*Caveat 1 – This is a journal-entry style post so it looks like a first draft with errors, etc. *
*Trigger Warning: This post may contain triggers; read at your own pace*
*Warning: this is a long post with lots of information. Take your time reading through everything. Come back and re-read as needed*
It’s been 3-5 weeks since the first post about this topic. I shared my current challenges with punishment, self-harm and explained what it means for me to be an empath. Then I explained why coping with these triggers feels hopeless sometimes and frustrating most of the time.
And yes, these triggers still feel like new territory. My mind and body are not reacting to the triggers or responding to the coping strategies in familiar ways. The panic attacks are more frequent and worse than they have been in a long time. Plus they manifest differently than before (more info later). The frequency means less recovery time between panic attacks, so I am constantly on edge.
All parts of me have been scrambling to find coping strategies that work long enough for us to recover from the panic attacks and find internal balance again. Along with explaining the coping challenges, I/we will also share some of the coping strategies that are helping right now.
This is why we all agreed to wait until now to write a follow up post. The learning curve takes time, and none of us wants to share something before we are certain of its effects on our systems.
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I hope you all are doing well and staying safe with the coronavirus scare. In times like this, it’s not easy to stay healthy, be positive, and find moments of laughter or joy to balance the fear, frustration, or other negative sensations that may rise.
For people who enjoy being active outside and/or interacting with others face-to-face, this is an especially challenging time. Being confined alone or with others for extended periods of time can bring out the best and the worst in relationships or highlight things we’ve all tried to ignore or deny about ourselves and each other. Tempers get roused easily. People react and act to stuff they normally wouldn’t. Maybe out of fear. Maybe out of frustration. Maybe the stressful times are their version of an excuse for behaving in such ways?
Please remember that we still have choices.
We can choose react from a position of fear-based choices.
We can to argue and fight and lose our tempers. Be angry at the world and socialize and continue with our routines like nothing is going on (denial). We can ignore government mandates and health authority warnings. We can let prejudice rule our opinions and influence our interactions with others. We can choose to feel and express anger in ways that hurt ourselves and the people around us.
Or we can choose to to react from a position of love-based choices.
We can use effective communication and compromise strategies. Use Active Listening skills to to ourselves and each other. Check in from a position of love and acceptance. Be kind to ourselves and each other no matter how scared or stressed out we feel. And most important, express our fear, anger, shame, or other negative emotions in healthy ways that support us and the others around us instead of hurting ourselves and those other people.
Sometimes we might not have choices in how we act or react. Instinct and learned behavior (i.e. survival skills) override everything else when we feel overwhelmed or pushed too far.
In situations like that, when “the damage is done” we till have choices to make. We can pretend nothing happened. We can continue to escalate the negativity and cause more damage to an existing relationship until nothing is left. We can acknowledge the situation and try to make reparation and/or amends or listen with compassion to the other party and work out a solution. We can acknowledge our part in what happened, reflect on the situation, and work out ways to prepare for future ones. Maybe preventative actions or a coping strategy?
But no matter what, we humans are a resilient species. And we can survive this. We will survive and learn to thrive in the changed and changing world.
I believe in you. Please believe in yourselves too.
Dear Guests, I’ve been receiving some wonderful comments on the “About” and “Home” pages. Thank you for sharing thoughts, compliments, feedback, etc. The purpose of this “Sticky” post is to address some of the frequently asked questions aka FAQs in an easily accessible place. It will evolve and change as the blog does. If the… Read more
Dear Guests, This weekend is Memorial Day weekend in the US – first official weekend of summer and a holiday to honor/remember the people who died serving in the military. It’s also a 3 day weekend for me so I’m taking my first “break” here since January 2020. Yup, it’s been that long since I… Read more
To me, the consequences of my choices – be they winning, losing, or something else – are “the other shoe falling”.
Many people don’t like conflict. Believe it’s negative “a dirty word” and problematic. But conflict is like change. Neutral until applied a certain way based on choices. Then conflict becomes positive or negative; good or bad or evil; constructive or destructive. You get the idea.
