Self Care Challenge: 1/20/2020 – Aromatherapy Inhaler for Emotional Support & Panic Attacks — Scent Reflections LLC

Action: Smell essential oil blend in the aromatherapy inhaler when I felt triggered, overwhelmed, or distracted at work.

Intention: Use the essential oil blend to bring me back to the present moment when I feel triggered or stressed out.

Reflection: Some people call it a “power pause”. Others call it “mindfulness”. I personally call it a sensory grounding strategy that provides emotional support + cold/flu/allergy prevention by engaging my senses – smell and vision.

Self Care Challenge: 1/20/2020 – Aromatherapy Inhaler for Emotional Support & Panic Attacks — Scent Reflections LLC

I’m doing a Self Care Challenge this week. Come join me at Scent Reflections!

Thanks for reading.

AlterXpressions

Alter Post: The Struggle to Trust Myself (all parts of me)

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

*Trigger Warning: This post may contain triggers; read at your own pace*

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Reflecting on a Different Perspective

Last week I shared a post about counseling as a tool and coping technique on Scent Reflections, but did not go into details about personal use. That kind of story is more suite to this safe space.

Either way, the inspiring post got me thinking about how and why I continue to go to therapy with a trauma specialist. Is the relationship a co-dependent one? And if so, how can that be changed? If not, what kind of dependent relationship is it? And how can I become more independent?

You see, there comes a time in my recovery when the therapeutic relationship changes. Communication sometimes becomes difficult, and I struggle with verbalizing my internal frustration about the process. It has happened with every therapist and counselor. And happened before with this counselor too.

In a healthy and safe therapeutic relationship, the client and counselor both trust each other and feel safe enough to bring up sources of frustration, fear, boundary issues, or other trouble and communicate in session to work them out. That requires a lot from both parties – including respect, assertiveness, trust, and open communication. But when it works, it really works and brings about an even stronger trust bond that can improve the client’s recovery.

In an unhealthy or unsafe therapeutic relationship, one or both parties feel threatened in some way and the communication breaks down even more than before bringing up the issues. In my case, one therapist got mad at me; shamed me; manipulated me; told me I was crazy and would never be normal; then refused to see me anymore. Another therapist (my first one), tried to convince me that trauma wasn’t real; I needed medication in order to not be crazy, and used hypnosis to manipulate my feelings. She also manipulated and shamed me into never contradicting her, never challenging her, and never questioning her expertise

As for psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses, I only had one that earned my trust. He was gruff, professional to the point of being abrupt, focused on data and nothing personal, but never forced me to take medications or try something unsafe once he learned of my history and experience with medication.

Questionable Choices: Trusting the Wrong People; Being Smart Enough to Acknowledge/Accept I don’t Know Everything – nor do I want to

If you are a regular guest, you may already know this about me. Or maybe not – I can’t always remember what I shared here before. But if you’ve read this already, feel free to move on.

Fact 1: I don’t know the different between pain and pleasure. In my world there is pain, less pain, and more pain. Less pain allows me to feel a range of emotions (joy, excitement, sadness, anxiety, fear, calm, anger, etc.) More pain is distracting and brings out my grumpiness/depressive attitudes.

Fact 2: I still have trouble understanding the different between self care and self harm for myself (not other people) and often make harmful choices instead of caring ones when triggered or under stress. Intention is part of the equation, but more is involved in understand the difference between self care and self harm behaviors.

Fact 3: Reality Testing is one of the best tools to help me decide between self care or self harm. However, I made the mistake of asking peers, colleagues, friends, and family for help with this in the past. Let’s just say that ruined many relationships and added more damage to my reputation. But this is not something I can do for myself.

Fact 4: In times of stress + flashbacks + triggers, etc., I experience an increase in symptoms. Increase in symptoms lead to shame spirals and OCD behavior. OCD behavior = uncontrollable urges to hurt myself (not others) to relieve the anxiety

What is the solution, you ask?

  • Therapy with a trauma specialist I trust
  • Calls to a crisis hotline with volunteers who listen with acceptance, respect, and empathy and are trained to offer support – not counseling – or coping strategies or just be there in the moment
  • Talking with a spiritual mentor I trust
  • Learning about other types of coping strategies from workshops and group sessions.

