AM I GAY, OR IS IT COVID?

Where to begin? So much to say, and no words to say it with. This pandemic that has affected the world has left me largely untouched. A homebody already, I have found that my day to day has not differed much. The biggest difference for me, right now, is I should be shopping for back to school supplies for my children. This is largely unnecessary, as they are staying home. There is too much uncertainty for me to risk their health, and thus my family’s health, to send them when I am in a position where I can keep them home. This was a fairly easy decision for me to come to. There are parents who have no choice in the matter and must send their kids. Keeping mine home creates space for those who can’t. Mom only finished her chemo sessions last month, so she is still immunocomprised. I would be doing her no favours by sending my kids. They are okay with staying home. The biggest hurdle is neither of my kids have great attention spans. So it will fall to me to be encouraging them, without nagging, to pay attention and get their assignments done. I worry for my oldest. This is his last year in the french school system. He has chosen to go to an english speaking high school next year. This is a very important year both socially and academically. With an extra big adjustment next year. I hope I am not setting him up to fail.

As for me, I think I’m doing alright. I have had a lot of time to do some thinking, and some deep soul diving. Mostly about my sexuality. This is going through some deep revisions. I always considered myself bi, or, as a term my friend introduced me to, hetero-flexible. But the more I come to terms with my history and myself, I find this is not quite as fitting as it once was. I was talking to a guy, the first man I’ve talked to with the potential for dating, since the assault, and I found myself discomfited whenever the talk came around to us meeting. At first I thought it was just because trust with men is difficult. But the more we talked, the more I found myself finding excuses not to meet. Covid always was the go to response, but if I’m honest with myself, it goes much deeper than that. When my wonderful therapist asked if I felt ready to be someone’s sexual partner, I had a very physical reaction indicating the answer to that was no. I immediately zoned out, and started trembling. This confused me, as I have been sexual with women since the assault, and never had that reaction at all. So what was that reaction all about? A friend of mine is exploring her burgeoning feelings of attraction to women, and found an article on Compulsory Heterosexuality. She sent it to me, and wow, did it make a lot of sense. Did my early experience with M, the pedophile, shape me? After all, I did go home to be with his wife. And how did my even earlier experiences with my cousin affect me? Growing up in a very religious family, homosexuality was always taught as wrong. So i internalized my wrongness, and covered it up with a dual attraction to both men and women. Before I met my husband, and after our separation, I looked for validation, not from myself, but from men. Of course, I didn’t see it that way. I thought I had broken the chains that kept me bound, and was enjoying my freedom as a woman. But was I? I tried dating couples, thinking that would provide me what I thought I needed: a sexual experience with both genders, and no strong relational ties to bind me. I much preferred being with the woman, and was rather indifferent to the man.

Since then, I’ve been exclusively dating women. And I can honestly say that I don’t feel that I ever zoned out while being intimate. Not once that I recall. Yet I can’t remember, with any clarity, any of the times I’ve been with a man. All the memories are fuzzy and fade in and out with each other, faces and names long forgotten. I do remember always feeling surprised when we were done, as if I was someplace else, someone else, never feeling satisfied. And the last time I went on a date with a man, I went along with everything he wanted because I felt I couldn’t say no. From the moment I stepped into his apartment, every fibre of my being was telling me to leave. But I didn’t. And when he got violent, I accepted that as normal, and just shut down.

Talking to my friend, I posed the question, “How much of my lack of interest in men is due to my past experiences, my past traumas, and how much of that is me being legit into only woman at this stage of my life?” She responded with, “Does it matter?” I didn’t have an answer then, but I think I sort of do now. It matters to me, because I don’t want my life to be a knee-jerk reaction to my past, but something that truly comes from me. I don’t want to be a lesbian because all the men in my life have been abusive jerks. If I am a lesbian, I want to know it is because I am, not as a default, but because I truly love women. I joked with my former therapist that women were crazy, and men assholes, so it was better to stay single. She took a bit of offense to that. Maybe my crazy draws crazy. I can look at a man, and see him as attractive, but when I see a woman I find attractive, my body responds, not just my mind.

So that’s what keeps me up at night these days. Oh yeah, and by the way, when I had a kid free weekend and told the guy I was talking to that I was taking that weekend for some serious me time, and well, I haven’t heard from him since. Dodged a bullet, and now I can rest easy, knowing his true self.

I hope to start writing again with some regularity. Take care and be safe out there.

UPDATE

As I wrote last time, oh so long ago, I was waiting results from an ultrasound, as my liver enzymes were all elevated in the blood work I had. Unfortunately for me, I wound up with excruciating pain in my right side, right under my ribs, that started radiating around to my back. Which freaked me out a little. I called my doctor, but he was out of the office for the day. So I waited until evening, hoping it would go away. Sat on the phone with Telehealth, waiting for three hours before I said, “Fuck it”, and just went to the hospital. Nine and half hours later, I had a prescription for antibiotics for a suspected UTI (no symptoms but trace blood in the urine and a lack of kidney stones showing in the CT scan) and was sent home to follow up with my doctor.

CT scan of my kidneys showed my liver to be fatty. Non-alcoholic fatty liver. It’s a good thing I don’t drink. He said to just keep up with the metformin for my recently diagnosed diabetes, and to follow up with more blood work in two months. Some research from reputable sites has led to me believe that I can manage this somewhat with a radical diet change. I have always joked about being a carnivore, but really, I hate most vegetables. And they hate me. My system does not tolerate most vegetables unless they are cooked pretty thoroughly. I’ve already made some changes with the diabetes diagnosis, so we’ll continue with that. The prognosis of letting it go is kind of scary.

THE UNKNOWN

It’s finally caught up to me. My failure to nourish myself; to take care of myself. My doctor finally took notice of my extreme fatigue and sent me for a battery of blood work and an EKG. I don’t get to go over the results with him until the 9th, but I was able to get them online. Not looking too good. Red blood cells indicate there is inflammation somewhere, and liver enzymes indicate that is where it is. Been doing some reading on the potential outcomes of what that means. Anything from non-alcoholic fatty liver to liver cancer. Obviously. Everything on-line these days is cancer. But the fatty liver is a definite possibility. I eat a diet heavy in red meat and carbs, and very low in fruits and veggies. Most of what I’ve read indicates that the results can be changed by diet. So that is good. Also, my blood sugar count and A1C were high. Indicative of diabetes high. Now that being said, the inflamed liver could be causing artificially high results. So it’s a waiting game. I’m not changing anything major until I talk to my doctor and we figure out exactly what is going on. My therapist noted that I’m not beating myself up about it. I figure it is what it is. I can’t do anything about what I’ve done to my body, the only thing I can do going forward is take better care of it. Now if only I could apply this the trauma stuff.

This came just at a time when my therapist was really starting to address my disordered eating. I started writing down everything I eat, just to get a benchmark of where I’m at. And that benchmark is very poor. Very poor. One vegetable all week, and that was corn, the worst vegetable ever. My therapist asked me what my self care plan was for the week. I’ve already given up pop mostly, so now it’s time to had a few more greens to my diet. And drink more water. Coffee is not a water substitute. The caffeine negates the hydrating effects of the water. I jokingly said I was going to make a coffee using a Monster Energy drink instead of water. She jumped all over that and told me to stay very far away from them. Well, suggested very strongly. She no longer couches things gently. We’ve been working together too long for her to tiptoe around.

A BIT OF A WOW

Had an interesting weekend this week. Thursday, my therapist suggested I investigate something called Yoda Nidra. Found one my a woman, Jennifer Piercy, on DoYogaWithMe. Had the best sleep I’ve had in a very long time. So that was a cool start to the weekend.

Celebrated my poetry being published on Friday with some of my closest friends. Went to my buddies cafe after, ostensibly to do some writing. But inspiration is a fickle mistress, and so I started cleaning up old emails. By old I mean back from 2014 to the present. When I got to February of 2016, I opened one that was just titled WhatsApp chat. I didn’t recognize it, so I opened it. And there, in is full shirtless glory, was a selfie of the rapist, with the accompanying chat where I told him not to contact me anymore. Instant trigger. Immediately brought me back to that dark place, with his forearm on my throat, knocking me unconscious. I go home and create a nest out of my two king size comforters and five pillows. Freaked right out, I start grounding. Touching my books, reading their titles and authors (I keep a small pile of books beside my pillows). My therapist is always saying, “Do something different.” The purpose of this directive is to let yourself know that you are no longer in trauma time, that you can escape, that things are different right now. I struggle with this. My trauma responses are fairly hard-wired in my brain. It has taken many years of therapy so that my first response isn’t always to self-harm. Glad to say this weekend that wasn’t even an issue. So what did I do that was different? Put on my new found sleep friend, Ms Piercy, and guess what? I fell asleep before she was even finished. Woke up sometime late Saturday morning. Feeling fine.

So fine, that when I went to visit friends on Sunday, I had no residual effects. I was able to go to an antique market with them, without taking any tranqs. Which in itself is amazing. To do so after a trigger response, well, to quote my therapist, “It is a bit of wow isn’t it, Squirrel”.

SO IT’S NOT BIPOLAR…

I guess I should have read the second part of the last p-docs report a little more closely. She says it’s not bi-polar, but Persistent Depressive Disorder. I’ve never been manic and the hypomania symptoms I’ve experienced are common with Borderline Personality Disorder, especially as one comes out of a deep depression. So the official diagnoses are as follows: Borderline Personality Disorder, C-PTSD, Persistent Depressive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. What I’m really curious about is how, if I’m not bi-polar, the atypical anti-psychotic is working. I’ve done some research into it, and as best as I can figure, it acts as a mood stabilizer, even in the absence of bi-polar or schizophrenia, as an adjunct to the anti-depressant. Which may or may not work without it. I’ll find out soon enough. My GP has a referral in for me to talk to the p-doc about lowering my medication. I’m on 20 mg of escitalopram (Cipralex), 20 mg of aripiprazole (Abilify), 4 mg of prazosin, and 1mg of clonazepam (Klonopin) as needed. The prazosin and clonazepam I’m fine with. I enjoy my nightmare free sleep. And I only use the clonazepam once in a while. I’ve been using a lot of it for my dentist appointments, but now that I have my partials, I only need to go every four months for cleanings. It’s the aripiprazole that I’m mostly concerned with. It’s a strong dose to be on, especially if I’m not bi-polar. I’ll probably need to be on an anti-depressant for the rest of my life, I can understand that. But if possible, I’d like to minimize the doses. The longer I’m on the aripiprazole, the more likely I am to get Tardive Dyskinesia. I’m already starting to get very slight hand tremors. Not bad enough that my doctor is concerned, but they’re still there. We’ll see, I guess.

THE PAST CIRCLES ROUND AGAIN

Mom had her first round of chemo Wednesday. It was an incredibly long day. A doctors appointment and then three hours of infusion. It was very weird. I couldn’t concentrate, but was bored out of my tree. The incongruence of this made my therapist go hmmm. This is not a common phenomenon.

The reason it came up was Wednesday night I had a complete and total need to flee my house. I don’t know what happened, but I was laying in bed, looking for something to read. Stopped on “Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation” by Suzette Boon and others. “Don’t you think when you’ve been through something like you were with your mother, you should read something NOT trauma related?” “Ninety percent of my book shelf is trauma related.” “Then you need to expand your bookshelf.” So that happened. The other theories are that I’m empathic and picked up all the energy of people around me, the six people and their care-givers, all getting cancer related treatment, and it hit me when I finally had a chance to unwind.

Likely, though, it was a somatic flashback, harkening back to a time when I felt trapped. Only this time I wasn’t trapped. So I grabbed my bag and bugged out. But it wasn’t a thoughtful, I’m leaving because I can, it was a mindless flight. Which is not good. Fortunately, I had enough sense to go someplace safe, which was my friends cafe. Straight to the basement. Where I just typed up the last of my poetry. We had a mis-hap a few weeks ago, where I didn’t realize my poetry was only on the cloud, with links on my desktop. I deleted everything off the cloud, only to watch in horror as my files disappeared one by one. By the time I had finished that, I was feeling somewhat human again. It’s very frustrating how the past keeps circling round, often in unexpected and out of the blue ways.

Sitting with mom at the hospital was a very intense experience in a way. You’re sitting there, with people in very stages of cancer, at different points in their recovery. There were tears, there was laughter. For me, it was an uncomfortable reckoning, coming face to face with my own mortality. I have been suicidal many times, have attempted once. Suicidal ideation is a near constant companion. But this was different. The facing of a slow, painful demise. And everyone there is facing the same thing. The cancer centre has everyone in what they call pods. Six people to a pod, with a number of nurses in each one. Each person can bring one person with them. So twelve people, plus nurses. All cancer patients. All receiving treatment. A lot of energy in the air. A lot of energy. I hesitate to say it’s negative, because it certainly isn’t all negative, but it’s very charged.

I guess my system was over-charged and went off the rails on Wednesday, and then again on Thursday. Thursday wasn’t as bad, I had the presence of mind to email my therapist, and I made the decision not to run, but to stay put, to prove to my system that it was safe, there was no danger, that we didn’t have to leave. My friend helped me over text with some flashback protocols, and then I was able to ground myself by touching each book on my bookshelves and saying the author and title. I did it under my breath, but the act really helped me calm down.

Last night I went out with the girls, and then went home. I had a small feeling of panic, but was able to breathe through it. Things never last forever.

AND IT BEGINS…

So much to write about. Not sure where to start. Since Mom’s cancer diagnosis, I’ve been avoiding thinking about it. I had no choice but to face it dead on today. Mom had an appointment with her oncology doctor and I had to go with her to take notes and make sure she doesn’t forget anything or get confused. She starts chemo next week. Going to most likely lose her hair. It has been down to her waist as long as I can remember. So she’s getting it all cut off on Saturday. Poor thing. She had tears in her eyes thinking about it. And my life is now, for the next six months, revolving around her chemo treatments. Three hours every second Wednesday. Plus the consult with the doctor before each treatment. Only Stage Two cancer, which is not too bad. A really invasive, aggressive cancer that was encapsulated in a mucinous pre-cancerous mass. She’s pretty lucky. Without the chemo, there’s a twenty-five percent chance that it will come back. With it, the chance goes down to fifteen percent. She is going to become very cold sensitive, to the point where touching things in the fridge is going to cause neuropathy for a while. Cold air, cold drinks, all no noes. She is going to be officially immunocompromised. And I can only imagine how tired she’s going to be. The chemo attacks fast growing cells, like the ones in your mouth and your stomach.

She is easily discombobulated these days. And dad just gets frustrated with her. If she is developing dementia, I worry about how dad is going to handle it and how the chemo is going to affect it. There’s a lot of good reasons for them to move to P.E.I. once mom is better, but my reasons for wanting to stay behind are just as, if not more, valid. So in a year I’ll be homeless with my boys. Hopefully I’ll be able to get into subsidized housing before then, but the wait lists are huge. I need to stay in my city because I likely won’t be able to afford a car, and my therapist, my psychiatrist, my GP, my youngest sons ADHD specialist, and my older sons therapist are all here in the city. The mental health support down east is even worse than it is here. At least I’ve been able to get the help I need. And all my friends are here. How is an anti-social introvert with mental illness supposed to make friends? It’s not like my sister and I get along very well. More than a week together, and things get really tense.

My therapist has given me a half price discount on my counseling so I can start saving and clearing up my debt. She’s wonderful. I love her so much. As my therapist. Yes, there is some transference going on, but it’s nothing I don’t recognize for what it is and can handle. It didn’t help at the beginning that she is my perfect fantasy. A petite pixie with silver grey hair. The type I would spend all night in the corner of the bar trying to muster up the courage to buy her a drink. Once in a while I get distracted by her attractiveness, but I can cover it up with my dissociation. Fortunately for me, she maintains such tight boundaries that there is no room for me to mistake anything for more than professional concern. I mean, after three years I still don’t know if she has a partner. I only know her potential orientation from the name of her partner in her father’s obituary (which I found when digging around the internet for her). Her mother’s obituary listed no partner, but Fariya, a couple years ago said “they” like to go skiing up north. So there was one. There was a picture of a kitten on her desk, so I assume she has a cat. That’s the sum total I know about her.

She starts next week. Going to most likely lose her hair. It has been down to her waist as long as I can remember. So she’s getting it all cut off on Saturday. Poor thing. She had tears in her eyes thinking about it. And my life is now, for the next six months, revolving around her chemo treatments. Three hours every second Wednesday. Plus the consult with the doctor before each treatment. Only Stage Two cancer, which is not too bad. A really invasive, aggressive cancer that was encapsulated in a mucinous pre-cancerous mass. She’s pretty lucky. Without the chemo, there’s a twenty-five percent chance that it will come back. With it, the chance goes down to fifteen percent. She is going to become very cold sensitive, to the point where touching things in the fridge is going to cause neuropathy for a while. Cold air, cold drinks, all no noes. She is going to be officially immunocompromised. And I can only imagine how tired she’s going to be. The chemo attacks fast growing cells, like the ones in your mouth and your stomach.

So our lives are about to turn upside down for a while.

AWESOME NEWS!!!!

I’ve slowly, tentatively, been submitting my poetry to a few publications. After a couple of no responses, and one very nice, personalized rejection letter, I am going to be a published poet. Poetry Quarterly is publishing a poem I wrote called “Empyreal”. This is virtually unheard of. It usually takes hundreds of submissions and rejections before you get accepted. But it happened. I’m so stoked. After the last few months of things being generally, all around shitty, this is a much needed boost.

Things actually got a little too heady. My mom told me she’s proud of me, for the first time ever that I can remember. Then she told me to post it. So I did, and she publicly told me she’s proud of me. And my dad showed a bit of interest, which he never does, so I was totally overwhelmed with that.

