Family: Birthday Reflections

pink green and yellow ribbon illustration
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Birthdays always feel odd to me.

On one hand, I enjoy celebrating life and am always grateful for my second chance.  Every moment is precious, and all parts of me look forward to the day laugh lines appear on our face.

On the other hand, I feel extremely annoyed about all of the expectations that used to come with birthday celebrations.  Parties, going out, being around people, and all kinds of activities that were meant to be “fun” ended up something else in my personal experience.

My favorite kind of gift is when someone close says “happy birthday” and means it.  If the individual chooses to give me something too, that’s always appreciated and valued.

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Giving and receiving of gifts means a lot to many people.  I have a hard time accepting gifts sometimes.  It goes back to my past trauma, triggers, and fears.  Wanting something and asking for it as a gift – didn’t always get me what I wanted.  Sometimes it got me the opposite.

But these days, I can trust the people who want to give me gifts to give me something I will enjoy instead of something they think I will enjoy.

My best gift today was talking with my dad on via video chat.  We talked for an hour about so many different topics.  I got to see his smile and hear him laugh.  He passed the device around so I got to talk with my aunts and uncles too.

It was a great start to my day and brings out hope that things will keep getting better.

My last birthday wish (or hope) is for all of my guests to have a fun day or peaceful sleep after reading this birthday post.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenges: Body Shaming – Internal & External

Apologies for the late post…I slept late and then fell asleep after exercise and a phone call with my mentor yesterday.  By the time I woke up, it was time to go back to sleep again.

Body Shaming

It’s a big deal, especially in today’s world where anything can pop up in the mainstream media or on social media (on purpose or by accident) and anyone can comment.

I had another post in mind for this week, but Grant Gustin of CW’s The Flash spoke out about body shaming in this article on Digital Spy.  Gustin fights back and speaks out against body shaming – in general and by addressing comments directed at himself.

The Flash is one of the few TV shows I enjoy and follow via Internet news.  It addresses a lot of interesting topics from alternative and unique to me perspectives without a lot of bias or stereotyping.  My other favorite CW show is DC’s Legends of Tomorrow for similar reasons.

But back to the main topic – Body shaming is a form of bullying.  Depending on the circumstances, context, content, and perpetrator, it can also be a form of sexual & physical harassment or abuse.  It’s something I still struggle with as an adult and experienced from many people growing up.

Body shaming is more than talking about how physically attractive or unattractive a person is.  It goes deeper and can affect self-esteem, self-confidence, and one’s sense of self.  Body shaming covers a lot of topics.  Here are a few:

  • How I smell
  • A flabby belly instead of a flat one
  • Being short
  • Having slanted eyes
  • Being curvy and Asian
  • Wearing Glasses
  • Looking younger than I am
  • How I dress (style and type of clothes I wear)

And just for fun…since you already know my face…here’s a photo of me in one of my favorite summer outfits – no makeup as per usual.

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BODY NEUTRAL & BODY POSITIVE – Body Image alternatives to shame/negativity

I’ve mentioned these terms before.  And I try to stay true to them in real life – for myself and for the people around me.

It’s not easy to change the tapes in your head when the people who are supposed to guide, support, and protect you are the ones making these comments.  The person who body shamed me the most was my mother.  Being sexually and physically abused further damaged myself and made me hate my physical appearance to the point where I didn’t trust anyone who made a comment about me; positive or negative.

What helped me most was putting aside concepts of attractiveness and beauty in favor of learning how to love, accept, respect, and value my physical self for all of the positive blessings it provides me as I work to achieve my goals of overall wellness and independence.

Something else that helps is to stop making negative comments (in my head or out loud) about my own and other’s appearance, whether on purpose or by accident.  It took me many years to stop automatically thinking in the negative about bodies (etc) in general.

I still don’t see myself the way other people see me.  Looking in a mirror can be tricky depending on who is watching through my eyes.  Every alter has a different perception of our physical self.  And none of us really enjoy the attention we receive.  Our goal is to blend in, not stand out.

But I/we also want to feel comfortable, confident, secure, and happy with our physical appearance/body/self too.  And that means creating and using a personal style to guide how we present ourself to the outside world.

Maybe these concepts and tips will resonate with you.  Maybe they won’t.  but you are not alone in experiencing the body shame.

Thanks for reading

Coping Strategy: Slowing Down my life

Slowing down has been an ongoing theme this year.  Here are some concrete reasons for my choices.

I/we want to spend time exploring our memories and experimenting with different hobbies, activities, experiences to find joy again.

joy = pleasure = happy = content = relaxed

Feeling joy in our mind is different from experiencing the sensation of joy in our body and spirit too.  All parts of me want to experience joy in mind/body/spirit together and AT THE SAME TIME without falling into triggers or panic attacks.

We’d like to experience this joy alone (amongst ourselves) and with other people too.

That means slowing down our current lifestyle to make space for big, scary changes.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
  • The blog stays at 1x a week.
  • Goodbye to Facebook for the final time. Pinterest & LinkedIn stay for professional and practical reasons
  • More paper books, less ebooks
  • Knitting, cooking, sewing fun
  • More activities & experiences = more built-in exercise and play time
  • Sleep, meditate, relax, and go to related meetups
  • Limit internet & computer use for existing tasks and work/job searching

I tried living in the darkness and shadows with minimal technology and a lot of “old-fashioned” methods of getting things done.  The best part about that lifestyle was learning how to “do” things without depending on machines.

I tried living in the “modern” world with its technology and emphasis on moving fast all the time.  The best part of this lifestyle was learning how to utilize technology to help me achieve my goals without depending on others to take care of me.

Now it’s time for me to find the sweet spot of lifestyle that makes me happy and continues to support my internal healing/recovery journey.  

More big changes are happening whether I want them to or not.

