Falling Together

Everyone I know is at least a little worried about me. And I can understand why. I have long moments when I am completely certain that I have lost my mind. I am continually sick and am in pain on a daily basis. I can barely keep up with my minimum standards that I rely on to keep my children from showing up at school looking and smelling like they might have spent the night in a homeless shelter.

At least the money situation’s looking up. My husband was laid off – again. So he’s using the severance package he got to pay the bills while he gets a new business he was asked to be CEO of off the ground. And without the costs of a daily commute, we’re even paying the utility’s down! Yay us!

Anyhow, I suppose I can understand why people are a bit worried about me. But I have the very distinct feeling of having just fallen together. Which really looks an awful lot like falling apart and is at least as scary.

Those of you who have been reading my writing for a while may have noticed an ongoing theme that I touch on from time to time which I believe the technical term for is “abject misery”. Or maybe you were fooled by the occasional off colored joke. I can be pretty good at hiding my true feelings sometimes. But you know, I may have given off a few telltale signs.

Anyhow, the truth is that what is alarming about me and my life right now are the same things that are letting me know that I’m coming together rather than apart. I’m finally safe enough to let go of the last threads of my sanity so that the mess that my life is can finally be redeemed. I’ve never been (or felt) this safe before. I’m finally able let myself fall apart, confident that God has placed people around me that I needed to survive and come out the other side as something other than a crazy bag lady and drug addict.

(Yes, that is an actual picture of me writing with a child sitting on my shoulders.)

(Yes, that is an actual picture of me writing with a child sitting on my shoulders.)

I’m sure that as time goes on, I’ll be able to share more about the process, which I learned a great deal from. But that’s like a book and I’m ready to tap out at about the 400 word mark here. However, I did discover what’s behind my super amazing ability to write with a child on my shoulders. It’s not nearly as amusing as that picture of Olivia sitting on my shoulders, unfortunately. It turns out that along with depression and a history of PTSD, I have a dissociative disorder that dates back to before I could talk.

Which is yet another reason I’m making the people around me nervous. Unlike other mental health problems, dissociative disorders don’t have any genetic basis. They are always the result of trauma and are almost certainly much more widespread than is commonly thought. Many people who have them are completely unaware of the fact that they are having problems.

The most severe type of dissociative disorder is dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder. You know – 1 woman, 69 personalities. The very definition of shockingly crazy. Fortunately, I don’t have that. My various personalities all know they aren’t real and are serving in a strictly advisory capacity.

Looking back, I can see that I have a history of overcoming the problem and making it work somehow. Like being able to write with a kid on my shoulders. For me, the biggest problem is the way it affects my memory and attention when I am not in control of it. Like when I have to ask my kids to repeat themselves 4 or 5 times because Mommy can’t focus on what they are saying at all. Or when I send out a post without a title again.

A dissociative disorder is always alarming because of it’s roots in severe trauma and the fact that it’s associated with a lot of negative life outcomes, some of which I have experienced. But mostly, when I learned that I have a dissociative disorder, I felt like I was being given permission to own my cool super power.

Well, that’s what I feel like in between the times when I think I’ve lost my grip on reality and have to go to my husband for reassurances that our children aren’t in any danger of being removed from our care because of me. Which is progress. I spent most of July and August asking him how he can be so sure that none of the kids is laying in bed at night wishing they were dead. Which might alarm some people, I suppose. But it’s just part of the process. It’s an ugly process, but at least now I understand what’s happening.

At any rate, as I mentioned above, I was showing signs of this problem at an age when I could barely talk. Between the ages of 1 and 3, I frequently displayed signs of having withdrawn entirely from my surroundings and sometimes from my main caregiver for extended periods. This is usually considered the worst case scenario for a child who has experienced trauma – that he or she would withdraw so completely that they would come to find their own internal reality much more interesting and engaging than the world around them. (And yes, I know for a fact that some of you just thought, “well, it is!” And you’re right. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to get there. Severe childhood trauma is the wrong way.)

As it turns out, I seem to have withdrawn deep enough to find God in my inner most being. And he led me back out again. Then when I was ready, he lead me back into the abyss so I could take back all those bits and pieces of my heart that got left behind along the way. But I’ve shared about as much as I have time and energy for today.

So yes, I know that I am alarming people. I know that I’ve alarmed some of you readers as I occasionally hear from a few of you expressing concern. And I’m so glad for that. It lets me know that I am seen. That I’m no longer buried so deep that I feel invisible. And it reminds me that there are plenty of people who can respond to someone in pain with compassion. Which can be easy to lose sight of in this world. But I’m still here. And so are you.

And now let’s listen to a pretty song about how it’s all going to be alright. Because it is. And now I know it. Praise God.

If you’re falling together, these are for you, btw:

For When You Can’t Function

Getting By On Manna

How the Dark Night of the Soul Is Like a Juice Cleanse

Can God Do What He Says He Will Do?

You’re So Sensitive!

The Gift of Delayed Grief

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Hi. Remember Me?

