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.

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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.

 

Pick My Brain

I already knew i was dissociative by the time that inside wall came down, although it took years and many therapists of many colours to get me to accept it.

My mother got into some strange things with some strange people when she settled down in the big city to raise me. I will almost certainly never know the exact progression of things, but i do know she liked hanging out with intellectuals. I’m not sure if she met them first through the university, or through her curious foray into the 70s therapy scene. She was into encounter groups, EST, primal screaming, hypnotherapy… a lot of body work and group work, which were all the rage at that time. As i’ve stated before, in my opinion she only used what she learned in an attempt to manipulate others more effectively, hone and perfect the face she showed the world, and feed her insatiable need for more emotional upheaval and drama.

The reason i mention this is because, through her exposure to those current therapies, i somehow became involved. The thrill must have been worth the risk, or something else i couldn’t know or haven’t considered must have been in play, because putting me in situations with professionals where i could possibly disclose what was happening to me both inside and outside the home could have caused her significant problems, to say the least. I will say though, she was a single mother, and while the time declared her loose, almost no one back then would have believed a woman capable of sexual abuse. Certainly not of a child, and absolutely not of her own child.

So i have memories of therapy and counsellors from a fairly early age. Maybe it was particularly savvy of her to expose me to that world early. Maybe she anticipated teachers making calls about an odd little girl who may be suffering abuse at home. Regardless, the school counsellors and social workers who were occasionally called in never got a damned thing out of me. (Called in very occasionally i might add, to which i ask myself to this day, Was i really that good, or were they that bad? I wanted very badly to be rescued, but i had no idea from what – i think that should have been part of their job.) I remember being handed pillows and being told to punch them. I remember one guy with his face right. inside. my personal bubble, telling me around 20 times, “It’s okay to cry, you know. You can cry.” Idiot. I remember lying on the floor with adults all around me, each one with a hand on a part of my body and they’re all saying things, but i can’t understand them. This memory i recall like i’m watching it on television. The others i related i see the ineffective and not a little bit ridiculous counsellors sitting across from me. Proper perspective. That last memory i can see myself in the middle of that circle of big bodies and reaching arms and it is as if it’s happening to someone who just looks like me. They were freaking touching me and so i couldn’t be there. I left but someone stayed to observe from a safe distance.

Proper perspective.

It wasn’t until the halfway house that anyone suggested i might be dissociative. My in-house counsellor was a nun who’d taken some courses. She was a good, kind woman and i learned a lot from her. After i’d moved out and moved on, i did come back for visits, and at one point came back to them for more counselling. This time i was quickly moved from my nun to a professional social worker who was working towards her degree in psychology. She began talking about dissociation and asking questions about my memories and time and attempting hypnosis. I’d always wanted to be hypnotised and i tried very hard but i was never able to let go. I gave up years ago, but to this day i have never been hypnotised, so i don’t know about that largely circulated idea that dissociatives are the easiest people to hypnotise. Maybe i’m the exception that proves the rule? I had a friend from that home who had seen the same person. She’d been diagnosed MPD and she’d stopped seeing her just as i had, because she felt the woman was playing with her brain.

I kept looking for the right person to help me, but every bloody one after that would suggest i was highly dissociative and ask if i’d heard of MPD. I would never go back after that. I began seeing a registered social worker through the church i was involved in, and after many months of intensive counselling she gently suggested that i was dissociative. She said she knew how i felt about that, but she’d consulted with psychologists who specialised in what clinicians now called DID, and that they agreed with her diagnosis.

Although i eventually left that church, and then her, and then religion altogether, i did know i had some interesting stuff going on inside my skull. The problem was i had a terrible opinion of therapy and therapists. They’d never helped me except for two, and they were both religious and i was now decidedly not. It’s taken years for me to realise that what they did for me is love me unconditionally and validate me, what i thought and what i felt. That we no longer share the same belief in the supernatural changes that not a whit.

Ah. I’m now returning to my original point, which i began in Inside Out, and that is that when i went from a top weight of 465lbs to 155lbs, my walls came tumbling down – and they weren’t just physical ones. The wall inside my brain between me and the others who lived up there came down too.
And just to make things interesting-er, i experienced my first full-blown mania.
It was two and a half years of fully loaded 18 wheeler heading downhill with no brakes.

MORE TOMORROW? PROBABLY.

Inside Out

As we leave behind our last Chinook and move into more frigid weather, my fibro has hit harder. My pressure points are hardest hit from shoulders to wrists, and today my forearms feel heavy and hard to rotate, which is making typing somewhat difficult. The thing which i haven’t told anyone, is that my Carpal tunnel syndrome is returning. When i was first diagnosed with moderate CTS in my right arm around 12+ years ago, the man who gave me the news very kindly (/s) informed me that if i wasn’t super-morbidly obese, my symptoms would likely disappear almost entirely. When i lost all the weight i discovered he was quite right, and i’ve had only small bouts of numbness since.

Until recently that is. It’s been more than 10yrs since i was profoundly overweight, but this last year i’ve noticed the numbness happening more often and for longer periods. Typing right now i can feel it. I sincerely hope it progresses slowly and doesn’t impede my writing. I’ll handle it of course, but just… GEEZ, y’know?!

My days begin and end with routine, and as i mentioned, i’m increasing my activity level; more things to do and and more focus on the tangible. I’m decluttering, seeking order. I’m working towards accomplishing things that can be observed by anyone. I’m maintaining the relatively healthy functioning of my brain and its thoughts, but also pursuing goals that, once achieved, would be obvious to anyone who was looking. Less esoteric – more skin deep.

It’s time. The foundation is strong now. I’m like a renovated house and it’s time to start making the outside reflect the inside. It’s hard, scary work, but i am committed.

Nothing wrong with a pretty facade.

Body work is tough for any survivor.
I didn’t have a weight problem until i was around 8yrs old. My mother’s relationship with my father was over, as was her association with his people and his activities. She had a major psychological breakdown, was committed, and i was thrown into the system. When i was finally returned to my mother, i quickly packed on enough weight to make me the chubby kid, and then slowly packed on a few pounds here and there until i married 20yrs ago. I’d lost weight twice in that time, and both times i was just inside healthy range, but i put the weight back on within short order. I did so many things unconsciously; i wasn’t present in my body so i neither took much notice when i lost weight, nor when i gained it back.

Marriage caused my thoughts and emotions a tremendous amount of stress. I was freaked out that someone appeared to really want me, and subsequently terrified that i’d lose him. He’d find out that i was a phony, that i was actually an awful human being and he’d leave me. It set us up for years of push-pull behaviour by me. Come-here-i-need-you-fuck-off-i-don’t-need-anyone. I felt more vulnerable than ever and i put up a massive wall, one made from pounds and pounds of fat. I ate to numb the fear, fear of being known and fear of being rejected. When weight loss surgery became an option, i took it and the weight fairly fell off me.

I had no bloody clue the chain of events that would set off.

The first thing that happened was i got a lot of attention. It’s not just straight men who are more gratuitous, either. Everyone is nicer to attractive people. I think it’s mostly unconsciously done when someone is not sexually attracted to you, per se. It started out being wonderful but it quickly unsettled me. You know, not so’s anyone as unconscious as i was would notice. Heh. All kinds of things were going on inside my brain, though. The outside wall had come down and while that appeared to everyone around me to be a purely positive thing, it had unforeseen and unanticipated consequences.

My inside wall came down, too.
I didn’t realise i even had an inside wall.
There were people living on the other side of that wall.
I saw them, and they saw me seeing them.
It would not be histrionic of me to say that all hell broke loose.

MORE TOMORROW