Archives for the month of: October, 2015

This week is a bit crazy for me.  I hate Halloween.  So do my alters.  It brings back terrible memories and causes all kinds of stress.  So we decided to post early just in case something distracts us from the usual routine.

What is Solitude?

My alters and I consider solitude an essential part of our self-care.  It is dedicated personal time (or quiet time) every day where all of us get to be alone at home or in a safe place to recharge and rest.  The environment is low stimulation, and we get to choose to be together or by ourselves in our safe spaces.  We can sleep the whole time, cook, bake, knit, etc.  But, essentially, it is our body/self away from other people and living beings and able to relax any way we want by choice.  And we stay connected via telephone, email, text messaging, social media, etc.  And if we want to go out, we do.  Another part of solitude comes from being busy at work and wanting to focus on the tasks at hand so do not interact with others as much.  Finally, sometimes we are busy taking care of our inside world when we are flooded.  On those occasions, we turn inward for short periods of time to take care of ourselves and each other and seem distracted or distant from everyone else.

What is Isolation?

Isolation for us is deliberately avoiding people, relationships, interaction with others because of fear (even if the fear is not recognizable at the time).  It means staying closed off from people and connections instead of making friends or being active in ways that we used to enjoy.  It means not reaching out or asking for help because that stops us from ever being rejected or failing or being hurt again.  Isolation means staying at home and not doing anything fun or enjoyable; not relaxing or recharging; not practicing self-care.  But mostly, Isolation means hiding from life.  Because if we avoid being part of life, we can’t fail again.

Why is one Positive and the other Negative?  How can one tell?

My therapist says I can tell if solitude or isolation are helpful if I feel better after practicing it.  And harmful if I feel more anxious or frustrated with myself and my environment because I am letting my past keep me from doing what I want to do.

Solitude is essential because it gives me time with my alters and by myself – time for us to not have to hide from the rest of  the world – so we can act as we please and switch as often as we like and hold conversations with each other without having strangers look at us like we’re crazy for having conversations with invisible people.

Sometimes solitude slips into isolation because I am mildly agoraphobic and cannot leave my residence when I have intense panic attacks, flashbacks, body memories, or triggers going on inside.  The safest thing for me to do is stay inside and practice self-care.  One day or one weekend by choice is fine.  3 days or 4 days because I am afraid to be seen even though I am in a safe neighborhood but want to go out is a form of isolation.  This usually occurs during holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc.

Conclusion

A lot of self reflection and thought helped me understand that I have an introverted personality.  This means I get my energy by having dedicated alone time at regular intervals – for me at least an hour every day.  This does not mean I prefer not to be around people or parties or events.  It doesn’t mean I am not talkative or friendly or a people person or shy.  it does mean I prefer small groups to large crowds; interesting and deep conversations to chitchat and small talk; being around people I know and feel safe with instead of a crowd of strangers.  It also means I like being alone as much as I like being around people – sometimes more than I like being around people.

Being a trauma survivor has made me reserved and skeptical of people; not comfortable in strange environments or crowds of people; feel unsafe around strangers or anyone who sets of my internal alarms; and need to not feel trapped anywhere ever.  It has taught me to appreciate having a safe space or haven to go home to – one that is completely mine and under my control so I don’t have to worry about enemies intruding on my boundaries and taking what’s mine.

The line between isolation and solitude can be thin sometimes.  But it exists.  And when I go too far in one direction or another, my friends and support network are around to help pull me out.

Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, I honestly believe everyone can use a little personal time to take care of themselves.

It’s fall in the United States.  Except for the South and desert areas, this means cold weather, lots of wind, and having to winterize living spaces.

Last year we all moved into a new apartment with big bay windows and skylights (third floor under the roof) that provided amazing views with lots of sun.  The bad news was that it also made the apartment super cold and drafty.  For the first time, we put up plastic window covers all by ourselves.  It was so scary, that we messed up pretty bad and had to redo them a couple times.  Two windows, by the way, were 5′ wide by 4,.5′ long (5.5 including space for the sill).  The third window was about 3.5′ wide and just as long.  They are also placed about 3 feet above the floor so we had to use a ladder and a travel blow drier to do this.