I can make choices now to put support systems in place and flow with the changes.  Or I can fight them until my face turns blue and I give in anyways.  Which seems better to you?

So maybe this isn’t for you.  And maybe it is.  Either way, I hope you find ways to bring more joy into your life.

Thanks for reading.

Alter Post: A story about anger, pain, and suicide – beware of triggers

Beginning of September always brings back memories and flashbacks because it’s the time when school starts.  Summer was easy.  I was me or some version of me all the time.  Bud during school, I was one person in public society (elementary school, activities, etc.) and someone else in the private society that occupied the rest of my time.

I didn’t have friends in the public society world.  Everyone there looked down on me, bullied me, and pretended I didn’t exist.  I helped by being rude, annoying, and quiet as possible to avoid attracting attention.  But it didn’t make school easier.  I thought school would make life easier because it took me out of the other world.

But it turns out, I enjoyed being in the other world more.  The other world – the world of pedophiles, traffickers, dug dealers, predators, and other monsters – is where I made friends and learned life skills.  It’s where I found family, a soul mate, and a purpose for surviving/living.

Those life skills and experiences may have turned me into a monster not fit for “regular” society in the legitimate world.  But they gave me a secure and valued position in the criminal world and the gray world between legal and illegal.  After I was freed – no longer belonging to the cult or human traffickers as a slave – I spent a good part of my life in  the gray world while trying to forge a life in the legitimate world too.

Part of me didn’t want to give up the gray world.  I had friends and family there.  I had a purpose and helped many people.  My job was exciting and fulfilling even if it was dangerous and involved lots of violence.  Most important though, the people in that gray world accepted me as I was.  I could be my real self with alter personalities, a quirky sense of humor, a bad temper and so on.

But in the legitimate world with my corporate job, I couldn’t be my whole self.  My connections to the gray world and the criminal world put it in jeopardy.  And as that personality, I didn’t recognize or have access to my friends and support network in the gray world.  I couldn’t remember that other life without causing migraines and intense body pain.

But then my soul mate made a choice to leave on his terms.  Other friends died or moved on.  Instead of being free, keeping those friendships and connections made starting over more difficult.  The criminals who remembered me kept harassing me and trying to recruit me.  Kids I taught or helped before tracked me down and asked me to help again. My body gave out on me; I was in so much pain all the time.

Work wasn’t fun anymore.  I tried to retire.  I referred these people to the organizations I worked and volunteered for instead.  And I focused on keeping the promises to my soul mate.  To use my second chance at life wisely; be happy and free; and start fresh as my authentic self someplace else without the anger and pain holding me back.

I met my soul mate in a punishment cage when we were 3 or 4 years old.  His family was rich enough that his parents  traveled or worked a lot and paid people to take care of him.  His parents trusted the friend who referred the caretakers not knowing or realizing where their son was all the time.  Sort of like my parents  trusting references from my pediatrician and taking advantage of free babysitting from local organizations.

It was my third day in training, and I was back in the punishment cage for talking back or not following the rules.  I can’t remember exactly.  Anyways, he came up and started talking to me.  That became our pattern.  I got punished (a lot).  He came to talk with me. Then his trainers took him away.  If he got punished (rarely at that time), I would walk over and talk with him.

Our friendship bloomed from there.  Both of us were prostituted and raped, so our relationship never involved sex.  We cared about each other too much to want to be involved that way after our shared experiences with human trafficking and cults.

Unfortunately for him, though, he didn’t share my  problems with chemicals and other substances.  Nor could he continue to separate his mind like I did to survive  living two lives.  The medicine, dugs, and alcohol did work on him.  He got addicted and tried so many times to clean up.

But the memories, the shame, the anger, the pain were all too much for him.  He couldn’t cope with our shared past.  And he didn’t want me be stuck in that gray world forever even though that kept both of us safe.  We made plans to get legitimate jobs in the real world and fulfill our dreams after college.  We laughed and pulled each other out of trouble, but more often it was me finding and taking him home after a night of drugs and booze.

Sometime in our software year, we had a spring break that matched up – same weeks off – and decided to hang out together.  But spring break has always been hard for both of us.  My other family found him at a party with a bunch of people from the old gang – kids and adults who did jobs for the traffickers and the cult hoping to move up the ranks one day.  He was still sober, but had the needle in his hand.

We talked.  The others interfered.  There was a fight.  One that finally convinced those people wasn’t involved anymore; that I didn’t want to be involved and would stay out of their way as long as they didn’t target my loved ones.  After the fight, my soul mate handed me the full syringe and asked me to help him get through the rest of the day and evening.

He wanted to spend one last day with me sober and clear headed because we needed to talk.  I took the syringe and tossed it aside.  It wouldn’t go to waste in that room.  Then we left for my other family’s house.

He and I, we spent the afternoon talking and cooking our favorite snack food.  That’s when he told me about his choice to leave on his terms.  He wasn’t as strong as me, strong enough to live without the haze of drugs to take the edge off of his memories.  But he didn’t want me to be stuck in our shady life or to see him spiral down into addiction.  He wanted me to fulfill our dreams and keep my promises to live every moment with joy.

My soul mate wanted  to leave in a dream where all of our wishes and ideals came true.  I chose to support his choice.  After all of his struggles, he deserved peace.  The only promise I asked of him was that he wait until after college graduation to leave.  We graduated college in 2004.  He overdosed and died a year later.

I never saw him again after that spring break sophomore year in college.  But I knew he kept tabs on me.  And after my failed suicide attempt in 2004, he sent me a message reminding me of my promise to get help if I survived.  I got help.  Graduated.  Started seeing a mental health professional and putting my life back together.