Still, there is always a price for winning a challenge, being successful, or achieving a goal. Some people will call that price a REWARD. Others will call it PUNISHMENT. Me/We personally call it “Consequences of Choice” – neutral until someone puts a subjective value on the results.
Okay, now all the warnings are in place. You can continue reading or visit another time. I’ve written about Mother’s Day and anniversaries before, so thought I’d share something different this time. You can read about how my alters are learning to use DBT and protect our system (their preferred job) to protect and defend against hostile people.
Greetings! I hope you all are practicing social distancing while staying safe wherever you are in this world. If you celebrate, Happy Mother’s Day too. I practice social distancing and only wear a mask when leaving the apartment building. However, circumstances have me considering wearing a mask and/or gloves whenever I leave my apartment… Which […]… Read more
Thanks to everyone who commented on the last post. I appreciate your kind words and suggestions. I read all of them just now and tried to at least “like” all of them even if I didn’t reply. Sometimes I’m not sure what to say… Funny how sharing fear makes it less scary After I wrote… Read more
There’s so much going on in this post, we all agreed that headings and subheadings are useful to us and our guests. Feel free to skip around and read whatever interests you.
Empathic gift challenges and labels
I wrote a post explaining my position on labels, so will keep this short. I prefer not to label myself or others on purpose. We are multi-dimensional, unique individuals with many parts coming together to create a whole person. However, sometimes a label is useful in conversations or posts to help the reader relate to the topic.
The label gives the reader a frame of reference or starting point that makes sense so she or he can follow the rest of the conversation. It DOES NOT identify or categorize or group people with similar characteristics into a stereotype. So when I talk about being an empath, it’s only so that my guests have a starting point if they ever want to learn more about the topic.
What does this have to do with empathic gift challenges? Well, one thing I’ve been encountering more often is being stereotyped and harassed on the street or in stores because of my physical appearance and choice to go places alone all the time. Or, conversely, to not go out often at all. While I don’t consciously pay attention to the people around me when I go out, my hyper-vigilance and senses are always sensitive to the environment.
Because of that, I always know when people are being rude to me – obviously like with the harassment; or not so obviously through their energy – wherever I go.
Have you ever walked into a room or store and suddenly felt uncomfortable or out of place or judged?
Unfortunately, I notice that without even meaning to do so. And there are a lot of insecure, unhappy, resentful people in the world happy to blame others to make themselves feel better. I’ve been getting this from females more than males lately, but also from males too because of my choice to be single and friendly instead of flirtatious.
Why a challenge? It triggers shame from my past and makes me think “I suck” and “why am I doing all this again?”
My panic attacks have changed. Instead of the typical process:
anxiety feelings + headaches/dizziness + chest tightness or physical pain + hot flashes + cold shakes = pass out from tiredness and sensory overload (aka overwhelming feelings)
pass out = shut down until my whole self recoversFrom alterxpressions
I get this process:
anxiety feelings + headaches/dizziness = pass out from tiredness and sensory overload (aka overwhelming feelings)
pass out = shut down until my whole self recoversFrom alterxpressions
The worst part: I never know when the panic attacks will manifest. Or how to cope with them/stop them once they start. Or how to effectively recover balance once the panic attack is over.
How do I feel now? Cranky. Tired. Grumpy in my digestive system. Frustrated. Hungry and thirsty, but not always able to feel it in my body and remember to eat/drink regularly.
My sense of smell is not as acute as my hearing. In fact, I’ve had a lot of problems with nasal congestion and allergies and head colds that clogged up my nose on a regular basis since childhood. Sometimes I wonder if this was/is a coping strategy my body put in place to block out the stinky basement smells from my past.
But these days, scents are among my most common and destructive triggers. I live in a no smoking building on purpose. Maybe I’ve explained my postition about smoking in the past, but it bears repeating again:
I believe in an individual’s right to choose what he or she does – that includes smoking, using drugs, drinking – as long as it doesn’t harm or negatively affect other people.
