Rock Bottom, Part 1

I had managed for months to (very narrowly) avoid hospitalization. Despite the increasing suicideality, the treatment team trusted me enough to not put any of my plans into action. And I hadn’t, for those couple of months. I was honest with them, because as much as part of me wanted to die, there was another part of me that wanted even more to live.

But I wasn’t getting better. I was still an emotional clusterfuck from the abortion. My heart issues were adding to my hopelessness, and my heart medications were adding to my impulsiveness. I had no energy. I was coasting through the days on autopilot because that’s all I had it in me to do. I had no money to pay my bills. I had been living off cash advances from credit cards that were now maxed out. I reached out and asked for help — a last-ditch effort — and was turned down. It wasn’t being turned down that hurt me, but the reasons why, the denial. I should have expected it; I got the same response when I asked for help to get away from my mother. But I was desperate.

I had given up. What use was I to the world? Broke, unstable, unable to work, to contribute to the world. I was a burden. Living in my former boss’s house, eating her food, drinking her water. She had no obligation to me, yet there I was, being a burden, taking away from her family.

I was a burden to my therapist. Four months into an 8-week program and I was still in crisis. As much as she tried, she couldn’t help me. She couldn’t get through. And I couldn’t receive.

I sat in my desk that night, scribbling down on paper what I needed to say. I couldn’t quite get it all out. Everything I wrote down didn’t seem like enough. It needed to be enough. Because it was going to be the last thing I ever said.

I went into program the next day like nothing had happened. But I was withdrawn. My therapist knew something wasn’t right. I shut her down and told her everything was okay, but she still felt something was off. I couldn’t tell her she was right.

I couldn’t keep it inside very long. The next day, after some prodding, I disclosed what I had done. I knew I wasn’t going to promise my way out of it. My hopelessness had gone too far. It was too dangerous now. I was too much of a risk. I had to contract for safety that night, but I knew when I went back the next day, that there wasn’t going to be a contract.

An hour and a half into the day, and I saw my therapist come to the door. I knew it was for me. I knew what was coming.

I sat in the office, my therapist sitting at my side, my psychiatrist sitting across at his desk. I looked down and twiddled my thumbs, trying to avoid eye contact, trying not to see the look of concern on both of their faces. As soon as my psychiatrist uttered the word inpatient, I started to cry. I hated the hospital, just as much as I hated my life.

Maybe we need to consider ECT. Great. Electric shocks to your brain. That’s where my life has ended up. We had tried all the medications. We sat through all the therapy. And we ended up at ECT. A last resort.

My mind was all over the place. I had managed to stop crying long enough to look up and see that my psychiatrist had been crying as well. A man normally seemingly void of emotion. I’ve never cried for a patient before. I knew his feelings were real. I knew his concern was genuine. He wasn’t looking to punish me. He was trying to save me.

As my therapist was making calls and arranging for my medical transport, I waited with the nurse. I begged just to smoke one cigarette. I needed to calm down. I had to promise her I wouldn’t run away; and I didn’t. I had finally stopped crying. I felt okay, or at least as okay as I could be in the moment. I talked with the nurse. I told her about my DID diagnosis, and about some of my trauma history. She asked questions, and I answered honestly. I saw her facial expression change; I saw her sadness. My immediate urge was to apologize to her, yet here she was apologizing to me. You didn’t get to have a childhood. An unfortunate truth. A reality that may not have been had someone just helped me.

I sent a text to my friend to ask her if she could bring me clothes. She packed a bag with everything I needed. My favorite hoodie. My favorite pajamas. The softest t-shirts she could find. I cried when I told her what was going on. I was ashamed. I didn’t want her to be mad at me. I didn’t want to lose my home or my family. I didn’t want her to have to worry about me. I didn’t want anyone to worry.

