, and save us a trip or 3 to the dump.
But i didn’t know how to do that when i was 5.
She wanted to help, and there was some paper/cardboard trash that needed burning.
So she poured gasoline all over everything in the burning barrel and lit it with a little cigarette lighter.

I was slammed back into the face by her terror and pain and i heard the WOOF! as the fumes lit. I felt the fire kiss my face from my hairline to my top lip. The fire lingered a little longer on my right hand and danced about halfway to my elbow. It took a couple of seconds, no more, but it seemed longer. Every emotion was intensified by me having not been there before it happened.
Which has happened to me countless times, and it’s never not been scary.
To find myself in a completely different situation from the one i last remember, with no consciousness of the passage of time, where in fact it seems like 1 second one thing is happening, and the very next second i’m somewhere else entirely doing a completely unrelated thing… Well, i would imagine that would scare just about anyone.

I singed off a fair bit of my hairline, and most of my eyebrows and eyelashes. (Which i’ve spent time and money regrowing due to trichotillomania. /majoreyeroll) The tip of my nose got it pretty good, so i’ve referred to myself as Rudolph for the last week, heh. There’s a bit of scabbing on my upper lip, but not noticeable, i just feel it. It was my hand that got the worst of it, with significant blistering and lizardy feeling skin across my hand about a third of the way to my elbow, plus 2 second degree burns on my fingers, and a third degree on my thumb.
I’m sure we all realise this could have been much, much worse.

In this blog i share my day-to-days: adventures, misshaps, and ho-hums all, to help myself sort my shit out, to help foster understanding of those of us living with mental illness (like me), and those of us considered neuroatypical (also me). I also write to reach out to those like me, to let them know they aren’t alone, and to offer hope that they might too, find their way to a place of functionality and happiness that works for them.

My point with this post is quite specific, and of utmost importance for me to understand.

Sometimes, no matter how much work i’ve done or how far i’ve come, shit’s gonna happen. I’m not a danger to others – for instance, if i’d been around children, angries and littles wouldn’t have come out that day, only protectors.
But sometimes, sometimes my brain is just gonna do what my brain’s gonna do.
I am who i am, and i’m finally starting to like me. Not just accept, not just love, but i’m growing attached to me. I’m rather fond of myself. I’d hang out with someone exactly like me.
Crazy, broken, occasionally completely dysfunctional me.**
Yes, i’m working hard AF to get to what i consider to be a higher level of function – i’m seeking more happiness and more usefulness and just, i don’t know, more presence and availability to the world around me and the beings sharing space with me in it.

BUT

I’m absolutely fine and right and good already.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*What i call a dissociative state where i’m some level of conscious of what’s happening to and around me, but i’m unable to affect my own actions and have little to no agency – it’s sort of like watching myself on tv.
**I know some of these descriptors don’t work for everyone, but they do for me.

Sometimes I’m Just Wrong

As people with a history like mine often do, i’ve had severe dental phobia most of my life. To have to hang my mouth open and have someone poking around in there, sometimes causing me pain, can be a brutal trigger. As a child, my mother stopped caring about my dental health around the time she was committed; i was in grade one. The only time she’d bring me in was for an emergency, which happened occasionally. I wasn’t much for brushing, which resulted in a few abscesses and a couple of pulled teeth.

Once on my own i just dodged the dentist. I finally paid attention when i found an excellent family physician during my pregnancy with my second child. She urged me to attend to my teeth, which were becoming problematic.
I required many appointments to get my teeth cleaned and a number of fillings followed. Neither the hygienist nor the dentist seemed to realise or care about my severe anxiety, and i was shamed and lectured every visit, guaranteeing more avoidant behaviour. It wasn’t until i was well into therapy with my current counsellor that i finally dealt with my fear head-on.

I found a nice lady dentist who’d been doing it for decades, and i went to talk to her. No cleaning, just x-rays, and a chat about what i was looking at to get my teeth shipshape. I told her of my phobia. (No, really? Like my huge, watering eyes and clenched fists didn’t already announce it.) I indicated as delicately as i could that it was trauma-based. She was immediately receptive, kind and gentle in her response, and assured me that i wasn’t her only patient with these issues. She said she’d work with me, to help me overcome my anxiety as much as possible (at my pace), and to attain and maintain healthy teeth and gums.