But I did it.  So did everyone else who participated.  And we learned what not to do for next year.  The skylights are more problematic because they are set in.  Our solution – diy blackout or thermal curtains.  It works so far for lower ones in the bedroom.  If the living room gets too cold, and our heating bill goes up again, a team of us will cut/sew/attach the sheer thermal curtains to those too.  Not that anyone is looking forward to it – putting those up requires our body to be standing close to the top of a 6′ ladder the whole time – because some are afraid of heights.  And sewing is a major trigger for the child/adolescent parts.

But we got the first part of winterizing finished today.  The first window we did was the bedroom one.  Thought it worked well.  But a week later, part of it fell off.  Had to stick it back on, find the hole, and repair a hole side and corner.  But it’s working now.  Yesterday, we tried a different process and ended up shrinking a side too much; it left a 6 inch gap that had to be fixed with extra tape and plastic.  Took so long, we had to stop and get a snack even though the instructions say not to.  And it was frustrating and tiring; 3 hours holding a travel blow drier and shrinking wrapping plastic around a window is not fun.  So after we finished, we fell asleep.  Instead of waking up unhappy and upset, we woke up feeling good and hungry.

No one planned to work on the third window today.  We had other things to do like cooking, laundry and preparing for work.  But as the day passed, we realized that the window had to get finished today if we wanted to keep the electricity bill down.  The last two successes had our confidence up.  And we remembered to eat big before starting.  And kept a drink nearby too.  We started in a different direction and knew what to look for to prevent problems before they appeared.  That meant, everything except one area went as planned.  Yay!  And even that section did not cause triggers or anxiety or frustration this time.

Lessons we learned:

  1. Do one window a day or a week
  2. Eat first.  And keep a drink handy
  3. Start and finish in daylight if possible
  4. Take our time and check for gaps as we shrink the plastic
  5. Keep extra plastic and tape around to plug the holes
  6. Take a break if you need it
  7. Then go back and fix the rest of the loose parts
  8. Nothing is perfect.  Expect to make repairs

Conclusion: small successes build on each other.  Each success adds to the feelings of competence and confidence.

Doing this last window felt so good, other alters were able to fix the blackout curtains in the bedroom to keep more heat in and get the room to stay darker too.  And so the first part of apartment winterizing is finished.

Not much to write today.  The quote from Web of Benefit pretty much says it all.

Whatever happens, I hope you all take a small step towards the life you deserve.

Introduction

Part of my recover that has not discussed here before is the anorexia nervosa.  While our mind has recovered to the point where we do not practice anymore, our body has not.  Under stress or floods of flashbacks, it reverts back to what it knows to handle the stress, relieve the pain of backlash, or let the rest of us know something is wrong.  It starts slow in the subconscious.  We are not as hungry and thirsty.  Do not have to use the bathroom as much.  Crave foods we normally don’t want.  Not want to eat foods we normally enjoy.  Feel tired.  Start skipping meals.  Stop drinking as much fluids.  Have trouble sleeping.  Forget to eat.  Feel physically weak.  Lose weight.

Realization and Facing Facts

And that is when we realize something is happening.  Something not good.  Only none of us are actively practicing anorexia; consciously restricting or starving ourselves; over exercising or using laxatives on purpose.  It used to confuse everyone and make us question whether or not we are in remission/recovery for the eating disorder.

Around this time, different alters start panicking; others start putting the recovery plan into place; and one or more email/call the dietitian for assistance.  As we start to gain weight, parts of our body bloat and look “fat” while others do not change.  Usually it’s our abdomen and stomach that bloats.  Sometimes our lower back.  The bloating is normal as our body tries to protect and heal our organs while we start the weight gain process.

Problem is, not everyone in our system is aware that the bloating is normal.  Or that it happens when bodies get activated too.  Because the anorexia combined with physical abuse damaged a lot more internal organs than can be accounted for or diagnosed by current medical science.  The bloating triggers us into flashbacks and nightmares related to negative body image, sexual abuse, etc.  It makes everyone want to lose weight again on purpose to make the “fat” go away.  Or try extreme dieting again.  And when the bloat doesn’t go away, we are confused.  Because nothing that we use to cope with anorexia is working.

Conclusion

This is happening right now.  Our whole abdomen from below the rib cage all the way down past our stomach is bloated with a cushion of water.  It looks and acts like fat.  It makes our clothes fit funny by giving us a muffin top.  And just this weekend we realized that the bloat is not going to go away until the memories and related internal damage are healed.  This could be a while.  And it will take some research and experimentation to figure out what coping strategies and resources will help.  Has this ever happened to you?  How did you cope?

