Friday, April 17, 2015

and speaking of birthdays ...


I Go Back To May 1937 - Poem by Sharon Olds

Play Poem Video I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,
I see my father strolling out
under the ochre sandstone arch, the
red tiles glinting like bent
plates of blood behind his head, I
see my mother with a few light books at her hip
standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks,
the wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its
sword-tips aglow in the May air,
they are about to graduate, they are about to get married,
they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are
innocent, they would never hurt anybody.
I want to go up to them and say Stop,
don’t do it—she’s the wrong woman,
he’s the wrong man, you are going to do things
you cannot imagine you would ever do,
you are going to do bad things to children,
you are going to suffer in ways you have not heard of,
you are going to want to die. I want to go
up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,
her hungry pretty face turning to me,
her pitiful beautiful untouched body,
his arrogant handsome face turning to me,
his pitiful beautiful untouched body,
but I don’t do it. I want to live. I
take them up like the male and female
paper dolls and bang them together
at the hips, like chips of flint, as if to
strike sparks from them, I say
Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.

(http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/i-go-back-to-may-1937/)


My father would have turned 82 today.

The thing is, that poem up there?  the part that reads "you are going to bad things to children"?  That's only part of who he was.  Most days, right now, that's the loudest part of who he was, but the good stuff is still there, waiting it's turn.  I don't need to define him.  I need to define myself, who I am before God, and do you know what I really truly deeply hope for? I hope he reconciled things with God, sometime before that heart attack, so that some day, when we meet in heaven, all this earthly stuff will have fallen away, and the strongest thing between us is forgiveness.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Today is a great day.

And here's why today is a great day:

It's Brad's birthday, and he is still here to celebrate it.

Thank you, God.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Owning My Own Story

(this post discusses my particular brand of mental illness directly.  In the future I will identify posts of this nature with this:

** D.I.D. Post ** )

A few days ago, I sent J (the psychologist) an email entitled "Peace, hard-won and tenuous."  I've been thinking about the concept of peace on the inside a great deal since then. 

The "insider" headcount varies on an almost daily basis.  It's easiest for me to remember that there are layers of hurt to be healed, and that new insiders will bring similar needs.  It is, at this point in my own healinig process, sometimes easy to forget there are insiders at all.  The interesting thing is that it is actually more helpful to remember they're there.  If I wake up in the middle of the night terrified - it's tempting to beat myself up for revisiting that particular issue.  If I remember, however, that the terror is likely coming from an insider who is just now showing themselves - I can extend grace to that part much more easily. 

I have been surprised, in the past few weeks, at the quality of peace that's come with some very simple things.

One session with J, I sat on the floor, colouring, for the entire session.  I don't think the insider who was colouring had very much to say - I did almost all of the talking and processing that day.  I noticed after the session that I was calmer than I'd been in several days, and that there was very little insider agitation being broadcast as well.  (They hang out in a park, inside my head.  Imaginary and yet ... :)  I check in periodically to see how we're all doing, and when I checked in that day, everyone was calm and quiet.)

And then this weekend, looking for something to read before bed, I happened upon a free Kindle copy of Mrs. Mike.  I had completely forgotten about this book but I read it as a young teen and loved it, and so I downloaded and re-read it.  Again - the quality and depth of calm I experienced as a result was noteworthy, as was the quality and depth of calm in the park.

I think maybe it's related to places of safety.  I did not feel safe much, ever, growing up. How did I check out?  Reading, or absorbed in something creative.  Parts who come online now have a lot to process - the body is no longer the body they remember.  They feel like they're 10 or 6 or 8 or 15 but they're being asked to participate in the life of a 53 year old woman who isn't afraid of any of the things they are afraid of, and they're being asked to believe me (and other parts who are in the process of healing) that they're safe.

I think colouring, reading, being creative, is a way of bringing places of safety that they trust forward into the here and now, a way of easing these hurting memory keepers into this present day, this present life where they can feel what they need to feel, and heal.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

The moon

I have some extremely dark memories, of a long-ago moonlit night.  The sight of a full moon behind bare branches can be, has meant, an instant panic attack for the past few years.

