Some weeks are harder than others. It seems like everything converges at the same time; one after another the triggers hit. Downtime is nonexistent. Coping becomes an olympic sport. As my therapist put it: “descent into triggering hell” becomes reality. Then I lose 6 or 7 months of the year to traumatic amnesia.
Or that used to be my normal.
My alters and I have hope that this time will be different. The changes came slowly like water eroding rock. The child alters feel safe and confident enough to let go of past memories. The adolescent alters feel safe and self-assured in their protection and coping skills to let go of past memories. And we adults feel confident in ourselves, the system, and our combined experience to maintain safety no matter what happens.
We are grateful for many things in life. This time of year, though, we are especially grateful for our true friends and connections. They made the difference between scary hell of flashbacks and coping with overwhelming feelings in healthy ways.
We are grateful for a warm apartment; a fulfilling job; unexpected gifts; nice weather; clothes; food; and self-acceptance. By meeting these basic needs, we have the tools to take care of ourselves and be safe.
We are grateful for our therapist, providers, and support organizations like the hotline. Without their unconditional support and belief in us, maintaining the balance between our inside world and outside world would be that much more difficult.
Inspiration from a friend
Last week was tough. But one friend in particular helped me through a lot of it. She called to check on me; offered me support and a sounding board without judgement; and sent me inspirational news articles and posts. Reading it made me smile and turned my whole day around. I hope it does for you too:
Giving myself permission to (fill in blank)
This is one of those times when nothing works. Every coping strategy, every technique I’ve learned helps a little or not at all. Whatever the others come up with, we try. Sometimes it offers a little relief. Sometimes it makes the anxiety worse. This is when someone calls the hotline. We talk through the triggers with a volunteer; brainstorm ideas; make a plan; sometimes all of them in one call. Sometimes over multiple calls.
The lesson we learned: sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to do nothing. Or feel crappy. Or cry. Or be kind to ourselves. And so on.
Then we follow through with action or inaction. And doing this with the intention to help ourselves brings unexpected relief. It also feels scary the first few times. DBT helps with that. Emotion regulation and Distress Tolerance work well. And for readers with alters, I’d add Effective Interpersonal Communication and Assertiveness modules as well.
Feeling safe provides a framework for self-confidence and security in one’s identity. With that security comes a belief in one’s ability to cope with anything that could happen and the skills to do it. The changes do not happen over night. They take time and practice like everything else. To us, the investment is worth the payoff.
What do you think?