I know a fair number of people who use sedation dentistry to handle this issue, but i wanted to at least try to do it without drugs of any kind. I prepared as best i could; going over what was going to happen in my head, looking at pictures i’d taken of the dentist’s office, and the chair that i’d be sitting in, the ceiling that i’d be looking at (they have tellies up there – how smart is that?), i thought of how i feel in a dentist’s chair, and went over the different methods i could use to cope:

– focused breathing,
– body mindfulness,
– reminding myself that the intensity of the feelings are a response to trauma that’s no longer happening,
– stopping the hygienist and asking for a break,
– stopping the hygienist and talking briefly about the feelings,
– stopping the hygienist and rescheduling,
– using an anti-anxiety med beforehand,
– sedation dentistry,
– maintain dental health as best i can on my own, do more therapy around the issue, and try again at a later date.

I was stiff as a board the first time i sat for a cleaning; eyes as big as saucers, hands and feet clenched hard enough to cramp. The hygienist had a soft, soothing voice, and she calmed my jangled nerves with banter about her children, a recent move, a holiday. Her demeanor was quiet and kind, and i knew she wasn’t going to hurt me. Cleaning my teeth properly would take a few visits, they’d already told me, but i never sensed any disapproval from her, and there was never the slightest hint of a tsk or a tut-tut in her voice.

Then it’s time for my dentist to do some fillings, some caps, and even a root canal, to preserve my teeth for as long as possible. Her voice is also soft (i think dentists may cultivate this voice – also smart) but her vibe is jovial, even goofy. Her assistant is sarcastic, with a deadpan delivery, and between the 2 of them, they provide a great service and a show besides, which distracted and delighted me so much that i came to look forward to seeing them. Not even kidding.

I settled in to regular maintenance, and then the recession hit. We had to let go of our dental insurance, and i didn’t want to stress our already squeaky budget, when i knew my teeth were in good shape, and i was now diligent and conscientious with care. We still had a son at home who required extensive orthodontic work, and so i stopped going for a couple of years. When our financial situation improved,  i went back, thinking there’d be no problem.

Oh, but there was.

I missed a number of appointments, for which i provided lame excuses, and i’d call after and reschedule with a self-deprecating chuckle. Six months later i did the same thing, i missed my first appointment and called, saying it had totally slipped my mind and i’d be there for sure next time. The receptionist fixed another time with me, but i noted something in her voice before we hung up – a hesitancy. I felt uneasy.

She called me mid-morning the next day.
She told me that they wanted very much to continue providing me with dental care, but in order for that to happen they were going to require the cost of the appointment up front. She explained that my dentist couldn’t continue losing money when i didn’t show up, that it wasn’t fair for her or anyone.
I bristled. Feelings flooded my body, and i reacted with offense.

“This feels like i’m being punished for being mentally ill,” i said.
“I’m going to have to discuss this with my husband and i’ll get back to you,” i said.

To my credit, before the end of the phone call, i knew she had me dead to rights. But shame is a massive trigger, and i was dissociated and edgy for the rest of the day. It took me a while to bring it up with my husband, but not too long, and he understood right away. I called the receptionist back within a day or 2, and told her i knew they had to do what they were doing. And then i paid them.

I was anxious about the cleaning. I thought about why. It wasn’t just being embarrassed – it was a few things. There’d been a break in my association with them, one where i wasn’t in therapy, and i hadn’t had to deal with some of the triggers that dentistry touches on. I was now back in therapy, and learning to stay in my body during times when i feel emotions and/or physical sensations that i don’t want to feel. I understood why i was dodging. I knew i was setting myself up to miss my dates with my dentist.
I was trying to avoid all the feelings.

I showed up on time, and prepared. I knew i was going to feel awkward and embarrassed, which was normal and appropriate to feel, because i’d done them wrong. I hadn’t meant to, and i knew that. I knew they would all be gracious and kind, as they had always been, and they were. When the cleaning was done, my dentist was there at reception, and she gently asked me, “Do you understand that we had to do what we did?”

I told her that i did, and i told them all that i was sorry. I told them that it hadn’t occurred to me that i was costing her money, or inconveniencing anyone – but it should have, and i was ashamed about it.