A few hours later, the ambulance came to transport me. I hugged the therapist goodbye. Through tears, I told her I was sorry. She wiped my tears away, and assured me I had nothing to be sorry for. I hugged her again. She handed me a piece of my favorite chocolate for the road. I hugged my therapist. I saw the emotion in her face — I couldn’t tell if it was sadness or concern — but I was sorry for it. One last hug to the nurse and I was on my way, strapped to a transport bed, just like a sick person.

A Letter to Us

Dear younger parts and me,

I know things seem really scary right now. It’s okay to feel scared. I’m scared, too. You had to be scared in the past, because there were a lot of scary things and scary people. But you are safe now. We are safe. You don’t have to be scared anymore.

I know that mommy made you believe that you were sick. She told you that parts of you made you bad. I know she made that part of you hurt really bad. I know she made your heart hurt, too. I’m so sorry she hurt your body, and your heart. Little girls shouldn’t have to hurt like that.

I know you wanted so badly to be a boy. You thought that it would make everything better. You believed that it would stop mommy from hurting you, that you wouldn’t be sick anymore, that mommy would love you like she loved R. I’m so sorry you felt that way. But it was never your fault. You were never sick there. You were never bad just because you were a girl. Mommy was wrong. So wrong. There was nothing you could have ever done to make mommy love you. She was the sick one. She was bad. Not you. It was never you. You were always perfect. You still are.

I know you’re still so scared of mommy hurting you. You still try to protect yourself from her hurt. I’m so sorry you don’t feel safe. Little girls deserve to feel safe and loved and respected. Mommy shouldn’t have stolen that from you. You deserved all the love and respect and safety in universe. I wish I could have given it all to you then, but I can give you them now.

I know that mommy made you think that your body was not your own. She controlled your body and your mind. You had no other choice. I’m sorry she made you believe that lie. But you have choices now. Your body is yours. These are your toes, your feet, your legs, your arms, your fingers, and your eyes. This is your hair, your nose, and your mouth. And this is your vagina. It belongs to you. It’s part of your body, just like all of your other parts that make you, you.

It isn’t sick or bad. It doesn’t deserve to be hurt. It deserves to be taken care of, just like you. In order to take care of it, we need to go to the doctor. Just like the doctor that takes care of our lungs, and another doctor takes care of our feet, we need a doctor to take care of our vagina. It’s not bad or wrong to go to the doctor. All of those things that mommy said, they were wrong. She was wrong. She was just trying to scare you, and make you feel bad. I’m sorry she lied to you. You are not — and never were — dirty or bad. The doctor knows that, too. The doctor just wants to help us, and make sure we are healthy and strong. The doctor won’t hurt us. She won’t make you feel like mommy did. I promise.

I know you are afraid. You’re just a little girl. Mommy made you do things that children should never have to do, or see, or know. I’m sorry she did that to you. But you don’t have to do grown-up things anymore. You don’t have to hurt anymore. You don’t have to be scared or ashamed. Mommy isn’t here, and you can be you now. A beautiful, kind, loving, healthy, wonderful GOOD little girl. Mommy can’t take that away from you. She tried, but she didn’t know how brave and strong and courageous you were. She didn’t know the amazing little girl you grew up to be.

You can be that little girl now. I can take care of the big girl things, like going to the doctor. I will keep us healthy and safe. I will make sure that we are okay. I promise.

Thank you for being so strong. It’s my turn now.

Love,

KJ

Dysfunctional function

I’ve been going through the process of applying for disability.

I started the application in June, but hesitated finishing it because I had a lot of self-doubt. There was some fear in being rejected. There was a lot shame in needing help. I told myself I just wasn’t trying hard enough. I told myself I didn’t need this help, I just needed to be stronger.

I struggle with asking for help in general, but when it comes to finances, it’s even more difficult. My parents were not rich, but my father had a well-paying job that should have allowed us to live comfortably. My mother was irresponsible, and wasted money on material bullshit instead of paying the bills. She always had the newest phones, but could not pay the wireless bill. She had an abnormal abundance of home decor, but could not pay the electric bill. She’d guilt people into paying her bills. She used other people as a means of financial support, and I always hated that.

