emotional lability: 2/30

at work, i often use ‘labile’ to describe an aspect of someone’s health. i might describe someone’s blood pressure as labile, for instance, which is not a good thing – it means it is unstable, going up and going down but not staying steady. i thought of this word today, in terms of me. how i was doing.

i didn’t even know that ’emotional lability’ was an actual term, but when i googled it, i was like, yup, that fits, that was me today. at first i was okay, feeling kinda good, adult, productive. and then i crashed into the pit. i was weepy, i was enraged, i was ashamed, i was scared, i was young, in quick succession and then back again to adult versions of all the same.

which is what happens when you don’t eat and drink your feelings. fuck.

there were good parts in the middle…i rode my bike in the sunny windy afternoon, got my heart pumping. i didn’t find that i wanted to eat bad stuff, i didn’t feel particularly hungry today at all. though i am hungry right now…i am going to have to do something about that before bed, i think. (actually, right now. banana and almond butter to the rescue! trying not to goop on the keyboard.)

i know part of my (disproportionate) irritability at my family earlier was being hangry, though at the time i felt justified and was pretty sure it was just coz they were so self-centred and annoying. and then i slammed a door (not on purpose) and stomped into my room and laid flat on my bed and breathed for a bit, and scrolled social media mindlessly for a bit more, and then i got up and apologized to them, because i really was being a horrible grump because of all the feelings that i wasn’t numbing with the gin & tonics that were starting earlier and earlier in the daytime hours.

***

pocketbrit and i didn’t talk much today. caught in our own personal hells, i think. it never feels good when we don’t talk. i think i realize how much i rely on her to check in when we have days like today, and it makes shame burn in my chest. (and shame is a clusterfuck.)

this morning, when she hadn’t replied to my messages, i was only curious. it was unusual but not unheard of, and when i checked the weather, it was a beautiful day there so i figured she was outside.  by noon, i was more worried and also feeling ashamed and rejected. as mid-afternoon approached with no word, i was a mix of worried, and when she replied by saying “i’m here” i was angry relieved confused ashamed hating myself for being a fucking lunatic.

tonight, as i’m sitting here, missing her, i’m struck by the process of worrying goes for me, and how ashamed i get when i worry. how untrue the stories i start to author are, and how reflective of trauma they are. how i dip into and out of being little, and how being little hijacks my ability to be rational and understanding and fair. coz the things that i start to hear and feel are things like, she stopped caring. and she forgot about me. and it always ends with, i did something wrong and now i have to guess and if i don’t guess right it’s going to be even worse. 

and usually, at that point, my adult brain steps in, tries to soothe the small one. attempts to settle her with more likely stories. like, she’s busy. her phone died and she didn’t notice. she’s gardening, you saw all the plants she’s looking after, that takes a lot of time! to maybe her parents are really after her today and her head’s really bad. but as the hours went on, even the adult starts panicking. she’s hurt. she’s sick. she’s really really not okay, and you don’t even know. and then, always, you wouldn’t even know if something bad did happen, no one is going to tell you anything anyway because you live across the world and besides, you don’t even count and then both little and adult ones are a mess, and the shame gets even huger because this is not even a normal response to someone not seeing my messages, i’m being a total loon and i know it.

and then my shame activates her shame, and our little ones start to box, and soon it’s a triggerfest, where we all feel like garbage and none of us gets what we want or need, where we will both go to bed with our small ones activated and scared and mad and sad and missing. which feels absolutely terrible, the worst, when what we want is to feel connected and close.

but sitting here now, and even earlier, i knew we were okay. we are okay. we have done this before, been here before. i’m not leaving, and neither is she, there’s too much here for both of us, it’s why it hurts so big, coz there’s such a big space left when we’re absent. it was a shit day coz it was shit day. and she will tell me and i will tell her and we will love and understand each other through it, like always, when we are better able to. we will smooth it out among all of us, and i think, i hope, that tomorrow will be kinder.