So you see, I can’t condemn suicide or people who want to commit suicide.  In my mind, in my world, suicide is a legitimate choice – a fail safe option when nothing else feels right or good or safe – for people who’ve tried everything and anything and lost hope.

But I can’t support suicide – not the way it’s discussed these days – either.  My soul mate lost hope.  He didn’t want to drag me or the others in our circle down either when we still had chances to change.  He made his choice after hours of talking (not just that day) with me and our circle, months/years of rehab and counseling, and working out issues with his family.

I couldn’t go through with any of my suicide attempts, but I never stopped looking at suicide as a fail-safe option until about 5 years ago when I decided to change my name and implement hazy plans to move across the country based on a recurring dream I couldn’t quite recall.

More than 10 years later, in the first two weeks of September when school starts and training started, I finally remember my soul mate and our friendship.  So I guess the last two weeks of sleep deprivation, flashbacks, panic attacks, and pain were worth it.  This story (with some details omitted), came to me between Friday and this morning.

We met 33 years ago and became secret best friends for over 20 years.  I like to believe and have complete faith that my soul mate moved on to a better place where he can work on his plans for the next life.

Thanks for reading.

Recovery: Slowing Down & Self Care

Short post today.

I am recovering from a week of panic attacks and flashbacks today, so have not got much to write about.  After this post, I plan on sleeping some more to get ready for Monday’s work, etc.

In other news, I continue to slow down my life to focus on what feels meaningful and important while letting go of what doesn’t with joy and grace.  But more on that later.

Finally, apologies to anyone whose blogs I follow for not being an active commenter.  I am following your progress and cheering you on from the sidelines (aka as a lurker) even though I can’t keep up with all of your updates.  I’ve been on an Internet cleanse on and off for the past few months – only checking in with school, work, and existing author sites on my “read” list – to understand my anger and frustration towards technology.

Social media, in general, is not something I am comfortable with no matter how hard I try to learn and feel safe using it.  If not for the fact that I need some kind of presence to exist for work and this blog, I’d shun it all together and live happily with phone/text, email, and letter-writing.

So please keep me on your lists.  I am following, reading/viewing your updates, and cheering you on from the sidelines.  But I will never be active and seldom will comment. It’s just not who I am or how I choose to live my life.  If I do have something to share, I will comment or use the comment box to send an email thorough your website/blog.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenges: Finding Language to describe body memory challenges

DISCLAIMER 1 – no photos today.  I couldn’t think of anything relevant and didn’t want to include book covers.  Also, this is a long, potentially triggering post.

DISCLAIMER 2 – what you read here is my opinion only and based on personal experiences. This information is provided as an alternate perspective and optional coping strategy from one survivor to another and does not replace professional recommendations from medical and/or mental health providers

Background

When I first started blogging, I mentioned many books as my favorite resources, but never explained why.  Same went for books that did not help or had unexpected results.

Shame is one reason – a personal shame that belittles me every time I think about sharing an opinion.

Lack of language to explain my feelings, thoughts, and experiences was the other reason. It’s really hard to say “my instincts did not react well to … in the book” and be taken seriously.

Now I have words and language to describe my experience of using Peter Levine’s process.  The experience was neither negative nor positive. It was overwhelming and opened up avenues into the trauma that no one predicted. Not any part of me could cope alone, and we weren’t able to cope together back then. It was before we re-connected with each other.

The process of movement, bodywork, integrating feelings with sensations, and releasing energy is what I described here in the post about Anger. The exploration of bodywork and so on started with Peter Levine’s book Waking the Tiger and continued with Sexual Healing as feelings and sensations started coming back to my body awareness. Plus I was genuinely confused and distressed about not being able to “feel” or “experience” sexual feelings at the time.

So what happened?

As with many steps in my recovery journey, my mind/feelings heal faster than my physical body. Spirit/soul/spirituality/religion helped keep me on the path to recovery through faith and belief in a higher power, but it couldn’t help me bridge the divide between my mind and body. The lack of communication and integration between the two fit the whole “two steps forward, one giant step backward” scenario.

My mind and spirit were and are on the fast track to recovery.  But my body (the parts of me that experienced the worst and most significant amounts of trauma) is taking longer to find its recovery path.

Psychotherapy helped heal the emotional and mental wounds; and partial programs taught me how to safely experience feeling. Neither technique helped me cope with the body pain and other sensations that got worse as my mind healed.

Waking the Tiger taught me a different way of looking at the mind/body/spirit connections and how to identify if a physical sensation related to an emotion or feeling.  But all I felt when inside my body was varied degrees of pain.

Every feeling was connected to pain of some kind. I didn’t have the tools, knowledge, or skill set to work with the pain and find out what was underneath.  Other sensations were hiding underneath the pain.  Part or parts of me knew that, recognized that not every feeling equals pain.

But past conditioning is hard to break.  And my trainers excelled at their specialties. They linked all of my feelings back to pain in childhood so that my body experienced pain every time I felt and emotion. This epiphany did not appear until years later and occurred while I was reading the Pay/Changeling book Series by Nalini Singh.

Reading a series about the recovery process of a whole race that spent 100 years not feeling provided hope that I could feel again too. Someday.  But I wouldn’t have made the that connection without the knowledge from Peter Levine’s books. And I wouldn’t have started searching for information about mind-body therapy techniques either.

Present Time

In the 3 years before I moved across the country, my counselor and I explored different types of mind-body therapy.  She and my other providers encouraged me to try alternative medicine and learn more about the mind-body trauma connection. I read Bessel Van Der Kolk’s book and listened to a variety of webinars about his approach. I tried sensorimotor psychotherapy with different practitioners and also Deirdre Fay’s classes too. And I tried taking exercise classes in a gym or working out on my own in different places.