That said, I don’t care if my neighbors smoke cigarettes or pot or whatever. They smoke outside and the smell comes in the window, that’s okay. I shut my window or turn a fan on to blow it back out. If I smell cigarettes in the building, I won’t say or do anything even if they are breaking the rules. At some point, someone will complain or report the issue.
But when people smoke pot in the building and the smoke gets into my apartment, that is a problem. I get immediately triggered and start the spiral into a panic attack. It’s happened the last two nights in my building and made recovery from the panic attacks that much harder. I am sleep-deprived, anxious, hyper-vigilant, grumpy, distracted, and unable to complete all of my weekend tasks because of the constant state of panic. Not anxiety because I can cope with general anxiety every day. Panic.
So yeah I didn’t get to read any guest comments today. I will try to do that next week. Appreciate your understanding 😉
Like I said before, my usual strategies are not working. Lately, I spend a lot of time curled up in a seated position or lying down trying to relax/sleep as my muscles contract and stiffen up because I haven’t moved enough. I just can’t get comfortable or feel comfortable in my own skin right now. And leaving for a while is not an option.
So here are some strategies that have been helping take the edge off my panic symptoms.
Aromatherapy diffuser blends for sleep
A couple weeks ago, I hit my sleep deprivation limit. Meditation and relaxation did not help with my sleep debt. The flashbacks, negative self-talk, and disturbing dreams kept interfering with everything whenever I did manage to sleep. And I smelled pot in my apartment for the first time in months – most of the tenants who smoked in the past left – just as I was starting my sleep hygiene routine.
That disrupted me so much that I couldn’t calm down even after a hotline check-in. Plus I was feeling paranoid about insects in my apartment. So I decided to clean the diffuser and try using essential oils proven to help with insomnia/sleep issues, anxiety, and insects. My particular diffuser is water-based, comes with specific water-to-eseential oil ratio use instructions, and has an automatic turn-off setting.
My mind and body tends to react to essential oils, herbs, and so on in unexpected ways. I try to only use these strategies when I can focus with a mostly clear mind so that the risk (getting oil on my skin, mixing a blend incorrectly, burning myself when I make a tea or soup) is minimal. But I was desperate that night.
You can imagine how surprised I was when it worked. I slept deeply for 12 hours and woke up feeling refreshed with that first blend and used it 3 nights in a row. Then I decided to try a different blend; that one worked okay, but not as well as the first one. Next, I gave myself a break to see if I could sleep (or at least relax) without using aromatherapy. It worked okay, but not great. I woke up tired and grumpy. The last one I tried before this post worked really well and had the benefit of reducing the pot smell.
Here is recipe 1:
- 3 drops of Melissa essential oil
- 1 drop of Bergamot* essential oil
- 3 drops of Siberian Fir** essential oil
- 8 ounces of water (filtered preferred, but I use tap)
- 1 electric diffuser with an automatic turn-off setting***
*Bergamot oil is extremely phototoxic to skin (human and animal). Phototoxic means that the oil will cause a rash or burns on your skin when exposed to sunlight. If you want to use this blend during the day, please omit the Bergamot essential oil
**Siberian Fir essential oil may cause lung irritation or respiratory discomfort for people with asthma, allergies, or other related issues. A sniff test (sniffing the bottle cap or bottle first) is advised before using the oil around people with respiratory problems.
***All diffusers have different settings with instructions. Electric and gas diffusers use a heating element to turn the water into steam for diffusing. Purchasing a diffuser with an automatic timer and/or turn-off setting is recommended for safe use during naps or sleep periods.
Make sure the diffuser is clean and working properly. Add water to the diffuser’s container.
Add the essential oils one drop at a time. Use the diffuser guidelines for adding essential oils. Some oils come out faster than others, so be as accurate as possible, but don’t worry too much if you add too much. Accuracy takes practice.
Cover the diffuser and turn it on for a set period of time or until the water has evaporated (auto-turn off setting).
Sit back or lie down and relax as the blend diffuses through your room.
