Suffer the Little Children

Alternate title: Jesus, Do You Smell That?

Content warning: Some references to childhood sexual abuse.

I’m settling in to this process a bit more every day. I don’t know how long it will take for me to forge a connection between my brain and my body, but i’m committed to and invested in it, even if i’m never quite done. I’m connecting parts slowly, a bit at a time, and i’m doing well resisting the urge to tackle it all, hard and head-on. When the Peanut Gallery pipes up with some judgey shit about how i should be further along than i am, i have plenty of examples of how terribly awry things can go when i push too hard. However, during my therapy sesh yesterday i realised there is an area where i could be doing a tad more, and i’m balking.

I try every day, all day, to stay present in my body and feel what’s happening to me physically; my aim is to dissociate as little as possible. I hold on to the face through the regular day-to-day sensations, like brushing my teeth, which can be triggery AF, and i’m hanging on through some awful body memory stuff, like phantom burning in my genital area. While i’m going through these intense body sensations, my Bits N’ Pieces are having various reactions to what’s going on, just like i am. I’m learning to care for the body memory stuff with warm drinks, blankets, binding, writing, and even talking about it with my hubs, but i’m hanging back when it comes to directly engaging my system and asking them what kind of care/comfort they’d like while dealing with this stuff.

Mutiplicity can be difficult to explain, and this is one of those areas that, no matter how i put it, it still seems inadequate; the words don’t communicate my reality sufficiently. Yes, i hear voices in my head. I know they’re all me, and yet they’re a little bit not me. Maybe think of it like we tend to think of things as natural or not natural: maple syrup gets the natural label, but Aunt Jemima doesn’t. They’re both made of ingredients that come from our world (some additives are man-made, sure, but it’s not like we folded space and travelled to another universe for the elements needed to make them), yet one doesn’t seem as raw or earthy – it’s not as much a part of the innate order of things. Unnatural? Not quite natural?

So it is with my system. I know the people that live in my brain, that chatter at me all day long and even into my dreamlife, that saved me when i was little and now help shoulder the minefield that is being a human living in a developed nation after severe trauma, by carrying my burdens, secreting my pain, and sometimes taking control of my body when i’m overwhelmed… Are all iterations of me – various versions of who i needed to be or thought i had to be in order to survive.
Yet they are not me.
There were walls between us for many years, borders that none of us would cross. They would not because they exist to care for/protect me, and i couldn’t because i hadn’t the knowledge or the space safe enough to do so. To step into the light and see my system – my big brain machine humming along, gears inside gears, turning alongside gears inside gears. A terrifically complicated and intricate psychic arrangement of snippets and gobs of personality. Actors that only exist between the green room and the stage. When i finally saw my face as a lit theatre and gained access to their dressing rooms, well, you know that not every actor whose work you like is a person you’d want to hang out with after the show, right?

Some of my people are not a good time. I might even say most of them aren’t, a lot of the time. I love them in a way that is only for them – not like i love my husband, my children, my friends. Not like food, or music, or art, or animals, or sunshine, or a cool glass of water, or my husband’s kiss. Not even like the characters in my favourite books. They’re more than these things, and less, too. Yet they’re closer to me than absolutely anyone else – no one, nothing else could get so close. They’re my saviours who occasionally get me into some serious scrapes. They’re my best friends and my champions. And they’re also my children who’re always getting into something and the only reason i don’t strangle them is they’re underdeveloped toddlers who can’t help it.

They remember awful things, sometimes as clearly as if they happened yesterday, sometimes as if they are happening now, in this moment, all the time. And i know i’m currently writing about feeling the physical sensations that go along with certain memories that’ve been locked away in certain parts of my body, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t also carry some physical pain. They feel the aching jaw, the bruises, the cuts, the headache like my skull is going to turn to dust, the swelling, the bleeding, the burning – all of it. It’s my hope that this work i’m doing will help them be free from pain. Perhaps even, that they can return to me as i return myself to homeostasis. They’ve told me their stories, now it’s my body’s turn. I see this as a housecleaning. I’m shining a light on all the dark places, removing all traces of black mould. But this house is currently serving as a temporary MASH unit, filled with sick and wounded soldiers. I have medicines and tonics and pills for them, and i have cleaners and disinfectants, tools and talent for cleaning a filthy home…
But the body has triggered my system, and i haven’t asked them if they want anything from me to help them bear it all.