Being confident to acknowledge I am smart enough to know I don’t know everything and don’t want to know everything. That takes away the mystery and beauty of life’s journey.

Trust – or Lack of It – vs Fear of Myself

I don’t trust myself to make good choices when under certain kinds of stress. All parts of me feel this way.

That ability requires knowledge we don’t have, but others do have. It’s an opportunity for us to learn, practice, make mistakes, and experience success in a safe space

…once all parts of me find someone willing to do this with us.

That is where long term counseling or therapy (trauma specialist for me, but some other generalist or specialist for you?) come into play.

In times of great need (like now), I have weekly sessions with my counselor. In times of decreased symptoms, I visit once a month or once every other month.
Between those extremes, session frequency varies.

Throughout that process, I continue to learn and utilize outside sources.

My dependency comes from a need to test reality with someone I trust – a professional who understands my concerns and can teach me how to navigate them so that eventually I trust my judgement and can make good choices on my own.

So yes, I am dependent on my therapist and the hotline for specific kinds of support and education because I don’t trust myself to do that work on my own yet. They are my safety net.

So no, I am not in a co-dependent relationship (something I question often and fear getting into with anyone) with my therapist. Every session ends with me learning something or resolving an inner conflict that allows me to move (not always forward) instead of stay stuck in my rut. Movement eventually creates progress – at least for me it does.

Therapy as a Tool

All in all, I do believe therapy is a useful tool when used for a specific purpose.

It’s up to the individual or individuals engaging in a therapeutic relationship, with mental health professionals to do the hard work that gets results. They need to trust each other to make the relationship work in a way that allows the individual(s) to learn/grow/see results.

Reflection question: What would your purpose be for starting/continuing/stopping therapy and why?

Thanks for reading

EMBRACE DIFFERENCES

Alter Post: Self Care in a triggering environment

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

You can find the latest Scent Reflections blog here. FYI, I re-posted from the Emotional Sobriety blog; a place to gain insight into other recovery strategies, challenges, and options

Background

Life is full of challenges. Some more difficult than others. Finding a sanctuary that suits emotional, physical, basic, and lifestyle needs within a specific budget is one of the difficult challenges.

For most of my life I settled for “good enough” in terms of living spaces and environmental sanctuaries. All parts of me did not believe we deserved a safe home and community that fulfilled more than the basic needs. Part of the self punish,ent and shame cycle was living in such places that were physically safe, but not emotionally or spiritually safe.

If you want to know more about my thoughts on self protection and safety, check out these posts from 2019.

If you want to read about some challenges and coping strategies for feeling safe, use the search bar with key words “self care”, “safety”, “feeling safe”, “DBT” to start. Or look the Coping Challenges and Coping Strategies categories in the archives.

“Good Enough” isn’t really good for me. What about you?

Settling for “good enough” is so much easier. Sometimes necessary, but often less scary, anxiety-provoking, triggering, etc. at the beginning. Over time, however, it’s scarier, more triggering, and extra anxiety-provoking

But for now, my alters and I will share some insights we’ve learned about triggering environments.

Growing up, people used to tell me I wouldn’t succeed in life and should settle for “good enough” since that was…maybe…the best I could achieve. Even if my work was better laid out, more creative, etc., teachers, parents, and other people told me my efforts were “ok” or “not as good as so-and-so” or “(insert name)’s work is better; work harder”.

Or they accused me of cheating, stealing someone else’s ideas, etc. Or other people (in group work) took credit for my ideas. And I let this happen instead of trying to get the acknowledgement for myself. Instead of fighting back against a community of people determined to put me in my place – beneath them.

That worked for a long time – and still does in some circumstances – to the point where I didn’t think I deserved or could achieve anything good in my life. That included an apartment that met more than my basic needs, acted like a sanctuary, and felt safe – emotionally, spiritually, environmentally, physically.

Being Different Brings Out the Best in Me – but not always in others

I didn’t – and still don’t – think I am a good person. I have too much darkness, live too often in the gray areas, and embrace my flaws/failures/negative attributes too much to ever be good and light and positive. But I like being me.