I’ve still been struggling with being present ever since that horrendous dentist appointment which triggered me huge. To cope, I’ve been overdoing it on the benzos. I’m allowed two a day, twice daily, as needed. I’ve been taking double that, and mostly all at night, to help me sleep. Which is leaving me out of it the next day. Which adds to the dissociation. My therapist was like, “maybe you should talk to the doctor about reducing your tranquilizer usage”, and I had to tell her I wasn’t taking them as prescribed, so yeah, that stopped. Back to normal.

I had a very bad flashback, but I knew where I was, so it was more like a remembering than a full flashback, but I was in it and couldn’t get out of it. Absolutely was there, being gang raped again, and again, and again. Over stimulated, over tranqed, overwhelmed. So I cut myself. Just a small mark on the inside of my ankle, small enough that it looks like I scratched a spider bite, but large enough that I had to disclose to my therapist. Who responded kindly. I emailed her, again. Third time in three weeks. The first about wanting to do some scarification on my calf. The second, I had to share with her that my poem got accepted. She replied to that one, and reminded me of my contract, so that was her way of telling me that scarification is a no go. She also said it was a wow moment. Which it definitely was. Then I had to email her a third time, to say that I self-injured. She thanked me for letting her know, and had some upbuilding things to say. Needless to say, I had some trepidation when I saw her this week. I really don’t know why. She truly is the embodiment of compassion.

There was no processing this week, but lots of talking. Lots of her reinforcing that I made a choice, but it doesn’t invalidate all of my work. And we talked about the trafficking, and about how I was having a hard time staying present, and how I was so up and down, flying high and crashing low with no in between. I have to work hard at “applying the brakes”, staying in that window of tolerance. Not too high, not too low.

SO FUCKED UP

The day before Christmas and I’m pretty fucked up. It’s a good thing the kids are with their father. On Monday I had a very traumatic dentist appointment that culminated in him using a probe to take a complete picture of my mouth. It was not unlike one of the times I was raped and had two men try to use my mouth at the same time. By the time Thursday came around with my therapist I was a wreck. So we did some unplanned EMDR. Just knee tapping, so it didn’t feel as intense. But damn, does it mess me up.

And Young One wants to do some scarification on my ankle. A butterfly. We’re arguing about whether that constitutes self-harm or not. I say yes, she says no. My therapist did not respond to my email Thursday, which surprised me. But it’s her prerogative. I have to respect her time out of the office.

Dad is now home until next week, which sucks. I am always stressed out when he’s home. Giving me a hard time about my weight, my hair, my clothes. Though to be honest, since I moved back home this time he seems to have let a lot go. But that feeling of being judged is still there.

And for some reason, I have purchased tickets to a New Year’s Eve party, with a roaring twenties theme. I purchased a silly panama hat, a bow tie, suspenders, and arm bands. The kit also came with a fake cigar and stick on moustaches. I hope it will be fun and not stressful. I need to buy a white shirt and a pair of black pants, as the black pants I have are ladies’, and my long sleeve white shirt is too small. And of course, the big kicker. Benzos before I go to stay calm, or have a social drink or two with my friends. I have a week to decide. I’ll probably bring them and decide there.

And I’m not wanting to shower or change. My hair is gross. I smell, and I’m isolating. Thursday I’m taking my friend shopping for a new phone, so I’ll pick up a dress shirt and pants while I’m out with her. And I’ll have to shower for that. So that means it will be a whole week without showering if I don’t shower tomorrow. Which I should do. But I dread getting in the shower. It’s an all glass enclosure that has no frosting. And I’m only coming out of my shut down from Thursday’s therapy session. Which is great. I’m doing it with just the support of my friends. Attending that group for sexual assault survivors was one of the best things I ever did. I have two really good friends out of it.

One of which I’m seeing on Friday. Hopefully the other one can come, but her husband has been being an asshole lately, so I’m not sure. She is starting to see how emotionally abusive/manipulative he is, but I have to tread lightly. She knows I’ll be here for her, whatever she decides. As she is there for me.

VULNERABILITY

Brene Brown, in Daring Greatly, defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. That useless feeling we get when we step out of our comfort zone or DO something that forces us to loosen control”. A quick google search defines vulnerable as “susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.” Why this sudden interest in vulnerability? Because that’s my homework this week: trying to eat better and getting in touch with my own vulnerability. I think she’s tired of hearing “Eww” every time she says vulnerability. Just typing the word causes my anxiety to rise. I also realized that I don’t really understand what she meant by “get in touch with your vulnerability”. She didn’t mean being vulnerable with other people, she meant with my own. Which is a difficult thing to come to terms with. So I’m going to blather on about it on the internet. While researching vulnerability, I came across a term that DID resonate with me. Vulnerability Hangover: the rush of regret you feel after sharing your weakness (read vulnerability) with others. I am terrified of being judged, or not believed, or, worse, believed and mocked/ridiculed. That stems directly from my extremely judgemental parents. I remember when I tried to tell my mom about my first rape a few years after it happened. I started with, “When I was in high school I went on a date that went very badly.” She gave me such a look of disgust and then turned and walked away, so I never trusted her again. With anything. I remember telling her stuff as a teenager that she would relay to dad, and then dad would use it against me. Usually as an excuse to beat me. Betrayal runs deep in the family. So many betrayals and failures. Both by those around me and myself. I can forgive myself, as I honestly didn’t know better. If those who were supposed to love and care for me would treat me thusly, obviously I deserve it and will treat myself with the same disregard. That is still something I struggle with. How to love myself when my parents didn’t? Even now, the little innocuous things I share almost always garner some sort of criticism. Vulnerability. Maybe if I type it enough, the revulsion will dissipate. Vulnerability. This has been a huge trigger for my dissociation. It has taken me almost two hours just to write this much. I keep zoning out. So let’s approach it carefully. What is happening? Why am I so unfocussed? What is triggering my dissociation? Obviously the answer is the word vulnerability. But why? What about it is making it so difficult to stay present? And Rock gets huge. Why is this? What is going on? I’m writing this more like a journal entry than a blog piece. More stream of conscience type writing. Dammit. There I go again. Anything but the topic at hand. Vulnerability. Let’s personalize the definition. What does vulnerability mean to me? It means being open and susceptible to being hurt, used, and abused. My whole life I’ve been abused, it seems. Only the past few years, where I have made a conscious decision to avoid toxic people as much as possible, have I been abuse free. And this life of chosen celibacy has pulled me out of the dating pool for a while, as I focus on my healing, which means I’m not putting myself in positions where I’m open to betrayal and abuse. Some day I will again, but not right now. Vulnerable. Open-hearted. What does that even mean? Open-hearted. Definition of openhearted according to Merriam Webster: 1 : candidly straightforward : frank. 2 : responsive to emotional appeal. I am not unmoveable, but I am definitely guarded. I listen lots, talk less. I care about specific persons, but can’t stand people in general. So where does my vulnerability come in as it relates to me? I’m really struggling with this one. I am certainly not gentle with myself. Vulnerability. A few months ago I submitted some poetry for publication. That was being pretty vulnerable. When I open up to Angry Dude, Young One, and Squirrel, I guess that could be a form of vulnerability with myself. When I’m honest with myself with what I’m feeling, how I’m coping.

MED COMPLIANCE

At night, the monsters come out. Since my dentist appointment last week, I’ve been having dreams of disembodied hands. Creepy and unsettling. I wake up in a cold sweat, and don’t want to go back to sleep. So I stay up and read. Or listen to books on Audible. I’m acquiring a collection of un-listened to books that will rival my to be read stack of paper books. But that’s ok. Somethings to look forward to.

Am struggling with med compliance again. I’m tired of feeling flat and numb, and blame it on the Abilify. I’ve been reading up on it, and apparently it’s a common side effect. Right away she was concerned that I was still taking them. She was genuinely concerned that I would quit it cold turkey. Given my history, I would have to say that her questioning me is warranted. I started at 2mg, and now I’m up to 20. That’s a big dose. Especially since the last p-doc I saw stated that I don’t even have bi-polar. I understand that I might need a mood stabilizer, as anti-depressants alone never work properly. I do question, however, the need for an atypical anti-psychotic. At such a high dose. The last p-doc I saw was just a consult, but she said I could see her in a year if I wanted to discuss a med change. So I need to call the hospital and find out if I can make an appointment through them, or if I need to go through my doctor. My therapist is all about getting it done. I hem and hawed and will be doing it in the new year. I may bite the bullet and call this week, so it’s not hanging over my head. But I hate talking on the phone. I have real anxiety about it. So much so that even my therapist only contacts me via email. Even if it’s the day of an appointment, she knows I’m on my email, but if I don’t recognize the number, I won’t answer the phone. I’m so glad she’s willing to work with my limitations and foibles, without making them a focus or a big deal.

I have a feeling, since last week we didn’t really touch on anything big, as I’ve been pretty stable, we’re going to do some EMDR on Thursday. Just in time to do three weeks before she takes her two weeks off over Christmas. She is also planning on taking a week off in the middle of January. I’m just glad she’s not taking all three weeks off at the same time. Three weeks is a long time when you’re used to weekly sessions. She asked me how I’m feeling about the two weeks off. I replied, “Besides feeling abandoned?” Then I laughed and told her I was joking. “You’ll be holding seminars on how to yank your therapists chain.” I have mixed feelings about starting EMDR again. I’m scared of how it’s going to go now that I’m having visual flashbacks. My flashbacks have always been somatic, meaning feelings only. Recently, I’ve been having some pretty severe visuals. Not just feeling his hands around my neck, but seeing them. His cold, cold eyes. The collapse when I tried to stand up and he grabbed me by the neck and threw me back on the bed. Instead of just feelings of dread and sensations, I’m full on remembering. Which sucks.

I have my protocols. Babette Rothschild has saved my sleep. Her “8 Keys To Safe Trauma Recovery” has provided some very solid protocols on dealing with flashbacks and nightmares. So much so that I wrote them down for easy access at night. And I’ve passed them onto friends. They’ve been so helpful. I recommend that book to everyone I know with a trauma history that impacts their daily lives. Even if only sometimes.

A NEW APPROACH

Last week we talked about about how my therapist recommended I start reading about Poly Vagal Theory. That was quite the rabbit hole to send me down. I learned a lot about myself. About my emotional parts, about my dissociative states. My therapists have always expressed awe over the mind’s ability to save itself. I have always looked at is as a failure. Every time I dissociate, I associate it with failure. My failure to stay present. I have never been comfortable with my EPs. They make me feel crazy. But you can only hear so many professionals say that it is an incredible thing your body does to protect itself, before it starts sinking in. And that it wasn’t a choice. That seems to be the key that finally got hammered home. IT WASN’T A CHOICE. My body/mind connection were threatened, and the option that led to my survival was collapse, or fawn. One that isn’t talked about near enough. Everyone knows about fight or flight. But the other two pieces, freeze and collapse, not so much. And when it’s your father that has you pinned to the bed, beating you until you can’t breathe, you can’t run, you can’t fight. Freezing does no good, so you collapse. And it happens so often, that you start shutting down at the slightest threat. And then you start shutting down all the fucking time. Talking about the weather? Shut down. Having a shower? Shut down. Playing with your kids? Shut down. Having sex? Forget it. Fucking shut down. You learn to fake it, but those closest to you can tell something’s not right. Your kids ask why you keep staring off into space. As for sex, why bother? You feel desire, but it’s never really sated because you can’t stay present for the act. So you become hypo-sexual. Which is okay, because the meds you take for your depression and C-PTSD kill the libido anyways.

But back to this new approach I was talking about. A new way of looking at my self. Appreciating how hard survival was. From a young age. And then the abusive three year relationship at fifteen. The date rape three years ago. All of which contributed to my C-PTSD. And now I have an appreciation for just how hard my mind worked to keep me safe. And that I didn’t out and out split, I just have different facets that need care.

And I can do that now. Start to take care of myself.

YOU KNOW IT’S GOOD WHEN…

You know it’s good when your therapist pinches the bridge of her nose and says, “Oh my God.” I didn’t think it warranted that kind of response, but then, what do I know. We were talking about early development, and how girls and boys get sexualized very young. “Who sexualized you?” I thought about it for a minute, and then told her how my dad was embarrassed by my developing body and made me wear baggy clothes. To which I got above reply, followed with, “He has a lot of problems”. I could only nod. Her reactions are usually not quite so abrupt: a sigh, a squeak, a gesture. But this must have really caught her off guard. I guess because my dad never sexually abused me. Mental, emotional, psychological, yes. Bare assed spankings with a belt, yes. But there was never a sexual overtone to it. It was about humiliation, not being sexualized. So it may have seemed out of character. But then, what IS in character for a narcissistic, over-bearing control freak? Other than the odd flashback, I’ve been having a fairly good week. Maybe because I’m relying on my tranqs more, I don’t know. Which really isn’t good, but it is what it is. I mentioned it at the end of my session Thursday, to say, ‘Hey, I’ve noticed this. I’m not abusing them, but I’m using them more than I’m really comfortable with.’ So we’ll see if she brings it up next week. Poly Vagal Theory is the next thing we’re discussing. How the Vagus nerve effects our affect and works with the sympathetic and para-sympathetic systems. I’ve just started reading about Stephen Porges, the father of the theory. Sounds fascinating so far. As I slowly start to get more and more control over my dissociation, we explore more and more things. My therapist knows I’m a reader, and that I really enjoy reading about neuroscience. And anything that helps me understand my body’s response to all it’s traumas helps me heal my mind and conquer my C-PTSD. I am sure that re-commencing EMDR is just around the corner. Just as soon as I can stay more connected. Which is happening, incrementally. The process is so slow, and it’s easy to feel discouraged. But this time last year, I was dealing with repercussions of self-harming from the memories. This year, I made it through intact. Which, if I’m being honest with myself, is huge. Every time I get stuck on how slow the progress is, my therapist helps me see just how far I’ve come. I’ve always described it as a spiral staircase, where even when it feels like you’re going backward, you’re still going up.

YOUNG ONE

As most people who have done trauma work, my therapist and I do extensive parts of self work. I find this awkward and, at times, makes me feel crazy. Yet there is no denying the fact that I do, indeed, have different parts of self. The twins, Young One and Angry Dude, two sides of the same facet, one with the anger turned outward, and one with the anger turned inward. I had a bit of an epiphany regarding that this week, when I wrote Young One a letter. I don’t cry easily at all, but this brought tears to my eyes:

Young One. I know you’ve been neglected. More than neglected. Blamed. Held responsible. Mistakenly so. I can see that now. With all that was going on in our life, how could you ever have had the ability to say No?

I wasn’t your fault. Vera and I have talked a lot about being groomed.

GROOMED: PREPARE OR TRAIN (SOMEONE) FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR ACTIVITY

As far as dad was concerned, we were to be obedient and obey him without question. Lessons we didn’t learn easily and rebuffed at every opportunity. Oh but Young One, the fear of the consequences of disobedience was very real. It didn’t stop us, though, did it. Incorrigible. Defiant. Even when we knew it meant bruises coming our way. Not that it mattered. There were enough times the “discipline” wasn’t even understood.

DISCIPLINE: 1) THE PRACTICE OF TRAINING PEOPLE TO OBEY RULES OR A CODE OF CONDUCT OR BEHAVIOUR USING PUNISHMENT TO CORRECT DISOBEDIENCE.

Harsh, cruel discipline disguised as love. We never were very disciplined, were we? Do you remember a time we never feared dad’s wrath? Discipline, in and of itself, isn’t bad. We need discipline every day. It was the punishment, the abuse, that led to so much fear. The arbitrary rules, with the over the top consequences. Groomed to fear displeasing. Groomed to associate the lash with love. Oh Young One, did we ever stand a chance with Michael? How often were we “disciplined”, not even for breaking some rule or other, but simply because he didn’t like/was unhappy with our behaviour?

Conflict led to abuse-even if it was just a back hand across the face. Or, if not physical, than emotional and mental. Oh Young One, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to understand just how groomed and conditioned we were.

CONDITIONED: TRAIN OR ACCUSTOM (SOMEONE OR SOMETHING) TO BEHAVE IN A CERTAIN WAY OR ACCEPT CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES.

Conditioned to accept abuse as a consequence of conflict. Conditioned to accept abuse as a demonstration of love. Michael was the first. There was so much we could have done had we not been so conflict avoidant. Our first. Vera likened it to an emotional marriage. And the honeyed words after.

Oh Young One, so naive. So empty. Made us believe it was our fault. That we deserved it. That we wanted it. Natural consequences for coming home with his wife. One thing to disobey father, another to disobey this stranger, standing over us, naked and torn.

Oh Young One, we were so lost. So starved for affection. And Michael provided that. Brilliantly. The kind words with the abuse. A perfect fucking storm.

And the perfect rationale: DISCIPLINE = LOVE DISCIPLINE = ABUSE ERGO LOVE = ABUSE

Oh Young One. I finally understand. Today, as an adult, even in a safe environment where there is trust, NO is still not an option. If NO is not an option today, how the hell could it have been an option for us back then?

Young One, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for failing you and then blaming you. I’m trying to make it right.

ONE ROUGH WEEK

It’s been a while since I’ve written. So much has happened. We almost lost my mom after her cancer surgery. She had two blood clots, one on each lung. And no one wants to tell me anything. I talked to my mom in the morning, and she was coming home the next day. An hour later I talk to my aunt and find out mom’s staying for a few more days. When my dad and my sister come home, I talk to her. Find out what’s going on. Also that my dad has a leaky liver, that’s why he quit drinking. My sister tells me that no one wants to tell me anything because they’re afraid of setting me off. Which means setting my anxiety and depression off. Like I have no coping mechanisms. It’s so frustrating. Mom could have died, and no one wants me to know. Sigh. It’s better to know where I stand, I guess, so I know to ask more direct questions.

