It Has Begun

Today I brought my therapist a trauma narrative showing ten years of ritualistic sexual violence.  I haven’t been able to speak the words to her in all the years we’ve worked together, so I just took a chance and wrote it out.  She read it in session and assured me that she saw no difference in me.  I am glad of that.

We’re going to work through the trauma paragraph-by-paragraph until it no longer has a hold on my life and mind.  It took five years to do this with my memory of physical trauma.  I have no idea how long this journey will take, but I am so lucky to have a wonderful therapist at my side.

I walk in to this a terrified person who feels ashamed of her body at all costs.  I hope to walk out of it with peace and pride.  It has begun.

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Back to Me

My mood is stable.  After about a year and a half of ups and downs, my mood has stabilised.  It’s almost impossible for me to believe.  I keep waiting for something to shift, but, for the past week or so, it hasn’t.  I am so grateful.

So what now?  Back to the work of being me.  I wear many hats.  Among them, as anyone who has read this blog will know, is trauma survivor.  My therapist and I haven’t been able to do trauma work in all this time, as we didn’t want to offset any precarious stability I might have found.  I never thought I’d be happy to do trauma work.  It took five years to work through physical trauma, though, and we’ll be starting on sexual trauma next week.  I don’t doubt needing five more years.  But now, I feel confident that we can do the work.

Another hat I wear is family-of-choice.  I have siblings of choice far away, a best friend who’s frequently by my side, and a friend back home who will always have my heart.  I haven’t been able to be present for them nearly as much as I would like.  When your mood is unstable, your mind is unclear.  You can listen and be there to the best of your ability, but you’re never fully present.  Now, I can be with my FOC fully.  I can give them my whole mind and my whole heart without having to worry about whether the situation will spin me out of control.

Self is the last hat I wear.  I am the sum total of what has happened to me in the past and what is in my life at present.  In my belief system, I am already affected by the promise of my future.  I need to reconnect with the essence of who I am again, as that will centre me in the new-found stability.  I’m trying to accept the rough edges of me and understand that my FOC love me for me, no pretence needed.  I’m just a simple girl from the more grisly side of East London who has found herself a world away, surrounded by amazing people on both sides of the ocean.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Pride

It isn’t often that I feel proud of myself, but today, I do.  For the first time in 18 years, I had a ‘Well Woman’ exam this morning.  This includes a breast exam, smear test and palpitation to check the uterus and ovaries.  That’s a great deal of physical contact in very personal areas.  My therapist and I have been working on this for a year or so now, and it’s finally done.

As my therapist and I planned, I identified myself to the nurse as a survivor of sexual trauma before even starting the prep.  She told the doctor, who, upon entering the room, told me how brave I was to be there.  This woman who had just learnt a dark secret from my past called me brave.  She walked me through the whole process, even showing me the instruments that would be used.  I began to relax a bit.

The nurse held my hand through the entire exam.  When I got scared and dizzy, I just looked over at her and knew someone was on my side.  It isn’t that I thought the doctor was against me; it’s just that she became a danger to me in my survivor’s mind the minute she touched me below the waist.  The whole exam probably took five minutes, and I am proud of each one of them.

I’ve put this off for so many years now.  It’s humbling that a doctor and nurse could work together so well to help me through it.

Happy Bloody New Year

It’s January.  The start of a new year, full of promise and hope.  So where does this leave me?  Mildly suicidal and horrendously depressed.  It started yesterday and has just continued to get worse over time.

It occurred to me that, whilst I am perfectly happy to spend the rest of my life at the side of my best friend, he might well wish to spend the rest of his life at the side of an actual romantic partner.  My head spun as  I realised that things could change in a major way.  My entire lifestyle could be smashed.  It would be a good thing for my best friend, and I would never begrudge him of that.  I would just miss being centre stage in his life as opposed to an understudy.  I like us as us.  Not a couple, but definitely a unit.

So I recognise that part of this is situational; my big realisation isn’t helping my low mood.  I realise, as well, though, that this is a bipolar depression.  The sun is dimmer.  That’s a sure sign to me that I am falling in to an episode.  The sun looks noticeably dimmer even high in the sky.  In short, I am depressed.

