Am I lonely?

M commented that she was concerned about my ‘mood’. I asked in what regard and she commented that I had a lot going on and she wondered if I am lonely.

I’m not certain if she came to that conclusion, well I have somehow created a head full of people throughout my life… Not sure if it’s that or more my current demeanour. I am extremely tired and if I’m honest I’m a bit down, but I have 6 teenagers in my house, a husband, work stuff, a life online. I’m busy, which takes my mind off things and I see friends all the time. In fact I tend to double book myself in that regard. Not enough time in the week to see all my friends. I mean, that’s a pretty good problem to have, right?

I should have just asked why she said that.

So am I lonely in a crowded life? I don’t know. Sometimes, I probably am – depending on how you want to define the word.

My online world is interesting as it’s an escape from ‘reality’ whilst being my most authentic space. Only a few of those ‘real life’ friends are what I would consider as close and only two know about “us”. That does make being our authentic self/selves tricky. I suppose it can be lonely if you lack authentic connection .

Some of my friends have told me they consider me their best friend, the one that’s easiest to talk to and the one they confide in the most- and yet they know very little about me. Really, I like it that way, it feels safe. You can’t judge what you don’t know and their trust in me makes me feel wanted/needed and a bit special. I prefer this one sided relationship as it carries less risk of burning them out with my chaotic inner and outer worlds, I get to be the helpful person rather than a drain.

This is where therapy is great, guilt free role reversal.

That being said, it must be lonely being a therapist. Particularly if you have children and/or work full time. You have to present as knowledgeable and professional yet also human. You hear the deepest and darkest thoughts of people all day and you are limited by time. It’s always a one way street, ethically you can’t discuss your own life so it’s all about the client, when they say ridiculous things, things you disagree with or things that trigger you in session you have to hold back and respond appropriately taking each individual clients needs into consideration. That’s bloody hard work.

Then if you have children you go home and have to play the role of parent which is equally as one way street-ish. Maybe you have a spouse who you can discuss feelings with, although you have to be mindful of dr/patient confidentiality so it’s limited a bit to anecdotes from the tea room and generalised comments.

Hopefully you have friends you can download to, but then them uploading back to you (which is an essential part of friendship) probably feels a little like being at work really. Then you’ve got to carefully avoid ‘therapising’ them and yet still be actively listening. That’s a juggling act, so maybe you just stick with small talk and a glass of wine because it’s a bit easier.

M asked if there are times that I’m with my friends where I can just laugh and let my guard down. Absolutely there are! Well laugh anyway, I think with most people my guard is mostly still up, although sometimes the guard falls off completely and we find ourselves oversharing, unfortunately this is usually with total strangers or acquaintances but I guess then the stakes aren’t as high.

So maybe I am a little lonely from time to time, or maybe M is projecting a little bit… 😬

Down The Rabbit Hole Part 2

This is part 2 of the worlds longest thought process / story. Part 1 is HERE, you’ll need to read that first for context. Please note that while there are thoughts from other alters/aspects/whatever you want to call them throughout, these opinions were added by them after they read the initial story and added over a few days. It may make the actual story hard to read, but think of it like a forum. We lack the ability to have this kind of dialogue as a ‘conversation’ but thought it might be an insight to how our mind works for anyone interested.

I can’t wear masks. It’s not because I’m being defiant, it’s a PTSD related issue and it’s supremely inconvenient given the whole global pandemic thing. If I put one on, I will breakdown and cry like a fool within seconds. This makes things very awkward for all involved and while I do have an exemption letter, I prefer to just avoid going to mandatory mask areas altogether.

When the fear of being judged and potential conflict out weighs the fear of getting sick or even the fear of the cancer maybe that’s worth exploring further.

Unfortunately, while my GP was understanding of this fact and didn’t even mention it (the mean secretary didn’t comment either!) The hospital she sent me to wasn’t so tolerant. I completely understand why, I mean they’re frontline staff dealing with a crisis situation and they don’t need some unmasked dickhead fucking up their system.

It’s definitely our issue to work on, but we need to hold some compassion for ourselves too. We aren’t the only ones in this situation and it feels pretty awful when we can’t get fairly standard medical treatment because of a phobia.

The security team let me through into the ED itself mask free when I showed them the exemption letter and as I stood in the line to give my details I tried to ignore the death stares from a waiting room full of masked patients wondering what made me so special.

Okay, let’s go with perceived death stares. People have masks on, you can’t judge facial cues properly and you certainly can’t mind read. Would you judge other people without a mask or would you assume they had a valid reason? Exactly. Give people a chance to offer you the same courtesy.

If I thought it was awkward going there before, now it was really awkward. I was trembling with anxiety and about one mask comment away from a total breakdown. I really had to fight every impulse in my body telling me to run away.

And yet you didn’t runaway! That’s great progress! 

It was 10am ish. They took my letter from the GP, saw on the system that I was pre organised to be taken in and given a CT scan. The concern here from the GP and the surgeon was that I had either a recurrence of the cancer, a twist in something, a collection of fluid that might need draining or infection that might require IV drugs. The hope was it was just scar tissue adhesions from surgery and nothing sinister to worry about.

I was sent off into the masked waiting room filled with coughing and spluttering people and hid up the back trying to keep my immunocompromised ass away from everyone while being acutely aware that if I got sick it would be my own Damn fault for making a mountain out of a molehill and agreeing to go there.

“Agreeing to go there” meaning someone else suggested it, someone with a medical degree who’s judgement you generally trust. Why would this be different?
Maybe she’s just scared of missing something and getting sued?

I had no doubt in my mind that they would be sending me home that day and texted my friend Agatha an update still hoping to be able to make it to her place for a visit that afternoon.

I love that you’ve called her Agatha! 😂 She’d hate that name 🤣🤣🤣

I only had to wait around half an hour, that’s pretty impressive by ED standards, especially on a Saturday morning. I guess they’d pushed me through due to the doctor’s phone calls.

Doctors have that sway because they studied half their lives. They know what they’re talking about and they triage due to assessed risk. Medical history + current symptoms = risk factor. It’s basic maths not queue jumping.
Nah, Covid = less team sport injuries!