 

 

one hundred & seventy three: fine

at first i thought that my comment on pocketbrit’s post was pretty much all i wanted to say on the topic…except it seems that her post has disappeared, and now i don’t remember what i said. so i’m going to try again.

i think all of us live in what i like to call opposite-land at times…we say one thing while meaning another. and it’s all in the delivery, right? ‘i’m fine’ accompanied by a downcast gaze, or quick, snappy body language, or a blazing stare all mean, quite clearly, that the person is not very fine at all. but for pocketbrit and i, who built our relationship via text on a screen (on a forum for survivors of sexual abuse, then over email, now using a chatting app), it was sometimes hard to tell tone. however, i learned fairly quickish (yet slower than most, likely) that for her, fine usually did not mean that she was okay.

i tried to search through our chat history using the word fine but it came up with about 75,420,291 hits…okay, a slight exaggeration, but it is a word that comes up between us frequently, and hurts us both. she won’t believe it, but i don’t think she’s wrong and i’m right in how we use it, not even a little. it is more just that this one small word has managed to highlight so completely and painfully the worst and biggest hurts from our past, the ways they have settled in our bones and continue to injure us in the now. it is horrible and amazing both, how quickly it can flip a switch on our communication, how much power it wields. and tonight, it makes me mad that i let it so often, when i should know better. (oh hello shame, you wily arsehole.)

as she has written about previously, my sweetest pocketbrit was not permitted feelings in her family; her role was as a peace-keeper amongst her brothers, her dad, and even between her parents. there was no room for her to feel anything. no one asked, and no one, within or outside her family, dug beneath the facade of fineness. any unfine feelings she did have were quickly swallowed in order for her to stay safe, to survive.

being fine was the only option for her, really, for years and years (and i’d argue, even now) and that’s an awful thing to come to terms with. re-experiencing the aloneness of a forced fine-ness is fucking terrible, bad enough as an adult, but even worse through the heart of a child. a child who wants to be rescued; who wants to be seen and known and adored and held, like all children do. like we deserved.

i know pocketbrit’s story. i know it, and i understand it. i know that her need for fineness when she is anything but is not to do with me. i know it’s about protecting herself, and most of all, i want her to be safe. god, it is so so important to me that she is safe, that the wee ones inside are safe. and when i’m firmly planted as an adult, her fineness/not fineness doesn’t affect me in the same way as when i’m less adult. it doesn’t hurt. i can think, ah, pocketbrit needs to stay safe, okay. it is in those moments that i can ask whether she’s really fine, or whether she needs to be (as she referenced in her post). it’s those times that no matter her response to that question, whether it’s truthful or less truthful or angry or barricaded, that i can stay steady. if she says she’s fine and she’s not really, it may be mildly frustrating, sure, but i don’t spin out. i can be fine, truly fine, in the face of however she is.

the crap part is, i haven’t had many of those moments lately, where i’m fine, or anything approximating it. i’ve been very unfine lately. and so has she.

and that’s when it all goes to shit, really. when we’re both little and needing. when we’re tired or missing each other. when we want to have our needs met without having to ask, without having to say the words. when we need to be remembered by the other, when we can’t do it ourselves. basically, when our traumas get all tangled and knotted between us and suddenly we’re wading through a colossal triggery mess.

for me, the hook is the word fine, a little, yes, but mostly it’s about doublespeak. when i’m young, or if i’m not sturdy in my adultness, my terror with hearing things are fine (when the circumstances are so shit that there’s no possible way they could be) comes from knowing that i am expected to know, and that because i don’t, i will have to guess, that i will have to search, and that i will inevitably get it wrong.

coz that was my entire childhood. i grew up with a mother who had an endless number of triggers, it seemed. who metamorphosed into a petulant furious child when she was hurt or upset. and her lack of boundaries, her volatility, her inconsistency, made for very confusing, unsafe times for child-me. coz when my mom was hurt or upset, she raged, she lashed out with whatever was nearest, she slammed things around, she screamed in my face, but worst of all was when she would go completely silent, for hours or sometimes days.

it made my stomach drop out. it was clear i was being punished, but she wouldn’t tell me why, or what. during these silent periods, when i asked for something she’d sometimes respond, but with no eye contact. she would serve me food, turn on the taps for my bath, but in silence. and if she did meet my gaze, her eyes were empty and dead. she handled me like i was a thing. it was like i had disappeared, like i didn’t exist, and i absorbed her disgust like a sponge.

for years, when this happened, i would flail desperately, trying to make it right, trying to fix it, trying to get her to look at me, to love me. and then, in a distant, quiet voice, looking somewhere over my shoulder, she’d say that she was fine. it didn’t matter. and there was no correct response to that. the only right thing was that i was wrong, regardless. my existence, my presence, was wrong.

so it’s a little bit the word fine, but mostly it’s the perpetual wrongness that’s my trigger. the feeling from long ago, of being trapped, of having no clue what to do but being pretty certain that it will be wrong no matter what. the helplessness that swallows me whole when i’m faced with a word that has so many shades of meaning, that is so super charged.

