Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

 

 

My last mania was nearly a year ago. That time i felt it coming and was able to fight it off.

This time it had me firmly in its grip before i figured it out. What can i do but cope? Well yes, i could let it have its way with me, which always holds a certain romantic attraction. However, that sort of dark fascination is fading, and as i weather this mental/emotional tornado, i expect the next time its clouds gather on my horizon, i shall be even less inclined to go storm-chasing. I’m far too old to play Dorothy, and the truth is i do bring my loved ones with me when i travel over the rainbow. But while i’m skipping along the yellow brick road in pretty shoes, they’re facing flying monkeys and a forever-nap in a field of red.  The gift that a lot of hard work and striving for self-awareness brings me today, is the certainty that i absolutely can do better, and as long as i continue to try my best, i’m not likely to drag myself or my family into that kind of swirling madness again.

I’ve been channelling my current obsessive tendencies into cooking. The other day i made vegetarian lasagne. The red sauce was made with my own herbs and tomatoes, and i made my own noodles too. It was my first time using durum semolina with the eggs in the well on the counter method. An Italian friend told me to boil the sheets briefly in salted water and let them dry a bit on a towel before using them. I used mushrooms and TVP (textured vegetable protein) for the sauce, and i had layers of ricotta/parm, plus chopped and wilted chard/onions. It was good, and the guys agreed that the TVP gives the sauce the meaty texture they’re looking for. The next day it was even better – i think it needed more time to set than a regular lasagne, so i’ll remember that for next time. The best part of it was that it took up my entire afternoon, from gathering sun-warmed tomatoes and fragrant herbs from the garden, to washing the last of the dishes and leaving them to dry in the drainer, until evening telly with the man-thingy. It used up nervous energy, and it gave me the opportunity to obsess over small details or run amok as i wished, it gave me a creative outlet, and brought me lots of positive attention when it was finished.

What i’m trying to say in a roundabout way, is labour intensive cooking is giving me a healthy, productive place to spend my manic energies.

Gardening is helping too, which is unexpected. I can work pretty hard if i want to, but it still has a calming effect on me, no matter how sweaty i get. It appeals to that part of my mania that is all tied up in romance:

Behold, for i am one with Mother Earth! I hold her in my hands as she does me
I till and i toil, plucking out danger and feeding her crushed eggshells and Tums antacid tablets.
<cue orchestral swell here>

I have had to temporarily suspend my walks, which has been tough. Mania is a state of being that seems particularly conducive to switching, and unfortunately walking down the road in past manias has resulted in me being in very dangerous situations in the past. There are some in my brain who “just wanna to go home”, and some who want desperately to get away, and they all attempt to accomplish this by getting to the highway and hitching a ride. I’ve been lost for hours and days, and more than once the cost has been almost higher than i could pay. It seems wise to avoid this potential trigger until i’m a little more in control.

There have been some hallucinations. Yeah, it can be deeply unsettling, but it’s not quite terrifying like you might think. My senses get a little screwed up, and i catch things out of the corner of my eye, but instead of a glimpse, i get a very intense and detailed image. I know that doesn’t quite make sense, but it’s what i’ve got. I’m seeing people from my past mostly, and knowing for a fact that some a lot of them are dead is actually helpful. No, really. The auditory ones are honestly worse. I’ve learned to acknowledge them immediately, and think/talk through it, because paranoia is a real danger for me while in a manic state.

So yeah, no walks until that shit settles down a bit.

Getting back into my other exercise stuff though, and i’ve cut out the unmonitored eating. I let it slip very consciously; too many things to manage, and i needed something to use, y’know? So i’ve been eating between meals, and at whatever time of the day or night i feel like it, but 2wks of that is quite enough. I can tell i’ve gained a pound or two, and that’s enough to sober me right the heck up, so to speak.