I got directed to a bed by a nurse with long blue hair in a high ponytail. She introduced herself and chirpily asked me if I had my own mask or did I need her to get me one? I explained the PTSD thing and handed her my exemption letter, she apologised and said she have to go and speak to her supervisor about how to proceed as masks were absolutely mandatory.

That’s when I lost it. All the fear of judgment and shame of being a stupid fool welled up inside me and I just started sobbing. The head nurse appeared and explained kindly that my options were basically to either mask up or be relocated into the isolation area with the suspected potential Covid cases where all the doctors and nurses were protected by full PPE.

I presume due to just coming off of chemo, they wouldn’t have recommended that either. It’s not like we had respiratory symptoms so there was just more chance of catching something.

So that gave way to option C. Go home again. Now obviously option C was going to be my pick, the blue haired nurse returned and apologised for making me cry and the crappy circumstances. I assured her it was my own stupid issues and nothing to do with her, but I appreciated the sentiment. I told them my doctors were probably being over cautious anyway and the pain wasn’t bad enough to be causing all this unnecessary fuss so it would be better if I just left.

Did you really want to leave or did you want to be convinced to stay? This is an example of having an unmet need and choosing not to speak up about it and instead making excuses as to why it was really okay that the need wasn’t being met.

She said that since I was already in a cubicle and the bed would need to be cleaned etc, they could give me a quick blood test and check there was no obvious thing happening there but it was totally up to me (I was still crying like a baby half way off the bed and mentally out the door already.) She said she’d give me five minutes to mull it over and then come back but if I was missing upon her return, she’d assume I’d legged it and she’d understand.

“If you aren’t here when I get back, I understand”
Translation: Please leave. My shift’s nearly over and I don’t need to deal with a cry baby right now.

That was a really hard five minutes. My head was swimming at that point and I was frozen half on/half off the bed. If I left would my GP be mad at me? She’d gone to all that effort to ring doctors etc. I couldn’t have the CT scan anyway though so what was the point in being here. The nurse was being so kind and I was a blithering idiot who couldn’t even speak without sobbing. Fucking PTSD. How hard is it to just wear a goddamn mask? So simple and yet another thing I was a failure at.

It’s hard. We have a reason for it being hard and that doesn’t mean we ‘failed’. Yes, it’s a shame that there wasn’t another option because the GP and the specialist both wanted the scan for a reason and now we have to wait.
Failure isn’t really an appropriate word, it sounds like we’re calling people suffering from PTSD failures. Being angry and hurt that you are feeling those symptoms is understandable and justified but just because you want to self deprecate doesn’t mean you can generalise if like that.
Why are you trying to be PC? Nobody took it that way. Stop trying to be a social justice warrior, you’re doing it wrong.

Lucky this wasn’t a serious medical emergency, because if it came down to it, I’d genuinely pick death over wearing a mask. And what a waste after all this chemo… Cue suicidal impulses. I started scanning the room for ways to end my life immediately. One of the insiders interrupts my thought flurry and chimes in “well that’s just stupid, you’re in a hospital ED, not only would you not have enough time to initiate anything non-reversible by the ward filled with trained doctors, you’d likely wake up in a mask and they’d just end up sectioning you and you’d be stuck here. Think things through dumbass.” Another then sniggers, “didn’t work the first time, why would it work now?” Then I hear a “HEY! Did none of you HEAR the nurses name?” I had been too focused on freaking out to notice. “It’s Estelle! Maybe you should reconsider that blood test.”

Yeah killing yourself in hospital doesn’t work too well. At least wait til you get to the car park.
Is it wrong that I draw her attention to these coincidences as though they’re mystical truths? I mean whatever works to get the what’s best for us outcome huh, kinda like talking to a kid 😂.
Should we be commenting on the first go to thought in an uncomfortable situation always being death? That internally humiliation, even the fear of it, is still considered worthy of capital punishment… 
Ignore her, she’s just attention seeking again. Tell her to shut up or do it already.

Cue the nurse walking back in. “Ooh you’re still here! Shall we do the bloods then?”

I still wonder if she was hoping we’d bugger off. Is the “we understand this is hard for you and you can leave anytime” an effort to give a sense of agency or just a hint?!
Honestly, it felt like a hint to me. Think about it, it probably saves them a lot of paperwork if you self discharge.

“Um, did you say your name is Estelle?” “Yes it is!” The nurse affirmed by pointing to her name tag. “Okay, since your name’s Estelle… I guess that means I’d better do the bloods…” I accidentally said that last bit out loud and to Estelle’s credit her quizzical raised eyebrow WTF expression only lasted a second before her eyes started smiling again. I guess she sees a lot of crazy people in her line of work.

Lol, you know how she gave us a buzzer? She should have just said call out to her… “Stelllllaaaaaa!!!!”
Why do you always talk? *face palm*

Feeling like I should provide some sort of reason for my comment (other than the truth). I stammered something about the name being unusual and that it had suddenly come up for me a few times in just a few days so it felt meaningful somehow. She humoured me and said something supportive about synchronicities.

God I’m glad you didn’t ask “were you my pet horse in a past life?” out loud. I don’t know if we would have been able to come back from that… Literally, like it would take a lot of fast talking to back out of that one.
Isn’t the fast talking what gets us into these messy situations in the first place?

I didn’t feel the needle go in, I’m not sure if she’s just really good at phlebotomy or I was too all over the place to physically feel things. As she wrote on the test tubes she checked the time “12:14” she commented out loud. Again I accidentally spoke out loud, “Really?!”

She was like, “yeah… why?” And I explained that the sequential numbers 214 is another one of those synchronicity things and now that was two things. She again kindly humoured me and told a story of a friend with a lucky number and I just concentrated on not speaking my thoughts.

Estelle drew the curtain around the bed so people wouldn’t notice my lack of face wear and left me to my crazy. A doctor eventually turned up and agreed to prod my abdomen even though I was maskless. I anxiously attempted to explain to her that I was completely fine really, this was an over reaction, I just wanted to leave and I was really sorry for being there and sorry for not having a mask and sorry for wasting her time.

Because that’s a sure fire way to not annoy someone.

She commented nicely that that’s what pays her bills and it was fine, but I still felt like a dick. She said the blood test should be back soon and unless something major showed up I would be free to leave.

