When Christmas and Gridiron Collide

 

The decision to continue my non-celebration of Christmas has already proven to be a wise one. I am struggling a little.

Because i’ve developed the habit of both preparing for the coming weeks and reviewing them after, i’ve been noticing a few things lately. I think about what goals i already have in place, and how other activities, including appointments and the day-to-days, may affect their furthering or accomplishment. For instance, while getting ready for the holidays, i thought about how i wanted to get through them without any crutches, including addictive behaviours and switching. I thought to myself, “It’s gonna be hard,”
And that’s it. That’s all i thought. I just glossed right over it and didn’t go any deeper. I mean, why would i need to, right? I’ve done all this work and i know myself pretty well. I know it’s going to be difficult.

It’s like running my fingers over the books on my shelves. As they run over the spines i remember each one’s content in my mind, and the general vibe briefly washes over me, like the breath of a lover between kisses. I’ve read it before and i know what it’s about, so why read it again? But it’s not like that with some books. Some i return to over and over, so many times that the spine is hopelessly cracked and flecks of laminate are missing from its paperboard cover. Some words are so beautifully, so importantly put together, that i must experience them many times; it’s simply not enough to know that they exist or to have visited them before. I cannot be satisfied with a fingertip-touch or a warm glance. And i should not be – some of the depth and the nuance and delicate intricacy is lost without at least an hour or two lost in its embrace.

Well, that was an interesting digression that i’m not sure fits entirely, but it is an insight into my mood most assuredly, so it stands.
I’m trying to relate it to my playbook for living with mental illness. I have a list of strategies and plays i’ve developed for handling what life throws my way. I don’t think sportsball teams simply commit the plays to memory and then just show up at gametime, ready to play. The players practise. They practise a LOT. They look to the coach for direction, for instruction, for guidance.
It’s a very good analogy because i’m multiple. I’m the coach, the quarterback, and the hungry rookie going slightly mad sitting on the bench, aching to get in the game. I’m the fans, both for and against, the colour commentator on the sidelines and the beloved announcer in the booth above it all. The opposing team is made up of people, places, and things, and the game is LIFE, of course.

Those players haven’t just memorised those plays. They’ve practised them so many times they’ve built muscle-memory reactions that work like breathing, so reflexive it’s like the OOF! that explodes out of them when they’re tackled.

Would a team that wanted to win against a tough competitor show up without practising plays designed specifically to deal with what that other team is known for being particularly good at? Hell NO.

I ran my fingers over the book on the shelf and remembered what was inside it, when i should have taken it down from the shelf, cracked it open, and read it again.
My players needed a coach to call them to practise, to scrawl the plays out on the board in class and to run them through on the field.
I wasn’t well-prepared so they weren’t, either.
This has been a rough game against a tough opponent.

I’m dealing with the depression part of living with Bipolar Disorder, which means i don’t have much energy or enthusiasm and i’m tired most of the time. Being depressed when most of the people, places, and things around me are happy and excited (or at least wanting and trying to be) saps what little reserves i have stored. And that makes me vulnerable. My patience is thin and my skin is thinner. My vision is blurry and my voice is a whisper.

What i mean is
**i can be easily hurt and i’m not great at interpreting what’s going on around me, and i’m shit at communicating what i’m thinking or how i feel**
That’s better. Sorry for all the attempts at various literary devices, as anyone reading this has certainly grasped more quickly than i have said – i’m still in the grips of all this.

So i let some things get to me that needn’t have, and i shut down a bit because of it.
Rejection is one of, if not the, primary issues/triggers i have. So i was worried and anxious and hurt and scared and it seeped into everything.

But here is where things get better, so don’t worry. There is no need to feel badly for me beyond this point. If you’re empathetic, you probably feel some sadness and anxiety for me, and thank you for that, but you can stop now, because i’ve developed coping skills and routines to help me live a reasonably happy and functional life.

While i do need to work on game preparation, i am already the queen of post-game analysis.