Moms surgery was also the anniversary of my most recent sexual assault. The struggle not to self harm was so very very real. And then I found some sharps. Tucked into the staple box in my art kit. My world reeled. Fortunately, I have some very good friends who were able to talk me down from it. Three different text conversations with three very different foci, but all with the same outcome: I stayed safe. Something even my safety contract couldn’t guarantee.

It is so hard to articulate exactly what goes through my mind when the urge strikes. Relentless begging for release. But release from what exactly? Too many feelings? Not enough feelings? Release from memory, from thought? From the too too much. It all gets to be too much. Existing. Being. Living. Breathing. Feeling trapped in a mind that is malfunctioning. Emotions hi-jacked all the time. Never being 100% present in my own life. That’s the hardest part, I’m coming to realize. The fact that I zone out all the time. I don’t know if I’m zoning out more, or if I’m just more aware of how often I do. Vera, my therapist, says it’s fine tuned to happen so often, and that I’m just starting to notice. So I take her word for it. She’s the expert on all things dissociative and traumatic. And, more importantly, I trust her and what she says. It’s been a long time since I could trust someone so implicitly to always do what they honestly believe is in my best interest.

HELLO DARKNESS MY OLD FRIEND

I don’t know if things are settling down, or if I’m just getting used to it. It’s like that Simon and Garfunkel song, “Hello Darkness my old friend”. Or Gordon Lightfoot, “Sometimes I think it’s a shame/ When I get feeling better when I’m feeling no pain.” Or maybe I’m just numb to the pain. Either way, I still am fighting the urge to self harm. I had a cigarillo Friday, and another one Monday. As my friend comforted me, “Whatever it takes to get through this.” Three more weeks, if past experience tells me anything. I don’t think I can survive three more weeks. I saw my therapist on Thursday. Got into a disagreement about self harm. Of course, I lost, and have a fresh copy of my safety contract in my bag. My work this week is to update it, since it still has my ex girlfriend as an emergency contact, and we broke up in April.

How to update my safety contract when four out of five of us don’t want to be on it anymore. I remember when she first mentioned it. I ignored her the first time. The second time I said I’d consider it. The third time, I said to her that since she’s mentioned it three times, she must feel it’s important, so we signed one. Did I mention this was all on my first or second visit? She knows it’s a valuable, strong tool. And I’ve proven to her again and again that it works. Many times it’s the only thing that has kept me from self harming. This week, if I had the means in my room to do it, the contract wouldn’t have mattered. But the only thing I have in my room is an art x-acto knife, and they aren’t really very good at deep, clean lines. I have disposable razors in the bathroom, but the act of pulling it apart gives me too many opportunities to really think through what I’m doing and stop it. Or deliberately chose to go through with it at each step of the way. It’s different when you’re desperately searching for something and you find something you missed in your last sweep. But no such luck. I purged very carefully last time.

So I sit in my bed, my safe zone, and try to keep my hands loose, so the nails don’t dig into my palms, which seems to be the thing I do these days. Ugh. My mind and body conspire against my brain.

ON MY KNEES

This time of year is so hard. I feel ready to throw in the towel, crawl into bed, and never come out. The siren song of the razor blades is strong and sweet, necessitating bringing my thoughts back to my safety contract over and over. My eyes are permanently on the verge of tears, watery and weepy. That one man can bring me to my knees in despair. That the memory of one man can bring me down, leave me curled on the floor, shattered and broken.

The memories come fast and thick. Leave me whirling in confusion as to where I am in time and place. The nausea and the disorientation. Rock is huge, always, these days. My mom is going for cancer surgery next week, so I have to hide how bad I’m feeling so she doesn’t worry. I’m not doing a very good job of it, but she isn’t getting the depth of my shadow self.

Shadow self. My being crawling to The Pit. The body tremors as I fight it. As I fight the flashbacks, the memories of violence done to my body; to my being. Knowing that I can’t let him win. But the body, the mind, wants to cave; to collapse in a puddle of blood and tears.

The days long, the nights longer. Soaked sheets as the body remembers the torment; wakes in a frozen panic. “Just move one finger, just a little bit,” encourages my therapist. So hard. So hard. But I do it. Then the next one. Defiance that he hasn’t completely broken me. My body comes back to me, sore and achy, but mine.

STAYING PRESENT; PROGRESS

I wrote a little while ago about needing extensive dental work. My dentist pulled two broken teeth, and had made arrangements to pull 7 more. Then fillings, then partial dentures. Last week I went in to get two teeth pulled. He decided then to pull all seven. Plus three more. Two for the aesthetics when I get my partials. To have his hands in my mouth for that length of time was brutal. I was, however, able to stay mostly present, much to the surprise and delight of my therapist. “How did you accomplish this?” It seems weird but I managed by focussing on the tools in my mouth. It kept it real, that there was nothing sexual or abusive about what he was doing, despite the vey real trauma being done to my mouth. It helped me to focus on the fact that it was a medical procedure happening. And it helped keep me from dissociating. Now if she had asked about this week with the pain and my refusal to take pain killers if I can do without, the answer would have been very different. Which is fine, I’ll take my victories where I can, no matter how small they seem.

This week I finally got the stitches out and was upgraded to soft food from liquid and purees. I was already eating soft food. And not so soft foods. Just cutting things up very tiny and chewing very carefully. And now I sound like Sylvester the Cat from Looney Tunes. My kids are trying to be supportive, but it’s hard not to laugh. I get it. I laugh with them. My friends, well, half of them pretend nothing is different and the other half are total assholes. Which is about right. What is most surprising to me is the amount of pain the inside of my ears are in. The nerves are all so very inter-twined. No tinnitus, but just a dull ache in the very depths of my ear canal.

Because of the amount of wrenching, my neck has been very sore. My therapist recommended something called Salonpas. It’s a topical analgesic patch from Japan. Salicylate, menthol, and camphor, it warms your skin as it penetrates. And it smells very good. We are working at me feeling more connected with my body; that I do exist below the neck. Because of the amount of abuse I have endured, I have a hard time touching myself. I was very proud of myself this week that I have been able to put hand cream on my hands. But that’s not enough. I wake up in a tight ball every day, with my feet cramped from being balled up. So now, every night at bedtime, I need to rub hand cream onto my feet. I have no idea how I’m going to accomplish this. But I told her I’d give it my best shot. I also really need to get back into doing my meditation app every night with the body scan. Kind of help release it. And I really need to get back into Qi Gong again. So much more I could be doing for my mental and physical health, but no motivation whatsoever. I’m giving myself until my teeth are healed and I’m not in any more pain from them, and really getting into it.

I’m committing to my physical health as I have committed to my mental health.

THIS THE WINTER OF MY DISCONTENT

I’m sitting here at my friends cafe, drinking a latte, feeling lost and bereft. I met with great friends on Tuesday, with whom I really feel connected. We all had shared an “A-ha” moment, comforted each other, supported each other. It was a beautiful thing. But tonight, I’m feeling particularly lost. Maybe it was the lack of therapy yesterday, or the fact that I have no plans this weekend, I don’t know. All I do know is that I’m feeling disconnected from people. This has never bothered me before, but it’s bothering me today. I was going to go to bed early, in hopes that tomorrow will be better. Instead, here I am, people watching at a board game cafe. I should be working on my writing, instead I’m whining about these weird feelings of discontent. It might be the weather, as it has been grey all day today and I haven’t been using my therapy light. Maybe I should be. Chase away the sleepy feeling I have been living with; maybe reset my circadian rhythm.

And every night brings me one day closer to D-Day, dental work day. I’m in a panic every night, and I’m missing my therapist terribly. There isn’t much she could do, it’s not like she could come to my dentist and hold my hand. Oh that would be wonderful, wouldn’t it.

NO THERAPY TOMORROW

Tomorrow I should be going to see my therapist. But she’s in Europe somewhere, rejuvenating her spirit. We had an honest discussion last week about my abandonment issues. How I don’t feel abandoned, but Squirrel does. Squirrel is my inner child. It was hard to vocalize. I know I said last week I’d lie about it, but what good does lying to your therapist do? I never have, and I don’t plan on starting.

One of the sweetest things she said was, “…and I want to come back.” Something Squirrel needed to hear. It’s easy to say she’s gone before, she always comes back, but it was nice to hear her say she wants to. Not just that she will. She also wants me to email her every week. The hour I would spend with her on Thursday, I am to compose and send an email. She won’t respond, but she will get them. She is so selfless. But it fills that hour up with retrospection, which is half of what therapy seems to be anyway. Guided introspection.

It’s a tough time of year for her to leave me. I big bad anniversary is coming up, and I’m already starting to suffer from it. And I have a shit ton of dental work about to be performed on me next week, which is always nerve wracking. I never understood why the dentist was always a difficult thing for me. I’ve never known a harsh or cruel dentist. When I had everything blocked out, I could even fall asleep while he was cleaning my teeth. Now, not so much. Vera brought to my attention the number of oral sexual assaults I’ve suffered, going back to my cousin at age 6. So it makes sense that someones hands in my mouth would be triggering. And she’s not going to be around to help me through the first one. What I’m hoping is that as I have them done, it’ll get easier. What I’m scared of is it getting worse. Nine teeth pulled, a bunch of fillings, and then partial dentures. He’s not pulling the teeth all at once, either. He said over three visits. Ugh. But I know it needs to be done. The ones that need to be pulled are starting to break, leaving sharp little roots at the gum line. I can’t avoid it or put it off any longer. I’m going to have a toothless smile for a while, so no smiling for me. Not that I smile all that much to begin with. The big fight will be staying present during the appointment. Not shutting down.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

ABANDONMENT ISSUES

It’s the eve of my last therapy session for three weeks while my therapist takes a well deserved vacation. After tomorrow, I will not see until the first week of October. My last sexual assault occurred the end of October three years ago, and I still start having issues around this time of year. Tonight I even coloured my nails as a distraction attempt. So she’s going to know tomorrow that I had a rough night tonight. And she’s going to think it’s partly because of her, and, honestly, I don’t know right now.

I understand she needs her time off. She’s a trauma therapist, so she deals with horrible horrible scenarios every day. But part of me still feels abandoned. Which is a very vulnerable feeling. I hate feeling vulnerable. Absolutely hate it. And if she asks me, I’ll lie. Because I know I’m not being abandoned. She’ll come back relaxed and refreshed and ready to dig back in. And maybe by then I’ll be holding myself together better and we’ll be able to start EMDR again.

We haven’t done EMDR in months because I’m so fragile. I suffer from major depersonalization and I zone out a frequent amount. As my hourly mindfulness checks have shown me, more often than anyone realized. Yes. Hourly mindfulness checks. I have a timer set to go off every hour. When it goes off, I ground myself, take a sip of water, and notice something I can hear. There are many, many times the alarm gently brings me out of the zoned state I’m in. Years and years ago, I used to come to in a totally different place than I “zoned out” in. The worst time was when I was at my friend Josh’s house, and next thing I know I’m down by the lake, in a city twenty minutes away from his house, down a busy highway.

Fortunately, those days are gone. Hopefully for good. Every day I feel a little stronger, a little more together. Eventually, we will start the EMDR again. Sooner, rather than later, if all goes well.

NO NEW POETRY FOR A BIT

My world has been turned topsy-turvy. My mom has cancer. Some weird, rare cancer that is basically a ball of snot attached to her appendix. So all my plans for the upcoming Fall need to be put on hold. I also need a shit-ton of dental work done, so my finances are severely cramped. I had planned to audit a course, join the local branch of the Canadian Association of Writers and start attending meetings. I am going to have time for none of this. I have, however, started with a new plan.

Going all the way back to 1999, I have dreamt of getting my poetry published. And I have, in a small volume on Amazon, Australia. Please Tell Someone. https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B01MU2ZQPP . They sought me out, and solicited based on my writing here. But I want more. So I’ve started submitting my poetry to various magazines. (Well, one so far, but I’m researching more). A lot of publications are not interested in previously published poems, and they consider a poem published to a blog, no matter how small the readership, published.

Until I’ve sorted definitely what poems I am interested in submitting and which ones I feel are too personal, I will hold off on publishing any poems here. I will still blog about my journey, especially as I navigate the ups and downs of moms cancer diagnosis.

So I haven’t gone anywhere, just taking a poetic break.

DISSOCIATION: A POEM

I feel the breeze kiss my skin
As it gently blows
Yet I am not present

I smell the pungent aroma
Coming off the lake
Yet I am not here

I taste the raindrops
Warm on my tongue
Yet I remain absent

I know I am here
Aware of all I hear
Sense, see

Yet I am away
Shut off from the world
Around me

Conscious
Not there
Not fully aware

I go through the motions
Like a machine
Robotic answers
That have no meaning

I know my heart is racing
I feel the blood surging in my veins
The nails digging in my palms
The pain a sharp counterpoint
To my lack of being

So distant
Watching myself
An odd sensation
To see yourself
As you really are
Not the facade you front

Not integrated
Knowing it’s not a good thing
But not sure
I want to come back

To the pain
The agony
The hurt

MELANCHOLIC MUSINGS

Working on my poetry collection the past few nights.  It’s difficult to read some of the things  I wrote in the depths of my despair; to remember just how deep The Pit was, and how beckoning The Abyss is.  To crawl into bed and never come out.  I’ve been dealing with not being present for over a month.  My brains way of dealing with it is to retreat into sleep.   Being on my own today proved just how real the struggle is.  I fell asleep last night around 1 am.  Not too bad.  Woke up at 1 pm.  I slept for twelve hours, than took a three hour nap early this evening.  Crazy.

Yesterday I started working on the set of poems based on my sexual assaults.  Probably not the best time to work on that particular set, but I tend to push myself against my own best interests.  Maybe that’s part of why I needed to sleep so much.  Processing the difficulties in staying present.  Processing some of the memories.  I’ve been re-living a lot of the memories.  Not so sure about processing them.  EMDR has been on hold for months again.  Until I can stay stable and present, no EMDR.  And it’s been getting harder and harder to not zone out.  To not shut down.  Even when with my kids.  And that is the saddest thing.

THE DANCE OF DISSOCATION

It’s a tricky thing, dissociating.  Especially when you don’t recognize that it’s happening.  One minute you’re listening to the conversation around you, and then you’re not.  Someone says something to you, and you realize you have no idea what the conversation is anymore.  Sure, this happens to everyone, once in a while.  Everyone zones out.  It’s the constancy that’s different.  The constant hijacking of the brain, where you no longer know where you are, or, even, who you are.  The black spaces where there is nothing.  Not knowing how you got to where you’re going.  Or why you’ve even gone there.

Then there are the triggers:  a touch, a frangrance, some random piece of conversation and you’re transported back to a not so safe place.  Staring off into space, in your own personal hell.  This happened to me at therapy this week.  We weren’t even talking about anything overtly triggery, and yet, there I was.  Gone.  And when I came back, my ability to talk was gone.  I couldn’t even really grunt.  My poor therapist.  I couldn’t even write down what I was suffering.  I could sort of draw stick figures, like a four year old.  Trying to communicate how lost I felt was impossible.  Fortunately, I had my art book with me, and could point out on my drawing of “The Pit”  who I was (which she had already figured out), and where I was in relation to everyone else.  Now comes the difficult part:  how to tell her one of my emotional parts (EP) self-harmed.  Not me, my skin is still intact.  But my EP did.  It’s a weird thing, to close your eyes to have a pep talk with yourself, and to see yourself with bleeding arms.  Obviously, this was very distressing to me.  But I had already gone over my session by forty minutes.  I wasn’t about to bring that up.  But I will this week.  Young One self-harming and Angry Dude drinking and smoking.  Sigh.  Doing what I really want to be doing.  It was so strong that Friday I even bought a pack of cigarettes.  Gave them to Josh Friday night, and was really craving them Saturday morning. So I’m glad to have given them up.

STAYING PRESENT

It’s been a difficult couple of days.  Completely lost it with my therapist yesterday.  I had such an overwhelming somatic flashback that I couldn’t speak.  For at least 30 minutes, if not longer.  I know this is approximate, as my appointment was supposed to finish at 2:00 and I didn’t get out of there until 2:40.  It was as though my young self hijacked my being and was so lost she couldn’t speak.  Couldn’t articulate how lost and hurt and sad she was.  I’m still struggling with my words over 24 hours later.  And with connection.  I feel completely detached from everything and everyone.  I do feel some relief that the kids are at their dad’s this week, so I don’t have to fake feeling anything but numb.

This disconnect is disconcerting.  Touch is nigh impossible to feel.  And when I do feel it, it feels weird.  As though there’s a barrier between my skin and the rest of the world.  My homework this week is to stay present and connected:  when I hug a friend, let myself feel the hug.  To stop living from the neck up, as my therapist says.  Easier said than done, my friend.  Easier said than done.

My Feldenkrais practitioner, Fariya, taught me to gently rub my fingers in a corkscrew motion.  This helps in grounding.  Fingers are very ennervated, so they are very sensitive.  But it feels… odd… to me.  Touching myself in any way is foreign.  I am an alien nation unto myself.  Vera, my therapist, aims to change that.  So much to work on, she says.  Even after the trauma stuff is sorted out, there’s my borderline eating disorder, my gender/body issues, my self-hatred.  As we work on the trauma, the other pieces will slowly fall into place, but I believe they are going to need to be addressed individually, once stability has been achieved.  If.  No, when.  Positive thinking is a must.  It’s so hard to, today.  Today, I even went out and bought a pack of smokes.  Something I haven’t done since Christmas.

