two hundred & nine: motivation

what i’ve had very little of, in terms of this blog.

which leads to shame, which leads me not to do it even more.

and shaming myself into writing this post led me to realize that i am not very good at motivation without also being impatient and unkind, particularly to myself. as in, the only reason i’m writing right now is because i thought it would be amusing and kind of ironic (and a good opportunity to be self-deprecating) that i write my first post in days about motivation, like ha, what a joke. posting about how lame i’ve been about posting is an opportunity i can’t pass up. gotta get that dig in.

and i can hear that it’s mean, and i feel all the familiar pricklings of shame in my body, but tonight, i think i deserve all of it, it feels right.

one hundred & ninety three: perfection

ah yes. the companion of nearly every survivor of a difficult childhood: striving for perfection.

many of us, myself and pocketbrit definitely included, had parents that expected it. yet no matter how excellent our behaviour or grades, or how closely we followed the rules, it eluded us, and eludes us still.

naively, i thought i had gotten over my need for perfection; i have certainly dedicated hundreds of hours to it in previous years of therapy, and thought i had kicked the habit. recent experiences tell me that i haven’t, not even close. maybe i’ve been in denial about it. or perhaps i was distracted by loads of other bullshit that was piled atop of this base, gutteral fear, that’s certainly feasible (eye roll). but my expectations of perfection are very much here, very much hurting me, very much making things difficult again in my life.

*

my expectation of perfection manifests in several different ways, most notably, with a lack of tolerance for mistakes. in myself mostly, but sometimes in others (like my kiddo…ugh i hate that). when i think of where it came from, it was partly that i didn’t hear a lot about what was ‘right’ about me. if i got 98% on a test, the question was about where the other 2% went – i mean, if i was so close to perfection, why couldn’t i just go all the way? or if i had a really great soccer game or a terrific hit in baseball, there would also be feedback on the really fast runner i didn’t stop, or the one pop fly that bounced out of my glove.

i described to someone recently – my wife, maybe, or my t – how i have a really long mental list of all that i have done wrong, the mistakes i have made, and with whom. and once the list starts approaching a certain length, i get more and more squirrely, all watery on the inside, because how much more will they tolerate? i mean, i messed that thing up last week, i forgot that really important date in her life, i really fucked up that other thing yesterday, i made that stupid joke that upset her, and oh my god, what about how disappointed he was when i didn’t follow through when i was supposed to?!

my missteps keep me up at night all the time. everyone says that mistakes are okay, but i know they’re not, not really. coz if i burn through their tolerance for mistakes (which i inevitably will, coz i’m nothing if consistent in my mistake-making), they will go. they will have no choice but to leave, because what self-respecting human will put up with the shittiness that is me?! at some point, they will call it, because how crummy i am will outweigh any of the things that might be okay or decent about me.

because the truth is, i am chronically terrified of being left. despite being a grown-ass woman in my 40s, despite the fact that many people haven’t gone…all i can think of is how many people did. after 17 years with my wife, i still think (and regularly) that i am one mistake away from her throwing in the towel. i am terrified of my daughter reaching the age of 18, when she can officially, legally disown me as her mother. i know pocketbrit is going to leave me one way or another, why wouldn’t she?

and i’m aware it sounds nuts. but it’s how i feel, way deep down. and whilst triggered, this striving for perfection is even more amped up, with the added bonus of it being even less likely that i meet the unattainable goal of getting it right 100% of the time. when i’m triggered, the mind-numbing fear of the consequences of these critical mistakes is also magnified, millions-fold. and my response? is fight, flight, and freeze, all, in quick head-spinning succession.

*

there have been huge chunks of time lately where i’ve self-isolated to the degree that i’m convinced that the only person i can count on is my therapist. and the only reason i can count on her is because i pay her, and i’m too lost in terror to even care about how sad that is. she is the only one who i’ve been able to tell the hard stuff, the ugly horrible stuff in my head, how much i loathe myself, how scared i get. i tell her, even though i know she will leave me too, but it won’t be personal like it will be when everyone else does.

she’ll leave me because i’m not a real person in her life, and because her professional obligations to me will end at some point. she’s here because she has to be. and even though that used to hurt me so so much, that somehow feels safer and better these days. she won’t leave because i messed up too horrifically, coz like she says, people messing up is her bread and butter. she will leave because she was always going to; she is not my mother (though at times i still want to throw myself at her and plead for her to reconsider it), or my family, or my friend. she will go because that was always the deal.

