An empty house and a full head of emotions

Perhaps it was the perfect storm; the day before Mother’s Day, less than a week before my surgery, just two days after receiving a job offer for a management position. There was just a lot going on in my head. Until I woke up Saturday night in a puddle of my own vomit, so drunk that nothing could go on in my head anymore.

That was a low point for me. To be completely honest, maybe one of my lowest points. Even in my prior days of being a blackout drunk, I never found myself passed out on the floor laying in my own vomit. And to make it worse, it was the woman who took me in who found me. Everyone saw me, her husband, her younger son, in one of my worst states. But I didn’t feel the shame until the next day, because that night, I was too drunk to feel anything other than the urge to pee.

I thought I was handling myself quite well, considering. I had a few crying moments throughout the week, a few brief fits of rage whenever a Mother’s Day commercial came on TV. But it was all controlled, it left as fast as it came. We had a game plan for Mother’s Day. I wasn’t going to spend it alone. I was going to go and spend time with their family, a welcome distraction to me. It was going to be okay.

But I guess it wasn’t, and I knew it that night when everyone left the house to celebrate the oldest son’s prom. I was grieving.

It wasn’t grief about Mother’s Day or failing health or anything that one would assume would be the thing to grieve over. It was a grief I had been feeling for weeks now, only growing the more time I spent here, in my new home, with a new family. A grief I was not prepared for. A grief I never expected.

As the days go by here, I see everything I never had as a child. A safe home free of violence, two parents that love and care and support and talk to their children, children who have freedom to eat when they’re hungry, to leave the house when they want to leave, to do the things I never had the opportunity to do until now. But I am 31 years old. I wanted these things when I was a child.

And that day, as I watched the family come together to celebrate, I could feel the emotions come up again, I could feel the loss of my childhood smacking me right in the face. I wanted that. I wanted my family to be happy for me. I wanted my family to dress up and take pictures and celebrate every event with me. I wanted to feel special, as every child should feel, as every child deserves to feel.

That was my tipping point. The grief flooded me, along with all of the anger and anxiety I had already been feeling about everything else, my emotions took control. I hid in my room, trying (and failing) not to cry and ruin their night. Because I knew it wasn’t about me. I didn’t matter, in this moment or in others.

And then everyone left. An empty house, and a grieving, angry, emotion-ridden me. I didn’t want to feel anything. I cried and I cried and then I felt nothing at all. Like a switch had just turned off in my mind, with each gulp of vodka I drank, it washed away the emotions until I felt nothing at all.

But I wasn’t thinking straight. Instead of stopping, I kept drinking and drinking, even after the feelings were gone. I drank most of a 32-ounce bottle of straight vodka, not even thinking about how it was going to affect me, not even caring that my heart had barely been working right even when I was sober.

For a brief moment, when I first fell to the floor and realized the severity of how drunk I was, I contemplated taking my bottle of pills and ending it right there. I knew if the alcohol didn’t kill me (and that amount very much could have, even without my heart condition), the combination would have been certain death. But I couldn’t do it because even though I didn’t care about myself in that moment, all I could think about was this family finding me dead. I couldn’t do that to them; I had already done enough.

So I ended up laying on the floor for hours, in misery, painfully vomiting nothing but phlegm and bile because I hadn’t even eaten food that day. I knew they weren’t able to lift me. All they could do was make sure I was still breathing and not choking on my own vomit. Hours later, I was steady enough to make my way to the bathroom and pee

Hours later, I was steady enough to make my way to the bathroom and pee. I looked at myself in the mirror. Hair a mess, broken blood vessels on my face, a rash from laying in puke for who knows how long. I did this to myself. And this is now how the family saw me. The shame started to settle in

The shame started to settle in. I woke up in the middle of the night to clean my mess, but I knew there were some things I wouldn’t be able to clean up, for myself or for others, things that could not be forgotten.

I lost a lot that night. And there are some things I wonder if I will ever be able to get back.

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Pink Puffer

I spent Thursday night in the hospital.

I was having a hard time breathing since Monday. I ignored it, because I didn’t have time to be sick. So it lingered and lingered.Then it got worse. But I still ignored it. I don’t have time to be sick. I have to go to program. I have to work. I have chapters to read, papers to write, articles to publish, people to help. I am not sick.

By Wednesday, it became an effort just to take each breath. I went to program despite my exhaustion, but I couldn’t hide my cough. I started running to the bathroom so no one would see me struggling to breathe.

