Archives for the month of: November, 2015

sleep-is-the-golden-chain-quote

INTRODUCTION

Sometimes I run full speed ahead with life because I can’t make myself stop and sleep.  I rest as often as possible, relax at home, use sleep hygiene routines and coping strategies, and so on.  But the memories and triggers haunt me from day to night and back again.

PAST

It used to be that I did this on purpose.  I would go and go and go without proper self care (nutrition, rest, cleanliness, exercise, socializing, etc.) until I passed out into sleep out of pure exhaustion – aka crashing.  I never knew how long I would last for; that depended on too many variables.  But every crash seemed to placate the donors into leaving me/us alone for a while.  So it was a good strategy while living at home.

NOW

These days, all of us have learned the value of sleep: deep, solid, restful sleep that leaves us wide awake and full of energy in the mornings.  And most of this weekend was spent sleeping.  Thursday passed with happiness in hour hearts.  Friday was calm and peaceful with some small successes.  All interspersed with naps throughout the day.  And, between yesterday and today, we probably spent about 15 hours awake in total.  Most of that time was spent accomplishing tasks, cooking, and eating.

CONCLUSION

Sometimes it’s ok to crash.  Our bodies know when we need to sleep.  And our minds understand how important sleep is.  And no matter what our past or present tells us about the evils of sleep, our bodies and brains know the truth.  They will override the mind and protect us if we let them.  And for the first time in many years, spent a whole holiday weekend without nightmares.

Someday, I hope you will too.

 

In the United States, today is Thanksgiving.  Tomorrow is the infamous Black Friday.

The last few years, my alters and I have worked to substitute difficult memories of this holiday with better ones.  Create new experiences and new emotions to link with this time of year.

To that end, we have re-framed what Thanksgiving means to us.  Here are the highlights of then and now:

  1. It’s ok to spend this holiday alone instead of among “friends and family”.
    1. If you have DID like us, then maybe you aren’t really spending it alone.  We are spending Thanksgiving with our favorite loved ones in a safe space and creating memories together.
  2. It’s ok to NOT stuff yourself full of food or cook a big fancy meal with traditional dishes
    1. We made rice congee and bought ingredients to make linguine with clam sauce tomorrow.
  3. It’s ok to NOT watch the Macy’s Day parade or sports of any kind.
    1. I watched the latest episodes of my favorite TV shows online and some Scooby Doo cartoons with my alters
  4. It’s okay to be active instead of lazy.  We had some work to do to meet deadlines.  And some plans to keep us busy and distracted.
    1. Work brings pleasure, feelings of success and confidence, and grounding in the present time
    2. The other activities remind us that we are in control of our choices
  5. When the memories get bad, it’s ok to stop and rest
    1. I used to think sleeping through the holiday was bad.
    2. Many of us used to think that not remembering what we did was worse than sleeping
    3. This year, we made the conscious choice to take naps when the emotional overload hit instead of trying to power through it.
    4. Those naps revitalized us and helped us feel accomplished because we remembered to practice good self care on a stressful and scary day
  6. It’s ok not to go out and interact with others when we feel out of sorts.
    1. This one is self-explanatory

We are thankful to be alive, thriving instead of surviving, and able to help others  in many small ways.

We are thankful for our support network, our job, and this blogging community too.

Most important, we wish for our readers to enjoy some measure of peace and safety during the anniversaries.

If I have not published or responded to your comments, my apologies.  I just recently realized that the Spam filter collected a few comments.  Some were obviously spam.  Others not.

To err on the side of caution, I deleted comments that were not recognizable as comments for site pages or blog posts.  Please feel free to comment again and put in a note that you are NOT spam.  I am happy to publish and respond to any comments that follow the site and blog commenting rules (same for both places).

This commenting and moderation part of running a blog is new to me, so please bear with my mistakes and learning curve.

Sincerely,

AlterXpressions

Introduction

My current favorite coping strategy is grounding with my senses.  Touch, taste, smell, sound, sight.  This technique uses personal symbols of comfort and power to help individuals come back to the present moment in times of difficulty.

Tactile sensation, also known as physical contact, textures, or “safe touch”, helps survivors come back to the or stay present by interrupting symptoms through skin-to-object touch.   “Safe touch” came from my uncle and maternal grandfather.  Once they died, I lost that source of comfort.  Then came clothing, stuffed animals, jewelry, etc.  The objects changed with time and circumstance, but the symbols behind them did not.

Safe or Not Safe?

Are all textures and objects safe to use?  I honestly don’t know.

Dolphins are considered symbols of hope, compassion, safety, intelligence, etc. to most people.  They scare my child parts and give them nightmares, so there are no dolphins in any of our safe spaces.

Most people think turtles are smelly and gross.  All of my parts love turtles.  We have small statues with different textures and photos of turtles in the safe spaces.

Jewelry is beautiful; can be expensive or cheap; offers many different textures and colors to ground the senses; and is hard to wear while maintaining invisibility.  Tattoos are similar that way.

Personal Symbols

Counselors, therapists, and personal experience shows me that the best grounding techniques use are an individual’s personal symbols of comfort, safety, confidence, or hope.  Or personal symbols of power.  aka reminders of success and other positive experiences.