*

when i am finally become more adult, after days straight of spinning out and triggering and retriggering myself, i know that perfection is impossible. i know that striving for perfection comes from my inner little one, who is trying so desperately to avoid feeling shame and blame and judgement from others, like brene brown says. i know it’s coz i have the core belief that i am bad, not that i’ve done something bad. that i am a mistake, not that i made one.

and from this adult place, i know i can’t go on this way, i can’t go on feeding the illusion of perfection. it keeps me alone and lonely and disconnected. it keeps me walled away and prickly and inaccessible. it is the conviction of a little one for whom those fears were the reality, long ago, but i’m big now, i’m safe now, it’s not true. i can fuck up. lots and lots and lots. i am more than my mistakes. i am more than my trauma. i mean more than those things to the people who love me.

*

but this secure, solid adult place has been so fleeting lately, that i only have a few days at most before i’m riding the shame spiral again, dragging everyone down in my wake, berating myself mightily for landing myself here, yet again.

i am so, so tired.

this post was backdated; actually written on april 12/19

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

one hundred & seventy two: pride

this word actually reminded me of the endless lectures we got as kids, usually regarding doing our ‘jobs.’ we often got accused of having a lack of pride if we didn’t delight in our 500 chores (washing/drying/putting away dishes after every meal, vacuuming the entire house, dusting, scrubbing toilets and sinks, washing the floor, wiping mirrors, putting laundry out onto the line, taking it off, folding it), or if we didn’t do them up to their standards.

in particular, it makes me think about one of my dad’s most regular speeches about how our family was a team, and as team members, we all needed to do our part, we all needed to contribute, they worked so hard to provide all these things for us, how our laziness, lack of enthusiasm and pride in our chores was an insult to them, was proof of how we were ungrateful, selfish, spoiled kids. i can hear the pseudo-patient, long-suffering tone of his voice even now, and i simultaneously roll my eyes outwardly, while i feel my insides shrinking up.

the one persistent, childish fuck you for my apparent lack of pride was one i maintained as long as i lived in their house: i kept my room a a total mess. and even now, i tend to be more messy than tidy, and it is yet another example of the way they have a hold on me, even still. my doing the opposite of what they would do just shows how much control i continue to let them have. it’s ridiculous. insta-shame.

*

my parents were incredibly stingy with praise and in being proud of us. they were proud of us to other people, but rarely in earshot. they bragged about our accomplishments to their friends (as reflections on themselves as excellent parents, mostly) but were very intentional about keeping our sense of pride in ourselves miniscule. we learned that ‘getting a big head’ was one of the worst things that could happen, and any sense of self-confidence was evidence of this. compliments or praise that we shared with them, from teachers or our friends’ parents, were considered highly suspicious, and their intentions were always questioned: ‘what are they playing at?’ and ‘hmm, they’re probably just buttering you up because dad teaches their son.’ compliments paid to us when they were present were quickly batted away: ‘oh you don’t know what she’s usually like at home’ or ‘oh but you should see the state of her room’ and ‘we just wish his math grades would reflect that!’

i don’t know why they were like this. i don’t know why some pride was sanctioned but others wasn’t. i don’t know what they thought would happen if we were proud of ourselves, or if they showed that they were proud of us. we would like ourselves? we would be comfortable in our own skin? we would get better than them?