Guess she was really praying the bloods would be fine at that point!

I was busy kicking myself for talking too much again when the Dr returned. She announced that my blood work indicated I had mild pancreatitis which would account for the symptoms, but because I was not in much pain I could just leave. She said to come back if it got worse and I was thinking ‘yeah thanks, um no. I’ll figure something out myself if it gets worse.’ And I left as fast as I possibly could.

I love how the discharge paperwork says “denies any additional symptoms or concerns” Did they actually ask? I don’t remember but I think that we were too preoccupied with mask anxiety to even think to mention all the other issues that in hindsight are potentially related. And there are the increased gynaecological issues that we can’t ask about incase they want to do an exam. Bloody anxiety. Couldn’t we have had cancer in a different body part? Like seriously, talk about feed existing insecurities.
Also the summary commented that we can tolerate oral intake. That wasn’t exactly true, yeah we can drink okay but we hadn’t eaten that day and I am sure they didn’t ask about food/drink intake, only if the ileostomy was still working. That still works with no oral intake at all if there’s no bowel blockage, remember in hospital we were on TPN for like 2 weeks, you just get green coloured output. We didn’t think to mention it but it hurts quite a bit straight after eating and has done to a lesser degree for ages, way before this new pain started.
I don’t think I’d call it “pain”, discomfort maybe.
Easy fix, we just won’t eat! Wouldn’t kill us to drop a few of those kilos we’ve piled back on anyway.

So I was able to both see Agatha AND go out in a mask free environment with my wonderful friend L and a group of our mutual friends that I don’t get to catch up with very often. Win.

Just to play devil’s advocate here… They didn’t give an explanation as to why we got pancreatitis in the first place. I Dr. Google’d it and it suggests alcohol and gall stones as the most common reasons. We don’t drink and we don’t have a gall bladder. Uncommon reasons include cancer - which of course I am particularly anxious about given our history. Though apparently colorectal cancer only rarely metastasises to the pancreas (though we seem to be the queen of ‘rare’ don’t we, so can’t completely rule it out). Plus, can we please try and remember to mention the hip pain? That’s been increasing for a month and it’s making it tricky to get to sleep.
It’s almost like you could take some painkillers to help with that problem, if only we had the technology. 🧐
We don’t need pain killers. 
I wouldn’t mind knowing the cause of the hip pain though.
Getting old? A shit ton of surgeries? Hypochondria? Overuse of the word ‘needs’?

I am just going to cut it off there because it devolved pretty quickly into name calling and went way off topic. So if anyone has actually read this far then props to you!

Rabbit Holes & Overthinking

Fellow attendees of the blogosphere, this post is more of a stream of consciousness/ vent/ self therapy session with my alters than anything else. I warn you it is unnecessarily long and there is nothing poignant, poetic, grammatically correct or even generally interesting about it. But it’s my blog and I’m currently rabbit-holing on it so if you want to come along for the ride, feel free to sign the waiver and strap in. But I warn you, it seems that Wonderland is particularly scattered today.

Did you know there used to be a theme park in Sydney called Wonderland? I actually won a radio contest and got to take three friends to watch a battle of a bands competition, eat free theme park food and ride roller coasters all day when I was a young teenager. But I digress, this particular Wonderland is nothing like that one.

Or perhaps it is? Perhaps it’s actually the perfect metaphor. I disliked roller coasters because they made me vomit. I also loved roller coasters because they were exciting. I also figured that a roller coaster could potentially be helpful to my depressed teenage self because theme parks occasionally have accidents and death-by-roller-coaster would have qualified as a “get out of life guilt free” card. I also felt they looked rickety and dangerous. I also hated heights intermittently so that was potentially an issue only to be discovered once already strapped into a fast moving death trap.

So I mostly didn’t want to go on the roller coasters, but felt obligated to because I was given free tickets that probably should have been given to someone else who may have had less motion sickness and appreciated them more. I also didn’t want to look like a wuss in front of my friends. Despite my dilemma about rides, my love affair with music was in full swing around then and meant I could finally see a live concert. Of all the things I don’t remember, I do remember that. A band that played a cover of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” won and they were incredible. *I just knew they’d go on to be the next best thing.

Two National radio personalities were there so I could have five minutes of pseudo fame that granted me only two degrees of separation to the members of the 90s pop band Hansen that I fiercely denied loving but somehow I know the lyrics to all of their songs when they come on the radio now…

So maybe this theme park tangent actually proves that wonderland is an appropriate metaphor for the story, don’t you think? I mean the name checks out. Though only because I was waffling, maybe it’s unrelated. I can’t remember. Was it? Oh wait, how would you know, I haven’t begun telling you the actual story yet.

Now where was I?

It was a quiet moonlit nightnope that wasn’t it… Oh Right. Rabbit-holing. I apologise, I’m currently having more trouble than usual some difficulty staying focused. So A thing happened. Not that big of a thing as things go, but it triggered a bejillion emotions that I feel the need to get to the bottom of. My next appointment with the lovely M is forever a few days away, if I wait all that time until then to consider this more deeply I will likely find myself undertaking a hat making apprenticeship. Besides, it’s important to me now and knowing my luck one of the other sentient parts of my consciousness will overthrow me and talk about something else in session that’s completely irrelevant to my current inner crisis.

As I attempt to self analyse my way through our busy brain, I’m finding myself going off on bizarre tangents that seem to be disconnected but when I ponder them more, I sense they have an underlying theme. I’m writing them down here because apparently everyone inside is commenting and I can’t keep track of my thoughts something useful may come from my ramblings and while my head feels like I’m untangling a decade old box of Christmas lights right now, I figure it may be worth it in the end – even if a few bulbs still aren’t working.

An actual image of the inside of my head.

I’m going to break this into parts. It’s already way too long and so far I’m still a very long way from the point. (I think I have a point?) The following back story is brought to you by a part of my mind identifying as someone other than me, who apparently has a slightly different perspective to other parts of my mind of what went down, so a few have read over it and added their own two cents for posterity.

I’m just documenting it and it’s giving me a headache. Happy deciphering.

Down The Rabbit Hole – Part 1.