Back when i was first learning to listen and relate to the other people who live with me in my brain, it was a gross and disgusting ordeal. Once i acknowledged that some of my dreams were actually memories, it was like trying to live a normal life in a locked room filled with decomposing bodies. I felt like i was coated in filth – it slicked my skin and filled up my nostrils and sat in the bottom of my belly like an angry, acid python, constantly twisting and spilling over itself. I stank of evil, life stank of rot. I was surrounded by horror, sex and death roiling and foaming together like a cannibal’s cauldron. It was the closest to giving up that i’ve ever come, i almost lost myself in the viscous fluid of memory, losing form and definition and nearly dissolving into hopelessness and endless nothing.

As i write this i’ve suddenly seen that i’m parenting my Bits like i parented my real life children. From a fucking distance. Afraid to touch, to engage, to connect. I didn’t know how with my sons, but i do now. I learned because i saw how much harm it had done to me not to have it from my parents. I’ve been learning and practising since then because i believe it’s not too late to give it to them unless they tell me so. And i would keep trying even if they told me it was too late and would never be enough, because i believe it’s my responsibility as a parent, and because i experience that doing so helps and heals me, too.

Yes, parenting my children with connection, engaging with them emotionally and physically – that’s what my brain-babies need/want, as well. Of course they do. I know that, it’s just that the feelings they carry, the stories the snapshots the motherfucking scary movie franchise…
Bah. The last time i got up close and personal with it all it was years before i felt clean again. It was years of barely being in the face because i couldn’t take the slime and the stench.
But comparing them to my boys helps.
Writing helps.
Therapy helps.
Hubby helps.
Truth helps.

They’re broken off bits of me, and they need me to wash them, bind up their wounds, and soothe them, just as i’ve done for myself, the primary me. If they were real live children, covered in blood and shit and filth, smelling like sex and rot, i wouldn’t hesitate for a second to gather them to me and minister to their needs.
These children are all me; why is it so hard to give myself what i would give to any other human in my position?
I was taught that i only existed to be poured out for the consumption of others, but i know now that that was a wicked, selfish lie told me by evil people.
Knowing where i come from and who i am is good, but it’s not enough. I have wounds that need washing and stitches and bandaging, breaks that need mending, and aches that need warmth.

This piece may not make much sense, i’m not sure. This is so close to my core that i don’t think i’m able to edit/proofread this with a critical eye. If you’ve made it this far, i thank you. Writing this made me want to throw up most of the way, but here and now, at this sentence, i feel recommitted and more fiercely dedicated than ever. If someone hurt a child the way i was hurt, if someone hurt my children the way i was hurt, i would ruin the world to make things better for them.

Yes, it’s a contradictory statement. It’s hyperbolic. It paints a picture and conveys the intensity of my conviction.

So, i guess i’m heading into the trenches.
This could get…

<insertwhateverwordcametoyourmindasitprobablyapplies>

Take Care and Try a Little Tenderness,
I will, too.

~H~

Imagination

Writing through the bad.

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

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

IMAGINATION.
<insertSpongebobmemehere>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drips and Drabs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fallow Fields In Winter

WARNING: This contains references to childhood sexual abuse and trauma.

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow…

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

~ Wallace Stevens, The Snow Man

This new year’s resolve to “write through the bad”, has been okay. (Good sounds better, but i’m not writing songs here, i’m emoting, dang it!) It doesn’t come naturally – i want to hide the unpleasantness and the uncomfortability until it’s passed, then turn a less passionate eye back upon it and create something easier to consume. To season it with the wisdom and hope of seeing clearly now, the rain is gone. A spoonful of sugar.
But this pushing through and sharing my struggles when i’m in the thick of it, is a vital part of what i wanted to do here, with this blog. And after more than a year of cutting myself some slack because it’s really scary and hard and what if it fails and i just look pathetic? it was high time to bite the bullet.

I lost a treasured friendship years ago, where her parting shot was to call me “disingenuous”. It was during the most chaotic time of my life, mentally speaking. I was learning what it meant to be a multiple, and getting to know my Bits N’ Pieces, while also in the grip of a powerful mania. I was in and out of hospital, i was barfing up the details of my childhood to a small group of people, including her, and i was switching and sliding around in the face on the daily. I was a bloomin’ shitshow. She broke up with me via private message, and it was like a shelf of scree peppering down and pelting the crap out of me as i’m climbing a mountain. Our friendship was intimate, on a level i’d not had with anyone else, and rejection is perhaps the core issue of my life. I slid hard after that. To be fair, that was happening anyway, but her completely unexpected and not a little vicious severing of our relationship certainly sped up my descent.