She said, “You know, we just wouldn’t have had you back if we didn’t like you so much, eh?” And i could see that that was true.

I could also see that, while i’d fucked up, i’d also done some things right.

I’d been honest about my mental illness and my fears and anxieties from the jump.
I’d carefully built relationship with them, so much so that when i started behaving poorly, they tolerated that behaviour for as long as they could – perhaps longer than they should have done, and only for my benefit.
And when they finally called me out, i accepted responsibility for my actions.
Yes, for the briefest of moments -the space of a phone call- i reacted badly, but i knew almost immediately that i was in the wrong, and why, and that i could and would put it right and it was going to be okay.

I got caught doing something shitty, and i reacted by trying to avoid taking the blame. To assuage my chagrin by haughtily providing an excuse.

I’m not bad – i’m sick!

While that is true in a way, it’s neither appropriate nor is it helpful to apply that in this instance. After i hung up the phone i felt it right away – i was convicted in my heart by a jury of me. I’ve identified myself to these people as someone who lives with serious, multiple diagnosis mental illness. I’ve done so first for my benefit, but also for others like me. I want to bring awareness and exposure to those around us, in service to us and apart from that, who have little or no experience with us (or knowledge that they’re having such – because they certainly are, am i right?), and by so doing, help pave a way for fellow neuroatypicals and those living with mental illness to do the same. To see that it can be done, and perhaps they might do it, too.

I feel the weight of that responsibility. It’s a good weight, one i’ve willingly and purposefully shouldered, and it’s a right thing and a steadying force in my life. It gives meaning and provides balance and even serendipity. I would not so inadequately, so boorishly represent a community that has my love so easily, and needs help and understanding so desperately.

The love and life that i’ve found there made my path clear, and set my shoulders squarely towards it.
Yes, part of the reason why i behaved the way i did was the way i was raised and the way my brain responded to try and save me, to help me cope and to perhaps spare me some of the worst of it, that i might survive. And survive i did – and in these last years, even more and better.
Yes, there are reasons -childhood causations- for my behaviour, but in the end, today, right now, at this moment, i am as free and autonomous and aware as i can possibly be, and i am happy and grateful and relieved indeed, to be solely responsible for my choices and actions.

And sometimes i’m just wrong. And i was.
I accepted the consequences, which were fair, and no one abused me and i didn’t die.

I can hardly wait to screw up again.
Heh.

Joyful Girl

How to explain how hard just living life can be with my particular set of challenges without it sounding like a pity party? I’m not sure, but i am going to try.

I am not a “safe space” person. I firmly believe that if someone wants one, they can ask, they can try to create, and i can and will respect designated safe spaces. I think it’s a very good idea, and i’ve seen it implemented both well, and terribly. I suppose my Little Crooked House is my safe space, for the most part. There are times though, when it is not, and i’m okay with that.

The word “trigger” has been getting tossed around a lot over the last few years. It became part of the abuse survivor’s lexicon, and it was appropriate. As seems to be becoming the way in our increasingly politically polarised society though, it got tossed back and forth between various ideologies and has emerged a little the worse for wear. I’m going to use it anyway, because it is still appropriate, despite being co-opted for scorn and black comedy. I don’t hold with the disdainful crowd, but i’m all for a little dark humour now and again; laughing at myself and my life has been integral to me making it this far.

I had a lot of profoundly horrible things done to me growing up. My abuse was not occasional, it was nearly constant at times, with only very rare and tragically brief slow periods. My fabulously inventive brain saved me by birthing siblings/friends/protectors/sponges that shared my burdens and made some of the worst things merely the nightmares of an imaginative child.
Before i acknowledged my multiplicity i just thought i was the flakiest person i’d ever known. A veritable all-you-eat buffet of quirks and oddities that seemed completely nonsensical. But as it turned out, some of them made perfect sense once i had all the information.
I was being triggered, and in the early days of dealing with all my Bits N’ Pieces, it was most of the damn time. It was everything from the smell of a certain cologne to the creaking of a door to playground equipment to bugs to change being jangled in a pocket  to meeting someone new. An old song or television program could have me practically catatonic in seconds. Being startled often caused a crying jag or  hyperventilation. In large crowds of people i would suddenly just keel over in a dead faint.