And I feel like I am doing the same thing by trying to get financial assistance. I feel like I am in some way able to do more than I am doing, that I’m just putting my money into the wrong things, just like my mother had done.

But I’m not. I’m putting my money into all the right things. I pay my rent every month. I pay all of my bills, even if it’s just the minimum payment. I pay my therapist every week. I’m not irresponsible at all. I’m not like my mother. But it’s still not enough. I am still not worthy.

I tried to work more. It lasted all of four days. I can only handle so much in one day before I get completely exhausted. I wish I could work full-time, but I know it would be disastrous; not only for me, but for those who would be working with me. Three hours into the day, and I’m already emotionally spent. Five hours into the day, and I’m already physically exhausted.

But I’m still working. I’m still earning a paycheck. And I am afraid that alone will get me rejected. They don’t understand that my paycheck doesn’t even cover all the basic necessities. They’re not there some months when I have to figure out how to get enough food to eat with $15. They don’t see the times I had to pay my rent with cash advances. They don’t know how much I sacrifice just to pay for therapy.

They will think I’m too able to be disabled, that I function too well to deserve any help. But they don’t see the dysfunction in my function.

They are not with me every morning when I can barely make it out of bed to take a shower. They are not there with me each morning I walk to the bus stop in tears because I’m so depressed and lost and scared of life. They do not see the panic attacks I go through at work, all the times I cry in the bathroom, and the multiple emotional meltdowns I have in front of my coworkers.

They don’t see how sick I can get just from eating a meal. They don’t see me struggling to breathe, or throwing up in the parking lot because there’s just not enough room in my chest for me to breathe if my stomach is full. They can’t feel my constant nausea. They don’t know what it’s like to walk around with an invisible elephant on your chest.

They don’t see me crying on the bus on the way home because I’m just so exhausted. They don’t know how many meals I skip, because I’m either too tired to eat or I just don’t care enough to be nourished. They’re not there every time I get dizzy, every time I pass out because my body is constantly running on fumes.

They’re not with me every night when I spend hours laying in bed, just wishing for a decent night of sleep. They don’t know how many times I am startled awake by the cat downstairs, or a car down the street. They can’t see the nightmares that keep me awake through the night. They can’t see how exhausted I am every day, how much I struggle just to hold my head up.

They can’t see my flashbacks. They can’t feel my body memories. They don’t hear the voices I hear in my head every day, or the noise that seems to get louder and louder. They don’t feel the fear I experience every day of my life. They don’t know how badly I just want to die. They don’t understand how much effort it takes just for me to have a conversation with somebody.

They can’t see the depression, the anxiety, the fear and the panic that runs through my mind and body every single hour of every day. They don’t see the wounds I hide under my clothes, or the pain I try to bury away so I can make it through another day. They don’t understand how many times I should have been in a hospital, but couldn’t afford to be out of work. They don’t know how many moments I’ve lost because I can’t handle the stress, so I dissociate.

They don’t see any of that. All they can see is a person who is able, the same as everyone else sees. She works, she is not disabled. But they don’t realize that any other job would have fired me. They don’t see how much this life is destroying me.

In a way, my resilience is my downfall. It makes me people think I am much better than I really am.

I am shattered glass inside of a shatter-proof box. No one can see the catastrophe that exists inside, because they only focus on what they see on the outside.

I am true dysfunction, hidden by perceivable function.

She stole the night from me.

I wonder what it must be like to crawl into bed at night and just fall asleep.

I could never do that. Not as a child, and not now as an adult. I crawl into bed and lay there for hours, tired, exhausted, yet unable to sleep.

I check the closets. I lock the door. I wrap myself up in my layers and I crawl in bed and wait.

Some days, I wait for sleep. I try to quiet the increasingly loud noise in my head. I think about a million things I don’t even need to think about. After a few hours, I finally fall asleep.

