Scared Body trembling Tremors, shivers Cold, not cold Alone in my head With my memories Filling my body Can’t breathe Wild eyed Chest tightening Dissociating Dizzy falling feeling Confusion, chaos Dissolving, distrusting Destabilized, disorder Drowning, smothering Fighting, clawing, crying Lost, dying Of shame And misplaced blame Not my fault All my dreams Slammed to screeching halt It’s my body I scream Mine He hurt me It’s his crime So why am I Doing the time In my solitary hell Imprisoned inside myself
–Manderley July 12, 2018
This companion piece to the poem, Aftermath, written a few years earlier, is a peek inside the moments when my body remembers and makes me revisit, rewatch, relive trauma from the past. It can feel like I’m just flung back through time and into the body that was, without my consent. Getting the words down in poetry, and out of my brain helps me to feel and reclaim some small bit of control again. It helps me to process what happened and what’s happening still when I have flashbacks to that horrible time. I hope that, if you’re reading these words, it helps you to process and heal or to understand, if you haven’t experienced this kind of trauma. Thank you for reading.
I wonder what would Holly have said About this year of mean, mean reds About the needless, senseless dead All of this pervasive dread
In this year of mean, mean reds Even the sparkle of Tiffany’s has fled
Would Holly stay in bed? Knitting her fragile thread? Singing to her cat on the ledge Dreaming of her lost Fred.
In this year of mean, mean reds Even the sparkle of Tiffany’s has fled.
Would even Holly’s joy stall? Or would she steal another dime store mask In the rain, leave the feels Of the reds in the past And lightly, rightly fall In mad movie love With her dear Varjak, Paul
April 7, 2021 Manderley Swain
I suppose this is my covid poem. It is a reflection of that first year of this madness, told through the lens of Miss Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I think Holly’s story and her response to her own traumas and triumphs form an excellent metaphor for the kind of dramatic, traumatic change we’ve all been experiences these last two years. It’s one of my favorite movies and this is one of my favorite poems. I hope you liked it.
I look out at her things Her dishes, her quilts, her earrings They don’t belong here, I scream
Put them back! Put her back! Turn the clocks back!
More than five years gone Their bones rest beneath their stone Oh, how I still yearn for home!
Written 8/23/21 Manderley Swain
I still miss my Grandmother fiercely. I have many mementos of her life and of my life with her. She is still a thread woven through all that I am and do. Those dark moments when I need comfort are when I miss her the most. This poem is about that.
My dear friend Mare The Human wrote a poem called Under Covers in 2018 and challenged friends to write something inspired by it. This is my answer to the challenge.
Morning calls me out to play Lost in the depths of my pillow I lose my way Deeper stillness comforting darkness My nest of blankets hiding my sorrow
Persistent morning calls my name Come on out! Sieze the day! One more hour, please, I pray. Soft, snuggly cover quietly whispers Stay The world outside is too loud Tomorrow is another day
As I burrow deeper still Drifting, dreams and memories sifting Sands shifting in my shuttered eyes Your ghost, your voice Lifting Restoring my will I follow your flight from Neverland Greeting the morning, I rise
Written January 2018 Based on Mare Martell’s poem ‘Under Covers’ 2018
(Originally started November 2020, completed November 8, 2021)
I can only answer for myself. There are as many ways to be polyamorous as there are people who are polyamorous. The following is a snapshot of my personal journey.
Polyamory reminds me every day that I am not alone. That no one is an island. We each bring different things to the poly family (polycule).
It’s been more than two years since I dropped a blog post in which I came out as Polyamorous and pansexual. For me, that was a big moment of liberation, in that I let go of any pretense at all of hiding who I am from those around me. Ironically, almost no one really read it. That’s ok. I’ve been coming out again and again ever since that moment. Each time I do, it’s affirming all over again.
As I share who I am, who I’ve always been, with each new or old friend or relative I am granted yet another opportunity to feel and express my joy and gratitude for all the gifts an authentic life can bring. And I get to take a moment to live into the love I feel for my partners as well as for my community in a deeper way than I would be keeping it all to myself.