It’s taken years of hard work, but i’m not just raw flesh with no skin anymore. I’ve toughened up, learned to cope. I’ve developed skills that help me get through the day, i’ve tended to the wounds of all the broken people inside of me, been their confessor, borne witness to all their stories. I’ve been their medium, their conduit, and their vessel into which they poured all their terror and rage and pain. It was all burned into me until i finally had a skin – a skin made of scars.

I work that skin every day. I bend, i stretch, i reach, i pivot ’round, i kneel. I nurture it with the oils of understanding, acceptance, forgiveness, and i feed it with mindfulness, which for me, has proven to be the water of life. My skin has grown smooth, and supple, and beautiful. There are still very visible scars, some are angry red and keloid. There are still times when i see or hear or smell or am otherwise reminded of some awful thing, and i can still react reflexively from a place of remembered fear and pain.
This morning it happened with a random conversation with a loved one that twisted me in a way that made one of my scars cry out NO!

I don’t expect the rest of the world to tiptoe around me, but i won’t let it trample me, either. I don’t want to live in a world where people are feet and i am an eggshell. I don’t want you to know all my triggers, because i don’t want you to see the abuse when you look at me. I don’t want you not to speak about X or not wear Y, because you know i was abused by someone who X’ed and was wearing Y when they did something terrible to me.

I want you to look at me and see who i am, and feel how you feel about me, regardless of whether that is good or bad, liking or not at all liking, without the shadow that would be cast if you let a cloud of past abuse hang over me.
Today i was triggered. HARD. In my own home, by someone i love more than my own life. I don’t need him to know about it or to understand. This is his home too and it’s not all about me, and i am so glad about that. This is the safest place i know, and my favourite place to be, and today that particular scar got a little softer, a little smoother.

I do it for the joy it brings
‘Cause I’m a joyful girl
‘Cause the world owes me nothing 
And we owe each other the world
I do it ’cause it’s the least I can do
I do it ’cause I learned it from you
And I do it just because I want to 
‘Cause I want to
Everything I do is judged
And they mostly get it wrong
But oh well
Bathroom mirror has not budged
And the woman who lives there can tell
The truth from the stuff that they say
She looks me in the eye
So, you would you prefer the easy way
No, well OK then
Don’t cry
I wonder if everything I do
I do instead 
Of something I want to do more
The question fills my head
And I know there’s no grand plan here
This is just the way it goes
When everything else seems unclear
I guess at least I know
I do it for the joy it brings
‘Cause I’m a joyful girl
‘Cause the world owes me nothing 
And we owe each other the world
I do it ’cause it’s the least I can do
I do it ’cause I learned it from you
I do it just because I want to~Joyful Girl, Ani DiFranco

 

Stitches and Stains

I was born into a job. Pain, anger, lust, shame, guilt, fear, loneliness, hate. They would come for me and open me up and put things inside. And i kept them. People would give me things; things that they could no longer bear. Things that were too heavy, too old, too hot, too dirty, too ugly. Rotten things and evil things and secrets for my tiny little pockets. I kept them until they overflowed, little squares of filth and flesh pressed into my waiting palms that i sewed into my clothes until every hem burst open. I squirreled them away inside myself until my body bulged and undulated, fetid and fecund.

Pushing me into little rooms, pressing against me, pushing until i had no breath. Opening doors without knocking, breaking windows that i had nailed shut, screaming into my empty spaces, filling me like a bellows with their rancid breath. The smell of their panicky need staining my lips like my grandmother’s sample case of lipsticks, the gaudy orange-red made my teeth appear yellow, it bled outside the lines and gathered in the corners of my mouth. No amount of scrubbing could hide the evidence of my experimentation, just as i couldn’t brush the taste of their hatred out of my teeth, my gums, my tongue.

 

The Long Walk Home

When you have been used for sexual gratification from before you could speak, it does things to you on a deeply reflexive, primal level. I didn’t even know acquiescence until my brain developed more and i learned that i didn’t like it, but i had to submit to avoid pain and punishment. I’ve been sexually victimised my entire life, although the frequency has lessened the older and more aware i’ve become. I wanna write about how it’s still happening and what i think and feel about it, and what i’m learning.