Each resource helped me learn about myself and my body – limitations, boundaries, strengths, and vulnerabilities – so that I could say “yes, this is worth trying again” or “no, I’m not ready for this yet”. Figuring out my limitations helped more than I understood at the time.  Without knowing how far I could go before my body shut down, I kept wandering into the “no trespassing zone” and passing out.  Then getting mad at myself for doing too much.

What are my limitations?

Agoraphobia – it’s a reaction to not feeling safe and not trusting my body to signal me when we need to get someplace safe ASAP.

My physical body – While it looks healthy, whole, etc. on the outside, it’s still healing on a massive scale on the inside. Every molecule, every cell in my body holds some kind of trauma memory. Right now, it holds everything inside and doesn’t know how to let go of or move memories, feelings, experiences, etc. around and out.  i.e. let go of the past.

Lack of knowledge – I couldn’t find answers using conventional methodologies. All of their strategies were too overwhelming for my body to cope with on a sensory level. These days I explore all kinds of healing methodologies.

What works for right now?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – a combination of herbs, body work, and acupuncture that helps move my chi to promote integrated healing and wellness. Works on mind/body/spirit at the same time

Qigong in all of its forms – physical exercise (like tai chi), meditation (standing/sitting/lying down), and energy healing (sound, meditation, physical movement) works on an energetic level to heal by removing blockages, etc. that prevents chi from circulating through my body.

Energy healing education – chakras, kundalini, prana, etc. is a general term for using energy movement for integrated healing of the mind/body/spirit connection.  Qigong is a specific type of energy healing.

Nutrition & diet – eating nutrient dense, whole foods and drinking lots of water.  I do not follow a specific diet because my body does not react well when I try to feed it something it doesn’t want.  Instead, I pay attention to the physical sensations and use that knowledge to inform my food and beverage choices.

Thanks for reading

Anniversaries: Happy Birthday Mom

Dear Mom,

Today is your birthday.  I wish you all the best and a joyful day full of fun and laughter.  I love you and accept you as you are always.  You are my mother, a wife, an aunt, a sister, and a daughter to many.  To others, you are a friend, a co-worker, or some other label.

We will never be traditional mother and daughter.  You don’t always like to admit having a full grown daughter, let alone one like me.  That’s okay too.  I forgive you for all that has happened between us.  I forgive myself for sometimes hating what happened to both of us. Hate only gives me heartburn…but pockets still exist and need to be released.

I used to shudder and sleep through nightmares on your birthday – living in remembered fear of the past.  Now, I celebrate your special day with unconditional love and acceptance.  I hope some day you will accept me as I am too.

Your Daughter

Quotes & Affirmations: A Double Whammy – Family, work & change

I’ll be honest with you.  This week has kicked my ass in many ways.  I almost didn’t know what to share today because everyone had an opinion, but no one wanted to buckle down and write it out.

Double Whammy

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There used to be a game show on TV called “Press Your Luck” that featured a “whammy” cartoon.  Every time a contestant landed on a “whammy”, her or his score was reset to zero.  The contestant had to start rebuilding prizes through trivia, etc.

 

I feel like I’ve landed on two whammy’s this week.  One with regards to my family.  One with regards to work.

Family

As mentioned before, I’m talking with my dad via email again.  We’re slowly rebuilding our relationship and working hard towards being part of each other’s lives again.  That means, indirectly, going back to what broke me before from a different perspective.  It means reaching out to other family and acknowledging them in some way.

My mother’s family received the email and wrote back to me after a few weeks.  It was nice to get a response from them.  Next on my list, and not something I do lightly, is writing to my mother and younger brother.

Why?

Here is where the second quote fits in.

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This is my way of setting an intention and giving something to fill an empty space inside of me.  By filling that space inside me, I have more to give to my loved ones and can help fill a similar space in them.

The next time I visit family, I want to enjoy time with them.  Not have the experienced ruined through my mother’s (and maybe brother’s) negativity and drama tantrums.  My grandma is 102; she’s slowly moving towards the next phase in her life.  I miss my dad.  In spite of everything, I love my mother and brother.  Seeing everyone for a short time will bring a measure of peace and closure.

Plus, having everyone together again will make my grandma smile.

Work

In my day job, I finally got some career-related questions answered and addressed.  Now, if I change my mind and choose to stay, there can be a path that allows me change, growth, and challenges.  Along with that, some leadership and organizational changes are taking place.  Our team is changing.  While some doors are closing, others are opening.  So now there’s a chance for me to get my “new job” within the same company.

The dilemma; I’m ready to leave my safety net and fly.  Does that mean I start a new job in a new company and pursue my other projects during off hours?  Does that mean I take on a new role with new challenges and pursue my other projects on the side?

Decision: Keep my options open.  If the new role at the current company goes through, seriously decide to stay or leave.  If that new role gets shunted to the side by corporate again, continue with my existing plans to move on.

Why again these two quotes?

Quote 1:

In a way, I’m going back to what broke me.

I’m reconnecting with family and places that caused so much pain.  I guess it’s a reminder that the person coming back is not the person who left.  She/I/We are going back to visit FAMILY as a whole rather than individual people.  Different perspective; different choices.  Same potential pitfalls if I’m not careful.

I’m also listening to my intuition, creating art, writing, healing/helping others, and learning how to use/utilize/explore/work with my unique gifts for positive outcomes instead of negative ones.  That means journaling, meditation, exercise/movement, bodywork, and learning from mentors who work towards good instead of evil.

The flashbacks are stronger; lucid dreams become nightmares; so many voices sometimes.  But the experience is different this time.  My parts and I, we aren’t afraid.  But the potential pitfalls exist.  And we all have to be gentle with ourselves.

Quote 2:

This quote reinforces my belief in miracles and manifestation of dreams.  For many years, I’ve been working towards going back to my family and moving into a career that brings joy – one that feels like a vocation and something fun that transforms into a “hobby” or “activity” to keep me involved and active during “retirement”.