(though honestly, isn’t that the fucking goal of it all?! i think so. i desperately want our daughter to be better than us, to struggle less, to achieve more, to be happy, to be satisfied, to be loved, to be safe. i want her to be okay. i want her to be as big as she wants to be, to take up as much space as she needs, to chase whatever dreams she has, to have the hugest expanse of what is possible for her lying ahead. why would i want to curb that? why would i want her to pack herself away?)

i don’t get any of it. yet i get all of it, very intimately, because i live with its effects, every minute of my life.

one hundred & seventy: goals

i am a huge list maker. like actually, on paper or on my phone, but also virtually, like in my head. a constant tally of the things i need to do, of both the banal and extremely life-altering variety.

my main goal in life used to be to be completely amazing, to be the top of my class, to win awards and accolades, to be the best. cream of the crop and all that shit.

my goal these days is to simply be enough: a good enough mom. an acceptable wife. a decent friend. i don’t need to win any awards, i just want to meet expectations and not fall short too too often. i just want to not fuck it all up.

*

i’m adding an addendum to this post (it’s the next day). i’ve had a royal shitpile of a day, and part of the reason is because i was waaaaaay too lighthearted about this word, and it’s been eating at me.

coz really, the word, and my memories surrounding it, made me feel a bit sick.

my goals have always been driven by a need to make up for the fact that i am an entirely disappointing human being. my lists are usually reminders of the variety of ways i need to compensate for this fact. i am not easygoing at all about my lists and my goals; that said, it would be impossible to check all the boxes on my lists because they are entirely outlandish, unrealistic, and inherently punitive.

when i was younger, my goals were very much about how to improve myself physically. when i was 11 and 12 and 13, for example, i made sure i did a bunch of sit-ups and leg lifts before bed, because i was sure i was horrifically revolting (i wasn’t) and that i needed to counterbalance my affinity for junk food. i dieted constantly, as i saw my mom do. i felt gross and ashamed about eating, my body, and food. although my body was strong, athletic, and lean, and helped me to excel in team and individual sports, what i saw in the mirror was totally different.

a lot of my goals were to excel at things, so i would impress someone, often a teacher (ugh, i am flushing with shame to write this). i wanted to be excellent because it felt good, yes, but also because i wanted desperately to be special. to be attended to. to be acknowledged. to be seen.

*

one of my main goals in therapy is to stop the cycle of violence…the intergenerational trauma…the perpetuating of shame. i can’t bear the thought of passing it on to my daughter, and having her pass it on to her own children. it’s kinda like, the buck stops here, fuckers.

but right now, i am suffering so much. that sounds dramatic but i’m not sure there’s a better way to put it. lately, it feels like i might drown under the weight of all the work i have yet to do. i described it to my therapist today, that it’s like being in a dark room, and someone opens the door a crack, casting a thin slice of light inwards. and when i look around me, that crack of light illuminates huge, teetering piles and collections of stuff, representing the ways that the hurts of my childhood continue to affect my present life. representing the ways in which i have internalized my parents’ voices, the ways in which i carry them with me, the ways i am complicit with shame and the ways in which i allow it to control my life.

lately, it’s all just been so, so hard. triggers in every direction, body afire, brain lit up like hundreds of landing strips for an endless stream of incoming planes. it feels absolutely impossible, feeling sure i had made progress, and then to have the door swing open to reveal towers of additional shit, boxes and boxes of stuff, piled in every corner…you can bet i’ve run out of the room, slammed the door and latched it tight, but it’s too late, i’ve seen it, i know it’s there. i know how much more there is to sort through.

and i’m not sure i can do it…i’m really not sure i can bear any of it for much longer. i’m so exhausted i can’t even cry. i can’t make goals. i can’t think of the future. i can basically hold on, moment by moment.

please tell me this isn’t all there is.

Shame (168)

This word is a huge one in both of our lives, and seriously, how are we even meant to come close to doing this word justice given the hold it has over us? One blog post can’t ever even begin to describe the fucking constant presence of shame. How it sits back and quietly tuts at you so that you think you have enough of a hold over it to not let it impact your life, until it eggs itself on until its completely screaming in your ears, and you can no longer hear/see/think straight.

***

The image that comes to my mind when I think of shame is of a fire…sometimes controlled, a medium burn, easy(ish) to handle. Sometimes that dies down, its just embers, still hot, but not in your face, not painful…and then all of a sudden without any warning it’s fed some fuel and it’s roaring, burning you, engulfing everything around you. If anything is volatile (yesterdays word), it’s shame. Shame can go from nothing to everything in a millisecond.