I didn’t know for most of my life that i didn’t like touch, and i’ve only been aware for a couple of years that i could say No. I haven’t said it yet – but at least i know that i can. For the first year i would still go in for the hug, and i was often the one to initiate. It’s a reflex. It’s what people do these days so i should do it. I might hurt someone’s feelings and i wouldn’t want to make anyone feel rejected. It would be awkward, and as much as awkward situations are a regular part of my life, i would prefer it wasn’t that way and i try to avoid them. I’m not the smooth, cool type, but i’ve always wished to be so.
Maybe one day i’ll be fine with touch, but for now, i just really enjoy not touching or being touched. I’m learning to use body language to communicate this in a non-threatening way, without even conveying fear. I’m finding that if i don’t take a step closer to people and i keep my arms at my sides and my palms towards myself that they will respond by not approaching for a physical greeting. One person who has read some of my blog posts even said she was consciously not touching me because she respects my boundaries. That was amazing and felt great. (If you ever get around to reading this, you know who you are, and thank you.)

What i’ve been focusing more on now is the sexual aspect of touch. When it’s okay and when it isn’t. Who can and who can’t. Choosing to be in a monogamous relationship has helped. One person can seek me out for sex and nobody else. No one else may approach me sexually, whether it’s physically or verbally.
This is very difficult for me to write about.

I understand that a person has value just because they’re a person, but it never occurred to me that the concept also applied to me. I’ve only recently begun to understand that, a) i’m intrinsically valuable and worthy, and b) i decide to whom i mete out my value, and what part of the treasure that is me i share or gift them with, and also when i do, meaning that i am not required to do so ever again if i don’t wish to.
But for the vast majority of my life i have not known this.
If someone wants something from me i just give it to them. My time, my effort, my friendship, and sometimes, my body. Not always my body, because thankfully, i have other people who live in my brain who, if they can make it to the face, can either get me the fuck away, or joke me out of it. I’ve never been able to just shut someone down, though. I’ve always had to be nice about it. I crack jokes, or i smile and say I’m flattered, but… Or i apologise and offer a gentle I can’t, the implication being that i would if i could…

All of this started a few months ago when i began walking for exercise.
I live on an acreage and our road doesn’t get much traffic, but we do get the occasional driver who’s lost, or bylaw officer, or farmer checking his cattle or crops. I began to notice that i couldn’t remember the make/model/license plate number of any of the vehicles once they’d passed out of my sight. Nor could i tell you who was in the vehicle or give a description – even if i’d spoken with them briefly. All the Datelines and various forensic programs and cold case murders i’d watched on telly had impacted me and i realised i would be easy pickings for anyone looking for a victim.

I started applying my mindfulness techniques to my walks. Looking around at things instead of just being lost in my thoughts. Using my phone to record license plates and other details about the vehicles i’d see. Who’s driving and is there anyone else with them? Calling my husband to talk to him if someone was pulled over for whatever reason and i had to pass them. Memorising the emergency number assigned to our acreage; knowing our land location and range road, and what township road we intersect. Awareness of my surroundings; body language that conveys that awareness and also let’s anyone know that Yes, i see you, and Yes, i’m taking note of you and your vehicle.

As i’ve improved my fitness level i’ve grown to really enjoy my walks, and sometimes i’ll take on more distance. Sometimes i’ll walk into town for an errand.
It happened the very first time i did it.

A friend had taken me into the city for a doctor’s appointment (i don’t drive), and when we came back, i asked her if she’d drop me at a shop in town where i had some business, instead of taking me home. I’d then walk home from there. After i assured her that i actually wanted to walk home, it didn’t take long for me to be finished and on my way. I was nearly on the highway when a man drove by in a truck and he slowed, Wow!ed and whistled at my appearance, and asked me to go to coffee with him.

I beamed a smile at him and said, No, thank you.

I fucking beamed a smile at him and said, No, thank you.

That’s when i first started realising what i was doing. The reflex – like breathing. No thought involved at all, totally automatic.
But i’d already learned from my walks on my own road. The awareness kicked in and i stopped walking after he’d gone on a bit, and i made sure he was out of sight before i gave away that i was crossing the highway, lest he take note of the easier access a deserted road might allow him, and mark that that road likely led to where i live.