Honest truth is, I could not have done all of this work or achieved so much alone.  Throughout every phase and step of this Recovery journey, guides and guardians (human, spiritual, and other) have taught me how to help myself achieve these goals.  By guardians and guides, I mean: family, friends, loved ones, mentors, enemies, counselors, even the racist and prejudiced people who went out of their way to verbally hurt me taught something.

It started with changing self-perceptions and perspectives about “people” and “the outside world”.  Next came working through the different challenges in the “real world” outside of my mind.

I started to “see” the world from a loving, kind, compassionate space.  Instead of a scary, violent, dangerous place, the world was full of love, life, laughter, and friendship.  During meditations, I started to see colors and shapes again.  I started to feel safe from the inside out – ready and able to “go home” without fear – and began the process of reconnecting with those I feared most.

“Home” has two meanings here:

  1. “Home” means being part of my family of origin again.
  2. “Home” means living safely within my physical body and working with all parts of me to bring our body back to optimal health

Whatever your challenges and struggles, there truly is a a way for you to live the life you want.

I hope these quotes help you the way they’ve helped me.

Thanks for reading.

Anger: sitting with sensations in my body

Catching Up Slowly

The short version is that I spent a lot of time sitting with the new feelings and sensations inside my body.  By that I mean all of the feelings buried underneath the anger revealed themselves and started moving in my body.

It felt like going through puberty again, although without the hormones to make everything feel more confusion.  Those feelings and sensations include: sexuality, sensuality, physical attraction, femininity, and masculinity.

I still experienced anger and frustration, but not in the same way or with the same overwhelming intensity as before.  In fact, the anger didn’t feel like anger until I started paying attention to the sensations in my body every time I felt angry.  The sensations flared up at the peak of my anger and drained away as I acknowledged and sat with them.

What sensations for anger?

Tensing of my jaw and neck muscles.  My eye lids tightening around the corners.  Increased heartbeat.  Stabbing pain in my mid back.  Sudden discomfort, bloating, and lack of appetite around my abdominal/middle back area.  A surge of adrenaline that made me want to MOVE, but not hurt anyone.  And a feeling that something sludgy was moving around inside me trying to get out.

“Doing” versus “Sitting with”

For someone who hasn’t lived in her body for about 30 years, all of these sensations and feelings felt new and scary.  I didn’t know how to cope with them. What could I do?  How do I keep from getting distracted?

Talking with my counselor validated my decision to not try to “do” anything to the feelings and sensations.

By “do” I mean use coping strategies to contain or balance or change them in some way.

Instead, we agreed that I would “sit” with these feelings and sensations to learn about and from them.  Sitting with uncomfortable feelings is not new to me.  I developed a process for doing this around 2010 to help dial down the intensity of physical panic attacks and created the acronym AEVAR and mantras to chant with the acronym words.

  • AEVAR
  • Acknowledge – I acknowledge all of the feelings and sensations in my body, mind, and spirit
  • Experience – I experience all of the feelings and sensations moving in, around, through, and out of my mind, body, and spirit with friendliness, love, and compassion
  • Validate – Each sensation and feeling is valid, real, deserving of respect, and a valued source of information
  • Accept – I accept all of the feelings and sensations as valid, real, and useful in sharing information with me
  • Release – I let go of all the feelings and sensations with love and acceptance knowing that they will come and go like waves in the ocean
  • The chanting helps all parts of me feel grounded and safe enough to be patient until the intense feelings and sensations release themselves.

Chanting the words (and believing in them) is a mantra in itself.  You can add others that fit your circumstances or not use a mantra at all.

What does this have to do with the break and spiritual quest?

The Break

Sitting with my feelings instead of employing a coping strategy takes a lot of time, focus, and energy.  It required changes to my daily routines in order to meet basic needs and maintain self-care.  More meditation and deep breathing.  More relaxation techniques to help me rest or sleep.  And more grounding/mindfulness exercises to help me stay focused on my job as work got busier and busier instead of slowing down like usual.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

After a while, though, doing this on my own brought out more questions and insecurities than answers.  I was working through major family breakthroughs at the time and experiencing intense hyper-vigilance that negatively impacted my relationship with neighbors in the building.  Everything felt sharper, more intense.  Energy or something was building up inside of me, and I didn’t know how to let it go without causing an explosion.

So I turned back to my spiritual practices.  During meditation, I asked God, guardians, guides, the universe, angels, and archangels for support and guidance.  I practiced listening to my intuition and using that knowledge to make choices.  And moved into the next step of my spiritual quest.

Spiritual Quest

Without the anger buffering me from all of the hidden feelings and sensations, all parts of me started having more flashbacks and intense dreams.  I felt fear differently and confusion all the time.  The outside world seemed more unfriendly and dangerous than before.  And all parts of me were feeling frustrated with a lack of resources about certain topics related to our past history of sexual and physical abuse in the Western Medicine canon.

We used the month off to explore other healing methodologies, spiritual practices, and ways of thinking that might offer information about the feelings and sensations of something moving through our physical body and spiritual self.  Astrology, a tarot reading, books about chakra systems (from spiritual and psychological perspectives) and life force energy (aka qi, kundalini, auras, magnetic fields, energy fields, etc.) from practitioners and healers were some of my resources.

All of these practitioners embodied love, compassion, and acceptance as part of their lifestyles.  It showed in their speech, body language, and interactions with others.  And all of them incorporated teachings from eastern religions, western religions, and mythology from around the world in their practices.  They shared information and wisdom with me, provided direction, and offered resources so that I could continue on my journey.

Today’s Featured Image

I found this quote on my Facebook feed – gratitude to the friend who shared it – and saved it to share here too.

Why put it with a post about anger?

