The Ace Up Her Sleeve

I don’t know if I can open up
I’ve been opened enough
I don’t know if I can open up
I’m not a birthday present
~ Marilyn Manson, Mephistopheles of Los Angeles

So that happened…
I have a scheduled phone therapy sesh at 2 today.
It’s 8 and i’ve already lost time.
When i come back to the face i always check around me to see what i can figure out about what happened while i wasn’t there, and to assess any damage. Over the years, i’ve become quite the sleuth.

I wish i could describe what it’s like to come back from various levels of dissociation, but it’s difficult. After a mild dissociation, i’m lightheaded, like i almost fainted, but didn’t. Coming back from a slide, where i’m there, but helplessly watching what’s happening around me from a distance, is like a carnival ride… sort of. There’s internal, psychic gravity involved. When the elevator lurches and you feel it in your belly? It’s akin to that. Returning from a full switch is much harder to define. Part waking up, part falling and hitting the ground, part walking out of a smoke-filled room, part amyl nitrate popper, cracked and inhaled. Out of the 3, it’s violent and deeply unsettling. Like being punched unconscious by the school bully, and when you come to, you look up and see a crowd of your peers staring down at you.

The first thing i do when the awareness sets in that i’ve been gone, is i try to keep my face neutral. I don’t want to do the big blink, or have a deer-in-the-headlights look on my face. This is number 1 due to shame, but it’s also a not unhealthy sense of self-preservation. I’ve been slammed back into the face while in some dangerous situations; places where i’m around people that are keen for an advantage over someone like me. Prey. And frankly, switching is private. The whole multiple thing, while over the past few years i’m more “out” about it, is deeply personal. Those who respect that are in my life. Those that look at me like i’m a puzzle or a party trick, are not. It’s been my experience that those types WILL play me like a Chinese finger puzzle if i let them.
So yeah, as unobtrusively as possible, i try to suss out what TF is going on.

This morning i fall into the face, and it’s not too bad – more like falling off my bike onto the grass rather than the asphalt. Still, it’s never pleasant. There’s a hitch in my gut, because i must always wonder if i’ve fucked up, and if so, how badly. I see that i’m fully dressed, and the siren starts to bleat when i look down and see i have my shoes on. Being dressed at 8am is one thing; having my shoes on and in the house (i come from a country where people don’t wear their shoes indoors) means i’ve at least tried to go for a walk. At this time my husband will be at work, so i can’t ask him. I look carefully out my bedroom door and see my son’s door is closed. I don’t want to ask him, but once he hears my door open, he comes out to check on me. UGH. He lets me know i was fighting with his dad, and i’d left the house. I hate that he knows, but he’s grown, and it’s better than if he wasn’t. I won’t lie to him at his age, not even by omission. I’m not going to give him a blow-by-blow, but if he asks me a question – i’ll tell him the truth.
He says everything’s okay, and i’m okay, and he and i are okay. That last part is because i constantly fret that i’ve upset him or we’re not on good terms.
I worry on the regular that i’ve enmeshed him with me.
All i have is that i’m willing to know and do what must be done.
For now, that involves hanging on until i can speak with the inimitable Ms T.

**********

When the session starts, i can feel my irritation. This is not at all uncommon. My system has always been varying levels of hostile towards my therapist. It doesn’t bother her. It bothers me, of course. I was trained to respect authority, but also hide all my business from them. Seems weird, but when you consider what my mother was doing to me, it makes total sense. Present as normal as possible, because what was happening was not at all normal, or right, or legal.
She asks how i’m doing, but quickly transitions into therapy.
That may sound weird, but let me explain: I’ve seen a LOT of therapists in my life. I mean, a lot a lot. I always knew something was wrong with me, although i didn’t know what. I always knew someone needed to help me, but i didn’t know who or how. Over the years, i’ve knocked on countless doors and sat in innumerable chairs. I’ve told my story so many times it was like a script i’d memorised. I don’t know if any of them wanted to help me –i’d like to imagine they all did– but no one had what i needed/was looking for.

I’ve been asked a thousand times, How are you doing? and it was bullshit, because it didn’t matter what i said. I could play their game or not, depending on how i felt or who was in charge that day. I know i sound smug and superior here, but let the chips fall where they may. I’d been in the system, barking in the yard for so long, that i could convince anyone to let me in. But no one offered me the bone i wanted. None of it was palatable. None of it or them, made me hungry or want to eat.

So when i met a therapist who not only didn’t ask for my history, but also knew i was a multiple and didn’t try to play with my brain, i felt the first pangs of hunger (HOPE) that i’d felt in years and years.
Today she asked me how i was doing, and after over 12yrs of knowing me, she’s very capable of quickly discerning the direction of our session and getting started. She doesn’t waste time, for which i’m grateful. At my age, i don’t have as much left as i’d like.

