Living Together

Fox recently learned that he is very likely to have to move out of his current housing at the end of the semester; yesterday he brought up the possibility of moving in with me (and my mom, though we occupy different parts of the house and have a good deal of privacy). I like the idea of moving in together – I did decide to marry him, after all – and over all I feel good about the idea of him joining me in my current home. There is always ambivalence, though, and I just want to try and work some of it out.

Number One Thing I Know For Sure

The end of the semester is way too soon for me to move again. Moving is insanely stressful and my most recent move (largely because I didn’t prepare for it properly) almost killed me. I am nowhere near the right emotional and mental state to move again. I haven’t even fully finished settling in here – but I have become emotionally (re-)attached to the space.

Ideally, Fox and I would find a home together and move in there, relatively independent from our respective parents. That’s always been how I envisioned things happening. It will happen eventually. But now is NOT the right time. For better or worse, whatever he decides to do, I need to stay where I am.

Ambivalence

ambivalence

I originally wanted to separate “concerns” and “positive factors,” but that’s too artificial a split. The two are so intertwined with each other, I really need to write about them both together. As they say in motivational interviewing: “You get a lot of satisfaction from playing The Sims 3 AND you need to focus more on living your own, real, life.” The AND in that sentence is the most important part: the two factors exist together and are inextricable.

I’ve gotten used to having this space to myself; my stuff is spread all around it. We’ll need to move things to get his stuff to fit, but I think that should be doable. It just messes up what order I do have – admittedly, nowhere near as much as I’d like. It also requires me to go through and likely get rid of things I’ve so far had mixed feelings about keeping in boxes and piles of clutter. It’s easier to just leave the not-fully-unpacked mess I’ve gotten used to, AND the mess conflicts horribly with the order I want for my living space and my life. I’ll admit, I hope that if Fox does move in, we‘ll go through my stuff and organize it together as part of the process of figuring out where and how his stuff can fit in. I don’t really want him controlling any aspect of anything belonging to (and therefore an extension of) me. But I do feel like I need help.

We’re both hoarders, prone to allowing our space to become cluttered and comfortable with a certain amount of clutter. We tend to reinforce that habit in each other. I’m not a fan. But this is something we’ll have to deal with eventually anyway. The question is, can I/we deal with it now – full time, without separate spaces to retreat to? Can we work together and support each other without becoming too enmeshed, without each giving up too much of ourselves in the effort to help each other? Just because we want and need to get to that point eventually doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to jump in and start trying to pull it off now. There might be other work we need to do, together and separately, before we can get to that point.

But then … the Deserter does long for stability; maybe granting it will help. The reality of my senses and emotional response will match what I know in my mind: that we have a good, real, stable, loving relationship that can withstand whatever life decides to throw at it as long as we are willing to work together through the hard times. The Deserter is furious that Fox is only visiting for a couple of days, then leaving again; no peace will come from the knowledge that we’ll see each other again soon. Whatever living together brings up, perhaps the stability of being with him every day will soothe the Deserter and help that part of me to heal.

I also love having his company. I feel more alive when he’s here. He’s more on top of chores I struggle with, such as dishes and laundry and daily hygiene. He’ll pull me out of my depressive stupidity and get me to engage in the pleasures of real life, draw my attention to my rats who are adorable and bring me so much joy, remind my tense muscles to relax, and remind me that I am loved. Even hearing him breathe this morning helped me pull myself out of dreams that were frustrating and doing me absolutely no good; to start my day in this physical reality.

I’m concerned about having to share my food. When he’s here it feels like I expend more of my (limited) resources than he does his in order to feed us both. I don’t like sharing.

If he lives here full time he can use the resources he’d spend on food for himself to help get food for both of us. He’ll be sharing, too. We can each have things we don’t share with the other – as long as it’s agreed upon and the one who gets the item uses their own resources to acquire it. And he’ll help with cooking, something I’ve been extremely lazy about. (Or we’ll be lazy together, mwahahaha!!!)