I heard the nurse calling me on my way back. She seemed concerned. She said she didn’t even need to listen to my lungs to know that something was wrong; she could hear me breathing feet away. I told her I was fine. I’m not contagious, it’s probably just a mild pneumonia. I talked about it like it was a cold. Nothing major. I promised the nurse I would try to make it to the doctor, even though I didn’t really want to.

I wasn’t planning to end up in the hospital, but after three nebulizer treatments with no improvement, I knew I wasn’t going to make it through the next day. They started breathing treatments as soon as I got to the ER. No change. I ended up on a magnesium drip with IV fluids and Solu-Medrol. Blood tests, nasal swabs, and x-rays all came back clean. It wasn’t an infection. It wasn’t pneumonia. It was COPD.

I spent most of the night crying, eventually falling asleep only to wake up and cry again. I managed to get myself together enough to make it to PHP Friday morning. I made it through most of morning session just fine. Then I took a conscious breath and it all went to shit.

I don’t know if I can quite describe what it feels like. You take in a breath okay, but then it can’t get out. You feel like you’re drowning, but not in water, in air. I hurried out of the room to run to the bathroom again. I saw the nurse out of the corner of my eye, but I was coughing and wheezing so bad I couldn’t talk.

I spent several minutes in the bathroom trying to get back to normal. Shallow breaths. Just take shallow breaths and you’ll be fine. I went back to my group. A few minutes later, my therapist came to the door and pulled me out of group. Great. What did I do now? She took me to the nurse’s office and closed the door.

I sat there, surrounded, trying not to panic. The nurse sat across from me; my therapist sat on the floor. Oh, we’re all sitting. This can’t be good. Someone asked what was going on, if I had gone to the doctor. I told them I went to the hospital; that counts as the doctor. I tried to make it seem not-so-serious. They asked if it was pneumonia.

Before I could answer, I broke down crying. All the emotions came back to me again. The anger. The sadness. The hopelessness. I would have rather had pneumonia.

I didn’t want to cry. My tears did not feel justified. My pain wasn’t valid.

This diagnosis, it’s nothing new to me. I’ve known about the COPD for a while now. So why does it hurt every time I hear a doctor say it? Why am I still grieving? I should be over it by now.

It’s not fair. I went through hell. I got out. This was supposed to be my better life, my life without hurt.

Instead I ended up with this. I didn’t get a break. I got a punishment.

I could sense the concern in the room. I pushed aside my anger and stopped crying. They told me there were options. The nurse handed me a paper with quit assistance programs. My therapist said we could work out a plan. It doesn’t always have to be this way. It doesn’t always have to be a struggle to breathe. You are strong and resilient, she said.

I’m tired of being strong and resilient. It was the truth. What’s the point? Look where strength and resilience has gotten me. Look what I’ve become. A mess.

You need to take time for yourself. What’s that? I go to PHP from 8 to 3:30 every weekday. Then I go straight to work at 4. By the time I get home for the night, I have just enough time to put together a cohesive assignment for grad school. Weekends are full of more work, school work, articles, and errands. I don’t have time for myself.

I just want it to all go away. I want an easy life, even if it’s just for a little while. I don’t want to have to go to a program every day. I don’t want it to hurt when I breathe. I don’t want to be so tired all the time. I don’t want to struggle.

I want to pretend that I am healthy. I want to pretend this diagnosis doesn’t exist. I can breathe. This is normal. There’s nothing wrong with me. This has all been a mistake.

I managed to push it all away for a while. I can smoke a cigarette, nothing is wrong with me. My lungs are fine. My denial was fully engaged, and no one was around to tell me otherwise.

Later on that day, I sat across from my psychiatrist as he waited on hold to try to change my prescription at the pharmacy. I felt the tightness in my chest again. I took a breath and started drowning. I leaned forward and tried to get the air out as best I could.

As I sat back in the chair and tried to compose myself, I heard the psychiatrist say so, you’re a pink puffer. I looked at him, a bit confused. I never in my life heard of a pink puffer before. I asked for clarification. Your breathing, he said. That’s a classic forced expiratory wheeze of emphysema. I don’t even need a stethoscope, I can hear it from here.  Doctors would call you a pink puffer.

I don’t know how much longer I can deny the truth.

Through the Eyes of DID

Yesterday, Grief Diaries: Through the Eyes of DID was published.