This quote embodies the main lesson learned from each reading session with a practitioner of tarot, astrology, etc. during the past two months.

Love – universal, unconditional, compassionate, and accepting – really can manifest positive changes in oneself and in life.

Without letting down my guard and changing my beliefs about the outside world, and the universe in general, I would not have had the courage and faith to believe in this kind of love and let it protect all parts of me from the inside out.

That love and protection provided the support and tools to finally drain out the seeming bottomless pit of anger.

Without that love protecting and healing all parts of me on the inside, I would not have had the courage to keep sitting with the feelings and sensations until my intuition guided me to unexpected answers.

So I’m sharing that love with all of you.  It’s a gift freely given.  Yours to accept or not.

Thanks for reading.

 

Recovery: Blog Break – Spiritual Quest – Back 4 Sundays from today

Dear Guests,

I hope you are enjoying summer or winter (depending on where you live).

A lot has changed in the last few weeks.  More change is coming up faster than I want to think about.

The last two years have open-end up whole new worlds (not quoting Disney’s Aladdin here – no t on purpose) and opportunities.

I’ve met some incredible people and discovered other ways of thinking/consciousness that provide different kinds of insight into my current struggles.

But it wasn’t until the anger left that I realized I was on a spiritual journey.

A spiritual journey is different for every person.  It’s not the same as recovery or a recovery journey.  I could be a healing journey, but not all healing journeys are spiritual.

The memories coming back now remind me of how lucky I was to grow up in religious and spiritual diversity even if that education came with a steep price.

Judeo-Christian religions taught me about community, love, and sacrifice.

The Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka Mormons) taught me the value of volunteer work and cooperation.

Buddhism taught me about compassion and walking the middle path to see through illusions and reduce personal suffering.

Wicca taught me to understand, accept, trust in, and appreciate my connection with the natural world.

Daoism taught me about qi and provided me a path back into my body so that I could start living in the present instead of the past.

All of these different religious and spiritual practices are teaching me other lessons and opening up other paths to explore.

But underneath it all, what I learned and value most from all of these religions and spiritual practices is that they all have one theme in common: UNCONDITIONAL, UNIVERSAL LOVE.

That LOVE is expressed and taught in different ways, but it exists in all of the practices listed above.

Not sure what will happen next, but now is a time for me to be patient and observed.  So, I will catch up with you all Four Sundays from today.

Thanks for reading.

AlterXpressions

Coping Strategies: Day 94 of “365 Days of Affirmations” challenge

Background

About 3 months ago, I decided to try to write a unique affirmation every day for 365 days.  You can read about it here in this post.  Today’s featured image is an affirmation from Louise Hay whose book You Can Heal Your Life inspired me to persist on my recovery journey after my first big relapse.  Maybe it will help you too.

As a writing challenge, I was pushed to sit and put time/effort/discipline into practice on a regular basis.

As a mental health challenge, this was a way to get all parts of me to change perspective from negative or neural to positive and friendly.

As a personal challenge, this helped (and continues to help) cope with and work through fears of failure, rejection, worthlessness, and shame.

How and Why?

Writing Challenge:
My writing style (not work related) is rather undisciplined and spontaneous.  That works okay for some things like Alter Post stories and so on, but it’s not that great when I try to organize ideas and improve my skills to provide useful, concise, well-written content overall.  The discipline of having to write even a few words every day has helped a lot with organization and self-discipline for writing.

Mental Health Challenge:
Change is difficult for anyone.  For me (especially when the I is more like them, us, we, him, her) staying positive and changing our perspective about life from negative to positive is a challenge.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Action Commitment Therapy (ACT) can only do so much if the rest of me isn’t willing to put in the work.Writing at least 1 positive affirmation about my intention for the day forced everyone to think outside the box and get creative.  Imagination and curiosity always gets everyone in my system excited and willing to try something new.

Personal Challenge
Fear of failure as in stop trying because you can’t win or aren’t good enough.

Fear of rejection as in why bother because no one cares?  Anyone who finds you writing this is going to criticize and insult or make fun of you.

Fear of worthlessness (lack of confidence) and shame as in you can’t do this.  You’re not smart enough or good enough at writing to create affirmations.  You should be ashamed of yourself for thinking you can write affirmations, let alone the disciplined enough to write one every day.  You’re too lazy and irresponsible.

Those have been the thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, and voices in my head for as long as I can remember.  Most of the time, I can use coping techniques and strategies to get around them.  That’s not enough anymore.

This challenge was and is a way to use “small successes” and “determination” to keep writing the affirmations even when I miss one or more days in a row because life got in the way.

Celebrating Day 94

Today is Day 94 of the challenge.  At my lowest point, I missed writing 5 affirmations/quotes in a row.  On my best days, I wrote up to 3 affirmations and/or quotes in a day.  Some are phrases.  Some are poems.  Some are paragraphs.

All of these affirmations are unedited first drafts right now.  The first 10 or so are awful and require some revising.  But I’ve decided to be vulnerable and share some of my favorites with you.

Affirmation 94: “I love my family unconditionally and accept them as they are”

Affirmation 79: “The universe is full of friendly people.  Universe is friendly, not scary.”

Affirmation 8: “I am safe and secure in my home.  Today is an excellent day for laundry.”

Mantra 31:

“I am safe.  You are safe.  WE are safe.

Past is past.  Present is now.  Memories can’t hurt us.

I am safe.  You are safe.  WE are safe.

Past is past.  Present is now.  Family can’t hurt us.

I am safe.  You are safe.  WE are safe.

Past is past.  Present is now.  The mail will be delivered without fuss.

I am safe.  You are safe.  WE are safe.

Past is past.  Present is now.  Lyft is faster and safer than a bus.

I am safe.  You are safe.  WE are safe.