Today feels like a day to stay in bed and wish for death to come upon me.  Instead, I am out at my friend’s cafe, eating poutine.  Reaching out.  Keeping safe where I am loved.  Not isolating.  Which is all I want to do.  Vera would be proud.

I BROKE HIM

I had a major epiphany this weekend.  Life-changing, send my world on it’s head epiphany.  Fifteen year old me, trapped in an abusive relationship with a 32 year old man.  Very abusive.  At seventeen, when he removed my collar, he told me I was “too old.  I have nothing left to teach you”.  I’ve spent twenty-eight years feeling rejected, broken, not good enough. But then I had a thought, ‘what if I look at his uncollaring me as freeing me, instead of rejecting me’?  Which opened up the flood gates.  He always called me a Brat, which is a type of submissive in the BDSM community. Which, I have to admit, I am.  Always have been, and likely always will be.  Now here’s where things get crazy:  what if he released me, not because he was feeling altruistic, but because he couldn’t break me.  What if I broke him?

He could never beat the mouthy out.  I always maintained that little spark of me.  I remember the way his wife was: never spoke, never looked up, never complained.  I don’t even remember her name.  That is what he wanted from me.  Complete odedience.  My dad tried to beat that into me till I was eighteen.  He didn’t fair any better.

I was sharing my new found outlook with my best friend, Jen.  And her reply was priceless, “You broke a paedophile!”  Which made me happier than it should have.

And on that note, good night.

REHABILITATION

I’m re-writing history
Changing the ending

Rejection turns to freedom
My bonds broken

Released into the wild
Free to rehabilitate myself

Who am I?

and

Where do I go from here?

GONE THE INFECTIOUS SCAB OF MEMORY

Hello again. For those following, you know that I spent two years in an unhealthy fake BDSM relationship. I was 15, he was 32. I was young, naive, hungry for love and acceptance. He was a pro at what he was doing. And next week is the anniversary of him callously removing my collar and throwing me out, stating I was too old. Two weeks shy of my 18th birthday. I was 17 years old, and had spent the previous two years as his abused sex slave. “You’re too old. I have nothing left to teach you,” indelibly written in my brain. I have spent the last twenty-eight years spending this month in great emotional pain, feeling rejected and not good enough, and all the other fun psyche damaging negative self talk. That ends today.

Today I pull off the infectious scab of his memory and forge a new narrative. Freeing me from his slavery was the best thing he could have done for me. Gone the beatings, the gang rapes, the honeyed lies. No more living in fear. Free to heal, to discover who I am without being coloured by him. It’s been a long, long climb to get here. But here I am. FINALLY! Slowly, painfully, learning and accepting it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t deserve what happened. I didn’t ask for what happened. And then he set me free. FREE!!! Too bad it took me so long to figure this out. That he was a paedophile, an abusive paedophile. As if there’s any other kind. And now I’m free. Free to re-write my narrative. Not my fault. And he set me free. He didn’t reject me. He set me free.

Here’s to a fresh new look on painful old wounds.

Alone in the Dark

Fortunately, most nights the prazosin does its job and my nights are nightmare free. Which is a relief after years of constant bad dreams and terrors. Unfortunately, it can’t stop the terrors. Or the somatic memories. Which are coming in full force. I always forget the body keeps track of the changing seasons, and the associated traumas that come with them. I ignore the tightness of the chest, the trouble breathing. The tightening of the body that indicates a collapse response. But to what? There is no reason for this sudden onset of dark memory. Until I look at the calendar, and realize this is the time of the great uncollaring. Two years a sex slave. There is no way to soften those words. The acceptance of the reality of the years I spent from 15 to 17 has been hard to swallow. The depravity, the cruelty, the bones of affection that kept me coming back. The collar that was supposed to indicate a commitment from him to me, me to him. In some ways, that collar was more symbolic than a wedding band. It meant my total submission to him. My mind, my heart, my soul, my body. And a promise to take care of all of me. To cherish that submission. Instead, I was trafficked, used, abused, and, jsut shy of my eighteenth birthday, he took the collar off. “You’re too old. There’s nothing left to teach you,” summarily dismissed. No contact ever again. Thirty years later, I’m still dealing with the aftermath of that cold abandonment. So much of how I see myself shaped by those cold, calculating hands.

And I lie awake at night, woken up by the spectre of his presence. Even now, there are times the agony of the missing collar hurts worse than the missing wedding band of a failed marriage. I swallow hard, expecting to feel the hard leather around my neck. It’s absence a hard thrust into reality. A reality where I feel my failure keenly. Even though, really, I didn’t fail. I was trapped. And even though the method of my escape was brutal and cold, I did. Not unscathed. Not whole. But free.

And yet I wake at night. Cold sweats. Rapid, shallow breathing. I feel his breath on the nape of my neck. The touch of the lash. The cuffs. As I type this, I need to practice my grounding techniques. The touch of the floor on my feet. I’m safe. I’m where I chose to be. I can leave. I’m alone. That’s the big one. I’m alone. I’m all alone. By choice. No one around to hurt me. No one to pin me down. I’m free to be the best self I can be.

SECRETS

Secrets kept since childhood. A cousin who molested me. A rape at fifteen by a thirty year old man. Another rape three and a half years ago. The moments of terror blend together, sometimes. And I’ve carried this trauma by myself, for so long. I just recently started opening up to friends about it. And the support has been unequivocally amazing. My friends are amazing. My family, not so much. So much so, that when the rape at fifteen happened, and I tried to tell my mom, the minute she heard “I had a date go bad,” she gave me a look of pure disgust and turned away from me. Bodily turned from me and walked away. The kind of betrayal that runs deep. So I’ve never trusted her since. Never trusted anyone since. If the woman who birthed you and is supposed to be there for you turns her back, where is there left to go?

This week has been hard. My mom went in for surgery on Tuesday to have a complete hysterectomy as they found a cyst on what they thought was her ovary. Turns out it was a growth on her bowel. So she is in the hospital and my sister has flown in from PEI to help out around the house. My sister and I have a very strained relationship. As the baby of the family, she was pretty coddled as a child. And she never suffered at the hands of dad like I did. I was the black sheep, and she always sided with both dad and my brother. So the line was drawn, with the family on one side, and me on the other. Is it any wonder I don’t do “family” with them?

Tuesday night my dad and brother had a fight, and my brother drove off drunk. So my sister had a good cry on my shoulder. We talked about Mark, (my brother) and how he was the golden child and how much of an asshole he has become. She asked what made me start getting into feminist literature and poetry, and I told her the #metoo movement flipped a switch. When she responded with, “it did for a lot of women. They no longer felt alone,” I almost spoke up. But instead, I just nodded and said, “Yeah, it did”.

So today we’re driving to the hospital, and talking about the J Dubs, which is what my sister calls Jehovah’s Witnesses, the faith we were raised in the and the faith my parents still follow. I took a chance and told her that I struggle with my sexuality, as I’m bi. She said that really doesn’t surprise her. And then she really surprised me, “You know, no matter what, I’ll always support you.” At this point, I go out on a limb and tell her what I’ve never told a family member. I told her about my rape at fifteen. I did not tell her about the subsequent relationship that developed, or the depths of depravity he brought me to. And she just held my hand while we walked into the hospital.

So now I’m in knots wondering if I did the right thing. I hope she doesn’t tell mom. I don’t think she will. She won’t want to worry mom about anything while she’s recuperating. The only thing she asked is why I never told, and when I told her mom’s reaction, she just said, “Oh.”

Secrets are hard to bear, but the spilling of them, after so long, isn’t any easier.

GUILTY

A child on trial
Her torn innocence
On the stand

Ashamed and degraded
Her sins laid bare
For all to see

Being needy
Her greatest crime
Wanting to be loved

And she believed
His honeyed words
Even as violated her

A child on trial
Herself The Judge
The Jury, The Executioner

HOPE

Hope: n. A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen
v. Want something to happen or be the case

Hope is a very pregnant word. Pregnant with promise, with desire, with expectation. A feeling of better things to come. A small word with big meaning. When things are black and stormy in my life, I hope they get better. Sometimes I feel this hope is misplaced, especially when I’m deep in the pit; when it’s hard to reach out a hand and ask for help. It’s getting easier these days. When my therapist says to hang on, the depth of these feelings in transient, I have faith in her word, and trust and hope she’s right. And she always is. I always come through. And lately I can say I come through unscathed. Weary, oh gods, am I weary. But it’s been months now since I’ve self harmed. Even the most recent scars have faded to pale lines, no darker than the rest of them. She tells me that self injury had a place in my toolbox of survival long ago, BUT THINGS ARE DIFFERENT NOW. And she is correct in that. I’m different in my body and being. I see the urges for what they are: lying monsters.

The monsters wail
Begging to be fed
Promising light after the blood
To slumber in the post pain haze

I know the truth
Of their existence
Never sated, always begging for more
The cravings deep

Alone in the night
With the monsters in my head
In my heart
In my soul
Filling the cracks with blood
In the place of tears

SOMATIC MEMORY

The past couple of days have been really really tough. Stuck between hyper and hypo arousal constantly shifting back and forth. Moments where I’m overwhelmed by fear and can’t breathe, and then moments where the slightest sound makes me jump. Even though my mind finds no connection between the here and now and this feeling of doom, I have a full blown fear reody response. My therapist did get back to me today, (YAY!) and she said it sounds like I’m having somatic flashbacks. I should have recognized this right away. What is a somatic flashback? It’s your body remembering, not your brain. “Memory is reminding you about the state of your being all those years in childhood and adolescence when you were in danger” is how my therapist worded it in her email to me today. I lived in fear growing up. Beatings from my father were a daily, consistent thing with him. The only thing that was. And I had a real rough session this week. Last week brought up a lot of history, how no one noticed the sad little me acting out and begging for attention. And this week brought more of that to the fore. And just like I did in adolescence, I’m living a double life of sorts here at home again. My parents don’t know about my cousin molesting me. They don’t know about the abusive relationship I was in at 15. They don’t know about my sexual assault three years ago. They don’t know I’m living with PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder. They think my therapy is for my anxiety. I have to keep so much hidden, while living in the house where I grew up abused. They say you can’t heal in the environment that broke you, but I am. Granted, things are different now. I’m a grown woman with a voice. My body and being are different. It’s now 2019 and I am no longer in danger from anyone.

So I orient to the here and now. I’m in my room, the room I grew up in, focusing on what’s different. My bookcases, the books in those cases. My bed. The decorations on the wall. The flooring. The sheets on my bed. All things that are from the present. Nothing in my room remains from the past except my bear, Bettina, who has been with me since I was six months old. She has been the one constant in my life. I have been struggling with the desire to self harm this weekend. That, too, was a constant in my life for many years. It had its purpose then. But things are different now. I need to remember this with the very core of my being. All my emotional parts need to recognize that we are no longer trapped in trauma time. I have so many new coping tools and a great support network. Parts of me may be trapped in the past, but I have the strength, courage and determination to show them a better future.

SAFETY CONTRACTS AND SELF HARM

I’ve been with my therapist for about three years now. One of the first things she did was put me on saftey contract. I am proud to say, in that three years, I have only intentionally violated it once. I say intentionally, because the things she considers to be self harming behaviour are myriad. Not using my seatbelt in the car, driving too fast on the highway, not eating right, even not maintaining good sleep hygiene. All of which I’m guilty of at some point. I’m finally at a point where my med compliance is no longer an issue, just a struggle. When I’m feeling good, I don’t think I need them. When I’m not feeling good, I feel what’s the point. So it’s a constant struggle. But the main focus of my contract is the obvious, direct ways I harm myself: drinking and cutting. And after yesterdays session, the struggle is real. I even reached out to her about it last night. She didn’t respond, but as I was in no real danger, I wasn’t really expecting her to.

Self harm. Two little words. The act of hurting oneself. Doesn’t really sound too bad, does it? I even managed to inflict a bit on myself while in her office yesterday, squeezing my hand too hard and leaving deep imprints of my fingernails, took a bit of skin off. She commented on how easy it is to fall back into old ways of coping. It left marks which still are there, though faint, today. It’s so deeply imbedded in my pysche as the only way out of emotional distress, be it feeling too much or too little. And right now I’m feeling too much. Way too much. I can’t even define all that I’m feeling. I tried to in her office yesterday, and last night when I was dying for a sharp to drag across my skin. Lost. Alone. Sad. Melancholic. Overwhelmed. Not present. Broken. Hurt. And a multitude more floating through my brain and body. And that’s what’s so damn hard about this. The feelings are so strong, they’re painful. My body hurts from carrying them. The release of a little blood seems a fair price to pay for the relief. But one of the last things she said to me yesterday was, “Remember your contract. A promise.” A promise to her as well as myself to stay safe. And there are days I curse that contract. That promise. If it was only with myself, it wouldn’t be so bad. I could live with that. But the shame I would feel going into her office next week, and having to say, “I fucked up,” keeps me strong. That and the fact that there are no readily available sharps that I can access. I have a disposable razor in the bathroom, one I keep for emergencies like this. However, the fact of the matter is, I would have to dig it out, dismantle it, and then carry through with the very act I have sworn not to. Many opportunities to pause and think things through. Which she would not hesitate to point out. Something I really value in her is her refusal to accept bullshit answers and provide clarity when things are muddy to me. So rather than face that, I stayed in bed, my safe zone. Except when it isn’t. I try hard to keep my bed a safe place. Injuring myself in the bath, where it’s easy to clean up, or on the floor of my bedroom. My bed is sancrosanct. Not to say I haven’t used an x-acto knife that I forgot to put away while sitting there, focusing only on the imminent relief. That pressure valve which causes immediate and tactile release. But word is my bond. So I suffer. Like Tennyson wrote in Ulysses, “All times I have… suffer’d greatly, both with those/That loved me, and alone… One equal temper of heroic hearts,/Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will/To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

MED COMPLIANCE

It’s kind of cool, at the end of the week, to look at your weekly pill box and realize that you haven’t missed a day, and it’s been a few weeks since you missed a dose. For someone like me who struggles with med complaince, this is huge. And I’m still struggling. I’ve been feeling pretty stable the last little while, so the first thing I think of is, “I can go off my meds!” Of course, my therapist,the wonderful grounding presence that she is, immediately responds with, “Maybe it’s your meds making you feel this good.” So, of course, I bring it up to my GP, who handles my meds. “I want to see you stable for a longer period of time. And back to work. Maybe once you’ve been at work for a year we can look at tapering back a bit.” Talk about feeling deflated. Stupid brain. Can’t make it’s own feel good chemicals. And I know, I know all about the comparisons to heart medicine or diabetes. The brain is just like any other organ that can, and does, malfunction. And there is nothing wrong if your brains happiness needs a boost from the wonders of modern medicine. But I have to wonder, if treated today with our vast assortment of chemical bliss, would Van Gogh have painted Starry Starry Night? Would Byron and Poe have been so eloquent and prolific if their fits of melancholy were treated with modern medicine? Would Shelley have written oh so beautifully? Byron was well aware of the connection between madness and creativity. He wrote, “We of the craft are all crazy. Some are affected by gaiety, others by melancholy, but all are more or less touched.” Sure, there are many examples of people being medicated and having successful careers. A quick google search provided me with the names of ten poets currently living with mental illnesses. I wonder how/if they’re all medicated. My medication makes me dull, and creativity is hard. When I’m unmedicated, the words fly to the page easily, too easily I’ve been told. Those words are hard to follow, syntax becomes strange. Even given the free nature of verse, mine becomes difficult to embrace. Kay Redfield Jamison writes quite freely about her battles with bipolar disorder. She knows the dangers of not being med compliant. Yet she wrote a whole book, “Excuberance”, about the very thing lacking in my life with my meds. I tried lithium, but the amount I needed in my system to keep it at therapeutic levels was too high, and the side effects too great. So I’m on the mood stabilizer aripiprazole, to help boost the anti-depressant that I’m on. And I can’t tell which one makes feeling deeply and passionately difficult. So for the sake of my mental health, my creativity suffers. Some days I have to ask myself is it worth it. Then I look at my two boys and realize a subdued mom is better than no mom.

TO SLEEP, PERCHANCE TO DREAM

After suffering harrowing nightmares nightly for many years, the p-doc I saw briefly prescribed a wonderful drug called prazosin.  It’s a heart medication, an alpha-blocker, but it’s been proven to stop nightmares in some patients.  Fortunately for me, I am one of those patients.  It doesn’t stop the flashbacks; nothing will stop those.  But for the first time in years, I’m sleeping without the nightly terrors that come with closing my eyes.

Now comes the fun part.  Teaching my brain and body that it’s safe to go to sleep at night.  For years I’ve been a night owl.  My therapist isn’t so sure that it’s my natural state; she believes it’s a learned response to fear.  So how to unlearn it?  I’ve started working on my sleep hygiene.  Trying to go to bed at the same time every night.  Being more active during the day.  Meditating.  But my body still feels that same anxiety when my head hits that pillow.  Shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, that sense of impending doom.  I’ve practicing Babette Rothchild’s Keys to Trauma Recovery for months now.  It has definitely lessened the impact of the flashbacks.  But I can’t convince my body that it’s safe to sleep.

I recently had to move back home due to circumstances not within my control.  My anxiety and other mental illnesses have made it impossible for me to work and difficult to care for my children adequately.  So I’m back in the room where I spent most of my childhood, being beaten and hiding.  It’s hard to heal in the environment that made you sick, but I’m doing it.  My room is now inviolate.  My dad doesn’t enter it, he doesn’t open the door when it’s shut.  He leaves me alone when the kids are visiting their father.  There’s no more violence, or even threats of violence.  He is a gentler man now than he ever was.  And yet, and yet.  The specter of years past hangs over me like a miasma.  When he raises his voice, I become six  years old again, afraid.  I’m 45 now, and I still cringe from his touch.  He can’t sense it anymore, but I still feel it.  The awkward hugs, few and far between.  The sexual assault three years ago broke me in so many ways; exacerbated the damage done from years of abuse.  Since then, I can barely stand to be hugged by anyone other than my kids and partner.  And even that isn’t easy some days.  But you bear it, because the one thing kids need is lots of affection.  Abuse: physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, leaves scars that never really go away.