On other, more difficult days, I wait my mother. I lay still in my bed and wait for her to come through my bedroom door, just like I waited for her when I was back home.

So many nights of my childhood were spent laying in bed and waiting. Not waiting for sleep. Not waiting for dreams. Not waiting for the tooth fairy. I was waiting for my mother. I was waiting for her to come in and tear me apart. I was waiting for the pain to be over so I could just go to sleep.

I learned to expect it. I stopped asking questions. I stopped fighting back. I stopped wondering why. I couldn’t do it any more. I knew it wasn’t going to change. So I gave up. And I gave in.

Sometimes, I would stare at the ceiling. I’d talk to Superman, hoping he would hear my thoughts, and asked him to come and save me. I waited for him to fly in through the window, but he never did find me.

Sometimes, I would think about being in a different family. I imagined being adopted. I dreamed I was sitting in a cage at the shelter, waiting for a new family to pick me up and love me, but no new family ever came.

Sometimes, I watched my spirit float away from me, and I followed her. We would sit on the big branch of the tree right outside my window, waiting for the hurt to end so I could come back to me.

It would always end.. If there was one thing I could count on, it was that the pain was only temporary. She’d leave, and I’d come back. I could finally go to sleep, because I knew she wasn’t going to hurt me again. I found solace in that, in knowing that when it was over, it was over.

I wanted a normal night. I wanted someone to read me a story. I wanted someone to check for monsters underneath my bed, and tell me everything was safe. I wanted someone to tuck me in and tell me they loved me. I got none of that. There were no bedtime stories. There was no love or safety. And there were never any monsters under my bed, because the monster was standing right beside it.

Anxiety. Fear. Dread. It all became my nighttime normal. And even though she stopped as I got older, the fear anxiety, fear, and dread never left. They continued to be my nighttime normal. I continued to spend every night waiting for my mother to come back. And I am still spending my nights waiting for her to come back.

I try to remember that she is not here. I know the doors are locked, I know we are miles and miles away from her. She is not coming for us. She can’t hurt us anymore.

But sometimes I forget all that. Sometimes I can’t remember. I am still anticipating something that hasn’t happened for 20 years, but my mind doesn’t always know that.Sometimes it feels like something is missing; I feel like I need her to come in and get it over with just so I can sleep.

I find comfort in familiarity, and all of those nights that my mother hurt me became my familiar. Any deviation from the pattern only creates more panic, and that was true in my childhood and still true in my adulthood.

I feel frustrated, because I don’t know how else to convince myself that my mother cannot hurt me any more. I don’t know how to believe that it doesn’t have to be this way.

I feel sad, because adult me knows that no child should have had to endure the things my mother did to me. Bed is supposed to calming and relaxing, not a place of panic.

I feel ashamed, because some nights, the only way I can fall asleep is to hurt myself in the very same way she hurt me. And then I feel disgusted.

I feel angry, because I want to be able to crawl in bed and night and go to sleep, and have good dreams. I don’t want the fear. I don’t want the panic and anxiety. I just want comfort and peace, and the ability to sleep without a struggle.

My mother stole the night from me. I want it back.

She wants to say no

Little girl lies awake. She knows what’s coming.

Her mother comes in, and now she is crying.

She tries to yell out, but no one can hear her.

She shows all the hurt, but no one can see her.

She can’t take more pain, and she wants it to end.

She tries to fight back, but she just cannot fend.

She tells them please no, but they just don’t listen.

She wants it to stop, but no one will listen.

She stands there afraid. She can’t stop the shaking.

She yells out stop, no, but now she stands burning.

She can’t hold the tears; she wants them to drown her.

She tried to say no, but no one would hear her.

He tells her to sit. She knows what is coming.

She begs him to stop, but he just keeps going.

She tries to say no, but he doesn’t listen.

So she shuts down, because no one will listen.

She hides all the hurt, but can’t get very far.

So she shows them her pain in each little scar.