Past is past.  Present is now.  Therapy today is right for us.

I am safe.  You are safe.  WE are safe.

Past is past.  Present is now.  I/WE believe in us”

Thanks for reading

 

 

 

Anger: Looking Back to see what’s changed

Background

When I first started this blog, I was so angry all the time.  All I felt was an anger so deep and strong that nothing else, not even fear or shame, got through all the way.

Any other emotion I felt was temporary and overshadowed by anger.  That scared me.  And it made me angry.  I was caught in a loop of my own design.  A seething volcano set over a bottomless pit of anger.  Or a black hole I’d never get out of.

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How anger felt inside all the time….image credit to Pinterest

 

Transformation – making friends with and utilizing anger for positive goals

1516206640214393700free-clipart-incredible-hulk-medOne of the first posts I ever wrote was about feeling like the Hulk all the time.  In the first Avengers (and yes i am a fan girl), Dr. Banner said his secret for containing the Hulk was to always be angry.  That phrase resonated deeply, so I tried to stop rejecting or running from the anger.

Over time, my anger calmed down.  We became tentative friends, and all parts of me learned to pay attention when the anger started to rise.  Feeling “Hulk anger” as we sometimes called it meant one or more of us were triggered and feeling unsafe.  Or someone was triggered and experiencing flashbacks to similar situations and reacting to the past instead of the present.

Either way, being mindful about our angry feelings taught us how to cope with feeling and experiencing anger better.  We became more aware of potential triggers and found ways to stop the anger from being triggered.  If we did feel angry, Distress Tolerance from DBT helped a lot too.  Eventually, the anger settled down and other feelings emerged more often.  It was growth, change, and small steps towards anger management that allowed everyone in the system to learn coping strategies for other feelings and triggers too.

Seasons passed.  Holidays passed.  Anger stopped appearing all the time.  Shame took its place and often enticed anger to make an appearance too.  Combined, the deadly duo almost always compelled one or more of us to act or react in a negative way.  Separating them is a topic for another post.

Then one day, we managed to separate present anger from past anger.  Another time, we separated the anger from the shame or guilt.  Small successes.  At work, we managed to stop the trigger in the middle of an episode; separate past from present; and apologize to the other person as part of the reparation.  Big success there.  Then a stumble back to Shame territory.  And more work separating feelings from triggers brought more small successes and insight.

Present Day – what happened to the pit?  It’s dry

A couple weekends ago, my alters and I were practicing a meditation to help let go of unwanted feelings.  It was part Buddhist compassion or loving kindness meditation and part spiritual visualization meditation.  None of us expected to stay more than an hour.  But we lost track of time in our safe space.  Hours passed with us lying down on the comfy bed.

In our mind, all 88 of us were safe and protected inside our transparent bubble.  Surrounding us was an epic storm of feelings and emotions.  We had to let the feelings inside the bubble, settle down, and then exit through the energy recycler.  Not easy to do when some of those emotions felt like pure, negative evil.  But we persisted.

In the end, the bottomless pit of anger dried up.

So did the other pits – despair, guilt, and pain.  The grief and shame pits are still muddy\; we have more work to do with those feelings.

The lesson: hard work pays off.

An Experiment & Other Posts About Anger

If you noticed, this post is slightly different in format compared to others.  I/we are expermenting and putting into practice newly acquired skills from work to try improving reader experience.

We’re also trying not to reinvent the wheel so to speak.  After going through the archives, we realized that there are over 300 posts written over 4 years.  Our following is not big, and that’s okay.  It’s exactly right for now and may change later.

But for this post, and some future ones, we’re going to add links to related posts in the content and a short list of others you might be interested in at the end.  These posts did not get a lot of views, but they show evolving perspectives about anger.

Coping Strategy: Affirmations About Anger

Recovery Challenge: Self-harm part 1

Self Care: Focus on what I can do

Coping Challenge: Working through Backlash

If you feel like commenting, please do.  If not, thanks for visiting.

As always, thanks for reading.

Recovery: Dad, family, letters = closure

Short post today.  I don’t have a lot to write about and too many ideas percolating.

Last Thursday, I hand wrote 3 letters and put them in the mailbox for Friday pick up.

  • One letter to my Dad
  • One letter to family I talked to last December
  • One letter to the rest of my mother’s family

Handwritten letters felt more authentic and right than computer printed letters.  A blue mailbox eliminated the need to provide a return address.

It’s been 3 days since I sent the letters.  Yes, I am still scared.  Yes I am not happy about having to send the letters.  Yes I wish I didn’t have to do any of this.

But our lives are going to mix again in the future.  It’s inevitable since I am close to my paternal grandmother. Going back to visit friends and loved ones increases my chances of running into one of them by accident.

And that’s my closure.  I wrote to them; gave them a means to connect if they want it; and kept myself safe so that this life can keep growing and changing.

What does closure mean to you?

Thanks for reading.

Resources: Quiet Revolution Newsletter Discusses NeuroDiversity

Okay, so what is neurodiversity, and why would you put it here?

In my words:  An individual’s brain is thinking, responding, feeling, acting, or functioning differently than the cultural norm.  Examples from the article: ADHD, HSP (highly sensitive person), Asperger’s syndrome.

I put it here because trauma survivors and people with mental illness think, act, feel, and react differently than the rest of society.  Some of the difference is biochemical and part of DNA.  Other parts of the difference come from developmental and physiological changes based on experience.  The rest are learned behaviors in the form of coping techniques/strategies and survival skills.

The last group can sometimes be changed or removed or adapted to current circumstances, but the first two not so much.  This article celebrates differences and promotes acceptance, so it belongs here.