As for most people, 2020 brought with it many tests, trials, changes, losses and gains, both to myself and to my polycule (polycule is a common term that polyamorous people often use to refer to our partners and their partners as a group). At the beginning of 2020, I dated someone new. It was beautiful, but it turned out I wasn’t ready to add anyone to our little cluster just yet. As the pandemic swept in and re-ignited old anxieties and triggers, I found I was ill equipped to handle my own emotions let alone the extra give and take that new relationship brings. So I ended it–and chose the long standing friendship we’d already built. I dug into self care, therapy, inner work. My polycule supported me as I fell into guilt and depression about it.
Then came one of the biggest, hardest rollercoasters I faced in that fateful year. I closed my 10 year old sewing business. I’d poured so much of myself into my work that I barely, rarely knew where I ended and it began. Closing it was like watching a beloved friend leave me forever. Again, our polycule carried me. Supported me. Loved me. Encouraged me, us, as Zen and I embarked on new paths to fulfill the call of creative work that we both love.
I grieved all summer, kept digging with therapy and more self care. Art. Zen. Polycule love and support.
Then, in November, Zen’s husband broke his wrist. Our polycule supported them. We fed them. We shared in driving and some help with expenses. We’re always catching each other–so no one falls completely now. We’re a family. We share pains as well as joys in each other.
I cooked all of Thanksgiving dinner for the polycule and for another friend we invited into our lives at that moment in time. Cooking for everyone was a gift to me in and of itself. It helped heal the longing I’d still been feeling from losing my Grandparents a few years ago.
Fall passed into winter as we continued to all care for one another, celebrating birthdays, joys and sorrows and the holidays. As the seasons turned, I fell in love again, with Maurice. He brought to life other facets of me that were in the background with other partners. Another benefit and joy of being poly. I bring different parts of myself to the forefront with each partner and together they love and bring out the whole me, in ways that enrich all of our lives.
Navigating the ups and downs of new relationship energy and reconciling new love with ongoing loves had and still has its challenges but again, the polycule carries me. We carry each other.
My husband was out of work from April 2021 until recently and we’ve all had challenges making ends meet, but we’ve continued to be here for each other and for friends along the way. I won’t recount all of them, but every week brings new questions, new difficulties and new opportunities to rediscover who we all are, individually and collectively in our polycule. At the end of the day, we all love each other. We share our troubles and our celebrations with each other. We are made stronger by that foundation of trust and communication and shared experience. It is, perhaps, Ohana in that truly no one is left behind or forgotten.
I know that polyamory isn’t for everyone. It requires hard work, communication, trust, honesty and perseverance–just like monogamy. We make mistakes, we work through them together and we forgive and move forward–just like monogamy.
I don’t know what the future holds. I only know that I am grateful for the love and support of my polycule and of my community of friends and family who have taken the time and done the work to learn about our family and have accepted us. It is good to feel seen. Going back in the closet is not an option. So we live our lives out loud now, advocating and educating whenever and however we can.
Invite me for a cup of tea, as I said in my earlier post. I’ll answer most any question and maybe we’ll know each other better after. Be well and be safe my loves.
(originally written April 23, 2019) **note the pre-covid date** I am an avid mask wearer in terms of covid. Please read the post to get the title’s context. Be safe, get vaccinated and wash your hands my loves!
Doing some thinking lately about who I am. Where I stand. What matters most to me. I’m turning 49 this week. The ‘9’s have always been my years for growing pains and self reflection. This one, the midpoint ‘9’ is even more so.
I’ve always been clear, internally, about exactly who I am and what matters. Being an introvert and a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault, I tend to keep much of myself to myself. I tend to avoid conflict as much as possible–it’s too stressful and exhausting. Since I’m using so much of my energy just trying to get through the day, I don’t have energy left over to fight big fights. I don’t have energy left over to hear why someone hates what I’m feeling, thinking, or not saying.
As it turns out, I’m hearing and fighting those battles anyway, internally. And that takes just as much energy as hearing and fighting out loud. I’m exhausted AND I’m not standing up and saying who I am or how I feel. That’s much worse. I’m also not leading by example, which is important to me. How will those who need my support and my compassion even know I’m here if I don’t tell them, if I don’t keep light on for them and for myself, too?
