Letting Go, AKA The Jump

healing is in the air
life is a precious ring given to us by love
to polish and shine with all we learn

~Jane Siberry, Morag

Letting go is a helluva thing, innit? It is where i currently find myself. As i said to a friend the other day, i am on a precipice. I feel my feet are on solid ground, but i’m close to the edge, and i can see the vastness of the chasm just a step or 2 away. I mentioned in my last post that i wondered if my parachute would function properly, and bear me safely to the ground below. I felt the significance of it as i typed it out, and knew i’d be writing more about it at another time. Off we go, then.

All the work i’ve done over these last years has been leading me to a moment. Okay, there’ve been many moments, times that i’ve known/felt were significant. I understand that that’s what therapy is, a series of steps that lead to moments that prepare me for and bear me on through the next steps. Some moments though, are more charged than others, more thick with fulfillment and promise. I’ve sought epiphanies and had many as a result – they’ve been vital, perhaps integral, to my continuing on with this work. It has mostly been cerebral stuff yes, that is, until i’d dug deep enough. Once i struck the well i moved into the emotional, and i felt countless times like i was drowning, like i’d never find dry land. When i did, i thought everything was done. And then i stumbled and fell. When i looked up i saw a mountain in my path, and i learned that the only way forward was up.
These last years have been physical, literally physical work. Physical AND emotional AND mental. As i climbed i saw something waiting for me at the peak.
A moment.

We know that mountains are not just a pointy bit at the top, as they appear from far away, or in a child’s drawing (because that is, after all, what they see –what we all see– from a distance). If you’re a hiker/climber you well know, and if you watch nature programming and/or have seen the coverage of the Everest questers, you’ve at least seen it. There are summits sure, but also ledges, ridges, shoulders, cols, dikes, faces, saddles, and oh yes, pinnacles. Mountains are a lot of parts, and are certainly a most apt metaphor for my journey over the last 2yrs. It’s been a climb… One helluva climb.

Can you see where this metaphor is leading? Of course you can. Yes, i’m at the top, and it’s a summit of a sort, almost extreme enough to be called a pinnacle, i suppose. The thing is, i cannot see what lies in front of me, nor below. The question is, will i jump? BASE jump life, are you crazy? Why thank you Sir/Madam, i am. In this case though, i don’t think my crazy factors in. The preparation for this has been hours and days and years of work. To meet pain and fear in the daylight, to know them intimately, to build relationship with them. I had to learn how to know them, in order to relate to them, to communicate, and most of all, to listen to what they had to share with me, to teach me. I had to provide the atmosphere for communication to happen. I spent my early years in a brain fog, but once i hit my mid-30s, it was nothing short of cacophony up there. Although i’ve never experienced quiet in this old noggin of mine, at least when i was younger it was more like a soft buzz than the shrill and the shriek of my 40s.

I marshalled my brain-voice force and soldiered on, sure.
I wish i could continue on with metaphors – they’re so much easier for me.
More romance and less suspense/thriller.
Ah, well.
Letting go scares the everloving you-know-what outta me.
Horror may fit better. (A tad histrionic, that. Heh.)

Until now, the question regarding this work, this journey towards better mental health and functionality has not been “if,” but “when.” But letting go is not a small thing.

To me, letting go means to step away from hypervigilance. To stop functioning from the constant, underlying fear/belief that everyone will hurt me. To be present and mindful when experiencing fear. To look it in the face and then hold it in my arms and soothe it with true things:
It’s over,
We’re safe,
Everything’s going to be okay, because i can handle it.
To understand, with wisdom and maturity, that some people will hurt me and i won’t die from it.

Letting go means dropping the facade (a facade is different from a social mask, which i use without compunction). To live from a place where i am fully myself in whatever capacity i know myself at that time –with appropriate protections at appropriate times– like, not telling someone private things about myself because i want to fit in and be liked.

