Yesterday was too much.
In fact, the too much started the day before, and I didn’t do a good job of mitigating it at the outset. But who is great at mitigating, really?
On Thursday, when I took the bus to the doctor, there was so much chaos. There was a woman who insisted her daughter, who looked to be about 10, was 6, so she didn’t need to pay fare for the girl. And she kept arguing with the driver long after she go to her seat (not having paid, and seemingly having gotten what she wanted). She would yell some angry assertion about his dumbness and him minding his business, which I am relatively certain he wanted to do, but she kept yelling out offending shit, and it is really hard to mind your business when someone is shouting theirs at you through the bus.
Not long after, a man got on the bus without paying. We waited several minutes while the driver tried to get the man to leave or pay, to no avail. So, finally, and with much frustration, the driver went on with the route. I was running late by this point, and getting internally frustrated by that lateness. And then the lady with the very-old-looking-probably-not-6-year-old started up again. She was now angry that the driver let the other man get by without paying. Even though she had gotten by with not paying fare for the child. It became a mess of people yelling out random shit about the offenses against them, when the only person who could rightfully be upset, in my opinion, was the driver of the bus.
It got to be too much. I quickly snagged a seat that let me curl up toward the window and cranked the volume on my headset. But too late. Tears started forming, for one reason or another in the corners of my eyes. Was it fear? Frustration? Stress? Anxiety?
Whatever it was, it threatened to pour down my cheeks, which would not have been a great thing and would have added to my emotional upheaval. So I pushed it back.
There is and has been a place to push things since my childhood. I know it well. So many things were too much for my small psyche, and I could not deal—not just would not, but literally was incapable—with that excess. So, it got pushed into the place.
Obviously, the place isn’t a physical space, as far as we know. There are multiple synapses that stop firing or misfire or disconnect in the dissociative brain. It would be much easier if there was one spot that held all the excess. Maybe then we could zap that space into connection, or cut it out altogether, or some other frighteningly macabre way of coping.
As It happens, there isn’t an easy solution, macabre or no.
Once I got off that bus, onto another, and eventually to my appointment, the overwhelmed feeling should have dissipated. But it didn’t.
That question. The question. “When did you first become aware that your speaking was different?”
I was meeting with a vocal specialist. The troubles with my voice have kept me from living life in the way I would otherwise choose. I long for my singing voice. It is definitely time to address the situation. But, maybe somewhere in the back of my mind, or shoved into the place, there was the fear of this question.
I didn’t notice. Tony noticed. Tony mocked me, mimicked me, publicly shamed me. He told me, in the most hateful and terrible ways, that my voice was different—a strange way of clearing my throat, or making a guttural sound where there ought not be one for an English speaker, or the way that my words have a bit of a sing-song ending at times. He used that vocal abnormality to hurt me.
And when she asked the question, and I tried to respond, I cried.
The thing is that the place sometimes overflows. No amount of strength or determination can keep all the too much things from spilling over at times—usually at very inopportune times. And the place overflowed onto my face and neck in the voice doctor’s exam room.
She was kind. She was understanding. And she let me get through that little moment when the place door creeped open a sliver and stuff spilled out, and then she got on with our work. She showed me the inside of my throat while I was speaking and singing. She referred me for voice therapy, changed up my meds, and referred me to neurology. Seeing my throat and my tongue and my voice box in action made the moment when I cried seem miles away. There are reasons. They can be addressed. And that brought all sorts of relief, and shoved Tony’s asinine behaviors back into the place. Those behaviors might come out in next week’s therapy session, but for now they are not overwhelming anymore.
You might think that is the end of the story. I faced the overwhelming events and got on with my life, yes?
The feeling didn’t lift. I watched Netflix. I worked on crafts. I took a shower. I took a nap. I went for a swim. I got a haircut. I took a walk. I wrote. I entertained the dog. I texted with friends. And through all of the really good coping strategies, the feeling still stuck. It wouldn’t leave.
And it became more and more pronounced. It became more anxious, more desperate, more affecting. Until last night when the place sort of exploded into the forefront of my brain.
Here’s the thing. The place scares some people, but some people take it in stride. I’m forced to take it in stride, whether I want to or no. And I know that the preference for others is to not take it in stride. There are only a few people in my life who can and will and do stick around when the place shows its face.