A little while ago I had a medical issue which could have been quite serious, but when I rang to make an appointment with my GP the secretary said there were none available for a month. When I said I was a cancer patient and concerned about a potentially serious issue I was told there was still absolutely no way in the world I would get to see her any earlier.

Hubby had to coax you to ring in the first place because you are afraid of being thought of as a hypochondriac. The lack of availability doesn’t mean you are on some secret list there for attention seekers and they’ve been told to fob you off, it means they are busy and have a lot of patients to try and care for. It’s a tough job especially with Covid and the secretary is trying her best to accommodate as many people as possible.
Disagree. Stop sticking up for everyone. That secretary is just a bitch. Just cause she’s stressed doesn’t mean she has to be rude about it. It’s not just what people say, it’s how they say it. It’s polite to at least feign empathy for the duration of a phone call.

My GP had previously given me her mobile phone number in case of emergencies as she knew her secretary was prone to roadblocking appointments and told me to text her if that happened and she’d decide if I needed to be seen or not.

Having this phone number is a huge deal for us. It’s a sign of trust from the GP that we won’t take advantage of her kindness. Unfortunately this blurring of generally accepted boundaries sends us into a spiral of “what constitutes exploiting her trust?” We are not attuned enough to our body to know if something is actually medically wrong and warrants contact, or if it’s all in our head and we just need to get over it. We generally need pretty hard core proof of a medical issue to believe it. 

Preferably a missing limb, lol.

I actually feel this highlights the fact that we need to trust people to look after their own feelings and speak up for themselves more, rather than trying to guess what they will think based off our own schema distorted lens. 

As M always says, “is that your stuff or their stuff?”.
Growing up we saw first hand from **you-know-who that people don’t necessarily say what they are really feeling. Some people lie about their real feelings or omit them, only communicating their actual wants/needs via hints and then turn around and get really angry, hurt and upset when their needs don’t end up being met. 

We learned that to avoid hurting people we had to try and mind read, predict their feelings and go out of our way to accommodate them accordingly. This became an unhealthy habit applied to all areas of life to try and avoid upsetting people and subsequently feeling guilty for not getting it right/ not being good enough.

Just because we grew up with it as our normal, this behaviour is not actually the case for everyone. Plenty of people are happy to say what they think/feel and tell you “no”. And well, for those that the guessing game does apply to, they need to work on their own issues, it’s not up to us to go out of our way make them feel comfortable when we don’t even know what they want.

Just because we struggle with people pleasing doesn’t mean everyone else does (#projection). We have to trust that they will be able to tell us ‘no’ if required and that saying ‘yes’ doesn’t mean we’ve manipulated them somehow or they are only agreeing because they feel obligated.
**She may not have been consciously aware of her needs or aware of her desire for needs.
Not. Our. Stuff.
Yeah, I know. I’m not trying to throw her under the bus, or say it was malicious. I’m just saying we need to stop reenacting this ourselves too, hey?! We have a tendency to not communicate our real needs and then secretly hope someone magically notices them. And while we don’t bad mouth people if they can’t read our minds (because we understand that we are choosing to hide our needs) we do still feel sad because we then have an unmet need we are too frightened to ask for. 
True… But if they do see our needs we just freak out. It’s easier to just cry in secret later.
Probably because we don’t feel worthy of their time or attention and so we tend to second guess if we are really worthy and actually need our need!

I’m petrified of being a pain in the ass so I really didn’t want to text her, but my husband insisted that the issue qualified as “important enough” so I did. I didn’t say in the text what the issue was, just that I had a concern that I may have been over dramatising but wasn’t actually sure could wait and could I please discuss it with her. She got back to me quite quickly via text and said she’d give me a phone appointment in two days time.

She never called.

*Insert attachment issue related reaction of hoping she was just late, waiting by the phone for several hours and making excuses for her while trying to swallow back feelings of crushing disappointment here*

My GP is lovely and attentive, fast to act and generally wonderful but she’s also very, very busy. I felt that this forgotten call was probably purely an oversight because of her crazy schedule and so I wasn’t upset with her, just kinda disappointed and still a bit concerned because of the medical issue.

Excuses, excuses. She doesn’t actually care or we’re not important enough to remember.
I experienced this as pretty frustrating too. Anger maybe isn’t warranted though, but frustration is definitely fair. I believe she had good intentions but just because her intent is good, that doesn’t need to take away from our feelings related to not getting our needs met. That justifiably hurts.

Now because I have mental health issues, I didn’t want to text her and ask if she’d forgotten me. To call her out on this would be too scary and similar to confrontation for me to cope with, even if I said it in the nicest possible way I didn’t want to cause embarrassment to either of us, so I just let it go and decided I’d wait for the appointment four weeks away.

Confrontation is difficult, especially when you are trying to explain a need wasn’t met when you are feeling unworthy of having needs in the first place. But everyone does. Needs are normal!
Needy. We are too bloody needy and we don’t want to be needy and especially don’t want the humiliation of being seen as being needy and annoying!
It’s okay to have needs. But it’s hard to acknowledge that because having needs opens you up to being disappointed.
Case in point, don’t you think?
And seriously, use the word “needs” one more time and I swear to God…!

Luckily, the medical issue stopped by itself and so life carried on and I was actually grateful I hadn’t texted back or insisted on seeing her as it would have just been an over reaction on my part and I would have looked foolish.

Bullet, dodged!
Just because it stopped, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a legitimate problem to begin with – or that you somehow imagined it.

Fast forward to yesterday, the appointment finally came up, I went anyway as I needed a new referral to my psychiatrist. So while there I explained the issue and it’s subsequent self-resolution and she said that I was right to be concerned but we decided that it was likely chemo induced and as it had stopped there was probably nothing to worry about anymore but she’d contact my surgeon in the week for his opinion and let me know.

Will she though? Let us know, I mean 🤨

Good, no problem. The GP also commented that in future I should text her directly and she’d make a time to see me because this absolutely counted as emergency appointment worthy (never mind the secretaries opinions) and that’s why she gave me her number.

That clearly doesn’t actually work in real life though, does it? Plus that secretary is scary. She’d probably put a hex on us or something if we went over her head!
God I hope she emailed the referral because we don’t seem to have a hard copy here anywhere!
Good point, didn’t she forget last year?