She hopes they will notice, hopes they will see her.

She needs their help, she needs someone to hear her.

She wants to be free, she wants to say good-bye.

But she is still trapped, and can’t figure out why.

She’s tired of the pain, but they just won’t listen.

She stops saying no, ’cause no one will listen.

She cries so much. They ask are you okay now.

She wants to speak out, but she doesn’t know how.

She can’t tell them no, ’cause her voice has left her.

So she tells them she’s fine, then they can’t help her.

She’s a big girl now, but she knows no better.

She tries to be grown, but they just won’t let her.

She follows commands, because they don’t listen.

She loses herself, ’cause no one will listen.

She swallows each pill, and hopes it will kill her.

The pills they don’t work, but that doesn’t stop her.

She lives with the pain, ’cause no one can see her.

She keeps it inside, ’cause no one can hear her.

She longs for a friend, wants someone to help her.

She wants to find trust, wants someone to love her.

He says he’ll be there. He says he will listen.

She lets him in. She needs someone to listen.

She can be who she is, won’t need to hide now.

He gives her that hope, and she feels the love now.

But then it all disappears. It all leaves her.

He takes that away. He takes it all from her.

She clenches her teeth. He pries them back open.

She closes her legs, but he pulls them unopen.

She asks him to stop, but he just won’t listen.

She can’t tell him no, ’cause no one will listen.

She can’t find her voice. So she takes all the blame.

She didn’t say no. Now she carries the shame.

She just wants to hide, wants no one to see her.

She just wants to cry, wants no one to hear her.

She’s scared to connect, so she just pulls away.

She’s lost enough now that she can’t find her way.

She can’t understand why no one would listen.

All she had wanted was someone to listen.

She finds a way out, and she finds her way back.

She’s no longer hurt, never under attack.

She wants to come out. She wants them to see her.

She wants her voice back. She wants them to hear her.

Now she struggles to trust, and she struggles to speak.

But with strength in her heart, she is no longer weak.

She longs for respect. She needs someone to listen.

She wants to say no and have somebody listen.

Who am I? I don’t know.

In many ways, I am an open person. I’ve shared my life. I’ve shared my experiences. I’ve shared my diagnosis with the world. But there are still aspects of my DID that I am just not that open about.

I’m a member of quite a few online DID groups. I don’t participate very much on a personal level; I tend to stick with answering questions, diffusing conflicts, and offering support. I think some of that is because I don’t feel like I belong, I don’t feel like my experiences are close to most other people’s.

People talk about their systems like they are a well-oiled machine. Everyone communicates, everyone loves each other, everyone has a purpose. Hell, everyone even has a name. It seems so perfect. It seems like the exact opposite of what I have. No one wants to hear oh yea, I am pretty oblivious to many of my parts, and there’s a lot of anger and sadness and stress and my parts are existing in chaos.

And then there’s the numbers. It’s so common for people to introduce themselves and include a number. My name is Bobby, I have five alters. There is so much focus on how many parts each person has. While I was contributing my writing to the book on living with DID, I was asked to state how many parts I had. I was the only writer that did not include a number, and that genuinely surprised me.

How many parts do I have? Way too fucking many. I don’t count. I don’t keep track. That seems like the most daunting task in the world. Why do people need a number? Why do they need a list?

My parts don’t all have names. I may have a K and a Charlie and an Anna, but I’ve also got a whole lot of KJs and even more than that who are nameless. And some of them aren’t whole; some are pieces and pieces of pieces. I’m not Bobby with five alters. I’m KJ, and I’m a broken mess.

I go through life on autopilot. Who is running the show? I don’t really know, but it’s probably not me. I may wake up in the morning as KJ, but I can guarantee by the time I get to work, I’ve already dissociated at least twice, five more times by lunchtime, and a dozen times more by dinner. I may start a conversation with you, but 9 times out of 10, I’m not the one there when the conversation ends.