I’m a bit too emotional and that caused exhaustion, but i didn’t overindulge in anything and i didn’t switch. I slid around in the face from time to time, but i was able to tell my family that i wasn’t all there, and they know what that means. Looking back, even though i wasn’t fully aware of what was going on, my self-talk was quite gentle, and that is excellent progress. I didn’t tell myself i was being stupid or wrong for the feelings i was having or the actions i was taking – i just didn’t delve deep enough for full clarity. There were times i was irritated to the point where i could have spoken snappishly, but i didn’t. I had enough awareness that i knew the feelings were bigger than the situation, meaning something else was probably going on inside me at a deeper level.
I realised that whatever was happening inside of me wasn’t about what was occurring outside of me, and responded in a relatively reasonable fashion. I will take that, and any congratulations to be had go to the players.

I need to watch more games, both ours and theirs. I’ve got some great plays and some smart strategies, but we need better preparation and more practise. I’ve got this playbook, and i’m going to use it during practise, and the way my brain works (i.e. my Peanut Gallery) is the home team. They can split up and practise against each other. (Trust me – they already do, heh.) Upcoming situations will be the next visiting team and we’ll get together on practise days and watch footage of how those guys play before we show up, so we’ll be as ready as we can be to compete.

And we’ll still play for fun. It’ll be more like weekend flag football and all the players on the other side of the scrimmage line are my family and friends – it won’t be like the Grey Cup or anything.

This is a very weird way of saying that i wasn’t as prepared as i could have been for the Christmas season this year, but i will be next year.
I think. Heh.

 

Love and Peace,
~H~

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Thanks, I’ll Pass

I’m not celebrating Christmas this year. This will be the third year i’ve not done so. I’m certain about my decision and very comfortable with it, but i’m 100% open to returning to it at some point.

Christmas had become my personal microcosm. It was a vignette of how i once viewed life and the living of it. But as i was getting healthier mentally and emotionally, i could see that it was getting hard for me to continue my growth through the holiday season, or even maintain the status quo until it was over. It had become a frantic sketch of the overwhelmed wife and mother who is desperate to be Martha Stewart but only manages Lucy Ricardo. It was like looking at an old snapshot, with yellow seeping into all the colours and the edges curling up.
Quite a few things were happening for me back then. I realised that i was doing the backstroke in my ocean of despair, which was probably a sign that it was time to get out and dry off. I can’t tell you with absolute certainty that i needed to swim around for as long as i did, but i thought so, so that happened and there you have it. When i stepped out onto the shore i immediately felt the sun’s warmth. I realised the ocean had been cold and brackish, and i had turned blue and prune-skinned. My mourning clothes lay on the ground where i’d left them, but they proved scratchy and a poor fit, so i left them behind and walked on, keeping an eye peeled for something more appropriate for the walk and the weather.

I loved Christmas as a child for all the regular reasons, but mostly because my mother was almost always on her best behaviour. She loved the music, the decorations, the gifts of course, and Oh my! didn’t she love the food. When i was young she made a real effort to make things beautiful and festive, she gave care and thought to my gifts, and when she wanted to, my mom was a helluva fine cook. When she was happy, everyone was happy. She could be brilliant and charming and funny and dear. My grandparents, although they had become careful what and how much they gave her, were wonderfully generous with me, and to the best of my recollection, we spent all, or at least part, of every one of those Christmases with them until i was 7yrs old. Christmases slowly, but steadily declined after that.

The year i turned 8 she fell out with the man i believe to be my biological father and suffered a psychotic breakdown. She was committed, and i was removed from the home and placed in foster care. During that time my uncle was killed while on holiday, and my grandparents were devastated and never recovered. They were completely unable to handle my mother, and they gradually lost interest in seeing me (i’ll never know how much she had to do with that, but i suspect at least some). When she was released it took her some time to get me back, and interestingly enough for this piece, i was returned to her on Christmas Eve. The honeymoon period lasted a couple of weeks,  but by the time next Christmas rolled around she had taken an underage lover and moved us to a small town to hide her crime. She made him a father at 16. She was 34. I was 11.

She proceeded to have 3 more children in the next five years. The boy she stole from his family became a man, but had dropped out of school in grade ten to be with her, and she wouldn’t let him out of her sight long enough to get any education or training that could translate into enough income to care properly for all of us. She wouldn’t even permit him to put in the kind of overtime that might be parlayed into more money or a dogged climb up the ladder won by the sweat of his brow. Even if they liked him and gave him opportunities for advancement, people would eventually figure out that something was off about him, or his home life. Mom’s mask would eventually slip, the house and/or the children would be seen, and then suddenly he had a new job and we had to move, or the other way around.