Article Information

You can find the whole article here.  FYI, this article is an essay on the Quiet Revolution website.  While one goal is to empower introverts, another is to find ways for introverts and extraverts to live and work harmoniously.  So please don’t think the website is not for you if you are an ambivert or extravert.

A few interesting quotes from the article linked above:

About Depression

“Unfortunately, it took me a long time to find a workaround, so in the meantime came undiagnosed, debilitating depression and anxiety for years, which often accompanies those who unknowingly mask neuroatypicalities while trying to cope and survive. I can’t say what triggered the depression exactly, but it felt like a slow, creeping fog that thickened more intensely over the years. Finding the right therapist and a helpful medication finally made the skies clear,” – Jenara Nerenberg

About Neurodiversity

“Now, I’m 33, and they’re calling these neuroatypicalities ADHD or HSP (Highly Sensitive Personality) or even Asperger’s. Shows such as Invisibilia give us the language of Synesthesia and Empaths. And I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re all somewhere along this continuum, this spectrum of personalities, with diverse traits. This is the beauty of what we call neurodiversity.” – Jenara Nerenberg

Being authentic self

“Re-joining the jungle like Mr. Tiger means embracing the beauty of my inner nature and sharing that with others. And I’ve found that others who observe me start to feel and act the same, freed up by letting go of some of our cultural conditioning.” – Jenara Nerenberg

Thanks for reading.

Life Changing Moments: Changing self perception

I struggle with being body positive and having a positive self-image.

  • Part of that is because of past experiences.
  • Part of it is because my body shape, size, and appearance do not fit any “ideal” standards, so shopping and feeling good about how I look isn’t always easy.
  • The rest has to do with looking like either parent or following “appearance expectations” – my rebellion against this

This struggle shattered my self-confidence, built up on existing shame, and gave me many reasons to “hide” from the world.

No matter what I did or how I tried, something about me always attracted attention.  Something always gave others an excuse or rationale to be mean/rude, etc.  And I believed them when they told me it was my fault for making them act that way.

I still believed that, deep down in a secret part of me, until last week.

WHAT HAPPENED?

An unexpected award at work gave me the push I needed to stop procrastinating about getting professional photos for business/school, etc.  Here’s the short version:

The company I work for in my day job has over 1,000 employees worldwide and a commitment to encourage continuous learning.  They promote this internally by giving employees free accounts to LinkedIn Learning and internal classes.  At every half-year, the people in “people teams” use some metric or formula to find out who took the most classes, etc. and gives them a small award using an internal award system.

I get a lot of down time between projects and hate being bored, so the online classes through LinkedIn were ways to me to feel like I wasn’t getting paid for doing nothing.  The award was unexpected, yet much appreciated.  But it wasn’t until after I answered the survey questions, that someone from “people teams” reached out with a request.  The company liked my answers and wanted to use them as part of a promotional campaign.  Would I allow this and also send a photo to go with the answers?

At first, I freaked out and said “absolutely not” on the inside.  But then I paused.  This was an opportunity, a big one to help me reach the next step of “not hiding” and achieving outside goals.  If I said no, I’d be going backwards.  If I said yes, I’d have to face a whole lot of fears, including putting my face out on the Internet.

I said yes and asked for some time to get them a decent photo.  We agreed on a date, and I booked my first photo shoot in 14 years (since college graduation photos).

WHY IS THIS A LIFE CHANGING MOMENT?

My style group friends have been cheering me along on my journey to self-discovery and being my authentic self always, but especially in how I present myself to the outside world.  With their help, I chose an outfit and makeup that felt 100%, authentically me.  Surprisingly, I didn’t see

  • a little girl playing dress-up in the mirror
  • A woman dressing to look “like a lady” according to parental expectations
  • My mother, father, aunts, cousins, or grandparents looking back at me
  • A clown or over made-up woman trying to be something she’s not

I saw myself – all parts of myself expressed as a single, adult woman wearing a dress & blazer with fun accessories and subtle makeup – as I got ready for the photo session.

The photographer was amazing.  She helped me feel completely at ease and comfortable posing outside.  The whole experience felt like chatting with an old friend and taking photos for fun.  Never before had I felt so relaxed with a stranger taking photos of me.  Part of it was location – we took photos in a beautiful park – and part of it was the overall feeling of rightness that stayed with me throughout the day.

I got to see myself through the photographer’s eyes and camera lens that afternoon.  She accepted my quirks and even appreciated some of them.  Before her, I’d not met many people who also talked to ladybugs or openly expressed a reverence for nature.  We connected over a mutual love and respect for trees; some of my favorite “fun” shots are of me sitting on exposed roots or posing against trees.

Together, we narrowed down to 3 photos that fit the main purpose of this photo shoot: business headshots for work & professional networking profiles.

But I also chose one for school and “fun” profiles too.  My current day job is segregated from my other hobbies and work choices on purpose.  They do not play well together, and I am very private.  Not many businesses want someone with my kind of mental health issues working for them, no matter how good I am at my job.  So 3 photos:

  • One for internal work/business (like email, profiles, messaging, etc.) that showed me and my “professional” personality with hints of non-work life
  • One for business and networking or job hunting profiles that expressed my business professionalism, creativity, and unique personality
  • One for school and personal profiles (personal email, WordPress account, Facebook, etc.) that showed me in a happy, confident, relaxed, open way.

WHAT CHANGED?

My self-perception, self-image whatever you want to call it.

When I look in a mirror, I finally see me.  A beautiful (inside out kind), confident, secure-in-herself woman.  An authentic, person with many alternate personalities who thrives in her chosen life style with family of choice, a support network, and a fulfilling life in spite of many challenges.

MY HOPE

For all people, with and without mental health or trauma issues, to experience a positive change in self-perception too.  I share this story with the hope that someone can relate to the experience, realize he or she is not alone, and have the courage to make positive steps too.

Thanks for reading.