The hardest thing is not to see myself as a failure because i’m in a mania. I know that it’s just part and parcel of how my brain works. Unlike my multiplicity, if there were a “cure” out there i might want it, and while i don’t consider other people living inside my head with me to be a disorder, i’m comfortable using it to describe being bipolar (your mileage may vary, and that’s cool).
I just remind myself that i’ve come farther than i would have thought possible, so why not bigger, better, faster, more?
Ah… One small, measured and intentional step at a time, of course.

Heh.

When are you gonna come down

When are you going to land

I should have stayed on the farm

~Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John

Advertisements

Stitches and Stains

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

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

 

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream… Or Not

My mania brings a particularly frantic kind of insomnia. If you struggle with sleeplessness, you know how it goes. You wake up either too early, or shocked awake by your alarm after only having slept a few hours. Worry about the coming night’s sleep begins whenever, and builds. You try to avoid obsession level, because you know it only works against you, but bedtime still finds you with varying intensities of dread and frustration. You try all the suggestions, you create a regimen and try to maintain good sleep hygiene, but it can be tremendously difficult and good results are elusive.

Mania complicates this by a factor of ghosts and lollipops.

I already have serious sleep issues due to fibromyalgia, but dealing with that for over 20yrs has brought me some hard-won success. I know what to do and have learned how to tailor it to my own quirks in order to maximise restful, restorative sleep. Mania, however, wraps me in a delicious gigglefit and confidently assures me that everything’ll be fine. I’ve done this before and i’ve learned from my mistakes and i won’t make them again. I’ve got this handled, i won’t let things get outta control, and besides, i feel fiiiiiiiine…

If you follow along with my blog, you know that i’ve known something was up since April. I thought it was just my approaching birthday, which was always a tough time for me growing up, coupled with some religious triggers. I tried to ride with the bumps. I lost some momentum regarding my progress towards becoming more like regular folks, but i would diligently pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again. /lalala
Back to the basics. If all i can do is have a clean house, a clean person, and get supper on the table, then that’s a good day. I managed to do even better than that most days – even keeping up with regular exercise, both personal and dog walkies. But i was still having weekly emotional meltdowns; a lot of tears. I don’t actually cry very often, and when i do they’re spent for someone else. Not these last few months, though. It’s all been for me, which again, i explained away with an intense personal issue i’ve been dealing with that is quickly coming to a head. It explained everything, i thought.

Then why did i feel like it didn’t?
I kept feeling like i was missing something, i had that niggling doubt, that feeling of unease that something was wrong and i wasn’t seeing it. I kept on doing what i’ve learned to do to manage my life to the best of my ability, and i knew i was doing relatively well, but i couldn’t shake a building suspicion that i just wasn’t quite right.

Sinead O’Connor provided me with an answer.
I’ve been listening to her a fair bit lately, and one night while chasing musical rabbit holes on YouTube, it pointed me to a recent video she’d posted. I could tell by looking at it that she was in a rough place. I’ve always loved her music and was both drawn to and repulsed by her manner outside of her art. When i found out she’s bipolar, i already had my own diagnosis, and it immediately explained both her behaviour, and my reaction to it. I felt immediate kinship with her, and from then on i always paid attention to any news about her.

So i watched the video.
I watched it again, plus a commentary on it by Russell Brand.
I went to bed, tossed and turned as had recently become the way of things, and when morning came i found myself listening to her music again.
And i watched that video again.
Holy shit, she’s clearly manic as fuck.
She’s talking a mile a minute, nakedly sharing hope and hopelessness in the same ragged breath.
And then it hits me like in a hospital drama when the brash young intern bashes their fist on some unconscious schmuck’s chest and they magically (because that mostly doesn’t happen in real life hospitals, and when it does, it doesn’t have that effect) open their eyes, sit up, and suck in a massive gulp of air all at the same time.
Sinead just punched me in the chest to tell me You’re manic, you bloody blind eejit!