Background

In past posts, I’ve talked about boundaries and my view of relationships in general being finite or having an inevitable end.  Growing up, I never had boundaries; did not know they existed.  As an adult in therapy, I learned about boundaries.  I learned how they are created and why they keep me safe.  I also learned that boundaries keep the people around me safe too.  These lessons also taught me that maintaining and respecting boundaries goes both ways.

An individual cannot expect others to respect his or her boundaries if she or he does not respect others’ boundaries.

Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of boundaries or understands how healthy and important having/mainlining boundaries is for a balanced life.  Abusers and perpetrators hate boundaries and do everything they can to ignore them or make them disappear.  Boundaries are invisible protection that keeps abusers and perpetrators from getting or doing what they want to their victims.  Boundaries help build resilience to bullies and other forms of intimidation too.

This is why I did not have boundaries growing up.  And any time I tried to set and enforce boundaries, the abusers in my life punished me; ignored and violated them anyways; pretended to understand and then undermined my efforts; and all around made it clear that I could have them in my life on their terms or keep my boundaries and be rejected by them and everyone else.

Boundaries and Friendships

As a child, adolescent and young adult, I wasn’t allowed to develop and maintain real friendships with anyone.  So my view of any relationship was based on the ones I had with my family (description above).  So I behaved with people I wanted to be friends with the same way I did with family.  That meant a lot of people thought I was nice, malleable, sweet, and easy to manipulate/take advantage of.  When they got to know me and realized I was not really malleable, sweet, or a pushover, I got rejected.  That would trigger me into flashbacks and shame and panic attacks; reinforcing the lessons and negative self image from childhood.

So, on one hand I knew I would always lose friends because there was something wrong with me.  On the other hand, I never knew what I did or what happened to cause the break in friendships and other relationships.  And when I asked, no one told me.  Or people would say I am too pushy, that I don’t respect them, that I am annoying and do care about their feelings.  Which confused me more because on the inside, the secret places no one else at the time got to see, I did care – maybe too much – and truly want to help and understand what was going on.

It wasn’t until I started sessions with my current therapist that I realized part of the problem was switching personalities whenever I got stressed out.  My alters and I have been working together for a long time even if we haven’t always been in direct communication with each other.  One of our greatest strengths is being able to assess a situation and switch personalities so that the one best qualified to handle the stress is in charge.  And the lightning changes in mood and personality can be hard for others to handle especially when the typical dominant personality is unaware that any of this is is happening.

Epiphany and Conclusion

Three weeks ago, a long time friendship got thorny.  He was upset because of something that had me reinforcing my boundaries.  On a personal front, he was having difficulties and under a lot of stress even if he wouldn’t admit to it.  That led some of our discussions to be fraught with anxiety on my part because I never knew if something I said would cause him to blow up at me.  And later, whenever I was happy about something and went to share with him, he would say something negative or in such a way that it sounded complimentary but was actually insulting or shame inducing and had me questioning my choices.

And when he started ignoring me and being rude, I realized that he expected me to come over and apologize for reinforcing my boundaries and being myself.  That irritated me and made me feel angry.  I realized then, that I was not going to apologize for being myself.  And I was okay with him acting childish because I didn’t let him walk all over me.  But then I was worried about why I wasn’t triggered.  But I had other things on my mind.  Like deadlines, troubleshooting other issues with my work, packing and going on vacation, etc.  So I put this away for a while and waited to see what would happen.

This week, back at work, nothing has changed with his attitude.  But something changed inside me.  I realized that our friendship was over.  And that it ended because I protected myself by reinforcing my boundaries in a polite way instead of backing down and letting him have his way.  This felt good because I did not get triggered into shame.  I got triggered into confusion and anxiety because my parts were confused and worried about how this would affect mutual friendships, etc.  It also got us thinking about past relationships and why they ended.

The reason was always the same: I stood up for myself (or an alter stood up for us) and maintained a boundary the other person kept violating.  And that person got mad and walked away.

Because as much as I don’t mind being flexible and accommodating, I will eventually reach a point where I (or an alter) take a stand.  Sometimes I lose my temper and get angry.  Other times, I simply let my actions speak for me.  And I continue to treat the person as always.

So I have to ask myself (and the alters), is this really rejection and loss of friendship?  Or is this removing unsafe people from my life?

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