Mother became less and less able to keep her mask in place, and she coped by isolating and eating. She became angrier, lazier, and fatter. The places we lived became more broken down and she filled them with dirty dishes and piles of unwashed laundry. The children were beaten when they weren’t ignored, and they responded by fighting constantly and destroying everything in the house that wasn’t already broken.
And every Christmas was a little worse than the one before it.

After she died and i had a child of my own, Christmas suddenly became important again. I wanted him to have the perfect ones i’d seen on tv, and i had those distant childhood memories to help me. Some of the people who live in my brain were a great help in this, and they derived happiness and healing from it as well. We all did. It’s probably worthwhile to mention that my son was born a week before Christmas, and i spent December 25th alone with him in a room at the YWCA, listening to Christmas music on the local radio station.  On his first birthday he set fire to the apartment we lived in, but it was professionally cleaned and ready for us by the 25th. Both of them were better than any Christmas i’d had since my grandparents.

I became the Christmas queen. I did it all: the decorating, cards, gifts, cooking, baking, entertaining. Capital E entertaining. Family, friends, friends that were like family… Anyone and everyone. And i was good at it. Maybe not Ina Garten-good, but i put on a mean Roseanne. Christmas was my favourite time of year. I felt happy and functional and almost normal.

In the years that followed i had another child, fell in love and got married, gained a tremendous amount of weight, had another child, had weight loss surgery, and then fell head first into the deep end of my first clinical mania. My childhood was catching up to me, becoming inescapable as i saw myself reflected in my children. My fears and flaws were magnified in the lens of a committed sexual relationship. My old wounds were still raw. Being a mom, being in love, and playing house had proved merely a Band-Aid. I felt like a failure and a fraud and the anguish became so unbearable that i couldn’t control my people. December became one long bender for me, but i still had to keep up appearances for everyone else.

How do you throw a fabulous holiday while you fall somewhere on the scale from tipsy to pass-out drunk? I had varying levels of success. It was never a write-off, but my mental health was lousy and my drinking to cope was obvious and my family is not stupid…

These last few years i’ve been doing markedly better. Don’t misunderstand me though, through all of it i was trying very hard not to be a mess, and i spent time, money, and most of my energy trying to figure my shit out. It just took a long time. You know, wearing mourning clothes and swimming in the ocean of despair and all that, heh. It took time and patience and a lot of work to get some damn traction in my life. Along the way i learned some things about myself that i didn’t know, like:

– I’m not religious;
– I’m much more of an introvert than an extrovert;
– I crave a simple, quiet life;
– I’m a terrible driver;
– I’m a helper and a giver and a lover.

I realised that putting on Christmas was not bringing me the excitement and the joy that it used to. My 2 oldest children were grown and gone, and our youngest was close to legal. The holidays are culturally enjoyable and edifying, but no longer hold any spiritual significance for me. We’ve been experiencing an economic recession where we live for the last few years, and the money could be better spent on other things. I wanted to curtail my drinking, and the holidays are a skating rink made from all the booze i’ve spilled on Christmases past.

So i put up a few decorations, we had a fancy supper and exchanged gifts. And it was pretty good.
The next year i broke my leg and couldn’t put up any decorations or even make supper. We decided to spend our money on a fancy spread in the city downtown, and then we went and saw Star Wars: TFA. There were a few gifts for the kids, but hubby and i didn’t exchange anything. We both liked it.
Last year i cooked and baked for our children and grandchildren, but that was it. Our youngest prefers us to take him shopping and spend the money on new clothes, which i love. Everyone was satisfied.
This year’s holiday season will include Star Wars, Chinese food, and feeding the entire family all day long until they can roll home on their own.