Oh, i knew how hard it was to believe in multiplicity. It seems ridiculous to begin with, and its portrayal in books, television, and movies has done it no favours. It’s weird and silly and awkward and cringy, and some of the best known examples of it have been soundly debunked. Take that, wrap it in my childhood programming that taught me to hide it from everyone including myself, and you have why i ran from the diagnosis until my early 30s. Hell, in my quest for mental health and happiness, i’ve met a lot of multiples, and i couldn’t stand being around them, either. Disingenuous fits them all quite aptly.

Well.
I just found another level of forgiveness for her. Which she’s never asked for and may not be necessary. I mean, i’m going to guess, based on knowing her as well as she let me, that it wasn’t easy for her to come to that decision, but she did what she thought she had to do. Nevertheless, there it is – forgiveness. I feel it for her, so she has it. We’ve not had any contact since that awful email, but the aether that my brain floats around in burns hotter and shines brighter, illuminating more spaces and warming more faces.

Writing through the bad, i’m tellin’ ya.

To continue though, that painful loss with its attendant accusation stayed with me. Part of the reason i only (well, mostly) wrote after my internal storms was because of this. By writing after, i was able to curate the information i shared, editing out the kookier bits. I’d feed my readers a familiar stew: veg, gravy, salt and pepper, and cubes of recognisable meats. No misshapen bits of offal floating around, which, although they’ve been slow cooked to tenderness and skillfully seasoned, taste foreign and smell slightly funky, and are otherwise off-putting to the uninitiated palate.

Still trying so hard to be liked, to stay safe.
Don’t hurt me, don’t leave me.

The time for that is ending, or why else have i worked this bloody hard?
I’m learning more and more about who i am. As i plod along and work at this bit of trouble, and bag up that pile of shit, and clean the sludge off this window, i’m taking shape. This is me – put it there. That is not me – punt it.
To know myself is my great adventure and the greatest gift i have ever received. That it is i who gave it makes it priceless. That it is only i who had it to give, makes me glorious.

And with that wonderfully flourishy wordpaint as background, it’s time to decorate it with some gloomy little clouds and some scarecrow-lookin’ trees.
A barren landscape.

The few times i’ve spoken of how broken i am, it’s made everyone uncomfortable. People hasten to assure me that i can be healed. The way that they say it sounds like what they mean is “put back to rights”. I’ve stopped bringing it up, for the most part, because i can see how it touches on something deep and private and in need of protection inside them. That i’ve been destroyed on a level that can never be made right, seems to make people break out in a psychic sweat, like it threatens their inner sense of security or their worldview. I don’t quite know what it is, but i trigger something. Even my therapist pushes back at it, suggesting we use another word. Not broken, she says, “disregulated”. I’m willing to concede that’s part of it, and also that she definitely knows more about multiplicity and the healing process than i, but one thing i’ll always know better than she will, is me. And to me, some of that push back is just putting lipstick on a pig.

It tries to steal a little bit of the truth from me, and although the intentions have some good in them, they cannot have even a tiny bit of it. Not for me, not for my system, and certainly not for the people making these claims. I’ve fought too hard and bled too much to give even a smidge of this terrible truth. I won’t dull the edge of its blade, i won’t blur the colour of its blood, and i won’t move one single stone to make the mountain weigh any less.
What was done to me was monstrous and horrid, and the price i paid was destruction.

Before today i have never written or talked about how vast are my wastelands, but today i feel full of medieval stories with valiant knights and darksided princesses. I’m Histrionica Butterfly, full of shit and poetry, and shitty poetry, and the icy cold wind that blows through me sweeps over a place inside me that is empty and dead, that feels nothing and cannot love.