Letting go means releasing my grip on the controls, i.e. allowing people to be who they are and think what they think – which most importantly includes what they think/feel about me. This ties in to the fear of being hurt, rejected, or betrayed. I spend an inordinate, unhealthy amount of time and attention trying to read others. I have reams of mental scripts for social interactions. I’m always trying to anticipate someone’s reaction, and i still wrestle with the desire/perceived need to orchestrate outcomes. My subtle manipulations are, in a significant way, removing, or at least interfering with, a person’s autonomy. Once i gained that insight, it instantly became not okay. It’s proven a difficult thing to lay down, and its time is overdue.

Letting go means being kinder and more forgiving to those to whom i’m closest. I’m unfailingly polite and friendly to those outside my circle, but if i’m married to you or made you, not so much. From the place of childhood trauma, the amount that i love them is a threat, and from that place i can be prickly, sometimes downright cruel. I jump to conclusions and assume ill intent, because in my mind it’s better than being caught off guard. Hurt occurs in loving relationships – the intentional sort, too. It is not abuse, however. If i was being abused i would have left or had the offending party removed. I’m not though, yet i’ve been allowing parts of my system to behave in ways that are unacceptable.

Many of them are trapped in past abuse, and some of the more developed parts stubbornly refuse to move forward with me. They’ve been on notice for awhile that things are changing, and getting set to change a lot more yet. I have the will, the ability, and the power to take drastic measures if need be. I’ve ended physical violence, verbal abuse, and destruction of property over the years, but i’m ready for more. Yes, everyone gets grouchy and snippy sometimes – what i’m referring to is not that. I’m like a rescue dog that’s been savagely beaten, who keeps growling and snarling and nipping, long after they’re being treated properly.
I am not a dog.
I have what it takes to stay the sarcastic comment and silence the passive-aggressive commentary.
I know i don’t need protection from these people.
Time to stop baring my teeth.

Most of all, letting go has to do with my past. Of course it does. At first, i couldn’t have let it go if i’d tried (i wouldn’t have, but if i had, you know… ). Once i’d become well acquainted with, and more than a little attached to my system, i resisted it as hard as i did the mere thought of integration. It felt like letting go of them (my memories) was a betrayal of myself and a denial of my past. And on an insidious level, i thought it would rob me of any legitimate reason for being so messed up. I also thought that maybe it was about forgetting, and a part of me wanted to forget, but was afraid i’d never be able to, that i’d be stuck in the horror of it for the rest of my life.

Letting go of my past doesn’t mean forgetting, nor does it mean that i won’t still be dealing with it and working through it. It means stepping out of the past and living as fully as possible in the present. There are parts of me that are trapped in the past, so this would involve bringing them along with me, and i know there is only one way to do that, which in turn calls for more letting go. That is care. It wasn’t only abuse that caused me to split; the stage for it was set by lack of care. Perhaps worse than the abuse itself was unmet needs, the overarching of which was love. My physical needs were given sporadically, and taken away on a whim, but i was never loved by the one who brought me into this world and charged herself with my care. To her i was something to be consumed, more possession than person.

The thing is though, the abuse stopped when i got away from her and my stepfather at 21yrs old. My mother’s been dead for 30yrs and i’ve been comfortably estranged from my stepfamily and half siblings for maybe 10. No one is abusing me anymore. I’m surrounded by people who love me and accept me for who i am and how i work. I’m safe and in a loving situation and i receive daily care. I care for myself and i take care of myself, and i trust my partner to care for and take care of me, too. He’s stepped in countless times and done for me what i was unable to do for myself – both emotional and physical care.
It’s time to stop living as if my childhood is still happening. It’s time to let the wounds close over and stop picking the scabs – time to let it all scar over.

I’ve been preparing for this moment for years. I’ve always known that letting go would be a thing, but i didn’t know what it entailed or how to do it. As i’ve shared here, i have developed some ideas on how that would look, and it’s time for me to try it. I’ve always bristled a bit at the insistence of others that i’m a survivor of mental, emotional, physical, sexual violence and abuse. I watched others like me bristle at being called a victim, and i got it for them, but it was not for me. Every time i get super low and feel like the world’s biggest failure and total screw-up, my husband says gently to me that these things aren’t true. He says, “You are not (x), you are a victim.”