A few weeks later my husband dropped me off in town so that i might walk the dogs at the park for a treat. On the way home, i stopped at the local highway gas station for a cold drink. I came out not more than 2mins later and there were 2 men petting my dogs. They made with the dog compliments as they eyed my body up and down. They asked me to come out for a drink with them, and when i smilingly turned them down, offered to take my dogs home first. Again i declined, after which they tried to insist on at least taking all of us home. It’s so hot out today, you’re going to get heat stroke.
They had greasy smiles and i could smell the booze on them, and then i switched. Hard and fast. 
Whoever took over was a GTFO type. Crossed us over to the service road that goes past the road home. I found myself back in the face before i’d even made the turn, so she must have thought we were safe.
But i clocked them in their truck, driving down the highway.
First in one direction, and then in the other.
I pretended to talk on the phone and made like i was waiting for someone.
I didn’t start walking again until i hadn’t seen them for 10mins or so.

After all the work i’ve done in order to deal with my past, i’ve learned some things that help me deal, and being targeted since then has confirmed some of it.
It’s not about me, personally. It has nothing whatever to do with how attractive i am or what i’m wearing or what i’m doing.
Predators are gonna hunt.
I’m potential prey.
That’s it. That’s all. That’s everything.

Then there was this morning’s walk.
As i set off, i can see right away that there’s a truck on the road, driving extremely slowly, but away from me. I mentally tick off the possibilities: bylaw officer, farmer, sight-seer, someone walking their dog the disabled or lazy way, guy getting a blowjob, etc. The closer i get, i’m crossing more off the list.
Maybe i recognise the truck but i can’t be sure. One male. The passenger side is so close to the shoulder i’d have to walk in the ditch to get around, and if i cross on the driver’s side he could easily grab me.
I pull out my phone to record his license plate and make/model/colour of the truck.
I make the pass on the barest shoulder of the passenger side, and he rolls down the window.
He’s not looking at me and i can feel an aura alerting me that i’m getting ready to switch, but when i look at him, i think i know who he is, so i relax. A little.

He says he’s just checking the fences, he’s not a robber.
I say I’m walking my dogs alone, and a girl can’t be too careful.
He seems a little offended.
I’m considering this as i pass, and i almost went back to apologise.

I almost fucking went back to apologise.

And i referred to myself as a girl. Ugh.
There was some progress, though. I wasn’t smiling, and i didn’t say sorry.
Not perfect, but it is progress, and i’ll take it, thanks.
It’s okay because i was raised to be that way. It’s going to take time, advertence, and energetic application, but i will get there. Ownership of my body. My body serves me and my needs and desires, and no one else’s unless i decide i want to share.

I look back on all the sexual harm that was done to me, and i will never, ever get over it. I was fully indoctrinated, brainwashed, made, schooled, expected, ordered, demanded, to always be available for whatever my mother wished. I did what she told me to do, went wherever with whomever; didn’t ask questions, and easily intuited that i wasn’t to speak of the evenings and weekends i went to a “babysitter”. It is the contention of the Peanut Gallery that i first split in infancy, but i’ll never know for certain. It doesn’t matter, but i am certain that i was fractured and fracturing by 4yrs old, which is the first time i clearly remember leaving my body and hearing someone else speak from inside my face.

The thing that i’m currently most angry about with respect to the sexual abuse is that they made me complicit in their actions. Not just while they were actively abusing me, but after they had stopped. They taught me to allow myself to be used, abused, and victimised, by any and all who would come for me. Because of them i craved and was flattered by any sexual attention from anyone who’d show it to me, regardless of whether or not i wanted them, or would at least accept them, into my bed. And when i finally could smell the stink of what they’d done all over me, it caused me to act out in dangerous ways, in an immature and terrified attempt to scrub it off of me. A pretense of triumph and control.

Because of them, predators may always get at least a whiff of prey about me.
I will never forgive a single one of them for that, and i’m glad for every death that’s already come, and look forward to the last breath of those who yet have it.

Fuck Them All,
~H~

 

Blargh.

I do not know if i can maintain this way of coping with my pain, or for how long.