FOR EXAMPLE

  • My temper is scary and terrible; it intimidates people
  • My facial expressions and body language don’t match my tone of voice or what I talk about
  • I don’t remember or recognize people I meet on the streets; let alone remember names.
  • I sometimes talk over people and interrupt without meaning to do so; it’s an anxiety response
  • I am messy and struggle with housekeeping.
  • I stutter and lose words in group conversations or stressful experiences.
  • I can be abrasive, blunt, rude, and annoying when I feel like it.
  • I apologize too much
  • And I offend people with my unique perspective on life and comfort sharing those opinions.
EMBRACE DIFFERENCES

And yet, these flaws are as much a part of me as the positive characteristics people attribute to me. They show my personality and allow people glimpses of who I really am.

I developed these so-called flaws into effective strategies that help me cope with life before recovery. They kept people away from me. Kept them from learning my secrets or exposing me when I wanted to be invisible.

After recovery started, they became useful communication tools that helped me as I practiced DBT on myself (internal dialogue with alter personalities, negative self-talk, flashbacks) and other triggering people in my life. It wasn’t perfect, but it taught me this:

every part of my personality – aka every part of what makes me me – has value and purpose

TJ/AlterXpressions

By embracing, learning from, and turning into strengths these flaws (aka weakness), I learn how to accept myself as I am and create effective coping strategies or techniques that also work within the laws/guidelines/terms of my residence/place of business, etc.

The Triggering Environment, Coping Strategies, Moving on My Terms

First, the triggering environment is living in an emotionally unsafe apartment. Yes, it sounds a lot like the previous apartment where I needed help from an attorney to get out of that mess.

This situation is similar and different. I am on good terms with building management. The apartment itself and my close neighbors are great. I have enjoyed living and working here for the past two years.

The apartment amenities can be challenging sometimes because the building is more than 100 years old with original electrical wiring. My job and this website are dependent on Internet and electronics. Plus the bathroom ventilation system allows smells from my apartment to get into my upstairs and downstairs neighbors’ apartments. Finally, the noise from above can be heard easily below.

The reverse is also true.

I’ve had three different groups of people living above me in the 2 years renting this apartment. My first upstairs neighbors triggered me by intentionally being noisy, smoking in a non-smoking apartment, and creating a hostile living environment through their friends and acquaintances who also lived in this building.

That got settled with help from building management (different group than now) and their permission to let me use coping strategies and techniques that worked, but were not common and did not conform to cultural norms.

They left at the end of their lease, and the environmental/emotional triggers went away for a while. I settled in and started to feel comfortable. The nightmares and flashbacks eased up too.

Then the third group of neighbors moved in. These people liked breaking the rules and did not appreciate when the rules were enforced. My current building is a non-smoking building. It has designated quiet hours too.

But these neighbors smoked pot often in their apartments. Or cigarettes. Or herbal blends with pot in them. The smoke kept getting into my apartment. I didn’t know it was them at first. A lot of people moved in and out during that time period, and many of the new neighbors smoked in their apartment.

In the beginning, I used aromatherapy to change the smell in my apartment. My favorite diffuser is strong enough to use in my whole apartment. When that stopped, I used scented candles or a combination of both.

As the smells increased, I started reporting them to management during the day and the management’s’ courtesy patrol/security team in the evenings. Had neighbors come in and verify the smells. Talked with an attorney and non-emergency police lines to get details.

In other words, I followed the rules.

When that didn’t get me anywhere and the neighbors upstairs continued to escalate their intentional negative behaviors, I informed the property management that I was going to use my own coping strategies and techniques to feel safe and comfortable in my own apartment until my lease ended. These techniques could be considered unorthodox, weird, etc., but they wouldn’t break lease terms or the law. I would also be looking for a new apartment and continuing to inform them of the disturbances by email.

From then on, I started using everything in my toolbox to cope with the upstairs neighbors. First, I used them the way I normally do. Then I started experimenting and doing research to find more resources. My family helped too. Rebuilding those connections increased my support network and made some of the worst times more bearable.

Intentions, Gratitude, Humor & Patience = Moving to a better place

Last September, I set my intention.