And i’ve seriously needed to hear that, over and over, because i couldn’t accept being as broken as i’ve been without someone who is safe and loving and providing me with care to tell me that it’s true and accurate and understandable and okay, to be as incredibly fucked up and non-functional as i’ve been. Being called a survivor felt like being told i should be done dealing with my past. I wasn’t. I’m not. And by letting go, i think i’d like to skip that whole “survivor” stage, and just get straight on with living. I’ll keep on doing the work, but my path will look different. I don’t know how because, as i’ve stated, i can’t see the bottom. I haven’t jumped yet but i’m fixin’ to…

Very, very soon.

we’ll see things we’ve never seen before
they say we will do this and much more
we will have the healing hands
to help the ones we love
which will be every living thing


~ J.S.

IMAGE: Cristofer Jeschke





I’m Not A Bitch, Pt. IV

Warning: Contains some indirect references to integration, and refers to child rape and trafficking. This is a positive piece, but make sure you have good support in place.

**********

So, as i was saying… I’m not a bitch.

But i’ve been told i was one, and called one, ever since i can remember. My mother often exclaimed, “Oh, you little bitch!” when i failed to live up to her expectations, which were unrealistic, unreasonable, and very often unattainable, for my entire childhood. To give you an idea of how high they were, i could cook an entire roast beef dinner when i was 4yrs old.

One time when i was 6, i came home from school and realised i’d forgotten to thaw the liver i was supposed to be preparing for supper, and so i put it in the oven. I didn’t know the plastic container it was in would melt as well, so when the intense chemical smell hit me, i yanked open the oven door and tried to pull out the container, which was stuck to the rack, but managed to drip onto my wrist – a scar that’s visible today.
Her response when she got home from work was, “You stupid bitch!” plus the obligatory beating.

When i would ask for money to participate in a school activity, i was often called a selfish bitch. I only thought of myself, she’s needed new work clothes for years, all i care about is going to the stupid zoo/museum/farm/play, do i think money grows on trees?

And on the rare day when i completely lost my mind and dared to question or correct her, she’d slap or backhand me and call me some form of smartass/smart aleck/smart-mouth, attached to the ubiquitous “bitch”.

I learned that asking for anything, complaining about anything, and questioning anything were all bad and dangerous, but more than that –  they meant i was a bitch. Once i’d learned that lesson anyone could control my behaviour by indicating to me in some way that i was being a bitch. I let toxic people become close friends and allowed toxic family members to maintain contact with me. And i let them all have control over my life decisions and manipulate me into behaving the way they wanted.

Some told me i was the black sheep.
Some reminded me i was only half related to them.
Some pointed out i was only attached by marriage.
Some informed me i was a drama queen.
Some called me a liar.
Some said i was faking.
Some simply acted as if i didn’t exist.
Most treated me like i was the problem.

If you’ve read enough of my blog, you may well wonder how this fits with a self-professed “good girl”.
It is simply one of the gifts of being a multiple. I have many facets to my personality. Some, i’m now discovering, are intrinsically me. Some are aspects i took on in order to please and find relative safety. I have some parts of me that i created to be for me – parts that were on my side 100% of the time. These parts would occasionally come out and get me something that i wanted to have or be someone that i wished i could be, but could not.

They could tell people off. In fact, they could lay a verbal smackdown that left some folks practically punch drunk. They were capable of the silent treatment, a certain stubbornness that wouldn’t allow me to grovel or beg family for anything.  And they were able to keep the wrong kind of intimate relationships out of my life, almost entirely.
When the first person i seriously wanted to be with physically was a girl, they got her for me, in spite of all my religious upbringing, and my mother’s vicious homophobia.

It took them a while to gain power. I’m not sure when they were made/created/born, and if they were around when i was being regularly sexually abused, i’m not aware of it. However, once my mother stopped trafficking me, they grew in influence inside my brain.
They mouthed off to my mother, and stole food from her for us – and took the beating that always followed.
They told opportunistic boys No, when those creeps figured the fat girl would be only too happy to give them sex because i was getting a little attention.
When it was men, they got me the fuck outta there. And there were men.
Of course there were.

