Archives for the month of: June, 2016

An unedited post…

There are 4 parts of DBT: Emotion Regulation, Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Effective Interpersonal Communication.  I learned them during my first time in a partial program.  They helped with anger management and emotional control.  At the time, I did not know about Dissociative Identity Disorder, alternate personalities, or triggers.  All I did know was that my anger and fear overwhelmed me to the point where I stopped thinking, stopped talking, and started reacting.

The partial program helped me deal with my present distress by teaching me to stop and think before reacting (mindfulness).  And after the experience, look back and analyze what happened to identify feelings and reactions to feelings (mindfulness).

Once I understood my feelings and reactions to them, I could plan ways to change my reactions or not react at all (distress tolerance) through coping strategies like distractions, self soothing, meditation, exercise, etc.

In order to do the above, though, I had to learn what emotions were and how they affected my body/mind/self (emotion regulation).  Then find ways within my control (diet, sleep, exercise, relaxation, positive experiences, self-talk) to help me regulate my feelings when I felt overwhelmed or distressed (emotion regulation).

And then I could find a language to help me communicate my feelings to myself and others without crossing boundaries or compromising safety (interpersonal communication).

This all worked great until I discovered that my distress feelings and triggers were not from the present time.  Most came from flashbacks, body memories, or remembered experiences triggered during stressful encounters with people or certain environments.  And as much as I tried to use DBT, it didn’t work.  And I got really frustrated.  Especially when my family shunned me and turned up the pressure to fall in line or else.

That brings me to the second partial experience.  It was not helpful or positive like the previous one.  But it did help me better understand the people in my family and their struggles.  It also helped me get in touch with my alters.  For the first time, I could clearly hear them in my head and recognize when I switched.  And we could communicate with each other.

My time with these people: younger and older, but not really in my age group, from different life situations and cultures reminded me that I am only responsible for myself and my choices.  I can’t change or help people who aren’t interested.  I can’t be around people who have issues accepting my real self too.  All three of those situations combined make for a very unhappy individual in an unsafe environment.

So I took what I learned from them and shared it with my therapist.  We agreed that my family wasn’t safe to be around at the time.  It was necessary to put my emergency plans in place and walk away for real.  And also to learn more about the voices in my head.  They needed the coping strategies and tools in my tool box as much as I did.

And when they started practicing DBT too, life got a lot less scary.  Communication at work improved.  My work environment got more comfortable.  I was able to take better care of myself at home because advocating for myself was easier.

And my alters had something to keep them busy while I worked.  Yes, multitasking again.  Different alters, alone or in groups, practiced DBT and other coping strategies on the inside while I or someone else lived and worked and did chores on the outside.  It became a main staple in “acting normal” and surviving in the outside world.  We set up an elaborate communication and transportation system so that everyone had immediate access to each other, but also privacy and alone time.

And I learned that solitude is very important because the “alone time” gives all of us in the system dedicated periods of “together time” like family time.  They all get a chance to be in control of the body and interact safely with the outside world.  We all get to do activities together and share information.  And there’s time for meditation or exercise and self care.  Everyone gets a voice and an opinion.  Sometimes the adults act like adults and make the final decisions.  Other times, it’s a community decision.

But we’d never have known this or be able to put ourselves first without having learned DBT.

And this is why I and others who write here struggle with how to write about what DBT means to us.  Because DBT is meant to be used in groups with other people and a moderator.  But we use it to help our internal system and work sometimes with our therapist, but not a professional moderator (like group therapy).  And our way of meditation is more like in martial arts (original training) or Buddhist practices not what Ms. Linehan teaches.

Now that I spend more time in the outside world, my solitude means a lot.  The times I spend walking from place to place during commutes are less about interacting with people on the street and more about catching up with my alters.  If that makes me less approachable, appear snobbish or remote, or act confused/abrupt, etc. then I’m okay with that.

I don’t want or need a lot of people in my life.  And the people in my life are ones I cherish and value; relationships to nurture and build on.  So yes, I put myself first and everyone else next.  Then I put time into relationships I care about with people I care about.  The rest will come as life changes.

Thanks for reading.

AlterXpressions

 

Dear Dad,

It’s been four years since I left, and seven years since you shunned me.  Happy Father’s Day from the daughter who never meant anything too you.  The daughter you “loved and spoiled” until your precious son came into existence.  The daughter you hugged and cuddled until your wife’s tantrums made you stop.  The daughter you sacrificed to keep peace in your household.  The daughter you threatened to keep away from your mother and siblings if they interfered with how she was being raised.

Do you remember me at all?  Did you ever love me or see me as a human being?  When you touched me and played secret games with me as a toddler, did you know you were sexually abusing me?  Did you care at all?  When you caught your wife treating me the same way, did you try to stop her?  When the religious people came to “babysit” me or the contractors spent “private time” alone with me, did you try to stop them?  Was the money worth selling your daughter?  You treated my wounds and protected me from your wife’s physical abuse, but you let me be your housekeeping slave.