And suddenly, as they say, everything made sense.
The way my emotions seemed to be ramping up. I’m switching with a frequency and lack of control that i’ve not experienced in a couple of years. I’m having regular emotional outbursts, which are often followed by angry walks. I’m setting up meetings with people and then obsessing over them and backing out. I really, like REALLY wanna party. My Nighthawk has come home to roost, and my sleep, when i get any, is for shit. I’m plagued with racing thoughts and neuroses, various and sundry. My dreams are upsetting, with plenty of family, both dead and estranged making unwelcome appearances. No lucid dreaming to set me free, so i awake many times with words and screams caught in my aching throat. I’m sleepwalking for the first time in years. Mania. Of course it is.

Unfortunately, this realisation didn’t just rib-smash me, it also smacked me hard across my horse’s ass and sent me at a full gallop downhill.
Picture Jim Craig in the climactic scene in The Man From Snowy River.
Yep.
I’m currently on the snow-covered steppe, bullwhip in hand, and we’ll see if i can bring the Brumbies down from the mountain.

~H~

Promises Shmomises


Friday night, I’d just got back

I had my eyes shut and dreaming about the past
I thought about you while the radio played
I should have got loaded, some reason I stayed
I started drifting to a different place
I realized I was falling off the face of the world
And there was nothing left to bring me back
~A Million Miles Away, The Plimsouls

So, i’m having a conversation about my current mental and emotional status yesterday. She wants to know why i’m not writing. I quizzically remind her that she knows why, seeing how she’s living with my mania every day. I’m like a comic geek on Wednesday, every day, all day. A puppy let loose in a field filled with gopher holes.
Ooh, what’s that?
Wags.
What’s down there?
Pounces.
What is that smell?
Sniffs.
Did you hear that over there?
Trots.

She reminds me of my son’s words a few days prior. How he said if i was born for anything i was born for this. He asked me if i’d figured that out yet, or if i needed some more time.
To look unflinchingly at it all and talk about it with endless and wild abandon.
Oh, the inglorious vainglory and the constant sucking of the sand at my feet planted firmly in the shallow end. The sun cooks my body from the knees up and the sparkling top of the water beckons me, promising nothing.

Maybe some more time, yes.
Then she reminds me that i promised, and she points a sassy finger at this place. I built this place, this little space in the ether filled with my cartoonish thought bubbles; perhaps the only thing i will ever be able to give to my fellow humans besides my progeny. My only intentional contribution, and one of only a small handful of seriously made commitments while in my right mind. The others are tethers, but this one can fill me, fly me, burst and disperse me. Anywhere. Everywhere.

I sense/feel/hear the smugness in her tone as i sense/feel/see the cocking of her head. I know there is a hand on a jutting hip, just as she knows she’s won, demonstrating her victory with a hair toss and an arrogant saunter back to her room. She begins blasting “A Million Miles Away” at full volume.

I may hate teenage girls sometimes, but her taste in music makes up for it today. Her somewhat cheeky choice makes me proud of her. She’s got chutzpah. It got us both in and out of trouble, back in the day.

This is me. This is how my brain works, and it is all i have to give you.

~H~

Spire Comics and Chick Tracts

I was born-agained when i was 11 or 12yrs old. It was religious Archie comics and Chick tracts.

I was born into the United Church of Canada, i suppose. My mother’s parents were Episcopalians from Wisconsin and Oregon, so it was natural. Even in the 40s it was known amongst other denominations as the “country club” of Christian denominations – Xtianity Lite, if you will. It might have even been a decent church to be raised in, had their families not chosen to settle in the Canadian bosom of Mormonism, Cardston, Alberta. My grandfather’s  brother married a nice LDS girl, and they promptly set about their sacred duty, having 2 boys and 2 girls (i think, i’m estranged from all my relatives on my mother’s side), making Grandpa and his unfortunate family the odd ones out.