They built a wall of protection around me. Once the raping stopped, they began laying bricks. Occasionally someone would get through a hole in my defenses, and they’d brick it up right quick. They drew lines in the sand of me that no one could cross. No one. Kept my need for love and acceptance and understanding and compassion in check. Managed my levels. Made sure no one could sneak in and eat the fruit of the 1 little tree that had survived the violent plunder of my garden.

Pull out this brick, she needs some sun.
Shit, someone’s coming, put it back!
Shhh…

Then i met someone i wanted more than i’d ever wanted anyone — more than the girl all those years ago. I had relationships by pure accident. I wanted companionship, i occasionally wanted sex, but mostly i craved normalcy, and being in a relationship was what society and religion seemed to be telling me i needed to have in order to get that.
But no one ever got passed that brick wall. If the relationship fizzled or fell flat, i was fine in a day or 2, tops.
Then i found myself dating an excellent human, and i took down the bricks, crossed my own line to go over to him, and i pulled him close to me and haven’t let go for going on 24yrs. I found my person, my soft place to fall.
And i fell.

I’d been trying, before i met him. I tried my best sometimes, even. Like when a family member attempted rape, like when my mother died, like when my first son was born. But between not finding the right kind of help with the right person, and running from any hint of a DID diagnosis, i was just spinning my wheels. I couldn’t find any traction. I’d get exhausted and quit for a while, only trying again when crisis would hit.

When i fell in love with him and started building a life with him is when my work began in earnest, and although mental illness and the way my brain works has tripped me up hard here and there, i’ve never not picked myself up and gotten back at it as soon as i was able.
And as building a life with him created safe space around us, i set to rebuilding myself. As per my own specs.

I’ve put in a tremendous amount of work, i’ve suffered setbacks aplenty, and i’ve despaired at length. I’ve lost and/or eliminated a great many people. I’ve stripped myself down to the absolute barest of necessities: air, water, food, shelter, love. HIM. And at one point i was prepared to continue without him, if need be.*
Many times i’ve looked behind me and only seen wreckage, but ever so slowly, as i turned back, tightened my focus on the path directly in front of me and set my shoulder to the wheel, i found my perspective broadened. Each time i turned back i saw less of what i’ve lost and more how far i’ve come – what i’ve gained.

It was tough for me last year, when i thought i’d done all the therapy, and was so dang functional and fine, only to have my body pipe up and ask, then beg, then INSIST that there was more work to do, and it was deeper and more painful than that which came before. I panicked when i saw what i was looking at: to bring together my thoughts and my emotions, that have existed separate from each other since i was a baby.
To feel what i feel while knowing what i know. At the same time.

The last few months have been filled with terror. I lost sleep, i slid into fibro agony, my system worked up into a chaotic froth, bringing with it a constant headache, loosening my hard-won grip over who could be in the face and when – losing control, losing time, that old, internal imperative built into me to GO HOME. A place that no longer exists, and only held suffering and misery when it did. Between the hard switches and the drinking i was doing to cope, it was beginning to look like a stay in The Bin was in my very near future.

But the time and the work i’ve invested in myself and my quality of life have begun to pay off. Panic and terror are not fun to feel, but they don’t actually last for long. These are states of feeling that are intense, and they tend to burn brightly, but fizzle or at least fade relatively quickly. I know from my past that i can ride these feelings through, and they haven’t killed me. And they’ve had a chance to more times than i can count.
My therapist says that no one ever died from feeling their feelings, but they have from not feeling them. I don’t know if that’s true for everyone, but i can see it blazing bright in my own life. Feeling this stuff won’t kill me, i have that repeated experience to have at least a small amount of trust in. And if doing this chunk of work can bring me an even higher level of function and more opportunities for happiness, helpfulness, and success than i was enjoying back when everything went for shit last year (and my therapist –in whom i also have some not-insignificant trust in– assures me it will), then i’m not just in, honey i’m ALL in.

Now, finally, this is the part where i tie it all together.