But back to sleeping, to dreaming.  Now that the nightmares no longer fill my time spent in Morpheus’ arms, I dream.  I dream of my therapist.  Of dragons.  Of transmuting myself into something other than what I am.  As if my me isn’t enough.  It never has been, why should that change now?  I’m working on the negative self talk, but my subconscious certainly has lots to say about it.  I’ve never had much luck with lucid dreaming.  When I’m asleep, I’m asleep, and no amount of wishing my way out of a dream has ever worked.  Now I no longer wake up in a cold sweat, heart racing, unsure of where I am.  I wake up perturbed, questioning what the hell is going on with my psyche.  My therapist tells me that when we dream of others, they represent aspects of ourselves.  So when I dream of dragons and squirrels, I’m living my hyper/hypo aroused parts of myself.  Squirrels are saucy little things, very vocal when unhappy, but quick to run away from confrontation.  Unless you are a red squirrel.  Then you will fight for that acorn and not back down.  But even they run from larger predators.  And dragons, well, they are the apex predator.  Everything runs from a dragon.  Even humans.  The only way to take a dragon down is from a distance.  And, unfortunately, a thrown acorn is not going to do too much to a dragon.

So am I a dragon or am I a squirrel?

SISTERHOOD

A year ago I attended a twelve week group for survivors of sexual assault. I was hesitant to go, as my experience with groups wasn’t very positive. With a lot of encouragement from my therapist and best friend, I decided to give it a shot. I am very glad I did. A year later, and I have a group of women I now consider to be my sisters. Bonded in a way I never imagined possible. A group of women I can share both my highs and my lows with, and everything in between. An amazing group of women who are supportive, loving, and quick to both laugh and cry with you.

It goes beyond our shared traumas. We are able to share the common, everyday things, the small tragedies and the big joys. And the seemingly small thing of being understood. Unless you’ve been a situation where your whole world is shattered, you never appreciate the comfort in sharing that trauma with people who have suffered in ways similar to you. We’ve all experienced different things, and suffered differently, but we all have been broken. The Japanese have an ancient art of mending broken pottery with gold, silver, or platinum. Kintsugi. They are the gold in my healing cracks.

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

It’s time to say goodbye. To say goodbye to the old me. The stuck me. The unmotivated me. The me that sits on the couch all day, thinking about all the things I’d like to do, if only I could get up of the couch. The habits formed while in a severe depression slough slowly, not wanting to be given up. They certainly don’t go without a lot of will power. Something I have been short of my whole life. I have started seeing a Feldenkrais practitioner, who has done wonders for my extremely bad posture resulting in bad knees and a bad back. I’ve also started Qi Gong, which is also helping with my posture and joint issues. My therapist states that Qi Gong is all about fluidity, something my body is definitely lacking. It’s a Chinese standing meditation, so it’s good for my mind as well as my body. I’m not up to practicing it every day, but I’m up to three times a week. My goal is to make it to every day. I’ve started doing it twice a day on the days I do it. I tend to go back to bed after the kids have left for school, but my therapist wanted me to try to practice at that time instead. My circadian rhythm is completely out of sync. I tend to stay up into the early hours and sleep during the days. I’ve always been a night owl. No one there yelling at you, or hitting you, telling you what a screw up you are. Reading in peace. The world is a calm place. Something my young self needed desperately.

It’s time to embrace the daylight. And with it, life again. Spring is just around the corner, an excellent time for new beginnings. I never understood why we celebrate the new year in January, when everything is just cold and dreary. The spring equinox makes much more sense to me. The earth is waking up from it’s cold slumber, and everything is fresh and new. I always feel more energized in the spring, and this spring more so, as I have been in the depths of soul destroying depression. Thoughts of suicide have been a daily companion for so long that I now only notice them in their absence. The only down side is that with their disappearance, the sirens call of self harm gets louder. It has been months since I caved to their voices, and I don’t intend on doing so again. I quit smoking just after Christmas, now to give up vaping, the lesser of two evils. I am slowly decreasing the amount of nicotine in the juice I vape, so it will only be a matter of time before I completely nicotine free. Another step to the new me. Saying goodbye to old habits.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE BORDERLINE?

I’ve been thinking about diagnoses and what they mean to the one receiving them. Usually they come with a sense of relief: I’m not crazy. These symptoms do mean something. But what happens when the diagnosis means you are crazy? What does that mean? I’ve been fighting the BPD diagnosis for years. Never had a therapist agree with it, though I’ve received the diagnosis from more than one psychiatrist. Recently there has been a movement in the trauma treatment community to change it to Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My current therapist, who is a gift sent from wherever such things come from, explained it to me in a way that made me feel a lot better. It’s not that I’m not fixable, which is the prevailing feeling among most old school practitioners; it’s just that my brain needs a different way of fixing it. I’ll never be neuro-typical. But I can learn to adapt and rearrange the way I process information.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD; also known as complex trauma disorder) is a psychological disorder that can develop in response to prolonged, repeated experience of interpersonal trauma in a context in which the individual has little or no chance of escape. (wikipedia) The resulting symptoms closely mirror that of BPD. The key difference between BPD and C-PTSD is that symptoms of BPD stem from an inconsistent self-concept and C-PTSD symptoms are provoked by external triggers. The inconsistent self-concept happens as a direct result of the early childhood trauma or ongoing trauma with no escape. Combine the two, you end up with a very fractured sense of self. Typical therapies for BPD used are DBT (Dialectic Behaviour Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), neither of which address the underlying trauma.

I grew up always afraid of my father. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t. That’s how early the abuse started. He was never physically violent to my mother, but he was very much emotionally and verbally abusive. In typical abuser fashion, he never started until after they were married and she was “trapped” with a baby. My therapist explained to me that babies can pick up what’s going on around them, so if my mother was anxious, sad, or afraid, I would’ve understood something was wrong. When asked why she stayed, she recently told me she couldn’t admit to her mother that her mother was right. So her pride ruined my life. Well, my life up to this point. I’m taking charge of it now, and learning to say no to the shit I don’t have to put up with.

Add to the mix a cousin who taught me things no six year old should ever be aware of, a very abusive relationship at a young age with a much older man, and a more recent sexual assault, is it any wonder that my sense of self is fractured? I’m now learning that I matter, that what I want and feel are valid. Novel concepts to be learning at 45. I wish I had the confidence of my young sons. They know they’re important, they understand body autonomy, and while they may not yet know what it is, they live their lives with a purpose.

I long for the day when I can live beyond the day to day, minute to minute, second to second it takes to survive sometimes. But everyday I’m getting stronger. A solid therapist with strong boundaries is key. I’m very fortunate to have found one. She holds the space while I try to feel whatever emotions are coming up. She holds it without judgement and without forcing it. Which is what someone who has suffered much trauma needs. I am doing EMDR, (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) along with a combination of other modalities. I take a mood stabilizer to boost the effect of my anti-depressant, and I take an alpha blocker, which helps prevent the nightmares. Being taught coping mechanisms (Babette Rothschilde is an amazing source for this), I can even manage my panic attacks and flashbacks. I’m in a stable relationship, I’m a pretty decent parent, and a damn good friend. None of which should be possible if I was truly only suffering from BPD.

So what does the diagnosis mean to the one receiving it? In my case, nothing at all. It bothered me at first, and if I had received it years ago, before I started working with my current therapist, it might have destroyed me; taking away any hope of ever getting better. Now, it’s a label that might help my disability claim, but that’s all it is. It doesn’t define who I am as a person. It changes nothing. My trauma work is the most important thing I can do for myself, and in doing it, I will free myself from the bindings of a difficult diagnosis with a less than helpful prognosis.

BIPOLAR OR NOT

Last year my doctor sent me to see a psychiatrist for an assessment and med adjustment. He’s generally a decent general practitioner, but we’ve been struggling for years to get me stable. I have a history of needed to take three months or so off of whatever job I’m doing because of stress. My previous therapist thought I might have a type of bipolar. No one was sure, so off for an assessment I go. PTSD, depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and cyclothymia. Which I didn’t understand. I get depressed enough that I’m suicidal, and I’ve made an attempt in the past. That being said, a mood stabilizer in conjunction with my anti-depressant has made all the difference. That, and I’m now working with a trauma specialist. Doing EMDR. This year, I went for another assessment. A different psychiatrist this time, who read the notes of the previous one. Saw me three times, instead of just forty minutes. No bipolar diagnosis this time. PTSD, persistent depressive disorder, borderline personality disorder, and general anxiety. Says my symptoms of BPD overlap a lot with the BP, and that the meds often work in tandem together when the antidepressant isn’t enough even without the presence of bipolar. We talked about the BPD diagnosis, and the main reason for the diagnosis is history: self injury, suicide attempts, and, most telling, the feelings of self-loathing and feeling empty and numb. She said with the amount of trauma I’ve experienced, it was inevitable that I would wind up with BPD. So now I’m struggling with yet another identity, one that I have avoided for years. I remember my ex yelling at me, at one point, “I’m not the only borderline here”, yet I was the only one actively seeking help. My therapist told me not to worry about the diagnosis. It basically means I have C-PTSD, (Complex Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder) and I’m doing the hard work to get better. So that’s something at least. It explains these long, empty nights where I feel so numb and the siren call of self-injury is so strong, even though I’m not feeling depressed. Just numb.

A BLACKNESS DARK

In the dark
Defenses are thin
The monsters howl
Begging to be let in

The rain falls down
A staccato beat on the roof
Echoing the tears in my heart
That will not fall

Access denied
Feeling aloof
To the pain in my soul
A blackness dark
Coats my very existence

The monsters wail
Begging to be fed
Promising light after the blood
To slumber in the post pain haze

I know the truth
Of their existence
Never sated, always begging for more
The cravings deep

Alone in the night
With the monsters in my head
In my heart
In my soul
Filling the cracks with blood
In the place of tears

ONCE, LONG AGO

I’ve written about the past abusive relationship I was in from 15 to 17. How he trained me to be his play toy. A lesson I learned so well I had no sense of self worth outside of my body as an offering. One of the ways I process my shit is by writing. This is painful to read; trust me, it was painful to write.

Once, long ago

You told me that you loved me

Worshipped my body

With mouth and lash

Taught me that I existed

For others pleasures

Not my own

Though my body responded

Once, long ago

You claimed me as your own

Red marks on my body

Leather collar around my neck

You sold me

Watched as I was used

The ultimate symbol

Of your ownership

Once, long ago

I believed you

As you stripped me

Of clothing and will

Broken to

Your base desires

Years later

Still offering my body

Lost in a sea

Of misplaced desire

Seeking solace

For something that should never

Have been missing

HOLDING MY OWN

How good it feels to be away from the edge of The Pit. Despite being mostly housebound due to inclement weather, I have been feeling pretty good. Maybe because I haven’t had to be social. Who knows. I’m enjoying it while it lasts. Can’t help but wonder, though, if this is a shift toward hypomania. the pdoc I saw didn’t see a bipolar diagnosis. Borderline Personality Disorder, Complex PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and, finally, Persistent Depressive Disorder. She said there is a lot of overlap with BP and BPD, so sometimes it’s hard to get a clear diagnosis.

A new year always brings with it some reflection. I’m not the type to make new years resolutions,; my goals change as I grow and change. And I wanted to take the time to give thanks to the woman who led me through the darkness to the light. I wrote a poem for her, and gave it to her just before we broke for the holidays. She never said anything about it, so I should probably not be embarrassed by it. I thought I’d share it with you.

A ship with a broken compass

Tossed on the waves

Hither and yon

Sinking slowly

Trying to find my way

By a North Star

Lost in a sky

Of darkness and despair

The clouds thick

Ever present

Blotting out the light

Along came a guide

Showed me how to mend

That broken compass

To fight my way

Back to the light

Behind the clouds

The siren song

Is still loud at times

But I have a gift

A toolkit

Cobbled together

Patiently guided

With grace and skill

To heal the wounded

Children within

RAVENOUS

Feel the need in your soul

The dark longing

Deep within

Face to the sky

Hungering for truth

For peace

Aching for something lost

An empty vessel

Full of want

Full of desire

Craving something so deep

It will never be sated

The ebony darkness

Caresses you

A lover that calls to you

Seductive and false

The moonlight dances

On the scars on your skin

On your psyche

It knows all your secrets

Even the ones

You keep from yourself

The hunger

The void

The vast emptiness

Within you

The one that calls for comfort

In any shape

In any form

The one that keeps

You up at night

Cold sweat on the pillow

The Beast has no name

Knows only it is ravenous

Rapacious

And under the moon

Most powerful

The starlight

Tickles its hunger

For flesh

For the blade

For release

In any shape

By any means

The Void so deep

An abyss in your soul

Nothing fills it

Nothing sates it

No warmth

No heat

Endless longing

Meaningless sounds

Spew forth

Conveying

How voracious

The appetite is

For flesh

For blood

Anything to take the edge off

If only

For the moment

ECSTASY HAS ITS PRICE

Strapped down

Unable to move

Unable to see

You taught me

To love the lash

Pain and Pleasure

Two sides

Of the same coin

The red welts belie

The soft coos of love

You whisper in my ear

Ecstasy always

Had its price

BLOOD AND PAIN

When the heart weeps Yet no tears come When words won’t come And all that is left Something That begs release Escape A way out From the too too much That cannot be Identified How does one Find relief From what one does not Recognize Except to let it out In blood And pain

SIREN

The last few weeks have been brutal. I know in the very depths of my being that things will get better, but right now they’re just so hard.

SIREN

I stare at the water
It’s aqua waves calling
Inviting to slip under
Into Oblivion

I walk away
From the Sirens call

The blades in my hand
Beckoning tantalyzing
One quick swipe
And freedom

I walk away
From the Sirens call

Through the heart
The silver moonlight
Dances on the thinnest of knives
Kill the heart
That causes all your pain

I walk away
From the Sirens call

I walk away
From the Sirens call

TENDEREST TRUTH

It seems the creative juices only flow when I’m spiraling downward.  Maybe that’s not accurate.  I’ve been numb for months now, so there has been little to no creative output at all.  The meds I’m on, they dull all emotion.  I couldn’t even cry when my beloved Nanna passed away.  Currently, my new p-doc is changing my meds.  I’m on a fairly high dose of Abilify to stabilize my moods, and offset the hypo-mania that anti-depressants alone induce.  Hopefully this will allow some feeling other than the despair that I feel creeping over me.

A few weeks ago I had a trying EMDR session that left me stuck feeling like five year old defenseless me.  And it has taken a while to shake that feeling.  So much so, that I feel myself descending into The Pit.  I’m holding on tight to the edge, using all my tools to keep from following the siren song into Oblivion.

I was around four or five when my dad really started using corporal punishment on my tender behind and hands.  And being stuck, feeling like that defenseless little tyke again has me reeling.  I have to keep reminding myself that it’s 2018, almost 2019, and it’s been a very long time since my dad was violent toward me.  And I know he’ll never be violent again; threatening to call the cops the last time he hit me was fear enough.  He knew that there was no way I was going to be a victim any longer.  I was just shy of 18.  And yet here I am, almost 46, and feeling like a little kid again. 

Since I’ve been unable to write much, my therapist has been encouraging me to “draw it out”.  My drawings all look like they were done by a six year old, and I’m not sure how much is my lack of talent or if my art is being derailed by my inner wounded child.  Regardless, drawing some of it seems to have unlocked my ability to write.  It’s coming back slowly. 

The earth shatters

For a cold moment

No light, no sound

Caught in a void

Of time and space

Where nothing feels real

Then the pain hits

Sharp as a dagger

Finely honed

Soul shattering

Life defying

Trained to find the tenderest truths 

WHO AM I

Numb

An emotional lockdown
Fearful
That once the walls crumble
There will be no relief

Sorrow
Runs deep
Permeates my very essence

If I allow myself to feel
The full depths
Would I ever recover

Fear of getting “better”
Of never getting “better”

I’m not sure I could bear
That this is the way
It will always be

Yearning
For a family that doesn’t exist

For what worth have i
If I’m rejected by those
Who share my blood

That nameless ache
Undefinable
Intangible
Pervasive

Both physically
And in my pysche
A part of me

Steadfast
True

Who am I?

LIGHT AS THE BREEZE

it’s been so long since I’ve felt the pull of hypomania. And right now as I sink ever deeper into the pit, I find I’m missing the ethereal highs. Right now all I feel is despondency and despair. And I can’t even cry about it. The freedom to cry has been locked down so tight for so long that the tears won’t flow freely. Oh, my eyes, they water, and I get a lump in my throat, but just silent tears running down my cheeks. Not satisfying at all.

I wrote this while coming down from a hypomanic high. Back when I was undiagnosed and, or rather, misdiagnosed, with unipolar depression. One day I may lose myself in the upward pull, but today is not that day.

LIGHT AS THE BREEZE

Free at last
Running soaring
Leaping flying
Unburdened by despair

Hope no longer
Just another
Four letter word

Light as the breeze
A leaf on the wind
Blowing where it takes me

Whirling
Spiralling
Up and down

Disintigrating

Into

Nothing

IF ONLY

It’s been a long time since I posted anything. Life has been dark and I have been in a state of broken disrepair, unable to write.

Tonight it appears the dam is cracking and I can write about the childhood that broke me.

