I am an all or nothing person. I think this might be a trauma response but until I know, and until I’ve managed to be less of a trauma-respondy person, it’s become important to me to make this work in my favour. If I don’t keep moving, I will stop cold, and getting moving again is *very difficult*.
Here’s what that looks like.
If I don’t write every day, I stop writing. If I don’t do the dishes every day, the dishes don’t get done until I’ve run out of dishes and then I’ll order in for a week before I can finally work up the whatever it is I need in order to do the damned dishes. If I don’t paint every day, I stop painting until there’s a deadline and then I paint in panic mode. If I don’t schedule myself to go in to the studio a week in advance AND put it in my calendar, I don’t go to pottery.
I don’t love this about myself. It frustrates me because when I do the things, I feel better. When I don’t, I feel like shit.
Some of the things I have difficulty doing have been the subject of many of my therapy sessions. “Why can’t I eat breakfast? Why don’t I call the doctor when I should? Why do I have so much trouble filling out forms/doing paperwork/signing my legal name/taking my business seriously? Why do I neglect myself? Why am I letting myself go blind? Why am I letting my teeth fall out of my g_d head? Why am I like this?”
Why am I like this?
The shame that all of the above once cloaked me in has disappeared of late, so I know the work we’re doing in therapy is *working* but what it isn’t doing so far is making any of the above *easier to do*. I suspect that’s next. I suspect this is a growing edge I’m on where I can say “Look, I don’t know why I suck at these things, but I know there *must* be a reason, and I know that reason isn’t because “I’m lazy, stupid, bad, possessed, evil, provocative, crazy, borderline, narcissistic, not enough, too much” or any of the other labels applied to me in my early childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
I’m starting to think there’s nothing actually wrong with me, and that everything I do or don’t do is some kind of survival mechanism gone too far. I’m starting to examine the things I don’t love about myself with a gentler eye. I’m starting to talk to the self that is so very frustrated by these things with a firmer voice – a voice that goes something like “Listen, you. I love you. You’re part of me, but pushing us to behave as though we DON’T have C-PTSD is not going to cure the C-PTSD. Simmer down. Give us some space to heal.”
No shame allowed.
Today is better than yesterday. The cat has not peed on anything. The gums are still sore, but they’re less sore. I haven’t made the phone calls I’ve been meaning to make for six months now, but I did other things. Important things. I ate a salad the size of my head. I ordered toilet paper and paper towels – the “no plastic packaging” kind that I discovered a month ago. I finished up the dishes. I cleaned my desk.
I sent my kids a message that was designed to encourage them to be gentler with themselves and each other, and it worked. I checked in with loved ones who are in transitions of one kind or another to ensure they know I love them. I filmed. I edited video. I emptied my inbox.
Opening this box of light every day is a thing I want to do. I won’t promise. I know there are going to be days when that’s just not feasible. I have a pottery intensive coming up this weekend and I will be gone from ten in the morning ’till four in the afternoon. I know I’m going to want to come home, sluice off and collapse after. Month end is coming up and I know what that’s like. I’m filming a twelve week immersion WHILE I continue to run all the things I usually run – Moonshine, A Year Of Oracles, Prayers To The Moon…
…but this is a thing I can work on. It’s not going to the doctor. It’s not going to the dentist. It’s not getting my health card.
Those things feel too big for me right now.
No shame. No shame.
But opening this box of light as a matter of course and letting my heart flow out of my fingers and into your eyes – that’s a thing I can do. It’s a stretch, but it’s a stretch that doesn’t feel like it’s going to send me back into the kind of trauma responses that have had me on the edge of the abyss over the last three years.
I called a person in charge of one of my issues recently and I said “I know you want me to do all these things at the same time, but my mental health *requires* that I take this at my own pace. I need to do this one step at a time. I am *not capable of multiple steps right now*. I have no wish to be hospitalized, which is what is likely going to happen if I push myself beyond capacity right now. It’s not a simple matter of “I don’t want to do this”. It’s that when I try, my heart rate increases alarmingly. I get dizzy. I can’t focus my eyes. My mouth goes completely dry OR I start to salivate enough that I choke on it. I vomit. I shit through the eye of a needle. I burst into tears and I cannot control it. I shake so badly that I can’t sign my name let alone fill out a fucking form, so cut me some slack here. Let me go at a pace that doesn’t threaten to undo all the work I’ve been doing.”
Or something to that effect.
I cried after I made that phone call, but I did not feel ashamed.
Because, listen. The way I am is *not a choice I made* and it is *not my fault*.
The way I am *was done to me*.
Healing from it is my responsibility if I want to have any kind of life free of this constant feeling like there’s a velociraptor just around the corner that’s going to rip me to shreds, but I did NOT choose this for myself. I didn’t do this to myself. I didn’t make my own self sick.
Watching my father put a cigarette out in the palm of my hand while he was drunk did that. Watching him beat my mother did that. The man who raped and sodomized me when I was five, six, and seven did that. My mother, and her valium addiction and her utter neglect of her children did that. My uncle and his roaming hands and fingers did that. My step-father and his rages and bending my twelve year old ass over his knee so he could hit me with a hair brush did that. His name-calling and the way he triangulated my sister and brothers and I did that. My mother letting him do that did that. My first boyfriend who knocked me up at 18 after plucking me out of foster care at 16 did that. The man who choked me unconscious while I was pregnant did that…
My ex husbands – the one that died and the one that still lives – did that.
And some of you who come here to “check up on me” to see if I’m telling yet did that.
You did it.
I am about the business of undoing it.