This year i knew i was doing well enough that i could do the Christmas thing if i wanted to… But i just didn’t. The other 2 years of not celebrating Christmas weren’t super-conscious choices. Hubby and i discussed it a little from the mental health and financial standpoint, but we didn’t go much deeper than that.
This year i went deep. I gave it a lot of thought. I was my own 3 ghosts and took myself to all the places and looked at all the Christmases and contemplated what could be.
And i still love Christmas. I’m no Scrooge, humbugging all over other people’s holidays. The decorating is gorgeous and the music is fun and festive – it’s just not in my house right now. Even though there’s no religious meaning for me anymore, Christmas remains very significant from a cultural perspective. I like the generosity and the parties and the FOOOOD! but i’m really enjoying the freedom and power i feel in saying No, i’m not buying anything. I don’t feel guilty or less than or left out by refusing to do so, either. In fact, the rebel in me is revelling in telling corporate North America and conspicuous consumption to shove it up their Black Friday.

I see a very real possibility, even likelihood, that i’ll return to some of the things i used to do during Christmas, like decorating and music and parties. For now though, this feels so good and so right. It’s not often that i have no doubts about a big decision, but i have zero regarding this one. If and when i do return to marking the occasion, it will be on my terms, and in my way. There’ll be no more trying to fix what was wrong with the Christmases of my youth, and i won’t need to put a pretty bow or a star on top of a pile of unresolved issues.
Whatever you do or don’t do for the holidays, i hope it’s a minimum of stuff you don’t want, with a maximum of what you do.

I’ll be here on the other side of all of it, no matter what.

Love and Peace to All-a Y’all,
~H~

Thanks Mum

My mother-in-law died, and we held a memorial.
I did a thing that, even 2 or 3yrs ago i might not have done nearly so well. I met a family obligation appropriately, with maturity and i think, grace. I was present, not just in the body, but right there in the face, for almost the entire time. I didn’t use anything in order to cope, and i was genuine and sincere. There was a moment when i could feel myself sliiiidiiiing… But i knew it immediately because i was practising mindfulness, so i was able to recognise that i was pulling out of the face. The words that were coming out of my mouth were things i wouldn’t say. I reined it in by excusing myself from the conversation and the group that was chatting.
I wasn’t too nice, too friendly, or too funny. I shed a few tears, but the deep grief is for me to express privately, and it’s not ready yet.

I shared a few words with those who’d gathered there, about what she meant to me, and i was there for all of them. I hadn’t felt that way since the first time i sang a solo in church. I don’t think i’ve done anything like that after high school. I was a karaoke hostess for a couple of years in my late 30s, but i’m not sure >>i<< ever sang a single song. I sang at my grandfather’s funeral, and i think that’s the last time i did anything in front of an audience sober. Until i stood there, in front of those people who’d come to mark her passing.

Growing up i loved public speaking and performing, and i was good at it.
I’ve spent some time grieving the life i might have had if i’d been allowed to pursue it, or even just been supported when i did things on my own. My mother was concerned with me only insofar as i was a source of positive attention and income for her. She wasn’t much good at encouragement beyond urging me to join something. I think she wanted me out of her hair, so she’d push me to participate in after school activities. The problems came when she was called upon to help, like bake something for the tea, or drive me to swim meets, or be there when i was given an award.

The church choirs and the school plays were the worst. I always got noticed. The teachers and congregants always sought her out to share how impressed they were with my talent. She was approached by people a couple of times who wanted to represent me, saying i could get commercials and jingles and little bit parts were available – even in a city like mine. I loved performing. I loved entertaining people. I loved just speaking in front of people, whether it was a poem i’d written, a scripture in church, or just a book report in class. I’d get excited, but i never got stage fright. I don’t know why those things never panned out for sure, but Mom definitely had something to do with it. Whether it was jealousy, envy, laziness, or she liked the way she had things set up already, i just don’t know. What i can say for sure is that she was certainly lazy, a flaw that only grew more pronounced over the years. Also, when dealing with my past as an adult, i looked back and saw that she’d been markedly nastier and more violent after a school or church performance.