IF ONLY

If my presence offends you
I can only beg forgiveness
And apologize for my sins

However slight

The pain
The tears
Never knowing
What might set you off

If only

If only I was quieter
If only
If only I was more docile
If only
If only I was the daughter you wanted

Not the one you received

Not wanted
Unplanned
A mistake
I don’t ever remember

Not knowing this

Shut up
I don’t want to hear it
You know why

Heartbroken

Alone in my room
Snot and tears
Mingling on the
Flowered bed spread

No succour
A pariah
Hours alone

Today you wonder why
I need so much
Time by myself
You trained me

Isolated me

Self reliant
To not need
To not feel

To not cry

A CHILD LOST

You offered me love
You gave me pain

You offered acceptance
You gave me loneliness

A child lost
Who thought she was found

You left me further adrift
Then I was before

A wounded child
You smashed wide open

Took my trust
My naiveté
My innocence

And tore my heart asunder

Left me curled up on the floor

Like the infant that I was

Heartbroken and alone

WAY TOO FAST

Pulled down by the undertow
Staring up at the sun
Unattainable
Sinking fast

Tired of the fight
Can’t keep my head above the water
Current moving down
Way too fast

The salt on my cheeks
Can’t look up up
Overwhelmed by the tide
Way too fast

Drowning in my tears
Can’t breathe
Can’t see beyond the blood

Life drags by
Way too fast

SHAME AND SELF LOATHING

I’ve been struggling with the facts that I stayed in a very abusive relationship with a much older man when I was 15.  I stayed until he ended it shortly before my 18th birthday because, as he put it, I got too old.  Despite the reassurances of my amazing therapist, Vera, I somehow still feel responsible for staying. Over the holidays, my young teenage self was badly triggered and I spent a solid two weeks,  at least, battling the urge to self harm.  Angry Dude (another part of me that has separated from the rest) has been bubbling up with rage and the two have been feeding off of each other. I finally let Angry Dude out, with some careful boundaries.  NO SELF-HARM!!!  Instead, he did some writing.  Harsh, angry words at me for going back again and again.  Here is his story:

IDIOT

You went back

Again and again
Knowing full well
What was in store

IDIOT

You hungered for 
His small mercies
Carfully played
After he used you

Good Girl
My Slut

Positive reinforcement
Being claimed
Being wanted

IDIOT

Was it enough
Was it worth it
The fist in the hair

The violent sex

The beatings
Was it worth it

Going back
Again and again

IDIOT

Not strong enough
To walk away
Though given ample
Opportunity

IDIOT

You let him do things 
No one should endure
Just for his approval

Those damning words
That get me every time

Good GIrl
My Slut

IDIOT

How could you not see
The end
How could you think 
It would last forever

IDIOT

Did you really think 
He wanted YOU? 

Claimed
He said

Your heart
Your body
Your mind
Mine

IDIOT

To be so naive

The beatings
The gang rapes
The timeouts in the closet

IDIOT

There was nothing you
Wouldn’t do for him
Nothing you wouldn’t
Let him do

Your innocence
Your dignity

You gave it all up
For what? 

A gentle touch
A kind word
Thrown like a bone
To a starving dog

IDIOT

You lost so much
Of yourself
Unable to find
Your true self
Given all up for
A gentle word
A false sense of belonging

IDIOT

How could you not see
What he was doing to you
Using you
Corrupting you
Defiling you

IDIOT

How could you believe 
How could you keep
Going back
For more
And more

IDIOT

Now you’re broken
Beyond repair

Vera can’t help fix
The shattered
Remnants
Of your destroyed
Soul

IDIOT

HYPOMANIA!!!!!!!! 

As many of us bipolar bears, I have been on a cocktail of numerous psychotropic drugs.  While keeping me from being actively suicidal, they have definitely left me feeling numb.  No severe lows, but no highs either. This feeling flat has robbed much enjoyment out of my day to day existence.  So after being on it for two years, and my blood levels getting lower and lower with the same fairly high dose, we started titrating it. Once down to 600 mgs spread out over two doses, my doctor let me quit it completely. And within days my mood skyrocketed. Hypomania for the win.  After being disinterested in everything for so long this has been a welcome change. 

Of course, there’s always a downside, isn’t there.  Impulsive behavior. Reckless reckless thoughts.  Knowing the outcome is always the same doesn’t make not giving into them any easier. Thankful for a solid support network and an understanding, yet firm, therapist. Who is letting me email her through the holidays if necessary, as I’m in a “vulnerable place” right now. 

So happy holidays to all and may you stay safe. 

Squirrel

ALL ALONE

I met him when I was 15.  His wife brought me home to “meet” him.  He took my innocence and made me his. Shared me with his friends. Trained me to do his bidding, to serve unflinching.  Scars I’m still trying to heal.  Thanks for coming on the journey to healing with me. 

You take my hand
I’m all alone

You caress my body
I’m all alone

A crowd of strangers 
I’m all alone

Touching me
I’m all alone

Entering me
I’m all alone

Your words try to comfort me
I’m all alone

Empty words of love

I’m all alone

INTO THE DARKNESS

The lengths that I would go through
Begging on my knees
Not to go
Go into the darkness
Into the past

The broken girl
Fractured and shattered
Oh so many hurts 

Overflowing
Into my today

No brakes
Flying through
The memories

Terrified

Overwhelmed

Wanting to hide
Begging on my knees
Not to go

THE RAIN

I feel the rain
Cold against my skin
A counterpoint to the tears
Rolling down my cheeks

Thunder crashes
In the skies above
Echoing the tumult 
In my heart

Lightning jaggéd
Against the sky
Bright flashes of pain
Reverberating 

Through,my soul

EBB AND FLOW

Old familiar wounds
Never quite closing
Never fully healed
Open at a touch

A glance

A memory

Tearing apart
Once again
My heart my soul

Who am I
Besides a ball of pain
Ebbing and flowing

Like the tide

THE AIR

I’ve recently started EMDR for my PTSD. And it is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Going back into the memory while tracking your therapists hand movements. And the fact that those memories that you have tried so hard to bottle up now run rampant through your brain. Through your waking hours. Through the few hours of respite you get a night. And the worse time of all, that gap between wakefulness and unconsciousness.

Laying in bed
Your ghost beside me
Sucking the air
Out of the room

I remember your hands
Your body

Taking what you wanted
Not what I gave

Memory
Continues to suck
All the air
Out of the room

I couldn’t breathe then
I can’t breathe now

Here alone
Laying in bed

Violating me
Over and over again
Sucking the air
Out of the room

Tears I couldn’t shed then
Pour now down my cheeks
Torment and despair

Sucking the air
Out of the room

ALONE IN THE LIGHT

Alone in the night
Lights out
In the dark
A silent scream
As you touch me

Alone in the night
You haunt my waking hours
My sleepless nights

Can’t breathe as your body
Crushes mine

Alone in the night
Unshed tears

I can’t turn you off
Or make you disappear

Alone in the light

I feel you
Smell you
I can’t escape

What you’ve done to me

INTO THE LIGHT

My therapist has been assigning me art homework over the past few months as a different way to approach my healing from assorted traumas. This week I have to create a supportive greeting card to send to myself. The homework requires a letter or poem identifying the losses from said trauma and offering strength and support. I, obviously, opted to a write a poem. Let me know what you think. If it is supportive.

Cruel hands
Cruel heart

Laid waste your innocence
Your tender soul

The days are dark
The nights darker still

The light shall rise again
To dry your tears

Come take my hand
I’ll hold you through
The black storm raging
And come together

Into the light

POWER OF WORDS 

Power of words
Assault rape
Shared with gang raped
Gang raped trafficked
Too rough boundaries violated
Play abuse

Every word
Used to gentle the experience
Dashed on the rocks
Like the waves along the shore

No minimizing
No sugarcoating
No gentling of the
Power of words

INSOMNIA

I suffer from frequent bouts of insomnia.   I’ve learned to live and parent on like too no sleep.  And when the insomnia rears its ugly head my mild DID acts up more.  I don’t really have alters.  I’m not that severe.  But my subconscious or unconscious has divvied up parts of myself.  There’s the angry dude. There’s the young broken teenage girl. And there’s Squirrel. Who seems to me my optimistic toddler/child who represents the part of me around the time my cousin started molesting me and before.  I “woke up” to this scrawled in very juvenile handwriting. Signed SJr.  Enjoy.
 

The night
Thick with palpable fear
The air
Redolent with terror
I WILL NOT CANNOT sleep
For the dreams that come
Terrify
My very soul 

SJr.

OBLIVION

The sirens call
“Come”
With each crash
Of the waves upon the shore

“Home”
“Rest”
“Peace”
“Come”

The sirens call
Promising comfort
Freedom from
Distress
Freedom from
Pain
Freedom from
Heartache

Clearly I see
Tempted I feel

To sink beneath the waves
Into cold oblivion

MOTHER

Did you ever wonder
What I thought of you

You should have protected me
Instead
Complicit in your silence

Did you ever wonder
How deep the bruises went
The scars on my soul
That won’t heal

Did you ever wonder
At the lies I told
To cover the marks

The ones that faded
On my skin

Do you ever wonder
At the lengths I would go to
To ease the pain

Did you ever wonder
At the pain on my eyes
Still present
After all this time

Do you ever wonder
If I hate you

SHATTERED

Broken
Shattered on the bed
The last vestiges of my innocence
Torn asunder

Broken
Shattered on the bed
The last tears
I’ll ever shed

Broken
Shattered on the bed
Sense of self
Annihilated

Broken
Shattered on the bed
My will to fight
Crushed

Broken
Shattered on the bed
With kindness
In the aftermath

Broken
Shattered on the bed
An unfamiliar
Tenderness

Broken
Shattered on the bed
Dichotomy
Of words and actions

Broken
Shattered on the bed
Confusion
Leaves me whirling

Broken
Shattered on the bed
You hurt me
You heal me

Broken
Shattered on the bed
My broken body
My broken soul

Broken
Shattered on the bed
Discarded at the end
Like so much debris

FOR A LITTLE WHILE

The blood flows
Taking the pain
The heartache
With it
A temporary release
If only for a little while

Escape as the blood flows
The endorphin rush
Freedom at last
If only for a little while

Past and present
No longer matter
Only the here and now
As the blood flows
Bringing with it
Sweet release

If only for a little while

RELEASE

The blades they beckon
The blades they call
Crimson rivulets
Running down

Release
Relief from the pain
Of too many
Yesterdays

So many years ago
Still torment me
As fresh as though
Experienced today

The blades they beckon
The blades they call
Crimson rivulets
Running down

THAT HOLE

PTSD really sucks. Every time you think you’re out of the rabbit hole something slams you back in. Well, no more. Letting the memories of my traumatic past ruin my now, causing me ty o fear my future, stops here.

A scent on the breeze
A whisper on the wind
Leaves me reeling
Falling back into that hole

Fickle memory
There’s no one around
But I hear you feel you
Falling back into that hole

Memory wreaks havoc
On my mind
My heart my soul
But I stop this time from
Falling back into that hole

VULNERABILITY PART TWO

I was talking to my therapist this week about tears, and how I’ve only cried once in the past 12 years. Which led her to using dirty words like vulnerable and feelings. I made the mistake of saying that crying is weakness, which, of course, turned into a long, mostly one-sided discussion on how tears are human and to be human is to be vulnerable. As is often the case, I didn’t have a lot to say at the time. It takes a few days of ruminating and processing to be able to articulate my response. So I send her an email at 1:30 in the morning: When I cry over something, it’s a physical manifestation of something I am vulnerable to/about. When I open up and allow myself to be vulnerable, I am displaying my weakness. Once that happens, I am open to being hurt. So no more hurt means not being vulnerable.

And as is so often the case, the epiphany came through my poetry.

My eyes are dry
No you won’t ever see me weep
Break my bones
You’ll never see
My broken spirit

The broken soul
You toyed with
You’ll never see me cry
Never know the hurt
You laid upon my heart

Careless caresses
You never meant
Empty words
That belied the truth

Hard and jaded
No one touches me
In the secret places
of my heart

ANYTHING 

Long days
Longer nights
The scars on my soul
Aching

Aching for the
Unknowable
Unattainable
Dead eyes in the mirror
Staring back

Belie the turmoil
Just under the skin
Marked in the desire
To feel something

Anything

REDEMPTION

A road not chosen
Of pain and hurt
Loss and despair

Choices made
Of no choice at all
Trapped in a space

A head space
Of torment
Looking for redemption

THERE

Reach deep
For something
That may or may not
Be there

Reach deep
For that ever elusive
Sense of self
That may or may not
Be there

Reach deep
Deeper still
For that kernel
That yearns
For the light

That may or may not
Be there

MORE THAN

All you did
Was take
My love
My heart
My soul
My innocence

All you did
Was give me
Hurt
Pain
Loss
Abandonment

Just a child
Taken in
Nurtured
Twisted
To fit your
Unholy needs

Left me
Empty
Broken
Tarnished
Lonely
Betrayed

A long journey
From that shattered
Youth
But I will do more
Than just
Survive

DAYTIME FEARS NIGHTIME TERRORS

Daytimes fears
Become nightimes terrors
Monsters hiding in the dark
In our minds
Playing tricks with time

Though it happened years ago
It still feels like today
Your breath on the back of my neck
Your hands holding me down
The weight of your body
On mine

I wake in the dark stillness
The only sound
My rapid breathing
Yet I hear your voice
Crooning those sweet words
That I know now
Are empty lies
Abusive
Full of pain

A gift that keeps giving
Over and over
Neverending
Days of fear
Nights of terror

MONSTERS IN MY MIND

Another sleepless night
Afraid to close my eyes
The monsters in my mind
Come out and play

Years go by
The memories have yet to fade
Still sullied by your
Unwelcome presence

I wake in terror
Feeling you
Smelling you
Hearing yiir voice

And again
And again
I want to die

RELEASE ME

Release me from the torment
Your mem’ry brings
Release me from the torment
Night time brings

I remember your touch
Your smell
Your eyes

Release me from the torment
Your mem’ry brings
Release me from the torment
Night time brings

I still feel your touch
Your breath
Hot on my skin

Release me from the torment
Your mem’ry brings
Release me from the torment
Night time brings

I cower in my bed
Watch the numbers on the clock
Waiting for the sun to rise

Release me from the torment
Your mem’ry brings
Release me from the torment
Night time brings

DARKNESS 

The night is thick
Defences torn down
An open wound
Bleeding light

Hemorrhaging the light
In my soul
Leaving only Darkness
And Despair

I close my eyes
As the darkness consumes me
Fills me deeper
Than any lover could

Surrendering
As the light bleeds
My soul
And Darkness fills the Void

DANCE WITH FIRE

As is so often part of our stories, I am struggling hard with med compliance.  While I am awaiting the response to my application for LTD, I have to be compliant with my treatment plan.  But it is a daily struggle.  Twice daily, actually.  I’ve adapted as best I can to the cognitive dulling, which was a struggle in it’s own right.  But now I’m feeling flat.  Sure there are no lows, but there are no highs either.  I’m emotionally flat-lining and it’s harder than knowing I’m not as intelligent as I was pre-meds.

Bland shades
Of muted colour
Is this my
New Existence?

No more Pit
The Abyss far
No vibrancy
No Fire

Is the trade off
Worth it?

To dance
With the Flames
To feel their warmth
Once again

If playing with the
Darkness
Is the price to pay
To feel the sun

Then let The Pit
Beckon
Let the sirens sing
Their death song

I will dance with the Fire
Be consumed in it’s flame

CONTRACTS

So I just realized it’s been almost three months since my therapist renewed my “Contract For Survival”.  Basically it’s a comittment to use my tools before self-harming, and to check myself into the hospital if the suicidal ideation becomes more than just ideation.

What got me thinking about it is tonight I really feel like self harming.  I’m not depressed, I’m not triggered, I just feel the need to feel SOMETHING.  Since my last med adjustment, life has felt flat. As miserable as being in The Abyss was, at least it was something.  I miss the highs, and am starting to wonder if the lows aren’t worth the price to pay.

My life feels like boring pastels, just a shade up from gray.  No vibrancy, no fire.  I miss the fire.  And it’s not as though I get manic, I just suffer from low grade hypomania.  Bad decisions regarding money, sex, whatever.  But isn’t that what life is about?  Making decisions that leave you feeling alive?  NOT stuck in some dull, flat, emotionless pit.  Recently I just had three of my poems published in an ebook.  That were requested. And I was excited for precisely 23 minutes.  And then back to ho hum. And that lack of reaction made me realize I’m missing out on so much emotion because I’m dulled.  Even my poetry is lacking.  It’s so frustrating.  First, the cognitive dulling, now the lack of emotion. I feel like a golem, going through the emotions, pretending to be human.

So this week I’m asking my doctor if we can take my lithium down to 600mg from 900, withough increasing the 15mg of Abilify I’m on. Wish me luck, I think I’m going to need it.

And no, I haven’t self harmed, at least not yet.