I decided not to mention that I had texted and she’d forgotten to ring me at the time we’d arranged and so I just said “thank you” and ensured her I’d do that next time. She asked me if there were any other concerns so I mentioned a niggling abdominal pain I’d had for the last few days. She prodded my tummy and it hurt a little bit but nothing to write home about.

Wuss. Not a pain worth mentioning at all, stop attention seeking.
After the whole cancer thing, it’s pretty normal and even expected to worry over the little things. If you don’t ask, then the worry just stays in your head and exacerbates, if you do ask your fears can be alleviated or a problem can be attended to. Win win.

She was concerned enough to call up my gastroenterologist on the spot (on his private number, on a Saturday) to ask his opinion. He recommended due to my rather extensive and complex history that they do a CT scan right away. Now I felt this was an over reaction but she seems to think I underplay things, particularly pain related things and insisted. So she’s spent a lot of time on the phone to a bunch of people organised me to go to the Emergency department of the hospital to get the scan done straight away.

Meanwhile the pain is fine, like yeah it’s annoying but it’s more discomfort than pain and I’m feeling like a total hypochondriac wasting everyone’s time. Plus I’d arranged to see a good friend of mine I don’t get to see much after the appointment and didn’t want to miss out on that much less go near a hospital.

The doc is even more dramatic than you are! Goodo, let’s waste more time and tax payer dollars, because taking advantage of universal healthcare won’t have an impact on our country at all.

At this point in my medical and mental illness “journey” I would rather be slowly eaten by fire ants than go to a hospital, much less an emergency department. Last time I went to one of those I had to phone my siblings and announce our Dad was about to die. Not fun.

Really? You’re going to make it about Dad?
You know it’s not that. The stench of the place makes us all feel sick since chemo, coulda said that, fair enough, but instead you played the dead Dad card. Trying to get sympathy now? Just shut up. The reason you didn’t want to go there was cause you knew they’d think you were an attention seeking dumb ass and you felt (rightfully) bad about wasting their time.

I reluctantly agreed because the GP had gone to so much effort and called my friend to explain that I’d be a little late. I got to the hospital, finally found a park miles away and reluctantly walked through the sleet and freezing wind up to the Emergency Department wishing I was anywhere else.

Yet you CHOSE to go in anyway. #DramaQueen Let’s break it off here because, well you sure do love the drama! Stay tuned everyone for a riveting part two of “dumbass goes to hospital for no reason!”


My dear Lucy, tonight I found you in the dusty depths of a long ago time. I saw our home in the rolling green hills. We stood outside the stable on well worn earth, breathing in the fresh scent of early morning spring dew, filled with excitement of what the day may bring. You looked so different then to the way you do now, but your soul is undeniable and I knew you right away.

I had but a moment with you back there again, yet that moment was long enough to feel the power of our entire lifetime together. You were my big sister, my best friend. You were beautiful and I idolised you, with your long black hair brushed 100 times a night and those bright green eyes hinting at your fiery nature and a cautious desire for rebellion.

In that moment together in history we were faced down the hillside into the valley, you were being silly, doing carts wheels in your dress and we were laughing. Sunlight shon through the white mane of our dappled grey mare Estelle as she blew small clouds of mist from her nose into the cold air. ‘Stella’ you always called her.

I was filled with a sense of pure love as I stroked the pony’s cheek, tracing the shape of her face with my finger, mesmerised by her wise black eyes that had listened to our stories and comforted us when we wept.

I don’t remember much about our life there, but I know we were happy. I know that John the stable boy loved you and he would have done anything to make you smile. I remember you wanted a red saddle for Stella and were most upset that you couldn’t have one because ‘oh the shame such an outlandish thing would bring upon the family!’

I feel that I died young from an illness of sorts, I was scared and you were heartbroken because you couldn’t save me. I feel you have been trying to save me ever since, an unfinished quest to ease a burden of unnecessary guilt.

It was never your fault.

I had my own lessons to learn, death was but a part of life and you made me brave enough to face it. Now I want you to let that pain go. I want you to know that you have saved me, so many times and in so many ways far more important than the lengths of time spent on this earth, and for that I am so incredibly grateful.

The love I have always felt from you radiates through my soul, it has strengthened me and allowed me to keep going through the hardest of times, shining light into the darkest of moments. Now I can face the world, this life and whatever it may bring, I am not scared anymore.

My darling Lucy, I am free.

The Right to Fight

My head hurts, I want to die, I’m not capable of handling this world, this life. I am shit and I’m so, so tired. I just want to sink into a hole and be left alone forever, sleep forever. End.
They keep saying ‘you don’t want to die, you only want the pain to end’ but I truly want to die, to stop. I can’t remember a world without this pain, living is pain, breathing is pain, trying to not be this way is the hardest pain. If the pain stops I stop, not just the other way around, I am the pain.

This is all that I know. This life, this feeling.

All those “good things”, all those “reasons to live”, they aren’t mine, they don’t belong to me, they are hidden behind impenetrable frosted glass; I can’t reach them, I can’t feel them or see them, I barely know that they are there at all.

You can’t hold onto a world you don’t exist in, or a memory you don’t have. You can’t cling to a hope when there was never a dream or a plan.

All I have apart from this very feeling is a vague and incomplete storyline, and it’s not even accurate.
I am only here because I haven’t been able to prevent myself from returning, I hadn’t been able to control it.
I can’t keep living like this, as me. It’s no longer possible. I need to go away, and never come back.”

I found this in an old journal entry, written around two months before our stage 4 cancer diagnosis.

People have made comments about how well I’m handling this cancer lark. They think I’m brave, they think I’m resilient, they think I’m inspirational. All because I’m cracking jokes about it, discussing it emotionlessly and generally not falling in a heap.

In reality, I think I’m just confused.

I wonder how people would react if they knew how much I’d wanted a get out of life free card? It would be extremely hypocritical of me to start crying and proclaiming my desire to live now when I’ve literally been begging to die since I was around eight years old.

An unforeseen death sentence at no fault of our own? The cancer takes the rap and we are just another helpless victim, losing a battle? I should be singing and dancing, I got my greatest wish.