I got the Kiddo off to school, ate breakfast and tried to get to the business of the day. The ache though, it’s settled in like it’s hibernating for the winter and my body is the cave. My skin hurts and i feel the ache in the muscle all the way into my bones. So i went back to bed, to see if i could find a little sleep and maybe relief. I doze fitfully, and the ache follows me into my dreams until i hear a little doggy scratch at my door 2hrs later: Mom, we have to pee now. I get up and i have that overslept feeling; my head feels like it’s stuffed with cement chunks that are grinding against each other. Not fair, because i don’t feel any more rested than i did at 5:30 this morning.

I have had to return to hot showers. This is a difficult thing for me to do, as it’s highly triggering. The bathroom, on the whole, is the most triggery room in my house. I was attacked in bathrooms, i would get cleaned up in bathrooms, and in later years, i would try to scald the filth off of my body with water hot enough to do damage. Personal hygeine has been a problem for me on and off through the years, due to the abuse. If i didn’t go in, i didn’t get assaulted, and my unclean body was screaming out DON’T TOUCH ME!
I recognised the problem many years ago, and taking luke warm showers is part of what i do to cope with my anxiety. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do much for the pain, and so i do mindfulness type exercises while standing under water that’s as hot as i dare.

I remind myself who i am, how old i am, and that i’m not being abused anymore.
I feel my feet touching the tub.
I leave the curtain open a bit so i can see it’s my bathroom.
The door is open and the dogs are less than 5m away.

Chronic pain doesn’t leave much energy left over. My brain is in a fog, logy and sluggish. I finally remember to take a pain reliever. I stagger 2 different kinds. I don’t take too many anymore, and i don’t know if what i do take helps very much. I think it does? My head aches measurably less, but when i’m in full flare-up, it never goes away.

The pain in my face is returning. It’s one of the things that troubles me the most.
People don’t realise how much they touch their face. I do, though. I know because i hate my face being touched almost more than anything. It can trigger immediate and violent dissociation if someone touches my face. Even my own touch can be disturbing to me. I’ve worked very hard to remain present during morning and evening skin care, and the occasional makeup applications. When my face aches though, i can find myself unconsciously touching a painful area. If i catch myself stroking or rubbing my face, it can be hard to stay present and aware. I can suddenly feel disgusting and disgusted at the same time. When i feel like that i want to distance myself from my body – i don’t like the feel of it, so i check out.

So this is the absolute shit of it. I’m in pain, which dissociation could relieve, but i don’t want to do that, so i’ve got to just feel it. This is a mirror of what’s happening with my mental/emotional health and i try to find it funny, but i struggle with self-pity.

I’m not trying to be a martyr here. I’m not saying this is the way to deal with chronic pain, either. In fact, i’d strongly recommend against this. The only reason i’m doing it this way is because i have to right now. I’m not using alcohol or pills or street drugs to get away from my brain, my body, or my past any longer. I’d love to get away from the pain for a while, but abuse of alcohol only works while the intoxication is maintained. The inevitable sobriety brings greater pain for days after. Street drugs don’t generally work, and pills… Some opiates cause pancreatitis for me, and i’d rather feel the fibro pain, thank you very much.

I’m also no superhero. I don’t know how long i can continue to handle it all this way.
I’m going to try not to think about it too much. This little bitty piece of writing has taken me nearly 2 weeks to write. I bash out a few sentences and then go distract myself with something else. I don’t want to dwell because that leads to obsession which always leads to rash decisions and poor choices. I get overwhelmed and i want to stop feeling the way i do, so i grab a quick fix, which always costs more than it’s worth.

You know, the more i open up about how my brain works, and what i’m doing to manage it and have a happier and more functional life, the more i wonder if it’s even possible that anyone out there can relate. But that’s probably just the pain talking, at least i hope so. I’m going to take it as a sign that i’m tired and it’s time for me to stop this piece and go to bed.
I don’t know if it’s done yet.
I’ll ask tomorrow.

I think it is. I needed to share what i’m going through, but now i have and i’m going to move on. I’ve made the best decision i can with the resources i have available: acknowledge it to myself, share it with someone, have a moment of how shitty and unfair it is – and move on.