Last night, it unleashed itself in full force upon the “bae of the day”. (I call him that not because he is expendable or will be replaced tomorrow, but because I’m not going to use his actual name here—too early for that. Plus, it rhymes, and who doesn’t love that?)
I think that I was a bit shocked when all the overwhelming feelings channeled into me having crazy anxiety over what and how and why we were connecting with one another. I am experienced enough to know that it is best to let things play out in new relationship of any kind, and not to force it. But the place doesn’t know that as well as I do. The place might be in my head, but it doesn’t usually communicate with the other areas in the brain, so it doesn’t act with reason. And this irrational fear that I was misreading all the signs and that I wasn’t important and that I was secretly being played came flying out of the place. And bae of the day has NOTHING to do with all that shit that escaped the place. He has in no way acted in a manner that would make the place’s emotional outburst reasonable. But, again, the place doesn’t act with reason.
But here is the beautiful part of the story. He met the place with unflinching care, kindness, and understanding. He engaged the place with honesty and respect. He accepted the place, and he honored it, and in doing so he accepted and honored me in ways that I don’t even fully understand. Nobody has ever met the place with as much grace as bae of the day met it. And because he did, he immediately shut it down.
He shut it down not in a way that made me force my feelings and overwhelmed state back into the place. He shut it down in a way that let me leave it out. He shut it down in a way that allowed me to let it be, let it show, and potentially let it go.
And this morning I was thinking about it, as I woke in peace and felt lighter than I have in many days, and I wondered what life might be like if all the people met my place in like manner. I’ve spent about 35 years managing and monitoring the place. I’ve been trying to stuff more and more into that place as more and more things turned out bad and wrong and painful. And I can count on one hand the number of people I trust to meet the place with the grace, kindness, and understanding that is required to process, and to make the place a bit smaller. But what if there were more than a handful of people who allowed the place and its secrets and its struggles to come out into the light?
That would be earth-shattering. That would change everything. That would be a total life-altering experience. And that would heal so much that is broken. The place is filled with brokenness. That is its hallmark. That is its purpose. That is its truth. It is filled with every shard that ever broke away from my heart and my spirit. It is filled with every hurt I cannot bear.
But when someone else bore the hurt with me, everything changed. That hurt couldn’t hurt me quite as much anymore.
I’ve learned over a lifetime of keeping the place stocked with secret pain that people don’t like to bear the hurt with me. I’ve seen the little cracks that open up end relationships, create dangerous situations, and bring shame and judgment upon me. And I cannot imagine EVER opening the door to let everything out at once. That might be downright lethal.
But I have more hope today than I did yesterday. I have more hope that there are people out there like bae of the day. I have more hope that the place could potentially be emptied bit by bit, shard by shard. I have more hope that there is healing, and that my whole life doesn’t need to be defined by this PTSD label (though some of it will always be there—my brain scans will attest to that).
And if you are a person who has quit me or threatened me or judged me over the place, I forgive you and I understand that. I have days like yesterday, when I cannot even cope with what lives inside of that place, so I certainly have no hard feelings toward others who cannot cope with it.
If you are a person who understands this post, and feels the weight of the place in your own spirit, know that there is help out there, and you need not be ashamed or afraid—but you are also totally allowed to feel ashamed or afraid, you are entitled to those feelings.
And if you are a person who has faced the place and stayed in my life, you are fucking amazing. And I will cling to your responses, continually holding on to the hope that the place might empty, and my heart might heal. I love you like crazy.
There are these challenges to living with a dissociative disorder. There are these struggles with managing the rage and the depression and the isolation that such disorders cause. There are these outcomes of loss and further pain that accompany the misunderstandings about and the actions precipitated by such disorders. But there are also these people who understand, and who love, and who respect, and who assist, and who offer chances and graces and changes.
I am so grateful for the people who support me in any and all ways. But I am most grateful for those who let the place be a part of me, and don’t shy away, and let me work my way through it and toward an integrated brain and a more balanced life. Too much suddenly becomes a tolerable amount when you find those who would bear the weight alongside you.
I’ve found another who will help me bear the weight of the place. I’m grateful I have the opportunity to know him. I’m grateful for what he carries.
Today is a tolerable amount.