I’ve spent too many years trying to be the girl everyone else wanted me to be. I didn’t start out this way. In high school I was known for being fully true to myself. I loved myself unconditionally. I refused to compromise my personal vision or conform to the herd mentality. But before I could begin to truly explore the adult I was becoming, a boy swooped in. He started tearing me down by degrees in incremental bits. By the time I realized the destruction , I was so broken and pliable that anyone could waltz in and begin sculpting me into yet another form, another vision.
It has taken 30 years or more for me to fully realize how pliable I’ve been, how many masks I’ve worn to suit the people around me. I’ve been a chameleon, changing to match whatever or whomever happened to be surrounding me in the moment. All because I somehow believed it was necessary for simple survival. I’ve fought too hard to reclaim my life, repair my broken parts to allow that to continue.
My dreams and my capacity to love have always been much bigger than simple survival. Even recently I’ve caught myself hiding who I am in order to protect things that no longer need protecting. Friendships, other people’s feelings about me, my sewing business. I’m a costumer with mad skills and a pretty good following. I’m an artist. I am a magical being. An eclectic pagan girl following a multifaceted spiritual path. It really shouldn’t be a shocker for me to live as though there is no box whatsoever to try to cram myself into.
My husband has never asked me to hide anything about myself. He’s just there, loving me unconditionally. So, too, my lover, Zen–Yes, I am polyamorous. I am pansexual–no big surprise there either. Most people knew that one before I did. My kids love and support me as I love and support them. I breastfed them and practiced attachment parenting. I don’t bully them into being good people–they simply are. They are probably my biggest fans as well as my loudest cheerleaders. My friends? No one who is really my friend would ask me to be less than I am either. Why is it that I am the last person to become aware of these facts on a deeper level?
This is and is not a coming out thing. Those closest to me already know everything about me. Those who would judge me will fall away, if they haven’t already. Those who need the light of my glowing, glittery, firework self will see it whether I speak out or not, I imagine. They always have. It was only myself who existed in darkness and denial.
So here I am –loving, sharing, shining. If you want to judge or criticize who I am, please do so privately. If you want to ask real questions and have thoughtful conversation around the answers, I’m an open book. Let’s have tea together. I prefer unsweet iced tea and dark, bittersweet chocolate. Blessed be.
I suffer from misophonia. It is a disorder generally defined as hatred of sound. That doesn’t quite begin to cover it though. People who have misophonia have involuntary and uncontrollable emotional and physical reactions to their trigger sounds. The trigger sounds are not the same for everyone. For most people they can include but are not limited to things like silverware scraping on teeth or plates, chewing, slurping, snapping gum, burping, swallowing, and other bodily noises and repetitive sounds such as typing, pencil tapping, dripping water and other low level noises that most people barely even notice. Some are even triggered by visual stimuli along with sound triggers.
Misophonia is not classified as a psychiatric or hearing disorder. There is some evidence to suggest that it is neurological and/or related to autism and sensory processing disorders. It is fairly rare, affecting only about 15% of the adult population. It may be more common, or at least more sever, in women.
No one is certain what causes Misophonia and there is currently no cure. There are very few treatments or therapy options. Most suggested options involve treating the associated anxiety responses rather than the disorder itself. Mindful self care habits to reduce anxiety and troubleshooting for yourself in the moment with headphones/earbuds, increasing background nose when possible or simply excusing yourself and escaping the triggers are the main treatment suggestions I’ve found.
To someone who suffers from misophonia, the sound and visual triggers can elicit responses from mild discomfort and irritation to rage and even panic. It activates a fight or flight response and a strong need to flee the situation. Mealtimes and other experiences that are pleasant or at least tolerable for most people can be torture.
For me, it started in my early childhood. My first memory of being adversely affected by sounds and visuals that didn’t seem to bother other people was around age 6 or 7. The disorder really didn’t have a name then. It was not until 2000 that audiologists, Pawel and Margaret Jastreboff (wikipedia) gave it a name during their research on other forms of decreased sound tolerance. I didn’t even know it had a name until a year or two ago. I just thought I was irrational and crazy or that it was just another part of my ptsd and general anxiety. I only told my family about it after that. I think my grandmother and mother knew when I was younger though, but it was just one of those sensitive child things. Fortunately they were compassionate and tried to help whenever possible by offering me buffers from certain sounds and experiences.