It’s my name on the paycheck, but it’s not always me doing the work. But as long as the work gets done, right? I play it off when my boss notices things. “Hey, your voice changed again!” I respond, “Oh, it’s because I’m not from here.” But I know that’s not the reason at all.

I don’t remember things. What I did last week. What I did yesterday. What I did ten minutes earlier. I try to fill in the gaps when I can, but it’s not always easy. People get frustrated. I just tell them I have a bad memory. How can I explain to them that I’m not always me? Hell, I don’t even know who me is to begin with.

I don’t know where I end and another part begins, or where I begin and another part ends. I don’t even know if I am someone, or maybe just a part. I know I exist, in the physical sense. But I don’t know who I am any more than I know who my neighbor is.

I’m so ashamed. I fear that if people really knew just how out of it I am so much of the time, they would know how broken and how out of control I am. They would know how much I have failed at my own life. I am too broken, literally and emotionally. To know that side of me is to know how much of a failure I am. So I try to hide it. I can admit I have DID, but I damn sure can’t tell you how broken I am. Let’s just keep pretending, please.

Who am I? I don’t know.

Who am I? Ask me again in five minutes or so. Maybe then I will know.

changed

The Cost of Silence, Part 1

When I was in first grade, my teacher gave me a small plush bunny. She told me to hold on to it, that it would help me feel safe. And I did. I held on to it for years. I never thought anything of it.

While I was shopping in a store awhile back, I came across a small plush bunny. The bunny looked just like the one my teacher had given me. I remembered. I remembered everything. Then I immediately pushed it all away.

It was not the sweet childhood memory it should have been. It was much more complicated than that. And I didn’t want to bring it all up, so I pushed it back down and buried it and pretended like that memory didn’t exist.

Until the memory came up again. I was sitting in therapy, trying to think of childhood memories, and that memory popped through once again. I smiled at first because I felt the care I was given when my teacher gave 7 year-old me that bunny. Then my smile disappeared and I remembered things I didn’t want to remember. I had thoughts I didn’t want to think about.

I wanted to bury it all again. I didn’t want to think about what that memory meant. I didn’t want to feel the pain in my heart. But I did. And all I could do was cry.

Why did that teacher give me that bunny? Why did she tell me it would help me feel safe? Why did she think I needed to feel safe?

Those were the questions I thought of when that memory first came up, and I immediately pushed it all back down. In my adult mind, I knew the answers, and they were the answers that I did not want to hear. They were the answers I could not handle. And here they were, coming up again. I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want to face the reality of what it all meant. The possibility that my teacher knew the truth, that she knew I was being abused.

My child self may have thought that bunny helped, because my child self didn’t know any better. But my adult self knows that a bunny wasn’t going to help me. A bunny wasn’t what I needed to be safe. A bunny wasn’t going to stop my mother from hurting me. I needed someone to help me. I needed someone to be my voice. Instead all I got was a plush bunny.

That teacher wasn’t the only person to stay silent. There were others: teachers, family members, family friends. Some of them admitted that they knew something was going on but just didn’t want to get involved, they didn’t want to cross any lines. Then there were other people who had to have known, but just ignored the signs.

It hurts. Sometimes it hurts worse than what my mother and father did to me. I think that it’s hard for people to understand. It doesn’t make much logical sense. How could being ignored hurt worse than the actual abuse?

It’s a different type of pain. It’s not the sting from a cut or the ache from a bruise or shooting pain of a broken bone. It’s a deep pain in your heart. The pain of being invisible. The pain of being unworthy of anyone’s love or attention. The pain of being so worthless that no one would help you.

My parents always told me to stay silent. Did they tell all of those other people, too? Why did no one speak for me? Why didn’t they help? Why did they stay silent? How was I supposed to know I mattered if no one ever acted like I mattered?

I was a child who held out hope that someone would save me. I needed to matter to someone. I needed to be seen. But time and time again, people turned their backs on me. I wanted my parents to be wrong. Instead I grew up believing they must have been right.