We need to each have our own separate blanket. I’m going to insist on that tonight. Sharing blankets just isn’t working for me. I’m also a bit ambivalent about sharing my bed full time; there are pros and cons. I like quiet and having more space to spread out and being able to do whatever I want with all four pillows. I also like knowing he’s there, being able to cuddle, seeing his face first thing in the morning. I’m also infinitely more relaxed / less anxious (or, not anxious at all) when it’s time to fall asleep – if he’s there. (At least that held true last night.) I suppose there’s always the option of the couch/couch bed, air mattress, etc. as a temporary solution if either or both of us really need(s) a separate space to sleep. Again, these are things we’ll have to work out eventually.

Timing

swirly-clock

The question is, is now the right time? And by “now” I mean over the course of the next couple months, culminating with his actual move in early summer – not, say, tomorrow. I’m dealing with a lot of crazy shit in my own life – and often not dealing with it, as evidenced by the massive amounts of time I spend playing The Sims 3. I was dreaming the game last night. I’m grieving my uncle and the old deaths I still haven’t fully grieved. I’m grieving all the things I never got in my childhood. I’m trying to help my inner child understand that she/we will NEVER get what she wants and needs from our biological mother; we/I need to get those needs met elsewhere. I’m struggling with the emotions that reality evokes. I’m struggling to allow myself to cry. I’m struggling to remain engaged in my own therapy, and to be kind to myself. It’s harder than a full-time job. I need to give myself a break from time to time. I’m struggling to celebrate my small victories, such as recognizing and asserting that need.

Relationships

I need the space to do all this, but I also need support. I’ve been really hurting from lack of support. Banji has been awesome, texting or calling me to check in and chat. On Saturday we played music together – no pressure, just fun and camaraderie – and watched Doctor Who and talked about some important things. I was able to be more honest with her than I sometimes am with myself. We have a special relationship that nothing else can touch; our goal is to live within walking distance of each other so we can enjoy each other’s company more consistently. But for now our reality is still that we need to take opportunities as they come, even if they do come quite frequently. I need more than I can get from our relationship – in terms of stability – right now.

The three of us also need to work out the complexities of me having 2 equally important, equally emotionally intimate, but qualitatively different relationships with 2 different people. That’s all I’ll say for now because 2/3 of the story isn’t mine to tell. But I’ve noticed tension, and it’s adding to my stress. It certainly doesn’t help that society values one type of relationship over the other, and I sometimes find it hard not to fall into the trap of following the herd.

Baaaa! Moo! etc.

Rage Dragon

On Wednesday I spent a significant portion of my music therapy session throwing an extremely loud temper tantrum on drums and cymbal. (The cymbal is seriously the best instrument ever, you should check it out! – especially if you have anger issues. Just … give everyone else around you earplugs.) Wakana supported me on keyboard and drums. I had a blast, banging crashing screaming wailing shouting “Go away!” It was fantastic!

When I finished (I wasn’t really finished, but things were slowing down a bit and it was a good time to take a break. I don’t know if I’ll ever be finished with this temper tantrum!) Wakana looked me in the eye and said, “Ziya, you have got a ton of rage!” As I spoke I felt like laughing, crying, and tantruming again all at the same time; it took all my effort to speak coherently. Yeah, of course I’ve got a lot of rage.

And I’ve been sitting on top of it for a lifetime.

I gotta get this stuff … you know, strong language is allowed on WordPress. I doubt people would really mind reading “shit” from time to time. You’re typing it. Great!

I gotta get this shit out of me! It’s causing me constant back pain! I’m wasting so much energy trying to keep it down. No wonder I’m so anxious, I’m afraid I’m going to explode! And I really really really don’t want this to end with me hurting myself. I can’t hurt other people either. There has got to be another way!

Art. My ideal would be to go in a place where I could smash things, maybe things made of colored ceramic or glass. Then, after I’d smashed things, I’d put the pieces back together into something beautiful.

Or a room where I could throw red paint everywhere, okay, maybe other colors too. I could roll in it and crash into the wall, smear it all over the place with the biggest broadest strokes my body can do.

I was considering getting a giant roll of art paper and finger paints to simulate the second option at home, but the rolls I’ve been able to find (so far) are too expensive.