But… And there’s always a but…

When the choice is taken from you, particularly when it’s just as you’ve started to understand your selves better, started to find a sense of your own self and realised that some things that happened to you as a little kid were pretty shitty really and weren’t necessarily the result of just being born a faulty human being, well it kinda hurts.

Once when I complained about my hypocrisy of choosing to have the chemotherapy and feeling guilty for now actually quite liking the idea of living a bit longer, M commented “don’t people have the right to grow from their experiences? The right to change their minds?”

I don’t recall how I responded to her. Thinking on it now, on one hand my answer is a resounding “Yes!” of course people do! Only… At the same time, I’m not “people”. I’m me, and in a narcissistic self important way I feel that I should be held to different standards.

I feel like I have absolutely no right whatsoever to “fight” this cancer. As grateful as I am for Australia’s Medicare system, I hold an incredible amount of guilt at how many tax payer dollars have been wasted on trying to keep me alive when frankly, I don’t think I deserve it. But when I think of the other parts of ‘me’, the hurt kids and angsty teens, I want them to have a chance to heal.

Just before I started chemo my oncologist said he wanted me to do immunotherapy instead. I was told it would give us twice the chance at longer term recovery but it was $60,000 out of pocket. I politely declined as we had roughly $60 in the back account and it wasn’t an option.

A bunch of our friends offered to start us up a Go Fund Me but I couldn’t bring myself to let them. I felt it wouldn’t be fair for people to contribute money to saving a life I didn’t deserve to have, at least not without knowing that I had actively attempted suicide in the past and wished for death most of my life and I just wasn’t ready to start divulging that information.

So I had the chemo and tried to be grateful for it. The PET scan was clear and everyone around me celebrated while I felt like I’d cheated the system.

Now we’re in that awkward after chemo but before next scans phase. Every little ache or pain I get I immediately wonder if it’s the cancer coming back for round 2 and I get scared.

I get scared because now I want to live long enough to find the lessons in it all, heal my hurting alters, share some hope, give something back to the world. I want to inspire the people who should have the chance to learn and grow from their experiences, because to come this far and drop dead without helping others feels like a wasted opportunity.

So I know I don’t deserve to survive this, not after all my bitching about being alive. But just quietly, I hope we do.

Identity and Grief

I’m constantly struggling to understand myself. Understand my selves. Unfortunately my memory of past events is so compartmentalised that every now and then something happens to challenge my beliefs about who I think I am and it throws me for a loop.

My understanding has always been that I was a lover not a fighter. I loathe conflict and run away or hide when challenged. Apparently I haven’t always been that way. Apparently I was a yeller and a screamer, apparently I’d argue so loudly it was embarrassing to those around me. I don’t remember that at all and it feels so shameful and so disconnected from who I thought I am, who believed I was back then that this new found knowledge cuts me like a knife.

I feel like I can never know the truth. That I will never know what was real. Have I just made up a life history based on what a ‘good girl’ should be like or what I feel has been expected of me? In so many ways it seems like I have only existed in fragmented moments. I try to grasp on tight to memories, searching for ones that that feel like my own and I can count them on one hand.

Who is the real me? Do I exist? Did I ever exist?

Yes. I understand that there are ‘alters’, I read their stories and see their drawings. I see the bizarrely different handwriting styles on notes around the house and feel overwhelmed because at the end of the day I know I wrote those things but I don’t remember doing it and I don’t understand what it all means for me.

This house is full of people. Children I apparently birthed and raised. A man I apparently married a few decades ago. Animals that rely on me to survive, animals I can’t remember feeding and yet they are alive so they must have been fed. My dog has been dead for 10 years. My father is dead. My mother is old. I have cancer that has a 70% chance of killing me within the next two years.

All of these are facts I am aware of, yet I relate emotionally to none of it. I can find things stored in my house as though I put them there and I guess I must have but I don’t remember doing it. I can’t plan a future, I can’t remember my past, now I’m dying and the life I led feels like a distant dream.

I’m just so tired. I want to curl up and sleep forever. Outside is cold and the sun is starting to set. I remember the last time I saw the sun setting, I remember seeing the scarf, knowing it was how I would die. I remember it was 2004. I remember telling my friend, I remember we were in her car parked outside her house and I remembered that she cried and promised to protect me.

This farm. This is the place where I saw that sun set all those years ago. It’s become a real place now, not just a fleeting vision of possible future. Yet now it seems perhaps I traded a part of myself back then, for the knowledge of my demise. It seems as the further the prophecy unfolded the more unreal I became, my existence now feels unproven and doubtful and I fear I have become no more than a ghost who haunts a memory

Wild Thing

A dark shape darted across the chicken coop in front of me and disappeared. I blinked, rubbed my eyes and surveyed my surroundings. Nothing was amiss, the sun was shining, wind whispered through the lightly waving trees and my lone chicken tilted her head unfazed, looked at me with curiosity and let out an expectant “berrrerk!” I sighed releasing a handful of scratch mix onto the ground in front of her and watching as she pecked the ground furiously, clucking softly in appreciation.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s real and what isn’t. I don’t hallucinate often but when Ezzy is close by, well the world around me can take on a whole new life. To understand what I mean here you will need to understand Ezzy. She see’s things the rest of us can’t.

It’s not so much by way of an object blatantly added to a landscape, we won’t see anything so brash as a hippopotamus picnicking on the lawn. No, it’s more as though she can grasp the magic inside a rich tapestry of tiny worlds that already exist around us. Ones we are simply unable to notice when our mind is too clouded by the expectations of the physical realm.

It can be frightening for the unseasoned among us yet it is a sacred experience for her. She watches what can only be described as the atoms around her, moving, flowing as you might observe dust floating around a room when sunlight streams in through a window. Some of these appear to be attracted to each other, some repelled and they make up everything around us from solid objects to the spaces between.

We’ve often referred to this phenomenon as observing the pixels of the universe, enthralled by them as they twist and twirl, morphing into a scene, a brief movie or image which tells a long lost tale of something ancient, tragic or beautiful.

A smudge on a wall to me, is a smudge on a wall but filtered through Ezzy’s eyes it will become a intricate picture, often times moving about as it shares its story. Ezzy believes that each of these parables comes from a lost soul desperate to be heard. She is an observer, speaking only through her art. Watching, listening, like a therapist to the universe as it quietly shares it’s stream of consciousness, unfurling vast wisdom and beauty.