At the end of all the angsty feels, i chose to see it as a dodged bullet – my various mental diagnoses left untreated in the entertainment field may well have made me more infamous than successful, if i’d managed any success at all.
Still…

That’s what grownups do, yes? Or maybe i’ll call them “growers”, as in, those who grow. Not just up, or out, but in and down and through and deep and beyond. People who have the kind of life that looks good to me seem to, anyway. Those who find happiness and satisfaction in their day-to-day, and if there’s none to be found, then they look harder, look forward, look upward, look anywhere, knowing it’s there somewhere, or at least believing in its possibility. Those folks. There’s no particular character trait or personal voodoo woo-vibe they got goin’ on. The only thing i’ve found that they have in common is the way i feel when i’m around them. It’s simple, clean, fresh, pure, real, fundamental and beautiful and… And that’s all i can tell you. What exactly the quality is i don’t know, but i know that i like it. I know that i want to be around people who have it, and i know i want some of it for myself. Not theirs, though. I wanna make my own.
But still…

My mother took a possible future from me. I cannot say whether it was accidentally or on purpose, and that part truly, no longer matters to me. The thing that matters is that i’m mad at her for it. I resent her for emotionally hobbling me. And i mourn my lost opportunities. All those doors, from the ones i walked by at her bidding, to the ones she quietly clicked closed when i wasn’t looking, to the ones that must now remain locked. Sometimes i’m still sad about it, and nothing i’ve overcome or accomplished has changed that. Today i may be a queen, but my parent still gave me away for pride and the king only wanted me for wealth and i can’t really make straw into gold, i’m just clever and lucky.

It may appear that i’ve strayed wildly from my initial paragraphs. How did i get from eulogising my dear mother-in-law to Rumpelstiltskin?
I’ll tell you – i’m not exactly sure, but it feels organic as fuck.
I was standing there in front of those gathered, wondering if my legs might give out, sniffling in punctuation, but i was looking up and making eye contact. I knew what i was saying and i was there and invested in communicating what she meant to me and how i felt about her.

One day i’ll tell you about my brief career as a karaoke hostess, but for now let it be enough that i was in full-blown mania, and my multiplicity was out. of. control. I took the job because it appealed to my need for attention and excitement and drama and some of my Bit N’ Pieces still wanted to sing and dance and play dress-up and flirtyflirtflirt with eeeeverybody!
The thing is, i had crippling stage fright. I simply could not sing without a drink or 10 in me. I’ll analyse it/break it down another time, but for now just get this, okay?
I never had stage fright as a child and now it was ALL i had. I drank the stage fright away, but i also drank me away – that was someone else singing.
And i think the same thing would have happened had i tried out for a play or took a public speaking engagement.

But i stood there fully present in my body, communicating my thoughts and feelings to a group of people that mattered to me. We were all there for Mum, and so i cared about every person there, and it was important to me to share my love for her and my grief at her passing. And i believe i was able to do so.
Since then i’ve been trying to write about it, but i kept putting it back in my unfinished folder, because i knew it was missing something. I hadn’t found my voice to tell you the story yet.

I have, now.

My mother took away my voice. She silenced me to the point where my brain made other people to speak for me. And while her death set me free, it took me decades to find which voice was truly, most essentially and basically, mine.

My mother-in-law gave me the beauty and marvel and magic that is a mother/daughter relationship. She gave me a safe and nurturing place to say things that daughters say to their mothers – and she always responded to me with a mother’s love, in a mother’s voice.
I wanted to convey to the people in that church, just how powerful and beautiful her gifts to me were, and i think i did, a little.
But now i see that she gave me one more gift, even in death. Her love of me inspired such love in return, that i was able ditch the stage fright. No need for liquid courage, no help from the Peanut Gallery.
I stood in front of a group of people and told them something i wanted them to know.
And they heard me and they felt it and they got it.

She helped me get back something that my mother took away.

Thank you, Mum.
I miss you.
I love you.

~H~

Perseverance

I’m not sure what’s going on in my brain, so i’m gonna write a bit, and see if i can figure it out. Let me say plainly that this may be a dog’s breakfast, and it may not end up with any answers for me or insights for you, but it’s a coping skill that has helped in the past, and it’s one i’ve committed to using, regardless. So, even if we both wind up empty-handed, i’ll at least have the behaviour more ingrained, and i can glean some pride and self-esteem from my sticktoitiveness.