***

Last summer shame was being particularly noisy one day, and pocketcanadian suggested that I write out everything I was ashamed of, and for once I did. I’ve got a word document here titled ‘all the shame’. It’s not short, 3 pages long, full of things that I was ashamed of. Some of them feel less real reading them tonight (though I know they were incredibly real to me back then), and some of them still ring true. And, as ever there are more that come to mind. It’s an ever changing (and probably expanding) list.

Here’s one that still has a massive hold over me because the personal belief underlying it is one that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to shake:

  • That I’m too much. Too needy, too incessant, too annoying, want too much, ask for too much, am too emotional, take too much away from other people.

And here are a couple that I wrote that still make me feel physically sick:

  • That it was my fault because he was just a kid, a victim, and if he’s so young and innocent I should have been able to stop him.
  • That he was just a kid so it can’t have been bad. That it’s different to abuse by an adult, that I’m lucky and should shut up. That I’m being disrespectful to people that were actually abused.

***

If/when PC writes about this one, I think she’ll probably talk about the shame spiral…about how once your ashamed and then trying to let somebody in you start getting ashamed about being ashamed in the first place. I’m nowhere near as eloquent as pc, so I’ll leave that bit to her.

***

I wish I could say something more positive in this post, but well, I can’t. It’s just one of those crappy things, and I could write a whole load more about it, but I think that’s enough rubbishy stuff from me for today.

one hundred & sixty eight: shame

the good ol’ search function on our blog reveals that i’ve written about shame 33 times (and i can’t even believe it’s that infrequently). i didn’t count the number of pocketbrit’s posts that came up but i’d guess it’s similar to me.

it feels too huge to even try to tackle tonight. it is the thing i’m working on in therapy right now…in particular, the shame i feel about the inordinate amount of shame i have, and the horrifying way i often succumb to its downward spiral. how knowing him and naming him don’t seem to help not to listen to his voice. how i am still so affected by him, how fully i still believe what he has to say.

to be fair, i have made baby steps, namely, that i am able to tell nearly instantly when i encounter the voice of capital-s Shame. and every once in awhile, i’m able to steel myself against him, sometimes sufficiently enough that i can defend against his wily, evil ways. however, even those times, i am not grateful to him for getting me here, i fucking hate his guts. and lately, it’s seems to be a losing battle and i get sucked into the undertow, choking and sputtering for days on end.

the shame about Shame is the worst, though. because most times, i don’t want to admit that he’s got me. that i’m not better than that, yet. that i am too weak and too small to fight him, that i let him win. that i’m siding with their voices, that i’m not as healed as i pretend to be.

insidious bastard.

he makes me think that dying is a viable option. that the best thing would be to remove myself from all of it. to protect others from me, to shield them from my rot, to excise myself from the world, to erase my existence.

he steals pocketbrit from me, and me from her, so much lately. he tells me that my wife and daughter would be better off without me. that i am pathetic, that i am never going to get better, that i am wrong and stupid no matter what i do. that i deserve to be alone, just like they said. that i’ll never get it right, even if i try my hardest.

he gets in my ears and transforms the words, expressions, and tone of the people who love me. puts me on edge. isolates me. sings me to his side of things. and reminds me, at every turn, that there is something so unbelievably wrong about me that my own parents couldn’t love me.

my therapist tells me, over and over, with unbelievable patience and gentleness, that he’s the one who’s wrong. that his voice was directed to me, that it’s not mine. that just because shame speaks, doesn’t mean that he speaks the truth. that in fact, it is his voice that got me here, that enabled me to survive to this point. with amazing, persistent, optimism, she tells me stories about how we can listen to it without accepting it. (ha. maybe she can. i am less successful at this).

coz really…the cadence of his voice is so familiar, his words so horribly intimate. he knows how to make us curl up into a tiny ball. makes the tears prickle with alarming immediacy. helps us pack it in, tells us to quit trying to be too big for our britches.

i wish i knew the antidote to his convictions. i’m open to ideas, honestly, so feel free to share in the comments.

one hundred & sixty five: greed

this one just makes me want to swear and throw things. it makes me so, so ashamed, and it’s all mixed up in all kinds of stuff from my childhood and i just really don’t even want to write about it but i also want to keep the momentum going on the blog so i’m going to, but ugh.

and ugh again.