**One more warning: This may be bleak and ugly to read. Be as sure as you can that you’re okay/safe to read it before continuing.**

The abuse in my life began before i could speak. There is enough evidence for me to confirm my feelings and my system’s claims that it began almost from birth. One night, while in the middle of the natural disaster that was 2006-2015, i dreamed of a baby. All the people that live in my brain with me were there, standing around her in a little bassinet. It was the prettiest baby pink froth of frilly lace and tulle that a child’s mind can conjure. They parted as i approached, heavy-legged and leaden-bellied.  I stepped up, peered in and there she was, but she wasn’t pretty and pink like her bedding, she was pallid, with a hint of blue. There was no warmth, no rise and fall.
She’s the first, they said, And she’s dead.

It was years before i told anyone (i think) and i’ve only told my husband (i think), that the first person i was, my birth-me, is dead. I say “think” because those years are foggier than most, and even now, when i speak of these matters, things are generally hazy and the potential for sliding around is great. I do remember well though, that he rejected it quickly – threw it away like a hot potato. I could see it distressed him to think so, even to think that i thought so.
I let him convince me i was wrong and i didn’t bring it up again.

Please understand that when i use words like “claim”, “believe” and “know”, i’m not using them in a scientific context. This stuff is barely science. My psychiatrist once said psychology is such a soft science one could call it squishy. What i’m doing is decidedly not science, and nebulous as fuck. It’s cerebrally located, manifesting nowhere, Matrix-level, fantastical fancy that blinks in and out, existing ephemerally, as i construct a framework upon which i can build my understanding of myself. A mental map and a family tree/genealogy of my system.

To find my baseline. To achieve homeostasis.
But as i gather information and my framework gathers form upon it, there’s a deadspace – an empty spot where nothing grows.

I’m rarely able to build intimate relationships.
I can get to a point where i’m close with a person, but there is a step i seem unable to take. I don’t quite know what it is, but former friends have been able to feel and/or identify it in me, and have walked away.  I know this because they’ve told me as much. There is a wall, a door, a blank spot, a NOPE sign. On rare occasion i’ve developed deep friendships, but i’ve sabotaged them all, eventually. I’ve driven everyone away, except my husband and children, and my husband is just pure anomaly, because i’ve pushed him harder than anyone.

My children are a special case. The things i so needed to do for myself that i could not, i was able to do for them first. To protect, to champion, to trust, to stay, to love. They confirmed that my mother was evil, and that i am not.

Touch is a minefield for me. I like it and i want it, but rarely and only from certain people. It’s a tricky business because touch is something we need from birth, it’s essential to proper development, to feed and nurture a healthy psyche and self image. So while i was held and fed, i was also physically and sexually assaulted.

How does a preverbal mind, one that has no concept of self, process that?

A brand new mind can’t, it isn’t developed enough, so the brain cuts the connections between sensation and emotion and thought. If disconnection happens often, and/or for long enough, these detached, untethered bits can develop a kind of rudimentary system of their own, a sophistication not unlike a personality. A thought, an emotion, a need, floating around without context or connection for enough time that it begins to become its own person.

This is how the endless push and pull between come-closer-don’t-leave-me and stay-away-don’t-hurt-me began. Before self-awareness. Before speech. Before i could even walk, the instinct to withdraw from pain had been quashed. I didn’t run away because i didn’t know that i should. I’d already built pain takers and fear dampeners and sick little bits that allied themselves with my abusers.
Bad girl. Be a good girl.

I don’t know when i put that baby away in that morbid, cartoonish bed and built that funereal viewing room, but i started dreaming about them once i accepted that i was a multiple. I have some very specific themes and motifs in my dream life. Bugs, streets in suburbia, getting lost in a maze, stealing, eating, abandonment by groups; there’s more. Getting to know my system produced new dreams, and they’re not so much disturbing as they are exhausting. I’m in a house, and i’m caring for children. The size and condition of the house varies, as does whose children they are and who else lives there, but it always devolves into chaos. The children become disobedient, or they disappear, or they become filthy or sick, and the house becomes more and more cluttered and dirty, and i’m exasperated by the children and ashamed of the mess…
And there is always that room with the baby in it.

I rarely go into the room, i mean, i can count the number of times on one hand and have fingers left over. Also, i regularly forget that the baby and the room are a part of the dream, but whenever i remember, i suddenly know she’s in all of them. She’s never alone – there’s always someone with her, watching over her. And sometimes the thing watching over her is the faceless darkness that is always in all of my dreams, sometimes pursuing me, mostly just there. Sometimes it’s content with hovering at the edge of the dream, but sometimes it makes a more insistent appearance, demanding my dream-conscious acknowledgment that it’s there. I’ve become rather adept at waking myself when it does.
I wonder how it feels about that.