Fortunately, I see my therapist later this week.  We will talk through my realisation, talk through the suicidal feelings, and make a plan for coping with it all.  She’s patient but firm, and I know I can hold on long enough to make this happen.

Fight!

That’s exactly what my therapist chanted at me as I left her office this afternoon.  The past few days have been terrible, with nightmares and gruesome flashbacks every day.  I’m exhausted, annoyed that it seems I have to choose between mental and physical health, and becoming paranoid.  It’s a lovely combination.

She told me that her goal for me this holiday season is to fight against my emotions.  That might seem odd, coming from a therapist, but I take her point.  My emotions aren’t always rational.  This sense of foreboding doom and paranoia comes out of a nightmare.  The thoughts of self harm that keep cropping up stem from the flashbacks.  None of these things are ‘normal’ events that spark ‘normal’ emotions.  These are the emotions I need to guard against.  My therapist says sometimes we have to lead our emotions rather than following them, and I know exactly what she means.

We’re coming upon the dates for my sister’s birth and death, trying to cope with the more recent loss of my best friend’s brother, and generally fighting to keep from spiralling out of control as the various emotions come up against each other.  But, I will fight.  I will fight to get through my sister’s death anniversary without shutting down.  I will fight to get through the holidays without bowing to grief.  And I will fight to be present.  To enjoy the holidays, even when what I want to do most is cover my head and forget to exist for a while.

Time Marches On

The passage of time can be something of a trigger for me.  I am not a snowflake.  I’ve had my share of trauma and am here to tell the tale, so to speak.  But I do have triggers.  Typically, I can work with or simply avoid them.  Not so with the passage of time.

We’re headed in to a time of  year that is difficult for me.  The anniversary of my sister’s death looms ever-present as we near early December.  This will be the 17th anniversary, but it still feels new on that day.  Time has done nothing to touch that.  I think of her still as a twelve-year-old girl, smart and witty beyond her years, touching the lives of everyone who knew her.  My therapist asks me what I think she would be like now, but I have  no answer.  I’m stuck in the year of her death.  She’s frozen there.  I can’t take on the task of bringing her to this time of my life.  I guess I fear she’ll simply leave again.

Every December, I mark another year that has passed on the calendar, but my mind stays in 2000.  My sister took my heart with her on that rainy afternoon, and, in at least part of my mind, time has stopped there.  It’s hard to move on when you’re clinging desperately to the past with a child’s false hope that maybe you can stop it happening if you just try hard enough to return there.

The Beauty in It All

As I took a stroll on this beautiful Autumn morning, a peculiar thought occurred to me– the beauty of Autumn is in death.  What we see as beautiful colours is actually the death of the leaves.  Beauty in death.  Who would have thought that possible?

This got me thinking of my sister’s death, which is a thought that’s never far away.  My therapist tried to help me see a sense of hope in her death.  She chose her time to go out, and she went out on a high note.  Those were my therapist’s words.  They only served to make *me* suicidal, though.  If suicide is about going out on a high note, why don’t we all do it?  Why don’t we all just choose our time?  Those were my thoughts from the therapist’s perspective.

The answer I discovered took me by surprise.  Suicide isn’t the  answer, even though it seems so right sometimes, because we can’t actually guess when our high note occurs.  My sister died four days after her twelfth birthday, four days after a celebration that was all about her.  I can’t help but wonder what she had ahead of her, though.  I’d like to think there would have been many more high notes.  Enough to keep her here, at least.

There is a certain beauty in death.  The kind of death that is a long, slow and peaceful decline toward our next journey.  I saw this last year when my best friend’s grandmother died.  The family gathered together to take the last steps of this life with the matriarch who linked them all.  It was so sad to watch her pass, but it was beautiful to see her family come together to support each other and share this pain.

There is no beauty in suicide.  There is violence and endless questions and years of longing.  I say this both as a survivor and someone who has attempted herself.  I can’t promise I’ll never be suicidal again, but I can promise that I’ll always look to my family-of-choice and all the high notes they bring to pull myself back out again.  The beauty of life is that, no matter how dark it gets sometimes, you never know when a high note is just around the corner.