I lost my mother-in-law about a week and a half ago. I tried to write about it, but i didn’t see myself in the draft, so it’s sitting in my folder, waiting for me to find myself and tell the story that’s there.
I’m tired, though. I am so fucking tired, and i don’t know why.
Okay, well, it’s probably depression, but this one feels different. I’m trying to get through it without checking out – no booze, no drugs. Food and sex are handled for now, but i can still stumble with the other 2. And switching.
I want to make it through this depression (?)

Yeah okay, it’s a fucking depression. It is. I know it is. Just because it feels different doesn’t mean it’s not a depression. I’m tired all the time, i have no oomph, no joy, no passion, and i have absolutely no fucks to give about anything.
It’s a depression.

I want to make it through this depression without alcohol, drugs, or switching. I’m okay with a bit of sliding (meaning i’m not in the face, but i can observe what’s happening – kinda like watching myself on telly), but no losing time.
If i don’t make it, i won’t punish myself or hate myself – i’ll give my performance a proper critique, tweak my technique, and prepare for the matinee showing.
That was poetic. Or at least a bit precious, eh?

My legs are heavy, leaden. My head feels like it’s filled with fresh cement that’s in the process of hardening. I went back to bed at 10 this morning, and i’ve only been up since noon and i already want to go back to bed at 2:30. The fibro has settled into my neck and shoulders, my forearms too. It’s moved down into my thighs, which almost never happens. My back feels out of place like it hasn’t in years. My sinuses are acting like they’re infected. I’ve broken my retainer and we’re too broke to afford a new one, so i’m grinding and clenching all night and the pain in my face is excruciating.
I have no sense of time.
My head is a burden, my thoughts are tribulation.
I want chocolate and bourbon and media distractions.
I want to hide in my dreams.
I do NOT want people.
A cabin in the deep woods with books and DVDs and enough fresh snow and firewood would be pure heaven.

As i type this out i can see the truth of it; this is something tangible and it helps to look at it. While i may be feeling heavy, i am not at all grounded. I am the lead balloon. I need my feet back down on earth. I must keep moving, even if it’s a plod, plod, shuffle-stumble, plod… My feet on the ground, the smell of the earth, the pricking grip of the frigid air…

YES.
I know what i’ll do.
I will take some strong pain reliever right now. Then the vacuuming and dusting. I will throw something in a pot for supper. Then i will drink some very hot tea -not my usual black- herb. Something soothing. I like Chamomile, or some delicate mint. Then i will watch a feel-good movie. A happy-cry movie. While i’m watching, i’ll finish up the ironing that’s making me feel bad by sitting there undone, and when that’s finished i will brush out my doggy. After that i will do nothing remotely productive until i must feed my family. I’m going to retire early with a good book.

Tomorrow i’m going to return to my walks. I’m not paranoid due to mania anymore. No hallucinations.
It was the metaphors about continuing on my path. The bite of the winter air.
Ohhh, THAT’S what i need! It’s what i’m now missing.
It’s time to start walking again. I have no doubt that it’s going to help.
Holy shit, i’m excited about something.

I am marking in words on this page made of technology and ether –

Writing works for me.
My thoughts are seeds. The harmful thoughts are born in fertile ground: isolation, darkness, fear. The helpful thoughts must be planted outside, under the open sky. In the sun, with the rain and the air and the other helpful thoughts that came before, that are already growing and blooming and bearing sweet fruits.

I’m going for a walk tomorrow, before breakfast.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
~Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Spied

I’m behind the door

but don’t look

act as if you don’t see me

a game you’ll allow because of the pigtails and ribbons

I poke my head ’round

curving towards you with wide eyes

and teeth clenched so tightly together

You catch the grinding of slick enamel

and cringe

The hinges reflect the light that pours itself into old windows

and rubs your eye like a child’s grubby hand

Blurring the lines on my face

muting concave rage and convexed terrors

You walk past me and into the kitchen for tea

with my Enemy

I ate your cookie

Swerve

There were many times before i was diagnosed, when not knowing how to handle my thoughts and feelings caused some wreckage. I don’t like looking at them, because they’re mostly mortifying, and because often when they occurred my multiplicity would be in play, so the details can be hard to recall. This week though, my mind keeps turning to some of these events, and i haven’t been able to shake the feeling that i need to examine them now, or i’m risking a return to those behaviours.