Did you enjoy having sex with me?  Did you enjoy forcing me to service you?  Did you enjoy punishing me by starving me?  Did you make me get good grades because you cared or because pride wouldn’t let you have a dumb daughter?  Why did you force me to do my brother’s homework?  Why did you punish me for getting a bronze medal in a Tae kwon do tournament?  Because my brother didn’t win or get a medal?

Mostly, though, I want to know why you let your wife hurt me and say terrible things about me.  Why you ignored me and also said terrible things about me.  Why did you sell me to the cult?  Why did you let my pediatrician rape and drug me?  And why did you rape me?  Blame me for getting pregnant?  Try to keep me a child and a slave instead of becoming an independent young woman?

I will never know the answers to these questions.  Every day, the fog of denial dissipates more.  And I realize my whole childhood was a lie.  You never cared about me.  You never wanted to see me.  You never acknowledged me unless I was useful.  And you taught me to hide my light or risk being rejected.

I loved you unconditionally growing up.  You were my super hero and number one favorite person.  I admired you and wanted to be like you.  You could do no wrong back then.  Not even mom, hard as she tried, could change that.  Then I hit adolescence.  My body changed.  I wasn’t your little girl anymore.  Other men tried to take my attention away from you.  And you hated that.

I grew up.  Started my own life away from you.  You couldn’t control my life anymore.  And I realized the painful truth.  You don’t care about me.  Funny, but I still love you.  You are my biological father even though you are not my dad.  I call you “dad” out of respect for the food and shelter you provided me growing up.  Nothing else.

Who is my real Dad?  Uncle Teddy is my dad.  He loved me and cared about me; taught me lessons about respect and boundaries; bandaged my scrapes and dried my tears.  My real Dad died when I was eight years old, and I never really got over that.  You never forgave me for wanting Uncle Teddy to be my dad either.  The night we learned of his death is the first time you raped me.  It killed you that I wasn’t a virgin, but how could you know Mom and Dr. D had been raping me for two years before that?  And of course it was my fault for letting them rape me.

But life is different now.  I gave you 29 years of my life in exchange for raising and sheltering me through childhood and adolescence.  You gave me the courage to walk away when you shunned me.  Now I am my own person.  Not your daughter anymore.  Part of me still grieves for the shattered illusions.  Part of me rejoices in the freedom of saying Goodbye forever.

And this is goodbye.  Good bye biological father.  You don’t have a hold on me anymore.  Good bye Dad.  I love you and miss you always.  Never again will I forget you.

Love,
AlterXpressions

Different Post format today

Background

I practiced anorexia/was anorexic for 15-20 years; starting with childhood neglect (not always being fed) and “participation” in my mother’s diets as she tried to lose “baby weight”.  Diagnosis and recovery started in 2004.  Remission or full recovery started in 2015.  I wouldn’t be where I am now without a lot of help and support from my care team – especially the dietitian who helped recreate a healthy relationship with food.

Food has always been a big deal in my family.  Weight loss and weight-related illness is a big struggle for many family members.  Part of the anorexia started because I didn’t want to be like them – obsessed about food; unable to stop eating; sick all the time; having to take lots of medicine; being made fun of and criticized for my weight and looks.  Another part had to do with self-punishment and being in control of some small part of my life when everything else was out of my control; I love food and cooking so not letting myself eat and not cooking hurt a lot.  Finally, the anorexia was about body hate; I hated being female and having a curvy female body.

Recovery, Relapse, Restart

The first thing I did when my therapist finally convinced me I was anorexic (and this took 3 months of weekly counseling sessions) was buy a book about anorexia nervosa.  The second thing I did was try to talk to my parents.  Third, I asked my primary care physician for assistance.  Finally, I took matters into my own hands and started research/recovery with my therapist at the time in secret.

I started gaining weight and got really bloated.  The weight gain was noticed; I started getting concerned looks from some and gleeful looks from others.  Concerned by family members who worried that I was getting overweight and might develop diabetes.  Gleeful from family members who were jealous of my skinny body and happy that I was looking fat or fatter than them.  Then came the lectures on behalf of my mom who was “worried about me” since I “refused to listen to her”.

Those comments hurt, but I was committed to getting better.  I didn’t want to be in pain all the time or allergic to 35 different kinds of food.  I didn’t want to be tired all the time or constantly sick.  I wanted to be healthy and active again.  I wanted to walk and practice martial arts or yoga without knee and back pain that plagued me since adolescence.

Starting the Process

My first real relapse came in 2007 after I moved out on my own for the first time.  I lost about 8-10 lbs in 3 months.  It was the weight loss that spurred me into getting help again.  First a primary care doctor who I could trust.  She recommended me to a dietitian who specialized in eating disorders.  Later both suggested I start therapy again, so I started looking for someone.  This therapist did not work in trauma, but she helped with everything else.

Between the two of them (dietitian and therapist), I learned that I was:

  • Afraid of food
  • Afraid of my body
  • Afraid of looking attractive
  • Clueless about nutrition
  • and Confused about diets and dietary needs

Then my dietitian moved to another department within the program, and I got someone new.  Her approach was different, and I was wary at first.  We’ve been working together for the last 8 years with a lot of success.  The second dietitian helped me understand more about diets and nutrition.  We addressed my food fears and body fears with facts about how different kinds of food help improve different body functions – mini anatomy and physiology lessons.