I was fortunate enough to be able to share part of my story, as I was one of the contributing writers for this book.

I had a lot of mixed emotions about being a part of this book. I actually changed my mind a few times before finally deciding to go through with it.

I still carry a lot of shame and guilt for what happened to me. I still believe, in some ways, that my childhood was my fault. I thought, if anyone reads this, they are going to think I was a horrible child. They are going to believe I am a horrible person. How bad a child I must have been for my own mother to treat me like that. How weak of a woman I must have been for allowing the abuse to keep happening. How crazy I am with this diagnosis.

It’s not like I haven’t spoken about it all before. I’ve been vocal about my trauma in social media. I write publicly about my disorder on my professional blog, under my real name. I write about everything on here, under not-so-anonymous anonymity. But this was something different. This was my life, attached to my real name, printed in a book, available across the world for anyone to read.

And then there was the issue of protecting the people who hurt me. I felt bad for labeling my abusers. I could have just said someone abused me. I didn’t have to name names. But who was that helping? Who was that protecting? It wasn’t helping me. It wasn’t protecting me. It was helping and protecting my mother. It was helping and protecting my father. And I didn’t owe them help or protection. I didn’t owe them anything.

I’ve held so much anger against the people who failed to protect me from my mother, and here I was doing that same exact thing — protecting her. The woman who stole my childhood. The woman who took away my innocence. The woman who broke me again and again. It’s bad enough to be abused, but to be abused by your own mother, the one person who is supposed to nurture, love, and care for you — that is a whole other level of pain. It’s a pain I want people to know about, because I want them to realize that it can happen to anyone. I want people to know that mothers can hurt their children, just like anyone else can.

So I did it. I admitted my mother abused me.

My biological mother was my main abuser. I call her my biological mother because it’s difficult to call her mother sometimes. I acknowledge that she gave birth to me, but her motherly qualities stopped there. For simplicity, I will refer to her as my mother, but I’d like to believe that real mothers don’t abuse their own children.

But that was not my only struggle in writing for this book.

In collaborating with the other writers who also had DID, I realized that I am just not at that level of acceptance yet. The other writers were so okay with announcing how many parts they had. They knew all their parts’ names and what purpose they had in the system.

And then there was me. How many parts do I have? Too many to count right now. What are their names? I don’t know. I know a few. But not all of them have names. I don’t keep a tally. I don’t keep an attendance sheet. Just the other night, I was kept awake by a voice inside that kept saying Sadie wants to color and all I could think was who the FUCK is Sadie? Because I just don’t know. I don’t know my parts. I don’t know me. I am a failure here, among all of these perfectly organized and knowledgeable people with DID.

I’m not going to lie. Seeing what others wrote made me feel like shit. I thought maybe I shouldn’t be writing for this book, because my DID is as chaotic as my life is, and that’s not the image that anyone else was portraying.

But then I remembered that I’m not supposed to be perfect, and my DID sure as hell doesn’t have to be perfect, either.

So I wrote my reality. I wrote of my shame in having more parts than I cared to admit. I admitted I didn’t know everything that was going on, inside and outside my head. I told of my struggles with drugs and alcohol, my suicide attempts, my fears about turning into an abuser. I wrote about how afraid I was of losing control and of losing my life. I opened myself up in a way I hadn’t before.

And now it’s all out there. The life I hid for so long. The parts of my life that I am still hiding. The denial. The failure. The fear. The struggle.

I don’t want to hide anymore. I shouldn’t have to.

You know me as Kyra Jack, but I’m also Crystalie.

I have DID.

I am a human being.

499

I have some things for you from your mother.

He said it like it was nothing. He didn’t know it wasn’t nothing to me.

I wasn’t expecting it. I was having a regular conversation (over text) with my friend about something I wanted to do and out of the blue, he mentioned this. I froze for a minute, both physically and emotionally. I was numb. You could have stabbed me in both hands with a steak knife and I would have stayed sitting where I was, staring blankly at the wall, never flinching.

Then the emotions rushed in. I couldn’t tell if I was angry, sad, or both. I asked my friend what it was. It’s a letter, and some other things. At that point, I didn’t care about the other things. My thoughts danced around the letter.

I felt myself being swept away by hope. My mother is finally apologizing. She is finally going to say how sorry she is, how she never meant to hurt me. She is going to tell me how much she misses me, how much she loves me and has always loved me. She’s going to say she wants me back, that we are family. She is sorry and she loves and cares for me.