What i’m referring to is somewhat hard to define for a couple of reasons. One reason is because the emotions are so intense, the people who live in my brain take over, which often leaves me with little or no memory of what’s happened. Another is that scrutiny can be difficult just because the events precipitating them are unpleasant to recall, and my behaviour is so embarrassing to me that i must fight dissociation to even examine it. I’m sitting here with my morning cup of tea, my husband is beside me doing his morning guided meditation, and i’m struggling hard to concentrate. I was feeling out of sorts yesterday around suppertime, and so i went to bed early, thinking i’d read to relax and try to get some extra sleep in.
Ha. I woke every hour or so all night.

I’ve been going back to bed after the guys head off to work/school for this last week. I’m tired and not sleeping well, plus i’m still working on getting back to reading fiction, a thing that fell by the wayside when i began learning to deal with DID. I can and still do read a lot of non-fiction, but the imagination stuff was like skating on thin ice – i’d fall through the thin, brittle membrane that held me up, and begin flailing around in a panic, the cold, slushy soup of all those who live just underneath quickly deadening my limbs and pulling me down into the murk. I still struggle staying present while reading good fiction, but it’s worth every effort.

Allow me a brief digression from the topic at hand. I know that this  may be reading as a bit strange (maybe more like, HUH?), so let me try to make it a bit clearer.
My therapist told me that if some people really had mutant superpowers, that mine would be imagination. The mind of a multiple is capable of internal flights of fancy that can seem real. I know that there aren’t actual people inside my head, yet they seem real, and they’re capable of accomplishing daily activities and handling emergencies when the consciousness that my brain recognises as ME can’t be located. They aren’t real and yet they absolutely are. They’re so real it just took me nearly 5mins to be able to recall the word “integration”. That word is hard to remember because to all of us who live here in my brain, it carries a connotation akin to “murder”. It happens every time i try to remember that word. I could go deeper with this, and i likely will someday, but for now, if you’ll just take that little description and think on how that ability might apply itself to Tolkien’s works, or King’s, or to Gaiman’s, Bradbury’s, Vonnegut’s, Atwood’s, Well’s, Shelley’s, Pohl’s… Yeah, i’m partial to sci fi/fantasy – act shocked.

So, i’ve been going back to bed every morning this week, laying there and trying to read and rest,  but not accomplishing much of either. Part of my inability to get enough sleep may be due to depression, which i think has hold of me, although its grip isn’t nearly as rough as i’d anticipated. I’m vaguely tired and mildly irritated all the time, and i lost a much-loved family member on Sunday, which i know has intensified all the depression stuff i was already feeling prior. I try to concentrate on anything right now, and i can’t quite do it. My head is foggy. I can see the smudgey outlines of my thoughts speckling the mists like grey shadows, but the ground is like a skating rink beneath me, and squinting at the images makes them no clearer, rather they seem to disappear in the watery blur that swims between my eyelashes. I can’t think a thought through to its conclusion, or follow a question to its answer. The path fades before i can find firm footing – i’m not even clear what direction to go. And these attempts leave me cranky and frustrated, with one of those headaches that feels like a bass drum being repeatedly struck by a pedal-beater that’s been covered in muppet-fur. Fuzzy-thump, fuzzy-thump, fuzzy-thump… Hitting so hard i can hear the distant metallic rattle of the wires on the bottom of the snare above it.

I usually give up at this point, but this time i can’t. I can’t because i think i may be building up towards that kind of blow-up that i mentioned at the beginning. The kind of explosion that causes a lot of collateral damage. Like the time when i was 21yrs old and i ruined a funeral because i found out my girlfriend had cheated on me. Or the time i got drunk for 2wks and my Peanut Gallery all thought i was dead and my kids all hated me and were hiding from me. So they took a bunch of pills and first destroyed my own home and then went to the place the kids were at and put a metal chair through the front window and we wound up committed AGAIN.

And in a couple of days i’m going to a funeral, and it’s for the person whose window i demolished all those years ago. She’s my mother-in-law and she’s been a better mom to me than my own mother ever was, and i’m devastated to lose her. Over the last 2yrs dementia has stolen her from us all, a piece at a time, and last Monday morning she had nothing left to give.
I must look at the ugly past, learn as much as i can, and prepare myself in case anything comes up for me.