BACK IN TIME

To go back in time
Before everything went sour
To go back in time
When I could just be me
Before I learned
I wasn’t enough

When I still had his affection
His warmth
To go back in time
Before I was a girl
Before I hated being a girl
To go back in time
Before I flinched
From his touch

Before I learned to fear
The hands that once
Held me tenderly
To go back in time
When things were easy

And gentle
And I was loved
For being me
To back in time
Before I learned to hate
Before I knew dread

To go back in time
And claim myself

DISUNITED 

Fractured pieces
Of my mind
Litter my soul

Remnants
Of a whole woman
Who never had
The chance to be
One

Disunified
Each hiding
In its own hole
Stuck in a past
Too terrible
For words

Unable to
Leave the shadows
And unite
The fractured pieces
Of my soul

WHO AM I

Lost and wandering
Wondering
Who am I

So many voices
Clamouring for my
Attention

The frightened child
The broken girl
The angry woman

Which of these
Parts
Is the Me
Of today

SELF FLAGELLATION

Razors and alcohol
Violence upon oneself
Casual encounters
Sitting ’til frozen
Immovable with stiffness

Sleep deprivation
Poor nutrition
Scalding showers
Skipping meds

The endless ways
We punish ourselves
For the sin of
Being human

THE PIT

The pit yawns
Wide
Threatening to swallow
Me whole

The pit yawns
Dark
Offering shelter
From the pains in my soul

The pit yawns
Black
A hole crushing
My dreams od a better tomorrow

The pit yawns
A void
Sucking away
My hopes, my joys

BOUNDARIES 

Where do you end
And I begin
Is this desire me
Or pieces of you
Left behind
When you discarded me
Like so much effluent

My tastes
My hungers
My needs
Are they mine
Or are they my legacy
Of our time together

SIRENS CALL

The sirens call
Ebbs and flows
Like the water
She calls me to

The sirens call
Deep and crisp
Like the lines on my skin
She calls me to

The sirens call
Warm and bitter
Like the drink
She calls me to

The sirens call
Cold and dark
Like the oblivion
She calls me to

REMNANTS

Broken dreams
Remnants of
A broken heart

A broken heart
Remnants of
A broken soul

A broken soul
Remnants of
Broken dreams

THE CRACK IN MY HEART 

Who’s gonna heal
The voice in my head
The one that says
This is who you are
This is what you are
This is all that you are

Who’s gonna heal
The crack in my heart
The one that says
You’re irreparable
That is what you are
That is all that you are

Who’s gonna heal
The blot on my soul
The one that says
You’re unlovable
Thats what you are
That is all that you are

SHATTERED

Shattered
Broken on the floor
Laying in a puddle
Of broken promises
And heartbreak

I gave you
My child’s heart
You took my innocence
My vulnerability
And warped it for your
Own pleasure

And when you had taken
All I had to offer
A child no longer
Innocent no longer

You discarded me
Like so much debris
Useful no more
What pleasure is there
In a child once broken

PAIN and REJECTION

You promised me love
You gave me rejection
You offered me acceptance
You gave me rejection

A child lost
Who thought she was found
You left me more adrift
Than I was before

A wounded child
You smashed wide open
Took my trust
My naivété
My innocence
And tore my heart and soul
Asunder

Left me curled on the floor
Like the infant that I was
Heartbroken and alone

Admitting Need

Something my therapist and I have been back and forth with since the beginning is my refusal to admit to needing to need for connection.  Sure I have some real close friends that I have a real bond with, but she insists I need something more.

Because of my history, sex and relationships have always been separate from one another, and that has got me into a LOT of trouble.  The kind that exacerbates an existing PTSD condition.  The trauma work I’ve been doing is apparently working, since the last time I was intimate with someone who was just a booty call left me empty and feeling stuff I didn’t like but didn’t recognize.  She says that someting in me wants more of a connection but my mind has to catch up.  I wrote this poem while trying to sort this crap out. (Yes, emotional stuff is crap as far as I’m concerned).The last line betrayed me.  I almost omitted it when sharing it with my therapist, but I decided if I’m asking for help in fixing my brain, I better be 100% honest with her. And now, I’m sharing it here.

The night it is thick
My intentions are pure
I only want
To make love to you

There is no tomorrow
Only the here and now
I only want
To make love to you

No games to be played
No he said she said
I only want
To make love to you

No heartbreak heartache
No broken promises false protestations
I only want
To make love to you

A lonely life to live

THE MONSTERS ARE REAL

The monsters are real
Hiding in the shaded corners
Waiting to pounce
When my guard is down
And Hope rears its lying head
Spewing half-truths and falsehoods

Promises of lighter tomorrows
Days of Light and Joy
Empty words without substance
Without depth

Engulfed in a breath
Of Darkness and Despair
Hope illuminating the way
Out of the shadows
Ethereal as the light
It feigns to bring
Providing no purchase
For the long climb out

IN THE DARK

I’m so tired of fighting.  Of waking up every day to the same struggle. Of never seeing the Light, only shades of gray.

Clawing my way out
Through the Fog
The Darkness

Seeking exit from The Abyss
Entry to The Pit
A lesser evil
A lesser Darkness

Seeking the Light
No more
A fairytale
Told to children
Still full of Hope

The only hope
Is for a lesser shade
Of black
Existence just
Interminable shades of gray fog

The only colours play
In dreams
Of a tomorrow
That won’t come

Lachrimal Failure

Sorry that it’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been sunk in a black depression where the only way out seemed to be death. Fortunately, I made it through the worst of it. Sadly, I am unable to write when I’m deep in The Abyss. Now, I’m in that gray area I call The Pit. Not clear by any means. But breathing again, if so shallow that I am constantly gasping for air as if I’m drowning. Oh the joys of permanent hypoarousal.

It feels that a lot of my angst would be alleviated if only I could cry. I mean I do shed the odd tear when something touches me. But that’s all it is. The odd tear shed. I haven’t cried in almost ten years. I’m certainly due. But I can’t. Curled up in a ball needing that release so bad it’s a physical pain. And nothing. In the past I would self harm to release that pressure. However, my trauma therapist has me on a no harm contract, so that is no longer an option. I have, finally, found my poet’s voice again. Enjoy.

On my knees
Begging to let go
Unshed tears
A fire in my soul

Heart pounding
Eyes burning
A fierce lump
In the depth of my throat

Lines of crimson
Lachrimal release
The knot in my core
Still ever present

The pain
The ache
The sorrow
No way to let go

HEY LITTLE GIRL

Hey little girl
What’s that you fear
The shadows on your mind
Those aren’t real
Shades of days gone by

He hurt you then
Why oh why
Do you let him hurt you now

Hey little girl
Whats that you fear
The bruises on your heart
Those aren’t real
Mem’ries of long ago

He hurt you then
Why oh why
Do you let him hurt you now

Hey little girl
The scars on your soul
Those aren’t real
Spectres of yesteryear

He hurt you then
Why oh why
Do you let him hurt you now

Why oh why
Do you let him hurt you now

GOOD GIRL

So many layers of hurt, all melded into one big ball if pain. So trite yet devastating at the same time.

The wind ruffles my hair
I hear “good girl”
Breathed gently
Carried by the breeze

Two words
That shouldnt hold
Such power

Every abuse
Followed by
Good Girl

Every sexual assault
Every sexual beating
Every single one
Followed by the words
“Good Girl”

Because I took it
Silently
Willingly
Complicit in my own
Emotional
Demise

VULNERABLE

I haven’t blogged about the experiences that led to my developing PTSD and, very likely, my bipolar. I find putting words to the experience nigh impossible.  It seems easier to use poetry to express my pain, my experiences.  This was not an easy write, and will be an even harder read. 

What a dirty word
Vulnerable is

Vulnerable

A six year old
Vulnerable to physical abuse
Masquerading as love

Vulnerable

A broken six year old
Vulnerable to sexyal assault
Thinking its love

Vulnerable

A shattered six year old
Learning how to build walls

Vulnerable

Ten years old
Shutting down
Rejection just too hard

Vulnerable

Innocence smashed
Sense of self immolated

Vulnerability disappears
Becomes
Responsibility

Responsibility for
Failure
Inadequacy

Responsibility

Becomes internalized
Absorbed
Owned

How could thise walls
Ever hold
So young, too young

Vulnerable

A fifteen year old
Aching for something intangible

Vulnerable

To repeat the past
Two years a play toy

Shut down
Turn it all off
Live a facade

Smile
Behind the
Pain

FREE FALLING

When you’re just a ball of hurt
Of pain
Nothingness is a welcome state

No matter how high you fly
You carry with you
The added weight
Of locked down sorrow

Conscious always
That the Black Fog
Will rise again
And engulf the sunshine

These happy states
Fleeting
Temporary
Before your brain defaults
To black despair

It’s Too Quiet

Quiet in my brain today
Too quiet
No noise
No static
No demands

The squirrels asleep

The calm
Before the storm

Am i going up
Through the stratosphere
Or down
Into the very
Pits of Hell

The Inherent Dichotomy of Co-Morbidity

It’s a crazy thing, to be hypomanic and still be suffering the effects of C-PTSD. Complex or chronic post traumatic stress disorder. Mixed with cyclothemic bipolar renders all states crazy. I’m currently on my way out of months of depression, a few days in a mixed state, into full blown hypomania. Yet the Darkness is never far away. I can be flying high, enjoying the state, working on my novel, writing poetry, even basically things like cleaning, which, by the way, are much more fun when you’re manic. Everyday tasks are almost a joy, since I’m so scattered I’m not even sure what I’m doing. (Like using a glue stick instead of lip balm, but I digress, that’s a story for another day). Where was I, oh ya, even in the midst of joy, where the sun is shining, (well, it’s raining and gray, but it’s shining in my heart for once) and I can smile. When Bang! Out of the great blue yonder comes a flashback. When I’m depressed, they drop me even deeper into the Pit, down into the Abyss of suicidal despair. In a mixed or hypo/manic state, they leave me edgy, restless, ill-at-ease, frightened. Which transmutes into Irritability. Hyper and irritable. Sucks. And leaves me feeling

Broken

Haunted eyes
Hollow and empty
Of naught but fear

Another sleepless night
Or dreams filled with terror
The power you still have
Over me
So many years later

Remnants return
Out of nothing
And your hands
Your cologne
The weight of your body
Memory returns

Physical

Emotional

Love is earned
Only through pain
Subservience

Lessons I learned
So very well
Shaped the core
Of who I am

Broken

Tarnished

And yet a small crumb of solace, the suicidal ideation is at bay, and while being edgy and restless isn’t great, it is infinitely better than being outright suicidal and knowing you can never act on that desire because you don’t want your kids as fucked up as you are.

So have a great weekend all, and play safe.

Ah The Flip Side of Depression 

Bipolar. Two polarities. Manic and depressed. And the wonderful state that lies between known as hypomania. 

After suffering many months of depression with suicidal lows, I have slowly begun the assent in “normalacy”. And poets are allowed to make words up. The Bard made all kinds of words that are now in our everyday lexicon. But I digress. Now it appears that I am sliding, ever so gently, into hypomania. And though I SHOULD be concerned, I’m not. 

It’s hard to think something’s wrong when you can see colour. When you find yourself smiling for no other reason then your soul wants to. To feel too warm or too cold and care about how you feel. (Unfortunately my last set of blood work showed my lithium below therapeutic levels, so I can’t really hope my brain is functioning as it should). 

I find my writing reflecting this current mood. Enjoy. 

The Fire burns deep in the soul
Awakened as ne’er before
Eyes a-light with unholy embers
As passions unknown
Unnamed
Speak out enticing
Wild untamed adventures

Urging on
To heights unimaginable
Spurring to go
Further than e’er before

Consequence be damned
To live out the Heart’s Song
Unbridled
At the whim of this
Burning soul

Mixed States and Hypomania

After months of feeling depressed,  with suicidal lows,  the last few days I can only describe as a mixed state: depressed and elevated at the same time.  This basically translates, for me, as edginess. Extreme edginess. 

And yesterday it started edging up into feeling good. Really really good. My brain is racing, I have boundless energy, and I feel as though, with enough encouragement, I could fly. Even typing this is painful, for my fingers can’t move as fast as my brain is giving them words to say. It’s going so fast that it’s shutting down at times (but maybe I’m just dissociating and my hypomanic brain just wants to pretend it’s rebooting).  So I tried to write about what it’s like.

Swirling thoughts
Running
Racing
Can’t keep up

Shut down

The squirrels spin
A million light years
A second
Every word down
An enormous draw
Of energy

Boundless

My body tingles
Filled with power
Trying to find an outlet
To burn

Like fire

In my brain
My heart
My soul

Searing heat
That twists
And broils
Merging with my thoughts

My desires
My needs

Streaming outward
Upward
To the sky


And Up We Go

So after months of being one hundred types of depressed and anxious,  the past three days have been a glory of the joy of the mixed state.  Hyper and depressed at the same time.  It is a weird place to be and feels dangerous. I hope it passes soon into a full blown hypomanic phase; I could use some feel good time. 

But that brings up an interesting point: I tend to want to deal with the upswings the way I deal with the down swings: by self harm.  A little while ago,  I was forced to look my self harm in the eye with a contract that my trauma therapist had me sign.   And since I’m working hard at getting better,  I decided to inventory all the ways I self harm. I mean,  there’s the obvious types,  the drunken bouts,  the cutting, the casual sexual encounters,  but there’s so many subtle ones,  insidious in their perfidy. 

I came to a semi lucid conclusion that I react to both the highs and lows the same way because the same emotions underlie both states, Pain being first and foremost. 

And that is a hard admission for me to make. I don’t like owning my emotions. Hell,  I don’t like admitting that I even have emotions. I’d love to be an emotionless android, but such are daydreams of childhood. 

Yearning for the Light

When you’ve been depressed long enough, you begin to feel you’ll never see the light again.  Darkness your constant companion, he whispers Softly that the Light is a myth. And as much as you rebuff his seduction, you know, deep down,  he is right.  The Light is for Others,  not for the likes of you. 

And though you know your brain is a fucking liar, you know this time he’s speaking the truth. 

Trapped in the Black Fog
Stumbling blindly
Towards the Light

The Pit beckons
Right there
Entry to The Abyss

The Light
Elusive
Hiding behind The Fog

The Pit
So easy to fall into
To dive into
As much work to avoid
As the Light is to seek

The comforting darkness
That hides and shelters fron
The harsh Light
That reveals all
My failures

Yet I yearn for The Light
Terrified of The Pit

The Blackness pulls
On my black heart
My black soul
Turning from The Light

Yet
And yet

I hunger for The Light
To fill me
Warm me
Repair my broken soul
My heart
Me
With its shining essence
To turn Despair
Into Hope
To close The Pit
The Abyss

Hopeless dreams
For a broken night

Anniversary’s Suck

Life finally settled into a rhythm. Depressed but surviving. Suicidal ideation just a constant companion, no longer a siren song to be fought with every breath. And then,  from out of no where more Flashbacks.  Vivid. Flashback doesn’t cover  the re-creation my mind puts me through.  I can feel his body pinning mine,  his hand around my neck, squeezing until I lost consciousness.  And coming to only to realize he hadn’t missed a beat. 

October 30th. Coming up fast. And the body realizes it. The subconscious mind knows it.  I honestly don’t know how I’m going to get through this.  Yes, I survived the reality of it. But reliving it night after night.  It wears after a while.  My life was a living nightmare after.  I don’t want to experience that horror day and night again. 

The self harm calls strong. The alcohol and the razors. To numb the pain or watch it bleed out. To surrender to the forces of Darkness and have a moments respite. 

Damn my  contract for survival and the fact that my word is the only thing I set of myself as having value. Though I’m sure that I could  loophole the getting drunk. No I can’t. I’d know my intent, and that’s all that really matters. 

Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. 

Frustration
Irritation
No pain
To release it

Sadness
Anger
No pain
To release it

No rivulets of
Pain
Beautiful shades
Of crimson

Calming
The fear
The melancholic despair

Living in Pain
With no pain
To release it

Flashback Hell

Twenty-seven years ago what was left of my innocence was torn asunder. Easy pickings that begat an unhealthy relationship that ended when I got too old.  One week shy of my 18th birthday. Every few months I go through a few nights of flashback hell.  Sometimes the trigger is obvious,  such as anniversaries,  but other times,  I’m blindsided.  

I’m coming to terms with the fact that I did nothing wrong,  that I was not to blame.  It has not been an easy lesson to learn. 

No matter
That I looked older
No matter
That I seemed older
No matter
That I was
In a lot of ways

I was still a child
And what was done
Was done to a child
How does that
Change anything?
And if it does
Does it change
Everything I did?

Was it love?
Could it be love?
Or something
More sinister

No matter
Groomed

No matter
Vulnerable

Words to describe
Actions to
Seduce a child

Which I was
In all the ways
That mattered


The Longest Nights 

It’s not even midnight yet and I can feel the Flashbacks and nightmares creeping around the corner.  I’m afraid to close my eyes.  I’ve been irritable for a few days now.  Almost like my brain was preparing for this.  It sucks that there is no respite.  Ever.  I may go a few weeks without one,  and then   BANG! It hits like a freight liner. I’m seriously beginning to believe the only escape will be when I die.  Which can’t come soon enough. 

Would that I
Could curl into a ball
And melt into the ground
Absorbed by the Earth

Would that I
Could stretch my arms wide
Transmute  into
Dust

Borne on the wind 
Dissipating into
Nothingness


Would that I
Could close my eyes
And sleep evermore
Escaping from this
Waking hell

Keep Breathing

I know my posts of late have been heavy and dark.  Reflective of where my mind and heart are.   It’s important to remember that there has to hope. Hoping against hope: to hope without any basis for expecting fulfilment. And that is the crux for surviving this current benighted existence.  Hope against hope.

Breathe
They say
One breath in
One breath out
You made it

Do it again

Just keep breathing
Calm and slowly
One breath in
One breath out

When The Darkness beckons
With His black lies
Promising freedom and
Escape

Just keep breathing
One inhale
At a time
One exhale
At a time


To Take Them or Not 

Most of us with bipolar struggle at some point with compliance with our treatment plans.  The side effects of our meds make us wonder if they’re really worth the benefits.  We start feeling better and think we don’t need them anymore.  The stigma if having to take psychotropics. 

I don’t mind the Abilify and the Cipralex but I detest the lithium.  Absolutely detest it.  I had hoped the Abilify would replace the lithium completely but my doc says they have to work together.  And insurance coverage is dependant on my following my treatment plan.  Which means I have to stay on the lithium.