Discussing this in therapy one day, I told J "I just work hard to remind myself that that was then, this is now."

"It would be nice," J mused "if the moon could somehow come to mean something restorative."

And then she left it with me, as she does.

Several months later I came across a poem written by Barbara Kingsolver that I had copied into my journal during the first weeks of memory surfacing.  Here's a bit of it:

Remember the moon survives
    For Pamela

Remember the moon survives,
draws herself out crescent thin,
a curved woman. Untouchable,
she bends around the shadow
that pushes itself against her, and she

waits.

later on in the poem, these lines:

 You are the one who knows, behind
the rising, falling tide
of shadow, the moon is always

whole.

So I have been working with the knee-jerk terror, for several months now.  When I see the moon, the crescent moon, the waxing moon, the waning moon, the half-moon, I whisper "Remember the moon survives.  The moon is always whole."

Last night there was a lunar eclipse.  I set my alarm so I could wake up and watch it disappear, watch the bright face of the moon disappear into shadow.  I woke Brad up so he could hold me and I talked about Barbara's poem and I whispered "Courage." to the moon and when it finally disappeared, I fell asleep, deeply, peacefully, because I know it will be back tonight, because I know the moon survives the waves and cycles of dark.

And so I know it for myself, the light returns, and the full moon is testament, monument to the cyclical nature of healing and recovery and tonight?  Tonight when I see the full moon, she will whisper that word back to me.

Courage.

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Almost-Lost Kindle and the New-to-Me Tires

A few things happened recently that delighted me, and made me thank God.  That can be a tricky road to start down, that seeing God in every little thing that happens, good or bad, and I'm not here to do that.  There's just been two events lately that made me thankful, and I want to share them.

1.  The Almost-Lost Kindle
     There are, in this universe, people who rarely lose things.  People who always know where their keys and their glasses and their good pens are, because after they use these things, they put them where they belong.
I am not one of those people.
I have a Kindle that I dearly love because a) it has made me read sequentially and I feel like I'm a more respectful reader if I read a book in the order it was written b) Kindle books cost less than paper books c) Kindle books take up less space than paper books and d) Kindle books weigh less than paper books.  I am an enthusiastic reader, and late last week I realized that my Kindle was not in any of the places I expected it to be.  When I was downstairs, I assumed it was upstairs, and vice versa.  I finally got tired of reading back issues of writing magazines to fall asleep to and looked both upstairs and downstairs, but did not find my Kindle.  It wasn't in my van, either, or any of the various bags that are "totally now my official school bag.".
When I got to work that evening, I started sort of half-heartedly looking through the stack of bins we at the post office use to shlep mail about, and found my Kindle, about 8 bins down, miraculously unscathed.
An hour and a half later, I watched in amazed thankfulness as the fellow who came to pick up the outgoing mail stopped at the stack of bins and said "Oh I need some of these" and took the top twelve or so bins.
It would have been lost forever.  There's no identifying information in or on it, and there's no way of knowing where that bin would have ended up before someone found a Kindle in one of them.

2. Tires
   The van needed new tires.  Badly.  Apparently something can happen to tires that I don't understand, and they become "separated" and the something and the something else aren't something, and then your vehicle wobbles at high speeds.  As the situation gets worse, the vehicle wobbles pretty much anytime you're in motion, and that means that the time to get new tires was Last Week.  And maybe you are waiting for pay day to get the tires, so on the very first day of the month, when your friend texts and asks you what you're doing that day, you say "I am going to find new tires for my van if it kills me" and you privately shudder because you don't know exactly how much new tires will cost but it's going to be in the Many Hundreds, and you don't really have that much money to spare.  (I have switched tenses and all sorts of bad things to switch here but I am not fixing it). And then what might happen is that your friend will say "hey how about we sell you the all-seasons that we can't use any more because the new vehicle is the wrong size and the old vehicle has been the victim of a car crash?". You might say "How much?" and "what size?" and then maybe you and your friend will embark on a "finding the right numbers on a tire" learning curve and EVENTUALLY - you will have new tires for one and a half hundreds of dollars, including mounting and balancing.
And I don't know if I can say God made that happen, but I absolutely can say Thank you God that it did.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Look! A New Post!