*

being greedy is interwoven so tightly for me with selfishness, another word that makes my cheeks flush with shame. wanting anything when i was little was too much, was selfish, was greedy. and what i was most greedy about, and for, was attention.

i was a teacher’s pet. i aspired to be. the moment someone i liked, or admired responded with kindness or positive attention, i bloomed. i can remember the feeling, of literally unfolding, of how my body relaxed and i would feel warm and soft and glowy. i can almost imagine it was a physical thing that happened, that i expanded somehow into the space around me.

i was desperate for attention, and was shamed throughout my life for striving to be seen, to be heard, to be noticed. it was a personal affront to my mom (and she was right to be offended, it was most certainly a commentary on her parenting) and she’d shut it down at every opportunity.

*

all kids are greedy. they are egocentric, they situate themselves at the centre of everything. it is necessarily how kids are, until they reach a certain age. and that natural sense of wanting the biggest slice of cake or of arguing over the larger half of the cookie or wanting the sharpest pencil crayon or holding the teacher’s hand the most times at recess was used as evidence of my selfishness and greed, to support how i was a little girl who didn’t think of others. i can feel myself shrinking even now, recalling it.

*

i’m really struggling to write this next part but it feels important so i’m going to try…it’s just that when i read all the definitions of greed, they mentioned food, and it upset me the most about the word, because my relationship with food is the one area i just haven’t been able to touch in therapy. and it’s fucked up, friends. a real mess.

the completely disordered way i relate to food was inherited at least in part from my constantly-dieting mom, but is also deeply rooted in trauma. i feel like i’m only starting to realize how deeply and it terrifies me. to start, i hate my body. for so so many reasons, mostly the mere fact that i have to have one, that i have to dress it, that i must attend to its needs, that i have to look at it ever, that i have to acknowledge it.

you see, my current body is the type of body my dad was always disgusted about. there was almost nothing worse you could be, than fat (which is a physical manifestation of greed and gluttony, obviously). and…over the years, i have built myself this body, i have cultivated it into my current form, as a way to defy them, as a way to challenge their love, but the thing is, i fucking hate it. like fully, absolutely hate my body. i want to be positive about it, i want to love the fact that i am soft and comfy and curvy but i don’t. i feel (and actually am) heavy, lumbering, ungainly. so so ugly. out of control, and fully broadcasting it to everyone.

everyone who looks at me can see my greed. everyone can see that i take more than my share, that i am selfish, that i am gross. that i’m screaming out for attention, daring to take so much space.

it would be one thing if having this body made me happy, or fulfilled, or proud. if i somehow reclaimed it. if i grew to love it, just as it was. that’s what we’re all meant to do, right? love and accept ourselves?

i can’t. even though i built up layers and layers around me, even though i’m safe now, even though the only person i’m punishing is myself, even though it’s not proving any points anymore. i can’t be gentle about the fact that i’ve done this to myself. that i’ve internalized their disgust so deeply that i am harming my body and my health and my appearance. that i do this in front of my daughter. i can’t love or accept any of it, it’s so incredibly sickening.

one hundred & sixty one: anger

i don’t do anger very well, either. let’s just get that straight.

*

a few years ago i would have said i was fluent in anger. it was an acceptable expression of emotion, just like with pocketbrit’s family, but there was no awareness of what drove it. what it was covering. what lay underneath.

at the beginning of my marriage, when my wife and i argued, i’d often end up really angry. super frustrated, sharp words, defensive, prickly, unfair, terrible. and her response was to cajole, distract, or check out, coz that’s what kept her safe in her home as a kid, being able to interrupt a volatile situation or just exit. coz she also came from a home where anger was dangerous; where there was screaming and violence and arguing. in fact, she remembers often taking refuge on the roof of her house, where the shouting and crashing were muffled, where she’d sit, with her knees drawn up, watching the stars, waiting for it to end. that makes me so so sad.

it just occurred to me that we triggered the fuck out of each other. i got angry, and she got absent. she didn’t get angry, she just got quiet, and then i got absent.