Some of my personal symbols include:

  • turtles, frogs, pheonix, dragon, dogs, cats, otters, snakes
  • wisdom knots, buddha, karma, qi
  • natural fiber textiles and clothing with interesting patterns and textures; or synthetic fibers that are soft, silky and perfect for cuddling
  • vibrant colors – orange, yellow, red, purple and brown in all shades

Secret or Obvious?

How a person uses grounding techniques in daily life depends on the individual’s needs and circumstances.  Growing up, I kept most of mine secret and not too interesting so that the abusers and perpetrators let me keep them.  Anything like jewelry or expensive clothes or luxurious blankets were taken away.

Other times, the hanging jewelry like necklaces and earrings, were used to hold me in place or cause pain when I tried to run or escape.  Bracelets became handcuffs.  Statues of my favorite animals were used to cause bruises or broken in front of me as punishment.

As I got older, I kept these personal symbols in my mind.  My alters used the memories to comfort them and me at night or when we dissociated.  It wasn’t until I separated from my family that I started to wear and display my personal symbols of comfort and safety and hope outside of my mind.

Then and Now

Sometimes the past is so strong and intrusive that seemingly obvious grounding options are invisible until someone from the outside suggests it again.  This came in the form of a question from someone in a personal style private Facebook group.  We were discussing types of fabrics and textures – how they made us feel and why we chose to wear or not wear them – when she asked me if I considered “playing with jewelry” to help with anxiety.

It was something I hadn’t thought about in a long time.  The reasons why I chose not to wear jewelry came in bits and pieces throughout the year.  Thanks to this group and the style challenges that introduced me to them, I started wearing jewelry again this year.

And the feel of metal in my ears or bracelets on my wrist is grounding because wearing them now means I am safe to express myself.  My parts and I all worked together to make us safe.  And wearing fun jewelry, playing with rings on fingers, etc. is another symbol of personal power that comes in a variety of colors, textures, sizes, and shapes.

Conclusion

Personal symbols of power offer many paths for successful grounding techniques, coping strategies and self care plans inside and outside of the house.  I am grateful to be rediscovering ones that I had discarded as “not safe” or “out of my league”.  The objects and textures can be expensive or cheap; stuff already in your house or things you buy; found pieces or gifts with special meaning attached.  The safer I feel, the more I am compelled to move forward with my plans and goals with confidence.

What are your personal symbols of power?  How do you keep them in your life?  Would you use them for grounding as a coping strategy?  How?  I hope you find some and keep them close.

 

Introduction

I used to think that my symptoms were linear and straightforward.  Simple cause and effect.  Or action and Reaction.

Trigger happens > My mind and body react > Parts of me counter with coping strategies > reaction slows down or goes away

It was logical and made sense.  So every time I got triggered or had an increase in symptoms, I’d go through my tool box and try out coping strategies until something worked.  And kept using the same strategies for specific symptoms and triggers until they did not work anymore.

OVERLOADED

The last few weeks, I got sick with a cold and had an increase in symptoms.  Then came Veteran’s Day; a holiday I completely forgot about except in the peripheral sense.  My cold did not get better; it kept lingering.  Possibly because I stopped sleeping and started having more nightmares.  Possibly because the headaches and neck pain came back.  Possibly because of the radical temperature changes in my part of the US.

Either way, I got sick.  The headaches and nightmares got worse.  The body pain increased.  The switching at night got worse.  By Monday, I knew I had to do something or risk not being able to work.  So I took half of a Tylenol (the mild version of a knockout pill) and slept through the night in spite of nightmares.  Woke up the next morning feeling rested even though I was crying and curled in a ball…and seeing giant spiders and frogs all around me.  My hearing was dulled too; like hearing everything through static.

The spiders and frogs (8-12 feet tall) were transparent.  I knew I was hallucinating.  And I felt pretty good; so I decided to go to work.  The hallucinations stayed.  Sometimes I saw cartoons.  Once I mistook my supervisor for someone else because I didn’t recognize his footsteps and didn’t see him.  But every  time I tried to use a strategy to make the hallucinations ease up, I got a headache.  Or the neck pain got worse.  Or I started feeling like a panic attack was coming on.

Choices

Wednesday, I switched days and saw my therapist.  It had been almost a week of disturbed or interrupted sleep; no idea what the alters were doing while I rested at night.  She listened as I explained the situation with the hallucinations and the physical pain.  We agreed that I had to make a choice.  Keep hallucinating or endure the physical pain medicine can’t make go away.

The hallucinations were not affecting my work performance or daily routine except to be disorienting and confusing (auditory ones mostly) sometimes.  And I kind of liked seeing cartoons and landscapes appear as an overlay while I was out and about.  The spiders, flies, frogs, and other creatures not so much.  And as long as they didn’t get worse or become so real I couldn’t tell the difference anymore, why not let them stay?

Conclusion

It’s been about 2 weeks since the hallucinations started, maybe longer.  About 8 days without the physical pain.  My cold is gone.  The anxiety and panic feelings are lessened.  And I still see animals, insects, cartoons, and landscapes overlaid like a transparency over the real world.  Neither of us knows when it will stop.  And right now, I am not going to worry.  Instead, I’m going to enjoy the funny stuff my brain and my alters come up with and share as they appear.

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