so yeah, when i’m already triggered, or when i’m young already (or teetering on edge of it), when i’m lost in shame, hearing pocketbrit tell me she’s fine creates instant panic. it feels like i have to guess and i know i’ll get it wrong, and then many times, i’m flooded with anger and blame (to cover my terror) and then it’s already gone to shit, hasn’t it.

so here are my solutions around using the word fine. we should:

  • identify exactly how we’re feeling every given moment
  • only say the word as it’s meant – as in, all is well over here!
  • stay safe at all times so we never resort to past coping mechanisms
  • check our shame at the door, or if we experience it, be able to dial it back asap
  • remember that we love each other
  • remember what love is, period

yeah they’re shit solutions. i know. i knew it when i started trying to write them. it’s coz there aren’t any solutions, i don’t think.

saying fine is not a problem to be solved, to start…i mean, yeah, all the things that are glued to it are problematic, but we didn’t paste them there. we didn’t choose them on our own, though we are the ones who have to deal with them.

update (as of may 12/19): even though the original entry was only a couple months ago, i was struck by the fact tonight that this word hasn’t come up in ages. i mean, we certainly haven’t stopped triggering each other, and we’ve had some absolutely horrific arguments since then…one in particular for which i need to do a whole lot more repair with one of her young parts…but not about this word. progress? i think so. i really do. coz even after reflecting on all of this again, even thinking about all the hard stuff we’ve been through together and on our own, all i feel is love and gratitude. she’s the friend for me.

backdated; finalized on May 12/19

Patience (95)

At the moment this word is making me think of pocketcanadian, the amazing friend I’m lucky enough to share this blog with.

She doesn’t have endless patience. Nobody does (or should), but lately, she’s so much more patient than I could ever ask of her. I mean she’s always been patient, but extra lately. And the best thing of all… Its been with one of my young ones that really needs it. The little one and i have spent the last couple of days listening to pc’s voice and rereading the conversations between the two of them. Because, pc has been so gentle, so loving and kind, and so patient.

Neither of us can quite believe our luck, because here’s the thing, my little one believes pocketcanadian. She believes her words and she believes her love. She always knew that it was genuine, but she never dreamed that it could actually be applicable to her too. That somebody, actually, really, wants to fight to love her. That they care. It’s amazing. And she’ll carry on fighting it a bit sometimes, keep thinking it isn’t safe, but she also knows it’s there patiently waiting. And that’s so much more than we could have dreamed of.

twenty-eight: nurture

this one would make me more sad if i weren’t so tired.

i think of nurturing as being something mothers do. and i had a mother who could be nurturing, but who also took it away with little notice. so it was not something to be trusted.

when i think of nurturing, i think of little, small, innocent people, who require patience and love and consistency and steadiness so they can develop and grow. i hope i was sometimes a mama like that when my daughter was smaller, and i want to keep being that for her in meaningful ways as she grows bigger. i want to be a nurturing, loving presence for pocketbrit (both big and little), and i want to be that for little me, who still has a chasm of hurt in her chest for what she didn’t get (and got instead) all those years ago.

twenty-six: always

this word has been sitting heavily in my gut all day, and until i started writing, i was not even sure why. it just felt…dangerous. pointy. prickly, and overall sore.

maybe it’s coz i don’t believe in always, not anymore. the adult in me knows, has learned, that nothing is for always, nothing is in perpetuity. always is an illusion, an unreachable standard.

however, for my internal wee one…this is the stuff of her dreams. to be loved eternally. to be cherished, no matter what. to forever be supported. (i was just reminded of a story my therapist told me, as per her own therapist from years ago: that when we find ourselves using absolutist terms like always and never and everything and nothing, that it’s a surefire sign that we are young. ha. so there you have it.)

and though i am loathe to pop the fairy tale bubble of always for her, to interrupt the purity of her hope, to break her heart…i am also desperate to protect her, not only from always, but from its equally fatal synonyms, like forevermore. perpetually. invariably. without exception. continuously. uninterruptedly. because, fuck. they all hurt. reek of broken promises, falsehoods, unattainable goals.

and also, because there is such innocence in holding out hope for always. gazing without pollution upon the world, with such simplicity and wholehearted lack of guile. knowing what i know now…was i truly ever that innocent? did i ever even get to dream of forever and always?

i wish i could. i wish i did. i’m sure that i might have, but that level of faith, of simplicity, seems entirely impossible from where i stand now. and the sadness feels like a gulf in my chest.