This is hard for me, and my brain keeps wanting to cloud it all over, so words are echoing, and i’m getting tired, and it tries to tempt me with squirrels and shiny things, like sound, light, movement. I’m frustrated, verging on pissed off, so let me sum up:

I have a dead baby and an evil stalker.

There is a piece of me that is dead forever and can’t be resurrected. And that formless, terrible thing that is everywhere and always inside me fills me with dread. It sends out a constant simmering disquiet that covers a space inside me like a fog rolling over winter-fallow.

The work i’ve done and the person i’m currently working with have convinced me that a level of healing and health that i’d not thought possible, is in fact likely, as long as i continue onward in the spirit of dogged dedication that i have been. But i know absolutely that there is a place, a spot, a space, where a living thing will never grow, and a dear, tiny being that will never again draw breath.

I have more to say about this, and it’s not bleak. This part of me that vexes others so much, is integral to how beautiful and amazing i am.
Take care of yourself. Hang in there. Get help. Keep trying. Rest until you can try again. Don’t give up. I care and i want you to make it – so much so that i hang my weird naked ass out here for everyone to see.

~H~

The Box

WARNING: If you are a multiple, this piece contains references to integration. Take care of yourself and your system. I also refer indirectly to childhood abuse, both physical and sexual. Think about it before proceeding. Talk to your p-doc or whomever is your mental health professional go-to.

**********

Paul Atreides:
What’s in the box?

Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam:
Pain.

~ Frank Herbert, Dune

The silence has been frightening. It’s still not quiet in my brain – it never is unless i’m sleeping or unconscious. What i mean is that certain people who live in my brain aren’t talking anymore. It took a while to identify what the problem was, but i knew something wasn’t right because i began having trouble sleeping and i was dreaming more than usual. At first, my whole system feared they were dead, and wondered if everyone was going to die. I couldn’t sleep at all without nightmares, and even booze provided little escape. (I sure tried for a few weeks, though. Blargh.) I was losing time and feeling that old pull to “go home”, which is a place that doesn’t exist, and would be dangerous for me if it did.

I had the sense to get back into therapy, where the first thing i learned was that they weren’t dead, that none of us were going to die – that it’s impossible for any of my precious Bits N’ Pieces to die. They’re resting, or hiding even, and that’s okay by me. I came to understand that, contrary to what i’d assumed when i walked away from therapy — all cocksure and pleased with myself — i wasn’t done. I learned that maybe my brain and my body are healing so well that i’m evolving to a higher level of function that i’d thought was possible for me. I am currently, carefully, gently, quietly, considering the possibility that a lot of my voices may go silent. That there may be room inside my skull for nothingness. The pulse of blood and the throb of tissue, and soft, warm, blankety silence wrapped around space, thick, with no echoes.
Some call it integration, but i prefer my therapist’s term: homeostasis.
The instinctual tendency of the body to seek a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements.
When i’m cold i shiver. When i’m hot i sweat.
I shattered into pieces to survive the unsurvivable. I broke things into pieces that i could not process in order to live. I kept things away from each other so i didn’t die or go insane. I had a mom who fed and clothed me and told me i was smart and pretty, and i kept her for me, and then i chipped off a chunk of myself and made her handle the woman who beat me, and another who went for rides with strangers, and another who cleaned up and made dinner, and another who spent weekends with daddies and uncles.

I’m Humpty Dumpty. And the King’s horses and his men, too.
I’m the pieces in a quest movie. You know how it goes, they finally get all the pieces together in the right order, and then a glowy light flows through it all and some magical, glorious shit happens?
You know, except for the glorious part. I’m not feeling glorious.
I do feel the shit part, though.

So yeah, Sunday. Sunday i wake, sleep deprived as fuck, grumpy and snarky and in full fibro flareup, with my psychic skin about as thin as a gnat’s wing. I try to keep it to myself, because i know what’s going on with me and why, and it’s certainly no one’s fault that i live with…
But people are annoying, and no one more so than family. And they are in my space, breathing and being flawed creatures. I’m trying and i know they are too, but something happens with someone and i blink right out of existence.