So, for now, I’ve contented myself with coloring a dragon. It was drawn by Rachael Mayo. Her artwork is gorgeously complex, so it will probably take me a few coloring sessions to finish. Here’s what I’ve done so far; I’m working with colored pencils because they give me the most control.

color-dragon-01

Healthy Plurality

For most of “my” life, “my” thoughts have “taken the form of” a conversation between 2 or more people. I think something, and someone else responds – sometimes in agreement, sometimes with a counter-argument. It might happen when I’m trying to make a decision or just thinking about something that’s important to me or has temporarily captured my interest. Sometimes it just … happens.

Sometimes I’m alone, but that’s actually kind of rare. Most of the time it feels like someone else is here with me; we experience all the same things together and (usually) support each other in coping with them. On occasion it’s like I’m in a crowded room with several conversations buzzing all around me – or, several people all shouting what they think I should do / say / eat. (Eat? Whoever said that? Yes, eating is the most important thing we do every day. No, breathing is! Eating and breathing, okay! We don’t have to decide what or whether to breathe – unless there’s cigarette smoke. Just leave “eat” in there, okay? Do we have to leave this whole conversation in here? It’s really embarrassing! It’s how our brain works …)

Umm, where was I? Oh, right. I hear it all with my mind’s ear, like when a song gets stuck … really, whoever wrote that? It just sounds so lame! Hey!

That’s what you get for trying to minimize the fact that the rest of us exist. So there.

I’m sorry I’m introducing readers to a (potentially) new concept. I didn’t want to weird them out too much at first. Give them a chance to learn what healthy plurality is before they have to deal with our arguments!

This is fun!

Anyway, I’ve been curious about the idea of plurality for some time, but I thought it could only be part of a disorder – what was once called “multiple personality disorder” and now (in the US) is called “dissociative identity disorder” … as far as I’m aware, they’re essentially the same thing. “My” way of being plural has always felt normal-for-“me” … which is a little weird to say because I’ve gotten so used to being depressed that in a way that feels normal too. So, let me clarify. Depression has always interfered with some aspect of my life, whether it’s feeling confident and important / respected in social situations, getting out of bed in the morning, taking care of myself, dealing with really intense emotions, etc. Being plural has been … interesting … but never actually a problem. Right, folks? No problem? … Usually. Any group of people will have disagreements and drama. Sometimes it gets a bit stressful; sometimes we’re not as supportive of each other as we could or should be.

I wouldn’t want anyone here to go away; I enjoy their company. It’s just another way of being, and “I” often find it adaptive. How? If I’m feeling lonely there’s someone I can talk to. I don’t have to make difficult decisions alone. There’s often a comforting voice, such as the one who reminded me that the incredibly harsh self-criticisms were the depression talking, and didn’t reflect reality. Or the one who convinced me to get out of bed today by promising I could have cookies for breakfast …

I recently had the opportunity to meet members of 2 multiple systems (independent people who share the same body) and learn a bit about their subjective experiences. I learned that plurality / multiplicity / multiple systems can develop naturally and don’t have to be the result of trauma / psychopathology. The people involved in such systems don’t need to integrate into one personality in order to be healthy. As at least one member of a multiple system put it, “We find that the easiest way to explain our thought processes is as a conversation among multiple people.” (not an exact quote)

Sound familiar?

I’ll admit, the possibility of being multiple is scary. Does this have to go in here? Yes, it’s part of my experience! As I meet others who share “my” body, how do I know that what they’re saying is coming from them and not me? I think I’m usually the one fronting (using our body to interact with the physical world). If I become more aware of, engage with, and get to know the others as individuals, do I have to give up control of our body to them? If I do, will I get it back? Yes. I can only deal with this – okay, fine, I’ll use “stuff” – for so long. Is any of this even real? Yes!

Ultimately, it’s all subjective. Of course it’s all happening inside my / our head – that doesn’t have to mean it isn’t real! (props to anyone who gets the reference) I’ve / we’ve lived this way for as long as I can remember; nothing will change unless we want it to. Being aware of it, even talking / writing about it, doesn’t change it. It just broadens our understanding of ourselves, and the many ways of being in the world(s).

I’m very new to the idea of healthy plurality and can only share my own experiences. To learn more from the perspectives of healthy multiples, including faq and the like, visit Healthy Multiplicity . com

You might also find this Glossary helpful.