Work

Like most adult humans, I have a job.  I’ve  had this job for almost ten years.  And I am burnt out.  My therapist pointed this out to me when I went to her with the problem of actually *doing* my job.  Getting through each shift is torturous.  The problem here is the job is perfect for me as a person with bipolar disorder.  And as a person who rarely likes to leave her house.  I telecommute.

Bipolar disorder dictates alot of things about my life.  I keep a regular sleep/wake routine, I keep appointments with my therapist and psychiatrist and I take my meds without fail.  My job allows me the flexibility of setting my own hours and taking days off as needed to cope with mania and depression.  It sounds like a dream job, and it really is a ‘sweet gig’ as they say here.

So why am I struggling with it?  Anybody care to answer that question?

Focus is a problem.  I’m not sure whether that’s a bipolar thing or just me having trouble forcing myself to do something that is causing me problems right now.  There’s a certain lack of confidence in myself in doing a job I’ve done for years now.  No idea where that is coming from.  This has left me financially in a mess, and even that doesn’t seem to be a motivator.  I have no idea what it’s going to take to set me right again.  I’m scaring myself, and that is saying something.  But my bipolar-addled, attention-deficient brain doesn’t care about my fear.  It just wants to stare in to space and think of other things.

Reconnecting

I’m going to try, at least for now, to update this blog more frequently.  This is part of a grand effort to reconnect with myself.  Yesterday, I felt like nothing.  Not in the degraded sense.  Just in the emotionless-floating-in-nowhere sense.  I read some quite old posts from this blog and realised that I feel almost no connection to who I am now.  This might be due, in part, to the integration, but it’s also due to my secluding myself.

Years ago, I had school and work outside of the home.  Now, I have an in-home job and almost no social circle.  I do not attend social functions, and even a trip to the shops can be overwhelming.  My social anxiety feeds on the lack of need to leave my house, and it’s time to reconnect with the world, as well.  It’s time to force myself out, kicking and screaming all the way.

So what are my grand plans?  I have been looking for a job outside my house, but that will be debated with my therapist soon.  In terms of socialisation, I’m thinking of attending a local support group for people with mental illnesses.  What better place to start than somewhere where others are struggling, too?  It isn’t much, but it’s a start.

In terms of the deeply personal, I do plan to start blogging again.  I also plan to start journalling again, or at least writing fiction.  Something to draw me out of my head.  When I had alters, it was easier to escape my thoughts; I’d just let someone else get lost in theirs for a while.  Now, it’s up to me to plan my own escape from my mind and in to the real world.  Again, kicking and screaming all the way.

A Tribute

For some reason, I have  been missing my mother terribly over the past few days.  Grief for all of my lost loved ones comes and goes, of course, but it’s been a decade since my mother died and it feels new now.  I know it will pass.  Just quite painful in the meantime.

My mother was an enigma.  Due to her multiplicity, she could be sweet and loving or dangerous and angry and everything in between.  I played many roles for her.  At times, *I* was the parent to her younger alters.  At other times, I was a friend to teens or older alters.  Rarely did she seem like my mother, and rarely did the person who claimed to be my mother spend a significant amount of time out.  For as far back as I could remember, our relationship hadn’t been the typical mother-daughter paradigm.

She brought some amazing things to my life.  It’s through my mother that I met the first person who became part of my FOC and taught me what family was about.  She taught me patience and how to be accepting of others’ difficult circumstances.  She taught me respect.  In those ways, she shaped who I am.

She also scarred me physically and mentally to the point that my therapy sessions sometimes remind me of Freudian satires.  Through those injuries, though, I have learnt strength and endurance.  I’ve learnt to guard myself, even to an unhealthy extent, but self-protection isn’t always bad.  I try to draw strength from the dangers she sometimes posed.

My mother died in mid-Spring, just when everything was in full bloom.  Winter is here, now, but I think about the promise of Spring and the promise of her life at that point.  She was finally coming to the place where she might have had a chance to heal, but she decided to end her life instead.  I will never understand that decision, even as I work to accept it.

There are so many things I miss about her and so many questions I have for her.  I miss her both as a child misses her mother and as an adult who misses her friend.  Her life ended much too soon.