It’s not a slippery slide from one part of me to another. It’s not like when i recede into the background and watch someone else standing in front of me. It’s not like when i’m suddenly slapped in a jail cell and i’m watching myself on a tv screen and  can’t reach the dial to change the channel (i’m that old, okay?). It’s a hard switch, when i disappear in an instant, like i’ve ceased to exist.
And unfortunately, it was just as hard coming back.
Suddenly, i’m looking up at my husband, and he’s got this smile on his face that i’m very familiar with – it’s the one he uses on young parts of me, when they’re afraid.
I feel myself lurch, once, twice, 3 times. It’s like when you’re going to sleep and you feel like you’re falling and your body jerks you back awake. I’m on my ass on the dirty gravel shoulder of a snowy back road. Our van is behind him, and a friend of mine stands to his right. He’s talking and she’s talking, but i don’t understand for a while. My brain is sizzling with synapses, trying to figure out what is required of me in this moment:

– an apology? (almost certainly),
– an excuse? (i might throw a generic one to see if it hits the target),
– can i safely ask a question?

Sometimes it’s not safe to ask, because i’m not with safe people. My husband’s dealt with this hundreds of times, so i trot out the old familiar, “What did i do?”
It’s a cut-to-the-chase question. I can tell i’ve been gone for some time, and my system has been handling things, and we both have a lot of experience with this, so let’s start dealing with whatever has happened.

I’m in my pajamas, with a very thin housecoat (funny story: it’s a hospital gown from one of many visits), with my winter coat over top, and i’m wearing my husband’s work boots. I’m covered in dirt, and leaves, and there’s sticks in my hair.
I know i’ve been out for some time, because i’m cold in my bones and my skin feels numb. My clothes are soaked through on the ass end, and it would seem i’ve been hiding in a ditch. He says he’s been looking for me for hours, and she says i’d been texting but had stopped. Even with warm clean clothes, hot tea, and a raging fire, it takes hours and hours before i’m warm. I need to cry, but i can’t; parts of me fight it hard. I eat because my body is starving, hubby gets take-away because i’m not functional, and he asks if i like it and i say it’s good, but i can’t taste a thing.

I’m numb and yet everything hurts and my brain buzzes like it’s full of old tv snow… And i still can’t fucking sleep.

This is writing through the hard parts. I don’t usually write until after the rough stuff passes. I want to look back and analyse, it feels safer. It’s easier to do when the feelings have faded. Word paintings with muted washes of watercolours. Instead i have this jumble of splotches, like a wannabe Pollock that’s just a weird bore. Trying too hard to be something.

It’s okay, though. I’m not mad, or even disappointed. I don’t need to tie it all up in a pretty bow with some pithy observations and sign off with forced optimism.
I can be pithy later (betcher sweet bippy), and i know from experience that the sun’s gone shine, cuz that’s what the sun do.

This is a process, and it’s never been easy. There’s no need to think it’ll be any other way now. I can do hard, hell, getting here has been so close to impossible i can smell the devil’s breath and feel the heat on the back of my neck. If it’s gotta be ugly and painful, so be it. I’ve come too far now to stop. I should literally be dead, many times over. There ain’t nothing so scary that i can’t live through lookin’ at it.

I’m scared, but it’s not the fear of a child: nameless, faceless, squeezing all the breath out of me with icy claws. It’s a fear of the unknown, but one i believe i’m prepared to face, and before which i stand, resolute. Come what may. I’ve said it many times since i read it in junior high, when the young prince that spoke them, first grabbed my heart and spirited it away in adventure and joy and wonder:

Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

~Frank Herbert, Dune

I’m going to be putting my hand in the box very soon now. I think i’m as ready as i can be.

~H~
(Yes, this one is even more dramatic than usual – you’ve seen the name i go by, right?)

 

Slow Trees and Sweet Fruit

Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.
~Molière

To be committed this year to writing through the bad, means that i must write today.
Because yesterday was bad.

I’m not sleeping well. I haven’t in months, but it’s taken a steep downturn these last few weeks. I don’t think i’m getting enough restorative sleep. I sleep without dreams for the first 2 or 3hrs, but then a dream will wake me, and after that i’m awake every half hour or so for the rest of the night. If i have a nightmare, i usually have to get up and write a bit about it before i can get back to sleep. In the morning i can usually catch another hour or 2 unbroken, but it’s not enough, and i’m not sure i’m hitting D-level sleep.