Mom had it tough going to school, no doubt about it. The girls were focused on getting married, pretty much from the jump, and to convert a non-Mormon boy by bringing him in through marriage was was both desired and admired. At her first school dance, she had no shortage of partners. The nice LDS girls quickly put a stop to that by telling the boys she’d be their only partner if they ever danced with her again. Still, she managed to get herself pregnant at 15, but Grandma sent her to a home for unwed mothers back in her home state, where she give her baby girl up for adoption. When that was over, she was sent to a private boarding school in a city hours away, where she promptly had nothing to do with Mormons or any church at all until i came along. She went back to Portland to give me up, but defied her parents by moving out and keeping me. When she came back to Canada she needed help, and i think that part of my grandparents agreeing to give it involved her putting on the mantle of contrition and returning to the United Church, which she did, off and on, until i was around 13. To the best of my knowledge, she never (seriously, regularly) picked it up again until the final year or so of her life, when she was attending catechism classes to become a Roman Catholic.
My grandmother would have had a conniption – she genuinely believed that RCs were of the devil. She even told Mom that nuns ate babies.

Back to me and my religious career, though. I never really gave up on church. I joined anything that could get me out of the house and away from my parents and the atmosphere at home. I was in various clubs and organisations for my entire school career, and church provided me with many opportunities to get away. I did Sunday school, choir, bible studies, and any charity work they did, they could always count on me. We moved regularly, but it wouldn’t be long before some kid would invite me to their church, and i’d always say Yes, and get involved from the first day i attended. Although there was some intense religious abuse in my younger years, it was over by the time i was 8 or so, and my Bits N’ Pieces kept all the nastiness locked up tight, and memories of what i now call “Nighttime Church” only leaked out in my dreams. I just thought those were due to my lifelong fascination with horror novels and movies, so my church attendance was genuine and sincere, and my participation was innocent and enthusiastic. My belief in the god they preached was all of those things too, but when i was around 11 or 12yrs old, a family member noticed my love of all things comic book, and gave me access to his supply of religious Archie comics, and eventually, Chick tracts.

If you aren’t familiar, let me give you a bit of history: Al Hartley was an illustrator for the Archie comics series, and managed to finagle permission to write and illustrate an evangelical version of Archie for Spire Comics. It was my first encounter with heavy-handed evangelism. I think he had most, if not all of the Spire comics from the 70s, and i read them all, the Archies ones, The Cross and the Switchblade, On the Road with Andrae Crouch, the one with Johnny Cash, Time To Run, and even Hansi: The Girl Who Loved The Swastika… At the end of all of these, there was always a call to be born again. I understood that it was calling me to recite it on a personal level, but all i was doing was reading them in my head, in the same way i was reading the dialogue.
Then he started giving me the tracts.

Jack Chick was a religious cartoonist who published pamphlets exhorting you to accept Jesus as your Saviour or be tortured in a lake of fire forever. No pressure, though. He preached a punishing, invasive god, assuring me that i was so much worse than the generic Christian assertion that i was born a sinner. He made it clear that i was filthy and rotten and utterly doomed. His tracts tapped into my mother’s training, accessing the foundation of self-loathing she’d laid. Further, he terrified me with the promise that, when meeting god for final judgment, a movie would be played of my life, from birth to death. All the things that i’d done in secret would be shown on some celestial screen, for everyone else that had ever lived to see.
Jack Chick emotionally blackmailed me into reciting The Sinner’s Prayer. I sobbed wretchedly, before, during, and after. Not only did i not feel lighter or filled with joy and gratitude and praise, but ever after that, Jack Chick’s implied personality of god became tied in with some of the more voyeuristic sexual predators that i had known when i was younger. I felt constantly watched, in an invasive and forcible way. It didn’t stop me from doing things i wouldn’t want anyone to know about, it just multiplied my feelings of shame and guilt, and reinforced my inherent unworthiness and evil nature. Decades passed before i realised he’d done it… And more decades still, before i saw the same sort of behaviour in his god, and left religion behind.

Happy Saturday,
~H~

If It Quacks Like A Duck…

Put your gun down and don’t shoot it.

It’s funny (peculiar, not ha-ha) how the thing i’ve been trying to write about for, well, maybe years, comes to the forefront after i get back to a draft i’ve saved for 6+mos. It’s sat on my blog and been reworded, revised, and deleted over and over, because it’s one of the most difficult subjects for me to address. I’ve never felt like i’ve gotten enough distance from it to have anything helpful to share.
Maybe now i do.
I may still put this back on the shelf.
I don’t know what i’m gonna decide, but i’m in suspense!
(I know, if you’re reading this, that makes precisely one of us. Heh.)