Grace

I was really hurting last night. I didn’t even recognize it until I was selecting tags for my last post. I looked at my most used tags, even though I already knew which ones I wanted to use, and found myself clicking on “guilt.” Maybe there was something my subconscious knew that I did not, so I went with it. I even kept it, over other possible tags that seemed more logical.

That post was about guilt. Even my “little bit of positivity” was about guilt. So much of my life – probably, most of my academic achievement – has revolved around guilt! Namely, trying to appease the universe and my inner judge. “Look at all the good things I’ve done! Can’t I please have some forgiveness, comfort, peace?” … And if what I’ve done isn’t enough, I can do more. I can go without sleep. I can torture myself emotionally.

Last night I tried to do something to help myself fall asleep – namely, listening to relaxing music on Songza. Focusing on the music helped me stay linked to this reality – held my anxiety at bay – and occupied my mind enough that I couldn’t torture myself. But, eventually, I had to turn it off to actually sleep. And then I was alone with my pain.

I lay there desperately wanting the comfort of a mother, the comfort my biological mother will probably never be able to give me. She might have done at some point when I was little, but now she has too much of her own baggage. I needed so much more than I can ever ask of her; I needed it straight from the Source.

And it came.

The Mother said, “I’m here, and I love you.” She wrapped herself around me and filled me with her love, her peace. Every part of me relaxed; I felt as I imagine a baby must feel while being held and loved and fed by a mother: completely at ease, trusting, nurtured, loved, whole. Fully one with the Divine. It only lasted a few moments, but that was all I needed.

Even now, the memory of that moment fills me with peace.

I’m no expert in theology, but I think this is the kind of thing Christians are referring to when they talk about grace, particularly in the context of grace vs. works. It’s having the courage and confidence and humility to ask for what you need, knowing that you are already worthy of it – and that whomever you are asking (whether human, divine, natural, etc.) is willing and able to give it. I exercised grace when I opened up to my loved ones last Saturday, cried on their shoulders and allowed them to meet my needs.

You don’t have to do anything to have your needs met – you don’t have to get straight A’s or maintain a successful career or be the perfect parent/spouse/child/sibling/friend/entertainer/etc. or write beautifully or invent something spectacular or save the world.

You just need to believe – not in any particular religion or deity, but in yourself, your own inherent worth. Maybe religion can help soothe the logical part of the brain that requires justification for why you are worthy or how you can possibly be worthy; Christians believe Jesus already died for their sins, a choice freely made out of love and desire to have a meaningful relationship between the Divine and humanity. My worldview has tended toward perceiving the Universe itself as the Divine, so as part of the universe humans (individually and collectively) are inherently divine – as are all things, living and nonliving, including the very planet on which we live. But these are just explanations; they’re not important in and of themselves. Any explanation that doesn’t justify mistreating others will do. What’s important is the belief.

Depression attacks this belief. The U.S. healthcare system tears this belief to shreds. Mainstream media are equally if not even more guilty. Please don’t get me started on politics.

So much in the world humans have constructed for ourselves demands works – demands that we measure our worth by what we have done (e.g. how much money we’ve made; how physically beautiful we’ve made ourselves; how many followers we have; etc.). Worse, it turns us against each other, into harsh judges of each other’s worth. We tear our own ability to know and value our inherent worth to shreds.

But maybe it doesn’t have to be this way.

Insomnia

So, here I am at the end of a fairly productive day. I completed not one, but TWO assignments for my online class! They were a nice challenge; I definitely learned some things. I’m kinda looking forward to, kinda apprehensive about taking on the next assignment challenge! In my mind, that’s a good place to be.

I also acquired groceries, spent time with my rats (one of whom was surprisingly cuddly – at least for a short while), and played The Sims 3 responsibly. By which I mean I played for a handful of hours, then decided I’d reached a good stopping point and went off to do something else. I’m looking forward to picking up where I left off, but I don’t feel any particular urgency.

I was even able to take a bath without my mind wandering off into horrible, dangerous thoughts.