I’ve been stressed and overspent for countless months, but i’ve learned a couple of things and i want her to fix them. I want her to take the feelings of anguish and disgust away. I want her to wash away the filth.
She hears me, and tells me she wishes she could, but it doesn’t work that way.
I say, Okay, so you want me to use another word so you don’t feel so bad?
She calls me on my aggression; says what i said was kinda mean.
She’s right. It grounds me as well as i can be at that point.

She speaks to me in ways i can hear, using words i can understand. From the beginning i told her what i wanted and what i didn’t, who i was and who i wasn’t. It was only to the best of my ability at the time (how can it ever be anything else?), but it was clear from the jump that if anyone could help me, she could.
But the point is that she was always listening. She always heard me. She always gave me a platform – but not like a fucking analyst’s couch. If that’s what works for you, great! I don’t mean to say that can’t be effective, or any other kind of therapy. I’ve never said that any of those that i’d seen prior weren’t good and effective at their job and helped a lot of people… I’m just saying that, for whatever reason, they couldn’t help me (much).

What follows is private, but, it helps me. SHE helps me. She can help me because she first gained my trust, and then, MOST important of all, once she had that i LET her help me.
The shitty part of it is that she assures me that she’d expedite things if she could, but being a multiple, with my particular set of concerns, ensures that isn’t possible. She tells me it’s going to be slow, but based on our prior association, she’s sure i can do it.
I’m feeling grouchy, angry even, and very, very tired and small.

I’m ashamed of my moodiness, my bitchiness, with her. She tells me she doesn’t worry about any of my acting out behaviours (i’m synopsising to make my point).  She says, “H, i knew from the moment i started working with you that it was going to be okay, and i had nothing to worry about.”
(For background, she came to my home for therapy for years, because i couldn’t/wouldn’t have come to her.)
She said, I didn’t worry because i could see you had a code of ethics. I could see that you cared, above all, to be kind to others, and to not allow anyone to suffer as you’ve suffered. You are a good egg.

I get all weepy at this point.
Okay more weepy then. Pfft.
And then she asks me, How does that feel?
I’m like, Wut?
She digs in and asks again, How does it feel for me to say these things about you?
Um, good.
Why does it feel good, do you think?
Urk… Because you see me.
Yeeeeah! I do see you. I’ve known you a long time. And i trust you.

Then she tells me that’s what healing IS.
To be SEEN.
To be KNOWN.
And then to be loved and believed in and trusted following that.
Well, i’ll be good n’ goddamned.
Ms T always has an ace up her sleeve, and she knows when to play ’em.

**********

That was yesterday.
There was fallout; there always is for me after therapy. This time it wasn’t too bad, although the evening is gone. I didn’t go for a walk, and i’m not on a bender. I’ll take it.
A good thing has come from it already. A thing i desperately needed, and that’s sleep. My insomnia has reared its ugly and most unwelcome head this last week or so. I’d had around 6hrs sleep total in the last 5 or 6 days. I was on a razor’s edge emotionally, and my body was in that sleep-starved mode where it vibrates and you feel dizzy all the time. I hated my bed. I hated the approach of the night. For someone who’s as tightly wound as i am currently, i thought i didn’t have much torque left in me. Unfortunately, anxiety will always find a way.

I’d do my sleep preparation, and beyond that try not to think about it. Ha. Don’t think about the elephant standing behind you H, and definitely don’t look at it. Again i say, Ha. So i lie down and try to breathe deeply, and keep my mind as close to empty and calm as i can. My mind is never quiet like a non-multiple’s can be. I’ve never had a conscious minute in my life that didn’t have thoughts roiling around in this ole noggin of mine. But i’m trying not to think about the fact that i haven’t slept in days and i’m exhausted and OMGWHATIFICAN’TSLEEPTONIGHT?!! Usually, i start off thinking Hey, i feel pretty comfy, i think it just might happen! Then, around 20mins in my confidence begins to waver, as my need to change positions becomes stronger. I start to feel little electric pinpricks randomly, all over my body. So i shift, a little, not too much – don’t wanna trigger my restlessness. Then again i think, Okay, maybe… And then suddenly i don’t just have my eyes closed, i’m staring at the inside of my eyelids. My eyeballs immediately start to ache, and i know it’s all over.
I get up at this point because all i’ll do is thrash around, getting more and more frustrated and anxious until i’m so amped that the possibility of any sleep all night becomes impossible. I usually play a game on the computer for an hour and then try again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Lately though, it just wasn’t happening for me.