So I’ve spent most of my life coping by just winging it. It’s worse when I’m already anxious about anything else and then encounter my personal misophonia triggers. I experience panic and anxiety and am generally miserable in the moment. It’s exhausting and takes time to calm down afterward. A silent room at mealtime or experiencing my triggers in stereo in a movie theater is sheer torture. I’m not exaggerating–I promise.
I manage it with distractions, tv or music during dinner or a crowded restaurant with lots of ambient noise. I work pretty hard not to be rude or to be a bother or to even be noticed when I’m triggered and in distress. I cannot always use headphones or earbuds to manage it. (The sounds of my own chewing and associated sounds are louder in my own head with earbuds on–it’s like an echo chamber!). Ambient noise and music are not always enough to mask the sounds or distract me. I often try to wait until everyone else is finished eating or eat before they do if possible, especially since there is also a strong visual aspect to my triggers. It is difficult to convey this clearly to anyone who does not also suffer from misophonia.
I discovered ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) around the same time I learned that my disorder had a name. ASMR is also relatively new and describes a feeling of euphoric tingling and relaxation that can come over someone in response to certain videos or sounds. I understand misophonia as the dark mirror universe of ASMR. It is the direct opposite, though there are some overlaps I’ve found. Some ASMR stimuli that give people euphoria are torture for me, but there are some that I find calming and pleasurable as well. The connections are fascinating and disturbing all at once to me.
I resisted telling anyone about my misophonia for years. Learning it had a name helped give it validity and helped me to know I wasn’t completely crazy. Discovering ASMR helped me find language to articulate what I’m feeling.
Anytime I consider telling someone, I’m torn. Although it is a great relief to have understanding and support from my loved ones when I am triggered, knowledge of my possible reactions often makes people self conscious and weird around me or worse. There are people in my life who would find it amusing to push my buttons if they know there are buttons to push.
At the end of the day though, I know that if I was suffering in silence and fear and frustration, others must be suffering too. It’s a pretty lonely headspace in which to exist. Burdens shared are a bit easier to manage. That is the guiding light of my existence. My moral compass directs me to shine a light in dark places whenever possible. Whenever I can find the strength to do so, I try to live by that. So here I am. If misophonia is making your life a living hell, you are not alone, though you may be eating alone. Your self care is important. You are not crazy.
If someone you love suffers from misophonia, please take them seriously and be compassionate. Ask them what they need–don’t assume, don’t judge. Try to help if they ask, but don’t call them out over it.
As always, I’m willing to listen if you need to talk or answer questions if I can.
Meanwhile, here are a few resources (there new things to learn about it all the time. Google often)
I have a long and complex personal history with RPG’s (role playing games). I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in high school with a boyfriend. During the time I was dating him, he used elements of gaming as one of several methods of manipulation and psychological abuse. Further in, the abuse turned physical. I came out of that time with very few memories of actual game play. I remembered the characters I created and minimal mechanics of how to play. I also came out of the experience with understandably mixed feelings about gaming, role playing of any kind along with so much other baggage that mixed together in a crazy anxiety stew.
I’ve always loved all of the elements that led to the creation of Dungeons & Dragons and other RPG’s. I’ve been a Tolkien fan practically since birth. Fairy tales, Fantasy and Science Fiction have been my go to reading since before I could read at all. I was ever the child who believed in fairies. As an adult I still do. My childhood was filled with all of the games of pretend and imagination. Role play was already second nature long before I knew D&D existed in its own right. I love character creation, storybuilding, fantasy art–I was built hard-wired for RPG’s. But that was corrupted in the blink of an eye for me. Many of my friends have always been gamers. They’re my tribe. So in my 20’s, when I still could not feel safe participating in game play, I sat in on sessions with my friends–watching, listening to the stories grow through the games they played, and sketching. I enjoyed the atmosphere even though it felt too scary to join in. The visions they conjured as they played fed my imagination and my art. I felt certain I would never play again, though I’ve held onto my original set of dice to this day. They’re colorful, sparkly and they still felt good to hold and to look at the light shining through them. And I guess some part of me refused to fully admit defeat. I had a tiny spark of hope that I might someday use them again.