Work on myself until I believed I deserved a home that met ALL my requirements and needs; then prepare as much as possible to take advantage of the moving opportunity when it presented itself.

I practiced gratitude and self care. Gratitude in thought, emotion, and behavior – towards all parts of myself (internal) and every being in my life (humans, animals, plants, etc.) – to find blessings and miracles everywhere. Learn from reflection and appreciate everything happening now.

I practiced Cognitive Re-Framing (cognitive behavioral therapy) and challenging my cognitive biases techniques on my own, with help from the BARCC hotline, and my mental health therapist.

How? Like this

  • Find humor in my current living situation (and laughing about the drama going on all around me)
  • Acknowledge each incident and then putting it aside
  • Discuss my thoughts and feelings with my counselor and support network
  • Focus on achieving my financial, work, and personal goals (problem solving) as distractions from what’s happening around me
  • Reflect on the situation to understand my emotions
    • Separate my present feelings (how I feel about my neighbors and this situation) from my past feelings
    • Separate my past feelings (triggers and flashbacks) from my present feelings
    • Acknowledge both sets of feelings and express them in safe ways
    • Then let the feelings go when they end
  • React to the present and not the past
  • Use these experiences as Exposure Therapy and learn from them
  • Be honest with my loved ones about the challenges (aka sharing the truth about my mental health disorders with the hope they will still love and accept me)
  • Show gratitude to the people, plants, and other beings supporting me through this challenging time – acknowledgement of their efforts, “thank you”, giving gifts, saying “i love you”
  • Being patient – not something I am good at – in spite of the OCD pressure to react without thinking

Then, when everything falls into place, make the change with courage and faith.

REFLECTION QUESTION: How will you/do you want to cope with triggering environments?

That’s my next step: I found a new apartment and decided to break my current lease.

If you don’t see much from me here or at Scent Reflections over the next two weeks, it’s because I’m busy working, packing, and moving to a new apartment.

I promise to try my best and share posts or updates, but please understand if you don’t get a new post until 2/2/2020.

Thanks for reading

Work, life, mental health: coming out — Scent Reflections LLC

Scent Reflections – helping others re-define success There are many people like me out in the world. We are successful and independent, hiding in plain sight to avoid the negative reactions associated with mental illness. Not everyone ends up an addict or homeless or a criminal or something else as bad. Not everyone struggling with trauma or mental illness or addiction has to be dependent on others or stay in unsafe situations because that’s all they know or think they deserve. There are resources to help people and their connections cope with life after trauma. Because survival is hard, but re-adjusting to life after trauma is the real challenge. More important, trauma exists because change exists. Not everyone who experiences trauma develops a mental illness. People who don’t experience trauma can develop a mental illness. All people cope with stress in their lives. How we (people) cope with stress defines whether or not it is positive or negative mental health or mental illness Stress = human response to change Lots of people focus on the trauma survivor, the victim, the addict. Who looks to that person’s friends/family/connections and offers them support too? They are just as traumatized; their lives permanently changed in trying to maintain relationships with each other and the survivor/victim/addict/(your label here). I am not an expert by any means. Not a therapist, medical or mental health professional. I do not diagnose, treat, or tell people what to do. I am a student of aromatherapy and western herbalism working to earn her certifications and credentials while working full time, starting a small business, running a resource blog and website, and living life. What I can do, what I want to do is empower others manifest their health and wellness goals through aromatherapy, education, and support (aka consulting services). That is my goal with Scent Reflections

Work, life, mental health: coming out — Scent Reflections LLC
Celebrate a new year of beginnings and endings

Anniversaries: 2019 Year in Review and Looking Forward to 2020

Gratitude

First, thanks to all my guests for continuing to visit Untangled Connections in spite of challenges that made posting regularly difficult.

I appreciate all of you and your contributions towards keeping this website and blog safe for any guests who visit anonymously.

And thank you for keeping my identity safe too as I shared more and more of myself with you all.

Recovery Cycles and Transitions

Back when I started this blog in 2014, I referenced a book called Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman. It was a pivotal resource in my recovery shared with me just after I started graduate school in 2006-2007. The book was updated in 2015, but original concepts remain the same.