I’ve struggled with sleep issues since childhood:
It started with night terrors, which eventually got so bad my mother actually sought treatment for me (unless i needed stitches, i was generally on my own). Learning lucid dreaming helped me drastically improve my sleep, which was particularly important as a child with epilepsy.
Abuse would sometimes come to visit me in my room at night, so i’ve spent a lifetime as a light sleeper.
I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in ’95. It’s known to those who’ve heard of it as chronic, deep muscle pain, and it sure is, but what most who don’t suffer don’t know, is that it’s also characterised by an inability to reach the restorative level of sleep that follows REM.
Although i practised good sleep hygiene in my 30s, manic bipolar episodes regularly threw me waaaay out of whack, and i began using alcohol as a way to get some sleep. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and it seemed to be a favourite way of my system to cope, too. Imagine that, heh. I’m sure you can imagine the price i paid for it, too. The problem wasn’t so much that, for me it was the toll it took on my husband and children.

The cost is simply too high.

These last few years have consisted of learning how to live with how my brain works, and building quality of life. I settled in to checking in with my brain at the start of the day, tailoring my activities to optimise function, monitoring my inside chatter and maintaining connection with my Bits N’ Pieces, and ending with a little roundtable at the edge of my bed each night. This was designed to set me up for success in the morning, and also to quiet my mind as much as possible, in order to achieve restful sleep.

I’ve plugged away rather successfully at this for some time now, i think. I set a very small goal, and i work slowly and methodically to reach it. Once i do, i practise it until it becomes an unconscious part of my daily routine, and then i set to adding in another little thing. I tweak things a bit here and there to improve my efficiency, and i’ve needed the odd course correction, but i haven’t gone too far astray. In fact, i did so well for so long a time that i felt like i needed to set bigger goals; things like working parttime, volunteering, and more peopling – including building friendships.

You may gasp now. Heh.
You may also understand how i found myself back in therapy, tits deep, and not sleeping for shit.

Looking back at the last year, at first i thought i’d been going too fast. Now, i think that may have played a part, but it’s not the crux of it. There’s a tinge of fear too, the waiting for the other shoe to drop, but that was my childhood. Once i got away from my parents, my physical and mental well-being were no longer in serious jeopardy. After that, when a bad thing would happen it could be traced back to some genuine responsibility on my part, usually accompanied by some unconscious actions/reactions and choices i’d made due to my upbringing.
It might also be something utterly out of my control.

But that’s not this. I think this is homeostasis.
I’m establishing a baseline. It’s a minimum level of quality and safety that i must have in order to live the life of my choosing. I’ve never had this before. I’ve spent most of my life just surviving, much more time than was necessary. I’m not blaming myself – it was all i knew, and like Maya Angelou said, when i knew better, i did better. And i’ve done better. So much better, in fact, that some parts of me are resting now. I think the nightlights inside my brain that various parts of me keep on for fear, my dear, hypervigilant little soldiers, are blinking off because they can finally rest. They’re leaving their posts to go home for a rest, and i think they may sleep for a very long time.

But hey, just because going too fast wasn’t what got me here — fucked up and freaking out — that doesn’t mean that slowing down isn’t part of the solution. I think it is. When i get upset and anxious i’ve learned that dialing it back a bit can free up some much needed energy to deal with the stress. And Boy Howdy! has there been stress.
I’ll tell you about yesterday, tomorrow.

See You Then,
~H~

Too Tired For Poetry

Sitting in front of the screen, waiting for words
that are ill-fitting at best
Like my aunt’s hand-me-downs that are too tight
even though she’s a decade older
I cram myself into them because there is nothing else
yanking down the hem every time i stand
I pull at the fabric, willing it to stretch
and to stay bigger, for the elastic to do the decent thing and give way
To at least have the decency to drape over my flesh
Coiled sausages sweating in the butcher’s display case
Discounted at the end of the day

I lay in my disco waterbed, hoping to sleep well
and straight through until morning, but words pour like ink
Drawing ominous images behind my closed lids
as they move, flowing towards the back wall
where my eyes are still open, hung there like a triptych
Squinching them tighter i see Thunder
throwing sparkling bolts of gold across the cream and white sky
An outdoor cathedral inside the red spiderweb
that can only be seen with a side glance
Fireworks and blood rain down, pattering ghost skin
They howl up at the moon of my inside-out face