Ezzy can’t function in the world you and I understand. Unable to see the forest for the trees it’s all too overwhelming and her lingering presence will always eventually send us mad. She comes close though sometimes, our heart rate falls to 40 when she draws and occasionally she shows us things, we can only watch in wonder as the walls catch fire and the carpet swims.

The photo folder on my phone is filled with images of dusty walls and misted glass taken in an attempt to capture times Ezzy has given us glimpses into her matrix.

Now where was I? Ah yes, the chicken coop.

I had dismissed the dark shape as a figment of my imagination and gone about my day thinking little of it, but early the next morning when I fed the hen I saw it again, this time it was crouching in the corner of the shed beside a nesting box. It was too dark in there to see properly, the wild thing was very still, furry and black, I couldn’t see a face.

I felt my heart pounding as I walked closer. The creature looked up, wide yellow eyes stared at me, sizing me up. It was a cat, dark silver with thick black stripes, then it was gone. I didn’t see it run, there one minute gone the next. Over the following few days there was no sign of the mysterious ghost cat and I still wasn’t sure if it was real or I’d imagined it. I’ve ‘seen’ cats before, ones that others couldn’t. They were usually black, always staring and I still have no idea what they symbolised.

Then my daughter came crashing into the house one afternoon, “There’s a feral cat!” she proclaimed excitedly “It is in the chicken coop!” That made me feel better, it was real. She grabbed the box of cat food and I followed her out. We already had pet cats, I wasn’t sure encouraging a feral was such a great idea but I wanted it out of the hen house, my poor chook had been through enough lately, this couldn’t be good for her nerves.

The cat stared at us with its big yellow eyes trying to decide if it should bolt or not. It’s fur was all matted up, it was painfully skinny and there was something terribly wrong with its face. We called out to it gently but it took off at high speed trying to scale the wire of the coop. In its haste it misjudged its distance and fell off, running so frantically from one end to the other you could almost hear its heart beat. It took another huge leap this time clearing the fence and disappearing into the bush.

We saw it sporadically over the next few days, it clearly wanted to be close but was obviously terrified. We left food out closer to the house and eventually saw it eating desperately from the bowl. It was really struggling to chew. I tried to get a closer look and could see that it’s mouth was badly damaged, it appeared to be missing part of its bottom jaw and it looked infected. No wonder the poor thing was so thin.

We started offering soft food instead and over several weeks the cat progressively let us closer and closer until we could pat it. Our big ginger Tom cats who usually ruled their territory with iron claws seemed to recognise the creature was weak and in need and they let it be. Once it seemed apparent the cat wanted to stay we coaxed it into a carrier and took him off to the vet.

The vet gave antibiotics for the infection ravaging the felines mouth and jaw and upon closer examination there was evidence of old awkwardly healed broken rib bones. He suggested it had most likely been hit by a car at some point. We bundled him up, took him home and named him Bandit.

For months he startled at the slightest sound. Content one minute, bolting under the house as though his life was in danger the next. When he finally emerged he would sit on the edge of the deck for literal hours, tail twitching slightly, staring wide eyed out into the abyss as though searching for the enemy, if you touched him he bolted again, if you spoke to him he didn’t hear you, lost in the harshness of the world he’d once known.

Bandit rarely leaves our front porch these days, content to snuggle on whoever is sitting out there at the time he can vibrate the whole chair with his intense purring. He has become the sweetest cat we’ve ever owned, he quickly befriended our giant German Shepard and intimidates our poor little Pomeranian. Occasionally he still gets startled by a noise and bolts under the house, but he no longer stares hyper vigilantly off into space like a shell shocked soldier.

We love our little wild thing.

Super Ted and Finding Sarah

I need to get up and have a shower. It’s 7:30 am and I’ve been lying here awake since 5 but it’s cold, bitterly cold, too cold to survive the 4 metre dash to the bathroom let alone strip naked and wait for the water to warm up. So instead, I lie in bed awake and shivering hoping someone else will re light the fire. I pull the bed covers up around me. Two winter doonas and a blanket and it’s not even taking the edge off.

I put my head under the doona to try and warm up, my breath clouds around me and I fight the sense of suffocation that’s rapidly enveloping my chest. This feeling is part of why I can’t stand to wear a face mask, hot breath in my face, even my own sends me into a panic. I peek my nose and mouth out and take gulps of the freezing air then dive back into the warm blanket cave that is equal parts comforting and terrifying.

I feel suddenly oddly small and a random image of ‘Super Ted’ flashes in my mind. Weird… I haven’t thought about that show in decades.

The image of the bear wearing a super hero outfit flashes in my head again somewhat indignantly. Usually this kind of flash image is an attempt at communicating by one of the others. Often bizarre in nature but meaningful to the messenger, unfortunately working out what that meaning is can be really difficult. I stick my head out from the covers and gasp in more of the ice cold fresh air before ducking down again.

I was a sensitive child. My mother tells a story of when I was four or five and I watched an episode of the kids cartoon for the first time. There’s a line in the opening theme that states “and they threw him away like a piece of rubbish” referring to the Teddy bear that starred in the show. Apparently I had cried for hours, I hadn’t even seen the actual program yet and I was already inconsolable. The thought of someone tossing that bear away simply broke me no matter how much my mother explained that he was okay now, that he was a super hero now.

Who on earth was trying to communicate Super Ted to me, and why? I chuckled softly to myself thinking about my mothers story and how oddly sensitive I had been about that bear.

Then I heard her. Her voice was desperate yet soft and meek as though coming from far away. “Don’t throw him away, I’m sorry! Don’t throw away Michael”.

It’s a little girl, she’s sobbing. I see her only for a second, cross legged, hiding under a blanket with red tear stained cheeks and a teddy squished under her arm.

Michael? Who’s…? And it comes rushing back like a freight train.

Suddenly I’m there with her, hiding under the blankets. Downstairs in the kitchen our father is raging again, I don’t know what happened this time but venomous expletives are flying. “Stop!” My mother’s exasperation comes out as a staggered whine. She hates him swearing, the explosive anger she seems to take without question but for some reason when he starts a swearing tangent she will object.