Ms. Herman’s concepts about recovery and healing as a cyclical journey that often overlaps remain the cornerstones of my healing process. What I call “survival mode”, she refers to as “establishing safety” or part 1 in the recovery process. Part 2 (Remembrance and Mourning) and Part 3 (Reconnection) are concepts I didn’t really understand back then, but kept in the back of my mind.

I didn’t have much hope back then. And dreaming that my life might not be dominated by the past was too scary.

Parts 2 and 3: What to Write?

Recovery Part 2: Remembrance and Mourning began with Untangled Connections in 2014 even though I didn’t realize it then. I started sharing my story with the hope of helping others in similar positions in spite of my overriding fear of talking about the past. If you’ve been reading these posts for a while, you might remember that I’ve gone back and forth between Recovery Part 1 and Part 2; often working through challenges in both cycles at the same time.

2018/2019 began my entry into Part 3: Reconnection as I shared some of the most painful secrets that kept me apart from my family of origin all these years here.

That sharing of secrets made me feel extremely vulnerable as I juggled what to write here and how to cope with family of origin re-entering my life. Then work got busy with many new challenges, and I started working on case studies for aromatherapy certification. All the while, I struggled with pain management as the body memories got worse in some ways and better in others. What worked before didn’t work anymore, and I spent a lot of time experimenting with different kinds of alternative medicine and coping techniques to find strategies that did help.

In spite of all that, I felt (and continue to feel) happy, loving, grateful, full of laughter about my life. So how could I write about that here and make it relevant or meaningful? You could say I felt scared and vulnerable to the point where ideas dried up. You could say I wasn’t sure if the changes in my recovery and stories I had to share adhered to the values and themes of this blog. You could also say that I was scared about what to write and how to approach certain topics when I knew family members, friends, and connections would be reading these posts.

As much as I wanted to keep up my usual routine, it got to be too overwhelming. I couldn’t keep up with balancing self care, family re-integration, work, and this blog. So I reduced the volunteer work and blogging to increase self care and work on my family relationships.

Changes in 2020 – Rebranding, New Readers, and Scent Reflections

First, I’ve “come out” to my parents and certain other family members about having alter personalities and many struggles associated with my past. My parents accepted the truth with respect and asked to learn more about those experiences. I decided to share Untangled Connections with them in 2020 and also my favorite book about alter personalities: Amongst Ourselves by Tracy Alderman to learn more about Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Second, Untangled Connections has some limitations in order to stay safe and anonymous. That means I can’t sell products, offer consulting services, or offer educational tools that answer guest questions in depth to help pay for all the work and expenses that go into creating Untangled Connections. For example: more posts about starting a blog, creating a website using WordPress or similar products, and writing.

That brings me to the third and final change: re-branding Untangled Connections as part of my small business Scent Reflections: Trauma-informed, integrated healing support through aromatherapy.

Scent Reflections is still in development even though all the paperwork is in place. I’m working on an aromatherapy product line to help with panic attacks and pain relief that is portable, discreet, and affordable. My goal is to open for business next summer in 2020.

Between then and now, I plan to start posting information about:

  • aromatherapy, essential oils, and herbs
    • How they support health and wellness goals in every day life
    • Recipes for DIY blends
    • How to integrate these concepts and techniques into existing coping techniques and strategies
  • Different kinds of sensory grounding strategies
    • Expand on the self protection series from earlier this year
    • Share meditation techniques
    • Offer more affirmations and quotes
  • Share writing, blogging, and website development tips

As for Untangled Connections, you may see some changes to the theme colors and and the Scent Reflections logo added on different pages. I will continue posting about the usual topics here too. What I post on Scent Reflections is relevant here, but not everything here is relevant to Scent Reflections. So I’ll be re-posting some Scent Reflections articles here too.

Finally, I will be creating some “business” social media accounts for Scent Reflections that include sections for Untangled Connections too. It’s going to be a lot of work on top of my regular job and life, but definitely worth the effort.

Thank you in advance for being patient with me as these changes roll out. I invite you all to visit Scent Reflections and learn more about my work there in your own time. The first post will go out a week from today.

Thanks for reading