A few years ago, I saw light shining into my self inflicted darkness. ( here I should point out that I am fully aware that the trauma was never my fault, but continuing to hide from something I knew I’d probably enjoy was entirely a self made prison.) The timing might finally be right, after more than 25 years since I left the boyfriend and his abuse behind.
I’d known from before we started dating that Zen and his husband were gamers. I tuned out his stories of gaming because I couldn’t face this thing I wanted to do but felt I couldn’t do. My husband also enjoyed gaming when we first married. I sat in on their games too, but life had taken us away from that experience so he had not done any gaming himself for maybe 10 years or more.
I felt scared and intimidated by trying to learn a new thing while fighting off panic and anxiety that I had always felt around gaming and adding up the numbers quickly and under perceived pressure. When I feel anxious or triggered my brain can’t do any of the things that should come easily. That kind of compounds any other fears or anxieties already present.
One day Zen told me how much his husband, Paul, loved sharing his love of gaming with newbie. He loves teaching new people how to play. He has infinite patience with the often clumsy newbie. I tentatively reached out and asked if we could try it to see if I could do this.
Paul chose a game system that only uses d10’s (10 sided dice). That simplified everything. That reduced the pressure and anxiety by half at least for me. The game was Vampire: the Masquerade.
At first, it was just the four of us with Paul as the storyteller, or game master. (GM). Keeping the group very small gave me a sense of safety as I learned. Once I began to feel more secure in my role and in my skills, we added a few more friends to our group. Then we started exploring other systems using d20’s and all the other dice too. I still get anxious and stressed at the beginning of a gaming session, but I can feel even that easing up little by little with every new session.
We’ve been playing for about three years together now, and I look forward to gaming no matter what system we’re playing. I know that if I begin to fall, my group will catch me and show me the way back to where I need to be, with patience and love and lots of fun. Gaming has provided a creative outlet, therapeutic benefits, new ways to apply my own creativity, new friends, new ways to interact with friends and strangers alike and more opportunities for growth with every session.
And an ongoing obsession with shiny, sparkly, colorful dice! I still use my original dice too. Only now I have several other sets, despite some guy at a local gaming store questioning my choices in dice purchasing. Sad customer service aside, I’m certain one can never have too many dice sets…
And now, with social distancing in place, I’ve been battling my difficulties with technology. We’re using Discord for gaming. I find technology challenging, daunting and stressful. But I’m not letting that stop me. Tomorrow, I’ll participate in a third gaming session using Discord chat and digital dice apps. Soon, even that won’t phase me much.
It may not seem like such a big thing to most people. Gaming is even regarded as ridiculous and frivolous to some. But to have reclaimed that piece of myself in this way has been profoundly empowering. To have friends and lovers who cared enough to help me reach this point makes me feel wealthy beyond measure. My gratitude for this gift is limitless.
The day after– or the hours after– a panic attack can be almost as bad as the attack itself.
During the attack, adrenaline rushes through me just as if I were still in actual, physical danger.
remaining on high alert until someone or something calms me down,
convinces me the threat has passed.
My body doesn’t know the difference, and tenses, literally preparing me for fight or flight,
In case anyone missed it–a panic attack or flashback often means reliving the traumatic event mentally, physically and emotionally. It’s virtual reality in every way, except there are no fun and games involved. Only fear and anger.
After a prolonged panic or anxiety attack I feel like I’ve been running some kind of deranged marathon. My head hurts, muscles ache, nausea, complete exhaustion and dehydration, chills and a host of other random symptoms and ailments seemingly coming from nowhere. I become emotional, sensitive and withdrawn.
I like to call it an anxiety hangover.
It’s draining and sometimes debilitating. My impulse, afterward, is to hide and sleep. This is usually not convenient or acceptable in my day to day life as mom, business owner, wife, friend, volunteer, etc. I am not functional, but it is necessary for me to function regardless.
I wrote this poem during one such moment.
Tired, so tired Stuck, lost Muddy mind mIred Cold fog frost Riot all around me Don’t touch Let me be. It’s all Too loud, too bright, too much
Raw, Sore, frayed A step behind Reactions delayed Unable to hide Run away From demons inside Sounds threatening Silence, sleep beckoning