Sorry for the long silence.  I just couldn't figure out how to follow up that last one.

And then Friday the 13th happened. 

Now I realize Friday the 13th isn't really a thing, just like turning 40 isn't bad luck, either, but I clearly remember my father's 40th birthday.  He came in the house laughing so hard his false teeth were loose and he was holding the stick shift from the car in his hand.  The one that should have been attached to the car, but had just broken off in his hand, and when he finally stopped laughing it took him half a hour to recite the list of things that had gone wrong on his 40th birthday.

Friday was a day much like that.  I'll try to list things in order.

1.  I took the dog on the school run, and she needed to pee before we got home.  I stopped in a parking lot to let her do her thing on the grass and as I was walking around to the passenger side of the van to get her and her leash, she jumped up and managed to lock the vehicle.  The vehicle was running.  Inside my vehicle were:  the dog, my purse, my phone and my jacket.  I borrowed a phone from a stranger and called pretty much the only number I could remember.  Brad couldn't bring me his van key because he was at work with no vehicle.

2. I heated up a meat pie in the microwave for my lunch, but put it loose in the box instead of in the bowl it was supposed to go in, and ate meat pie ooze for lunch.

3.  I realized that I had done entirely the Wrong Thing on an assignment for my online course.  It was too late to change it.

4.  I did the right thing on the next part of the assignment but I just typed it into the "post to forum" window and then the internet ate it, so I had to do it again.

5.  I was late for work.

6. The computer at work froze mid-sale so I had to log out and log back in again.

7.  A customer spent twenty five minutes trying to bargain a cheaper rate for Xpress Post to Montreal.  I'm all for getting a deal, but twenty five minutes, dude? 

8. A lady got intensely furious with me for asking her to "please line up behind the sign.  It's a privacy issue."

9.  I finally had time for a wee knitting break, and discovered I had left my pattern at home.

10.  I did not balance when I cashed out.  (I think this was due to #6)

11. I got home from work to find out my online assignment had been marked - and I'd gotten the lowest mark I've gotten since I started back to school.


So maybe I don't believe in Friday the 13th, but I think it believes in me!

The seriously awesome part of the whole thing was that by about Event #6, I was finding it funny, and I continued to find it funny.  Even the low mark (which, truthfully, wasn't that low, it's just my lowest to date) didn't bother me and there are certainly days when it would have.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

It's Time

"She wanted to give that terrified man in the uncool sweater the confidence to share his own bare ugly truth.”

 Moriarty, Liane (2014-07-29). Big Little Lies (p. 458). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

**trigger warning** sexual abuse, mental illness


Some of us are story-tellers.  And the world needs hurting story tellers because there are others of us who can't talk about the hurt, who seek kindred spirits in the glow of a computer screen or between the pages of a book in the wee small hours of the morning - but one thing remains.  We all seek community with and in our pain.

So the wounded, healing story teller has a place, I think, and while I have certainly not kept my particular wounding a complete secret, and I have certainly left enough pieces of the puzzle lying around this blog that a clear enough picture could be fit together, today is the day I am choosing to tell it plainly.  I have been hurt, badly, and I am healing, by the grace of God.  If any of my story is helpful to someone else, it needs to be told.

So.  Here's me.

In August of 2012, I started having flashbacks of rape.  As I had not, to my knowledge, ever been raped, this came as a considerable shock to me.  (And let me say, I don't know how to reword that sentence, but "considerable shock" is a massive understatement.)  They were flashbacks with very little information - my body felt exactly like I was being raped, in the here and now, and sometimes there would be a few images along with the physical sensation - the bed I was lying in, the window in the room, how old I was. The first flashbacks happened every half an hour or so over an 18 hour period - truly one of the most terrifying and heartbreaking stretches of time in my adult life. 
By the end of that year, it was clear to me that a) I had been sexually abused for much of my life b) I had completely repressed all knowledge of any of it and c) my most consistent abuser was my father.