I sensed the joy of younger me, the excitement over the wish of family and of love coming true.

But I was crying, because adult me knew that those wishes were not coming true. This letter was not going to be one of love and caring. It was not going to be a letter of acknowledgement or apology.

My heart is breaking again. I am torn between the wish and the reality, the hope and the truth. Part of me wants to see that letter, to read my mother’s words, because there is still a small wish, a flickering of hope that my mother would be what I need her to be: a mother.

But then part of me knows that what I hope and wish for will not be fulfilled in that letter. Part of me knows that my mother will never apologize, that she will never be sorry for what she’s done because she believes she has done no wrong. Part of me knows that my mother doesn’t miss me, because she has pretended like I don’t exist. Part of me knows that she doesn’t love me now, and didn’t love me then, because a loving person would have never done the things she did. Part of me knows that I can never be a part of that family.

My mother hasn’t been a mother in the last 30 years. There’s no reason for her to change now. She won’t change. She will never be 1/100th what I need her to be. And her letter won’t be what I need it be. I don’t even think I need to read it to know that it isn’t. But I still want to read it. Part of me wants to know what she has to say.

I feel like I would have been better off not knowing this letter existed. I could tell my friend to throw it away, or I could take it and burn it myself. But then I would never know what my mother wrote, and I’m not sure I can manage never knowing. I also know that I could never handle reading the letter on my own. The mere knowledge of the letter’s existence has created an emotional storm in me that I am trying my best to weather. I imagine the its contents would let loose a tornado.

At first, I wanted to rush back to my home of origin just to get that letter; part of me still does. It’s that hope again, rearing its head in my consciousness.

But I am trying to focus on what is important to me here. I can exist without that letter. I have things to do here, experiences to celebrate. I have made it 499 days, without her and without her letter.

The Good Family

I want my daddy to come back to life so I can tell him I’m sorry. I don’t know what I did to be bad, but maybe he will forgive me.

I want to go back home to my mommy so I can tell her I’m sorry. I don’t know why I was always so evil, but maybe she can just love me.

I wrote those words one month ago and could not bring myself to post them. How could I miss people that caused me so much pain? How could I still want love from the people who broke me? Maybe they weren’t that bad after all. Maybe they were good enough and that’s why I still miss them. I want everything to be my fault. I don’t want to let go of the wish that I had a good family.

It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense that they were bad people. It doesn’t make sense that they were good people. I’m forever trying to rationalize a situation that was never rational.

My brother wasn’t hurt as badly. My mother loved him. He was allowed to have friends. He could eat most of the time. He had so many good things. But I didn’t get any of that. If our mother was really a bad person, then she wouldn’t have treated my brother so nicely. He would have been tortured, too, but he wasn’t. So then maybe I was the problem. Maybe my mother was a really great mother, and I was just too bad of a child.

Part of me doesn’t want to see what that really was. That I wasn’t a bad child at all, and my brother was no more deserving than I was of good things. That my mother treated my brother that way because it was all a part of her game. That she used him to make me feel like I was the bad one. That my brother and I were both pawns in my mother’s sociopathic game — my brother the apath, and I the empath. It worked out perfectly.

My parents could have kept me at home, but they chose to send me to school. They could have kept me starving, but they always ended up feeding me. They could have let me bleed, but they took me to get stitches. They could have ended my life, but they chose to let me live. Bad people wouldn’t make those choices. Good people would.

Part of me doesn’t want to see the other side of all of that. That I went to private school because it fed their need to feel superior, not because I deserved an education. That I should have never been starving, because a child never deserves to go without food. That I would have never needed stitches had they not made me bleed. That letting me live only to continue to hurt me wasn’t really letting me live at all.

I don’t want to accept that reality. I want to live in my fantasy world, where my family was good and I was the bad one. Where I was the reason that everything happened the way it did. Where I was the cause of all of their problems. Where if I had just been good, if I had just been a better child, my parents wouldn’t have had to do what they did. 

That was the world they created for me. That’s what I was made to believe as a child, and I carried those beliefs right into my adulthood.

I still want that good family. I still want to believe that I can in some way erase everything that happened and make it all better.Maybe if I just apologize, if they can just see how sorry I am, they will love me and we can be a family again.

But my family doesn’t even want me. They never came after me. No one tried to make sure I was okay. They went on as if I never existed at all. I became a topic of conversation to be avoided, a topic worse than politics or religion. I offended them by escaping, just like I had offended them for existing.