My wonderful therapist has given me some amazing insights on minimizing the emotional and psychological impact having to take it has on me.  But the struggle is still there. 

I stare at the pills in my hand
Loving to hate them
Refusing to love them
Little pills of
Artificial sanity
Correcting
Misfiring neurons
Replacing
Missing chemicals
With manufactured
Emotions

When My Heart Weeps 

A few weeks ago I came very close to drowning myself.  The emotional pain was so overwhelming I was in the lake before I even realized it.  I subsequently went home  and self harmed.  So my trauma therapist put me on a Contract for Survival.  Basically I contracted with myself to in no harm my person.  

My word is my bond. If you matter enough to me I to give you my word I will go to whatever lengths necessary to keep it.  And therein lies the rub.  The contract isn’t with her.  It’s with me.  And I don’t set my life at a pins fee.  So where does that leave me.  Stuck in a kind of limbo.  And nights like tonight…  Well…  the struggle is real. 

When the heart weeps
Yet no tears come

When words won’t come
And all that is left
Is an unnameable
Something
That begs release

Escape

A way out
From the too too much
That cannot be
Identified

How does one
Find release
From what one does not
Recognize

Except to let it out
In blood
And pain

Are They Real

Another night of flashback hell.  I hate this.  Sometimes the tools in your toolbox just aren’t enough and all you can do is wait for the sun to rise. 

Lenti Lenti Currite Noctis Equi–Faust 

Oh slowly run
The horses of mine heart
Keep calm and cool
An even gait
Immune to the forces
Of our o’er active mind

Let neither evil thought
Nor frightful fragment of mem’ry
Cause thy pattern
To beat out a-pace

The fever’d imaginings
Of a diseased
And fractured brain
Can do you no harm

Another Night in Hell

Suicidal ideation. Scary scary thoughts. That sometimes turn to action before you’re even aware of what’s going on. The daily struggles the nightly demons sapping your strength. Your will.

But the fight goes on. The strength some how is found to carry on. Survive and fight another day.

Knee deep in the water
Wading out further
Calm
Serene

What the fuck
Am I doing here?

It’s cold
It’s wet
My kids need me

Calm serene
Peaceful

I turn around
Walk back into hell

LEAVES OF MEMORY

“The leaves of memory seemed to make
A mournful rustling in the dark” Longfellow

Darkness is a recurring theme with me. I’ve always referred to the deep depression that consumes my soul as The Darkness. Night time is when I struggle most with its promises of escape from the eternal battle. When the worst moments of my past come back to life to haunt me.

Night falls
Enshrouding
Engulfing

I’m taken
To another time
Another place

Memory
Sharp and fierce
Time has not blunted

The soft shadows
Belie the harsh
Recollections

Waiting to pounce
From the darkest corners
Of my mind

There Is A Light

Even in the midst of the darkest spell I’ve had in months,  somehow hope still exists. Staring at The Abyss,  knowing it’s there,  terrified if I fall in I won’t have the strength,  or desire,  to claw my way out.  Yet my dark soul yearns for the light,  for hope, for release from the suffering. 

Though the sky is grey
There is a light breaking over the horizon
Though my heart is dark
There is a light shining through the cracks
Though my soul is black
There is a light dawning hope

The Darkness

Everytime it seems things are finally getting under control, The Darkness calls.  It beckons seductively with words like freedom and painless and peace.

Because it is part of me,  it knows me well.  Knows the words to say to sway me over.  Knows what feelings to evoke.  It is me and I am it.  It is never far,  The Darkness,  with its words of comfort and escape. Seductive in its power,  calling from the inside out,  deeper than any union of flesh could be.

Softly,  gently 
Like a lover who knows you well
Your tender places
The things that make you weak
A practiced touch
That brings you to your knees
In exquisite agony

Long Nights Longer Days

It’s always difficult to know where the source of insomnia comes from.  There’s so many variables, and most of them harbingers of rough times. I know difficulty sleeping often precursors a major mood shift for me, whether it be up or down.  I could use a little up. I’m not sure how much latitude I have to slide before things start to get dire. Leonard Cohen wrote words that have provided comfort many times.

“THE ONLY POEM”

I didn’t kill myself
when things went wrong

I tried to sleep
but when i couldn’t sleep
I learned to write
I learned to write
what might be read
on nights like this
by one like me

I too am a poet. I dabble with writing, but my heart and soul come out in verse. Sharing pain tends to lessen it, but my words stop in my throat. So I write. Like those before me: Shelley, Byron, Woolf, Hemmingway,Plath, Styron. So many that didnt make it. Whose craft wasn’t enough to carry them through. I hold them in my heart as a warning that the craft is no protection from a broken mind. And those that did it through the black hours, the black fog that removes all hope . I hold them in my heart with hope, that in many ways the craft provides a small head lamp, a small light in the blackness.

Love
No pit is so deep
No Abyss
Endless
As long as there is Love
There is Hope

HOPE

When you’re in the middle of a depressive bout Hope is on short supply.   Hope to get through it as intact as possible.  Hope that you’ll actually get through it.  That the siren’s call won’t get you and you’ll wake each day until The Black Fog passes. 

When you’re feeling stable,  Hope that it lasts keeps you going.  Hope that you won’t crash.  Hope that you won’t fly.  (Though to be honest the early stages of flight can be fun).  For me when I’m feeling good Hope is a cloud of colour and I’m surrounded by a Black Fog trying to encroach on my current state. 

The colours exist
Surrounded by a cloud of Darkness
The colours ebb and flow
Like the tide

The Black Fog
Fighting to encroach
To kill the Joy
That brings the brilliant hues
To vibrant life

Their endangered existence
Threatened by
Eternal Ebony clouds

Bi-Polar, C-PTSD, and Me

Are we our diagnoses, are they us, or is there some sort of medium where we can be us, certainly shaped by our illness(es) but not defined by them.  My diagnoses came late in life, after being treated, inaccurately (and thus with a resounding lack of success for almost 20 years), for major depressive disorder.  I recently found an old book of poetry I had written back in high school, and one of the poems from when I was 16 could have been written by me, today, in a hypomanic phase.  I prefer phase to state, it seems less foreboding and permanent.

I used to pride myself on the fact that my past may have shaped me, but it didn’t define me.  Someday I might share with you the rough history that is mine, but not today.  Suffice it to say that my therapist used the term “very horrific” to describe my legacy.  Unfortunately, I have had to accept that fact that it did do more than shape me, it did, indeed, define me and the numerous ways I see myself.

But that’s ok.  Language evolves.  Definitions change.  And the me that is today, defined by my experiences, does not have to be the me of tomorrow.  I can learn to make better choices, do things differently.  And when the siren’s songs come, I can make choices toward the future, as opposed to reacting from the past.

Mindfulness, being aware of what you’re doing and WHY you’re reacting a certain way, helps to create new habits, new understandings, and new approaches.  Am I there?  Not even close.  Do I believe?  Yeah, today I do. It’s damn hard, but somehow, some way, I will find the strength to overcome.  I have to.

The alternative is untenable.

Is Madness the Price I Pay 

It’s a conversation that comes up periodically: would you give up your creativity for a “normal” brain. Ignoring the  whole what is normal debate, the question still seems valid. Is my poetry, my language, my voice, my gift from my faulty brain chemistry?

If we ever find the right med combination, what am I going to do if I lose the spark that’s my creative center?

With the depression holding strong, and the suicidal ideation a constant companion I find myself ruminating about it. Better than ruminating about death, I suppose.

But I don’t know the answer. I know when I’m hypomanic my writing flows but is disjointed. When depressed it glows but is dark. Both represent me. Am I either one or some broken remnants of a once whole self?

The sun shines
Dispersing The Black Fog
Tendrils wrap around my mind
Lurking
Waiting
For The Clouds
To return

To weave a blanket
Of sadness and despair
Around my heart and soul

The sun burns fierce
Setting fire to the blanket
As the Tendrils retreat
Deep within my mind
Waiting for the next cloudy day

Dark Thoughts 

This time of night,  the time right before I go to bed,  is always the hardest for me.  It’s when the suicidal ideation so familiar to those with bipolar hits hardest.

And the past three weeks and counting I’ve been dealing with completely immersive Flashbacks and the accompanying dissociative episodes.  Makes the idea of going to sleep and never waking up so appealing.  But I have babies who need me,  so instead I write my pain and wake again to suffer through another day.

The surf crashing
Into the shore
A slow easy rhythm
Beatimg on the rocks

Would they welcome me
Hold me tight
As I slip beneath
One final cold embrace

A tribute to Poseidon
Of body and soul

My final breath
Given freely
One final pain
Before an eternity of peace

If the body holds the pain
Will the soul still suffer
When the body is gone

An offering
Of blood and flesh
To beg release
A surcease of pain

Searing solid
A hard fiery punch
To the gut
Over and over

My soul cracking
Slowly breaking
Disintegrating
Leaving an empty
Hungry void

The only sating
Of the hollow void
Is pain
And more pain

A never ending
Surfeit of hurt
That kills
All joy
Sleep
Happiness

Floating on the waves
Slowly sinking below
Till all the pain is washed away

A release
In the final sacrificial gift

My Brain Lies to Me

Those who struggle with any kind of mood or personality disorder are well aware of the ways our brains tell us lies. 

When we’re depressed they convince us no one loves us, we’re worthless and everything we do sucks. When we’re healthier,  we can recognize these thoughts a fallacies. 

When we’re manic, the world is our oyster and we can do anything,  including solving all the world’s problems,  if only the world could keep up with our super fast brain. Again,  no more true than the depressed lies, and equally as harmful. 

MY BRAIN LIES TO ME

Compassion for self
Cornerstone for recovery
So I am told
But how to be compassionate

When my brain hates me
Hell bent on a path of self-destruction
Lying about self-soothing
A twisted view of self-care

Yes cutting feels good
At the time
The sharp pain
The flowing blood

Followed by shame
Deep upsettedness at weakness
Scars a permanent reminder
Of the brains lies

Yes hardcore casual sex
Provides relief
A moment of connection
And release – a different pain

Followed by disgust
Another meaningless tryst
Violating my core self
For the temporary gratification
Of the brains lies

Yes bashing my heas
Feels amazing, calming
The endorphin rush, the slight dizziness
Even the slight headache at first

Followwd by a vicious headache
The tender lumps
Ignoring all of it
“You’re fine and deserve it”
The brain lies

The satisfaction of hitting
Something hard and solid
Releasing the anger
The frustration
A powerful release

Followed by swollen hands I cannot hide
The potential broken bones lived with
The pain a constant reminder
That I lost once again

To my lying brain

Breathe In

The past week I’ve been living in flashback hell. And not really coping well.  Three therapy appointments in one week and I’m finally breathing.

I find it interesting how breathing is the key to everything regarding recovery. Breathing and mindfulness.  And with the techniques and tools I’ve been taught,  I’m learning how to manage and stay present.  Drifting has been a huge problem for me this week   I’m hoping to be able to bring it back on more this week.

Breathe in
Against the tightness
Breath in
Against the rising tide

The Black fog’s
Tendrils reaching deep
Breathe in
Against the panic

Shallow
Breathing so shallow
Like a scared squirrel
Heart racing against hands
That cradle
But feel like traps

Lightheaded
Fear keeps the breath rapid
Respiration without depth
Unsafe the only thought
Breathe in
Against the urge to run

Abject terror
At nothing
Breathe in
Against the need to self destruct

The stars beckon
Come fly between
Soar up into space
Become one with the cosmos

Breathe in
Against the desire
To escape and never come back

Breathe in
Against the waters siren call
Breathe in
Against the invitation to sink
Embraced by the blanket of
Seaweed and foam

Breathe in
Against the ne’er-ending pain
Breathe in
Against the desire to give up
Breathe in
Against the exhaustion

Breathe in
The knowledge of your battles
Breathe in
Acceptance of how far you’ve come
Breathe in
And  continue the fight

Breathe in
You’ve made it through so much
Breathe in
The aftermath can’t kill you
Breathe in
Don’t let the aftermath kill you

CoMorbidity

Good Evening. 

I haven’t been posting as I’ve been dealing with some personal struggles.  And as anyone with multiple diagnoses can attest,  sorting out which symptom comes from what ailment is always fun.  Add the potential side effects from the meds we take to manage said issues,  and confusion becomes the order of the day. 

I have recently learned that a lot of  the side effects I was attributing to the meds are actually due to the C-PTSD.  Which changes a lot.  And makes more sense. 

I recently started seeing a therapist that specializes in trauma and stress. Because it interests me, and I read a lot about it, she’s been patiently explaining the biology behind what’s going on. 

And when you take bipolar and C-PTSD and put the symptoms side by side there’s a lot of overlap. So how does one figure out what the hell is going on? 

For me it’s learning how to be mindful. Multiple check ins  during the day. Learning my body’s nuances as I learn to recognize what I’m feeling and why. It’s an ongoing lesson with an ever changing learning curve. But with mindfulness,  diligence,  and a support system who can help you recognize what’s going on,  it is possible to not only cope but thrive. The key is to stick with it. If you do you’ll learn to recognize and,  eventually, manage your symptoms and achieve balance and live well. 

Lost

My tongue will tell the anger of my heart;
Or else my heart concealing it, will break:
And rather than it shall., I will be free
Even to the utmost, as I please, in words
–William Shakespeare

Sometimes the despair sets in and no matter how much you know it’s just your brain lying to you,  that suicidal ideation just gets stronger until it starts seeming like a viable option; an acceptable way to end the pain that seems insurmountable.  We all have our ways of coping.  I often just white knuckle through it.  More often I write. I write words that I never imagined that i would share.

Yet here I am.  Putting my heart out there.  Sharing the darkest parts of me in the hopes that maybe, just maybe,  someone will read them and realize they’re not alone and they, too, can over come the brains lies.

Joy is gone
The very colour is gone
All is now sullen shades of gray
Even the sweetest of wines
Taste as of liquid ashes

The breathe of life
Hurts as though knives
Are rendering the tenderest
Of flesh

My heart
Vainly pumping
Acid through my veins

Pain Hurt Despair

Where is the joy
The laughter
Life a burden
Without the sun

The emotional pain
Impossible to
Differentiate
From the
Physical

I draw a knife
Across my veins
I bleed red
A surprise

I expected it would be
Black

As my Thoughts
My Moods
My Eternal Soul

Black as a
Starless night
With no moon

I watch it pulse
Once
Twice
Thrice
And collapse

Release at last
My final
Conscious
Thought

Self Awareness

Good evening.  Or morning.  Whatever part of the day it is for you. Hope your weekend was well. I spent mine thinking about self awareness.. A bit difference than mindfulness.   Having come late to the BP party with 20+ years of being misdiagnosed, I find myself microanalyzing my moods.

Every mood swing is torn apart.  Is this the beginning of a depressive episode? If I’m feeling good, am I on a hypomanic upswing?

I find it difficult to stay present and in the moment.  I’m learning, though.  When the squirrels in my brain won’t stop over thinking every nuance to my emotional state,  I do a 3 minute meditation.  Helps me realize that mindfulness of my mood is important but not to the extent that it takes over my thinking and my life.

Awareness is important. But so is just staying present and living in it.

Chaos and Creativity

Hi there and welcome.  The hardest part of the beginning of any endeavour is knowing where to start. And sometimes when to stop.  But that’s a tale for another day.  So let’s start with a little bit about myself. My name is Squirrel. Have suffered my entire life with uncontrollable mood swing with no understanding of why. Until my wonderfully amazing therapist mentioned bipolar. And a light went off. Eventually. I fought the idea for a few months but after researching it I couldn’t deny the truth anymore.  And thus a very late understanding was achieved. 

I learned that some of my favourite artists suffered from bipolar.  I was now keeping company with some of the greats like Shelley, Byron, Woolf, Van Gogh, Plath, and Poe to name a few. This got the old squirrels in the brain turning.  What is the connection between art and madness? A huge one,  as it turns out.

One I’d like to explore through my own writing and experiences, and yours as well. Feel free to comment, share your thoughts and writings, or reach out and contact me if you feel the need of desire.

One request: keep it supportive and respectful. We all experience our journeys differently. Let’s celebrate those differences.

COME

Come with me
Take my hand
And let us fly
Far above the storm clouds of my mind
Come
Take my hand
Trust me
You will not come to any harm
I cannot say you will not hurt
My mind is dark the journey darker
Trust me to share it with you
As I trusted you
So many times

Come
Take my hand
As we rise above
the madness in my mind
Below the pit
The loathsome hole that enters
Into the darkest of all places
The Abyss where hope is lost
Where I cower in the corner
Afraid to move
Afraid to feel
Where breathing is work
And just existing a herculean effort
Of exhaustion

Come
Take my hand
As we are buffeted
By chaotic uncontrolled thoughts
Whirling like a Sufi dervish
Spinning going nowhere
Piled one on top of the other
The bedlam of ideas tangled together
to sort out coherently

Come
Take my hand
As we ride above the maelstrom
No more ordered than before
But less dark

Invincible
Bulletproof
Reeling brain notwithstanding
There’s is nothing I can’t do

Come
Take my hand
As we fly above the lake
My calm place
The water dark
Like flowing ink
Old coffee foam where it meets the shore
Take a deep breath of air
Redolent with pungent aroma
Of decaying seaweed
The wind rushing in our ears
Clouds above thick and dark
Obscuring all the light

Come
Take my hand
As we breathe the peace and serenity
Here in this place
The only place my brain slows
Just enough to realize
How truly damaged it is

Come
Take my hand
I’ll bring you back
Away from the madness
The craziness

The Chaos

I set you down
Let go of your hand
Safe on the solid grounding Earth
And fly off onto the maelstrom