Fast forward to the present; I’m sitting here thinking, now what? The clock is telling me it’s time to sleep but I don’t really feel like it. In a way I feel like I haven’t really started my day – I haven’t exactly done any physical activity. Maybe that’s my problem, I need to exercise. Then my body will feel like I’ve done something today and decide it’s ready to sleep. Maybe my mind will follow suit.

Of course, right now exercising is the last thing I want to do. That tends to be how I feel most of the time – otherwise, I’d actually do it! In fact, given the choice between exercise and sleep, my body and mind seem ready to choose sleep. Well, if that’s what it takes to overcome my insomnia …

I think what it comes down to is that I’m afraid. If I stay awake, I can be pretty sure I can predict what will happen. I’ll do … whatever I want. I might be tired, maybe anxious, maybe sad. Okay, I’m used to those emotions, I can deal with them. Who knows? I might be happy! It’s nice and quiet. Maybe I can even be creative. It’s been a while since I’ve drawn or colored or improvised.

If I go to sleep … when I let my guard down the darkness starts to creep in. I feel anxious and it takes a while for my body to relax. I have bad dreams.

Dreams where the rules that govern reality don’t apply. In reality if I have an irrational fear I can use my understanding of logic and science to talk myself out of it. The empirical evidence usually supports this calming self-talk. Usually.

In dreams the fear manifests as something that my dream-self thinks is real; in that moment, it poses a real threat to me. For example, the “badly drawn babies with sharp teeth” in my previous post really had the potential to devour me if I did not get away! Even when I think I’ve woken up, often it’s just a dream-within-a-dream. Maybe the new reality is better, maybe it’s worse. It’s probably just as dangerous.

And when I finally do wake up, I feel groggy and drowsy. I don’t want to face reality. My dreams often haunt me, weighing on my mind. Sometimes I feel like I left something unfinished. The worst is when my dream-self was interacting with a loved one who really died, but in my dream they’ve just been gone for a while. When my waking-self remembers that said loved one is dead, it’s like a stab in the heart. I don’t know when I’ll get to see them again, and I probably won’t have any control over what I do or say next time we meet.

To say I’m going back and forth between dreams and reality is a bit misleading. It feels more like I’m moving between or among realities. Who’s to say that this one is any more real than the dream worlds? Sometimes the dreams feel more real.

To make matters worse, if I go to sleep, inevitably I’ll have to wake up again in this reality. Then, some unknown amount of time will have passed – time that I could have spent doing, I don’t know, something.

I’ll probably wake up less able to deal with reality than I am now. I’ll probably be haunted by bad dreams. Who knows what will be happening? It could be anything! My mother might want to impose on me before I’ve had a chance to put my guard up or, you know, eat something. I’ll have to face the uncertainty of feeling like I should do something useful with my time, but lack the motivation or energy or organization. There could be some disaster happening …

I think I’ve made my point. Going to sleep is scary because I don’t know what I’ll have to face in my dreams. Waking up is scary because then I have to deal with reality when I’ve just woken up and who knows what I’ll wake up into. I’d rather just deal with one reality full time instead of switching back and forth and having to adjust after each transition.

So I keep trying to think of things to do, anything but sleep. Lately it’s been The Sims 3. It just dawned on me that going through stuff and cleaning might actually be useful. I’ve probably made this blog post longer than it needs to be because writing is a viable alternative to sleep. Maybe I should try writing fiction. Or another poem? Or maybe one of the other posts that’s been sitting on the back burner …

Nightmare

It’s time
To take the final exam
But I missed the review
Didn’t study!

And I don’t even
Have the right test
Somehow it’s late
I can’t concentrate

My mind
Has turned
To mush

Let’s coordinate!
A dual wedding
Two couples, two ceremonies
One reception

But you’ve already been married and
Our bridal parties are too big and
Our ceremony is already long and
We don’t want to compromise!

