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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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?

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

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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.