Ugh, I’ve been struggling to figure out how to write this post for several days, but no clever ideas have come to me so I suppose I may as well just dive in and vomit it out.  The last you heard from me, I was going to go curl up in the fetal position. Which wasn’t hyperbole. I was probably a couple of days out from complete nervous breakdown. As regular readers know, the last few years have not been kind to me and my family. It all culminated last summer with my husband leaving me with 5 kids which was a fairly stressful and traumatic experience. Around the start of the year, I felt like I was turning a corner. I went days at a time without crying and even felt happy for at least part of every day.  I knew that there would be bumps on the road, but for me February was more like running into the side of a mountain and then being hunted down by a pack of Chupacabra. I mean, under more normal circumstances, I could handle emergency gallbladder surgery and my mother almost dying within 10 days like a champ. I could maybe even weather not having my parents – particularly my mother – readily available to talk to when I needed to vent. But this time? Not so much.

I told my mom later that it felt like the only time I went skiing and crashed so hard that I never did find the rabbit fur ear muffs I had pressured my brother to let me borrow. I just crashed. It sucked to be me. But is that ever enough? No, of course not. Because I could see that the whole thing was part of a massive, cosmic set-up. You see, for several months, the ex had been making noises about moving back in. Seeing as he was still picking fights with me to argue that “humiliation is too a good parenting tool” and responding to my requests for a break from the kids that lasted more than 2 hours by accusing me of using the kids as an excuse not to create a real life for myself, this wasn’t a particularly tempting proposition. I did finally tell him that if he wanted to move into the basement I guess that would be OK, but I wasn’t prepared to raise so much as an eyebrow in order to help him move the boys out of their room so it could happen. Which meant that there was a close to 0% chance of it actually happening.

But I had also told him that I found his continuing crazypants talk frightening and perhaps he would want to get some counseling before I signed the kids up for lessons in self-defense. Which he finally did. So, right around the time that my mom was near death and I could feel myself coming completely unglued, he came and apologized. Apparently the counselor had given him an emotional intelligence test that he scored a zero on and it opened his eyes. Actually, I have no idea what he scored on the Emotional Intelligence tests, but just 3 sessions in he felt compelled to come and beg forgiveness and offered to help me recover from having to live with him the last couple of years. Which I may have rolled my eyes at if at that moment I wasn’t afraid that I was going to wind up like that Kony 2012 guy and run out into the street in my underwear to bang my head on the pavement.  Which would have been really bad because I’ve had 5 kids and look much worse in my undies than that guy did. Well, OK, I probably wouldn’t have ended up like that anyways – it takes too much energy to have a psychotic break. I’m more given to catatonic posturing; that only requires me work up enough energy to suck air. At any rate, I knew that I was close to losing it and needed help and lacking any other reasonable volunteers, he moved back in.

For the first few days I kept him up half the night with my sobbing. Because the idea that I was going to have to wake up to another day was that awful just then. He had promised that he was done complaining, criticizing and demanding – particularly when it came to my crappy house keeping. So I took him at his word and didn’t do shit for a couple of weeks. I got my anti-depressants and slept a lot. Obviously, I didn’t (couldn’t) write anything. And slowly, slowly, slowly after much time spent staring at walls, I started getting better. I stopped spending most of my time hiding in my room (or bathroom). I took the kids on walks and met people. The last few days I’ve felt almost normal. My house is cleaner than it’s been in ages. And I can actually think about writing again.

So, the qxh (quasi-ex-husband) has become the qh (quasi-husband). Quasi because I’m still not convinced that this is going to work. We had our first argument since he moved back last night (which isn’t too bad considering that it’s been almost a month and a half). But frankly, I’m just not at all confident that the man even likes who I am as a human being. Which is a real deal breaker donchano? And my tolerance for people whose views of me and my actions are delusional, negative and/or psychotic (a good description of his stance for the year before he left) has been reduced to just about nothing. I have family members I’m not speaking to for just that reason. There’s no way in hell that I’m actually going to live with someone who is likewise inclined to hyper-critical, reality-free thinking when it comes to me. I make NO claims to perfection, but frankly, I think I’m a fairly awesome person and have done a pretty admirable job with my life which is also completely imperfect, but pretty awesome nonetheless. Anyone who thinks otherwise can feel free to STFU. Or barring that, allow me to suggest a long walk off a short pier in the Everglades. I promise not to miss you when you’re gone!

I referred earlier to this whole thing as a “massive cosmic set-up” because reality is that it was going to take me being knocked flat on my ass before I would consider letting the qh move in or attempt any reconciliation. We were utterly done. Heck, we don’t even have our wedding rings anymore. The only reason he was the quasi-ex-husband and not just the ex-husband was that there was no money to file the papers I have all filled out and working out child support was going to be complicated by his already existing child support orders.  It could well be that with continued counseling for the qh and eventually for us together, we’ll be able to work things out. In which case, we’ll be able to look back and be happy that I had finally hit my wall. If not, I’m at least glad that he was able to step in when he did and get along well enough with me and the kids to give me time to recuperate.

So, yeah, that’s what’s been up with me. Anything interesting going on in your world?