Wow.

This is why i write.
This right here.
These moments of clarity.
Of insight.
This peace i suddenly have inside me, because even though i was dreading it, even though i feel embarrassed and humiliated looking at those past events, those awful things i did, i am committed to doing the things i’ve put into place to do when life happens to me. When even death happens.

Be present in the moment. Practise mindfulness if necessary. (It’s necessary.)
Avoid triggery people, places, and things.
Do not attempt to eat, drink, drug, or fuck the problem away.
Write about it.
And most important of all…
WRITE ABOUT IT.

Well i did, i have. Er… I AM.
Suddenly it happened. I just realised that, although i need to look harder for what i was feeling and thinking that preceded my destructive outbursts, i’m not going to behave that way this time. It’s a non-issue. I’ve grown up enough and i’ve learned enough about myself, how i work, and the world around me, that i won’t be losing control like that in any fashion, due to my MIL’s death or the upcoming funeral.
It’ll all be okay, and i’m going to be all right.

I’ve fashioned my own Guide To Happy Usefulness, and it works when i work it.
I had to force myself to sit down and write about it, but once i did, it worked.
Holy fuck, H.

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

~William Carlos Williams

Setting the Stage

I don’t quite know how to explain to you how i saved my own life. I know people want a formula, a step-by-step guide, some easily digestible cracker of wisdom that they can swallow and metabolise, an old coin to keep forever in their pocket.
I want to help, i do. Helping is what i want most to do in this world, but i’ve not yet found a way to easily quantify and succinctly communicate what i’ve done and learned.

I don’t think it exists.  I could wax philosophical and go on about balance, but as fascinated as i can be about the nature of our existence, i can only tolerate the study and discussion of the various disciplines for short periods of time. I always wind up getting annoyed with the endless pedantry, in other words, the way they talk makes my brain hurt in short order. I would speak about balance though, because it seems to be the way the world works, or at least they are the patterns that i can most easily recognise. And balance is where i find the most peace and the greatest happiness.
That is not to say an even keel, i’m not looking to be the bead in the centre of the carpenter’s level, rather, i’m looking to place my arms in the right place in order to correct the inevitable wobbles as i walk my own personal tightrope.

If my life were a tapestry, i would want to gaze upon the beauty of it as a whole, and also train my eye upon the intricacies of the weave, but to unravel it would diminish it. Once the threads have been woven together in the same configuration for a time, they will never wind back around each other as tightly and perfectly as they once did. I’m free to examine it as closely as i wish, but i wouldn’t change the tone of the piece by taking it fully apart.
But that’s just me.

When i refer to my life as a piece of art, don’t mistake me for believing in a grand design or designer. I do not. I see no need to bring up my lack of belief in the supernatural for the most part, but here it’s important to me to be clear that i see the fact that i’m still here and doing this well as a fortunate confluence of my personal choices and those of others’, with the inescapability of nature doing as it will.

I MADE THIS.

Growing up in an abusive household, i reacted. I had no choice in my birth, nor in the manner of my upbringing, nevertheless, i had choices and i made them, all along and from the beginning. I was without doubt an innocent victim, and my choices were unconscious ones, yet there were decisions for me to make, and regardless of how or why, they’re foundational to who i am now. Here is another area where i don’t think it would be helpful to delve into that viper-filled pit that is the endless debate on nature vs nurture. I’ll just deal with what was and what is – i can always stick my head up my ass at a later date.

What i’m trying to set the stage to say, is something like this: Through my examination of both how i, and life, seem to work, i may or may not be my own physician/saviour, and if i am, to what extent is unknowable. Now that i have you completely relaxed and settled trustingly in the palm of my hand… Heh.
I’m sharing how my brain works.
I’m sharing how i’ve learned to deal with it.
I believe i am the linchpin and the major reason that i’m still here and the person i am today.

And if you think THIS post was nonsensical, meandering, and otherwise nebulous, wait until the NEXT one. Until then, be well, be happy, be loved. Well, try your best.
It works for me. Mostly.

~H~