The bullying started in grade two. I’d just been returned to my mother after nearly a year of being in the foster care system. During that time, i learned to cope with food. Unlike at home, foster care afforded me regular access to healthy food. Breakfasts came with fruit, toast, cereal – i had Flintstones chewable vitamins for the first time in my life. Lunches were either prepared for me to take to school, or i came home to a mother who had it ready on the table. And the most amazing meal of the day was suppertime, when there was a father, hungry and home from work, sitting with mother and children. Everyone chatting about their day, as the other children snuck their Brussels sprouts onto my plate. It was just like i’d seen on television. There were even after school and bedtime snacks, for crying out loud.
At home there was often nothing in the fridge. I’d come home from school starving, having not had lunch, and tear apart the cupboards looking for anything edible. I remember i’d make a treat out of soda crackers: i’d put a small dollop of ketchup on one, followed by a tiny drip of mustard, topped with a quick sploosh of Worcestershire sauce, and then pop the entire thing in my mouth. I pretended i was eating fancy appetizers.
If there was food, i was often expected to prepare it, and if my mother thought i had eaten any of it before she returned home from work, i was guaranteed some kind of beating, the severity of which usually depended on what kind of day she’d had.

I’m telling you this to demonstrate why, when i was returned to my mom on Christmas Eve, i was a bit overweight. Add to that, my mom was celebrating getting me back from the “evil” foster parents that were trying to take me away from her – and her favourite way to celebrate was food. This time though, she actually shared it all with me, because she was fresh out of the mental hospital and chest-deep into the latest 70s pop psychology, so she was wearing her Bonnie-Franklin-as-Ann-Romano-in-One-Day-At-A-Time-i’m-a-great-modern-mom mask. (It came off before Christmas holidays were over.) For 2 solid weeks, all i did was eat. And i’m telling you that so you know why the bullying started immediately on a frigid January day in 1975.
I was the fat (not really) kid.

Being the fat kid was bad enough, but i increased my target value by being both obviously poor, and overflowing with personality… personalities… Whatever. I had the reek of something gone off inside me, and everyone around me could smell it. To the sharks on the playground, i was blood in the water.
I could share lots of stories, but you’ve likely heard similar ones, or had an experience or two yourself. I don’t want to wallow or dwell. I’m loathe to talk about this part of my life at all, but it has become clear to me that it still effects how i experience friendships and peer groups, so i either handle it, or it’ll just keep on handling me.

I’ve said stuff like this before in other journalling pieces, but i may have glossed over it. Maybe it’ll help if i just let it get embarrassingly emotional and awkward for everyone – the ugly cry of the blog post. A little bloodletting to balance the humours. Trephination to release my inner demons. Barf it up and flush it, H. (I’m revving myself up with metaphors.)

I avoid this issue because that’s how i felt the entire 12 years i was in public school. Embarrassed. Emotional. Awkward. Also, exposed and vulnerable and utterly alone.

I was being raped and beaten and emotionally tortured at home. On the good days i was just neglected. School should have been a port in the storm. It should have been some respite from the constant emotional upheaval. Instead, the armour i wore to protect me at home was like waving a cape at the school bullies. I added more fat over the years, and threw in poor hygiene because i’m an overachiever. Heh. It was actually because my mother modelled it for me, coupled with the bathroom being a very dangerous place for me, abuse-wise, but if that had occurred to anyone at school, it never manifested in my rescue. There were a couple of visits from social workers – they came to the school, not the home, so i think a teacher or 2 may have tried, but my mother was an exceptionally clever woman, and a fabulous actress.

For 19 solid years i had it drilled into me that i was alone.
I was defective and gross and no one would ever like, love, or want me.
Everything i did was wrong, or not enough.
Everyone i loved hurt and/or left me.