This recipe is a guideline only. Please follow the instructions that come with your diffuser and adjust the oil amounts accordingly.
I called the hotline for a check in almost every day the last few weeks. The negative self-talk and intrusive thoughts have a strong hold on my mind and keep the spiral of body trigger + emotional trigger = panic going. Once it starts, I can’t make it stop on my own with known coping strategies.
In the past, I called the hotline for help remembering grounding strategies or practicing different kinds of meditation/relaxation techniques with a partner. Sometimes to help me make a plan of 3-5 coping strategies to use after the call ended. That always helped because I live in the maze all the time these days. To be honest, I’ve never actually found an exit from the maze. Instead, I find sanctuaries within the maze of my mind that offers a break from the trauma and allows me to feel grounded enough to live in the outside world. But that’s something for another post.
These days, I don’t ask for grounding strategies. I ask the volunteer if she or he is willing to talk with me about the situation and help me process the triggers. We talk about what set me off and the strategies I’ve already used. The volunteer listens and helps me understand if what I am feeling is “normal” or extreme in one way or another; in other words validation.
Then explains why and how so that I understand the emotions and sensations in my body too. From there, I can relax a little and fend off the negative self-talk because I understand it’s okay for me to feel the way I do; and for my body to experience these sensations. Eventually, they will not feel so intense and go away.
Funny and Silly movies
Laughter is still some of my favorite medicine. I have a Netflix account and use Amazon Prime until my membership expires in a few months to find funny children’s movies or teen movies…sometimes even adult movies. They can have a “happy ever after” ending or not.
The goal is to find movies that warm my heart, bring out positive feelings (even if I cry a little), and make me laugh. For people who can’t access movies, radio shows and podcasts, TV or cable, or YouTube probably have similar shows too.
My current favorite movies are a children’s series about golden retriever puppies going on adventures (starts with Air Buddies).
Changing my schedule/staying in (agoraphobia)
I’ve discussed my agoraphobia in past posts, so not going to dwell on it here.
Summer makes me want to go out more often and enjoy the nice weather. Longer days means more sunshine and safe times to go out after work. People spend time outside. Children play and laugh in the city’s public water features on hot days. So much to enjoy outdoors.
But my panic attacks keep me inside. I never know when they will hit or how long I have to get to a safe place before I fall asleep. Or how long I will sleep once it hits. Work has been a bit of a challenge, but not as bad as when I had to work in an office for regular hours. One home office perk is being able to work flexible hours.
So until this panic attack phase eases up, I stay inside more often and work my sleep in around the triggers. My plans often change depending on how tired I am or if the panic feelings stop me from accomplishing tasks I planned for the day. That allows me to work my 40 hours a week, meet deadlines, do homework, keep house, pay bills, and write blog posts. Everything else happens when it happens.
The more I heal, the more in tune or integrated all parts of me become. I can listen to my body and understand what types of food and drink makes it feel healthy and full or sick and uncomfortable. I can listen to my mind and understand how certain foods look/smell/taste/feel affect how my body feels after consumption and digestion.
Sounds like food triggers, but not the same.
Food triggers have a trauma-experience aspect that causes flashbacks or panic sensations throughout my self.
This type of sensory information tells me how the food and drink affect my physiology. Like with dairy intolerance or gluten intolerance. Eating nutritious food that heals and feeds the organisms keeping me healthy makes more sense than doing the opposite.
So I’ve been experimenting with my diet and different cravings that come up. Lately, I’ve been craving fennel, leafy greens, fatty fish, sausage, and carbs. Dairy too, but I think I’m going to try eliminating dairy for a few weeks to see how it affects my digestion and elimination issues. And maybe help with the low energy feelings
What can you do to help your mind and body feel better?
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This weekend was tough because of the pot triggers and lack of sleep. Plus some digestion issues that came up unexpectedly. So I am behind on my homework goals for this weekend and have to start that next.
If you wonder at the lack of tags or polish on the post, that’s why. Thanks for keeping me company on the long post.
I hope your week goes well.
Thanks for reading