If they really loved me, if they really cared, they would have looked for me. As much as I live in fear of them, I also long for their love and care. I want my mother to love me. I want to be the good child. I want the good family that children are supposed to have.

Sometimes I fantasize about my mother finding me. I imagine her knocking on my front door. I open it, and she’s standing there. She reaches out to hug me, and I start to cry. But she doesn’t really hug me, she stabs me in the heart. 

In that moment, I’m not sad or angry. As I stand there bleeding, I am happy. Because I know my mother cared enough to come and kill me. She loved me enough to end my pain.

And all I ever needed was her love and care.

Schizophrenic

“I don’t have DID today.”

It’s a line I give my therapist often. I don’t want to talk about my parts or the inner world or the dissociative chaos that is my life. I don’t want to talk about how broken I am.

But that’s not enough for her. She always has to push me further. Then I shut down. Completely. Because that’s what any perfectly normal person would do, right?

I know it’s not good to deny my reality. I know that by denying my DID, I am denying my parts as well. I know that makes everything worse. But I still do it. Deny, deny, deny.

Then, one time, my therapist asked, “well, how do you explain your symptoms?”

I thought for a minute, wondering what symptoms she could be referring to, since I have so many.

“Maybe I’m just schizophrenic.”

The voices I hear, they are not my parts. They’re just hallucinations. Those feelings of depersonalization? That’s just distorted thinking. My memory problems? The cognitive deficits of schizophrenic disorders. It all fits.

Except it doesn’t. The voices I hear are my parts, the depersonalization is part of my dissociation, and my memory problems are because my parts hold those memories for me. I know that already. I’ve known that since the beginning of my diagnosis. So why do I continue to deny it?

My therapist seemed perplexed by my answer. Why would I want a disorder likely more stigmatized, difficult to treat therapeutically, more debilitating to some? “You would rather have schizophrenia?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Why?”

Then the truth came out. “Because then I wouldn’t have to acknowledge all of the trauma.”

Schizophrenia is largely chemical, an imbalance of dopamine that is treated with antipsychotics. It can happen to anyone.

DID, on the other hand, is caused by severe trauma. There’s no chemical imbalances, no pills I can take to make my symptoms go away. I am broken, a type of broken that can’t ever be fixed the way it should be.

So yes, sometimes I wish I had schizophrenia rather than DID. Sometimes I wish all of the abuse I went through was just a delusion. Sometimes I wish I could just take a pill or three and quiet the voices and be able to get through the day in peace.

But I can’t.

Denial is making it worse, but accepting the truth is just too hard.

Trapped Air

I’m going to write several blog posts because the topics are so varied, and I really don’t want to mash them into one giant clusterfuck of a blog post.

I’ve been feeling kind of shitty physically lately. I assume it’s because I am adjusting to the new respiratory medications (even though they are not new, I’ve just been off medications for the last several months because I’ve been sans doctor). Or I could be getting sick, because one of the unpleasant side effects of corticosteroid medications is that they suppress your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. Isn’t that funny how that works?

Last week, my doctor explained to me how air was getting into my lungs, but wasn’t getting out – instead, getting trapped inside. For normal people, breathing out should not require any effort. For me, it requires a massive amount of effort, and even then, air is still trapped inside.

As I thought about this more, I couldn’t help but find it so similar to the rest of my life’s experiences. I took in trauma after trauma, and then it got trapped inside my brain and now those memories can’t really get out.

I was literally trapped in my house for most of my life. I was trapped in a family I didn’t want.

Why is “trapped” a recurring theme in my life? Trapped body, trapped memories, now trapped air.

I’m still in a little bit of denial. Once I moved, I just told myself all of my breathing problems were because I was living in filth. That was a possibility. My family was not clean. There was dust, mold, mildew, and bugs, aside from a menagerie of poorly taken care of animals (including five cats all sharing two small litter boxes). I was in and out of the hospital since my early teen years with pneumonia and unstable O2 labels.That was my norm. I thought that would all disappear once I moved. But it didn’t. Because it’s a disease. The damage is already done.

On a positive note, I have been smoking a tiny bit less. Still smoking. But less. In all honesty, it’s probably the medication at work, because I have not been making a conscious effort to do so.

On a less positive note, it’s really annoying to be talking to someone and randomly cough up a string of mucous.