That’s a long time for some extensive programming to sink in, take hold, and grow roots.

I was physically separated from my mother at 20, but even though she died before we could be reunited, she was always with me. Fortunately, gratefully, no one in my Peanut Gallery is representative of her, although they all have their own experiences and opinions of who she was to them. I’m referring to just how well her indoctrination took. I was generally a very obedient child, especially when i was younger, and her training was thorough. I did what i was told: in public i was unfailingly polite and proper, deferred to all adults, was quiet and demure, unless called upon to be precocious in order to impress someone. As she descended into hopelessness, depression, and rage, her mask began to slip, her hold on me lessened some, and my own facade developed some cracks.

Still, i approached every person and every situation the same way. I wanted desperately to be liked and accepted, but i was terrified for them to get to know me too well, because they might find out how rotted and filthy i was at my core.
Thusly i conducted every friendship i ever attempted – a stilted dance of pulling someone in too close, out of tempo, only to fling them stage left for an ill-timed solo, or turn away and dance by myself as if they weren’t even there, usually in a style that didn’t match the song.
I know now that i must have been very difficult to be friends with. I’m surprised at how long some of them stuck with me. Some left with good reason, others were probably just tired. I mourned them all, but miss none of them today. (I have been happy to reconnect with a couple of good people, though.) People as broken as i was don’t always have the greatest taste. The only long-term friends i have that i’m even remotely intimate with now, are online. They either don’t notice or don’t mind that i get close and then faaaaaaaar. Most of them even know and accept that i’m not always quite myself, and they treat my people with as much love and respect and patience as they treat me.

I don’t know if i can ever have that with anyone in the flesh.
I don’t think i’ve ever given anyone a decent opportunity, but i was ignorant, and now…
Now i don’t know if i can, or even if i want to.
My mother and my home life taught me to wear a mask, and i got so good at it that my masks became people that live in my brain.
My peers and my school life taught me that all my masks were ugly, and it hurt so much that i crawled up inside my brain and let my masks take over.

Since all this inner gardening work i’ve done has finally started bearing some truly delicious fruit, i have only shared it with family in the flesh, and with my dear online friends. I’ve not yet invited someone to my table and served them any of my harvest. I’m afraid they won’t even want to sit and partake. Or what if they do and they find it bitter, or overripe? Or what if they eat it, and i suddenly find that i’m one with my bounty and they’re hungrily devouring me and i cannot stop them? What if they pillage my garden and feed until i am nothing?

Angry children climbing my trees and plucking every fruit, trouncing every lush vine, and mercilessly uprooting every flower. And always, the children who watch and do nothing, as my beautiful garden is turned to desert, their whispers blow all my top soil away.

This is the ugly cry of it.
My mother twisted me into an odd duck, and schoolchildren -both the bullies and the do-nothings- plucked me to death, one feather at a time.

~A Conversation Between Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou~

OPRAH: Maya, you were telling me that your life is defined by principles, and one principle you have taught me is that we can’t allow ourselves to be “pecked to death by ducks.”

MAYA: That is true. Some people don’t have the nerve to just reach up and grab your throat, so they just take …

OPRAH:  … little pieces of you, with their rude comments.

MAYA: That’s right.

OPRAH: They try to demean you.

MAYA: Reduce your humanity through what New York cartoonist Jules Feiffer called “little murders.” The minute I hear [someone trying to demean me], I know that person means to have my life. And I won’t give it to them.

OPRAH: It is an assassination attempt by a coward.

MAYA: Yes, some people don’t have the courage to just walk up to you and pull the trigger. If somebody just walked up and said “Boom!” — well, there you go. Bye. But when a person commits these little murders, and then you catch him or her at it, he or she might say, “Oh, I didn’t mean it.” But make no mistake: It is an assassination attempt.

**********

I’ll just be over here, swimming in my little pond in my garden.
No peckers allowed.

The Long Walk Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I almost fucking went back to apologise.

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

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

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

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

Fuck Them All,
~H~