Becoming a multiple is what i did to survive my childhood. My system has saved me countless times from losing my life or my mind. Dissociating from what was happening around me was the best i could do, but once the trauma had ended, it became more and more of an impediment to experiencing life on life’s terms, and inhibited me from building the life and the relationships i wanted. It all came to a head and burst when i fell in love and got married. I knew, both from intuition and from every single experience i had with him, that i could trust him, and he would support me as i fell completely apart and put myself back together again. And he did. He has. He will.

I’ve figured out how my brain works, and i’ve gotten to know everyone that lives in there, formed relationships with them that work, and helped them get along with each other. I’ve studied the people around me, the people who left me, the people i left and the ones i let go, and my relationships with them. I’m at peace with it all, and though my current circle is small, it’s tight and strong and healthy and there’s room for more if i so choose. My requirements for relationship are appropriate and well thought out, and i know what i bring to the table.

Clearing a spot for me to do this next-level therapy has not been easy. I had a home safety issue that i’d been avoiding, because i wasn’t getting the help that i’d repeatedly asked for to deal with the problem. I had to get that squared away. Then i had to simplify and streamline my day-to-day routine, because my energy was limited, and my current therapy needed to be my priority. And i also had to ask people in my circle for understanding, for patience, for help. I had to take a hard look at what others were asking of me, prioritise, and say No to people. Dearest loved ones, even. No, i can’t do that, and No, i won’t do that anymore, like ever. I put up some walls and drew some lines in the sand, and when they weren’t respected, i raised my voice and pumped my fists until i was heard. I require this, and that, and ohbtw, that must stop immediately.

I built this safe space for me to live and be and work. And if you’re not on board with that, either you go, or i will. Whatever. I’ll build another place to be safe. I’ve seen a light coming from somewhere just over this next peak, something bright and beautiful.
I think it’s me. Or maybe it’s a mirror.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with mirrors my entire life. I’ve always hated looking into them. I have to be careful not to look into my own eyes. I can glance quickly, but if it’s more than a second or 2, i dissociate. I pull back – retreat inside myself. I’m suddenly further away from the mirror. Quite a number of my Bits N’ Pieces love to look in the mirror, though. They’re curious. What do *I* look like? When i first began getting to know them and stopped fighting all the switching, some of them had a field day. Makeup, clothes, the mirror, and hundreds of selfies. As i’ve brokered a mostly peaceful coexistence with them, i’ve lost a lot of the fear and loathing i had for the mirror, but it can still be a trigger when i’m low or tired or already sliding around a bit.

Yes… I think it’s a mirror. I think i might meet the person i’m creating inside that mirror, and i’ll bet when i turn around i’ll see who i once was – all of them. I think the work i’m doing right now is a pretty huge fucking deal.

Something has happened over the last month and some, and i think it’s empowerment.

I’m moving into all the spaces inside my brain and my body – i’m filling myself up with ME. Sharing space with my system and moving into the cold and barren places, letting in the light. I am the light.

I’m not afraid.
I’m not afraid to piss anyone off.
I’m not afraid that someone i love won’t like who i’m becoming.
I’m not afraid that people won’t “get it”.
I’m not afraid to lose someone i love to this process.
I’m not afraid to be alone.

I’m not a bitch for focusing on myself.
I’m not a bitch for needing or even just wanting things, and i’m not being a bitch by asking for them, or going out and getting them myself.
I’m not a bitch for creating a safe space, and defending it against all who threaten it.
I’m not a bitch for demanding to be heard and respected in my own home.
I’m not a bitch for saying NO.
I’m not a bitch for calling out abusive behaviour.
I’m not a bitch for refusing to take anyone’s shit.
I’m not a bitch for not taking on other people’s burdens.
I’m not a bitch because i’m tall, and strong, and smart, and pretty, and funny, and wise… I’m not a bitch because i take up more room than someone wants me to, and i’m not a bitch if i intimidate the absolute fuck out of anyone.

This is my road.
Move or i’ll move you.

~H~
*Hey, every relationship goes through rough patches, if they stay together long enough. It shone a light on both our flaws and made us painfully aware of our personal baggage that we’d brought with us. But that’s a story for another time.