*

over the ensuing decade and a bit, we worked it through. she knows that when i am lashing out at her, that i am hurt. and i know that if i want her to hear me, i need to dig deeper, and let her know what’s beneath all my spikes. similarly, i know that when she starts raging about the house being out of order or going silent, that she is scared, and needing to exert control somewhere. she has learned that disappearing when she is angry is far scarier for me than any words or actions she may take.

however, these last few years have really fucked with that vibe. separately, we’re each working through our trauma(s) in therapy, and it’s been hard, really hard, to figure it out with each other while we’re evolving individually. she is learning to find her voice, her entirely justified anger, her inner advocate, and it is so good, and so important, and so necessary. by no means am i always good with it, coz sometimes i’m just terrible, ask her. and on the flip side, i am learning (so so fucking slowly, like turtle-with-four-broken-legs slow) to allow room for my hurt, to feel the stuff beneath all those angry, prickly layers i built up, to unpack the reflex to get mad. it is the worst timing, and the best timing both, and it is hard.

*

more often than not these days, i am terrified by anger. my own, and that of others. i get instantly small, instantly triggered, instantly wanting to bolt out of wherever i am so i can hyperventilate and panic. and it is really fucking inconvenient, and so shameful. i mean, fuck, i grew up with a goodly dose of violence, parents who yelled and hit us fairly frequently, i used to have no problem getting enraged, why am i getting so fucking weird about it now?

i don’t know, but nowadays, anger undoes me. i’ve gone the opposite direction.

ask the people closest to me (my wife, pocketbrit, even my kid) and they’ll tell you. a hint of anger and i’m outta there. it’s the worst, the absolute worst.

i really want to get better with it.

Shut (130)

Lately I just want everything shut. I want to shut my brain up, I want to shut my mouth for good, I want to shut away all the memories, all the body sensations, all the connections. I want to shut myself away, and I think that I should be shut away, locked up, because I must be completely crazy.

Tonight shame has roared. It’s been so incredibly noisy, shouting in my ear and harming my friendship. It’s telling me everything that is wrong with me. Going over and over the constant list that is being replayed both visually behind my eyes, and audibly…that list of everything that people would change about me, if they just had the chance. Everything¬†wrong with me.

I want to shut shame up. That’s really what I need, and somewhere in the back of my head, I know that. And yet, he gets too loud, I can’t hear past it, and then all I think is that I want to be shut in a coffin, 6ft under, where everything would just be so much easier. I wish I hadn’t thrown all of the razors out of my house to stop myself self-harming, because I know that it would just help lately.

 

*****

Pocketcanadian says to me sometimes that she needs to take care of her, because nobody else will. And that makes my shame roar. What I hear is that I am not a good person in her life, that I don’t take care of her, that I just hurt her and am not gentle. It feels like her shutting me out, the biggest shove, a ‘you’re not safe pb, get away from me’. I know that isn’t what she’s saying now, as I write this…. she’s quite reasonably and rightly saying that we need to take care of ourselves first, because we’re the only ones that know what we need and can see to those needs. And yet it still feels like a shut door. I still can’t completely rid the shame of hearing it. I get scared of being shut out, it sends my little one spinning.

*****

Recently, I can’t remember if it was in a dream or if it was during the early hours of the morning where I wasn’t asleep, but you almost feel like you are, as your brain is going over things, imagining scenarios in that dream-like state, but I was thinking about how I’d like to just go mute. Shut up entirely. I mean, I’m not very chatty anyway, I’m very shy. I barely talk even in therapy, and something feels so restful about not talking anymore, like I used to do when I was really little. I think I’m just so tired of the talking sometimes. It doesn’t exactly take loads of energy, and yet somehow it really feels like it does.

*****

And I just want to shut myself away and hide from the world, from my family. From everybody but the very few that are special and so important to me, like pc.