This is nothing we haven’t heard before, nothing new. But I look at the little girl clutching her teddy and holding her breath, eyes squished shut; she’s three years old tops. I suddenly feel her fear viscerally, this little girl under the blanket with hot wet cheeks. It envelopes me, clutches in my chest, my neck. Its hard to breath, but I don’t want to stick my head out. Nobody can see me here. I have to be quiet, I have to be good.

But I remember I’m not a good girl. I remember that I killed Michael.

I had forgotten. How could I forget? My little brother never got to be alive, never got pat my cat and it was all my fault.

I was three, nearly four. I guess they had to explain why mummy suddenly didn’t have a baby in her tummy anymore. They told me that they’d done a test and the doctor said he would have been disabled. They said they didn’t want me to feel like I had to look after him when I was an adult, he would have held me back, ruined my life. They told me it would have been too hard so they got rid of Michael for me.

But they didn’t understand that I would never have thrown Michael away like Super Ted got thrown away. I would have loved him forever, I wouldn’t have cared if he was different looking and didn’t understand things. I just wanted to have a little brother to love and play with. I just wanted to show him my cat.

But they thought I would hate them for it later, that it would be too hard on me, that I couldn’t handle it. Michael’s life had been snuffed out before it began, but all I knew was they chose me over him and I didn’t deserve life any more than he did. The guilt broke me in two. What if I became too hard too? What if I was bad or upset my daddy? Would they throw me away like Super Ted, like Michael?

I fight to separate, to look at the little girl again. For 33 years she’s been crying, cloaked by a blanket of guilt, hiding under the weight of responsibility for the death of an unborn baby boy. I desperately want to hug her, tell her it’s okay.

Seeing it from adult eyes, seeing her quiver and sob for the brother she believed she had killed because her parents thought she wasn’t going to be a good enough sister for them to keep him. I try to tell her it wasn’t her fault. That they didn’t do it for her, or because she wasn’t good enough. They did it for themselves, because they couldn’t be parents to a child with Down syndrome.

Our moment is broken by footsteps up the hall in present time and I hold my breath instinctively. I can feel my heart beat echo through my body like a subwoofer, my face is burning with snot and tears. I carefully emerge from my cocoon, the cold hits me like a bucket of ice water and I frantically try to wipe my eyes to pretend I’m okay. The footsteps pass by and I can breathe again.

I shiver and pull back under the covers. The little girl is still under her blanket but she’s not sobbing anymore. I ask her name and I get the word “Sarah”. I focus on her, try and embrace her, try and tell her over and over “It’s not your fault, Sarah. I found you, you are safe now, we are okay now.” I feel a shift inside.

Like releasing a spirit to the light, a weight lifts and I see her again, just for a second. Her face is still sad, still haunted, blonde hair plastered against tear soaked cheeks, but one corner of her mouth is slightly turned up in a shy half smile and the blanket is wrapped around her shoulders now, her head is free, she can breathe.

What’s in a name?

Life’s been funny lately. I’m not complaining, it’s just kind of strange. I feel different but I can’t properly explain how. Almost like I somehow merged minds with some other parts of us but couldn’t tell you who, why or when.

I just suddenly have different perspectives on some people in my life and seem to have gained a stack of childhood memories, not bad ones or anything traumatic just random stuff. Lots of stories of my formative years, connections between people and places, things that I know I didn’t recall a few weeks ago.

I’m also suddenly unusually competent with paperwork related stuff in regards to Hubby’s work, I’ve always had trouble with computers, they frustrate the shit out of me, other parts of us handled that for the most part, but I seem to suddenly just know how to do things but can’t explain how I know; which is a bit of a weird feeling, kinda like if I just understood a foreign language all of a sudden without learning it.

My head is unusually quiet. Scribe rattles away in the background but Catherine seems to have taken a leave of absence after our last therapy session a month or so ago; I’m really going to have to ask what went down because something must have. Kate’s not about much either. I can just reach out to two of the little ones but I’m almost afraid to, it feels unsafe.

I look around the house at the legacy of the others and I struggle to relate to it. I shouldn’t say legacy, it’s not like they’re gone. I know they are still about somewhere, but everything just feels different. Or I feel different, less connected to them or something.

Like there was make up and hair products piled around our bathroom for easy access I guess but in the end I just got the shits, gathered it up and stuck it in a draw in the cupboard. I don’t wear make up, can’t use it to save myself and frankly I’m not interested, whereas Kate won’t leave the house without it. Our hair is thin and the short hair cut is hard to do anything decent with, I’m not going to spend any time styling it to cover up chemo bald spots when I can just wear a beanie.

It’s funny, Kate changed our name on our IRL FB to her own a while ago and a most people hadn’t noticed but just recently few people have commented.

One fairly close friend of ours recently told me she’d seen it and asked me outright what I prefer to be called. It was a really hard question to answer. Kinda like when one of the few people in our world who know about the DID asks who I am. I’m not sure why I hate that question so much, it feels too vulnerable, almost violating somehow. I prefer to stay in the shadows of anonymity.

This friend knows about some of our mental health issues but I’ve stopped short of telling her about the DID. I explained that I (we) passionately loathe our birth name and changed it on FB to pacify the frustration of seeing it all the time. But of course I couldn’t explain that I have an alter named Kate who will always just introduce herself as Kate because she can get away with it so a good percentage of people we’ve met in the last 6 years call us Kate anyway.

I joked that I wish our birth name was Catherine because there are so many more variables of that name and it just sits better with me. So she laughed and asked if she should just call me Catherine then and honestly to me it sounded a lot better out of her mouth than Kate did, she’s my friend not Kate’s anyway, so I was like “Yeah! Why not!”

I’m not Catherine of course, but my name is too different to even bring up without raising far too many questions. We’d always said that if we ever changed our name legally we’d go with Catherine because it really matters to her and it can be broken into enough nicknames and variants that we wouldn’t need to explain ourselves to everyone in our life, they’d just assume that it was always our full name.

I’d be fine with it because honestly I don’t really care, where as it’s important to Kate to be called Kate and the real Catherine literally cried when our psychiatrist used her name for the first time. So anyway, said friend is now calling us Catherine and we laughed that if anyone comments then we can say it’s a reverse nickname.