Cue therapy. I not only slept last night, i slept more this morning. I feel infinitely better. Less emotional, and more able to accomplish tasks.
So yeah, my post-therapy experiment starts tomorrow.
Feeling hopeful, but not too much. I don’t want to put expectations on myself that i might not be able to meet. It’s gonna be what it’s gonna be. I’m just trying something new. Tweaking my program a little. It’s only an experiment, after which my support team and i will assess the data, and see where i go from there.

Life as me, man.
What a gig.

Love and Peace to All,
~H~

My Travelling Pants

When the pants you’ve been wearing for a week walk off the job in disgust, you may be having some issues.

Yeah, i joke, but i’ve been low functioning these last few months, and getting lower. Perhaps it’d be more accurate to state that my lows are getting lower. I still crawl outta that hole i fell in and get more functional for a time, but it’s still only marginally better than the hole. Before the pandemic hit my periods of better functioning were longer, and i would get closer to the level i was at when i first started this last bout of therapy nearly 2yrs ago.

I’m bipolar, and the best way i’ve found to cope with the manic side of me, is to take only very small, slow steps towards better functioning. It has been my overwhelming experience that going any faster only makes me fall flat on my face harder. Plus, it can trigger a mania – and my manias can last years and cause massive destruction. So i’m a baby-stepper. But babystepping isn’t helping me right now. I’m slipping lower and lower, every time i fall, and as i said, the falls are coming more frequently.

So, i’ve decided to change it up a bit. Just a small experiment, to see if it helps. I’m setting up parameters like length of time, and those who will be overseeing my work.
I’m going to try pushing a little harder.
Those of you who read my blog -especially those that know me personally- don’t freak out. It will be a 3-day trial following my phone therapy session with Ms T this week.

Sometimes shaking things up a bit is just the remedy.

I’m currently fighting a mania. If you aren’t aware, yes, lows can be a part of manic behaviour (and usually are, in some form or fashion). I’m going to feed it a bit of what it wants, but carefully, and strictly measured. No coke binges or booze benders, here. And the positive side of the pandemic is that my anxiety levels ensure that there’s no danger of suddenly becoming my old, social-butterfly self. Heh. What i’m talking about is positive accomplishments. I’m going to feed it some self-esteem.

I’ve worked hard to be okay with the way my brain works. Sometimes that means dialing things back to the bare minimums. I throw prepackaged foods in the oven and microwave to feed my family – or hubby brings home take away. If i can’t be arsed to get in the shower, well, maybe i can just get the pits n’ bits treatment, and splash some water on my face, leaving my usual, rather involved skin care regimen on the shelf for a day or 2 or 10. I ask my son and husband for help with household chores that i normally consider my domain (i’m a right prig about the laundry), and the upkeep of my kitchen is something i actually enjoy. When i ask though, i consciously let go of my need to have it all done a certain way. I also let go of the things i do for exercise, and we have low maintenance doggos, who don’t mind if i can’t walk them for a few days (they still get a bit of exercise around our yard – we live on a farm). I try to write what i can, but honestly, that’s usually the first thing that goes.
Once i start feeling better, i slowly add things back in.
This is a proven helpful and effective way to deal with life as me.

But it’s not working these last months, or better said, it’s not helping.
I’m gonna flip the script, briefly, and see what happens.
If my support system says No, i will advocate further, and probably fiercely. But in the end, if they cannot be swayed, then the trust is there for me to acquiesce.

After my session with my therapist, my plan is to either write, or immediately get on the treadmill if i’m feeling like taking off. (For those unfamiliar with this habit of mine: When i am triggered or feel overwhelmed, i will often dissociate and leave the house at top speed and hit our old country road for a walk towards the highway. Often, nothing good comes from that, and sometimes, very bad things happen.) After this initial absorbing of whatever has come up for me during our talk, i will decide what to do next, based on how i’m feeling, what i’m thinking, and what my body might be trying to tell me.

So, grok me:

– i will be the cooking the suppers,
– i will be washing the bod and the face on the regular,
– i will be doing the laundry and cleaning the kitchen,
– i will be walking the doggos (they will be so happy!),
– i will be keeping up with both my writing and my reading.

I will be keeping the thing i do where i reward my accomplishments regularly with down time. Lots of futzing about on the computer, watching anime with my Kiddo and my current various streaming services series obsessions. I will stop for ice cream or chocolate or potatoes at my whim. And i will drop everything and call my husband or BFF or text Ms T if i sense or feel trouble.
It’ll just be for a few days, and then we’ll take stock. Me, my support system, and of course my precious Bits N’ Pieces. We’ll all have a say and then we’ll decide if i continue as is, maybe push a little harder, or if it would be best if i stopped.

Maybe my pants will forgive me and come back.

It’s time now for the show
Put on my makeup, away I go
I’ll say a prayer
That I will see you out there

So when the show is done
You’ll take my hand, away we’ll run
Along home, to make supper
~ Storm Large, Under You