It’s all balance, isn’t it? I’m trying to look at just enough of the minutiae that i can tweak what isn’t quite working and have a better life – but not get obsessed, overwhelmed, and completely out of touch with the rest of the world. I’m also trying to see just enough of the big picture, so that i can maintain my focus, and see my progress as more of an evolutionary process, in other words, it’s gonna take time.

Love and Peace to You,

~H~

Just Blather, That’s All

So Wednesday sucked. Really a lot. And my brain did what it does in order to cope. There was fallout. What i do now, rather than pretend like it never happened, is examine it with a critical (not unkind) eye, learn what i can from it, tweak my life where necessary, and move on. What went wrong was due to not managing triggers well enough to avoid certain coping mechanisms that tend to do more harm than good in my current life.

 

Let’s talk about triggers. I know it’s a somewhat current topic, but i’m not gonna get into the politics of it. Psychpedia says “a trigger in psychology is a stimulus such as a smell, sound, or sight that triggers feelings of trauma.” I was hit hard by 2 intense triggers at once, and i lost my grip on things. First, i had a doctor’s appointment. These are always difficult for me, but pap smears are by far the hardest. Second, i spend the day with family when i have something going on in the city, seeing as i live out of town and i no longer drive. My family has recently moved to a new home, and it’s in an older area of the city, where i endured some of the earliest and most insidious sexual abuse of my childhood.

 

I failed to anticipate the intensity of my reaction and i did NOT adequately prepare for the day. I was fully dissociated before i even got to my family’s home. Fortunately, i found papers that give me a general idea of how my appointment went. My doctor is very involved in all aspects of my health, so i can call if i need more information. My family realised i wasn’t quite myself, and they understand. Once i had some idea that i was struggling, i took steps to minimise any interaction i had with the young people in the house.

 

I’m fairly upset that they saw me in that state, and so right now my inclination is to hide. I don’t think i’ll be going anywhere for the next few days. I’m trying to manage the feelings of guilt and shame, and i know from experience that adding people to the mix will almost certainly cause an anxiety attack.  Realising i was there-but-not-there is sort of like coming home from your normal work  day, catching a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, and seeing yourself naked. You forgot to put on any clothes, and everyone you interacted with that day has now seen you buck-ass nekkid. They’ve now seen private bits of you that you’d never have shown them otherwise. I feel victimised all over again, but it’s neither their fault, nor mine.

 

It can be tough to work through.

 

I’ll be better prepared next time. Even this time was better than the last time. As soon as i got enough clarity, i took control of the situation as best i could. I left the home and waited for my husband to come and pick me up at a neutral location. Well, it was a playground that my mother had used as a drop-off when i was very young, but it was preferable to sliding around in a dissociative state in front of my family. I even had the presence of mind to leave my phone and my money at the house. That may sound counterintuitive, but it’s not. I’ve been known to disappear for days when i have the means, and although having nothing but the clothes on my back hasn’t always stopped me, i’m functional enough now that i figured it would be at least somewhat inhibitive.

 

This probably doesn’t help anyone else out there much, but i committed to writing more, and this is what’s coming out. My thoughts are still pretty scrambled, and that, coupled with this feeling of acute shame and embarrassment, is making it difficult to tie it all up in some grand pronouncement of LESSON LEARNED: Achievement Unlocked!

 

So next time i’m in that neighbourhood, i won’t act like it’s fine. It’s not fine. That time in my life was ugly and awful. I will have a conversation with myself about how it’s okay to feel whatever, but it’s not okay to do whatever. I can handle the feelings, the thoughts, the flashes of memory… I don’t need to be protected or shielded anymore. I got this. I can be in the moment feeling the feeling and thinking the thought and i’m not gonna die. I don’t even have to do anything particularly crazy. Heh.

 

I’m gonna go have a nap with Floofy McFlooferkins. I’m exhausted. Just trying to get something written that makes any sense (it occurs to me that this still may not, despite my best efforts) is like a mental treasure hunt through an obstacle course. I have to sift through a lot of chatter and dodge a lot of thoughts that i can get stuck in like quicksand. The best remedy is sleep and puppy shnuggles.

 

 

 

Thanks For Reading,

Love and Peace,

~H~