(Let me just say:  if you are reading this, and you knew and loved my father, I'm sorry.  Me too.  I loved him too.  But, as my husband says, people aren't binary - all bad, or all good.  My father was many good things, and some bad ones as well.  If you are related to my father, and you are reading this, please know that I am open to dialog about this at any time.)

So that's why I'm in therapy. 

Now the mental illness bit.

In January of 2013, I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, which used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder.  If you're my age, you may have an immediate picture of Sally Field crawling around the floor gibbering like a three year old in the movie Sybil.  Or you're thinking of The Three Faces of Eve, or more recently, The United States of Tara.

That's not me, or, at least, not completely me.  I don't "lose time".  I do not find myself somewhere and not know how I got there (any more than any of the rest of us who go into "autopilot" when we're driving do) or find myself having forgotten hours or even days of time.  There are no clothes in my closet that I don't remember buying. (although for many people with DID, those things do happen) I don't suddenly wake up in the middle of a life I don't remember.  What DID looks like for me is - there are bits of me hidden away inside my own head.  I call them "memory keepers", or "insiders", and while many people with DID have a static number of distinct personalities, many of us don't.  I don't.  It's easier to think of the inside of my head as a halfway house for hurting kids.  They work up the nerve to tell me their stories, my psychologist and I help them to feel safe and heard, and they start to heal.  As they start to heal, they integrate, and make space for someone new to be heard.  It is quite rare for any of the parts to speak to people other than Brad, my psychologist, or my mother. Most people I meet have no idea what is going on inside my head (although there was a pysch nurse who took one of poetry classes ...)

What DID looks like, for me, on a practical level, is sometimes anxiety, sometimes PTSD, sometimes depression.  I'm learning to pay attention to thoughts that don't make sense in the context of the current year (ie "Who is that old woman in that bed?  Our mother is not that old!") I monitor myself for reactions that seem out of proportion to the current situation.  (Panic attack at the grocery store?  Is there any tangible, external, measurable, present danger?)

I don't leave my house without Rescue Remedy, a small stuffy or two to tuck into my palms when I'm overwhelmed, a small pack of essential oils (lavendar for calming, lemon or peppermint or eucalyptus to yank me back to the present day), and I have a small book of "emergency coping mechanisms" that covers triggering scenarios.  It's pretty much transparent, unless I tell you about it.  Those fingerless mitts I love to wear?  A great way to have lavendar ready to inhale.

I have learned to be careful about leaving the house when there's new memory struggling to surface , or a new part has recently come online- it can be very taxing to fight off flashback or overwhelming emotion when there's someone new in the "halfway house".  I stay home if I think I might not be in the right kind of headspace to drive myself home.

I have a lot of trouble staying asleep.  Sleeping is a different kind of brain activity from wakefulness, and I often wake up in the morning with someone else at the forefront - not quite in control, but quite strongly present.  I have learned to be intentional about having a routine to start the day with because routine also brings me back to the present.

It's not necessarily easy, but in the early days, it was hard, harder than anything I'd ever done, and there would maybe a few hours here and there where there was ease and grace.  Now it's livable - and there are long stretches of days when everything is even-keeled and nobody on the inside is hurting or triggered.  The bad stretches are hours, not days, and every day (this is SUCH a cliche!) is a new start.  (It used to be that I felt like the only reward I got for making it through to bedtime was a whole other set of 24 hours which I then had to get through.  Now bedtime is a blessed blessed reprieve, even if I'm wakeful in the night.

Being Susan is easier than it was two years ago, and (hopefully!) harder than it will be two years from now.  I have been extraordinarily blessed with good, supportive friends and an understanding, supportive, spouse.  I am beyond grateful that the first psychologist I met with is someone I continue to trust and respect.

And - the most important bit - God still loves me.

"Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for His mercies never fail.  They are new every morning - great is Your faithfulness."  Lamentations 3:22