Seeing through the eyes
Of a foster child
He tries to explain his life
To a family
That will never accept him

“Down the toilets there is a world
Inexplicably sad and scary”
And I travel down past
Real excrement into

The excrement of the mind where
Everything is red static and
Badly drawn babies with sharp teeth
Fly at me; try to eat

And I try to run away
But everything is spinning
Warping into ellipses
Stretching, rotating sideways

Even when I think I am awake!
There is no escape!
Forever doomed to wander
This red world

Small Victories

Today I:

  1. Took a shower
  2. Got dressed
  3. Had an honest conversation with Mom
    1. During which I asserted my needs
  4. Stood barefoot in the grass and let the wind rush over me and enjoyed the sun
    1. And let fresh air and sunlight into my living room
  5. Emptied the sink; filled and ran the dishwasher
  6. Thought about how awesome (NOT perfect, but awesome nonetheless) my relationship with Fox and his family is
  7. Shared a banana with my rats
  8. Balanced my checkbook
  9. Decided that, of all the things I could post about today, this little bit of positivity was the most important

Re: Groundhog Day

But the sun is too bright;
It sears my eyes
And hurts my head
Already heavy with grief.

But the breeze is too cold;
It tears off my skin
Sends chills down my spine
Crushed by the weight.

I cannot smell the smells that
Fill you with so much wonder.
All I see is pain.
All I feel is sorrow.

I want to go outside
And know the joy of a
Spring day,
But when

I close my eyes I
See my uncle grilling
Smiling, laughing
Hugging me

Lying there with eyes closed
Lips turned down
Hands folded, cold and stiff
Still breathing.

I call but he won’t answer.
I don’t know what to say.
One chance to share my family’s
Grief

But autopilot kicks
In and all I say is “Good”
And all I do is smile!
It’s disgusting! I can’t even

Cry and I
Want to rip
Out my heart
And my eyes!

….

So much easier
To watch an image
Of an image
Of an image

That is not
My
Memory.

Groundhog Day

You fool!
What is with you and that game?!
You play and play for hours on end
And every day is
Identical.

You think I am old and blind,
But I know:
You watch an image of a human
Play with her image of a pet
Images are all you see!

What about ME!?
I’m here!
Flesh and blood and FUR
And so much more
I need your love!

You’ve talked about walking
Walk with me!
I love to get out
Smell the world
And know you are right beside me.

But you sit and you stare and complain.
I know that you’re hurting
Your arm, every day
With that mouse.
Get out of the house!

They do the same thing every day,
And we repeat the same harmony.
I bark. You groan
And thrash like the dead
And shamble around reluctantly.

Blind
To the warmth of the sun on your face
A cool breeze to play
All these wonderful smells –
I could wallow in them all day.

I just need you.

You know how it feels
To be abandoned.

Don’t feed that fear!

Walk with me.

Taking off the Mask

I talked with my academic adviser yesterday. I told him about the depression, the dangerous ways I’d beat myself up after class, feeling like I really need to just focus on taking care of myself right now. I even told him my fear: that if I admitted to my struggle with mental illness, I’d be kicked out of my academic program.

His primary concern was, “What are you doing to take care of yourself?” He seemed relieved when I told him I was already seeing a therapist and psychiatrist. He put my fear to rest: the only way I’d get kicked out is if I did something to harm others. And he said that some of the best, brightest, and most influential people in our field have had depression.

I’ll have to wait 2 years to re-take the courses I dropped, but that gives me a good amount of time to heal. I can work on my thesis next academic year, to placate the part of me who doesn’t understand that taking care of my health needs is not spending 2 years being “entirely unproductive” – or, worse, outright wasting them. I have a topic I feel pretty passionate about, and there’s room to change or adjust one’s topic during the first semester. I think I’ll be ready – and excited – to start this work in the fall.

I was able to speak honestly about my mental illness with the person who has the most power to keep me from entering my chosen career – the “gatekeeper,” if you will. If anything, I think he appreciated my honesty. This lifts a huge burden from my shoulders; I feel like I can take off the mask I’ve been wearing for most of my life – at least, when wearing it becomes too uncomfortable. I’m not ready to let go of it entirely, nor is that necessarily wise.

But to let it down from time to time
To feel the wind on my face
To allow the tears to flow freely

To only have to expend as much energy
As it takes to get through the day
And not the extra I need
To look like I’m okay

Having permission
To let go of the flimsy barracade
And let the Darkness wash over me
All the emotions held at bay

Now
I can finally
Breathe