Redefining What Food Means to Me

Through my work with the second dietitian, I rediscovered my love of food and learned to separate my body negativity from my desire to be healthy.  The last few years have been focused on getting healthy and discovering what healthy means to me not about weight gain or appearance (that didn’t come until last year).

So what does food mean to me?

  • Food comes from a plant, a fungus, a bacteria, or a living organism (fish, fowl, animals, etc.)
  • Food does not come from a laboratory or genetically modified living organism
  • Food can be created by processes like fermentation (beer, miso, tempeh, pickling, canning) and dehydrating to name a few, but not by chemicals and additives
  • Food is nutrient dense with a variety in calories.
  • Food is colorful like a rainbow and goes through a decomposition process after it ripens
  • Food can be eaten raw, cooked, or baked
  • A variety of food per meal is more tasty, interesting, and nutritious than the same foods all the time
  • Food has to taste and feel good going in (chewing), going through (digesting), and going out (removing toxins) in order to help me maintain my health
  • Food is separate from how I look in the mirror or what others think of my body

And how does that relate to health?

 

Once I learned to separate my negative body image and body self-hate from my food thoughts, I started to heal.  After I decided to let myself enjoy food, my food allergies started to go away.  Once I decided it was okay to be “fat” and gain weight, my weight normalized.

This means I eat when I am hungry; drink fluids when I am thirsty; used the bathroom when my body says it needs to release toxins; and exercise as much as possible to maintain flexibility, stamina, bone density, and muscle development.

My focus is on nutrient dense foods that I don’t have to eat a lot of and are easy to cook 80% of the time and everything else 20% of the time.  That gives me leeway to experiment or to try out new/different foods for grounding and self-soothing purposes as part of a coping strategy.

“New” Eating Habits 

  • Flexibility is key
  • Eat a lot of nutrient dense food in small portions throughout the day
  • Eat until I am full and then stop; I can always eat later
  • Remember to hydrate or drink soup with one or two meals to get enough liquids
  • Smoothies can be meals too and are easy to digest
  • It’s okay to eat junk food sometimes
  • Denial and restriction only make me feel worse not better
  • Too much dairy and animal protein causes digestion problems so eat sparingly
  • Eat what I love and love what I eat
  • It’s okay to NOT enjoy eating sweet foods, chips, and desserts; it’s like others not liking chocolate or ice cream

Final Thoughts

Diet books did not help much as I researched information about anorexia and food allergies.  Regular cookbooks did not help much because all recipes included foods that made me sick.  So I started looking at “alternative food lifestyle” cookbooks – aka vegan, vegetarian, raw foodist, and allergy friendly cookbooks – for inspiration and ideas.  That is partly how I rediscovered my love of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and grains.

I am not vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, pescatarian, or meatitarian as I’ve heard people refer to themselves.  I am a woman who enjoys eating real food that comes from plants (most of  the time) and living organisms (sometimes).  Most of the food is minimally or not processed, but a lot of it is processed in some way.  I eat a variety of different foods so that most vitamins and supplements are unnecessary.  High processed and chemical-laden food products make me ill and cause problems, so I avoid or eat them in small amounts.

I still have issues with body image and having a curvy female body, but those are topics for a different post.

Thanks for reading

 

 

****Please share & re-blog this post to help as many others as possible**** This blog post might be useful to anybody out there who suffers with Complex PTSD, who has suffered from childhood abuse or who has a loved one who suffers with a mental illness. I have created the below charts to assist those […]

via Child abuse, Complex PTSD & managing emotional flashbacks —

Earlier this week, I put down a hold deposit for my new apartment and am moving across the country at the beginning of August.  That said, I am in the middle of getting rid of 90-99% of my stuff and then packing the rest to ship via UPS or FEDEX ground.  Also have to clean up this apartment, take care of moving paperwork, and finish transfer arrangements ar work.
My schedule is going to be crazy.  I have been working over time to complete projects before leaving here.  Most of that requires me to be in the office instead of working from home, so commuting is also earing up a lot of time.
The goal is to continue posting 2x a week.  I might only have time for 1 post instead.  Personally, I would rather skip a week or put up one quality post instead of publishing 2 less polished, clear, and informative ones on the regular schedule.

The goal is to pack and ship everything at the end of July or first days in August.  Then clean and remove the rest of the stuff from the apartment.  Leave keys and contact info with the landlord.  Fly out by end of first week in August at the latest.  Be settled into a new routine working from home and blogging 2x a week by September.
Ambitious?  Yes.  Hopeful?  Yes.  Determined?  Yes.

Will I be upset if this plan goes off schedule?  Not really.  There is a lot of flexibility worked into the time line, and I have a lot of help from my support network.

Thanks for reading and understanding about the “crazy”, busy life right now.

Best Regards,

AlterXpressions

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